Top Ten Indicators You Live Five Inches From Canada

Top Ten {Tuesday}OK maybe five inches is an exaggeration but not by much.  I am fairly certain that most non-Canadians do not get to experience what we in the Upper Midwest are privileged to enjoy during the cold months.  And by “privileged to enjoy” I mean we suck it up and deal with it ’cause winter is long, y’all.  But it’s not all bad.

You can determine your proximity to Canada by the number of times any of these things occur in your day to day life.  Actually if you can answer yes to any of them, you are near the Great White North for sure, eh?

1. You attend events designed to raise money for underprivileged kids. Not those without homes.  Not those who cannot eat.  Those who cannot afford to play hockey.  It’s a big deal here, OK?

2. At these events, you will see every Alaskan stereotype possible.  Including Sled Dogs. As it turns out, real-life sled dogs are surprisingly yappy.  Nothing like Snow Buddies would have you believe.Photo credit:

3. People believe that ice is a perfectly acceptable medium for sculpture.

4. Your city owns its own Zamboni.

5. You actually know what a Zamboni is.

6. Tim Horton’s sponsors your community events.

7. You actually know who Timmy Horton is {er, was.  God rest his soul.}

8. Little girls are as inclined to take figure skating classes as they are ballet.

9. Little boys are as inclined to have snow boards as they are skateboards.

10. Hot chocolate is a food group for every person under 20.

All of these pictures were taken at the Great Skate Winterfest, which in all truthfulness was really fun and happened right smack dab in the middle of the second biggest city in Michigan.  Yup, it’s how we roll in Grand Rapids, aka ‘South Canada’.

This post is linked up to Things I Love Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.


Ten Things I Need To Do Before VACATION!

Top Ten {Tuesday}
Yes, that’s right! We’re going on vacation and we have some things to do before we head out.   It helps me to have lists, so here are the Top Ten Things I Need To Do Before We Go On Vacation.

  1. Figure out how to pack the Ocean Question Box we made.
  2. Finalize boarding arrangements for my dog. I am not telling my husband, because it won’t occur to him until we are walking out the door that someone needs to watch her while we’re gone and he won’t want to pay boarding fees.  I am especially not telling him that I am paying extra to have her hair and nails done while she’s there.
  3. Do that mail and newspaper vacation stop thing.  I’m so glad I can do this online!
  4. Locate Redboxes near where we are staying. Check out a movie in the morning in one state, watch it on the plane, and return it at night in another! Why don’t they have Redboxes in airports??
  5. Add some more recipes to my Pinterest Vacation In The Keys board.  It was meant to be a menu planner because we are staying in a condo with a kitchen, but as of right now right now all we will be making is delicious, tropical drinks.
  6. Get exact directions to Publix. One thing I miss about living in the South is Publix, and I am going to shop there every day.  Twice, some days.
  7. Make sure the kids’ headphones for all electronic devices are working to keep them busy on the plane, and that everything has fresh batteries or is charged.
  8. Make sure I have Benadryl in case they are not.
  9. Dig through the stuff from our Honeymoon and try to find the name of that Cuban Sandwich place we loved so much, we ate there every day.  Twice, some days.
  10. Ooh! I almost forgot.  Cash in the salon gift card I got for my birthday and get a pedicure.  How sad that my dog’s pedicure occurred to me before my own.

What am I missing?

This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.


Top Ten Ways I Make Myself Go To The Gym

Top Ten {Tuesday}
This weekend, I told my sister I wanted to do “some kind of fast”.  Like the kind where you eat kale and cabbage smoothies.  She talked me out of it, thankfully.  Those smoothies look like when my dog barfs on the carpet.

No, it’s better just to cut out crappy, processed foods and exercise.  None of which is easy, and I am excellent at finding excuses not to work out so I thought I would share with you the Top Ten Ways I Make Myself Go To The Gym.

  1. My gym offers two hours of childcare while you work out.  I take the full time, but that should in no way indicate that I am working out for two hours.  Nope.  I take a nice, long shower.  With no interruptions.
  2. I also hang out in the sauna, steam room, or whirl pool for a while after my workout.  It’s sooooo relaxing.
  3. I buy Aveda shampoo and conditioner, but only use it at the gym after a workout.  It’s like Suave and a shower at home is a punishment for being lazy.
  4. I spend money on workout clothes {or ask for them as gifts}.  I won’t go if I feel like I look like a slob.
  5. I floss my teeth while Aveda conditioner is working. So efficient and healthy, I am smug when I get out of the shower. Until I walk past the mirror.
  6. I tried to go it alone, but now I take my family. I realized it’s the only way it’s gong to work. Plus, what if I get all fit and sexy and my husband feels intimidated? Not good. So I make him go too.
  7. When I get dressed in the morning, I put my workout clothes on.  Yes, I am that lazy.  Even having to change when I get to the gym seems like a barrier.
  8. If I am really having a hard time making myself go, I promise myself that I will buy a ridiculously overpriced coffee when I’m done.
  9. I took a class to learn how to make the most of my workout, and also learned that I had been taking it WAY too easy on myself.
  10. I watch “The Baby Story” while I’m there.  Yeah, I’m sweating and huffing – but at least I’m not doing that.

How do YOU make yourself go to the gym?

This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.


Top Ten Things Thanksgiving Is REALLY About

Oh, holidays.

I never know quite what to do with them.  I’m a purist by nature, and I try not to think too hard about the ‘real’ meaning of any holiday.  That sounds horrible.  I even turned to the Bible, but I have a really hard time trying to discern a situation in which “…one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience. {Romans 14:5}.

Let me take you on a 30 second journey into my brain when I think about Christmas and try to ‘remember the reason for the season’.

Christmas, it’s about the Birth of Christ.  Right? But, like A.P. said a few years ago, He never actually asked us to celebrate his birthday, which certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, but what really got the whole December 25th thing going? Was it the Early Christians trying to woo some Romans away from their own late December festival of Saturnalia {That included trees. And mistletoe.  And giving gifts to kids.}  And there is that whole lying to my kids about Santa thing that I hate.  St Nicholas was real, but he helped poor people, not kids who circled toy after toy on page after page of a Toys R Us catalog.

Thirty seconds, y’all.

So naturally, I wonder every year about Thanksgiving.  What is it’s deal, anyway? Is it about Pilgrims and Native Americans really? Schools have Harvest Parties now instead of Thanksgiving Parties.  Is there something objectionable I don’t know about? Or is it just not cool?

So I am Occupying Thanksgiving.  It’s OK that I don’t really know what I mean by that, because nobody who is occupying anything right now does either. At least I am not stinking up a park.

Here it is.  The Top Ten Things Thanksgiving is REALLY about.  According to the convictions of my conscience.

  1. Harvest.  Native Americans and Pilgrims both had their own harvest celebrations that kind of meshed together once they started hanging out.
  2. Hospitality.  The Wampanoag Indians taught the Pilgrims how to fish and helped them plant seeds, because they were starving in their new land.
  3. Problem Neighbors.  After a few years of strife, the Powhatan Indians slaughtered a bunch of Colonists.  Lesson:  tread lightly in someone else’s land.
  4. Religious freedom.  That’s why the Pilgrims were there, after all.
  5. Religious intolerance.  After a few years, the Pilgrims decided that while no one was going to tell THEM who to worship; those Native Americans needed some guidance in this area.
  6. Modern Day Style Politics.  It took several different presidents and a lobbying group to decide on Thanksgiving’s date.  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both proclaimed it a day of prayer, but Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson said it was not in their constitutional power to do so.  Finally, Franklin Roosevelt let the National Dry Goods Retail Association have their way and moved it to a date that allowed plenty of time for Christmas shopping.  True story.
  7. Beaujolais Nouveau.  More of an association than an actual meaning; it is delicious wine that happens to come out out this time of year, and you really must try it.
  8. Pumpkin.  Most of the food we eat today in celebration of Thanksgiving is nowhere close to the original Thanksgiving feasts, but pumpkin totally was.
  9. Parades.  Although I love raising my kids in Grand Rapids, the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade I went to as a kid RULED and I wish I could take them.
  10. Packing light.  For school, Maybelle has to pack a bag with only a few things she would take with her if she were going on the Mayflower.  It’s a good exercise to think through.  What would you would take with you if you had to start over? What’s really important? {For Maybelle, lipgloss was her first item.}

What does Thanksgiving mean to YOU?

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.


Top Ten Things I Swore I Would Never Do {And the 9 I Did}

Top Ten {Tuesday}When I was younger, I was much more sure of myself.

I was wrong.  Not in being confident, but to think that I had It All Figured Out.  I should have just been quietly confident; but nooooooo.  Little Miss Smarty Pants had to go around making all kinds of  declarations.

Sadly, it took me less than five minutes to compile a list of the Top Ten Things I SWORE I Would Never Do, and the Nine That I Did.

  1. Let my fingernails look bad.  I bit my nails as a kid, and when I stopped, I vowed I would never, ever, nope NEVER have scraggly fingernails again.  I distinctly remember thinking one evening, as I buffed and polished, that even after I got married and had kids I would keep it up.  I mean really, how hard can it be?  Dear 1991 self:  it’s too hard.
  2. Marry someone without a college degreeOops.
  3. Wear turtlenecks with prints.  I decided this after the whole Preppie Handbook thing finally died down and I could stop wearing turtlenecks with whales and whatnot on them.  Every year, I bust out my Pumpkin Print Turtleneck to wear to my kids’ Harvest Parties.  Ugliest.  Shirt.  EVER.
  4. Weigh over 125 poundsHa! Ha ha! Yeah.  About that…
  5. Let my dog sleep in my bed. When I got my dog, I was just recovering from dating a really stupid guy.  For some reason, I still took his advice on dog matters, and listened when he told me that dogs should be crated at night.  I spent a lot of money on a crate.  The first night at home, I put my dog in the crate. My dog cried.  I cried.  I let my dog out of the crate.  She hopped into bed.  I donated the crate to a shelter, and we have pretty much held onto our sleeping arrangement for the past 13 years.
  6. Let my kids sleep in my bed.  I was adamant about this one.  Until I had kids, and was too lazy to get up and keep feeding them every 5 minutes.  Both of my kids slept with us until they were about six months old. We all slept much better that way, although, as you can imagine our bed was a little crowded for a few years.
  7. Drive a minivanI lasted six years, then when A.P. asked me why I didn’t drive on field trips like the other moms my heart broke into five million pieces and I was behind the wheel of a Kia Sedona approximately three seconds later.
  8. Have a smartphoneI’m sorry, Droid.  My precious.  My sweet, little baby; I had no idea how much I would love you.
  9. Live in Grand Rapids.  I know, right?! I thought it was uppity and pretentious.  One of two things happened.  Maybe I was completely wrong, or, I am now uppity and pretentious.  Either way.

And the last one.  The one thing I swore I would never do, and still haven’t done.


10.  Live in the countryBut guess who started looking at houses with ‘a little land’ this weekend?

Why do I bother?

I declare that I am never going to declare anything again.  Ever.

What have YOU said you would never do – but did?

This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.


Top Ten Things We Do To Our Kids {Whether They Like It Or Not}

Top Ten {Tuesday}I did a giveaway a few weeks back, and I am not really into making people jump through hoops to enter.  I mainly like to be entertained, so the ‘required entry’ was a question:

What is one thing you do for your kids “because it’s good for them” – whether they like it or not?!

I loved the answers, and thought it would be fun to share them with you all. So here it is.  The Top Ten Things Big Binder Readers Do To Their Kids {Whether They Like It Or Not!}:

  1. I make them go to bed early.
  2. I make them eat their veggies!
  3. I make them go to church.
  4. I make them clean their bedrooms!
  5. I make my kids journal!!!  This makes them practice their reading/writing AND hopefully someday they’ll read them as adults & think how awesome their mom is for making them do it 😉
  6. I make them unload the dishwasher…everyday.  (I know, I’m practically torturing them.
  7. I make them send thank you notes for gifts they receive. My 2 year old even colors pictures or scribbles just an “N”.
  8. I buy / prepare unusual (to them) food, and make them try it.  Sometimes they actually like it!  = )
  9. I make them visit libraries
  10. I make them read – I wish I didn’t have to tell them to, but I do because it’s good for them.  I wish they’d do it on their own, though!

I love that all of this “mean-ness” is going on out there.  You ALL are Raising The Next Generation of Awesome! What do YOU do to your kids that they will (hopefully!) thank you for later?

This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.


Top Ten Reasons You Should Have A Family Game Night

Credit: 123RF

The third annual Family Game Night is tomorrow, Wednesday September 28. We don’t have a set night every week for playing games, but the kids usually bug us enough that we break down weekly and agree to play some horrible version of Monopoly that has iCarly and TV’s instead of the little dog and hotels, but still.  It’s good.  And why is it good? My husband and I were just talking about that, so let me share with you what we came up with.  His answers are in blue.  Because he is always blue when we play Sorry Sliders.

Top Ten Reasons You Should Have A Family Game Night

  1. It teaches patience, and waiting your turn.
  2. It teaches you that there are rules, and to follow them.  I am sure this is horribly stifling to my kids’ creativity, but I cannot stand playing their ‘made up’ games.  The rules evolve and change so much that I don’t even care if I win.
  3. It teaches that not everyone gets a medal ‘just for trying’.  There is one winner, and everyone else? They lost.  Deal with it.
  4. It teaches how to be a gracious winner.
  5. It teaches how to lose with dignity.
  6. It teaches that interacting with your family is fun, and important.
  7. It lets you see which child you should choose as your Euchre partner when they get old enough to play.
  8. With the exception of the aforementioned Euchre games of the future; it teaches that cheaters never prosper.
  9. It is fun and inexpensive.
  10. It does not involve anything digital.  As much as I love Wii Just Dance-ing with my kids, there is something special about getting the game out of the closet, taking it out of the box with the taped up corners, and setting it up.

Who knew iCarly could be part of something so… wholesome?

This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.


Top Ten Things That Are Standing On My Last Nerve

Got a crisis? I’ll be right there with my calm self.  Something new? Let me show you how it’s done.  But transition? I STINK AT. I hate the in-between.  And right now, there is some in-between going on in my life.  How will it go? How will it look? How will it affect us?

It un-nerves me.  Which leaves me no room for minor annoyances and consequently, makes me a smidge short tempered. 

I’ve decided to take it all out on this post, and just whack away at some things that I would otherwise roll with but now? They are more annoying than, well, transition.

  1. Bacon.  Not bacon itself, but as an ingredient it is everywhere.  Why you gotta be all up in my cupcakes? Get next to my eggs, where you belong.
  2. Groupon.  And all of it’s deal site cousins.  First, it was fun.  Now I spend approximately 17 hours a day deleting screaming deals on teeth whitening.
  3. Debt Ceiling.  I have no words.  I started suspecting that the crazy guy talking about the rapture in May was actually correct and it really did happen, leaving us all behind.  With Congress.
  4. Ants.  A very scientific study {conducted via a chat with one of my neighbors} has concluded that ants are TOTALLY worse this year than in years past.  I dreamed ants were in my food last night.  I still have the willies.
  5. Humidity.  Seriously, enough already with the record-breaking heat. 
  6. Volunteering.  Do I dare? Yes.  I do dare.  I am sick of committees, meetings, and emails.  I need a break from making the world a better place.  I can barely make my house a better place.
  7. Online disorganization.  I cannot keep track of Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn or Klout.  How many different ways do I need to communicate with someone I have never met in real life?  I have already declared RSS feed bankruptcy and gone back to email subscriptions.  Don’t make me put the smackdown on you, Hootsuite.
  8. My children fighting.  She stuck her butt out at you?  Really? Let me tell Congress.  Oh, wait, they’re busy…
  9. Neighbor kids.  I love having them over.  I don’t mind feeding them lunch.  And dinner.  Or even finding them standing in the middle of my living room when I get out of the shower.  Surprise! But if these children do not learn how to shut the doors after themselves I am going to get deabolts and lock them out forever.  It’s the exact same as opening the door, except you just push it the other way.  Is that so hard?
  10. BlogHer.  Not the conference itself, but the fact that every single person in the entire universe is going.  Except me.  It’s like all of my friends are going to summer camp together and they’re going to come home all, tight-knit and with experiences and jokes I totally won’t get because I wasn’t there. 

This very grouchy, pouty post has been linked up to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda, where  I’m sure you will find people in much better moods when you go visit.


Top Ten Things That Did NOT Stay In Vegas

If “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” I will be very sad. What happened in Vegas was life changing, but it didn’t involve a slot machine or a Black Jack table.

I learned some very powerful lessons, as well as some fun ones. These are the Top Ten Things That {Happened In But} Did NOT Stay In Vegas.

1) My kids are absolutely fine without me for a couple of days. In fact, when we called to talk with them the first day they were having so much fun they were “too busy to talk, Mom”.

2) My husband’s friends are incredible. Reunions can be kind of a drag for the spouses because the former classmates are busy reminiscing about things the spouses at best weren’t present for, and at worst would really rather not know about. I genuinely had fun and felt like I was hanging out with my own friends instead of borrowing my husband’s.

3) Everything is enormous in Vegas.  I don’t know; Texas.  I think you might be beat.  This was what I got when I ordered a Chicken Pot Pie from Hash House A Go Go.

Yummy, but overwhelming.

4) There is something very sad about Vegas. Don’t get me wrong – I personally was not sad for a split second. Watching people chase money and sex with every resource they have available to them bums me out. 

5) Young people these days are crazy. The girls especially. They wear shoes as high as stilts. It is their prerogative if they want to dress like strippers, but they were crowding up the sidewalks with their slow, wobbly shuffles.

6) I am really lucky to be raising kids in Grand Rapids. I already knew this one, but my husband and I spent the first 24 hours feeling really bad for parents who have to explain what kids growing up in Vegas are exposed to.

7) My husband really, really loves me.He was so conscientious about trying to make me feel like I wasn’t just ‘tagging along’ on his reunion trip and even took me on a date away from the rest of the group. He told me the reason he wanted me to go was so everyone would know how awesome I was, because he could tell them, but they wouldn’t believe it without meeting me :)

I forgot if that was then"come hither" or "stop taking my picture" face.

8 ) There really is a difference between dry heat and humidity. I always grump about it, saying “I don’t care if it’s 104 in dry heat. Hot is hot.” Then I got off the plane in Michigan, and couldn’t breathe even though it was 30 degrees cooler than it was in Vegas.

9) My husband has as much of a need to be around his native landscape of the mountains as I do the Great Lakes.  I want to make sure he gets out to visit them {and his friends, too} more often than we have in the past.

10) I am doing way too many thingsThanks to a crappy Internet connection in the hotel, I didn’t get most of my email for five days.  The result when I got home was more suffocating than the shock of the Michigan humidity.  The next couple of weeks will be spent whittling down and simplifying my involvement in different projects, organizations and groups.  I need to spend less time on things that create email and meetings, and more things that create happiness. 

Conservatory at The Bellagio

Have you been on a vacation? What did you learn?

This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.


What To Take On A Picnic {Top Ten Tuesday}

Top Ten {Tuesday}Happy official first day of summer! It’s high time you went on a picnic, don’t you think?! But… what to take? Don’t worry.  I’ll help you.  Here is my list of  Top Ten Things To Take on a Picnic:

  • The perfect picnic basket.  This is mine.  I love it more than it should be possible to love a picnic basket.

  • A picnic blanket.  It is vinyl and waterproof on one side; and nice and soft on the other.  Also, this one rolls up into a nice little shape and has it’s own carrying strap.


  • Sandwiches.  Invest in good bread; it’s worth it.  The cheese and meat on this sandwich are ‘odds and ends’ from G.B. Russo’s Grocery store.  It’s the little cuts of very nice deli meat and cheese that are too small to cut anymore and sell, but since they’re like $16 a pound they can’t just throw them away.  They just sell them for a lot less and you get what you get. The tiny loaf of bread cost more than everything else.  Also, I like to wrap the sandwiches in waxed paper because then they look all old-fashioned-y and nice.



  • Little cheese knives.


  • Drinks. I’m pretty sure this is why Pellegrino started making plastic bottles.


    • Napkins.


  • Take home containers for leftovers. The cookie container will work; because there won’t be any leftovers.

What would YOU take on a perfect picnic?  I want to know!

PhotobucketThis post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh! Amanda.

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