• Family,  Hodgepodge Cottage,  Home

    Old and New and Loved

    I am so touched by some of your emails, inquiring as to my whereabouts lately. I haven't been here at the computer – mostly because I've been tending to the On Prudence model (to be released next week, hopefully!) and to little bits of spring cleaning here and there.

    But the best thing that's happened this month is that my oldest daughter, Breanna, found a new place to move into! I'm so, so happy for her – especially because the apartment seems beautifully suited to her personality: the entire building is quite vintage, with the original wood flooring from 1917, as well as radiators (I love radiators) for heat, and a clawfoot bathtub (which we didn't realize required a special sized shower curtain). What a cozy, sweet, darling little place it is! (And the best part for her mom and dad: a state trooper lives on the floor below.)

    Mike, Sophie, and I made the long jaunt out to western Nebraska with a rented truck and Uhaul trailer-full of Breanna's furniture, which had been in storage. (We had been saving all of Mike's parents' old furniture for the day that Bre got a place of her own.) The ride felt like it was about 3 days long…





    Finally, sunshine! Here we are, but we look so much smaller in our shadow. 🙂




    Immediately upon arriving at Bre's new apartment, we got to work unloading all of the furniture. Bre and Mike did the heavy lifting, while Sophie and I scurried in and around them with all the little boxes of pillows, plates, utensils, accessories, and coffee. Always coffee.

    I love that Bre had her favorite items in the living room: her sewing machine, fabric tote, her grandmother's sewing box, Tilly's scratching post, and her beloved hoola hoops.

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    About an hour later…

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    Sabrina (she couldn't come with us, as she had classes) gifted Bre with a framed family picture…

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    After we got everything put in the rooms they belonged, we decided to go to dinner and call it a night.

    The next day, we all got right to work moving and arranging furniture, cleaning floors, and finding out the hard way that almost all of her walls in her apartment are brick! (When a large nail meant to bear the weight of a heavy piece of art bends right in half under the hammer, you know you're not exactly dealing with drywall.)

    For her "coffee table," we brought along Mike's dad's old foot locker from Vietnam, which Bre absolutely loved. Not only for the storage space inside, but because her grandfather's name is stenciled on the top.

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    I spent the day in the kitchen, doing lots of cooking, and enjoying every minute of it. I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to cook efficiently with no counter space except for the drain board, but I actually found it to be quite easy, as long as I kept everything picked up and put away. I'll never forget that day, with everyone taking turns dodging in and out of the kitchen to scoop up some of the hot corn dip I'd made (from a Tricia Yearwood cookbook)… or to have some of the delicious Zuppa Tuscano soup that Bre's co-worker brought to us (along with a delicious loaf of garlic bread and cake – what a lovely gesture! Thank you, Alona!), or to ask why we didn't buy a pitcher at WalMart for some sweet tea…


    I'll also always remember how Big Papa's Big Idea was to buy a stand to build around the toilet for extra shelving, which we all applauded, and which made him very pleased with himself. 🙂


    … And how excited Sophie was that Bre entrusted her with all of the decorating and organizing in both the kitchen and bathroom…


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    As the sun went down, the living room became more and more cozy…


    Sophie decided it was time to find someone to spy on, and whatever she found warranted her calling to Bre to come take a look…



     It turned out to be a neighbor who had locked his keys in his car and was using a flashlight to search for them. 🙂

    Oh how I've missed this sweet baby cat… she was so happy in the new place, exploring everything and purring nonstop. Kaia will live at Josh's house because she is so close to Josh's dog, Nahla, and Bre and Josh didn't want to hurt Kaia's feelings by seperating the two. However, I imagine this arrangement works out just fine for Miss Tilly, as she can have Bre and company all to herself…


    I've always loved this silly girl's feet!



    When I took this picture, Tilly was watching Bre arrange her Grandma Frieda's figurines into her old shadowbox…



    (And across from the shadowbox, just outside the kitchen, is a blank wall I've instructed Bre to leave blank, because it needs a sampler there. Ha!)

    I suppose I've kept you long enough.. see there? I'm either never here or I'm here too much. Feast or famine, nothing in moderation with me. 🙂

    I leave you with my favorite picture of Miss Tilly… it makes me laugh.


    And thank you again to those of you who checked in on me. 🙂

  • Family,  Holidays


    This past Thanksgiving brought with it the usual craziness that our small family can muster, but as usual, it was a lot of fun. Josh and Bre and Kaia came into town too, and it was so nice getting to visit them! What a surprise to see Kaia all grown up! Here's what she looked like the last time she was here:

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    And here's how she looked at Thanksgiving:


    And what a sweet big girl she's become!

    We all headed over to my parents' house that afternoon, and Mom gave each of the girls some beautiful scarves she had crocheted for them. This is Bre, trying to get it folded correctly over her head…


    After dinner, we played a game called Likewise. If you've never played this, it's a fun, fast-paced "party game" in which each player has a greaseboard-paddle and pen, and when a phrase is given, each person writes down (or draws) something that they feel fits the phrase. After a set time, all the players simultaneously reveal what they've written on their boards, and the players with like answers gain points, while those who had odd answers get nothing, and so the game goes on.

    It was Bre's turn to roll the dice, to find out of we were to draw or write our answer…


    Josh was a very focused player…


    (By the way, my mother keeps a very clean house, but once the Stewarts descend on the Kwaak home, there isn't usually a clean countertop or a closed cabinet door to be found. 😉 We do love to have a lot of commotion at our get-togethers!)

    Here was one of the phrases played:


    And here were some of the answers:


    Mike always enjoys a bit of game drama…


    And here was another phrase:


    Again, Bre was not amused with Josh's gameplay, although Josh appeared to be enjoying himself…


    (I think his idea of a fun game is seeing how easily he can get Bre rankled! Ha!)

    I think my favorite part of our family holidays, however, is when we sit and relax and talk at the table. One never knows what the topic will be.. the latest headlines, chatter about past holidays, ideas, or even how one would interpret a certain Bible verse. It's always lively conversation, and mostly everyone seems to hang on to what my dad will say; he's a man of few words, but when he does speak, everyone listens.


    I wish my brother and sister and her family could have been here this time! Sabrina and Sophie were there also, but somehow they managed to duck the camera, along with my Mom. I hope your holidays with your family are as enjoyable as ours always are. I look forward to the time together this year as well… I'm so thankful for these moments together!

  • Family,  Holidays

    Winter Sampler Exchange 2013

    Finally! I just got around to uploading the photos I took all the way back in late November from the annual sampler exchange Mom and I do. Things were a little more hurried this year than in years past.. we pretty much blew past and tossed each other our samplers in jubilant exchange before I was back in the car, hurrying back to Plum Street in Cruella DeVille-esque mode. It was a very busy season for both of us.

    Last year we didn't open our boxes from Jill until we were together, but when I called Mom to see if she had time for me to run over, she said, "Yes! Hurry! I can't wait for you to see your piece!!! Jill did an outstanding job!!"

    "Wait. You opened the box?" I asked.


    "Yes!" She gleefully replied. "I couldn't stand to wait another minute!"


    So after I hung up, I went ahead and opened the box from Jill, wrapped it in some sort of pretend wrapping paper, and headed over to Chez Mom.

    We both agreed to scale back this year on what we were stitching for each other because of time constraints. (That was her idea, so I went ahead and tossed the almost-finished Ann Medd Sampler I had been stitching for her for several months and opted for something much smaller.)

    (I'm only kidding.)

    Getting our picture proved to be very tough because we both kept laughing at how awful they were turning out. As soon as I'd get one that I'd think was passable, she'd see it and exclaim, "My hair! Oh no, my hair! What happened??"

    And that's when I'd look at the photo again, and notice suddenly that I'd forgotten to do anything with my hair.

    For now, I'll bypass showing our photo, and just get straight to the point: what we stitched for each other.

    I was so thrilled with what my mom chose to do for me, especially because it's one I had never seen before! I love love love it! Thank you again, Mom. 🙂 It's perfect!

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    My mom found out from The Primitive Hare that this isn't an exact reproduction, but rather several parts of different antiques, all brought together to form this beautiful sampler. It's wonderful, and I love the soft browns and blues, which Jill brought out beautifully in the moulding!

    Here is what I did for Mom:


    This is a chart that is no longer in print, but if you do happen to have the chart, you'll notice I left off the "Elizabeth Whipp" portion from the top, and stitched my initials instead. I chose it for Mom because I just felt like it was so her, especially with the deer motif in the center. And again, Jill's taste in frames is outstanding. I couldn't be happier with it!

    As for our photo together, we settled on one that we thought was decent enough…


    …It was Mom who realized the glaring problem. (I was still marveling at our hair.)

    So we hurriedly turned our samplers around before the timer on the camera clicked off, and called it good.


     I hope if ayone else out there exchanged stitched pieces with someone, you had just as much fun as we did, even if we did manage to get the whole event done in 7 1/2 minutes! We've decided that for next year, we'll have a theme: Christmas! And I think I've already got Mom's chosen… 🙂

  • Family

    He’s Baaack.

    Those of you who know me or have been reading my blog for a while know that I abhor board/bored games.

    Mike was out of town for the past 5 days at a big board game convention, and since he's been home, he's been regaling me with stories of game play-by-plays, superior strategic moves on his part, hot-off-the-press game release news, and celebrity sightings (apparently one of the stars of Mad Men is a huge board gamer himself). In addition to this rousing entertainment, he's presented me with at least 114 photos of different board games (they all look the same to me), and begins each oral caption with the words, "Here's the basic gist of the game…"

    Everyone in our family knows that when Mike starts out a sentence that way, we'd better have a comfy chair and pillow nearby.

    Okay, so it's no different than when I come back from a retreat, I'll give him that. But I don't usually bring home souvenirs for him. Here's what he got me this time, and laid it sweetly on my jewelry box:


    I'll be sure to wear it proudly the next time I need to attend one of his formal police department functions.

    It is nice to have him home though, and I'm very happy he's got a hobby he enjoys doing so well; his board game collection is nearly as large as my cross stitch stash. I don't mind his board games laying on various table tops in the house, and he doesn't mind my stitching hanging on the walls.

    And since he doesn't mind my stitching hanging up everywhere, maybe he won't mind either that I'm thinking of converting this to a cross stitch chart:


    When it's finished, I will regale him with stitch-by-stitch accounts of how the piece came to life, and I'll take about 114 progress pics along the way as well. And when I hang it up, it will probably go right over my jewelry box.

  • Critters,  Family

    Bean and Co.

    Sabrina came home a few weeks ago and we attempted to take her picture with the pets of the house, which is no easy task. Those of you who have tried taking pictures with your pets – particularly those of the feline variety – probably know what I'm talking about.

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    We couldn't find Tilly-Roux anywhere in the house, which gave each of us a bit of anxiety, but we kept telling ourselves that surely she was holed up somewhere, not wanting to be disturbed.

    So we forged ahead without Miss Tilly, who was probably secretly gloating that she didn't have to be a part of this nonsense…

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    (Is it my imagination, or are Sabrina and Effy Thimbles are starting to look alike?)

    We did find Tilly eventually. She had crawled into the dresser, and I had shut the drawer on her, not knowing she was in there. It was Effy who gave us the clue, by laying on top of my dresser – which is something she never does. We were all very happy to see sweet Tilly-Roux again, but not nearly as happy as she was to see that she'd missed the photo session entirely.


  • Crazy Kids,  Critters,  Family,  Holidays

    Chucky 2.0

    When I asked Sophie this year if she was going trick-or-treating, she said she wasn't, because she was 13 and none of her friends were going. Truth be told, I was relieved, because I wasn't really up for the task of making a costume.

    Two days before Halloween, Sophie changed her mind. Some friends of hers were, indeed, going trick-or-treating, 13 or not, so she was joining them.

    "I want to be an evil doll," she said, and rummaged through her closet for something that would work. We made a quick trip to WalMart for false eyelashes and fake blood, and this was her presentation for her door-to-door soliciting of candy that night:


    The girl does love keeping in character.


    Even Big Papa was no match for her focus.


    So Big Papa turned his sights on other unsuspecting innocents.



    Oh, but that wasn't enough for Big Papa.




    I imagine the Yorkie was having a field day.

    Happy belated Halloween! 🙂

  • Crazy Kids,  Family,  Sports,  Travel


    Bean, Bean, the Party Machine.

    That was the nickname given to Sabrina at summer camp one year when she was in middle school, and she's definitely still living up to it at twenty. But in a good way, mind you;  she loves to have fun wherever she goes, despite the new nickname given to her in college: Soberina. 🙂

    This past weekend we headed to Kansas City to celebrate Sabrina's twentieth birthday by heading to the USA – Jamaica World Cup Qualifier. This was something we knew Bean would love to do, because when she was an exchange student in Germany, one of the highlights of her visit was getting to go to a Public Viewing, which in this case refers to the public's gathering to view a football game; her host family was quite proud of her for donning the colors of Deutschland!

    This time, however, she was wearing her patriotic colors, joining the throngs of American Outlaw crazies who were there to cheer the USA on to victory. What a party!








    I'd be horrified at all those cameras pointing at me…


    After the game, the USA members walked the perimeter of the field, which was really fun for the specatators…


    What a fun time that was! The next morning we headed to IHOP for Sabrina's birthday breakfast, and she insisted on bringing her unopened gifts into the restaurant to open them there. 🙂 (Didn't I say she loves to have fun wherever she's at?)


    After our pancake breakfast we headed to Worlds of Fun and spent the day riding rides and going into haunted houses…

    I love this picture of Bean and Soph trying to take a selfie on the Fjord Fairlane ride…

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    We sure missed having Bre with us… I think it was her first year not being able to celebrate her sister's birthday with us, but her job wouldn't allow her the time off. 🙁


    Happy 20th birthday, Bean. We love you so much! Now let's see if you can hang onto that Soberina title for one more year… 😉

  • Family,  Travel

    The Arch

    Hi there!

    I thought I'd hop back on here and show you all just a little bit of what we did as we were leaving the needlework market a couple of weeks ago… Mike grew up in St.Louis, so he was excited to visit the city just a bit and hopefully take us down memory lane.. needless to say, Sophie and I were dreading very excited about this, and he glanced over every half-mile or so while we were on the interstate, wondering if he should take this exit or that in order to get to his alma mater, Garfield Elementary School.

    "Do you think any of my old teachers still teach there?" he would ask occasionally.

    Most likely he was fantasizing about how he would run (in slow motion) through the school yard, waving a bright shining apple over his head like a trophy, and have old Miss Elderpants greet him with open arms and exclaim affectionately, "Mikey! You haven't changed a bit!"

    And that's when I'd say, "No, he hasn't; he still talks too much," throwing a heavy wet blanket onto his whole daydream.

    Och, it wasn't that bad. We never found Garfield, but we did head toward Jefferson Park, following Mike's lead to the Arch.

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    Sophie had a pretty bad blister on her foot, so she decided to go barefoot.

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    The day was incredibly hot and muggy, but the park was still very pretty, which made the long walk enjoyable.

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    I had no idea that there was a very cool museum under the Arch! I really enjoyed it, and could have spent much longer there… most of these pictures are of quotes I took for my mom, because she loves to read anything related to the pioneering of America…

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    Mike and I loved the spelling!

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    These are all excerpts from the diary of William Clark (of Lewis and Clark)…

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    The last sentence of the following clip was my favorite… I wonder if he was specifically referring to God's creation of what he had been journaling about, or just the natural structure and beauty of everything?

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    This was a replica general store, which had lots of fun things in there.. repro cookbooks, ladies' housekeeping books, quil and ink sets, and Sophie's favorite, saltwater taffy. (I'm not sure who that lady in the photo is.)

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    We had to keep an eye on the clock because we yet had 7 hours to drive in front of us, and Sophie had school the next day. So we hurried to the loading station to ride up to the Arch.

    Here was the door we were told to stand in front of. It was only about 4 1/2 feet high..

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    If I'd known that we were going to be crammed into this little pod for roughly 5 uncomfortable minutes, I'm not sure I would have been on board.  By the way, what you see in the photo looks like a toilet seat, but it's not.. its just the back of one of the tiny seats available to sit on. There were 5 seats per unit, situated in a very tight  circle…

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    And to add to the discomfort of the tight quarters, Mikey had his chatterbox turned on, all the way to the top.

    I will admit though, it was a pretty neat sight up there. 🙂

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    And it will be our secret that while we were up there, I may have spotted Garfield. 😉