Thursday, May 28, 2015

Our 21st Wedding Anniversary

Twenty 21 years ago today on May 28th, 1994 I married Jerry at the young age of 19 years old. We have been together a total of 25 years and I wouldn't change a thing. We have built an amazing life together, through the good times and the bad. Marriage is one of the hardest things in life, it's a constant giving of yourself to another....supporting, loving, encouraging and there are moments it gets tough....especially marrying young. But when you truly love someone with your whole being you find you don't need "reasons" to stay....you just know in your heart it's right and meant to be.

"Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses"   Ann Landers


Jerry was a volunteer fireman for many years so we were able to rent the fire hall for our reception and take pictures on the fire trucks. :-)


Our dear family and friends surrounded us that day to join in our union. Sadly as I look through our wedding pictures, there is a smiling face we miss very much. To the right of Jerry with the black hair is Patrick; Jerry's younger brother. We lost him a few years back at the age of 39 and miss him every day. He gave the most touching toast to us at the table that left me in tears. I will never forget those words or what he meant to me as a brother in law. No matter how many years pass by, he will always be in my heart and I will honor his memory forever.

"Sometimes when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated"  Lamartine


We had an amazing honeymoon in the Poconos and I can't believe how fast 25 years have gone by!


Of course we look exactly the same today....lol ;-) I had someone ask me about our love story and I had posted it briefly when I started my blog. I just now realized I only finished part one which you can read here. I had said there was a part 2 but apparently I had introduced my girls...this was back when I started blogging :-) So after you read this link continue on below to find out more ;-)

"We loved with a love that was more than love"  Edgar Allan Poe



Our love story: Part 2

So after Chip tried many times to get me to go out with Jerry, I finally agreed to a group date at a local restaurant and a dance place called Profiles for kids under 21. That place no longer exists today...lol.
Jerry was nervous but also quite the gentleman. We got along better than I had expected and the dates progressed from there. He told me on our first date that he was going to marry me and I laughed at him.... little did I know.....

Our love was not without challenges as we are very different in a lot of ways. Somehow the old saying of opposites attract must be true. There are many things here in between but to respect others I will not post all that on my blog as it is tough times we'd rather not mention it and we have moved on. When you are a teenager there is always heavy drama. Then you grow up and realize some things don't matter like you once thought and the world does go on. Jerry and I can drive each other crazy...but there is no one else we'd rather be with. We dated for 3 years before getting married.  So many people thought we were too young and wouldn't last.... but look at us now. We even made it through me going away to college and living in the dorm rooms. After a semester I transferred to a closer school, but wanted that experience and Jerry was so supportive!

My thoughts are when people enter a brand new relationship, it's always fun and exciting and you do things for each other to make them happy and feel good about themselves. The problem with many people today is they give up too easily and don't take their vows seriously. It's almost like marriage doesn't matter anymore because some think if it gets hard I'll just get a divorce! We shouldn't enter marriage with the thought that it could end. We certainly shouldn't enter into marriage where there are red flags of physical abuse, cheating, drug or alcohol abuse....which for me is a deal breaker. We have to first have respect for ourselves and confidence to know exactly what we want in our own lives before bringing someone else into our lives. Marriage is a partnership and through the years it changes and grows by nurturing it, not letting the stresses of life take over and make us forget what's important. Some forget to make their spouse a priority.... I know there are some exceptions to this, for instance when perhaps a person changes after the vows are said and my heart goes out to those who struggle every day. I have friends in some of these abusive situations and if they are reading, please know that I pray for you every day to find the love that will release you from the hatred that lies in the heart of some people. We all deserve to find our true loves and I feel blessed every day that I have.

Sometimes I think people spend too much time analyzing their relationships and not enough time nurturing them. And forgiveness....that's a real hard one. None of us are perfect and true love is unconditional love. We all make mistakes and while we can be hurt....we have to look at the bigger picture. But we also need time to heal....

"The first duty of love is to listen"   Paul Tillich

Boy does this quote hold so much truth! Listen to your spouse and I promise you things will be o.k. We all need to feel valued and appreciated and at times we may not agree on everything our spouse says, but that's o.k. We are different people and that will happen. Focus on how that person makes you feel. Why did you fall in love with them in the first place? What is their way of showing how they love you versus what you think they should do to show they love you? If they feel they are lacking something in the relationship and you don't listen and respect them....you may find they will turn to someone else who will. Realize we all have faults and people don't change because we think they should. We can accept them or we can move on. But don't drag them down with high expectations of what you think they should be.

"The course of true love never did run smooth"   William Shakespeare

I get asked all the time, what's your secret? How do you stay married so long? My thought is how do I not? I gave my heart and love to this person and together we have 2 beautiful, amazing girls. We want to show them what true love and respect is. That yes, things get hard or mom and dad may argue, but that it is still o.k. and they will still be together, they are only human. We all get stressed from the trials of life... but having someone that will stand by your side is golden and there is no better feeling than knowing someone has your back. So my biggest advice is to NEVER take that person for granted, don't give up so easily and show them every day you love them and respect them.

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage"   Lao Tzu


Jerry, you and I know how many years of challenges and happy times we have faced. We are different in many ways, but alike in many ways as well. We love our girls more than anything and together we are creating a family life they will take many good memories from. I am proud to be their mom and I love being your wife. It's all the little things you do to show me how much you care. You spoil me.... and make me feel like I matter. You support me and I support you to the well being of our family and our love story. I can't imagine life with anyone else and I look forward to many more anniversaries. I love you always and forever.

Don't forget to stop by and enter my giveaway! $50.00 to shop at minted.com! I will draw a name on June 2nd :-)

                                                                       Blessings,
                                                                             Jill

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Power of the Pen state tournament

                   "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart" William Wordsworth


        "The role of a writer is not to say all we can say, but what we are unable to say" Anais Nin


This past Friday was a very exciting day for our family. Hayley was one of 750 students chosen out of almost 8,000 to participate in the state tournament of Power of the Pen. She loves to write (takes after her mom ;-) Plus the fact that she made it so far despite her concussion says a lot. The tournament was held on the beautiful Wooster University campus. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day!


"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt"  Sylvia Plath




All of us received all access passes for the entire day so we could get our meals, etc. Kathleen thought this was pretty cool and she hopes to one day participate in the Power of the Pen as well :-)


This is Hayley with another teammate. Only these two in 8th grade from her school went to compete. Other members of the team came out as runners and to cheer them on. Wonderful group of talented kids!


The campus was lovely to walk around while we waited for Hayley. Gorgeous day with sunshine and light breeze....


Kathleen brought along her favorite kitty for the adventure ;-)


Brought back memories of my days on college campuses. :-)


We just thought it was pretty cool how these roots were growing down the hillside.




While parents and other students were on their electronic devices... Kathleen was busy crocheting :-)


It was a long day, we were up at 5 am to travel out there, a bit of a drive from our house, but so worth it! This is a picture I took of Hayley while we were waiting for the awards to be announced.


The guest author for the day was Michael Grant and he gave an inspiring speech to all the writers in 7th and 8th grades. His books include the Animorphs series, Gone series and more. He was selling his books and autographing them. Jerry walked up to thank him and I snapped a quick photo as they were getting ready to start announcing awards again.


We found out Hayley ranked in the top 300, but exactly which number she placed we don't know yet till they release it to all the schools. I will update when I know. :-) We are so very proud of her to make it so far!!! She has a very bright future ahead and at only 13 years old she has already made quite an impact. If you haven't already stop by and visit her blog, I know she'd love to hear from you!
Hayley Olivia Reflections of Me

"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium"  Norbett Platt


                                                                           Blessings,
                                                                                 Jill

Minted Review and Giveaway!




I was recently introduced to a wonderful new website called minted.com and asked to do a review. I'm very glad I had the opportunity to do it so because it is a lovely site that features many artists and their creative minds! The web site offers such a wonderful variety of artwork portrayed in several different items to choose from. Such as stationary, wall canvases, fabrics and so much more! I always look for websites that I know my readers will benefit from and enjoy and I don't think you will be disappointed by clicking on the this link and finding fabulous products and an amazing gift selection. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, baby showers? This site has you covered and even better I will be giving away $50.00 to a lucky reader to shop online courtesy of minted.com!!

This beautiful fabric below called English Garden by Alethea and Roth caught my eye and can be found under the home decor link: www.minted.com/fabric?of=no&limit=100 There are so many beautiful designs to choose from, whether it's recovering your favorite chairs, designing an outfit, making curtains or pillows or any other sewing project you may have in mind.


But that's just the beginning of the goodies you will find on this amazing site. Below is an example of a child's room sign that can be personalized just for them! This is wonderful to hang on your child's bedroom door or in their playroom. It's also great for hanging up and creating a wall collage of pictures around it. This particular design, called cowgirl ranch sign is by Danielle Hartgers. Ribbons for hanging are included in your order and these adorable signs are available from $16.00 and up. :-)


Another new family of products they offer are save the date cards! This wedding announcement card below was designed by Alston Wise. Something else I really like about this website is you can browse the patterns and designs for the save the date cards and click save as favorites as you go through. This way you can come back to all the designs you liked best and make a final decision. You can even email your favorites to your friends and get their feedback as well. You can find many different options by clicking here: www.minted.com/map-gifts<wbr/>


They have a wide variety of wall art available in several different sizes and this one called Float by Betty Hatchett and was one of many designs I really liked. You can choose color backgrounds and frames to fit your budget. I love how the site features up and coming artists and how the community can choose their favorites. You can view many lovely designs by clicking here: www.minted.com/art 


So now that you have a small preview of all the great products minted has, leave me a comment below letting me know you are interested in winning a $50.00 credit to shop this site and I will be drawing names in one week on June 2!! Good luck!

                                                                         Blessings,
                                                                              Jill

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Field trip to the Akron Zoo

Last week Jerry went with Kathleen on her field trip to the zoo with her third grade class. Something he has always done is go on field trips with the girls and they love the memories they create doing so. :-) All these photo credits I owe to Jerry and he was able to get several great shots of the animals so I thought it would be fun to share. At the end I share some great educational sites to visit and learn all about the animals featured and many more!

Grizzly Bears!


Bald Eagle



Humboldt penguins


Sloth Bear


Snow leopard


Chilean flamingos


African lion and lioness


Snowy owl


Alpaca


Black neck swan


Yellow jaguar


Friends enjoying the day :-)


There are so many wonderful activities and resources to access when it comes to learning about animals. Instead of a very lengthy post about facts on these animals, I wanted to share some web sites you can access that are very educational and provide information, games, way to help the animals and more. Enjoy and have fun learning!

defenders.org

kids.nationalgeographic.com

www.nwf.org

www.kidsbiology.com

kids.usa.gov

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated"  Mahatma Gandhi

"You can judge a man's true character by the way he treats his fellow animals"  Paul McCartney

                                                                      Blessings,
                                                                           Jill


Friday, May 15, 2015

Asparagus!


My little Kathleen loves to help around the house and yard. She was intently cutting the asparagus out of our garden the other night. Please overlook the weeds in these pictures... we were out getting the garden ready to be tilled and being sure to get our asparagus. :-) Notice the little white flowers? That's our strawberries popping up all over as well. Cannot wait till the strawberries come out :-)
Asparagus season lasts about 6 weeks. After that will be time to stop picking it and let it recover. Cut the stalks when they are about 6-8 inches tall and the spears are tightly closed, they will have a better flavor that way.



I must say I wasn't a big fan of asparagus before, but now getting it so fresh from the garden, what a difference in the taste! We all love it lightly steamed, but I've been trying other recipes as well. Jerry likes eating it straight out of the garden, while still standing in the garden, lol. ;-)


It's like a little treasure hunt finding the asparagus between the strawberry plants and the weeds, lol. It's well camouflaged. I believe that is why Kathleen enjoys finding it so much.



Kathleen does an awesome job finding them amongst the weeds and other plants, lol. We bring them in, in our colander and makes them easy to clean and prep them for storing in the fridge.


I love mason jars, they have so many wonderful uses. They are the perfect size to store them in and be sure to add water to the bottom to keep them fresh until you cook them.


Since we have had an overabundance of asparagus, I have been getting them ready to freeze.
First cut off any tough parts on the bottom of the stems.
Boil water and add about a pound or so at a time and blanch them for 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness.
Then transfer to very cold water to stop the cooking process. Again keep them in the cold water 3-5 minutes.


I love how rich green they are from the garden. Don't see them like this on grocery store shelves. :-)
I then flash freeze them by laying them out on cookie sheets and placing in the freezer at least 2 hours or a little longer. When frozen I then transfer them to air tight bags to place in the freezer. You can leave them as full stalks or chop them up for soups, etc. Asparagus properly frozen can last up to a year in the freezer. However when you take it out, do not defrost but cook it right away. This will be such a nice treat for us in the winter time!


There are some great recipes I wanted to share also. The other night I made the Asparagus soup, it was so delicious! Had a creamy, sweet taste to it.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

1 to 1 1/2 pounds asparagus trimmed and chopped
14 1/2 ounce can chicken broth
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup half and half  (this will depend on your desired taste)

Set aside asparagus tips for garnish.

Combine ingredients except the 1/2 and 1/2 in a stockpot or dutch oven and bring to a boil. Simmer 5-7 minutes until asparagus is tender.
Ladle small batches into the blender. Add 1/2 and 1/2 to taste and puree.
Return to stockpot/dutch oven and heat without boiling.
Steam asparagus tips till tender and garnish the soup.
Serves 5 (note these are small servings so if you'd like a bigger batch, double ingredients. :-)
ENJOY!



Lemony Asparagus with Chive Blossoms

1 large bunch asparagus
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
black pepper
2 chive blossoms

After trimming spears, place in a steamer over simmering water for 8 minutes or so until just tender, then drain. Arrange on platter or plates.
Combine lemon juice and olive oil in a small glass and whisk, pour over asparagus. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Pluck individual florets from the chive flower heads and scatter over top. Serve at room temperature.

(Recipe from Mother Earth News Magazine)

Chicken Asparagus Roll ups

1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 lemon juiced and zested
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 slices provolone cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking dish. In a bowl mix together the mayonnaise, Dijon, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, tarragon, salt and pepper until well combined; set aside.

Cook asparagus in microwave on high till bright green and just tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Set the spears aside.

Place the chicken breast between two sheets of heavy plastic (freezer bag will work, large) on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound chicken breast with smooth side of a meat mallet to a 1/4 inch thickness.

Place 1 slice of provolone cheese on each chicken breast, and top the cheese with 4 spears of asparagus. Roll chicken breast over asparagus and cheese and place seam side down in prepared baking dish. With a pastry brush apply a coating of mayonnaise mixture to each chicken breast and sprinkle with panko crumbs, pressing crumbs into chicken to make coating.

Bake in preheated oven until crumbs are browned and the chicken juices run clear, about 25 minutes.
ENJOY!

No Cream Pasta Primavera

1 (12 ounce) package penne pasta
1 yellow squash chopped
1 zucchini chopped
1 carrot cut into matchsticks
1/2 red bell pepper cut into matchsticks
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1 cup fresh green beans trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
5 spears asparagus trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil divided
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 large yellow onion thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped basil leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Boil a large pot of salted water and boil pasta until tender, yet firm, then drain
Toss zucchini, carrot, red pepper, tomatoes, green beans, and asparagus together in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning. Arrange vegetables on a lined cookie sheet.

Roast vegetables for about 15 minutes until tender.

Heat remaining olive oil and butter in large skillet. Cook onion and garlic in hot oil until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Mix cooked pasta, lemon zest, basil, parsley and balsamic vinegar into the onion mixture. Gently toss and cook till heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to large bowl. Toss with roasted vegetables and sprinkle with Romano cheese.

ENJOY!

"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust"  Gertrude Jekyll


                                                                        Blessings,
                                                                               Jill







Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's day



I had such a wonderful Mother's Day with Jerry and my girls.
The day started with breakfast in bed for me and gifts! These beautiful flowers to plant in the yard....


Variety of garden items. They know how much the beauty in nature makes me happy. :-)



I also really like turtles and they got me two small ones and a turtle necklace.


My lilac bushes bloomed just in time for Mother's Day and Jerry cut a few and placed them in a vase for me.


One of my favorite flowers, and they smell so good and look so pretty sitting on the table. :-)


Another surprise was beautiful roses...



After a quick picture in our yard, Jerry and the girls took me to a local nursery to pick out some more flowers, etc. So many beautiful choices!




Here's a few Kathleen picked for her planter. She was so excited!



After shopping at the nursery we made a quick stop at Arby's for a light lunch. We never do fast food normally, but in a small town we quickly found there were no other options on a Sunday. Hayley had the idea to look up pictures of "MR. Bean" and mimic some faces... needless to say we were all laughing pretty hard!


Hayley's was hysterical...


I love these goofballs....can always brighten any day.


On the way home we found a lovely little shop on a farm. I captured this picture of this little bird, he was so cute and just happened to be next to a statue I liked ;-) But the statue stayed behind when we left.


The lady was very nice and took us on a tour of their farm. The girls got to spend some time with the horses.


Kathleen was a bit hesitant, I think their size overwhelmed her and they were really friendly.




Here she was sure to put Jerry between her and the horse for the picture, lol.


Kisses????


The horse was like...I don't think so! LOL


Then they decided to take me to visit a lake nearby, which I love being by the water and enjoying the quiet and peacefulness. This was the road that was leading us in.













Always curious, always exploring and I love that! There were a few rain sprinkles, but overall a great day.



Pops of color along the trail....


Kathleen wasn't sure about going out on the rickety dock and it didn't help Hayley kept making it sway....but I convinced her to let me get a couple pictures ;-)


Love these two soooooo much!







I love these silhouettes of Kathleen by the water I captured. She's my little nature loving girl, just like Hayley. :-)



One of the things we found at the little store on the farm was this antique chair which I fell in love with! I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.





They also bought me this adorable little bird bath.


This is an overview of our finds for the day. Can't wait to finish planting everything.


One of the best treats of the day was them making me a lovely tea time dinner to wrap up the day.


                                   I am truly blessed and had an amazing day with my family.
                                Thank you Jerry, Hayley, and Kathleen, I love you all so much!
                                                                                Blessings,
                                                                                     Jill