Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Renew the "I Do"

If you are married, would you ever consider renewing your vows? If so, when and where? Who would you invite?

Some friends of ours renewed their vows last year around this time. They invited family and special friends. It was a very sweet ceremony in which their four children and parents participated. There was even a surprise marriage proposal when the guitarist asked his girlfriend to marry him during part of the ceremony!

Pete and I definitely want to renew our marriage vows someday. We are not sure when or where, but it is a dream of ours.

There are lots of possibilities as far as venues for a ceremony.

Like the lovely garden amphitheater pictured below.



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hot Chicks in Paradise

This past weekend Pete turned 45.  We spent the weekend celebrating.  There was dancing, singing,great food, cake, laughter, late nights, a journey to a breathtaking island and hot chicks.

Wait! What?  Hot chicks!?!

Why yes, the island was full of them.  Running around.  Strutting their stuff.  Showing off.

Pete couldn't take his eyes off of them.  He even took pictures and video!

Here is one chilling out in the shade.

Look closely under the chairs.

And here is another parading around on the beach.

What's that by the tree?

Oh, think twice.  It's just another day with you and me and hot chicks in paradise. (slightly altered quote from Phil Collins). 



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Salty Dogs

I met Wilmer today. He was quite well mannered for a dog. He really enjoyed playing on the playground with the little monkey. Wilmer was particularly fond of the swings. Oh, and he very much enjoyed sailing on the S.S. Monkey, his trusted master's ship. Did I mention that Wilmer has a British accent?

Yes, I met Wilmer today, but I couldn't tell you what he looks like though because I never actually saw him. That's the funny thing about imaginary friends (even the four-legged kind), other people can't see them. Like the time when my mom was a little monkey and her best buddy, Pinky Lee, almost got squished by someone at the doctor's office. My mom saved his life by screaming at the top of her lungs, "You're sitting on Pinky Lee!" Of course, the lady who sat on him never saw Pinky Lee, but he was there and my mom made sure that the whole office knew about him.

So, did you ever have an imaginary friend in your life? Did he speak with a British accent and sail the high seas?



Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I am a very blessed granddaughter.  My grandparents and great parents are all amazing people and I have many fond memories of times spent with them.  I am also the oldest grandchild on both sides of our family.  When I was just beginning to talk, I began calling my mom's dad, Poppy. From that point on, he has been known to all of us grandchildren and great grandchildren as Poppy.

Poppy is one of the hardest workers I have ever met.  Anything that he does, he does it with zest and zeal.  He was a city councilman in our home state of New Jersey.  A man of integrity with a passion for bettering his community. I remember going to his office once when I was young. It was evident to me that he was a well respected and liked man.  I am very proud of him.

Poppy and Grandma have always kept such amazing gardens at their homes.  The have mega-green thumbs.  And as for fishing, I swear that Poppy has some magical powers that bring the fish to him in droves.  He is also a really talented cook and has an appreciation for fine dining.

The most important lesson that Poppy has taught me over the years is how important it is to persevere despite life's obstacles and hardships.  Poppy had polio as a child, as a result his leg and lungs were weakened.  That has not stopped him though.  He is a fighter, and he doesn't just get the job done, he gets it done well.

Last January, our family celebrated a milestone birthday with Poppy.  Actually, we surprised him.  My niece Heather of Lisbet Photography was on hand to capture some really beautiful photographs of the special day.

Here are some highlights:

The moment of the surprise...

Followed by lots of hugs

from his children...


his grandchildren...

and his great grandchildren...

And then a sweet toast from my mom, the oldest daughter...

With lots of great food (Italian, of course!) and even better company...

More pictures of almost all of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I can't believe that a year has passed since Poppy's last birthday!  We all had such a wonderful time celebrating him. 

And now, I want to wish Poppy another HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! May you be richly blessed this year. Let's go out to our favorite restaurant really soon and have smoked fish and artichokes, okay? I will even come over and iron your shirt for you (teeheehee)


Melissa (your oldest grand daughter) 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What's in a Name?

Do you have any birthday traditions?  You know, things that make an already special day extra special?  Around here the birthday monkeys get to choose a special breakfast and dinner, plus the type of cake they would like.  We spoil them, but hey, it is their birthday after all.

There is one tradition that I love the most though.  It is simple, but very meaningful.  Pete and I like to take the birthday child's name and make an acrostic out of it. Then we write it down and put it at their place at the table on their birthday. 

We try to choose adjectives and phrases that describe each monkey.  Words like artistic, determined, energetic, and musical.  Phrases like "yellow haired youngling" and "never ashamed of the gospel".  We have a lot of fun with this.  Although with six monkeys, we do develop writer's block sometimes. 

So please tell me, what are your birthday traditions?



Monday, January 14, 2013

Trust Me - Don't Try This At Home!

I have been weeding through our digital photo library lately.  My computer was about to explode or implode or something tragic like that. I guess 52, 379 pictures and 1, 518 videos was a bit much for the old computer to handle.

Weeding through pictures is something that I love and hate to do at the same time.  I love it because I get to take a little walk down Memory Lane and that always makes me smile.  I hate it because I realize how much our monkeys are growing and changing and it makes me sad.  So, I spend an hour or so a day feeling like Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde.  Happy, sad, happy, sad...

Anyway, my psychosis aside, weeding through pictures has proven to be very helpful to me and now with this informative post to you too.  You see, I have learned some lessons over the years about taking pictures, family pictures in particular.  Let me share what I have learned.

If you are going to go all DIY on the family photo make sure you pick a great location to shoot at.  Like maybe, an outdoor location.  We choose the beach for these family photos (a few years ago).

Selecting a visually pleasing, yet not distracting background is important...

Background #1:
Great background, but too far from the subjects.
Oh and we discovered that lighting is also important...

Background #2:

Nice background, too much light. Note: little monkey is not enjoying the direct sunlight.
Background #3:

Better background, better lighting?.  Little monkey is still not enjoying the background or the lighting.
Okay, so these attempts failed.  But, when at first you don't succeed...


I like to title this picture, "I'm done!"

And this one is, "I'm undone."

try again...

We almost had it...then the tongue and shell drop happened.

and again...
Close but monkey girl is rebelling, again. Shell is just. out. of. reach!

100th's time a charm right ?

Um, no!

Ah, that's better.


Okay, so a family photo with everyone smiling, facing forward and staying still  is impossible to do if you want to keep your sanity.  And I am telling you that I do not think that I kept my sanity or that I was sane for doing this in the first place.  The verdict is still out on my sanity.

As for this guy, he got his shell...

Happy as a clam!
And these guys, they gave us the winning picture...

Smiles and sunset included

And all was right with the world.  Until the next shot...

And the moral of this story is:  Do not try to take your own family photos.  Hire a photographer. 



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside...

Actually it's 85 degrees here in Florida, but with the air conditioning turned down to 60 degrees it should be quite frosty in here soon enough.

When it's cold, I love to cuddle up with a cup of hot cocoa and my man.  Our kids are so grossed out when Pete and I cuddle, smooch, and stuff.  I love watching their faces contort into "oh gross" expressions! Ha!  Take that you hooligans!

To make all that cuddle time a little more bearable for the monkeys, we have started a new tradition - The Hot Cocoa Bar!

In addition to our homemade hot cocoa mix, we like to set out a variety of toppings to garnish, embellish and lavish our cocoa with.

Salted caramel dark chocolates and cookies to sip and dip with.

Coconut, chocolate chips, peppermint bits to season the cocoa nicely.

A dollop of homemade whipped cream, Dolce de Leche, and chocolate sauce to drizzle on top.

The most amazing cup of cocoa ever.
There you have it!  The Hot Cocoa Bar!  It can be personalized to fit your family's palate.  Just don't forget mounds of marshmallows and lots of smooches, hugs and cuddles with your loves.  This would be perfect for Valentine's Day, or tonight, or right now. 



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Old Wives and Their Tales

This is how the stomach virus makes us feel.
So it's official.  The stomach virus has come to visit our home, and boy do we have some sad, sick monkeys around here.  This virus is a whopper! Not pretty at all.

Whenever the kids come down with a stomach bug, I always get nervous.  I start researching home remedies and ways to ward off the funk.  I once heard an old wives tale that if you drink a can of Coke, you won't catch the stomach virus.  I tried it.  It did not work.

It made me wonder about all of those other tales I've heard throughout the years.  Like, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" or "Drinking a glass of warm milk before bed will help you sleep".  So, I looked those "words of wisdom" up and it actually turns out that the old broads really did know what they were talking about.  Apples have cancer fighting agents know as phenolics that protect against colon and breast cancer.  Warm milk has a positive psychological effect on people, triggering a relaxed, happy feeling from infancy.

Okay, so maybe those old wives were wise.  Maybe they were so wise that they all got together one evening and decided to have some fun with us future generations. I can just imagine their conversation:

Old Wife #1:  "I've got a great one!  Let's tell them that if their ears are burning someone must be talking about them."

Imagine all the poor souls with naturally warm ears who walk around these days in a state of paranoia thinking that someone (everyone) is talking about them.

Thanks Old Wife #1!

Old Wife #2:  I know, let's tell them that If you wean calves in the dark of the moon, they won’t bawl for their mamas."

Think of all the poor tired farmers that subscribed to that little nugget of knowledge.  Staying up all night in the pitch dark, weaning all those baby ccws...Not to mention the poor mother cows that had to wait for nights on end until it was dark enough for their babies to be weaned.  

Shame on you Old Wife #2!

Old WIfe #3:  "Ha!  Why don't we tell them that rabbits' feet bring good luck?"

Either Old Wife #3 was just plain mean or she really liked rabbit stew. PETA would have been all over her!

And Old Wife #4, she was the little tart that thought she would mess with moms like me, by sharing her "sage wisdom" about drinking a can of Coke to ward off the stomach virus.  I bet those old wives just rolled with laughter thinking about all of us hopeful moms, chugging down our can of soda only to have it make a return visit several hours later.  And, I will have you know, Old Wives, that Coke does not feel very good when it comes out of your nose! 



Friday, January 4, 2013

The Things You Do for Love.

If someone would have told me when I was newly married that I would one day have six monkeys, I would have said, "Hmm...maybe".

Or if they would have said you will leave your career as a Speech and Language Pathologist and become a stay at home mom, I would have replied, "Umm...really?".

And if they would have said you will homeschool those monkeys from kindergarten through high school graduation, I would have answered, "Wait...what?".

But, if someone would have told me that I would spend an entire day cooking a month's worth of meals for those six monkeys and their dad, I would have laughed until I cried.

An entire month's worth of meals in one day?  Insanity!

And since insanity is my middle name (actually it's Ann, but insANity has the "Ann" sound in it so it works) I went ahead did the unthinkable - on New Year's Day, I cooked enough meals for our family for a month.

Here is how it went down:

My friend and neighbor, Rikki, gathered recipes for meals that are freezable.

Hi Rikki!
Then, she made a list of everything that we (another neighbor and I) would need to purchase to make those meals.  Then, she made another list of other items that we could share.  Then she made a list of all the meals on a white board.

Then, she opened her home so that we could come and cook those meals.  So basically, Rikki did all the work and I just showed up to cook.  Nice!

Upon arrival at Rikki's house, the cooking and prepping was already in full swing.  So I made sure that everyone was happy by providing them with mimosas.  Then, Rikki snapped my happy-self into reality by giving me an italian chicken dish to prepare for three families.  After that, there was a vat of chili to mix up,  a garden of carrots to chop, a trough of sausage to prepare, an army of tortillas to roll, beans, beans and more beans.  Dishes to scrub, bowls to fill, more chopping, more mixing, more mimosas.

Finally, after seven hours of prepping, laughing, cooking, talking, eating, packing, talking, cleaning, and  laughing, we had finished our quest to make a month's worth of meals.  Of course, none of us could move the next day, but our freezers were full and our families will be well fed.  Ah, the things you do for love.

Hi Sawn!  Glad you liked the enchiladas!
I highly recommend once a month cooking, but don't ask me for any directions or helpful hints.  Ask Rikki, she knows.  Me? I just bring the mimosas.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

Do You Ever Wonder?

If you have any little monkeys in your life, do you ever stop and ponder what they will be like when they grow up?  I sure do.  I find myself wondering...

Will she be a dancer?...

Will he be a musician like his dad?...

Will she be an artist?...

Will she be a designer?...

photo credit:  Lisbet Photography

Will he be a film maker?...

photo credit:  Jeremy Harmsen

Will he be a.....