Saturday, June 26, 2010

Getting Ready for College, Round 2 (aka A Very Comprehensive Checklist for College

Not long ago I alluded to the lessons we learned after our only child went to college last fall. More specifically, I wrote about what we learned near the end of the school year when it was time to bring all the stuff home this past spring after that first year was over.

Thinking back, I remember sending out a Facebook request last year about this time for a comprehensive college checklist, hoping that someone I knew would send me the list they had used for kids heading away to college. So, when I was told "No such animal exists," I took it upon myself to draft one. Below is that list. I have changed the formatting to keep it a little more readable here on the blog. And in all honesty, we "picked up a few things" on the trip in to Oxford that never made it to the list. Still, here is a pretty doggone good list if I do say so myself. Of course, it is also a list that along with some canned soup and jugs of water would be of great service should you need to survive a nuclear holocaust holed up inside a bunker someplace for a couple of years.

So, with that in mind, you can understand the embarrassement I talked about in "It's All My Fault," on this blog on April 23, 2010. (To view it, just type It's All My Fault in the Search This Blog search box.)

And, here's THE LIST!!

Comprehensive List of Items for College

2 sets X-tra Long sheets, Mattress pad, Comfort pad, Blanket, Throw, Comforter, Pillows/covers, Backrest, Throw pillow, Curtains/rod

Personal Care Items
Shower caddy, Shower shoes, Toothpaste/toothbrush/cover/floss
Soap, Deodorant, Shampoo/conditioner, Q-tips, Razor/groomer
Nail clippers/groomer kit, Brush/comb, Hairdryer, Meds/1st aid kit
Listing of emergency phone numbers, Contact lenses/case/cleaner and solutions
Glasses/case Towels, hand towels, washcloths, Tissues

Around Campus
Backpack, “Wooster” bag (it’s a ‘string’ bag), Umbrella, Bicycle, Lock for bike,
Golf clubs, Golf shoes

Electronics/Entertainment, TV, DVD player, Microwave, Game system(s) / carry bags, Console, Camera, Ipod/accessories, Clock/radio, Phone/charger
Charging station

Laundry Items
Detergent/softener/dyer sheets, Tide pen, Stain stick, Hangers, Iron/steamer
Laundry bag, Pop-up basket, Laundry pen

Room Needs
Tool kit (screwdriver, adjustable wrench, duct tape, tape measure)
Sewing kit, Surge protector, Extension cords, 3-2 adaptors, S- hooks, Batteries,
Boot tray (yes, the infamous “Boot Butler Tray!!!”), Dry erase board,
Bulletin board, Fan, Flashlight/batteries, Lamp, Posters/decorations
Underbed Storage boxes, Desktop storage containers, Chairs,
Carpeting or Area rug (can often be purchased on campus), Bed lifts, Paper shredder
Sticky tack / 3-M hangers, Over the door hanger, Closet deodorizer
Photo frames, Other mementos, etc., Stacking/collapsible crates, Desk/letter organizer, Shelving or tables (for office items or personal care items), Fridge shelving unit

Kitchen Stuff
Brita water filter pitcher and filters, Bowls/silverware/cups/water bottle, Can opener, Chip clips, Cups/glasses,Baking soda (Buy 2 - 1 for fridge and 1 for freezer)

Study Needs/School Supplies
Planner – purchase on campus, Computer, Cables for computer, printer, etc.
Computer lock, Calculator, Lap desk, Sleeve for printer, Memory stick/flash drive
Copier, Paper/copier paper, Sticky notes, Calendar, Notebooks, Scissors/ruler,
Pens/pencils/sharpener/highlighters, Stapler/staples/tape dispenser/tape,
Rubber bands/paper clips, Letter opener, Files/labels/index cards, Drawer organizer, Book light

Checkbook, ATM card/MU ID/etc.
Any MU paperwork
Stamps/notes, Sewing kit/safety pins/eyeglass repair kit, Safe, Ziploc bags,
Gym bag, Swimming trunks/towel, Storage containers, Paper towels,
Trash bags, Light bulbs, Dish wipes

Underwear, Socks (athletic and dress)
Shoes (shower shoes, sneakers, boots, dress shoes, casual shoes)
T-shirts, Under shirts, PJ bottoms, Robe/slippers, Belts (casual and dress),
Jeans, Shorts, Casual shirts, Dress shirt, Dress slacks, Dress Jacket, Ties,
Sweats, Sweaters, Hoodies, Jacket, Coat, Gloves/scarf/hat

You'll notice I did not include any food items. Like I mentioned earlier, we stopped on the way in and bought a lot of those items. Some students are willing to do a little cooking and with the residence hall kitchen facilities can do a lot of it, if they want. Our kid? Not happening.

So, with all of this said and the list forever recorded for posterity, as they say, you'll be happy to know that we have decided to totally back off The List for the sophomore year. As a returning student, our son now knows what he needs and what he doesn't; we won't be sending a hundred of those,
you-might-need-this-at-some-point-and-you'll-be-glad-you-have-it-items. I imagine a lot fewer items will be heading from our house to Miami University this fall. But hey, at least he's got the list for reference, right?

If you have a college student going away for the first time this fall, I hope YOU find this list helpful!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Just Hanging Out

It's finally Friday. Woo-hoo! I am so glad it's finally the weekend. Anybody with me?

I know it's been forever since I've posted and you've let me know. Sorry! So, I thought I'd let you know what I'm up to and promise some postings soon.

I am finishing up a craft project on the patio today, hanging out with Jeffrey Bob (look at him in all his glory! He's so excited now that all his leaves are in!! There's a close up of Jeffrey Bob for any newbies...). It's a BEAUTIFUL day in Ohio and I just want to soak in the sun and the light breeze this morning!

So, I hope to see you soon, friends! Have a wonderful, SON-kissed day!!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Lesson from Sara Sturgeon & A Recipe for Poppy Seed Chicken

Recently the subject of family dinner time has presented itself to me over and over. First, of course, our son is home from college for the summer and dinner is once again a ‘family affair’ as we knew it for so many years. Yay!!

A Facebook friend who is in graduate school and actively shares parenting responsibilities with his wife is on break from classes for a little while. This young family will, at least for a little while, be able to enjoy the elusive dinner hour collectively as a family – a difficult task in their family where work and class schedules are, no doubt, challenging on the best of days.

As important as we know it is to sit down and have a meal together, sometimes making it happen seems about as likely as revisiting the Walton’s, where it seemed to be the unquestioned way of life. We want to sit down and have a meal that someone - no offense guys, but in most cases, that someone is typically the mom of the family - has prepared for the family to enjoy. We want to be relaxed and have a lovely, well-balanced and nutritious meal with a perfectly set table and children who are behaving and using their best manners. In reality, the work schedules of parents and teens often conflict with making this Walton-esque scenario a reality. When we add in outside responsibilities and kids’ sports schedules and errands and chores and caring for elderly parents, and .... well, it’s just hard to get it all done.

I had an opportunity to sit down for a marketing meeting with one of “my boys” for a while recently. He had a great year in college and will be spending the summer in Cincinnati doing an internship. During that time, he told me he is looking forward to some Brower family dinners. Oh, it did my heart good to hear him say that! He specifically mentioned the salmon I often make a couple of times during our conversation. Ironically, he didn’t even used to like fish! He had salmon here a couple of times within the last few years after which I would sometimes hear from him, “Is it fish night?” when dinner time rolled around. I always got a kick out of that. He loves Ken’s burgers, too, and most recently requested those (Ken is, afterall, the grill master.) We love to know that our kids want to be here with us for meals! We treasure those hours with them.

But – back to the family dinners. It wasn’t until we moved to Orrville, that I actually heard someone verbalize the importance of the family dinner – that is, eating together DAILY. I worked with a wonderful lady at the Orrville Area Chamber of Commerce in Orrville a number of years ago when we first moved to Orrville. Her name is Sara Sturgeon and she is an awesome lady! Fun and fun to be around, Sara is one of the funniest gals I’ve ever known. Just thinking of her makes me smile, yet I can’t remember any specific thing she said. Ever know someone like that?

Well, Sara had these two terrific girls - Stephanie and Katie - who just excelled at everything and I imagine they still do!. At that time our son was in first or second grade. I remember asking Sara what the secret was to raising such incredible kids. Without hesitation she told me that she believed the family dinner was critically important. She said that she and her husband, Bill, had always tried to make time each day to eat together with their girls and reconnect as a family.

I never forgot what Sara shared with me, and Ken and I tried to implement that lesson through the years as Matthew grew up. Even if we were eating at odd times during golf or baseball season, we always tried to eat together. I could see what Sara meant: regularly reconnecting was crucial. I truly believe it made a difference in our family as our son grew up, too.

I know that Sara, who worked full-time, was very busy with her daughters’ schedules. They were very active and were involved in many extra-curricular activities. To make sure they were able to have dinner together, Sara would often begin preparation for their dinner meal when she went home for lunch. For example, she might prepare a casserole and refrigerate it so that it so that it could be baked later. That preparation impressed me so much! Dinner was clearly a priority to her and to their family. What a woman! And what an inspiration she was to me when we worked together. Some people touch our lives in ways that are difficult to express. Sara is one of those people for me.

Sara's daughters are all grown up now and Sara is a grandma. What a very cool grandma she must be! She will create laughs for those kids that they can carry in their hearts forever! She has the light-hearted sense of humor that touches everyone and leaves you feeling happy.

Sara shared a recipe with me that has become a family favorite. Like so many recipes, I have tweaked it so much that I don’t even know what the original recipe was. I do, remember, though, that it came from Sara! This is one of Matthew’s favorite recipes. For you regular readers, I serve it with the rice recipe I shared previously (“Dear Abby’s Infallible Rice”).

5-6 chicken breasts, deboned and with skin removed**
1 cup sour cream (preferably Smith's!)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
3 sleeves Ritz cracker crumbs
1-2 Tbls. poppy seeds
1/2 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

-Use cooking spray to grease 9 " x 13" casserole dish. Cook chicken until well done (I like to cook mine in the crock pot for several hours.).
-While chicken is cooking, melt margarine in large saute pan on stove top over medium heat. Add Ritz cracker crumbs and heat through. Set aside.
-Cut thoroughly cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in large bowl.
-Add soup, sour cream, poppy seeds and chicken broth. Mix well. Spread into greased casserole dish.
-Spread buttered cracker crumbs over top of all.
-Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until bubbly.

Notes: Refrigerate leftovers. Reheats well.

**I like to use chicken pieces with bone and skin intact until cooked, as they make a tastier broth. Both can easily be removed later.

Enjoy! And if you see Sara Sturgeon, tell her she’s my
hero(ine), will you?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We All Need a Lynda in Our Lives

This beautiful couple are Lynda and Brian Holmes. If you see Lynda today, give her a big hug for me!

We all need a Lynda in our lives.

You might remember I wrote about “Linda” before. Linda is a close, dear friend who lives near me. We all need one of her in our lives (please read the posting on 8.24.09 titled “Be A ‘Party In A Box’”), because everyone needs a friend like Linda.

But today I write about a different person - Lynda. And trust me, we all need a Lynda in our lives, too.

Lynda Holmes, a friend from my church who also happens to be our church secretary. Lynda is one of the most positive people I know. When I fuss about being overwhelmed, I remember Lynda once calling such craziness “busy blessings.” Now, does that give you an idea about this gal?

Recently I wrote about some hurts I’ve been dealing with – and have been for a long time. These days they just seem to keep resurfacing. Some days I deal with it better than others. I’ve never been one to hold a grudge. Generally I’m able to let hurts go, too, but for some reason these particular hurts seem to, well, resurface often.

So today I received a sweet email from my friend, Lynda. Lynda, who has been a personal supporter and fan of my blog from the early days, sent me a link to a daily devotional she receives. When I opened the link to take a peak, guess what greeted me? A posting on this website called “The Blessings of Forgiveness” – how timely is that?!

I read the posting and got so much from it. It was nice to see someone going
through what I was and am dealing with (as selfish as that sounds!). It was also awesome to read the writer's thoughts on how to deal with these hurts. If you are dealing with these kinds of issues, too, I hope you’ll take two minutes to read this. While on the website, you can also sign up for daily devotions to be emailed to you, as I did. I love this website! So, courtesy of Lynda, I share it with you, too:

I would like my email from Lynda today to serve as a reminder to me - and to you, too. If you feel compelled to send a note or email someone to encourage them - DO IT! You never know what that can mean to someone needing support and a reason to smile.

Thank you, Lynda, for being my friend and for caring about me. I wish you blessings today, my dear friend! Love you!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Mother's Strawberry Pie

This photo was taken in 1992, just a few months before my mom died. Kenny, Matthew and I were living in Durham, NC at the time.

With strawberry season upon us, I just have to share this recipe and these thoughts in memory of my mother….

I have never met a dessert I haven’t liked. I got this (un)enviable characteristic from my mom, Irene Lester, who loved to eat desserts as much as she loved to make them! In fact, she was known for making a wide assortment of delicacies. I have such fond memories of growing up in a home where there were always delicious cakes and pies and fruit desserts, oh my! And the platters of fudge were simply the best! When family and friends came to visit they would place “requests” for their favorites. I remember one occasion where someone requested a ‘repeat’ of a dessert my mom had never made. The person confidently maintained that she knew my mom had made the recipe for her once before, years previously. Although she had never made it, my mother graciously found a recipe and made it anyway, to rave reviews. She was like that.

One of my favorite desserts was my mom’s strawberry pie. I think that’s because she had loved Shoney’s Strawberry Pie for so many years and when she discovered this recipe (from where, I have no idea), she was in heaven! She was so happy with this recipe! And it’s no wonder – this recipe is the best strawberry pie I’ve ever tasted. Make your own crust and use fresh strawberries with this filling for the best strawberry pie ever! My mom did not enjoy making pie crusts (in fact, she used pre-made unbaked crusts), so I have included the recipe I always use. I love homemade pie crusts and I love this pie crust recipe! I think the combination of this particular crust with the strawberries and filling is awesome!

I still miss you so much, mommy! I remember so many fun times in the kitchen with you and planning get-togethers with family and friends. You taught me hospitality by living it every day. I often think of you as I am preparing meals and desserts and I will always cherish my memories of you and my love of the kitchen and all things home I learned from you. You are still so much a part of who I am. I love you.

Note: These recipes from my collection were first published in The Daily Record on June 18, 2003 in the "President's Cookbook" when I was involved with Relay for Life. I know some of you have shared with me that you kept that article and still use some of those recipes. I'm so glad!! So, the recipe for the "The Perfect Pie Crust" and "My Mom's Strawberry Pie" are the same recipes that were published at that time along with several others.

My Mom's Strawberry Pie

1-1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 Tbls. cornstarch
1 small box strawberry gelatin
fresh strawberries

-Combine water, sugar and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat and allow to boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and add gelatin slowly, while stirring. Let mixture cool to lukewarm.
-While mixture is cooling, cap, wash and slice strawberries; allow to drain thoroughly. Spread evenly into baked pie crust (see recipe below for my Perfect Pie Crust).
-Pour cooled gelatin mixture over berries. Cool completely before serving. Keep pie refrigerated.
-Note: Recipe doubles very nicely.

My Recipe for The Perfect Pie Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour (sift after measuring)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening (I use regular solid Crisco , but NOT butter-flavored)
2-3 Tbls. cold water

-Sift flour and salt together.
-Cut shortening into flour with pastry blender or 2 dinner knives until the size of small peas. Be sure all shortening pieces are coated with flour.
-Using a fork, toss while adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time (I like to use water with ice cubes in it so that it's REALLY cold water.).
-Mix with fork until all particles stick together and ball forms. Wrap ball of dough in waxed paper and allow in chill in fridge.
-Lightly roll out pastry on floured surface. Lift into pie plate and pat out air. If crust is to be baked without filling, use fork to carefully prick bottom (you want to get out the air, but making holes too large will enable liquid to seep through, which will ultimately make the crust soggy). Fold under edges and crimp. Bake at about 425-450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until LIGHTLY browned. Watch CLOSELY.
This recipe doubles beautifully!!

Note: DO NOT prick bottom if you are going to use this crust in a filled pie.

If you try these recipes, please write a comment or email me to tell me how they turn out!

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you."

I’ve been dealing with some hurts in my life this week. No, it’s not from my husband or son. It’s not from friends I see all the time. In fact, it’s not from anyone who is active in my life right now. Rather, these hurts go way back. You know those things that bother you and you think you have moved past, but then they resurface when you’re most vulnerable? Yeah, those things.

While reading my Bible today, 1 Peter 3: 8-17 reminds me to keep my focus on God and not on the hurts that revisit my mind. Verse 9 says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” Ouch! That really hits home!

I have to tell you, I’d much rather repay insult with insult, but I know this is not Christ-like. So, I’ve been praying for peace today, that God would cover all those hurts with His grace and His love so that I may reflect that love in my actions. In all honesty, I’m still not feeling the love for those who’ve hurt me, so I need to continue to trust that God is doing a great work in me as I continue to pray for wisdom and guidance.

I learned yesterday of another friend who is dealing with hurtful issues from the past that she is now having to “revisit” for other reasons. I pray that she, too, will be able to rely on the One who makes all hurts tolerable. These verses today are for both of us and for you, too, if you’re dealing with hurts that are difficult to bear. I find so much comfort in knowing that I don’t have to bear these burdens alone, that I can always rely on our heavenly Father.

1 Peter 5:7 reminds me to “Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Donating Blood - Another Important Way to Show Care for Others

Yesterday was our monthly blood drive for Leadership Orrville. We each (from the class) donate only an hour of time to greet, register and help screen donors, but I always come away in awe of those who give blood and donate it so unselfishly for others - for people they do not know and will probably never meet. One lady who stopped by said she is a regular donor, but stopped yesterday simply because she saw the sign posted in front of the church. In my opinion, such an act of love for others is hospitality at its best!

The following is listed on the Red Cross Website:

Every minute of every day, someone needs blood. That blood can only come from a volunteer donor, a person like you who makes the choice to donate. There is no substitute for your donation.

When you make a blood donation, you join a very select group. Currently only 3 out of every 100 people in America donate blood.

•Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
•More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day.
•More than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
•A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.


Please check out this website for FAQs about giving blood:

If you're a donor already - THANK YOU!! If you don't know if you're a candidate, check out the Red Cross website or stop by a local blood drive today. It's quick and easy to learn if you qualify as a donor! It could make all the difference to those you love...


I had meant to take my camera to get some photos of those working at the blood drive, but I forgot to take it yesterday (by the way, this is done in conjunction with Aultman Hospital and our own Dunlap Community Hospital). So, when Ken came home after donating on his way home and began wearing his (over) bandage as a headband, I thought I would just snap a photo of him. I thought you'd get a kick out of seeing him having so much fun with his colorful bandage! While his kidding around is not at all uncommon, catching it by photograph is unusual!

The photo below is Matthew and me cracking up while Ken the Samarai warrior took our picture.