Halloween Movies to Get You into the Spirit

I’m in my room, burning a spiced pumpkin candle, and watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  Life just doesn’t get much better.  Megan and I absolutely love fall, and with Halloween fast approaching, there are certain rituals that must be adhered to.   My favorite fall ritual, besides baking apple crisp, pumpkin pie, etc., is watching Halloween movies.  Maybe it goes back to my childhood and watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin” when it aired on TV.  It was a special night I looked forward to every year.  I’ve always loved The Peanuts, and still do.  It brings back the warm fuzzies I felt when watching those CBS specials as a child.  So now I own “It’s the Great Pumpkin” on DVD and watch it every year.  I watch it by myself (does that sound pathetic?) but I like to have my nieces over to watch it too.  They are good about humoring me!

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

I remember watching “The Birds” as a kid at our old house.  It was a Saturday afternoon in the fall and I just came across it on TV.  I was in our “hobby room,” which was like a little family room.  It had dark paneling and orange plaid carpet, and it was my favorite room in the house.  Hey, it was built in the 70’s!  Anyway, I watched “The Birds” and got really creeped out.  I didn’t see it again until I bought the DVD a few years ago to show my kids.  I told them how scary it was, how I remembered it.  We brought the movie to my friend Jennifer’s house and our families watched it together (after we dressed up like zombies and played zombie tag).  My kids teased me about how NOT scary it was and Sander said “well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back,” after watching it.  Sander at 12…..now that’s scary.  I just noticed this year that “The Birds” is based on a book written by Daphne Du Maurier.   She also wrote My Cousin Rachel, which I just read this summer.

Alfred Hitchock's The Birds

Another must-see Halloween movie is Disney’s “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.”  I remember watching it as a kid, but Kendal for years has put the movie on for the kids after trick-or-treating.  “Hocus Pocus” is a favorite too….it will get you into the Halloween spirit.  My girls grew up watching the “Halloweentown” movies on Disney channel and Manon says it’s not Halloween until she’s watched it.  Movies like these are a fun part of childhood, or in my case, adulthood!

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

My daughter Marek loves Tyler Perry’s Madea movies, so last year we saw “Boo!  A Madea Halloween” at the theater.  It was hysterically funny.  The sequel comes out in a few days and we can’t wait to see it.  So whatever your fall and Halloween traditions, make sure you include a few movie nights.  Pop popcorn, make treats, light a candle, invite friends over, and watch a Halloween movie.  Or if you’re like me and your kids won’t watch them with you, watch them alone or invite your nieces over.  Enjoy the season because Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner!

Mardi

What’s your favorite Halloween movie?

Fall Barn Party

Fall barn party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Barn Party

Last week, we had a barn party.  We had been talking about having one for three years now and decided that this was the year.  A picture in a Country Living magazine of a table set up with hay bales for chairs in the main aisle of a barn was the inspiration for our party.  We started working on it a week before so we didn’t have to do everything the last minute.  B-u-t, we still had a ton to do and were busy running around getting everything done right up until guests arrived.  Of course.  That just seems to be how we roll.  And we couldn’t ask the horses to quit pooping for a week, so what’s a girl (or two) to do!

hydrangeas
Beautiful hydrangeas from mom’s yard made the perfect decorations
The barn all decked out and spider web, manure, and almost dust free!

Also, since it was set for September 23rd, we thought it would be perfect fall weather, and a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of the season.  So we envisioned cool, crisp air and thought a soup bar would be an easy way to feed a lot of people.  Wrong.  Mother Nature did not cooperate at all!  It was 90 degrees and hotter than heck.  Who would have thought?!  We sure didn’t, since that kind of weather is extremely rare in the summer here in Michigan, let alone late September.

The chalkboard wasn’t big enough to list everything on the menu!

Well, all week we swept, vacuumed, dusted, knocked down cobwebs, strung lights (zillions!), hauled tables and chairs, decorated, and followed behind the horses with a manure rake to pick up every little poop (okay, not quite, but almost).  All while we sweated our bras off and wondered if it would all be worth it.  And despite the heat, it surely was.  For one, the barn was cleaner than our houses last weekend.

wheelbarrow with mums and pumpkins
An old wheelbarrow is the perfect container for mums and pumpkins

 

Fynn and one of the barn cats

Fall Barn Party

We also had a great turnout!  It was so fun hosting the party at the barn with the horses being nosy and hanging out by the fence checking everything out.  Adults and kids alike enjoyed each other’s company visiting with one another and eating lots of good food.  We made six different soups that were all delicious…chili, taco soup, stuffed green pepper soup, cheesy potato, chicken noodle, and white chicken chili.  We had bread, cornbread, cheese, and crackers.  And between us, Kendal, and our mom, we had a huge dessert table!  Mom made peanut butter fudge and Kendal made apple crisp.  Mardi made sweet and salty Chex mix, almond bars, scotcheroos, sugar cookie bars, and pecan pie bars.  Megan made monster cookie bars, smore’s brownies, and southern pecan praline cake.  We also had some friends bring dessert, too!  It was like dessert heaven!

Fall Barn Party
The bales were a little low…but it just made us all feel like kids!
Manon and Jenna enjoying the hay ride!
More Hay Ride Fun!

We set up a craft table outside for kids, which stayed busy pretty much the whole night.  The older boys played football and the older girls helped out with the little kids.  Chris drove the tractor and gave hayrides through the woods and down the road.  And once the sun went down, we were all much more comfortable.  The trees down the drive were lit up, as well as the inside of the barn, and it just looked so pretty.  We clipped hydrangeas from our mom’s yard and they made the prettiest centerpieces, especially since they were free!  A clipped branch from the woods strung with fairy lights provided decoration for the food tables, along with little baskets of apples and cattails.  Cornstalks adorned the barn inside and out.  And the string lights hanging from the ceiling provided just enough light to keep it festive.  I wish we had beautiful pictures to show you all, but we were so busy visiting that we failed to get great shots.  You’ll just have to use your imagination, as these pictures just don’t do it justice.

Colin wants to make a craft, too! He stayed by the fence all night, trying to join the festivities.
Bryce giving Baby Rye some love.
Milla having fun helping out with our little guests
Can’t beat a good old-fashioned hay ride!

Whew!  You probably weren’t interested in all of the little details, so forgive us.  We are just having fun reliving it, especially since it might never happen again!  Okay, we’re joking…we loved it.  We just haven’t quite forgotten how much work it was yet!  Give us a year!

Fall Barn Party
After the party

Fall Barn Party

Fall Barn Party

In case you are interested in any of the recipes we used, see below for links to any we used online.

No-flour Monster Cookie Bars by Together as Family make a whole jelly roll pan, so they are great for a crowd!

Fudgy S’mores Brownies by Mandy’s Recipe Box…I cheated and used a brownie mix, but they were still delish!


Southern Pecan Praline Cake by The Country Cook uses a cake mix, so easy peasy!

The Best Pecan Pie Bars

The Best Pecan Pie Bars by Rockrecipes.com

 

Almond Bars by Sometimeshomemade.com

The Best Sweet Cornbread from thegirlwhoateeverything.com

And stay tuned for a post on the soup recipes we used, since soup season is finally here…even if it wasn’t the day of the party!

Thanks for reading to the end, friends!  Happy Fall to you all!

Megan and Mardi

Labor Day Shrimp Boil

How was your Labor Day weekend?  Ours was nice and pretty low-key.  We don’t usually make big plans for Labor Day since this mom needs to get mentally prepared for the start of school.  And not just mentally.  Oh, the organizing of backpacks and school supplies and paperwork.  And grocery shopping for all of those cold lunches (can you hear the whining?  I hate making cold lunches…well, actually I kind of hate making any meal, but I guess I just don’t like doing them even more the same time as breakfast!) .  And don’t forget about picking out the First Day outfit and actually getting it ironed the night before!  Picking out clothes and ironing them the night before usually lasts about two or three days, and then we are winging it again.  Or we just don’t iron at all…  But hey, they always have clothes on.  So you can see why this procrastinator needs the weekend to prepare.  No camping for me!

My mom and dad usually have a little picnic on Labor Day, but this year they had the nerve to go on vacation without all of their children and grandchildren.  I still can’t believe it.  So Mardi, Kendal, and I had to take matters into our own hands and plan a little get together with just us and Mardi’s in-laws.  We’ve been wanting to do a shrimp boil all summer and just haven’t made it happen, so we decided Labor Day was a good excuse to try it out.  I have to say it turned out pretty well.  We used this recipe from Hearth and Vine, but doubled it.  Chris boiled it in his deep fryer, and Rob made homemade hushpuppies in another one.  Kendal also made coleslaw and grape salad.  And we rolled brown paper on the tables so we didn’t need to use plates, but I still had to anyway.  Just habit, I guess.  It made for easy clean-up, though!  It was nothing fancy, but it was different and fun, and I’m glad we tried it.  I think it might be a fun new tradition.  And maybe I’ll eat it right off the table next time!

Please excuse the horrible picture-taking and lack of pictures.  I guess I was in such a hurry to eat that I neglected to take decent pictures!!  Oh, and I’m sure you are super impressed with the high quality paper plate, too!

I made a peach dump cake for dessert with canned peaches and a cake mix.  I added about 1/2 cup of oatmeal on top, and it was really good for being not-quite homemade,  Best of all, it was super easy!    Which was good, because I had to do all of the school prep stuff that I had waited until the last day to do.  Maybe now that summer vacation is over, I will be a little more organized and disciplined…well, one can only hope!

If you’ve never done a shrimp boil, give it a try.  It’s a great way to feed a crowd, and also a nice alternative to the “if-I-eat-one-more-hot dog/hamburg-this-summer” feeling you get by the end of August.  Here’s wishing you all had a great end to the summer and a successful jump into a new school year!

Megan

 

It’s a Boy!

 

My firstborn turned 14, you guys.  Kimball Morgan Hanks came into the world August 20, 2003 and has made my life an adventure ever since.  Not having a brother growing up and only having one close male cousin (poor Mitch…he played more “house” than probably any boy ever did with two sisters and three girl cousins), the idea of raising a boy was so exciting.  I didn’t know he was a boy until he was born, but I probably should have the way he made my stomach bounce with his vigorous gymnastics.  And he has never slowed down since!

At the beginning of his life, he made his preferences known…he wanted to be in constant motion, whether it was being walked around, bouncing in a bouncy chair, or riding in a car.  The second we stopped at a red light, he would howl until we were moving again.  He also loved being outside.  At just a few weeks old and somewhat colic-y, all I would have to do was go outside and he would magically calm down.  And trust me, nothing has changed in his fourteen years!  He still lives outside, is in constant motion, and gets impatient when he can’t be on the move!

As a toddler, he loved monster trucks and his battery operated four-wheeler.  One time he drove his little monster truck down a bench and over a gentlemen’s lap at Hollywood Studios without missing a beat.  You should have seen the look of surprise on the man’s face!  Luckily he also thought it was funny!  Kimball just kept right on walking, making his little car noises, never really noticing what he ran over.  And Chris had a part-time job charging the battery to his little four-wheeler.  One time, I noticed Kimball going around and around in a rather tight circle, and realized he had fallen asleep!

The man in the red hat is about to be ran over by the truck in Kimball’s right hand!

Monster trucks eventually turned into a dinosaur phase.  Oh how I tired of reading his dinosaur books and pronouncing all of those scientific prehistoric names!  I learned more about the Triassic period than I ever cared to, needless to say.  He also loved catching frogs, turtles, salamanders, and any other slimy little critter.  Actually, he still does!

Now it’s sports, sports, sports.  Which is good…it gets some of his tireless energy out.  And though he is small in stature, his heart is fierce.  He doesn’t back down from any challenge.  He has no fear (much to my fear!), and doesn’t think twice about sacrificing his body for the sake of a ball.  He is one feisty kid.  Sometimes that feistiness drives me crazy when the two of us are disagreeing about something.  Let’s just say he is very persistent in whatever avenue he chooses!

Number 7

But he is also kind, mostly polite, and well-liked by his friends.  He is the biggest cheerleader on whatever team he is ever on, always encouraging his teammates and celebrating their victories as if they were his own.  He goes out of his way to offer a pat on the back, a slap on the helmet, or a high five.  I hope he can always celebrate other people’s successes, for that is something hard to teach that he comes by very naturally!

At fourteen, he still tolerates this mom praying for him at night, and sometimes even makes specific requests known to me.  This is also something I hope and pray will never change.  It is usually my favorite time with him, when his body and mind are still for once and I have his undivided attention.  It’s hard to believe this kid is mine…that he has survived all of the crazy stunts he’s tried, that I have survived all of the crazy stunts he’s tried.  And it is my prayer that God continues to keep him safe and healthy, and that he will use his passionate, feisty nature for the good of God’s kingdom, in whatever capacity that may be!

Here are a few books/resources that I have found helpful while raising this son of mine:

Wild Things:  The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas

Triggers:  Exchanging Parent’s Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake

Six Ways to Raise a Godly Man by Kaylene Yoder

Five Power Packed Prayers to Pray Over Your Son by Kaylene Yoder

 

Thanks for allowing me to celebrate my boy and for tolerating my trip down memory lane!

Megan

Do you have a favorite parenting book?  I’d love to hear what it is…I’m definitely still in training!

Yesterday, Kindergarten, Today College

On August 17, we brought our daughter Marek to college.  Well, we left on the 16th and spent the night in a hotel.  You see, she’s attending the University of Findlay in Ohio, so it’s a four hour-plus drive.  We wanted to get cracking early, see the campus again, put her horse tack in the barn, etc.  Since I’m writing this two weeks later, it’s obvious that I survived this milestone.  I dreaded that moment of leaving her for months.  I keep having flashbacks to when she was little, then I wonder where the time went.  It’s been a very long time since she’s pointed to a picture of Sleeping Beauty and said, “you look like her, Mama,” (what can I say, I raised a very smart, perceptive girl).  It seems like just yesterday I brought her to her first day of kindergarten.  Just as she was excited to start kindergarten, she’s ecstatic to begin college.  The entire day of August 17th, she had a huge grin on her face.  Like, it never left her face!  While we found the western barn and put her horse tack in her locker, got her dorm key, moved her in and made her bed, she smiled.  It was easier to leave her knowing she was excited, happy, and had a sweet roommate.

Marek has had her eye on the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio for a few years.  It’s a smaller school with about 4,000 students (sounds pretty big to me).  She is double majoring in Animal Science Industry and Western Equestrian Studies (I think that’s what it’s called anyway….).  She’s hoping to be an equine dentist.  Yuck!  Have you seen horse teeth?  They’re gross!  Anyway, we visited there last August and took a tour.  It may sound silly, but during that visit, I just knew that is where she would go and I felt at peace about it.  Findlay is a nice small town with tons of restaurants (always a nice draw), a great movie theater, stores, and just generally has a homey feel.  It’s the home of Marathon Oil–hence Findlay’s mascot, Derrick the Oiler.  Dave Thomas, who started the fast food chain Wendy’s, had his first job in a small restaurant called Wilson’s.  It’s still there and looks like it hasn’t changed a bit.  More importantly, Findlay is where Marek Christine Brott is.

Change is hard for me.  I’m used to seeing her everyday and I miss her.  I know that her going to Findlay is God’s will and a tremendous blessing.  This is still uncharted territory for me though, and sometimes I get sentimental and a little sad.  Or I worry about her driving the four hours home, etc.  But I know that God loves Marek even more than I could possibly love her.  I need to trust God with her and her future.  I love the saying “faith is of God and fear is of the devil.”  If only this truth would sink in!  My favorite Bible verses are from Philippians and I’m going to cling to these verses when fear or sadness grip me:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”  -Philippians 4:6-9

So, God will get us through.  Lots of phone calls don’t hurt, either.  David is constantly saying, “have you talked to Marek today?  I just hung up with her.”  I think he talks to her more than I do.  The other day we spoke to her together on speakerphone.  We’re pathetic.  We’re going to Findlay to watch a football game next weekend, so we’re excited (to see her mainly, but the football game was a good excuse).  God is so good and we have much to be thankful for.  The adventure of life continues!

Mardi

Hay Day

hay wagon, hay bales
Kimball and Sander resting up before the unloading begins!

We recently had our first hay day of the year.  It involves hitching up a trailer to the truck, going over to the next town and stacking the truck and trailer with hay.  Like, 130 bales or as much as we can fit.  It was almost like an emergency because we were down to 6 bales.  We were close to having the horses graze in our front yards.  Sander would have loved it, because he’s not fond of mowing.  Anyway, this was the first time we ever had use of 2 trucks and trailers.  It was awesome!  David, Sheldon, and I took one and Chris, Megan, and my Dad took the other.  David and Sheldon filled one truck and trailer up while I counted bales (well, I tried….I lost track a few times and had to start over).  Then the other truck came and we took off to unload into our barn.  Having two trucks and trailers meant we can make half the trips we normally do to get the 1,000 bales that we need.  We have a borrowed hay elevator we use to get the bales into the loft.  It was the perfect temperature, too.  Usually our timing is impeccable and it’s in the 80’s and muggy.

hay wagon
Megan stacked the trailer up to the rafters.
hay, stacked hay
Chris looks a long way down from Megan’s view at the top of the stacked trailer
Fynn running through a field of wheat
This is what Fynn does while the trailer is loaded.

We’ve learned a lot about stacking hay these past few years.  Like, what to wear and what not to wear.  Megan knows what to wear and I know what not to.  She always wears jeans and I usually wear yoga pants….no more, though.  Hay sticks to yoga pants like lint to a lint roller. Like flies to a flystrip.  Like white on rice….you get the picture.  I once went into a gas station to get a pop in between loads…..with so much hay stuck to my pants, I was embarrassed.  But my thirst won out over my pride.  As far as shirts go, that’s a tough one.  It’s such hot and sweaty work, it’s tempting to wear a tank.  But the hay is so scratchy, and it has uncanny ability to get into the craziest places.  As long as I live, I’ll never forget the discomfort of hay stuck in my bra.  It doesn’t matter what shirt you wear, hay will get underneath it.  Maybe a turtleneck would work if it wasn’t so hot!  Don’t even get me started on hay stuck in our boots….

unloading hay bales
Kimball and Sander unstacking for Grandpa to send it up the elevator
Milla and Papa enjoying a break at the end of Hay Day

Megan and I don’t mind hay days, probably because we didn’t grow up having to do it (like David did).  It’s a family affair….many hands make light (but scratchy!) work.  One year Megan made these amazing brownies, so now it’s a must..  On Pinterest, they’re called ‘Slutty’ brownies (gasp!), but we named them ‘What the Hay?’ brownies.  They’re super delicious but calorie-laden, but we figure, why not?  After all that work, we’ve earned them.  We’d be happy to share them with you if you help us on our next hay day.  We’ll probably have at least two more of them!

Milla and Fynn enjoying their What the Hay brownies

 

what the hay brownies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we will see you at the barn, right?

Mardi