Archive | September 2013

The Cure for Anything is Salt Water…

IMG_5549webBy Karen Hendricks

I’m convinced that scrapbooking is a disease.

I absolutely love to scrapbook, but I never seem to have enough time to keep up with it. That guilty feeling of always being “behind” is awful. (I’m currently about 5-7 years behind, trying to maintain albums for all three of my children, in addition to a family vacation-themed album.) Nevertheless, I keep plugging away. Someday, I’ll catch up, right? The eternal optimist…

And I know I’m not alone. I think every one of my scrapbook-addicted friends is in the same boat. We’re all in this madness together. Part of the struggle is staying organized… downloading pictures, labeling/tagging them, having them printed, finding the right supplies–whether you’re using scissors and paper in hand or going online to “virtually scrapbook”–it all takes time.

However, once I get over all of those speedbumps, finding the time to scrapbook, magically turning my dining room into scrapbook heaven… it truly is a special time to re-live wonderful family memories. Now that we’ve turned the page to fall, I’m trying to organize my summer photos so that when I am finally caught up to present day scrapbooking, I’ve clearly labeled and saved all the photos that I need.

I go for long stretches without doing any scrapbooking, so when I do get back into it, I sometimes need a little inspiration to get me started. Ideas for layouts as well as theme-related quotes or titles give me a jump-start.  So my friend and fellow blogger Ruth kindly loaned me some of her gorgeous scrapbooks. I’ve snapped a few pictures of some of her layouts, combined with mine, for a little summer scrapbook inspiration (both digital and traditional).  I also compiled a list of some of my favorite beach-themed titles and sayings. I hope you enjoy both!

Feel free to “comment” and share your strategies for scrapbooking organization and/or inspiration… scrapbook “addicts” need all the help we can get! 🙂

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Summertime / Beach Titles and Quotes:

  • A day in the sun
  • A day in paradise
  • Beach bums
  • Beach babes
  • Basking in the sun
  • Happy as a clam
  • You are my sunshine
  • Beating the heat
  • Sizzling fun
  • No school! School’s out!
  • Tank tops & flip flops
  • Time for bare feet
  • Sandy toes
  • Catch a wave
  • Lemonade and lazy days of summer
  • Hot days and cool ice-cream
  • Summer Breezes
  • Castles in the sand
  • Blue skies & sunshine
  • Sun, Sand, Sea
  • Surf’s up
  • The ocean heals the heart, mind, and soul. (unknown)
  • “The cure for anything is salt water–sweat, tears, or the sea.” (Isak Dinesen)
  • “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” (Mother Teresa)
  • “Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” (unknown)
  •  “The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” (Jacques Cousteau)
  • “Eternity begins and ends with the ocean’s tides.” (Unknown)
  • “The beach is not a place to work; to read, write or to think.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
  • “If you want to know how much I love you, count the waves.” (unknown)
  • “One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.” ( Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

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Related posts:

Vacation: Same Time, Same Place — Next Year!

Summer Memories

Dreaming of Summer: Vacation Tips

Priceless Treasure: Tips for Great Family Photos

Picture-Perfect Gift Ideas

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Summer Memories

By Karen Hendricks

Ok, I know it’s officially fall on the calendar now. However, I feel as though fall was forced upon us this year. Candy corn started appearing in the grocery store in mid-August, before the summer’s salt water taffy supply had run out. Even Mother Nature was rushing into fall–most of August was unseasonably cool here in the mid-Atlantic. September (which IS still summer, through the 21st) has been a bit chilly. I feel cheated.

So, in an attempt to bring back some summertime warmth, I’ve put together a collection of favorite photos from our family beach vacation in Bethany Beach, Delaware. I snapped all of the photos below during an early-morning adventure. That morning, we all woke up (some of us easier than others) around 4:45, packed up a basket of goodies, and enjoyed breakfast on the beach as we watched the sun rise over the ocean. It’s one of my most treasured memories of the entire week and I’m glad we made the effort to roll everyone out of bed.

Beach Sunrise 02

5:18 am – The sky is brightening… Some of us are still sipping warm tea and relaxing on the picnic blanket, while some of us are exploring the beach

Beach Sunrise 01

I was intrigued by this children’s flip-flop, which someone had kindly stuck atop the beach fence, in hopes that the owner would easily spot it and reclaim it. There are indeed kind people in the world…

Beach Sunrise 03

5:25 am – Isn’t it incredible, that no two pictures of the ocean are the same? I love trying to capture the variety of rippling effects made by waves crashing on the beach

My husband always has an interesting relationship with the birds at any given beach... I'm not sure what that's all about...

My husband always has an interesting relationship with the birds at any given beach… I’m not sure what that’s all about…

Beach Sunrise 04

Fishermen try their luck in the pre-dawn hours…

Beach Sunrise 05

5:33 am – The warm glow of the sun is starting to break through the morning’s overcast skies…

Beach Sunrise 07

Don’t you love the birdie posing for a pic along the surf?

Beach Sunrise 08

5:38 am – My daughter captures the sparkle of sunshine we’re beginning to see across the ocean

Beach Sunrise 09

Gorgeous colors and the promise of a beautiful day at the beach

Beach Sunrise 10

5:40 am – I think this might be my favorite pic of the entire series

Beach Sunrise 12

Our three loves…

Beach Sunrise 11

The reflection of sunshine stretches across the sand… would that be called “sandshine?”

Beach Sunrise 13

5:45 am – Hurray! An hour into our adventure, we’ve successfully watched the sun rise over the Atlantic.

Although it’s something that happens every day, how often do we truly stop to watch the sun rise (or set)? This was our one day to see the entire process, to soak it all in, and tuck those memories away to warm us on cool fall and winter days. It was a simple, but beautiful way, to enjoy time “off the merry-go-round” as a family.

How do you keep vacation memories alive? What special moments stand out during your summer travels?

Updates from the Emptying Nest: Getting Ready for Fall Break and Thanksgiving Vacation

4042911267_a4124b6191By Chris Little

This morning it’s just 23 days until my beloved first-born, now a bona-fide college freshman, comes home for his first Fall Break. And after that, just a month or so until Thanksgiving. It seems like I’m only beginning to get used to setting one less place at the dinner table, and already I’m thinking about how soon he’ll be back. (Hooray!) Here are some things I’m doing to get ready:

1. Talking with him about travel arrangements. I’m not looking at bus tickets though—he’s a big boy and he’s got a credit card, so he can do the actual planning and ticket buying. But I know he’s got his mind on other things (his studies, right?), so I’m doing a little friendly reminding (read: gentle nagging) so he’ll take a look at transportation options sooner rather than later. After all, bus seats fill up fast for weekend and holiday travel—not to mention plane seats, for those whose kids are further afield—and I’d like to avoid having to drive out to pick him up if I can.

2. And appointments. Okay this doesn’t matter so much to my son, who’s happy to slip into pretty much any friendly neighborhood barbershop when he needs a trim, but if you’ve got a suave son or daughter who’s committed to a particular hairstylist, you might remind him or her to call soon for that Thanksgiving-weekend appointment. The same goes for the orthodontist, physician, or dentist … we all know freshmen who get their wisdom teeth pulled the day after Thanksgiving—if yours needs to be one of them, getting an appointment early will save a hassle later.

photo (3)3. Planning a few favorite menu items. I know my son loves my chicken potpie and baked spaghetti casserole, and those lemon bars I make in the summertime, so I’m beginning to think about when I’ll be making them over his break. And I think I’ll pick up an extra set of food storage tubs so I can send him back to school with some leftovers to heat in his microwave…

4. Talking about activities. I certainly don’t want to fill up all his time, but is there anything special he’d like to do as a family, or as an extended family, while he’s home?

5. Managing my expectations. I’m pretty sure my dear freshman will be happy to see us when he gets home—but he’ll also be eager to check in with his high school buddies, and to sleep late in his own bed. Chances are we won’t spend hours and hours sitting cozily on the couch together with mugs of tea talking about his feelings and hopes and dreams. I can daydream about those conversations, but I’m trying to stay realistic: He might spend the weekend asleep or out of the house! I have to be okay with that, and so far I am.

It’s going to be great to have him home — to set four places around the table again! — but I’m sure it won’t be exactly how I imagine it. And it’ll go by so fast, and then he’ll be gone again. So these days I’m  enjoying looking forward to his visit, and doing what I can to make sure things go smoothly.

Of course I’d love to hear how more experienced empty-nesters approach vacations. What do you do to plan? How do you prepare? What are the best parts? The most challenging parts?

First image: Some rights reserved by lynn dombrowski. Second image: My dinner plates!

Answering the “What’s for Dinner?” Question

By Jen Ashenfelter

Mmmmm... spaghetti! (Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net)

Mmmmm… spaghetti! (Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net)

“What’s for dinner?”

When I was younger, this question was important to me, and waiting to hear the answer filled me with nervous anticipation. With dinner the most important meal (to me), I just needed to know which way my day would go. Spaghetti or meatloaf and mashed potatoes could make the day, and hot dogs or lima beans could break it. (There’s nothing worse than knowing the day was ending with a spoonful of evil.)

Apples don’t fall far from the tree: I have two boys and everything revolves around food. I totally understand their need to ask me what’s for dinner first thing in the morning (with apologies to my mother for constantly asking), but that doesn’t mean I have to actually answer them. And no, we never end the day with lima beans.

With that in mind, a little preparation every week goes a long way toward maintaining a lot of sanity—and it probably saves time and money too! I can’t remember exactly when I started planning meals for the week, but I can tell you it makes it big difference and whenever I fall out of the practice—chaos ensues.

There’s no silver bullet or divine secret to meal planning—just takes a little time and creativity. I’m happy to share what works for me, and I encourage discussion on what works for you. Regardless of your work/home balance, from grocery store to dinner table, we are usually responsible for feeding the family. Who really has the time; why not make it as easy on ourselves as possible?
Planner
• Collect recipes – Keep them in a notebook, envelope or box—doesn’t matter where, just as long as you can quickly scan through recipes of family favorites or easy one-pot dishes. Research the web and ask friends for great recipes.
• Find a planner – Go to AC Moore, Michaels, or your local arts-n-crafts or dollar store for a planner pad you can stick to the refrigerator. (My pink and black zebra print pad has seven columns so I can plug in the date.) You can use your computer or iPad, but I prefer old-fashioned paper because I can stick it on the frig where everyone has 24/7 access—which eliminates the “What’s for dinner?” Q&A…and, at times, the follow-up whining and complaining.
• Plan for the coming week – I start by noting which nights have soccer or karate or meetings—dinner should be quick and easy on these nights. Before I go grocery shopping, I look through my recipes and/or store flyers to help keep the menu interesting and inexpensive. Cook enough for two nights when you can—eat half now and freeze the other half for later, so next week’s menu is easy to create and the only requirement is reheating.
• Make the grocery list – Use the back of last week’s menu to write your shopping list. With recipes on hand, it’s easy to list everything you’ll need. Planning and shopping for the week saves time and money since I’m less likely to run to the store for a few items and return with a cart full…or resort to spending money on fast food. We definitely eat healthier when I take the time to plan for the week.

That’s it! I fell out of practice during the summer, and by Friday evenings I was so frustrated with the questions about what’s for dinner and last minute planning that I didn’t care if anyone got dinner. (Note the snippy tone.) Now that school is back in session and the activities and sports are in full swing, planning is essential. And I actually like Friday evening dinners again.

Here’s a delicious recipe for chicken that turns any dinner into a Sunday dinner without much effort. Add some rice or bread, microwave a bag of green beans and dinner is served. Please share your time/money-saving tips or a favorite recipe with everyone. Enjoy!

Orange chicken
Chicken A L’Orange
4-8 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise (quartered if large)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 3-3 ½-lb whole chicken (I use package of cut-up chicken w/extra package of thighs so there’s enough to create 2 dinners.)
½ cup orange marmalade
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1) Heat oven to 425. In a large shallow roasting pan, toss the shallots with 1 tbsp oil and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper.

2) Cut the chicken into pieces. In a large bowl, whisk together the marmalade, vinegar, rosemary and remaining oil and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken; toss to coat.

3) Place the chicken mixture in the roasting pan, nestling the pieces among the shallots. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and browned and shallots are tender, 25 – 30 minutes.

How to Catch Your Breath and Recharge!

A beautiful butterfly showing off just for me!

A beautiful butterfly showing off just for me!

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Many of us within our Off the Merry-Go-Round community have had a very busy, and trying, summer. Coincidentally, we have been trying to adjust to new work and school routines, say “goodbye” to our children (of all ages!), battle illness, handle personal stresses, and the list goes on …

As I recover from my third surgery in 2 ½ years and try to regain some semblance of my former self, I find I also need to get back to my writing work, catch up on household projects, and say goodbye to my “baby” as he begins preschool this fall. In the midst of all of this, my inner voice is shouting at myself to get going and I can’t seem to turn it off. It is certainly time to recharge!

In a few of my blogs I have an underlying theme of how “little things” really matter. So, I have decided to listen to my own advice and start making the time to plug into those little visions, little words, little moments, little happenings.

With sweet summertime coming to an end, and the fall getting underway, I encourage you to take a little time to do the same. All it really takes is about 10 minutes to let go of some of the stress you are dealing with, catch a breath of fresh air, and simply take in your environment – all while gaining a little more peace, sanity, and optimism.

Here’s what I suggest. Right now … yes, right now get up from wherever you are (and hopefully you’re not in the middle of a board meeting) and simply walk outside. And then? Keep walking! As you walk, take several deep breaths in and exhale them, rolling your shoulders back and down. Now that you have literally caught your breath and stood upright, just stroll around – your yard, your neighborhood, the sidewalk block or parking lot in front of your work building. For 10 minutes.

Keep in mind that this is not a workout and you should not be breathing hard when you finish. This is only meant to be a quiet, peaceful walk to silence your overcharged, busy mind and think on … the little things. They really are most important in this world!

I did this on a Sunday morning when my husband took my son to church and I continued trying to heal my body – and spirit! – while resting at home. Here is what I saw. (Click on any image to open a slide show.)

Please share how you are recharging your body, mind, and spirit as the fall season begins. What are some things you saw on a short, meditative walk? Or, did you find another way to bring sanity to your world? We look forward to hearing from you!

Cause for Celebration!

red cakeBy Karen Hendricks

“Off the Merry-Go-Round” is celebrating its first birthday! And we are so grateful to everyone who has joined us on this journey.

Whether you are a parent, mom or dad, or even a grandparent, working in an office or working at home, juggling your family with part-time or full-time employment, we are thankful that you are reading, laughing or stressing with us, commenting, offering advice and adding to this community.

When the six of us embarked on this venture a year ago, we sure hoped YOU would find us… and plenty of YOU did and are still finding and joining us. Thanks a bunch! We love hearing from you and reading your words of wisdom.

Check out this COOL word art, created when we plugged our website URL into Wordle.net. It’s generated from the most commonly-used words over the past year. Any surprise that “family” and “time” are the most prominent words? Pretty fascinating, eh?

one year wordle

When we launched this website a year ago, all six of us had pretty much left full-time employment in the dust. We all worked (certainly inside the home—but outside the home as well!) and our careers were all taking a backseat. Our first stab at a mission and tagline went like this:

Mission: to provide a place of community & inspiration for moms who have left corporate or full-time careers in order to spend more time with their children & families. Re-prioritizing, they are seeking more meaningful, enriched family lives.  

Welcome and congrats for “jumping off the merry-go-round.” Enjoy this blog as a source of community and inspiration for all moms who have scaled back their professional careers in favor of more enriching family time.

A lot has changed in the past year! Several of us have taken on new jobs and larger career roles… and there are times when we wonder if we are truly “off the merry-go-round.”

Most of our subjects here are about balance… trying to maintain balance between work and family, sanity and insanity! But seriously, we don’t want to make anyone feel excluded. Just because a parent is a full-time working parent doesn’t mean he/she can’t still cherish family time. And we wanted to be honest about our situations… we aren’t 100% stay-at-home moms, yet we all strive to carve out family time, to make life as meaningful as possible for our families. We want this website to reflect how much we love and care about our families as our number one priority.

We wanted to reflect this slightly different outlook so we switched up our mission/tagline and are redefined as:

Off the Merry-Go-Round: A place of community and inspiration for parents who cherish time with their children and families.

* Let us know what you think about our change! And we sure hope you stick around for the next year… 🙂