Category Archives: celebrations

Farmhouse Christmases Past

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Several years ago, we stopped celebrating Christmas at Grandpa and Grandma’s farmhouse because they moved “to town” where they could have more help. The memories thirty Christmases before that are etched deeply in my memories. (OK, to be honest, I probably don’t actually remember the first two.)
When we drove through their tiny town and followed the curving highway out the other side, we would look across the empty fields to see the white barn. As kids, we always tried to be the first to shout, “I see the barn!” We would drive down the long gravel drive to park near the end of the sidewalk that led to the back door. As we unloaded food and gifts to carry them up the sidewalk, Grandpa would come out the door wearing his puffy warm vest over his work overalls and greet us with a loud “Merry Christmas!” and hugs at the top of the stairs. Sometimes we arrived and stayed several days before Christmas and some years we went only for the day, but the greeting was always the same.

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What I’m Into: December 2015

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This was the first Christmas that I was teaching college instead of working at the high school, so it was nice to have the longest break I have had since I graduated from college. As I told Brian, this was the best Christmas I have had since we got married. The first Christmas, I had a cold and then threw my back out by coughing too hard. The second Christmas, I had a cold that turned into a sinus infection and sent me to urgent care two days before Christmas (my mom also got the flu that year, so she and dad both missed out on our family celebration). This year, none of us were sick so everyone made it and seemed to enjoy our time together.

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What I’m Into: May 2015

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Celebrations & Travel 

We had lots of celebrations with friends and family this month. We traveled to Tulsa for a surprise birthday party for Brian’s cousin, Mark.
Surprise Party | StairStories.com

We celebrated the graduation of some of our favorite Barton students (let’s be real, we have a lot of favorites). It was also my first Barton commencement ceremony to attend as faculty, so that was fun!
Barton Graduation 2015 | StairStories.com

We celebrated Mother’s Day in Ottawa with my extended family.
Mother's Day 2015 | StairStories.com

Products

I tried the OPI Gel Color I Eat Mainely Lobster. It is a summery, vivid coral color that looks fun and summery on my toenails. I tried it on my fingernails but it seemed to clash with some of my pink, red, or purple clothing.
OPI I Eat Mainly Lobster | StairStories.com

In my May Birchbox, I tried jane iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain in Forever Pink. In the tube, it looks like a pale pink balm. The stain goes on lightly pink but brightens a bit over several minutes.
Jane Iredale Lip & Cheek Stain, Forever Pink | StairStories.com
Jane Iredale Lip & Cheek Stain, Forever Pink | StairStories.com

Around the House

I am propagating Christmas cactus from the one I inherited from my grandma when she and Grandpa moved out of their farmhouse. As best I know, the original is at least a decade old. Grandma could not remember when she got it.
Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Mint is currently taking over my vegetable garden because Cola knocked over the flowerpot where I planted it last year. Does anyone have good recipes that use lots of fresh mint???
Mint Garden | StairStories.com

Favorite Reads from around the Web

Exercise

Brian and I have been taking Cola on longer and longer walks this month. This week we are up to two miles at a time.

During Jazzercise’s May promotion, my friend Jessica invited me to try a free class. I did Jazzercise about ten years ago, but the instructor in my hometown moved away and it was no longer offered. I enjoy the exercise even though I lack coordination at footwork and rhythm.

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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What I’m Into: April 2015

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Techie

The best tech tip I have learned in months: What to do when you accidentally close a tab.

I actually started playing Criminal Case before April, but have really gotten into it this month. It is mainly a hidden object game that is not so challenging that I get frustrated. Because the player is a police detective solving murders, I would not recommend it for children.

This month, I had fun using Hyperlapse to film and speed up some of the incredible storm clouds moving past us.

Travel

One Saturday, we traveled to visit my grandparents and to celebrate our family’s spring birthdays with all the family members who could come. After I assisted Grandma to the lunch table, I sat next to her and assumed that Brian would sit next to me. However, I was surprised and flattered when my aunt wheeled Grandpa in and asked where he wanted to sit, “Oh, I’ll just sit there next to Abby.” Of course I am not going to complain when my 93- and 98-year-old grandparents both want to sit with me!
 My birthday with my grandparents
Spring Birthday Collage 2015

Products

In April, I added the OPI Gel Color My Dogsled is a Hybrid to my collection. It’s a pretty aqua color that reminds me of summer and tropical water.
 OPI Axxium My Dogsled is a Hybrid | StairStories.com

For my birthday this month, Brian gave me this lovely double-infinity necklace and I love it!
 Double-Infinity Necklace |StairStories.com

Around the House

Cola is almost a year old and we started leash training her as soon as we brought her home last July. Despite all our training, she still strained at the end of the leash (or a much as we let her), pulling and jerking so hard that she causes her normal collar caused her to cough and gag. I decided she was old enough for a training collar and – for the sake of my shoulders and her neck – she needed one. The store we shop at for dog supplies did not have any training collars in her size but they did carry a Sporn Non-Pulling Mesh Harness. I was skeptical but desperate, so I bought it. Brian and I had mixed results when we took Cola on our evening walk. Cola was willing but excitedly wiggling when I put the harness on her, but it took some getting used to. There were several periods during the walk when she wriggled, flipped, and twisted trying to bite the leash or get out of the harness. Failing that, she flopped down on a cushy lawn in protest. When she was not fighting or protesting the harness, she walked sedately beside me and even voluntarily sat when I stopped at street corners. Brian and I were impressed with the improvement in her behavior. In the weeks since, she grew accustomed to the harness stopped struggling against it. She does sometimes pull toward something thrilling, like trees or other dogs, but it is much easier to walk her without her constant jerking on my shoulders and her neck.
 Cola's Sporn Stop-Pulling Mesh Harness | StairStories.com

Favorite Reads from around the Web

Blog

I have not posted much this month because teaching has grown more hectic as the semester progressed. Since I started this teaching job three weeks after the semester began, I have been planning lessons as I go and feel as though I am still catching up. The end-of-semester scramble for me has included writing, teaching, and grading all the big writing projects, double-checking that competencies have been met, tallying lab hours, and writing tests. I enjoy the work and the students but, after working all day, I have not been motivated to blog much in the evenings. Honestly, my favorite part of having a hobby blog is that I can take time away when life gets crazy!Weekends when you're a teacher #morecoffee | StairStories.com

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Lows & Highs: A Family Visit

Welcome to Lows & Highs, a Stories from the Stairs weekly-ish feature! Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs from the week in the comments or by posting a link to your own lows and highs blog post.

No Lows for Me!

I cannot think of a low from the past week, so I am diving straight into my highs.

Family Highs

Brian and I took a road trip to visit my side of the family over the weekend.

Brian and I took a road trip to visit my side of the family over the weekend.

Grandpa is out of the hospital & the pneumonia is gone!

Grandpa is out of the hospital & the pneumonia is gone!

We celebrated my grandma's 93rd birthday on her actual birthday.

We celebrated my grandma’s 93rd birthday on her actual birthday.

My aunt & uncle brought their adorable grandson, Nathan, to the birthday party. He is my first cousin once removed, but that makes it sound so very complicated.

My aunt & uncle brought their adorable grandson, Nathan, to the birthday party. (He is technically my first cousin once removed, but that makes it sound so very complicated.)

I tried to get Nathan to pose for a photo with me, but it was too windy & sunny for this tired guy to smile at the camera!

I tried to get Nathan to pose for a photo with me, but it was too windy & sunny for this tired guy to smile at the camera!

We spent the rest of the weekend having a sort of “make-up visit” with my parents, postponed from Christmas break due to illness. It was fun and relaxing and just what I needed. I had really been missing them!

How has your week been?

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A Blu-ish Christmas & Happy New Year

Blu-ish Christmas

Ever since our last day of school on December 19, I have been on an unplanned hiatus from blogging and most social media. I caught a cold before school ended for the break but thought I was getting better. The first two nights of our Christmas trip to visit Brian’s side of the family in Tulsa, I spiked a moderate fever. On Monday, I went to an urgent care center and was diagnosed with a sinus infection. Even with three prescriptions, it took me nearly a week to feel remotely normal again. I still have a cough but have much more energy and no longer sound like a frog when I talk.

Christmas Eve Bows

Off My Game

Once on antibiotics, I was not contagious so I still joined in on game night, dinners, and other gatherings with friends and family. Much of the week was fun but I felt mentally and physically fuzzy. I slept in, took naps, and sat around watching Doctor Who. If I saw you in the few days before Christmas and seemed sad or cranky, I just did not feel well and struggled to think straight. I was so out of sorts, I didn’t even drink coffee for two or three days because the taste was completely unappetizing.

Christmas

On Christmas Eve morning, we found out my mom had the flu. Since she and Dad did not want to get anyone sick, especially my elderly grandparents or two-year-old nephew, they decided to stay home for Christmas. On Christmas Day, Brian and I had breakfast and stockings with his parents his sister, Shanna, and then drove to my aunt & uncle’s house three hours away. In Ottawa, we celebrated with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, five siblings (counting the ones who married in), and a nephew.

Christmas Day Prep
Christmas Day Eli

Since it was on our way, Brian and I picked up Dad and Mom’s gifts for everyone else and dropped off the gifts to them on our way back to Tulsa at the end of the day. We also Facetimed with them so they could see and chat with everyone during gift-opening time. We intended to stay with my parents from Christmas Day until Monday but they suggested we visit another time, when they are less contagious. Brian and I (and Cola) came home on the 26th and have spent several relaxing days at home, resting and recuperating. It has been very nice!

Cola sleeps with her new toy

Happy New Year!

By New Year’s Eve, Brian and I were feeling much better. We rang in 2015 by playing board games with a few college students who were in town. We taught them how to play our version of Golf-the-card-game, played a Battle of the Sexes card game, and then split into groups to play either Settlers of Catan or Life.

How were your Christmas and New Year holidays?

 

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Lows & Highs: Dancing & Sleeping In

Welcome to Lows & Highs, a Stories from the Stairs weekly-ish feature! Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs from the week in the comments or by posting a link to your own lows and highs blog post.

 

Missed Sleeping Opportunity

On Wednesday, I was dragging and had to drag myself out of bed. It was not until I was almost to school that I realized it was a late start day and I did not have to be at school until nine. Instead of driving all the way back home, I drove a couple blocks farther to my favorite coffee shop, sipped a gingerbread Americano, and read a book. I really would have liked to sleep in, though!

Party Time!

We have had lots of seasonal social activities this week!

On Thursday, we met with our Barton students for our last Campus Christian Fellowship Bible study of 2014. We talked about celebration and treasuring experiences in our hearts and what we have noticed God doing this semester. I loved hearing some of the students share!

On Friday, Brian and I had a three-part date night. First, we went to the college Christmas party and visited with some of his coworkers with their spouses. Second, we had dinner at The Page. Finally, the highlight of the evening – and my whole week – was the Jingle Bell Swing! We danced and chatted and watched the Barton Hilltop Singers (show choir).

Jingle Bell Swing Date Night Tickets
Us on Jingle Bell Swing Date Night

On Saturday, we had First Friday Game Night that we rescheduled from Friday so we could have date night at the dance. Boy, was the house packed! We had raucous games going at two different tables at one point.

College Student Game Night
College Student Game Night

On Sunday, I played with toddlers in the church nursery and we packed our table full of college students again for lunch.

College Student Sunday Lunch

College Student Sunday Lunch

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Lows & Highs: The Best Day Possible

Grandpa

Grandpa enjoyed dinner, even though Grandma couldn’t come.

Low: Unmet Expectations

This week, my low was not getting the celebration I had hoped and planned. My family had been planning for at least a month to have our traditional “Early Thanksgiving & Fall Birthdays” gathering last Saturday. While we did get to celebrate over dinner, my grandma was admitted to the hospital the day before and could not come to my aunt & uncle’s house with us. Most, if not all of us visited Grandma at the hospital and the day was good but not what I had hoped.

On the way home, I had a Twitter conversation with a new friend and was reminded of what my mom says about her patients (she’s a nurse): I can’t fix them but I can make today the best day possible. In the same way, as much as I would like to just fix everything to be perfect for everyone I love, it is never going to happen. I can make today the best day possible, though.

Highs: Sweet Memories

My highs are small snippets of memories from Saturday. Brian and I found out it is possible to adjust the driver’s seat of “his” car so it is comfortable for me to drive on road trips, too.

Brian & I

My sister and dad worked together to make the oyster casserole that Grandpa has always made at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I have never developed a taste for the casserole, but it is an important holiday food for several family members.

Sister&Family

Sara, Josh, & Eli (& his new Olaf, of course!)

Eli knows my name! …or at least to call my phone “Abby phone” but I’ll take what I can get. I let him play with the camera and take photos of his forehead, the ceiling, the fan, and his fingers. (Side note: Guided Access on iPhone is a marvelous tool to lock a user into a single app and they can’t get out without a passcode.)

After lunch, I offered to let him play with my phone again. He looked at me, “Game.”

“Do you want to play with the camera?”

He looked at it and back at me expectantly, “Game.”

“Um, try this one. Touch here to shoot the tower and then it falls down.”

“Fall down?”

Away he went, playing the game and figuring out how to switch levels. Occasionally, he would say to himself or others, “Abby phone. Fall down.”

Eli&AbbyPhone
Aunt&Uncle

We gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house.

GrampsGram&Eli

Eli “crashed” Gramps & Gram’s (a.k.a. my parents’) photo, but I don’t think they cared.

Brother&Sister-in-law

Luke & Christine

Ben&Abby

My youngest brother, Ben

What are your lows and highs this week?

 

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What I’m Into: October 2014

Techie

I finally got around to setting up custom typing shortcuts on my iPhone. They are marvelous for reducing the amount of typing I have to do!


DesignLoveFest has had some creatively artistic wallpapers lately that I’ve downloaded to use on my phone and computers.


I started a series this month, Abby’s Apps, about my favorite apps as part of 31 Days but did not post every day because things got hectic.
Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days

Clothes

I made a purse! Okay, it is really more like I re-made a purse but I am very happy with the finished result. It originally weighed over two pounds – when it was completely empty! The new purse weighs a bit less than one pound. Now that is a healthy “diet.”

Purse Re-fashion | StairStories.comPurse Re-fashion | StairStories.com Purse Re-fashion | StairStories.com

I also made my costume for Halloween, which did not take any sewing, but involved lots of cutting and painting. We ordered Brian’s online because making it would have been outside the realm of my limited sewing skills. When it arrived, though, the costume fit uncomfortably and I spent an evening altering it anyway. Still, it was much easier than making the whole thing from scratch! If you are curious about our costumes, I will post photos on Twitter and Instagram tonight (Halloween night). We will be handing out popcorn at the college’s costume dance party and have refused to tell our students until then.

Food

We tried a frittata for the first time and it was a delicious way to use up some leftovers. with whole wheat spaghetti, ground turkey, baby ‘bella mushrooms, broccoli, and scallions.


Big batches of cinnamon syrup and gingerbread syrup always make coffee taste like fall to me!


I have been making apple chips for my snacks… and Cola’s. I read that dried apples make nice, healthy dog treats and store-bought treats concern me with what seems like a lack of quality control. Brian refuses to share my apple chip snacks because he thinks it is weird and gross that I make the same exact snack food for myself and our dog. What do you think?


Semi-homemade apple-cinnamon crescent rolls (of my own invented recipe) are a fast fall side dish or dessert.
Apple-Cinnamon Crescent Roll | StairStories.com

Watching

On TV: NCIS: LA has certainly had some fun twists this month! I will not give anything away but have enjoyed seeing more of Nell and Hetty’s character development. I am also enjoying Scorpion, about a team of almost antisocial geniuses who form a tight-knit group and end up working as government problem-solvers.

On Youtube: Consumer Reports channel, especially their “What to Get… & Forget” series. I also loved this sweet story that happens to be a scotch ad.


Friends

We held our Second Annual Classic Mystery Movie Night at Howe House this month. The Campus Christian Fellowship students come and bring friends for snacks and a movie that was probably made before I was born. The movie selection for the evening is never announced ahead of time because whoever is there at the beginning of the party gets to choose by consensus from the movies we provide. (This gets quite a few of them there “on time!”) This year, the three people who were at the previous Classic Mystery Movie Night wanted to watch Charade again and none of the others had seen it or had objections. Our CMMN may turn into an annual showing of Charade at this rate!
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Two of our college students decided to be baptized this month!
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We had twelve people eating pasta around our table for Sunday lunch last weekend but it was so crazy that I forgot to take a photo.


Around the House

Our adorable and [sometimes annoyingly] energetic pup is five months old now and has developed a bolder demeanor we are trying to train. We encourage chasing squirrels and rabbits out of the yard and discourage eating the tomatoes, tomato vines, and various other “people possessions.” We encourage making new friends and discourage jumping on people or furniture.
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Brian and I replaced the gutters along the front of our house so now there will not be a waterfall directly over the front door every time it rains. I really liked getting to climb up the ladder and use the drill to mount brackets while Brian handed me supplies. Even before our wedding, we agreed that I would get to do most ladder-climbing tasks because I enjoy it and Brian does not.

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What have you been into lately?


I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

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InstaFriday: Lots & Lots of Bacon

I haven’t done InstaFriday in quite a while, but wanted to link up this week because Lows & Highs is on a hiatus for right now.
Our pepper mill broke all over Brian’s Saturday morning breakfast. We stared in surprise for a moment and then laughed and took a picture. Fortunately, he was able to brush the peppercorns off and still ate his food. He missed the peppercorn that landed in his juice glass, though!
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We went to a princess-themed birthday party for two young sisters, a five-year-old and a one-year-old. Thanks to Pinterest, I made a travel-sized drawing kit for the older sister. Thanks to Sara & Eli’s recommendation, we gave the younger sister a bubble bucket (not pictured).
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We had a brunch at church and I didn’t know what to take, so I half-jokingly suggested to Brian, “We could just take lots & lots of bacon.” He agreed as gleefully as a kid accepting birthday presents. I also took fruit salad.
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Cola is now four months old and finally old enough to go to the dog park! She often turns to the comfort of her pillow when she gets in trouble or when we are not available to constantly play with her. She has her own hashtag on Twitter and Instagram: #ColaPup.
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life rearranged

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