Category Archives: stories

Farmhouse Christmases Past

2014-05-10-16-03-25

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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Virtual Coffee Date

Coffee please
If we were on a coffee date, we would probably meet at my house because my favorite iced coffee right now is my Aeropress-ed Candy Cane Iced Coffee. Plus, there’s almost always an open couch or deck seating. I would gladly make a coffee or tea or Italian soda for you, too.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask about your creative outlets, things you do to stretch and express your creativity. While we were traveling so much over the summer, mine was photography both on my phone and point-and-shoot camera. I have also enjoyed gardening while we were home. I do not know how much time I will spend on gardening and photography now that school is starting or if I will move on to something else that inspires me. I have noticed that I do not blog as much anymore. During the summer it was because I was experiencing and enjoying and intentionally left my computer at home. During the last school year, it was because teaching took up so many of of my words that I did not feel like I had much to share in blog posts.

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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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What I’m Into: March 2015

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Techie
OverDrive was one of my new iOS apps this month. It was my first audiobook app and I am loving it. With OverDrive, I can check out free audiobooks and ebooks from my local library with my library card. When I check out an ebook, I can select the Kindle format and download the library book right from the Amazon website. I really, really like libraries and technology so this has been a highlight of my month!

Travel
During the second half of spring break, Brian and I traveled to visit his parents and mine for a couple days each. While we were in his hometown, we caught up with his sister and two cousins over delicious homemade tacos. In my hometown, we joined my parents’ Friday night college study and helped out with behind-the-scenes work for the wedding of a couple former students. It was a busy end to the week, but lots of fun!

Products
I tried Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice Tea from my mom’s collection while we were visiting and it is delightfully cinnamon-y and very sweet. To my surprise, some of our college students tried and raved about it, too!

Since I caught a rare sale on Tazo teas at my grocery store, I tried Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea. It tastes like an herbal version of Tang when it is hot, but I have enjoyed it most when I make it iced. (1 tea bag + 2 cups hot water for 10-15 minutes, then remove tea bag and pour over ice. Delicious!)

Entertainment
On Netflix: On the one-year anniversary of the series finale of Psych, I rewatched the last two episodes. That finale is one of my favorite series finales ever!

Around the House
Over spring break, Brian and I built Cola a sandbox. I jokingly called it “a life-sized Zen garden” because the more she digs there, the more “Zen” the rest of our yard will be.
 Our Life-sized Zen Garden

Reading 
I liked The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith because it supports and expands on the homemaking philosophy I try to cultivate: I am a perfectionist and my home is never perfect and I am not a perfect hostess. I have to make a conscious effort to not strive for perfection in my home or my “entertaining” because “perfect” does not feel welcoming or comfortable. Trying for “perfect” also really stresses me out.

I know, I know, how have I never read The Giver (Lois Lowry) before this month? I have known about it for decades and always intended to read it someday. When I first began trying out Overdrive, I saw the audiobook available for check-out and jumped at the chance. I liked the imaginative, detailed story of an unusual boy growing up in a dystopian, homogeneous society. My favorite part was the way the story unfolds primarily from the boy’s point of view, even though an adult reader can read between the lines and guess what may be coming.

I also used Overdrive to check out the eBook of Nowhere to Hide by Sigmund Brouwer. This is an engaging young adult mystery starring three teenaged boys whose cleverness gets them into and out of crisis after crisis. A prevailing question from the main character, King, “When is it okay to lie?” is also the theme of the plot. If you read it, keep in mind that almost every character lies at some point in the story.

Blog
I posted my opinion of Trello Gold after using it for almost a month.

What are you into this month?

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

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

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Field Notes on Resigning from a Job

Saying Goodbye

A year and a half ago, I left my accounting job to get married and move to a different town. Last week, I left my teaching assistant position to teach college. While my experiences do not make me an expert, I have made some observations. Here are my top five observations and advice for resigning from a job.

1. If you did a good job and got along well with people, coworkers and managers will be sad to see you go.

2. When you give two weeks notice, be prepared for an onslaught of writing procedures, communicating job duties, and sad faces. As word spread through the high school that I was leaving my last job, people’s faces would fall every time they saw me and remembered I would not be there much longer.

3. Write down the contact information for everyone you want to keep in contact with. You may think you will never, ever forget the email structure or extensions you used every day for eight years, but it only took me a year to get fuzzy on those things after I left my accounting job.

4. People who never seemed to like you or never seemed to notice you may go out of their way to wish you well or to say how much you will be missed. My favorite response is to smile and say, “Why, thank you!” Even while I am thinking, “I didn’t know you cared.”

5. Be gracious. Leaving is not all about you. Celebrations involving food were a big deal at both of my most recent jobs, so my departures were commemorated with snack days and kind words and lunches and lots of attention directed my way. As much as I would rather not be the center of attention, I tried to gratefully accept it all with gracious poise because I knew it meant my coworkers cared.

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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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Lows & Highs: Video Game Edition

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.

 

Lows

My low this week was the way my lower back has been cramping and aching from hours of sitting on the floor and cutting tulle as well as bending over various projects to make my costume. (It is getting better now.) A second low was that Brian’s costume, ordered online, arrived and was uncomfortably short. With my rudimentary sewing skills, I was able to alter the costume so he could wear it but that was a whole unplanned costume project to squeeze in before Friday.

Luigi & Princess Peach Couple Costumes |StairStories.com

Highs

Our Halloween evening was fun! We hurried home after work and got dressed because one of us was sure trick-or-treaters would start coming at four-thirty or five. (The waves of costumed kids actually began later.) We tried to make our house look welcoming with the living room curtains open and the porch light on. As families came to the door, we greeted them in our costumes (Luigi and Princess Peach). Sometimes the little girls would shyly tell me they liked my costume when I complimented theirs. The boys were funnier, gaping at Brian and telling him things like, “I like your game, Luigi!” and “Luigi, you’re my favorite.” Occasionally, we heard voices of kids who could see in the window before they reached the door, “Hey, look! Luigi’s in there!” He was extremely popular with the over forty kids who stopped by.

Around 9:30, we left to set up our popcorn table at the college’s dance party and to surprise students with our costumes. My favorite reaction was Lindsey’s. She saw us standing behind the table and said something like, “Oh, wow, you guys! I mean you, oh, and you, and… oh my gosh, you guys are just so adorable!”

How was your week? Did you dress up for Halloween?

Luigi & Princess Peach Couple Costumes |StairStories.com

 

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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.

2014-10-17 15.51.38 2014-10-17 16.21.47 2014-10-18 16.59.09


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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Lows & [Lots of] Highs

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.

 

 

2014-08-19 21.19.24

 

One Low
Our sweet, adorable puppy killed a bird and then tried to eat it. Brian noticed and went out to dispose of the dead body, but Cola decided she wanted to chew on it and play “keep away from the human” instead. After a few minutes, I went out to help, which made us two disgusted people and one playful puppy. Eventually, she dropped her prize for a moment and I picked her up. That gave Brian an opening to make the bird disappear. Since then, Brian keeps promising Cola she will never be allowed to lick his face ever again.

 

Three Highs
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1. Brian and I put up new gutters on the back of our house.

 

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2. I made French Toast Roll-ups with blueberries and cream cheese. They were delicious and we want to have them again.

 

 

3. A barista was astonished to overhear me talking with a friend about making my own coffee syrups and asked for details, so I gave her my blog address. I have never directed a total stranger to this site before, but it was the easiest way to give her the information!


How has your week been?

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