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  • A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.
  • An Electrifying Project


    We’ve lived in our home for nearly 12 years. When we bought the place, I was pregnant with Catybug and we had visions of grandeur, just like every young couple. Over time, parenthood and home improvement projects have worn us as they do every other hard working DIY’er couples.

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    Chickeymonkey’s Six



    Five, Four, Three
    And the conversation this year went a little like this:

    Me: So, how do you feel? Do you feel older?
    Chickeymonkey: Yes! ::rolls eyes at me::
    Me: How do you feel older? What changed?
    Chickeymonkey: Doh Mom, 6 is BIGGER than 5!

    And there you have it. A great snarky start to the beginning of our sixth year with Mini-me.


    She’s Eleven!


    Happy Birthday to you,
    Happy Birthday TO you,
    Happy BIRTHday dear Catyyybuuuuuggggg,


    Here’s to another year of learning, loving your friends, family and God, growing in knowledge and faith, and being an all-around amazing young woman. We couldn’t be more proud to have such a gentle, wonderful and intelligent girl in our lives.

    Much Love,

    Everybody who knows you.

    Wow, has she grown!

      2005  2004

    Gardening for Food!


    jayden picks the second ripe tomato off the vine' class=

    Fun exciting stuff happening around here, folks! We have succeeded in our very first ever attempt at growing food in our yard! YAHOO!

    Hubby decided that this would be a good year to try growing some tomatoes. Why? Because he’s the only one who likes them, that’s why. I don’t mind them – chopped up in my food, but I’m not one who slices up a tomato and eats it fresh off the vine. But I’m learning. We’re going to have so many of them, I have to learn – and fast!

    Yesterday he did the honors and picked the very first ripe roma off the vine. It’s perfect, really – and of course I had to take a photo of the little beauty for posterity. Then Chickeymonkey got the honors of going for the second one.

    I have to tell you – every single day, this girl has gone out and checked all of the plants that have food on them to see if anything is ready – every single day for over a month. She’s very excited about having food she can just go outside and pick and eat. She’s picked a measly little strawberry or two, they’re quite pitiful actually so I can’t count those as real food, since they’re more the size of a half eaten raspberry. She likes checking the Bing Cherry tree (in its first year here), even though she really doesn’t like cherries.

    Me, I’m getting inspired. I’m getting motivated to try my :growit: thumb on vegetables again, even though my past attempts were more than failures. Hubby and I are talking about the size, the location, marking the area to see if it gets the right amount of sun, and really digging down into our rich black dirt and giving it 100% next year. We’re thinking pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers (which I love raw.) and I don’t know what else. What else? Seedless watermelon and cantelope would be good, too.

    Of course I’m not sure how all of this is going to fit in with the inground pool I keep dreaming about. Hrmpf.

    This is why I love the warmer months over the colder – it’s easier to eat fresh and eat well, it’s healthier and more fun to throw some teriyaki marinated chicken on the grill, sit on the patio and have dinner outside. It’s even yummier to throw some fresh berries on a couple of scoops of vanilla frozen yogurt after taking a mile and a half walk around the neighborhood with your kids, stopping to chat or just say hi to your neighbors. Yep, I’m a warm weather kind of gal.

    If one of you has a vegetable garden, I’d love to know what you’re growing and how well you’re doing with it. Any tips would be most appreciated!

    Advice from a friend, in a dream.


     child portrait photography' class= child portrait photography' class=
    My dream lastnight was horrible. I woke up sobbing uncontrollably at 3AM, and wanting to do nothing more than go check on my girls – specifically Catybug, to make sure she was alright.

    There was a police station, a bomb and subsequent fire in the police station, and someone was trapped and perished in the fire. Life as I knew it in my dream was over, and I went into a state of dreamy fuzzy living, between breakdowns and floods of tears.

    To say I woke up and cried about it would be wrong. I woke up with tears already streaming down my face that I couldn’t stop. I prayed, I tried to go back to sleep. I went right back into the dream, where I tried to recover what was lost, and I tried to heal and move on but couldn’t, because there was too much around me connected to my loss. And then we found a puppy who had survived the chaos. We named her Caty.

    I turned to a friend and said “I just can’t stop crying. I can’t stop.”

    She said this to me in reply:

    “That’s why I’m always happiest around the people who love me the most.”

    I spend a lot of time with the people who love me the most. I’m sure we all do. But I know that I’m guilty of not appreciating that as often as I should. This was a real vivid way of bringing that to my attention, I think. I know that I’ll be making some changes in my life though, based on that dream.

    Sometimes the dreams we remember are the ones we should learn the most from, eh?

    Grand Central Feeding Station


    home made bird feeding station 8 feeders bottom tray feeder

    He did it. I drew it, he built it – and as the old saying goes “If you build it, they will come” – they did.

    We used to have several shepherd’s hooks weighted down with 5-10 pound seed filled feeders, and we’ve been wanting to consolidate everything into one location – this design allows for 8 feeders, and we purchased coated chain link to drop some things down lower to allow for ease of access for the birds. The cool thing? The squirrels can’t get down the 2×4’s to get to the hooks very easily – so we’ve eliminated the need for squirrel proofing anything – and we’ve also got a tray feeder to catch falling seed and put things out for the squirrels, too.

    It took a day or two to build, and our new Grand Central Bird Feeding Station was up and has been well occupied for a couple of weeks now. I have to say, I’m quite impressed with the functionality and ease in changing and refilling the feeders. We’ve had a larger bird visiting – I’m not sure what kind since all I’m finding is his droppings, but they’re about the size of Canadian Goose droppings – I’m guessing it’s either the Red Tailed Hawk or the Kestrel living nearby. I think I’ll flip my lid if it ends up being the Turkey Vulture. That guy is creepy!

    It’s a real treat to sit outside on the patio and have dinner now. I love watching our birds flying in and out, the squirrels and bunnies casually walking past our feet to go eat, it’s really nice – especially considering we’re sortof in the middle of town. There’s nothing more relaxing and captivating than watching God’s creatures in action and better yet – know that they don’t feel threatened by our presence around them. We get such a great variety of birds now, from Hairy Woodpeckers to Brown Creepers, they’re all amazing.

    We went to Chicago this past weekend to visit my family, and sitting in my sister’s backyard, I heard one bird. Just one. I’m not sure if she regularly hears and sees more than that, but I noticed their absence, and it really made me appreciate our location and feeder so much more.

    I wonder why folks don’t pay more attention to nature. For example, I’ll be out taking a walk, stop and chat with a neighbor and notice a Great Blue Heron flying overhead. I’ll point him out, and it does catch my neighbors attention, but it’s not something he’d normally look for. He was talking about how they’d put up a Hummingbird feeder but hadn’t seen any Hummingbirds. A few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Hummingbird speed right past his feeder and perch in his tree, probably waiting for us to leave so he could eat. It’s a matter of timing, and paying attention, too.

    If more people stopped more often to pay attention to, appreciate, nurture and respect the beautiful things that surrounds us in nature, there would be a lot less stress. It’s amazing what 10 minutes of sitting down in the grass with bare feet – looking up at the clouds or watching birds fly in and out of our yard to eat at our feeder can do to lower my own blood pressure. I encourage you to take 10 minutes today and do just that. And let me know how that makes you feel. You might find it addicting – I know I have.

    And if you want one of these Grand Central Feeding Stations, here are the basics:

    10ft 4×4 green treated lumber
    8ft. green treated 2×4 cut in two 4ft pieces
    Wood screws (2 inch)
    Large screw in hooks

    Jigsaw openings in the 4×4 for the 2×4 pieces. Mine are about 18 inches and 12 inches down from the top. Slide your 2×4 pieces into the holes and secure them with wood screws. Screw your hooks into place and bury your post about 2 feet underground (I have about 8 feet exposed). The tray didn’t work out – it rotted and grew some crazy plants from the seed that fell beneath – so I don’t recommend the tray. It’s really easy to build – lots of folks have used my photo to make their own! Very cool! Have fun with it!

    I’m not that fancy.


    markleanne1989.jpg  markleanne2007.jpg
    1989                                2007
    We may look like a fancy couple, but half of us is perfectly good with hanging out barefoot in Hanes t-shirts, Levi’s and drinking Kool-Aid from a pink plastic tumbler. Yeah, that’d be me. I just clean up good for the camera, is all.

    Yesterday we celebrated our wedding anniversary. And when I say celebrate, I mean we basically hung out all day at home, he tidied up Cocoa’s cage while I put fifty trillion braids in my girls’ hair while singing loudly to Martina McBride’s new CD.

    When I reminded Catybug it was our anniversary, she said “which one?” because we have so many. We note every important event in our lives on the calendar and use it as a reason to go out and have dinner at a fancy restaurant. No. Seriously. We’ve been married twice. Yes, you read that right. It’s confusing enough that I didn’t know what I was doing the first time – now I have to try to figure it out again, AND remember another date on top of it. What’s most confusing is how we just lump all of the years together overall, instead of trying to figure out how long we were together, then apart, then together. That’s just silly, and it’s also a reminder that we don’t know what we’re doing. Who needs that? And where’s my Kool-Aid?

    To celebrate our whatever anniversary number it is, my fancy husband got all dressed up in his shiny shoes and took me out to dinner. I had to whip out my calculator and subtract 2007 minus 1989 before we left, though, to figure out how many years I can still proudly admit that I’m just as confused now as I was then. That’s 18 years. I should get an award, really.

    We arrived at Portabella’s Italian Bistro (because I love Italian food, but I never get any because my family is crazy and doesn’t like cooked tomatoes in their food) and we were greeted by a vacant stare from the only couple in the place. How charming! I was quickly distracted by the water fountain, and stuck my finger on the concrete glazing ball thing to disrupt the flow of water. OoooOOoh. That’s COOL.

    Then some cute guy in a white shirt and black pants came up and asked us if we had a reservation. I looked around and thought – woah. We need one? You should pay us for being here, really. heh. My husband in all his shiny black shoe-ness handled the situation with class, and I just giggled and rolled my eyes. We were seated in a booth, and my hubby started to browse through the drink menu. I snatched it from him pretty quickly and chose a Merlot – and what happened after that was what proved to me that I am just not that fancy.

    The waiter, matire d’, whatever title he’d like to have- brought our wine. He presented the bottle all charming and stuff and said it was a 2000 Grand Archer Merlot and blah blah blah he popped the cork while I gazed at the menu. Then I noticed he handed the cork to my hubby, who was supposed to sniff it – LMBO! Sniff cork? Who sniffs cork? What’s the point of the cork sniffing? I sniffed the cork and it doesn’t smell anything like the wine. I am not sure of the significance of that, but I’m no wine connoisseur. Obviously. He poured a little wine, my hubby tasted it, nodded, and then our waiter poured into my glass. I’m not kidding – he held the bottle of wine like he was dipping a baby’s head into a bowl to Christen him. That’s fancy.

    So I took my first sip, and Wee! It was very alcoholic! I haven’t had alcohol in a long, long time. You could tell I was out of my element, because I grabbed my fork and started taking ice out of my ice water and dumping it into my wine glass to chill it. You know, like the stuff you get at the grocery store, you just keep it in the fridge, right?

    Except ice in a fancy wine tastes really, really yucky. I won’t tell you how fast I drank that glass just to get a fresh room temperature refill.

    We had some amazing appetizers, the Bruschetta trio (bruschetta topped with different stuff, like goat cheese and reduced balsamic vinegar – yum) – and then of course the focaccia with herb infused olive oil and parmesan. I was in my danger zone with all of those carbs, and with the wine – my mouth was on fast forward.

    I ordered the Chef’s Signature Creation, Pork Osso Bucco.

    “Tender jumbo pork shank glazed with a light caramel-thyme demi glace served with our house garlic smashed potatoes and fresh vegetable, a must try item.. “

    Woah. It doesn’t say anywhere in here that you get a half a pig. Okay so it does say “jumbo” but how was I to know it would be an extra-large pig? When our waiter set my plate in front of me, I had the immediate desire to put down my fork and knife and pick the thing up like a chicken leg and start gnawing the meat off like a cave woman. It could have been the wine, of course. I’m going to blame it on the wine. Part of me wanted to ask for the reduced balsamic squirty bottle so I could sign my name on the other half of the charger this thing was dished out in. “Leanne was here.” or “Came. Saw. Drooled. Ate like the pig she ordered.”

    I’m sure by the end of our date my poor well mannered hubby thought back to the good old days and wished we’d just stopped at the Taco Bell drive through, instead.

    Holy Peonies


    Do you have peonies in your yard, or have someone living nearby who does? Are they slumped over to the ground? Go. Go grab your clippers, find a vase or a pitcher and cut them. (If they’re your neighbors, ask first, and give them a vase full, too!)

    These are the most beautiful spring flowers, and they make such glorious bouquets. I stop by my peony bouquets several times a day and just breathe them in, their scent is so sweet and soothing. The girls do it, too.

    There’s your Sunday Challenge. Go find a peony bush and cut yourself a bouquet before they’re done for the season. Don’t leave them on the plant to droop and wither unsmelled and underappreciated. If you find them at a neighbors house, ask them if they mind. Peonies are definitely meant to be cut, meant to be enjoyed. Their foliage is wonderful and full and lasts all season without their flowers, too.

    Next years batch ought to yield well over 5 vases full of whites and pinks. I’ll be the neighborhood peony bandit, leaving bouquets on the doorsteps of (almost) all the neighbors. (almost. heh.)

    Happy Sunday!

    A New Dyson!


    buy a dyson dc07Bob Barker may as well have shown up on my doorstep the day before yesterday and exclaimed my prize, because this is the coolest toy I have ever played with!

    It all started when my hubby was going over his Priority Club points. He has a ton, because he travels a lot and always uses the same hotel chain. He started browsing the cool catalog of goodies you could cash your points in on, and my eyes lit up when I saw this Dyson DC07 for mmmfty hundred thousand points.

    See, he didn’t know that late at night, during several of my virtual shoppingcartaholic frenzies, I have added that exact model to my cart only to end my session before sealing the deal. I mean, I wanted it and all, but I have a perfectly wonderful Kirby that has served me well and I’m a little afraid of it, too, because it’s 100 pound engine has smashed my toes on plenty of occasions. Not to mention the mmmfty thousand dollars I spent on it years ago. I couldn’t justify it in my head. I’m justifiable, I am. And sometimes even certifiable, but let’s not go there right now.

    I digress.

    I pointed and giggled and gasped and then pleaded that he cash in our summer vacation worth of points on this yellow dirt sucker upper, and so he did. And so it was. And here it is, and I pink puffy heart it, and I am also a little embarassed because this photo means one of two things. Or both. You be the judge.

      1. I suck as a housewife and/or
      2. my Kirby has lost it’s ooompf.

    Those are pretty sad options. Let me add one more. Yes. I must.

    1. Dyson’s rock.

    I called my good friend over to see it and be my witness to it’s awesomeness. I was still assembling the thing when she got here, and it took me a few minutes to figure out the Euro way of building something. Here’s a tip: Read the dang instructions. Don’t think that you can figure it out all by yourself because it’s just a vacuum cleaner – because it’s not. Heh.

    Then the fun began.

    I vacuumed the living room and woah. That picture? Is the dirt out of my carpet after cleaning approximately 80 square feet. Seriously. And ouch. That hurts. Quit glaring at me with those “don’t you EVER vacuum?!” eyes. I just buy really cool floors that you can’t see dirt on, so it tends to slip my mind until goo sticks to my feet. I might just consider vacuuming more often now, though.

    So I flip the little bare floor nobbie and head into the kitchen and dining room. I flip the nobbie back to carpet and get the rug under the dining room table. All is going perfectly well and I am impressed as all get out with this thing. Until.

    Yes there is an until.

    I’m standing there looking at the thing, trying to figure out (all by myself) how to detach the thing to empty the container. I pull this doohickey and push another, and the front comes off. Great! Cool! Now where’s the thing to take the clear container off to empty it?! Well, just as I said that to my good friend, the bottom opened up – and all of the yucky junk I just picked up? It landed on my feet. I kid you not. That’s when I told her “great! I’m doing an infomercial now! Watch as the incredibly awesome Dyson picks up the dirt not just once, but twice! Woohoo!”

    It’s my own dang fault. I should have read the instructions.

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