blog_banner 20

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Twenty years ago today

Me and Pap pap.

I lost my grandfather. 

From the moment that we met, he was my person. I spent countless hours sitting on his lap while he read Peanuts comics to me, making me laugh with his silly Snoopy voice. He was the one who miraculously found a Cabbage Patch Kid for me when they were impossible to get. He was always kind and gentle with me, and he never got angry when I would hide his pack of Winstons. (He died of lung cancer, so I had the right idea.). 

I miss his famous handkerchief trick. I miss his Alfred Hitchcock impersonations and his Bing Crosby style crooning. I miss seeing him run around the backyard with sparklers on 4th of July. I miss our Saturday night dinner dates at King's. 

So here's to you Pap Pap.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New year, new car.

MINI Cooper Clubman All4 - Lens Flare

At the end of last year (I feel odd typing that since last year was the day before yesterday), we started kicking around the idea of replacing my MINI Cooper Clubman. Mark had shown me that MINI had just released the new ALL4 model with four wheel drive, which appealed to me because I have to drive to what I refer to as "The Great White North" everyday to work, and during the winter months, the road conditions can vary from dry to "clutching the steering wheel with white knuckles" in just one trip. Plus, I really enjoy the driving experience of my MINI, so the new model seemed a good fit for me. It was also available is a gorgeous burgundy color with this amazing blue leather interior, and since I'm a woman, car color is my primary concern.

MINI Cooper Clubman All4 - Bonnet

When we went to the dealership, they didn't have the exact color combination that I wanted. Since that was the color combination featured in their marketing of the ALL4, that wasn't a surprise. But as we were browsing the options, it occurred to me that the blue interior would look pretty sharp with a white exterior. So we began the process of custom ordering my car from the factory. It was so fun choosing all the options, even though I didn't know what some of them were or if they would really be any use. Since I use my moon roof frequently in the summer and heated seats in the winter, those were a must, along with the sound system because I like to play music really loud.

MINI Cooper Clubman All4 - Boot

We ordered the car on November 12th. It had to be built at the MINI factory in Oxford England and then shipped by boat to the states. It arrived in Baltimore on December 12th, but then it had to go through customs and inspection by BMW. We finally got the call from the dealership the day after Christmas that it was ready for pickup. Merry Christmas to me!

MINI Cooper Clubman All4 - Interior

For the most part, the controls and instruments are similar to my old Clubman, but some of them are in different places, which will take some getting used to.

MINI Cooper Clubman All4 - Headrest

MINI Cooper Clubman All4 - Seats

My favorite part - the blue interior!

MINI Cooper Clubman All4 - Dash On

This is the command center. Just like my old MINI, you can change the interior lights, but there are several more options. I picked my favorite color.

MINI Cooper Clubman All4 - Command Center

I think me and this MINI and going to do some beautiful motoring together this year and in the years to come!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas 2016

Christmas morning 2016.

Even though I neglected the last few months, I couldn't let 2016 come to an end without the annual Christmas blog update. Our celebrations were back on track this year by spending Christmas Eve with Mark's family.

Watching Uncle Mark's potato chip.

It all started innocently, with my sweet nephew Jacob watching Uncle Mark's potato chip ride the Polar Express.

Tragedy strikes.

But then...tragedy struck!

More Pats.

Thankfully, through the divine power of Tom Brady, my brother-in-law was miraculously saved from the speeding train.

Rowdy Roddy and Judge Wapner

Which was great because otherwise he wouldn't been able to give us these fabulous gifts.

Us with our sodas.

Rowdy Roddy Piper Bubblegum soda and Judge Wapner Root Beer.

Pinky's pillow.

The gift opening continued. Here's Grandma Pinky's pillow.

Grandpa's birdseed.

Grandpa Ross got the gift that keeps on giving - a giant bag of bird seed.

Beth and Noah.

Our nephew Noah got over his shyness just in time for presents.

Jacob eating goldfish.

And after the horrific incident with the train and the potato chip, Jacob vowed to stick to goldfish crackers.

Christmas morning 2016.

Christmas morning started peaceful with presents piled high under the tree.

Mistfit Toys tree.

Unfortunately, I couldn't hang my vintage glass ornaments on the white tree this year, for fear that Jinx would destroy them. This fear was not unfounded, as we've had to pull her out of the tree several times. Thankfully, Mark had a brilliant idea to use the stuffed Rudolph and the Misfit toys ornaments that I collected back in 1997 and that have been in storage since. I also added some toy themed ornaments that I found at Target. I really love how it turned out, and might just forego the glass ornaments next year as well.

Christmas Kitties.

Lauren was unwilling to participate in photos on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, so all I have to offer are these sweet kitties laying peacefully together under the tree. That is until...

Christmas cat fight!


Pappy and Lauren.

Lauren makes an appearance.

Moving on to Christmas evening with my family. Thanks to Pappy, Lauren decides to make an appearance in Christmas 2016.

Photo Dec 25, 7 18 04 PM

Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Craig gave us a generous gift of a helicopter tour around the city of Pittsburgh. Right after, I opened an umbrella in the house. I'll follow up on how that turned out.

Craig and his nap kit.

This year, we gave Craig a practical gift - his own personalized Emergency Nap Kit.

He woke up that way.

He really did wake up that way.

Pappy and his bluejay.

Pappy and Grandma got a brand new Christmas tree this year, and since they enjoy bird watching, I gave them matching blue jay and cardinal ornaments for their tree.

Grandma and her Echo.

Grandma was surprised by her puffer (or pupper as she was calling it) vest and her Amazon Dot. She said it was the best Christmas ever, but mainly because the Steelers beat the Ravens as we were opening presents.

Phyllis and President Elect Trump.

Trump talking pen!

Last, but not least, Aunt Phyllis received the best gift of Christmas - the Donald Trump Talking Pen!
You can see the pen in action here:

All in all, Christmas 2016 was as rich in blessings as President Elect Trump

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Meet Miss Jinx.

Meet Jinx!

It's about time that our new kitty, Miss Jinx, was formally introduced. In September, Mr. Pancakes ailment finally caught up with him, and he quietly passed away. That left a vacancy at the Ross Family Inn, and all it took was one visit to the Animal Rescue League before we were filled up again. Now now each dog has a matching cat. 

Unfortunately when we brought her home, we quickly identified that Jinx had an upper respiratory infection that's common to shelter cats. So she had to stay quarantined in our spare bedroom for two weeks. She was so sweet and mild mannered while she was sick, we weren't sure what her true personality was going to be. 

When's dinner?

Turns out that she is still sweet and mild mannered, with lots of kitten-y spunk. 


She quickly made herself right at home.

Window watching.

She loves to look out the window, and seems to be friendly with other people, unlike our introverted Kitty Coconut.

It's my turn Kitty Coconut.

Speaking of Kitty Coconut, of course were concerned about how she would receive a younger cat. But after one or two hisses, they moved on and became friends. They eat out of the same bowl, use the same litter box and they WRESTLE. Okay, maybe Coconut doesn't initiate the wrestling, but she does participate, sometimes willingly, sometimes not.

Will someone turn this thing on?

Coconut is such a good big sister, that she's even shown Jinx the joys of drinking out of the sink faucet.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Homecoming 2016

Shaler Area Titans football team.

As Lauren's band career continues, there are more and more opportunities for her to perform. This year, she has several extra credit concerts that she can choose to participate in, and the first one was this weekend before the homecoming game.

It was a cool, overcast fall day, but luckily, the rain held off. I wish I could say that our hometown football team, the Shaler Area Titans had some luck, but they are currently 0-7 after the homecoming game.


Here are our cheerleaders practicing an impressive lift.

Drum corps.

And here comes the drum corp!


Off to the left you can see some of our homecoming court.

National Anthem.

And now, here are the Elementary band students performing the National Anthem with the Shaler Area marching band. Lauren would be off to the right somewhere with the other woodwinds, but unfortunately you can't see her.

Photo Oct 08, 1 14 55 PM

But if you look carefully here, you can see her running off the field after the performance (It was the best I could do).

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Happy 4th birthday, Cookie!

Happy 4th birthday, Cookie!

In honor of her fourth birthday, I have something very special to share today - a rare, never before seen photo of Cookie the day after she came home to live with us. It was taken on December 9th, so she was almost 3 months old to the day. I love how she still has her puppy wrinkles! I never posted it because it wasn't up to my aesthetic standards. I've gotten a lot better at photo processing in the last four years, so now it's passable. Seriously, the difference between this version and the original is like night and day.

Picking out a new toy for her birthday

For the most part, Cookie spent her birthday like any other day - zooming around the house, napping in her favorite spot on top of the couch pillow and eating the cat's food when no one is watching. But she did get to go to Petco and pick out a new toy. She chose a jack o'lantern!

Monday, September 5, 2016

A lack of laboring on Labor Day weekend.

Gull hanging out at Beach 7 in Presque Isle State Park.

All summer, Mark and I have talked about taking a drive up to Lake Erie, and we managed to squeeze in the trip at the last minute. And when I say last minute, I don't just mean the last weekend of summer. I mean that on the spur of the moment we quickly packed for a day trip and started the two hour drive at about noon yesterday.

Lake Erie.

Since we needed to stop for lunch, we arrived at Presque Isle State Park at around 2:30. After finding Beach 6 to be too crowded for our tastes, we settled on Beach 7.

I saved a chair for you.

Beach 7 had a fair amount of sunbathers, but there was practically no one in the water.

Photo Sep 04, 3 59 55 PM

The weather was perfect - not too hot, even though there wasn't a cloud to be seen!

You're not taking my picture.

Relaxing in Lake Erie.

Lauren is a veteran lake swimmer. She now has four lakes under her belt, with two being Great Lakes.

Swim away.

She was not thrilled that I kept trying to take her picture.

Waldameer Park.

After we finished swimming, we headed over to Waldameer Park. This was our first time visiting the park together, although given how often my family went to Erie, I'm sure I must have went there when I was too young to remember. It's a such nice a little park. I hope we get a chance to visit it again when we have more time.

The Ravine Flyer II

This is the park's largest coaster, The Ravine Flyer II. Yes, there was a Ravine Flyer I, but it had a short, tragic history. Anyway, if you look closely you can see Mark enjoying his ride in the third car (fifth row), although I use the term "enjoying" loosely based upon his review. Lauren really liked it though.

Playing ring toss.

Waldameer also has an old fashioned midway with games that suck you in, even though you know you have little chance of winning.

Can you find the winner?

Although we had no luck at the ring toss, the player before us did win a prize. Can you spot the winning ring?