Category Archives: Fundays

Valentine’s Day Options and Observations

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Warning: This post does not take a straight line.

When couples are dating or newly married, we girls want our mates to come up with special gifts at birthdays and holidays. We hope that our partner will just know what would be the most romantic, spot-on, perfect gift without hints or instruction needed.

As we “mature” together as a couple, we women come to realize that this may not be realistic. We then begin to hope our counterparts will be observant enough and listen sufficiently to notice when we express a liking for something, and that they will remember that when it is time to present a… present.

That is sometimes a lot to ask as well.

I have been known to simply shop for myself. This past Christmas, however, my husband presented me with a unique gift of a Date Night at Dierbergs School of Cooking. It was something that I had never asked for, but he thought it would be an experience we would enjoy. He was right. I tend to be much more about experiences that objects like jewelry or clothes.

In January, alongside seven other couples, ranging from twenty-something’s to senior citizens, we prepared a meal and ate together during the two-hour evening at the Bogey Hills store in St. Charles, MO.

Our instructor Nancy and her assistant were great hostesses, and they shared some cool cooking tips. We were given some brief instruction, and each couple was tasked with an assignment to complete. Once the meal was ready, we ate, visited, complimented one another, and left with a set of recipes. The people were nice, food was great, setting comfortable. A victory for Tim!

blog - VD - Feb. 2015

Nancy surveyed the group, and I think that in every situation the evening was a gift from the male spouses or boyfriends. So, with a few days left before Valentine’s, this may be something to hint around about. There may still be a few openings available. Here’s the link:

http://www.dierbergs.com/School

Now, let’s shift gears just a bit to movies. I know everyone is talking about a certain very controversial movie that releases this weekend. I have read lots about this movie and the book it’s based on, as I am sure many of you have as well. I have not read the book, but I confess that a fellow book club member shared a couple paragraphs aloud from her kindle at one of our meetings. Bloggers have presented perhaps 50 reasons why this is not a movie we should see, and I can’t contribute anything new to the conversation.

Except I will say this:

I remember when “The Bachelor” first aired in 2002. I sat appalled at the premise of the show. I found the idea of one man being sought by all these women to be insulting and chauvinistic, and that was without knowing how the relationships would play out during the “dating” process. Somehow, over time, I began to accept the show and watch it regularly, and, quite frankly, the series now is much more scandalous than it was in early seasons. My point is that we all become desensitized to what we see. What was once trashy or abhorrent slowly becomes commonplace. And, we are all subject to this. So, we should guard against it. No judgment, just an observation.

Another direction now…

I would like to offer an alternative to the highly anticipated movie that I described above. May I suggest “Old Fashioned.” You will find it about one tenth the number of theaters that will be playing the high-profile film. But it you seek it out (it will be in the St. Louis area, BTW), you may be pleasantly surprised. Here’s the link:

http://oldfashionedmovie.com/

So, here’s how I became aware of the film. I had the opportunity to preview a Christian movie to be released on March 20th. That movie preview was on Thursday evening, February 5th, and it is titled “Do You Believe.” This is a movie made by the creators of “God’s Not Dead.” There are numerous notable actors in “Do You Believe,” and I recommend this movie to your family or church group. The link for this film is:

www.DOYOUBELIEVE.COM

We saw several previews, viewed “Do You Believe,” and completed a survey about the movie. My intention was to bring this post to you last Friday (for Fundays). I have categorized it there even though I am coming to you later.

I planned to write this after coming home on Thursday evening, but, as I left the theater, I saw I’d received a message that my first cousin had suddenly lost her 59-year-old husband. The two of them were married 37 years and raised four amazing children. Theirs was a fruitful and happy marriage. I didn’t feel right writing this before today. Please pray for my cousin and her kids, and all those missing sweethearts and loved ones.

Life does not take a straight line.

Blessings,

Hally

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Cakes Without Calories!

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Happy Friday, friends! I hope the New Year is off to a great start for everyone. It feels like I am only now getting back into the rhythm of things. My late-night, late-rising sleep habits were hard to break after everyone returned to school and work.

For local folks, the cakes are on the way out…blog - cake3 - Jan. 2015

In 2014, St. Louis celebrated its 250th anniversary with a fun display of cake statues in key spots around the metropolitan area and surrounding counties. I learned about the “cake tour” last spring and wanted to take my own. My plan, mapped out and scheduled, was to see 20 of the creations on a 4-H Arts & Crafts field trip in the fall. As parents, most outings are connected with our children’s activities. That’s a hard habit to break, too. Alas, one activity bumped another, and my tour didn’t happen.

My kids are teens now, and my husband and I are just starting to find that, while they still keep us very busy, there are those opportunities to get out on our own, go with our friends (most of whom are now blog - cake2 -Jan. 2015empty-nesters or nearly so), and leave the youngin’s on their own. That’s kinda nice.

Though I never viewed more than a few random cakes in passing, a lovely young friend of mine did. She, like some others, made it a goal to see and document many of them during the year, so I will live vicariously through her. Here are a few pictures and a lesson for parents…

Raising kids is tough and rarely ever a cake walk, and sometimes we miss out on things we would like to do because we defer to their needs at the time. But… the rewards for a job well done are sweeter far than any cake, pie, or brownie around. I don’t say that lightly. And, ultimately, time goes by so quickly, and young ones are soon on their own. Let’s enjoy all the craziness while it last!

Enjoy these cake photos courtesy of Ms. Lauren Berry’s. And, does anyone think she looks a bit like a blond Anne Hathaway? Thanks, Lauren, for sharing!

And, here’s the link to information about the cakes and the celebration that was:blog- cake4 - Jan. 2015

http://www.stl250.org/cakeway.aspx

Enjoy the Weekend!blog- cake5 - Jan. 2015

Hallyblog- cake1 - Jan. 2015

 

People-Watching: A Sure Thing for Great Fun!

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I’m coming in very late on my Friday post, but you know we humans can rationalize just about anything we want to. So, here goes…

Since this post discusses my recent jaunt to Las Vegas, and Vegas is the city (or one of them) that never sleeps, I suppose it’s okay to bring this to you in the last remaining hours of the day.

While Sin City never really shuts down, I will let you know that my husband Tim and our travel companions were regularly back at our condo before 10:00 pm. We gals went to our respective rooms for female-friendly TV, and the guys stayed in the common area to watch sports. Our days were full of walking and looking, shopping and eating. And, minimal gambling.blog - vegas #5

I spent a total of $13 on slots and video poker. Though perhaps that was not the number to stop on and 14 would have brought a big win, but somehow I doubt it. Tim bet twice that with a few wagers on sporting events, one that is yet to be played. I’m just sure a big check is coming our way in a few months – but I won’t bet on it.

So, what was the highlight of this trip? That’s easy. The change of scenery, the sights and sounds, the people-watching – we enjoyed those most.blog - vegas#4

It had been fifteen years since Tim and I visited, and this was our friends’ first time in Las Vegas. So, we toured all the splendid hotels, ate at restaurants unavailable in the Midwest, marveled at pastries in fancy bakeries, bought gifts for our kids at the M & M store, hiked out to Pawn Stars and Freemont Street, and saw an awesome show. While the pastries were decadent, there was little other debauchery on our trip.blog - vegas #2 -

But, boy the people are interesting. There were “entertainers” dressed in all manner of costumes, from scantily-clad cocktail waitresses to Hello Kitty. I wanted to take a picture of the latter, but my friend advised me in time that I’d have to pay for it. There were muscled twenty-something males in super-hero garb inviting tourist to step into their capes for a photo op. I must admit that was a bit tempting, but I couldn’t bear the thought of how cougarish I might appear in such a shot. (Did I mention this trip was in celebration of my 50th birthday?)blog - vegas #1

Then, there were those without much clothing at all. There were three grown men in diapers… apparently intentionally. I’m not sure what the goal was. There were young men and women covered entirely in body paint, with only a small strip on the most critical of regions. I have to say the artwork was amazing. My bestie was very good at averting her eyes, but sometimes I just had to take a longer look. One person called me out. “Don’t look too shocked. It’s Vegas.”

Aside from the shock value, there is worth in just plain old people-watching. If we get our eyes off of our devices and into the world around us, we can learn a lot.blog- vegas

In a place like Las Vegas, we see people from the very rich to the destitute. We see people from cultures and countries around the world. When we study the geographical surroundings, we gain a sense of how people live in a spot unlike our own. And, we sometimes wonder what stories all these people have to tell.

For me, that’s one of the greatest joys of travel. Seeing new things, asking questions, gaining empathy for some, being inspired by others, satisfying curiosities, realizing there is so much more than just my little spot of the world, sharing that with my kids. Learning.

It looks like it will be a beautiful weekend, perfect for some people-watching. Bet on it!

Enjoy the Weekend!

Hally

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Your Pleasure?

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One of the joys in my life is my book club. We meet tonight, and I am very excited to see my friends, have a nice dinner together, and talk about our latest reads. We weren’t able to meet in July due to crazy schedules, so this is our first gathering since June, and there is much to discuss. Our latest reads were a couple of intense tales. More on that later…

Reading has become a real blessing to me in recent years. I literally read only two or three books while growing up. I was able to read well aloud, but, when I read silently, I rarely maintained focus long enough to retain what I read. A really good listener and a great note-taker, I did fine in high school and college. (I still can’t be in any type of meeting without taking a note.) All this is super ironic since I write now and always found school writing assignments easy.

I’ve always had romantic thoughts about reading, admired avid readers, and craved to be a reader. And, one day I did. My friend suggested that she and I start a book club; she was already in one. We did so, and we have been meeting for nearly five years now. We have a great time together, and I love being able to discuss books.blog - Book Photo - 8-29-14

We need hobbies and time with friends. Whether you scrapbook or run, do crafts or read, it is good for the soul to do those things alongside friends. I encourage you to find something in your life that makes you think or inspires you, and then connect with others who have the same love. Gardening, decorating, traveling, geneology – the world is full of fun, interesting things to do. Depending on your stage of life, this may be only one monthly meeting, but that little bit of time can be really meaningful.

So, I thought I would share with you some of my favorites (or those we found most interesting):

From a variety of genres…

“Devil in the White City” – Erik Larson     (Lots of facts, not an “easy” read; good history.)

“1,000 White Women” – Jim Fergus          (Interesting concept; fun characters.)

“Eat, Pray, Love” – Elizabeth Gilbert          (Made for good debate; I’ll leave it at that.)

“The Kommandant’s Girl” – Pam Jenoff    (Good suspense story from WW II.)

“Big Stone Gap” – Adriana Trigiani             (Light, sweet read; good after Larson’s above.)

“Year of Wonders” – Geraldine Brooks       (Story about the big plaques in Europe.)

“The Silver Star” by Jeanette Walls              (We’ve read three of hers; she’s good.)

“One Summer – America 1927” – Bill Bryson           (Lots of detail about the time; not a novel.)

“The House on Tradd Street” –  Karen White            (Haunted house in the south; fun.)

“The Gargoyle” – Andrew Davidson                            (A good one to discuss; wild beginning.)

So, what is your hobby? How do you rejuvenate? Share your activity or a favorite book with us!

Enjoy the Weekend!

Hally

 

Travel Isn’t Just for Summer!

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For most families, the trips to the Florida beaches, the excursions out west, and the big-city sight-seeing adventures are behind them for the summer and for 2014. For most, school begins this week and this year’s vacation season comes to an end.

It’s a sad thing – the close of the season of fun.

Except, consider this… Fall is a beautiful time of the year. And, there is something really nice about a little getaway tucked into the middle of a busy semester of school. Plus, there are often a few three-day weekends for students when teachers gather together for meetings and professional development. Perhaps, a short trip locally would be just the ticket during this season.

With that in mind, I’ve listed five reasonably close destinations for you and your family to visit.

1)  The Amana Colonies in Iowa are roughly 4.5 hours from St. Louis. A group of seven villages established by a German religious group, a visit to the Amana Colonies is a lesson in history and culture, where you’ll find interesting shops, artisans and fine restaurants. Tours and activities are offered for guests. Learn more about the Amana Colonies at: http://amanacolonies.com/

2)  St. Joseph, Missouri describes itself as the place where the Pony Express began, and the town where Jesse James died. A weekend there will be full if you only visit those two locales, but there is much more to see and do. Kids will love the interactive displays at the Pony Express National Museum; adults will enjoy hearing about the life and death of Jesse James. Find about all there is to see at: http://www.stjomo.com/see-do/museums/pony-express-national-museum/

3)  Springfield, Missouri is more often a town we travel through on our way to Branson rather than a destination itself. However, it offers a lot to do as well. Rich in Civil War history, it’s also a great place to enjoy a baseball game. The Springfield Cardinals games are affordable and fun – the baseball experience at a fraction of the price. See lots more to do at: http://springfieldmo.org/

4)  Galena, IL is a lovely town where Ulysses S. Grant lived part of his life. In fact, a great many Civil War leaders that were raised in Galena, which was a busy and bustling city at one time. There is architecture and an historic hotel, along with wineries and shopping. It’s a beautiful town. Check it out at: http://galena.org/

5)  Carthage, MO, like others above, has history and shopping, bed-and-breakfast lodging and architectural tours. What’s unique to Carthage is the Precious Moments Chapel and Gardens. You don’t have to be a fan of the figurines to find this FREE stop, which may take a few hours, inspirational and restorative. Plan your visit to Carthage at: http://visit-carthage.com/

In the next few weeks, I will suggest more ideas for some fun family travels. In the meantime, please check out my pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/hallyfranz/family-friendly-travels/) page for photos of these and other great places to visit. And, if you would, share with us some of your discoveries.

Learning and laughing, seeing and sharing, being with friends and loved ones – these are the things that make life special!

Enjoy the Weekend!

Hally

 

Travel Buds and Buzz

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We’re now in countdown mode. If not for nasty weather, my children would be starting summer vacation at the end of today. But, the snow, ice and cold we had will keep them in school for a couple more weeks. While our summer will be shorter, there are still many plans for my family over the next few months. I am sure it is likewise in your home.

First on the schedule will be a full-family trip to Wisconsin Dells. My husband and two kids will join my mom and step-dad, my sister and brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew for this road trip north. This won’t be our first vacation as a large group, and I know many families now travel in mass. People also enjoy book club trips, hunting trips, and group adventures of all nature.

It’s tons of fun to get out of town with friends and family, but it is important to be cognizant of travel preferences and personalities when you do. I believe there are four types of travelers, and I encourage you to consider what types you are hitting the road with; it may be all of them.

1) Learners – They like museums and architecture, history and culture. They keep a full itinerary while on vacation. Learners do not wish to waste an opportunity to gain knowledge about a new place. They may even record the trivia they acquire along the way. (Is that weird?)

2) Adventures – These are the bungee-jumping, ski-diving, Go-Kart racing folks. They like a hard day of play, along with a healthy adrenaline rush. Whether at the beach or the mountains or an amusement park, they strive for adventure and a break from the ordinary routine. (That’s weird! Are you trying to kill yourself?)

3) Admirers – Soaking up the natural beauty of a destination is what these travelers enjoy. They feel energized by landscapes and vistas unfamiliar to their own. Admirers enjoy hiking and camping, boating and fishing. They seek inspiration during their respites from the daily grind. (That was a fun morning, not let’s get to it.)

4) Relaxers – They just want to chill. Relaxers have no agenda other than to do exactly what sounds good in the moment. Lounging on a beach with a cold drink, taking long naps, savoring good meals, reading – that’s their style. Vacation means escaping real-world stressors and plans. (Rigor is setting in, here!)

In spite of my attempts at humor and my personal, completely unbiased comments above, I recognize that all of these are totally valid travel types. And, the thing about vacationing with others is that we have to respect everyone’s unique travel expectations and needs.

So, when you set off on those upcoming journeys, enjoy being with one another, but remember to be flexible and consider the wishes of all in the group.

Now, here’s a link to a similar piece I wrote at The Christian Pulse a few years ago. This devotion encourages us to incorporate the above travel perspectives into our spiritual life:005

http://thechristianpulse.com/2011/10/26/putting-the-pieces-together/

Today’s give-a-way includes goodies for the kids and their summer fun. Whether you are traveling across country or having a staycation at or close to home, you will find lots of laughs with this assortment from The Mercantile Outlet. Gary and Marge Cockrum’s store seems like a trip back in time with a variety of items priced for families. Check them out at:

https://www.facebook.com/TheMercantileOutlet

Enjoy the weekend!

Hally

Kickin’ It with the Kids!

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Though for most of us the weather holds no resemblance to spring, the calendar tells us that school spring breaks are just around the corner. With that in mind, I thought I would share with you all a few of the family- and finances-friendly spots my family has visited over the years.

I start by saying that my husband and I did not grow up traveling. Our parents, like many of that era, did not value travel the way people do today. They viewed trips across the country as purely luxury, and, indeed, they would have been. Neither the money nor the priority was there.blog - travel

However, when Tim and I married, we agreed that we wanted to see and experience new things. We consider travel an opportunity to learn, for us and our children. While we will often pass up the latest gadgets and brand-name clothes, we rarely surrender our annual family vacations.

Our goals have typically been to see new areas of the United States each year, and to do a variety of activities during a vacation. Everyone is familiar with the fabulous amusement parks on both coasts, as well as the wondrous national parks scattered about. But, we’ve stumbled upon a few “backdoor spots” along the way that you may not be familiar with.

Seven travel treasures in the Midwest (or thereabouts):

1) The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin (http://mustardmuseum.com/the-mustard-museum/). The store’s owner has an interesting story, good humor abounds in the museum and store. Outside of your purchases (and, I’m sure there will be some), the museum is free. Educational, whimsical and tasty!

2) Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville, Iowa (http://www.fodmoviesite.com/). This stop has movie trivia, a free guided tour, and an opportunity to play pitch-and-catch with the kids. Beautiful and utterly refreshing.

3) Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri (http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com/). If you have a child who is a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, this is a fascinating stop. Laura wrote her books from Rocky Ridge Farm. There is a small fee for children over 6 ($6) and adults ($10), but younger kids are free.

4) Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site in Petersburg, Illinois (http://www.lincolnsnewsalem.com/tour.cfm). If you find yourself in Springfield, IL to visit the Lincoln’s Presidential Library and Museum, make an additional stop at New Salem. It provides a great walk and a wonderful look back into Lincoln’s time and life. Donations are suggested.

5) Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas (http://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com/default.aspx). Though I am not a big science person, your kids will love the possibilities this park presents! There is a nominal fee, but lots to do!

6) Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens (previously Christus Gardens) in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (http://www.christinthesmokies.com/). You’ll find inspirational art and a break in the commercialism during an ordinary trip. Tickets range from free to $12, depending on age.

7) Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky (http://kyhorsepark.com/). If you’re not a horse lover, you may not have heard of this travel destination, but, even if you aren’t, there is much to enjoy at KHP. Tickets for a family of four will cost about $50, but this includes the next day’s admission. It is the essence of Kentucky and worth the price.

I hope this sparks a bit of excitement as you look beyond our frozen “states” and toward a fun, sunny summer. I will have more in the coming weeks, and please let me know in the comments if I can offer any advice on any of the spots mentioned. I love giving advice!

Enjoy the weekend!

Hally

Best Laid Plans of Moms and Dads

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It’s date night for my husband and I this evening. Date nights have been infrequent during our 20 years of marriage. When our children were younger, we typically took them with us wherever we went. Now that they are older, we usually go somewhere with them – band performances, cheer practices or competitions, FFA events, etc. They now set the agenda for us.

Valentine’s Day (last Friday) was rather uneventful at the Franz household, at least from a romantic view. After an 11-hour day of dipping strawberries on Thursday (this to support a cheerleading fundraiser) and a 4-H meeting that evening, my son played with the pep band on the 14th, and my daughter babysat three little guys here at our home while their young parents had an overnight stay.

My perfectly-planned blog writing schedule was thrown off, and our Valentine’s celebration delayed a bit. We did attend a lovely adult-only party at our church Saturday evening, and the meal, fellowship and games were lots of fun. And, tonight Tim and I will complete our couple’s weekend by going to a movie and dinner with friends.blog - strawberries

Love – often and especially married love – is like that. We sometimes set aside our own schedules and plans for those of our children. Our goals are regularly adjusted to accommodate our parenting roles. Our own entertainment is put on the back burner so we can fulfill mom and dad responsibilities. Husbands and wives understand the shared priorities within their marriage and are usually united in accomplishing the goals of the family. That is perhaps one of the most romantic things about being in a long, committed marriage.

Regarding last weekend, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I enjoyed the bonding with the other moms, all of us covered in white and milk chocolate at the day’s end. My husband liked seeing the basketball team win with the encouragement of the band, and we girls had a lively time with some precious children.

What’s on your schedule tonight? Share your plans with us, and…

Enjoy the weekend!

Hally

Snow Days Don’t Have to be Throwaway Days!

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This winter has been a blustery, cold and snowy one across most of the country. In my Missouri hometown, kids have accumulated eight snow days. That’s eight days, in addition to a lengthy Christmas vacation, to be at snowed in at home with each other and mom.snow day - blog

Sledding and building snowmen grew boring about three big storms ago, and the temperatures make any extended time outdoors hard to endure anyway. (Each time I send them out, it seems only minutes before mine are pounding on the locked door.) Therefore, most kids are returning to their default forms of entertainment—electronics and internet. If you can pry the game systems and devices from their grubby little (or bigger) paws, here are a few more old-school ways to survive, and maybe even enjoy, the quality time that snow days bring.

  • Pull out the board games. Monopoly, Yahtzee, Operation and Battleship are just a few classics available for kids of all ages. Each provides teaching opportunities and is a great way to get the conversation going. And, don’t forget about cards and charades.
  • Get creative. Anyone who has taught VBS, been a 4-H leader, or served as a room mother likely has a generous stash of craft supplies on hand. Social media provides endless ideas for DIY projects, but here’s another thought. Lay out what you have, and challenge your children to come up with something new using the items available. You may be amazed at what they “invent.” Afterward, consider making a video of their project to share with the world.
  • Take a trip down memory lane. We take pictures constantly, but do we ever take time to sit and enjoy those taken in the past? Spend time with old family photos. Label them, if you can. Discuss the styles of dress and automobiles in the pictures. Take time to preserve them in scrapbooks, and tell stories from childhood as you do.
  • Get cookin’! Busy families often eat from boxes and take-out bags. So being snowed-in provides an opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen. Prepare time-consuming recipes that you don’t normally have time to, and teach kids how to as well. Cooking and baking are skills being eroded over time; bring them back for a bit of fun in the kitchen.
  • Blankets and books. Now that’s a cozy combination. Cuddle up in front of the fire or on a soft couch with your favorite books. Read to them or with them. If your kids are older, take turns reading aloud something you’ll both enjoy. Or, just share your thoughts as you take a cocoa break in your reading.

Now, after a few days of lounging and luxuriating in one another’s company, you may look up and find your home is a complete disaster. With board games, craft stuff, photos, a cluttered kitchen, and blankets scattered about. Here’s where you go really old-school, and suggest (nay, dictate) a work day. We all know it’s hard work to get kids to work. But, the only way to instill a work ethic is to make them learn to do it. And, that can start pretty young.

Though inconvenient, we should consider snow days a blessing. They force a slow-down to the busy lives that we all have. Savor them, and try to make the most of them!

How have you spent your snow days with your children?

Enjoy the weekend!

Hally