Disc Golf

discgolf1Also known as Frisbee Golf, this sport began on college campuses in the late 70’s.  It follows most of the same format, jargon, and rules as traditional golf.  But instead of golf clubs and holes to sink a ball on the green, disc golf uses frisbees and a steel basket.  Disc golf is still popular on college campuses, and the sport is gaining momentum with people of all ages.  There are national and  international tournaments, local clubs and associations, etc.  Sporting goods stores now regularly carry the discs, bags to hold the discs, portable baskets, and other game paraphernalia.

discgolf1bOur kids started playing the game at a local park which has a nice, easy disc golf course on it.  As their interest grew, and they began playing the game together, they invited Allen and I to join in.  At first I had no interest in learning the game.  But I didn’t mind the walking, so I said I’d bring the dog and walk along the course with them.  (Unlike traditional golf courses, leashed pets are allowed on disc golf courses).

disc golf 1cAllen took an interest in it right away, but it took me a few times going out with them to really even be willing to throw a disc.  But I gave it a try, the results weren’t as horrible as I feared, and I agreed to give it a go.  The exercise certainly couldn’t hurt!  It’s a very low-impact sport, and anyone of any age can participate.  Our granddaughter, Gracie, has her own disc and she plays with us — she’s two years old. But she knows how to sink her disc into the basket!

disc golf 1dOur family soon went from just playing occasionally to playing 3-4 times a week and entering local tournaments.  Allen and the boys are frequent players at tournaments, and I’ve been in one or two myself.  But the girls usually play for the exercise and the socializing.

disc golf 1eThe sport is predominately played by men in their late teens to early thirties, but there’s also a decent number of seniors who play — usually men there, also.  However, there are some women who’ve risen to international championship levels and are sponsored by disc golf corporations to play in high level tournaments.

disc golf 1fSo what discs do you use?  Well, the traditional frisbee that you’d play with on the beach isn’t the same thing as the frisbee you use for disc golf.  Disc golf discs are about 1/3 smaller than traditional frisbees, and the weight is heavier as a general rule.  They have different shapes to the edges of the disc, depending on what that disc is for:  pointy edges are for distance throwing off the tee and the fairway.  Round edged discs are generally for putts into the basket.  An avid disc golf player may have 10-15 discs on him at any given game.  The terrain, the wind conditions, the distance to the basket – those all play a factor into deciding which disc to use, because just like golf clubs, the discs are designed to do specific things.

disc golf 1gThis is a very beginner-friendly and inexpensive sport.  Disc golf courses are free, and there’s no need to reserve a tee time.  The financial outlay may be as little as nothing (because a player gives you a disc– this happens ALL the time).  Or you may decide to buy a disc, and they can range in price from $8.00 to $20.00, depending on the type of disc you buy.  Most sporting goods stores will sell a beginner kit that has 3 nice discs in it for about $25.  And those discs will last you for years.  You may want to buy a bag to carry your discs in, or you can find instructions for sewing, crocheting, or leatherworking a disc bag on Pintrest.  Some great disc brands are Inova, Discraft, MVP, and my favorite, Latitude 64.

We’re members of the local disc golf association, but there’s also the PDGA – Professional Disc Golf Association.  You can get discs locally from sporting goods stores, record stores or even sometimes large superstores like Walmart or Target.  But if you want a great selection of discs to order, you can go to discnation.com.    Want to find a disc golf course in your area?  Go to Disc Golf Course Review.  

 

 

 

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It Takes A Village, Part 1

Over the last ten years or so, I’ve been collecting ceramic Christmas Village pieces from a variety of dollar stores.  A few dollars here, a few dollars there… and now I’ve got nearly a dozen buildings, people, trees, etc.

  When you go into the front door of our house, you’re met by a set of stairs and a shelf.  That shelf is where we put the Christmas Village last year, thanks to Margo’s suggestion.  I really liked having the village there, it was great.  But I wanted to improve it… and remembered a story Allen had told me of his childhood, how he had built a landscape for his Matchbox electric race car set.  I wondered if we could do something similar for the Christmas Village.

  Not only did he say it was possible, but we had a unique opportunity yesterday.  Allen was off work and so was Margo.  We decided on the spur of the moment to just go for it, so off to the home improvement store we went!

We decided to take advantage of the 20-foot ceiling in our entry way, and build the landscape into a mountain, cutting the wood and screwing it together into a base with three tiers.

We used chipboard for the flat surfaces and 1×2 pieces for the columns.  We quickly discovered the wood screws were splitting the 1×2’s, so we had to pre-drill holes in them before screwing them in place.

The whole thing will stand about 3 feet tall, and 3 feet long.  It will probably weigh 50 pounds when we get done.   I got a steal on rail road track – 25 cents per package – so we’re adding a train and tunnels.

Once the tiers were in place, we checked the placement of the village pieces.  We put everything on it, including the people and dogs and fire hydrants.  If you’re interested in a village, you can buy one for $36.oo from Dollar Tree.

In my case, I’ve been buying pieces from different dollar stores so I don’t have a matching set.  There are some pieces I really want… the sleigh ride and the nativity.  I’ll keep my eyes open for them, in coming years.

Once we had the placement of the pieces where we wanted them, it was time to start stapling on the chicken wire.  Allen and Margo even made shelves with the wire, to add another half-level down at the base near the ice skating pond.

We used a staple gun and 1/2 inch staples to attach the chicken wire.  We chose the square wire rather than the hexagon, because it was sturdier and we would only need one layer of wire instead of two.  All of the wood, wire, screws, staple gun and staples cost us about $35.00.  We used a table saw and miter saw to cut the pieces… but you could use a hand saw and still not take that much time.

After we got the chicken wire on, we put the village pieces back on and re-checked the placement.  We realized we needed a few little cliffs here and there, and a half-shelf for the tree house.  Our friend Becca did her Bexzilla impression.  Love you, Bex!

One of the things we quickly realized is that I have a whole LOT of pieces, and getting them all to fit on the landscape is gonna be a bit of a challenge.  Especially when you add in the electric lights in each of the buildings.  We pre-drilled holes in the chipboard underneath each building, so that there was a place for the string of LED holiday lights that will run underneath the plaster.  We hope someday to have a real working train on the track, so we left plenty of space in the back for train tunnels that would allow the train to run around and behind the mountain, coming out again on the other side.

Now comes the fun part… adding ‘flesh’ to the ‘bones’.  Or more accurately, putting newspaper strips dipped in plaster all over the base and tiers.  Our friend April selflessly cut paper after paper after paper.  I didn’t get a good picture of her but I will next week.  She cut strips of newspaper and then tablet paper, for hours!  We used plaster instead of starch or paper mache, because the plaster was all I had.  Come to find out it was a pretty good choice, as it dries fast!

I can’t tell you how messy this is.  Allen loaned us a couple of old t-shirts of his so that we wouldn’t get plaster all over our clothes.  You mix the plaster powder 2 to 1 ratio with warm water.

We quickly realized that this was gonna be a 3-person job.  The plaster gives you about a 10 minute working time before the plaster in the bowl starts to set.  Allen kept the bowl filled with fresh plaster so it wouldn’t dry out on us.

We started at the top and worked our way down, dipping the strips of newspaper into the wet plaster and then laying it over the chicken wire.  At first, the plaster wasn’t sticking to the wire.

So we had to make the plaster a little bit thick for the initial layer on the wire.  It’s going to take about 5 layers of newspaper and plaster to get it thick enough that the edges are nicely rounded.

The first layer is finally done and drying.  This landscape is probably going to spend a week or two on our kitchen table as we continue adding layers, doing the stucco, and painting.

One of the reasons we decided to jump on this project and keep at it until the first plaster layer was on has to do with the timing of Allen’s Big 50th Birthday Bash on December 2nd.  We wanted this family project to be the first thing people see when they walk in the door.  I’m thinking of naming the village “Allentown” in his honor.  We couldn’t have done this without his direction and assistance.  He’s an awesome husband and father.

We nearly had a major disaster:  I had thoughtlessly started rinsing plaster down the kitchen sink.  Fortunately Allen caught me before too much of it went down the drain.  “You can’t do that!  It’ll clog up our house pipes!”  Hadn’t even occurred to me.  So we had to go out in the back yard – where it was raining cats and dogs – to rinse ourselves and our equipment off.

I was sooooo ready to be done.  We’d been working on this for 6 hours!  I had plaster up to my elbows.  I would have had it in my hair, too, had we been outside where I could have safely started a plaster fight with Margo.  I mean, c’mon… you gotta throw this stuff.  It’s just too much fun.  But since we were in the kitchen, I restrained myself.  I’ll be back with an update on the village when we finish getting all the layers of plaster on.

Grocery Shopping Motherlode

Go straight to the list, skip the chat:  Grocery Shopping Motherlode

There were times in our family’s life when we couldn’t afford to buy our six kids a lollipop at a softball game.  Literally every dollar I spent was compared to a gallon of milk, because we went through about a gallon a day, between drinking and cooking.  A typical grocery shopping trip looked like this:

The three older kids would each be pushing a grocery cart.  Two younger children would be laying across the bottom racks of two carts to connect them, like a steel-basketed bullet train, and the baby was in the seat of the first basket.  I would alternate between holding the list and the calculator,  holding the baby, holding the coupons, and holding my breath that nothing got broken.

We shopped about once a week or every two weeks at most.  Average monthly grocery bill: between $600 and $800, and this included toiletries, household goods, pet food, cleaning supplies, etc.  It wasn’t unusual for our grocery receipt to be five feet long!  Our older kids took perverse delight in telling the checkout clerk that we’d be back next week for the same amount of food.  It usually dropped the poor clerk’s jaw, which gave the kids a good laugh.

Alright, so that being said, we’ve had to learn some tools of the trade to become a semi-pro shopping team.  (See… you knew there was a reason we had all these kids!)  We’ve also had to deal with a couple of food allergies (me to dairy, and Margo to soy).  We’ve read books on coupon clipping, conparison shopped everything from big box stores to bread thrift stores, and scoured second hand stores and libraries for resources to help stretch every single dollar.

Today on Facebook I was invited to join a coupon club.  And while I’m no longer shopping for 8 people on a weekly basis, I’d offered to share some of the kitchen helper files I’d created in order to manage the kitchen chaos.  You’ll find here some downloadable forms that I’m glad to share with you.  They are in Microsoft Excel format, and you can edit them by downloading them to your computer and opening Excel.  (If you don’t have Excel, would you let me know?  I’d be glad to convert them to pdf for you.)

When you download the file, you’ll find four files within it.  They are:

  • PRICE COMPARISON – a list done about a year ago, comparing prices of items we regularly purchased, from Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Aldi, and Schnucks.
  • FREEZER INVENTORY – a list of everything we could ever want to put in our freezer.
  • PANTRY INVENTORY – a list of everything we could ever want to put in our refrigerator and pantry.  Both lists are organized first by category and then by alphabet.
  • ALDI PRICE LIST- if you’re lucky enough to have an Aldi store near you, then you really can save a lot of money on your groceries.  Even though most of our kids no longer live at home, we still shop Aldi every week, and our grocery budget for 4 adults is $150 a week, and still includes pet food, cleaning supplies, toiletries and the like.  This list was originally compiled by a discussion group, and I edited it for my own tastes.  But my prices are about a year old.  So I checked and there’s a gal who is keeping a current price comparison on her blog!

HOW TO USE THE LISTS:

1.  Edit the lists to add the food items you usually buy, and delete the ones you don’t.

2.  Print your lists.

3.  Clip the lists to a clipboard, or put them into a binder with sheet protectors.

4.  Go through your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry.  Mark an X for each item you have in the list.  For example:  if you have five 6-oz cans of tomato sauce, then mark 5 X’s next to the tomato sauce in your list.  As you use the cans, put a line through an X each time you use one.

Bonus points:  Print out a pantry list and put it on a clip board.  Tie some yarn around a sharpened pencil and hang the pencil from the clip board.  Hang a hook in your pantry or dry goods/canned food cupboard.  Put the clip board on the hook.  Repeat on the front of your refrigerator and freezer with those appropriate lists.  Every time you use something up from the list, mark it off.  Now take your lists and go shopping.  You are a semi-pro shopper, because you’ll never have to return to the grocery store for something you forgot to put on your list, and you saved money and time, too!

If you’ve read this far and haven’t downloaded the list yet, here’s the list link again (so you don’t have to scroll up):  Grocery Shopping Motherlode

A final note about coupons:  they can be a great help to you, if what you usually buy is an item that you have a coupon for, AND if the item is on sale.  But in reality, coupons present a lot of temptation to buy things that might not be in your budget.  So keep your head about you when it comes to clipping those coupons, because you could actually be spending more money than you would save.

If you need help with knowing what’s on sale at your local grocery stores, try this wonderful resource:  mygrocerydeals.com

And if you need some help with your finances in general – you know, things are a mess, and you just don’t know where to start – then I can’t recommend Ellie Kay enough.  She’ll get you back on track and get your finances under control.  Go check out her website, at EllieKay.com.

Running Backwards

I want to start out by saying I hate blog posts that are full of apologies for not blogging.

So this won’t be one of those.

It’s more a progress report on things I had expected to get done… and didn’t.

Do you ever underestimate — make that unbelievably underestimate — the amount of time things take?

I have this blog post about dyeing fabric and clothing, and it’s all written (I did that part while the washing machine was working it’s magic).  The photos are taken; all that’s left to be done is to edit the pics for pixel size and get them plugged into the post.  Thought I’d have that done by Saturday.  And here it is, Monday, and I didn’t even touch it over the weekend.

I’ve got an article for the IPCA website on getting a website made.  Thought I’d have plenty of time to get that done for the newsletter and turn it in on Friday.  I didn’t get it done.  In fact, I didn’t even touch my computer between Friday afternoon and today!

Ditto on getting the weekend orders shipped, sewing my friend’s anniversary dress, cleaning my laundry off my bedroom floor, sweeping the library, and mowing the lawn.

And yet… I had a super busy weekend.  Went out to dinner with our kids, went clothes shopping with my husband, spent time romantically with him, we got the grocery shopping done together, and he cleaned both refrigerators while I went to youth group.

It was a question of priorities.  The lesson in this for me is that I must be more aware of the people in my life than I am of the work in my life.  I don’t think balance is really possible.  There are times when work is going to run backwards because family is more important.

Lately I had been hearing small comments from my children that I’m always working.  I must listen to those things and take them seriously; they know I’m a workaholic.  I get razzed about it, but there’s a kernel of sadness in those teasing comments.  When family runs backward because work is more important, then I have to acknowledge that I’ve got a problem.  In that moment, I realized I’d been saying “no, I can’t do ________  with you because I have to work” too many times.

– – – – – – – – – –

15 minutes later…

Wow.  Timing is funny sometimes.

As I was writing the above part, I could hear Mark moving around upstairs.  Like he often does, he came down to my studio to tell me about his dream from the night before.  He’s done that since he was a little kid – shared his dreams with me.  This one was about his family getting kidnapped and he came to the rescue, ‘Die Hard’ style.  He’s got a vivid imagination and he’s a good storyteller.  I love all his dreams, with the exception of the zombie ones.  In that case, I will ask him to just give me the cliff notes version, because “gross” just doesn’t even come close to describe it.

Anyway.

As I sat there and laughed at the antics of his dream-self, I was reminded that he’ll be in Iraq by this time next year.   And while we’ll have Skype so we can keep in touch, I doubt he’ll be calling me to tell me his dreams.  Would I be willing to let work run backwards if he did that?  Absolutely.  Without hesitation.  So why should it be any different while he’s still home with us?

It was a sobering thought.

Shapewear And Surprises

I know some of you were expecting the results of my Shapewear Poll on Friday.  Well, an unexpected surprise derailed my plans to make that post, but I’m bringing it to you today with two posts in one:  Shapewear AND Surprises.

This is my very own pair of Spanx.  It’s a bicycle short shaper.  I treasure it.  It has a high waist that is comfortable over my tummy and ribs.  It has no elastic or silicone at the leg openings, so it gives a smooth line under skirts, dresses, and most pants.  It tones down my hips and rear and overall gives a little firmness to everything.

There’s a very nice little article that explains shapewear on Wikipedia (article here.)  As the article says, historically women have worn foundation garments of one type or another for hundreds of years.

The proof, they say, is in the pudding.  So in order to give you an idea of a “real person” getting transformed by shapewear, I took before and after pictures of myself from my biggest (no pun intended) figure problem: my backside.  These photos have only been edited to crop and resize; there’s no airbrushing here.

This first photo is of my dark blue knit dress.  I have a regular bra and briefs underneath it.  Thin knits like this love to hug and emphasize every body bulge and ripple.  Note the wrinkles at my waist, emphasizing my swayback.

Now I have on a shaping tank top and those Spanx briefs.  Notice the swayback wrinkles are gone.  The knit skims over the surface of my torso, thanks to the bump smoothing that the shapewear provides.  There’s a gentle compression and it allows for a little more definition to my waist.

For me personally, I see these things as wardrobe aids that I wear with a fair amount of frequency.  Yes, it depends on the outfit and the occasion.  I don’t wear them daily.  However, they are comfortable enough that I could, if I chose to.

I was interested to see what the results of my informal shapewear poll would be.   I think it’s actually a pretty fair representation of our culture’s view of foundation garments and the reputation that undergarments like them have gained.

 

 

 

 

I’d like to hear your thoughts about the poll, and share any feelings you have about your own foundation garments, if you have any.

 

NEXT: The surprise!

On Thursday I received a phone call from Phil, our son who is at Fort Gordon in Georgia.  He and his wife, Jewel, were making an impromptu trip home for the weekend, and wanted to let me know.  They also wanted me to keep it a secret from the rest of the family, even as I gave them bogus reasons to show up at my house on Saturday.

The two lumps underneath the pink blanket are Phil and Jewel.  They’d arrived about 5am Saturday morning, after driving straight through for 15 hours.

First thing Phil does when he wakes up is cook.  He’s an excellent amateur chef and has a great nose for combining spices.  Next thing you know, his younger brother, Mark, is hamming it up for the camera and gave him a … well, I wasn’t sure what it was.  Didn’t look like a man-hug to me.  Must be an Army secret handshake or something.  :^D

We went to dinner that night at Jewel’s house.  Her mom, April, made a feast of ribs and chicken.  She’s a great cook and it was delicious.  Everyone from our side of the family was invited, and at one point there were 17 people crammed into April and Mike’s’ living room.  From the left are Ryan, Margo’s husband; Hilary, Jewel’s best friend, Jewel herself, and her daddy, Mike.

  Our oldest son, Steve and his wife, Heather, had just driven home that day from Toronto, Canada.  Coincidentally another 15 hour drive.  They were exhausted but wanted to see Phil and Jewel.  From the left are John,  Steve’s best friend; Phil; and Phi’s best friend, Josiah.  (By the way, John… love the “Professional Russian” t-shirt.  I want one.)

About 9pm we all went over to Jillian’s to play games.  April and Mike played pool with Allen and I, while the kids all hung out in the arcade.  We had such a good time!  We don’t get to do many things with Jewel’s folks, even though we get along quite well, so this was a treat.  And talking to Phil, he and Jewel had a blast in the arcade, and won so many tickets that they were able to get her the zebra striped electric guitar.  Wow, what a night!

Phil and Jewel left early this morning to have breakfast at Margo and Ryan’s before driving back to Georgia.  We really enjoyed their surprise visit and are looking forward to seeing them again over the holidays.

 

 

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