Thursday, July 30, 2009

Words To Live By

I got a new home decor catalog in the mail yesterday. The merchandise isn't really my style, but I paged through it anyway. They have lots of plaques and framed quotes that, I have to admit, I liked quite a bit.

The first one that caught my eye was a wood plaque with the saying "It Is What It Is" painted on it. My husband and I say this all the time. There are so many things in life that you can't control or change and sometimes it's all you can say. Our recent yard projects, for example, threw us a few curves we didn't expect. We had hoped to have everything done by now, but we don't. It is what it is and it will be complete eventually.

The other sign that spoke to me was a framed print with the words "Enjoy the little things in life...for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things." How true. Of course the major events in life have a big impact; our wedding day and the days each of our children were born, for instance. But some of my favorite memories are of the little things. Things like spending an evening making pizzas on the grill with my family or sitting on the back porch steps after dark watching for shooting stars with my husband. Having my parents over for dinner and laughing at the same stories we've been telling for years. Watching my son's band perform at a local festival and reading the stories my daughter writes. Enjoying a glass of wine on vacation with my husband. Looking back, they really are the big things.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's Here!

I stepped out on my front porch yesterday evening to find that my give away prize from Lissaloo at One Step At A Time had arrived! I was so excited to open it!

Look at all the goodies it had inside; Wild Huckleberry Taffy, Wild Huckleberry Jam, Wild Huckleberry Honey and two adorable scrapbooks. So much fun!!! I can't wait to try the huckleberry items and put pictures in the scrapbooks. I'm hoping that Lissaloo will post instructions for making scrapbooks on her blog (hint, hint!). She's very talented! Thanks again, Lissaloo!


Our yard projects are getting closer to being done so I should be returning soon. I miss keeping up with all of my blogger friends!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Birthday And An Update

It's late, but it's still July 23rd for another half hour, so I want to wish Purple Hoodie Chick a very happy 17th birthday! She wasn't around the Willoughby house today so we'll be celebrating her birthday on Sunday with some good food and a chocolate birthday cake.

An Update

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't been around much lately. Remember those yard projects I said we would be working on? Well, we're still working on them. Hopefully we'll be done by the weekend and I can get back to my blog. In the meantime, I know I'm missing out on some great posts and contests by my favorite bloggers. I'll catch up with all of you soon as I'm not knee deep in dirt!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Did You Say What I Think You Just Said?

Sometimes I get ideas for my blog from other blogs and that's what happened today. Joanna posted some things she overheard in Los Angeles on her blog The Fifty Factor. They were really funny and I enjoyed reading them. They also made me think of things, not that I've overheard, but that have been said directly to me or someone I was with. Some are funny, some are strange.
  • "I know your mother taught you not to talk to strangers, but it's okay to talk to me because I'm nice." A woman I'd never met said this to my son while we were standing in line at the supermarket. He was about 4 years old at the time. I suppose she meant well, but don't you think a not-so-nice person might make the same claim?
  • "It's way too hot to try to this on. You're about my size, can you put this on so I can see how well it would fit me?" A woman asked me this while my neighbor and I were having a yard sale. She was interested in buying my neighbor's heavyweight terrycloth bathrobe and wanted me to model it. It was over 90 degrees that day. I said no.
  • "I do see a break in the bone, but it could be a natural crack. I'm not sure if your foot is broken or not." A doctor said this while looking at my husband's x-rays. The fork from a fork lift had dropped on his foot.
  • "We can't file them alphabetically because they don't come in that way." A clerk in the video store said this while I was looking for a movie. They placed the movies on the shelves in the order in which they were released on video. Small wonder that store is no longer in business!
  • "It's twenty dollars, but if you really need it, I'll give it to you for fifteen." A vendor at the flea market said this to me when I asked about the price of a corner shelf. If I needed it really, really badly, I wonder if she would have dropped the price to ten dollars?
  • "I don't want to spend more than fifteen dollars, but I don't want them to look cheap. Can you do that?" A potential customer of my gift basket business asked me this. She wanted two large gift baskets but didn't want to spend more than seven dollars and fifty cents on each one. I like a challenge, and I'm willing to work on a tight budget, but that was impossible.
  • "Whoa! I don't need to know all the details!" That was my doctor's reaction when I tried to explain how I knew the exact date my daughter was conceived. For the record, he misunderstood, I wasn't planning to give him a play by play!
  • "Can you still conceive?" A woman I barely knew asked me this when she found out my daughter had been born prematurely. A shockingly personal question, in my opinion.
  • "You missed a spot." Every person that passed our house while we were painting it said this. It lost it's humor after the 100th time.
  • "We're not sure we want the hush puppies. How are they made and what do they taste like?" Someone from the table behind ours asked this at a seafood restaurant in North Carolina. Did they, perhaps, think they were made with real puppies? They were complimentary while you waited for your meal. If you want to know what hush puppies taste like, try one, they're free!!

Thanks, Joanna, for giving me an idea to blog about today!

Our yard projects begin tonight, but I will try to back later to open the bar. I hope to see you then!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Won, Market Research, A Shout Out, Upcoming Projects

I haven't been around much lately so I've got a lot to cover today. You may want to grab a cup of coffee or a cold beverage because you're probably going to be here for a while. I'll wait....

I Won!

Have you been to One Step At A Time lately? If you haven't, you should. I love her blog, it has great recipes and fun stories. She had a fantastic give away for her 100th post and do you know who won? That's right, it was me! Thank you very much Lissaloo (and her adorable assistants who helped with the drawing). I'm so excited about it, I can't wait to try the huckleberry products in my prize package!

Why didn't I think to have a give away for my 100th post? I'm not sure, but I think I'll have one for my 200th. Or maybe my 150th. Or maybe my 143rd. What will I give away? I've got a few ideas. It could be an all expenses paid trip to Michigan to enjoy drinks at our bar (yeah, right), or a video of my entire family dancing badly to old music (who wouldn't like that?). You'll just have to keep reading my blog to find out, won't you?

Market Research

A few weeks ago I was looking up a recipe on Allrecipes when I was asked to participate in a survey. I wasn't in a hurry at the time, so I agreed. I was expecting to answer questions about recipes and cooking techniques, and there were a few of those, but I was also asked about my personality. There was a lot of emphasis on whether I am lonely and/or depressed. I found that surprising. Is that a common characteristic of people who like to cook? Or, could it be, they assume the people who participate in the recipe exchange (a sort of forum/message board on their site) are lacking in human interaction? I used to spend a fair amount of time on the recipe exchange, and I'll admit it can be addicting but I never thought about any of the other members being lonely or depressed. I haven't been there much in the past few months, maybe there was an incident I missed.

I've heard that companies test market their advertising for feedback but I'm not sure market research is all that valuable. I find myself wondering who television commercials and print ads are aimed at all the time. Here are a few that leave me scratching my head:

There is a commercial where a woman finds the yogurt in the supermarket so irresistible that she can't wait to get home to eat it. She slurps the yogurt out of the container right in the refrigerated section of the store. I don't recall the brand, but I can't imagine they want to encourage consumers to eat their product without paying for it. The slurping sound she makes doesn't exactly make me want to eat yogurt either. Who is this commercial supposed to appeal to?

All of the paper towel commercials confuse me. They always show the paper towel being rinsed out and reused. Isn't the fact that paper towel is disposable the point in using it in the first place? I can honestly say that I've never rinsed out and reused a sheet of paper towel. If I were going to do that, I would use a rag or a sponge.

The pain reliever commercials that show the up close shots of wrinkly skin and swollen joints don't make me want to run out and buy their product. More often than not, they just make me want to change the channel!

What about all the disclaimers on prescription medications? Talk about scaring people away from trying a product! Page through any magazine and see how many pages are devoted to the side effects of any prescription medication. There used to be an anti-anxiety medication commercial on television that listed gas and diarrhea as possible side effects. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't you be more anxious if you had to worry about that all the time?

Local spots are pretty bad, too. No matter where you live there are commercials for local car dealerships. Have you ever seen a good one? I don't think I have. There is one running currently in our area where a dog is driving a car. I'm not sure who that's supposed to appeal to. Worse, though, was a commercial we used to see when we lived in Detroit. It was for a local dentist and they made a big deal of the fact that he used heat sterilization on all of his instruments. As opposed to what? Wiping them off on his smock?

Lastly, what about public access television? Is it test marketed, too? Does anyone watch the locally produced shows they air? We used to watch a local home improvement show on Detroit public access just because it was so unintentionally funny. The host never had the proper tools for the jobs he did. He would often show that you didn't need to have a ladder to do a job. Once, he installed a ceiling fan while standing on a dining room table base (not the table top, just the base). When we lived in Bloomfield Hills, there was a locally produced lifestyle show we liked to watch occasionally. The most memorable episode dealt with travel and how to prepare for your trip. They suggested that you could test the humidity resistance of your hair styling products by sticking your head in the dishwasher after the wash cycle was complete. If you got frizz, you might want to try a new product before heading to the tropics!

A Shout Out

Congrats to Muddy Runner on his very successful Cheap Thrills road trip! If my recent post didn't convince you that you could have a fun outing while spending less than $20, click here for a look at his trip. Well done!

Upcoming Projects

After mulching the flower beds with the remains of our two maple trees, we decided that we needed to complete a few more projects in the back yard. I'm not going to spill the beans and tell you what they are just yet, but I will tell you that I'm very excited about them. They may keep me away from my blog for a few days, but I'll post pictures when they're done. I can't wait!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Are You Serious?

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I don't take myself very seriously. That's not to say that I think everything is funny, there are plenty of things I find serious, and I've blogged about some of them, too. Overall, though, I'd rather find the humor in life.

Last night we were listening to music on the back porch. We dug into the archives and played Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer. I'm not sure anyone could listen to that song without having the uncontrollable urge to dance. The problem is, I can't dance (remember this post?). No one else in my house can either, but that doesn't stop us. Instead, we break out into what we call "bad dancing". The object of this activity is to dance as badly as you can. It's all about not taking yourself too seriously.

I think life is far too short not to laugh at yourself. I would much rather spend an evening dancing badly and playing "How much would someone have to pay you to...." than discussing politics or the global economy. It's just who I am. How about you?


If you would like to try dancing badly, I've added Sledgehammer to my player at the bottom of the page. There are 46 other songs on the list, feel free to dance badly to all of them.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons

When we first visited the little town we now live in, we were charmed by the historic downtown area with it's lovely older buildings and brick sidewalks. The neighborhoods, however, were what really won us over. Each street was an eclectic mix of older clapboard sided homes and newer brick homes under canopies of towering mature trees.

After we moved here we developed a love/hate relationship with the trees. We loved the shade they provided in the summer, but we hated the endless leaves they dropped in the fall. We enjoyed watching the squirrels and birds playing on the branches, but we disliked cleaning up the sticks, twigs and small branches that dropped in the yard and the street every time a strong wind blew through them. In the end, we loved them more than we hated them because they were so beautiful and provided some privacy from the street.

On Monday afternoon, while the kids and I were in the house, we heard an odd ripping sound in the front yard. When we went outside to investigate, we found another large limb had fallen from the tree. It was so large, in fact, that it blocked the driveway and half of the street.

We had no means of moving it. I called the city to ask if they could send a crew to clear it out of the street. It took three men, two chainsaws and several hours to get the job done.

They were concerned that the tree might no longer be safe so they sent a "tree guy" (that's what they called him) to come and take a look. I was hoping it was an isolated case of rot that affected only the fallen limb, but the "tree guy" didn't think so. The whole 100+ year old tree would have to come down, as would another old tree on the other side of the front yard. I was sick at the thought.

The cutting crew showed up Tuesday afternoon and set about cutting the upper limbs from one tree.

By quitting time, the whole tree was gone and the stump had been ground down. Our lovely maple had been replaced by a pile of wood chips and debris.

The front yard looked like a war zone and I was pretty upset about it. When Mr. Willoughby came home, he had a different perspective on the whole ordeal. He was determined to turn our "lemons" into "lemonade". He grabbed the wheelbarrow and a shovel and started mulching the flower beds with the wood chips.
We have hundreds of feet of shrub line and flower beds and we've never had enough mulch for all of it. It was bare dirt before, it looks much more finished, now.

We also used a cut branch to make a new support for one of our bird houses.

It still makes me sad to look out and see the bare spots where the trees used to be.....

but I'm thankful that no one was hurt and nothing was damaged by the falling limb. It was a sunny day when the limb fell and there could easily have been children playing in the street or a car driving by. It's remarkable that neither were true that day. If my SUV had been parked a few feet back, it would have been crushed.
So if you were wondering why I hadn't posted anything this week, now you know. I was busy making "lemonade".

I did try to keep up with reading and commenting on all of my favorite blogs. If I missed a few, I apologize. My regular Friday Night Drink Demo will return next week.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cheap Thrills Road Trip

Do you remember my Cheap Thrills post? You can find all the details by clicking that link, but in short, the idea was to take a day trip to somewhere within a reasonable distance from home, enjoy the sights, have a picnic lunch and spend less than $20 (excluding gas).

For our first trip, we traveled up the east coast of Michigan, along the Lake Huron shoreline. Can you see why it's called "The Thumb Area"?

Although we didn't expect to run into any pirates, Mr. Willoughby wore this shirt just for the occasion.
We love the ocean, but since it's not possible for us to get to the Atlantic or the Pacific in an afternoon, we have to settle for the Great Lakes. Not a bad substitute, wouldn't you say?

This is the view from the shores of Port Sanilac. Despite the tranquil look of the water, this was once the site of a terrible maritime tragedy.

The road is quite a bit higher than the water along this stretch, so you have to take some stairs to get down to it.

Our next stop was in the small town of Forester where we spent some time on the beach......

climbed the hills.....

admired some enchanted scenery.......

had a tranquil moment (that's my son and Purple Hoodie Chick)......

and had lunch. I'm glad I packed foil in the travel bag because the grills at this park were really rusty. Mr. Willoughby cooked a few too many hot dogs and sausages!

There is a legend that the shores of Lake Huron are haunted by a young girl who committed suicide by jumping into the water and drowning herself back in 1876. Her name was Minnie Quay and it is said that she's been seen in the water, beckoning others to join her in the years since her death. We weren't able to find the pier she jumped from, but we did find her grave in the local cemetery. It's customary to leave a trinket at her grave, so Mr. Willoughby left the Hope stone he usually carries in his pocket. Rest in peace, Minnie.
At Harbor Beach we walked out on the pier....

and took in the view of the lighthouse.

Up the road, we enjoyed the scenery at Lighthouse Park in Pointe Aux Barques just before the rain rolled in.

While the rain came down, we toured the Lighthouse Museum. This is looking up the stairs of the lighthouse.

When the rain stopped, we were rewarded with a spectacular rainbow that started in the water and ended in the trees a few yards away from us. It was breathtaking, but I was unable to get a picture of it. I did, however, get a picture of this rainbow over the lake.

The last stop on our trip was Port Austin, at the tip of the thumb. Here, we got ice cream....

which we ate on the pier.....

viewed the military memorial.....

and the Purple Heart Garden.

We had a great time and felt like we were on vacation for the whole day. In case you're wondering how this measured up to my Cheap Thrills rules, we used less than one tank of gas, were home before nightfall and between ice cream and a donation to the Lighthouse Museum, spent a total of $14. I can say for certain that we gained much more from this trip than we spent. We're already planning our next one.

Willoughby's Wonderful Things

Before I begin today's post, I would like to thank all of you for nice comments you left on my Welcome To The Willoughby Back Porch Bar post. I was terribly flattered by the compliments. We spend a lot of time on the porch and it was fun to give you a tour.

We did pull ourselves away from the porch yesterday and took a day trip that I will be blogging about later today (I hope). I have lots of pictures to go through, and I need to get a few more from Purple Hoodie Chick.

I'm still tired from the holiday weekend, so I have only one "Wonderful" item to post today. It's a good one, though, and I think you'll enjoy it.

I stumbled across this blog, recently, and I was hooked. It's called The DIY Maven's Blog. There are some amazingly creative ideas for projects and recipes as well some really cool tech stuff. Check out the Altoid Tin project, the Bacon Cups or the Incredible Interactive Mirror, just to name a few. I can almost guarantee that you'll find something that interests you. There are currently 180 pages, so plan on sticking around for a while. Have fun!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Welcome To The Willoughby Back Porch Bar

Happy 4th of July! I promised you a tour of the Willoughby Back Porch Bar. So come on back and make yourself at home. At the end of the tour, drinks will be served!

It may be difficult to get any sense of proportion in the following pictures, so I'll begin by telling you that our back porch is approximately 40 feet long and 12 feet wide. We've separated it into 3 sections, the lounge, the bar and the pub.
Here's a look at the lounge area.

Here's the bar. It's 12 feet long, so there's plenty of room.

We built it about 4 years ago using antique doors laid horizontally which gives it a raised panel front. There are 3 doors used, each section is made from 1 1/2 doors. The ends are made from antique wood planks. The only "new" portion is the top.

The back side of the bar has shelving, but it's a little disorderly right now, so we'll skip having a look at it. For the most part, we keep our huge candle and lantern collection stored there. No alcohol is ever stored behind the bar, it's kept indoors.

See the little television on the end of the bar? We're watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel! A Stop At Willoughby, the episode that is the inspiration for my blog name, comes on at 7:30 pm Eastern Time.
Here's the Pub area. The base of the pub table is a heater.

Down the porch steps there is a paver path to a paver patio where the dining table and grills are. We'll save that for a future tour.
By now you must be thirsty. Our resident intoxicologist, Mr. Willoughby has prepared some festive drinks.

Red, White, and Hpnotiq Blue Martini

  • 2 ounces Hpnotiq

  • 1 ounce citrus vodka

  • 1/2 ounce lemon/lime soda

  • splash grenadine

Mix Hpnotiq, citrus vodka, and lemon/lime soda gently with ice, strain into a martini glass and slowly add a touch of grenadine.

The layers look great but are for presentation only. Stir before drinking for best flavor.

Thanks for dropping by! Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Bar Is Open

In honor of the 4th of July, we're featuring a layered red and blue drink tonight. When you add the ice, you'll get a little bit of white, too. It was inspired by Guy Fieri's Fourth of July Cocktail, but we've changed it up a bit.

The Patriot
  • 2 ounces watermelon schnapps

  • 1/2 ounce cranberry juice

  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila

  • 1/4 ounce blue curacao

  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup

Mix the watermelon schnapps and cranberry juice in a cocktail shaker. Pour into ice filled glass. Rinse shaker and mix tequila, blue curacao, and simple syrup. Pour very gently over red layer.

The layers look great, but are for presentation only. Stir each cocktail well before drinking for best flavor.

Please enjoy your Patriot responsibly. I will be back tomorrow with a bonus holiday drink (and possibly a tour of our bar) so I hope to see you then!

You're Always Welcome

Of course you are, friends and family are always welcome to stop by for a visit, a drink or a meal. If you've never been here before, here are a few things you should know before your drop in.
  1. You will be expected to make yourself at home. We'll be glad to get you something to drink, but don't be shy about going into the refrigerator yourself.
  2. Dinner is almost never on time. If we tell you we'll be eating at 6:00, it will probably be closer to 6:30 or 7:00. I don't know why, it just tends to work out that way.
  3. If you don't like the food that's being served, you won't be expected to eat it. We don't believe in punishing adults or children by making them eat foods they don't like around here. If we know that you're coming for dinner, we'll try to make something you like.
  4. Expect to participate in ridiculous games and conversations during your visit. Last night we enjoyed a lively game of "How much would someone have to pay you to ....." during dinner. Favorite topics included licking a toilet and taking a nap in a drawer at the morgue.
  5. If you don't know where the bathroom is, just ask. If you wander around opening doors, you're likely to find the coat closet and basement before you find the bathroom.
  6. You won't find anything scandalous in the medicine cabinet, but we won't think any less of you if you can't resist the urge to open it up and have a look, anyway. However, there is always the possibility that we've filled it with marbles that will come crashing out when you open the door.

There is one more item to add to the list, but first, I have to tell you the story behind it. Once, when I was a teenager, a friend of mine came over with her boyfriend. We were sitting in the living room talking when he asked where the bathroom was. I pointed it out and he went in and closed the door. He was in there for a loooooooooooooong time, something like 30 or 40 minutes. I went into the kitchen and told my mom about it. She was concerned that she may not have replaced the roll of toilet paper in that bathroom (there was none in the vanity cabinet, either). We debated, should we knock on the door and ask if he needed toilet paper? Before we could decide, he came out of the bathroom. They stayed a little while longer and then left. He never said anything about the toilet paper, so we didn't ask. After they were gone, my mom and I checked the bathroom and found the roll was indeed empty and her fancy fingertip towels were missing. I kid you, not! Which brings us to item number 7. If you find the toilet paper roll in my bathroom is empty, please tell me and I will replace it. I like my towels!

So, please feel free to drop by if you're in the neighborhood. We'd love to have you!

I'll be back later to open the bar. See you then!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


A few years ago I had a severe case of the stomach flu. For nearly a week, I had nothing but small sips of liquid. My husband took over the cooking and would make dinner for he and the kids and would heat up a can of soup for me, but I couldn't even stand the smell of food.

When the flu finally passed and my appetite began to return, I had a very specific list of foods that appealed to me. Among them were blueberries, cherries, pretzels, salad with cherry tomatoes and turkey sandwiches on multi-grain bread with sliced tomato. I also wanted ice cold apple juice. Mr. Willoughby went to the grocery store and got all of them for me.

At first, I could only eat a few bites at a time, but eventually I could tolerate regular portions. That's when a funny thing happened. I started to feel really good. Not just in comparison to how I felt when I had the flu, but even better than I had felt before I had gotten sick. I felt energetic and healthy. Looking at the list, it's not hard to see why. It's a pretty balanced diet, except for the lack of dairy products. It almost seems that my body craved exactly what it needed or reset itself.

I wonder if that's the secret to looking good and feeling healthy. Could it be that if you listen hard enough, your body will tell you what it needs? If that's the case, I hope there are some yet undiscovered health benefits to chocolate chip cookies!