The Garden is Growing…

Sunday, May 31, 2009

This morning when I went to go take a peek at the garden…GUESS WHAT?  There were a few more things growing!


From the left…there is iceberg lettuce, 2 rows of beans, and 2 rows of cucumbers.


A close up of the cucumbers…


A close up of the beans…

I’m SO EXCITED to see things growing!  And thankfully, with the fence up, our little yard bunny is not eating the tender shoots 🙂

I will update the garden as I see changes…

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy Birthday Eric!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yesterday, May 29, was my nephew Eric’s 8th birthday!

This is really hard for me to believe.  I can still remember when he was born and it seems like yesterday!

He is such a cutie!

One of the things that I dislike about living so far away is that I don’t get to see him NEARLY enough.  Thank goodness, my brother, Kurt, posts lots of pictures online to his MySpace account.

Today, I’m going to share a few of my favorites of my nephew…

Eric's first birthday

1st Birthday party! (with Kurt and Jamie)

Eric in Green shirt

What a smile!

little Eric

Learning to walk…

Eric in red shirtf

Doesn’t he just LOOK happy!

Eric with goggles

With goggles 🙂

Kurt and Eric in tent

With Dad in the camper…

Eric by log house

My favorite Christmas photo…

upside down Eric

Upside down!

Eric as Superman


Favorite picture of Eric

My ABSOLUTE favorite photo (I think he may be about four here…)

Kurt and Eric

A great photo of my brother and Eric…

These are just a FEW of the many great photos of my nephew!  I just realized, I have to get some more RECENT photos of Eric…did you read that Kurt?  SMILE.  Post some new ones to your MySpace page and then I’ll share some more with the blog world.  For one, my nephew now wears glasses, like the rest of the Van Stratens!


Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fruits and…Radishes??

Friday, May 29, 2009

Today we went grocery shopping at Stop and Shop and felt MUCH more at home!  There’s just something about going down the aisles that you know so well 🙂  We did get some new products though…tofu (!)–we have never bought this in the 2+ years that we have been vegetarian, Stevia (all natural sweetner that DOES NOT affect glycemic index), whole fresh pineapple, and two different teas–a fruit sampler, and a white tea.   We also stocked up on some fresh fruit–we haven’t had some in SO long–apples, bananas, kiwi, and blueberries!  Can’t wait to eat some of this good stuff.


Look at all those BRIGHT colors!

Then after we got home I took a look in the garden and voila!



These suckers are fast growing!

Tonight we are off to see a movie at the cheap movie theater.  Buttered popcorn here we come!  The movie is called Sunshine Cleaning and was a Sundance Award winner.  Hopefully it’ll be good.  I’m looking forward to the night out 🙂

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

1st Whole Foods Experience

Thursday, May 28, 2009

First of all, can I just say that I am NOT a fan of gloomy weather!  And guess what kind of weather we had today…and are scheduled to have for the next few days?  You got it–dark, gloomy, rainy, cold.  I mean, it’s hard to believe we had weather in the low 90s when it is in the 50s today.

I did manage to sleep in today, but I don’t feel like I had a very RESTFUL night.  I woke up several times, looked at the clock, rolled back over and fell back to sleep for an hour or two, and then the same cycle would repeat!  Kimm was even worse, she could hardly sleep at all and was up for several hours at a time.

Today we decided to get in a trip to Whole Foods since I have read so much about that store on all the food blogs, and because we want to try to eat healthier (again!), and because there is a Whole Foods in this area (I’ve heard that not all people are so lucky).

Well, our experience was SO-SO.

I’m thinking that maybe we just are not “Whole Foods people.”  😦

First of all, it took a LONG time to get there (about 40 minutes, which was longer than I was anticipating).

Second, it was extremely BUSY.  We wanted to take our time and peruse the aisles, looking for items that struck our fancy, but there was always someone pushing their way in to where we were in the aisle.  It was QUITE aggravating!

Third, THE PRICES!!  Yikes, I guess I am not used to seeing prices like 11.99 for a jar of almond butter (just ONE example).  I mean, I really think that you have to be rich to shop at this store.

Lastly, I guess I felt a bit OVERWHELMED.  There were SO many different foods than what we normally buy, and even of items I wanted to take a look at (like nut butters), SO many BRANDS, that it is easy to just give up!

But we did buy a few things: a container of coconut milk, a container of Silk Chocolate soy milk, soy creamer (regular and hazelnut), a container of raw turbindo sugar, Morningstar vegetarian corn dogs (of which I am VERY anxious to try!), some vegetarian beef gravy and mushroom gravy, “non-chicken” chicken noodle soup (with tofu),  and non-dairy frozen desserts (snickerdoodle and chocolate almond flavors).  You might  be able to tell that we are trying to get away from using milk based items.

My conclusion:  I don’t think I will shop here again.  I found it to be very disorienting and I got in a bad mood!  Which is not good.  I think that I am going to take a closer look at the “natural” section at Stop and Shop and see what is available.

We did also stop at Trader Joe’s which was right next to Whole Foods, and picked up a bunch of cereal and granola, as well as some chips.  But I think our WF experience got us out of the mood to shop.  I guess I am really just that type of person that shops based on meals.  And when I was just “looking around” I felt lost.

Needless to say, it took Kimm and I a good talking to get ourselves back in a better mood 🙂

We did have a yummy dinner–our favorite Boca chicken patties with some fries.  And then some maple creme cookies that I got at Trader Joe’s for dessert!

Tonight we are trying to just relax.  I’m underneath a blanket I’m so chilly!

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bye Mom and Dad

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Today was my parents’ last day visiting me in the grand state of MA.

It was a pretty laid back day.  Check out for the motel was at 11 am and I came and picked them up around 9:30 am.  We got a few pictures at the motel.


In front of the sign…I made them do the “Massachusetts Smile”–it’s better than saying “cheese”!


In front of their room, the one that actually HAD heat (good thing too because it was only 50 degrees this morning!)

Back at the house I took a quick picture of the garden with the wire fence.


No bunnies in THIS garden!


Another blooming flower bush that I noticed in the backyard…

Then we spent the morning just relaxing.  Watched a few episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8 (which I heard the new season started Monday and that Jon and Kate do not sit in the same chair for the ‘feedback’ sessions, but rather in separate chairs…I can’t wait to see the rerun).  Then a few episodes of some wedding show where women find the “perfect dress” at Kleinfeld’s.  It was pretty interesting to see what some of these women chose…highly ornate, and in my opinion, UGLY dresses!  And they cost OUTRAGEOUS prices!  Definitely not my style at all…I like very simplistic things 🙂

And of course, before we left the house we had to get some more family pictures…


Mom and me (me with my famous head-tilt!)


Dad and me…


All three of us…


One of Kimm and me!


Look who decided to join us, our neighborhood cat, Patches!


One last picture in front of the blooming rhododendron bush…

The drive to the airport was pretty uneventful.  We found the gate with no problem!

Saying good bye is always the hardest part.  It’s hard knowing that I won’t physically see my parents for a while.  I can’t just drive a little bit to see them.  That’s the worst part.  I usually only see them once a year.  My mom shed a few tears.


In line getting ready to take their shoes off!

Bye Mom and Dad.  I’ll miss you.

It seemed so quiet back at the house after I got back!  Of course my eyes started to burn and I had to take a little siesta 🙂

Tonight the plan is to get some Chinese food and watch a movie.  And early to bed as well…I still need to catch up on my sleep.

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

A (Half) Day of Rest

*Postdated for Tuesday, May 26, 2009

*I was just TOO darn TIRED to blog yesterday!

Hello everyone!

Well, I made it through working my Memorial Day holiday with minimal rest.  After eating our picnic lunch…




…I took my parents back to their motel room so that I could try to get a quick nap in before work.  But…NO LUCK!  So I headed off to work kind of knowing that I would be tired once the middle of the night hit.  And I was not wrong.  I did okay until about 3:30 am, and then all of a sudden I felt like I was walking through mud.  My mind was not functioning clearly.  All I could think of was my nice, comfy bed!  I tried drinking a cup of coffee.   I tried walking.  I tried talking to my co-workers (I’m curious to know WHAT I actually said when I was that tired!).  But nothing helped.  Thankfully it was an easy night at the hospital because otherwise I would have felt sorry for my patients.  But the time passed…SLOWLY.  And then I was able to drive home.  Again, not a fun experience when you are so tired.  Basically the only way I can do it is to roll down all the windows, and turn up the music super loud.

I had actually stopped at the motel to say a quick hello to my parents.  Of course, after I sat down for a few minutes, it was EVEN harder to get back up and drive the 10 minutes home.  But I did.

I brushed my teeth for like 30 seconds and then climbed between the sheets.  I was out like a light.

I had been up for over 24 hours.

They always say that lack of sleep can really affect you, and I have had the pleasure (oh lucky me!–that was sarcastic by the way)) of experiencing that a few times.  Read an incredibly interesting article about lack of sleep here.  Seems like the older I get, the more I really need my sleep.   Several people always ask me how I can work three 12 hour shifts in a row.  I always answer, “I make sure to get my sleep.”  If I didn’t rest for at least 8 hours in between, I don’t know how I would do it.  There have seriously only been about three days in my entire two years of working this shift where I was this tired.  And it was always from lack of sleep.

Anyways, I was able to sleep until about 2 pm.  I didn’t want to sleep the entire day away because my parents were still here!

I picked them up at about 3:30 and we headed…back to the hospital!  They wanted a tour of where I work.  The last time they visited for my nursing graduation we had just driven past the hospital because I wasn’t even working there yet.  But this time they got to see the floor where I work, what a patient room looks like, and to meet a few of my co-workers.  They really enjoyed it.  I have to say, I really like the coziness of my hospital.  It’s a small, community hospital, and people are pretty friendly.  I’m not sure how I would like working in a large hospital.  But who knows what will happen in the future!

After that, we drove into Easthampton, and got a little ice cream treat at Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream.  We all had something different…my dad had Black Raspberry, my mom had Chocolate Brownie, and I had Mud Pie (coffee ice cream with chocolate chunks and marshmallow).  Of course we all sampled each others…they were all really good.  The waffle cones were extremely good–not too hard.  I love me a good homemade ice cream!

We stopped at Rocky’s on the way home to pick up some fencing for the garden.  Turns out that little bunny rabbits love a new garden and since we have one that likes to visit our yard my dad figured it would not be a bad idea to put some fencing up.  It was pretty easy.  It’s about two feet high, and is held in place my little stakes.  I forgot to take a picture yesterday.

Oh yeah, and want to hear something that’s kind of ironic?

Kimm mowed the lawn yesterday.  No problem with the mower this time, thank goodness.  But then she finally got the weed wacker put together, was able to work with it for about ten minutes before it stops in her hands.  Then she is unable to pull the cord to start it up again.  Sounds like de ja vu!  And not in a good way.  So now we have to try to call the manufacturer about that (there is a help line).  Always something to do.

My parents last evening here was spent very relaxing.  We were going to go play mini-golf, but we found out that the mosquitos were horrible while we were putting up the fencing around the garden.  So we stayed at the house and played Skip-Bo instead.  Much less stressful than Phase 10 🙂  Kimm won…again!

I slept REALLY good last night.

And today I take my parents to the airport. It’s a gloomy day and they are predicting rain.  My mom is worried that there will be delays at the airport!  It happened the last time they visited, so I can appreciate her concern 🙂

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 8:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 25, 2009

“When you go home, tell them of us and say,

For their tomorrow, we gave our today.”

—–Kohima epitaph, attributed to John Maxwell Edwards, carved on the memorial of the 2nd British division in the Kohima cemetery for the Allied War dead, WWII

I hope everyone takes a moment this Memorial Day to remember those who gave their lives, so that we may enjoy the lives we live today.  And also to remember in our thoughts those who continue to fight for the rights of Americans.

I felt so patriotic today.  I have to say that does not happen too often because there are many things that our country does that do not agree with my morals and living philosophy.  But when I see the love of this country in the eyes of other people, and really think about how people in many other countries are denied basic rights, I do feel grateful to live in this country.

This morning I got up and went to pick up my parents so that we could all watch the Agawam Memorial Day parade.  The only thing was, I forgot about the West Springfield parade, and as it turns out, it was going on right as I was going down the main road that it was on!  At first I panicked, because I didn’t think I knew any other way to get to my parents hotel, but after I turned around, I managed to find a way around…whew!  I didn’t want to have to sit through that whole parade, not knowing how long it was going to last, and then get blocked off from returning to my own town.

It turns out that the parade runs right down Main Street, which is right up the street from us.  When we get off the highway, we are on Main Street, then turn off that street and one more to get to our house.  It would have been only about a half mile walk, or less, but since we were going to be carrying our HEAVY chairs, I decided to drive up closer.

It was supposed to start at 10:30, but the parade didn’t come by our part until about 11 am.  I was excited because I had found out yesterday, that our neighbor who is keeping his Thunderbird in our garage was going to be the Parade Marshall!

So I snapped pictures of pretty much everything in the parade.  I’ll show you some of my favorites…


The opening Color Guard




Our neighbor, the Parade Marshall, and his Thunderbird, “in action!”

Then a slew of old fashioned cars…








Marching soldiers…they were chanting…I always like that…


The Agawam Colleens from St. Patrick’s Day…really nice float (a high heeled shoe, topped with roses)


Another Color Guard…


The Agawam Marching Band–“The Marching Mohawks”

Then a whole slew of firetrucks, some new and some old…









The bagpipes…my ABSOLUTE favorite!

Some army trucks…





A cute little train, with some lucky kids riding!


The ONLY candy throwing float in the parade 🙂


Our flag…

All in all, it lasted about 25 minutes or so.  Just right, not too long.  It was nice to see a whole bunch of people coming together to celebrate.  I’m sure everyone will be having a BBQ today.

When we came back home I got the cherry pie together!


Before going into the oven!

I’m going to be getting the rest of the meal together now.  After we eat then I’ll be dropping the parents back at the hotel so I can get a little nap in before going to work tonight.  I REALLY wish I didn’t have to go to work tonight!

I’ll post pictures of our picnic lunch tomorrow.  I can’t wait to eat.  I’m starvin’ marvin’!!!!

“Those who deny freedom to others, do not deserve it themselves.”

Remember this the next time you make any kind of statement, or place any vote, that denies other Americans basic rights.  Think about it.

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 1:13 pm  Comments (2)  

The Garden Is Planted!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Yeah!!!  I was beginning to think that I would never see this day!

But today, it was all accomplished.

This morning my parents wanted to check out the United Church of Christ Church that is close to our house (they belong to a UCC Church at home in Sheboygan).  The service started at 10 am and they were doing a special Memorial Day service.  I have to say it was very moving.  I don’t consider myself very religious, but I do consider myself spiritual, and many of the things that were said during the service, made me quite emotional–there were several times I needed a Kleenex!  It was especially moving when members of the congregation who had lost a family member in war spoke their memories of their loved ones.  Some of these people died when they were in their early 20s–what a waste of life!  It’s very sad when you stop to really think of it.  I found the minister to be extremely friendly; and his sermon was interesting.  Like most churches, it was mostly older members, hardly any younger members.

After church we came home and I made pancakes.  They were so good!  Light and fluffy–with homemade real maple syrup that Kimm got from a friend at work who knew someone who made the stuff.  So much better than that processed stuff in the store.

Then after lunch Kimm and I got outside and finished up the staking.  Today there was SUCCESS with the drill.  Seems like it just needed a really long charge period.  It was pretty hot out today as well, in the 80s and so within no time at all we were sweating.  But we didn’t know anything about sweat until we started carrying the bags of dirt out to the garden.  OH MY!  They were heavy.  The sweat was dripping down my neck, my face, into my eyes, my clothes were soaking wet.  It was nasty!

The worst part was mixing in the hummus/manure–that stuff is stinky!  But it actually wasn’t as smelly as I was expecting, not like pure manure!


The finished bed!


Close up of the inner stakes…everyone should be really proud of me and Kimm…there was a bee buzzing around this thing the whole time we were finishing it and we DIDN’T RUN!


A layer of newspapers that were soaked with water to hopefully prevent a lot of weeds from coming up from the bottom


Kimm raking the dirt…


Kaye raking the dirt 🙂

After the dirt, peat, and hummus/manure was all mixed in, the planting began.  We had to modify the planting PLAN a bit, based on where things fit, but we got it all in.  I was so excited.  It looks so nice.  Now I just hope that everything we planted will actually come up!  In our garden we have: grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, two plants of early tomatoes, radishes, basil, dill, cilantro, yellow squash, zucchini, red peppers, green peppers, lettuce, carrots, beans, cucumbers and strawberries.  It’s hard to believe that we got ALL that stuff in a small 4 x 8 raised bed.


Everything planted!


Look at the cute stakes (sticks from our own yard!)


My dad by the garden…


Me and my dad by the garden…


One last view!

After we were all done I came in and took a nice long, hot shower!  Boy did that feel good.

Now I am in the process of making a veggie lasagna.  It is always quite a process–prepping the veggies, cooking the noodles, then assembling it, then it has to bake for an hour and then sit for 15 minutes.  I will be having a LARGE slice of that!

Kimm is watching a hockey game, but unfortunately her team is NOT winning.

Not sure what the plan is for tonight.  Maybe early to bed because we are planning on going to the parade tomorrow and then having a Memorial Day picnic.  Lots of good food.

Oh yeah, and of course I can’t forget that I have to return to work tomorrow.  I can’t believe that I have had 8 days off.  It really doesn’t feel like it 😦  But then the good thing is that afterwards, I will have off for another four days!

Hope everyone is having a relaxing holiday weekend!

A few more beautiful flowers from our backyard…




…and pink!

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Question: How Long Does It Take To Make A Raised Garden Bed?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Answer: A LONG time if you are Kaye and Kimm.

After a lot of hard work, sweat, and just a little bit of confusion by all (except me of course, because I had made a step-by-step list of how to construct the bed), we have this…


I’m SO glad I got the pine wood…it looks so nice in the yard (you can see the fire pit in the back, behind the garden bed)

Basically the most trouble we had with this garden was the fact that our power drill died on us.  The batteries (we have two), both died after doing just a few nails.  Then, even after charging for close to five hours, they still died.  So something is definitely not right (according to the directions, it should take 3-6 hours to fully charge).  We decided to try another outlet to plug into and see what happens tomorrow.  The only thing left to do is pound the stakes in along the sides of the frame (2 on each of the long sides and 1 on each of the short sides) and screw them to the frame.  Other than that, it’s done.

We shall attempt to do this tomorrow afternoon.  Then the plan is to fill it with the dirt, peat and hummus/manure mixture.  And then FINALLY my dad will help us plant everything.

This has been a long process, and I will be super excited to actually know that everything is planted! However, I just wanted to say that it is also extremely rewarding to actually build something by yourself.  You have a real sense of pride in what you do.  What a great feeling.

Today we stopped at the Basketball Hall of Fame because my brother is a basketball geek 🙂  He wanted another baseball hat from there (don’t you find that kind of ironic, buying a BASEBALL hat from the BASKETBALL hall of fame?).  We actually found him one in his size –size 8 fitted, which basically meant that when we all tried on the hat it was HUGE.  Gave us all a laugh 🙂  We also were able to get Eric a few t-shirts (I got him a long sleeved one that will be for his birthday).

We ordered pizza from Parthenon, another local favorite–one cheese and one veggie.  Both very good.   While we ate we watched Simon Birch.  We have had this movie from Netflix for quite a while and just never got around to watching it.  It was very good–funny, yet “feel good”–a true story of friendship. I can see why it was a “talked about movie” when it came out, which by the way was 1998–wow where has the time gone!

I’m hoping I get a good night sleep tonight because I’m pretty tired. It’s cool outside now, perfect sleeping weather!

Just for fun, here’s a picture of our rhododendron bush, which is now just flowering.  We had pulled out our other one that was pretty much dead.  I was a bit nervous about this bush because I think they attract a lot of bees, but so far I have not really seen them around it.  However, only about 1/4 of the flowers are open so far.  So I figured I would get a picture quick while I could!


The flowers really are gorgeous…

p.s. Kimm got sunburned on her neck from building the garden bed…it’s so cute!

Adios until tomorrow!

Published in: on May 23, 2009 at 10:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Another HOT one!

*POSTDATED for Friday, May 22, 2009


It was a long day yesterday.  I didn’t drop my parents off at the hotel until a little after midnight!  That’s because we got caught up in a LONG game of Phase Ten.  If you’ve never played this game, it’s basically a 10 step card game where each player is attempting to create “phases” out of the cards they are dealt and then that they pick up during the course of the game.  The phases get progressively more difficult as the game goes on.  If you don’t create a phase before someone goes out on a hand, then you must continue working on your phase until you get it.  It can be very frustrating, especially when you are dealing with the luck of the draw.  But it was fun, until it started getting so hard 🙂  Not to mention, because of the heat and the light on in the dining room, we kept being dive-bombed by these tiny little bugs.  It was really annoying!  But we persevered.  In the end,  Kimm won (even though she just about gave up SEVERAL times), but followed very close by my dad who was originally doing poorly–he really caught up fast!, and then my mom, and then me–DEAD last 🙂  We had to treat ourselves to a bowl of ice cream afterward as a reward!  (I won’t even complain too much about how the hot fudge sauce EXPLODED in the microwave!–what a mess to clean up…turns out you don’t have to heat it up as long as recommended when the temp has been in the 90s all day…who knew).

Yesterday also included another trip to Home Depot as I was not completely satisfied with everything for the garden.  This time we AVOIDED all salespeople and just did it our own way.  We got:

–4 tomato plants (one grape, one cherry, and two early–bears fruit in 50 days!)

–4 tomato cages

–3 bags of garden soil

–1 bag of peat

–pine boards for the garden to use instead of the pressure treated wood


ALL that dirt!


The nicer pine wood…


A random shot of our neighbors Thunderbird that is being stored in our garage…he put the top down because he’s going to be driving it in the parade on Monday…


The tomato plants, next to our VERY sickly looking hyacinth that Kimm’s mother gave to us for Easter…I’m not sure we’ll be able to save it...also, don’t those hostas look super

Other stuff that we did yesterday…

I made fried egg sandwiches for lunch (always yummy…my mom had scrambled).

Me, my mom, and my dad went and saw Angels and Demons at a matinee.  It’s amazing how expensive even the matinees are.  $7.50 per ticket.  And then my dad and I got popcorn and sodas–it was close to $22 for a large popcorn, a medium popcorn and two large drinks.  Yikes!  That’s why I like the Agawam Family Cinema, because it is SO much cheaper, and just as much fun.  As far as the Angels and Demons movie, I thought it was much better than The DiVinci Code.  More excitement, more drama, better acting (although I still thought that Tom Hanks was NOT the right person for this role).  It was nice to be in the theater because it was 90 degrees again.  But it was nice and cool in the theater…actually a bit chilly–I had to put on my long-sleeved shirt!

For dinner I made a favorite standby–spaghetti, with garlic cheese bread and a salad on the side.  Boy do salads taste better when it is warm out.  Turns out that our kitchen gets MIGHTY hot when we are using the stove and oven in the hot weather.  If we didn’t have the ceiling fans it would be unbearable.

Now today the plan is to actually CONSTRUCT the raised garden bed.  We stopped at Rocky’s (which I like SO much better than Home Depot, by the way) this morning because I realized that I would need a saw to cut down the stakes (because they are 18 inches long and we don’t want to have to pound them 10 inches into the ground!)  Also some different screws that were shorter since the pine board I bought was only about an inch thick.

All I have to say is that this garden better produce some good vegetables, because this is turning out to be very EXPENSIVE 🙂

The good thing is that it will be much cooler today to do all this work.  In the 70s–perfect weather, and also a nice breeze.  I just hope that this will go smoothly, as we have four people, with four different opinions!

Published in: on May 23, 2009 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment