The Story of My Keys

As you may have seen on my Facebook page, this week started with a hiccup…a pretty BIG hiccup. The story goes like this….

On Monday Morning I left the house, to go get some work done at the church. We live on a street with a large locked mailbox at the end where we and the majority of our neighbors get our mail. . It’s on the way out of our neighborhood so I stopped, as I typically do, on the way to work to pick up our mail (our mail comes insanely early each day).

I am driving our 2017 Chevy Cruze. It has a key-less, push-bottom start, and so it’s easy to put the car in park, hop out, unlock the mailbox, jump back in the car and head into town. And I did just that, got the mail, jumped back in the car, and began my morning.

A little back ground, we live in a small town outside of Salem, OR. It is about a 12 miles drive by highway. It is a nice drive, but it is a little inconvenient. So I try to maximize time that I spend in Salem getting all my errands done. That morning, I needed to stop at Hallmark (located in the mall in downtown Salem) to pick up a birthday card. When I go to our mall in Salem, I typically park the car in the garage. It’s close and convenient.

On this particular day, after parking in the garage, I hopped out of the car and instinctively reached for my pocket to make sure I had my keys with me…but no such luck… no keys. I got back in the car and started searching the console, the passenger seat, cup holders…you know. No keys to be found. Maybe I dropped them outside the car? Nope.

At that time I realized that a good way to check and see if the keys were in the car would be to push the start button and attempt to start the car. If the remote is inside  the car it will start. When I push the button, the car won’t start, and I see the message “NO REMOTE DETECTED.” Well, I think….I must have dropped the keys in the few steps I took outside the car. THEY ARE NOWHERE TO BE SEEN. I get back in the car to look again. Suddenly the car alarm starts to sound. Small short blasts of the horn at first, then long loud blasts. People are walking by and staring. Meanwhile I’m frantically looking for the stupid keys. Finally after shutting the door and sitting very still the alarm goes off. Thank the Lord! By now I realize I cannot find the keys. And I’m stuck. I decide to get out of the car and call Sam.

After I get out the car, the alarm starts to sound again. I am sure that someone from mall security is going to come arrest me at any moment for attempting to steal my own car….

I call Sam’s cell phone several times…obviously he is at work and can’t answer his cell phone but I keep trying…car alarm still blasting in the very echoey parking garage.

After what seems like an eternity, and a lot of prayer, the car alarm stops one again. And, I decide to call Sam’s Branch and try to get a hold of him. His manager answers and I am able to speak to him. I explain that somehow my keys have vanished and I’m stuck in the mall parking garage (about a 5 minute drive from Sam’s Bank). Miraculously, Sam switches his lunch with another coworker and comes to my rescue.

When he arrives, I am standing near the car with the alarm blasting once again. People are really starting to stare now, and I am at my wit’s end. Luckily, my wonderful husband has BOTH of our car faubs on his key ring. He gives me his faub and I am able to start the car and turn off the alarm! But, where are the keys???

By now, I start to think about where they keys may be…did they fall out by our mailbox? A 12 miles drive away. Did they fall out at the Starbucks drive-thru? I just don’t know. After a very long hug and a lot of thank yous, Sam heads back to work. And I begin the drive home to try and find the keys.

Several things are running through my mind at this point. If someone has found my keys there are a number of potential issues. 1. Because my mailbox key is on the key ring, a would be key-finder could easily figure out which house is mine. 2. My house key is cutsy and has a big house one top that says “HOME”. Why did I ever want the cute key? 3. Both our car faubs are on my key ring. The Jeep faub costs $75 to replace, and the Chevy faub is $150 to replace. I’ve read the manual. 4. How much will the dumb mailbox key be to replace? The list goes on.

So here I am trying my hardest to drive the 55mph speed limit on my way home. I turn down our street, and my eyes instantly look to the mailbox. One of our neighbors, an adorable lady who must be about 100 years old is standing in front of the box, so I can’t see the box. I hurriedly park the car and dash to the box.

Miracle of miracles, my keys are right in front of my nose, dangling from my mailbox. I can’t believe it! What luck! At that moment our neighbor who lives closest to the mailbox comes out his front door and asks if those are my keys. I reply a very embarrassed yes.

Apparently, not long after I left my keys in the box, he arrived home and found them. He took them out and figured out which house they belonged at. He walked down to our house and tried to return them, but no one was home. He stuck them back in our box, but was keeping an eye on them out his living room window to question the person who would come claim them.

So there’s the story. I ran leaving my keys in the mailbox. Thankfully, my wonderful husband came to my rescue. And our very trustworthy neighbor kept the keys, our home, and our valuables safe.


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Decorating Fun (leftover from Christmas)

Christmas is always a busy time for us. Sam and I are both musicians, we both come from families with teachers, I am a teacher, we are heavily involved with church,  and we have family spread out all across the country. But one of our favorite traditions is decorating.

As a kid, some of my favorite memories are of mom, dad, and me decorating our house for Christmas. People always complemented on how much they loved our decor. Every inch of the house was/still is covered in lights, fake snow, nativity scenes, nutcrakers, little treasures, snow globes, and many other keepsakes. We always decorated the first weekend of December and ordered pizza.

Sam and I keep that tradition alive in our little family of two as well. The first time Sam helped me decorate my house for Christmas was when we were dating. He had driven 750 miles to visit, and I really really wanted us to be able to decorate for Christmas together. It was early November, but he happily agreed. Little did he know the ordeal that it was.

At that point in my life, I only had 5 Christmas trees in the house, plus the rest of the decor. We donned our Christmas pjs and set out eating pizza, and decking the halls. I have a photo of Sam, on the living room floor, diligently putting together one of the Christmas trees, lovingly fluffing each branch to make it look perfect. It’s one of my favorite memories of our dating years. He found out how crazy I was about Christmas that night. We stayed up until 3am getting the house ready for Christmas!

Fast forward a few years to Christmas 2017. We now have more trees, more rooms, and more decor!


Here are just a few of the containers that hold all of our Christmas decor.


Sam and my mom diligently preparing our new “winter wonderland” tablescape.


Sam and mom trimming our Hallmark Keepsake tree in the office. It is lovingly bedecked with out collection of Hallmark Keepsake ornaments that we have collected over the years. Growing up, mom always bought me several Hallmark ornaments each year. Then when I moved into my own home I already had a huge collection of my own ornaments!



Here is me and mom with the completed winter wonderland table in the dining room. It turned out perfectly!

Hopefully Helpful Thanksgiving Advice

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Well here we are…Thanksgiving day is nearly upon us. If you are hosting a holiday meal you should have been planning before now, BUT if you have procrastinated….do not despair my friendly advice will see you through to a perfect holiday meal.


1. Choosing a bird(s): people have lots of opinions about the perfect turkey. Fresh, frozen, free range, heritage? Blah Blah Blah… I think that if cooked well, fresh or frozen turkeys will taste equally delicious. My advice is this, if you have 5-6 days to defrost your turkey just buy it frozen. It will save you a few dollars at the grocery store and it will taste wonderful. Norbest is my favorite turkey brand. If you go this route allow 1 day per 4 pounds for your happy little bird to defrost. Place it on a towel at the bottom of your refrigerator so it doesn’t leak everywhere.

2. Have enough turkey: Let’s face it…most people want white meat. I’m sorry to all you dark meat lovers, but it’s true. So make sure there is enough. Once you start carving a turkey it can be sad just how little breast meat there is. If you need to do more than one turkey, just do it! If you don’t have time, oven space, or the desire to make an entire 2nd turkey, just make an extra turkey breast in your CrockPot. Click Here to find a delicious recipe for a slow-cooker turkey breast from Taste of Home. 

3. If you have ANY turkey questions, there are experts to answer them: The lovely people at Butterball, even if you don’t buy their turkey, are happy to answer all your questions via the Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-Butterball (1-800-288-8372). They are real live-savers, and they know EVERYTHING about turkey.

4. Choose the right roasting pan: Having the right tools makes cooking easier, but a good cook can make do with even the most primitive tools. Nevertheless a good non-stick roasting pan will make your turkey and your gravy a complete success. Last year my mom bought me an amazing non-stick roasting pan from KitchenAid.  It is a bit of an investment, but it truly changed everything. Instead of trying to scrap up yummy bits for my gravy, I just used a nice silicone spatula to painlessly gather yummy drippings from the pan for my gravy.

5. Don’t stuff the bird: I know many of you are ready to stop reading my blog forever now, and a year ago I would have agreed with you. BUT, last year I tried an “unstuffed bird” and it was so much more moist. And it cooked in much less time.

6. Plan Plan Plan the cooking time: Your bird will need time to roast, so plan oven space accordingly. However, make sure to plan enough time. I roast my turkey at 325° in a conventional oven for about 15 minutes per pound. 

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Side Dishes:

Turkey is great…but there are so many other wonderful things to be eaten as well.

Obviously, the most important side dish is Stuffing or Dressing. This is important, and it is one of my biggest pet peeves. If it is cooked INSIDE THE BIRD it is called stuffing. If you cook it OUTSIDE THE BIRD it is called dressing…capish?

Here is the recipe AND cooking method for my favorite stuffing. Stuffing should be simple and delicious. Many people add weird things like cranberries, chestnuts, or sausage. Please don’’s not good and many of your guests may not eat pork sausage (WE DON”T) so just don’t do it. For goodness sake, one year MARTHA added oysters…and that’s enough to make me leave the table.

If you aren’t stuffing the bird, for heaven’s sake don’t bake the dressing in the oven. It will dry out and be gross. Just cook it in your Crock Pot. This method saves time, space, and requires no thought at all. The first year I made stuffing in my slow cooker it changed my life!

Ian’s Traditional No-Fuss Slow-Cooker Stuffing/Dressing:

1 stalk celery (not rib, the whole stock cut into ribs): washed, dried, chopped

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 large bags bread crumbs: These are everywhere this time of year I buy Franz. Save the seasoning packet that it comes with. 

5-6 slices stale white bread cubed (just set some out a on the counter a few days before you make your stuffing. Adding this bread will make your stuffing even more moist and delicious.

4-5 cans Swanson’s chicken Broth (don’t buy fat free, it has not flavor)



Salt and Pepper


  1. In a large skillet, saute celery and onion in butter/margarine until tender. Set aside.
  2. In very large bowl combine breadcrumbs, stale bread, and sauted veggies.
  3. Add at least 3 tablespoons of sage to mixture, 1-2 teaspoons of Thyme, and seasoning packets from breadcrumbs. Make sure there is enough flavor.
  4. Slowly begin to mix in the chicken broth, one can at a time. Only do this until the mixture is moist. STOP when it is moist.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Put mixture in greased large slow-cooker. Cook on low setting for at least 4 hours.
  7. Or, stuff into your turkey and allow extra cooking time.
  8. Or, (BUT PLEASE DON”T) bake in a greased casserole dish in your oven at 325° for 1.5 hours.


Vegetable Sides: 

1. Veggies are always a conundrum to me because no one seems to like the same thing. I usually stick to several standbys. Homeade Creamed Corn…honestly for this search Pinterest for a recipe that sounds appealing to you, I’m still looking for the perfect one. Roasted Acorn Squash. Again find a recipe that you like. And Brussels Sprouts. Sadly in our family I have to eat them alone. I like to steam them and then drizzle a sauce mixture of lemon juice and mayonnaise.

2. Fresh Green Salad: This is always nice to help you feel better after eating so many “cooked” dishes.

3. Mashed Potatoes: Really just an excuse for gravy, but they can be tasty. I do believe that instant mashed potatoes have their time and place, but it is not on Thanksgiving Day. Make your own, mash them with your hand mixer. The best part about these is that they can be made ahead and put in a greased slow-cooker for several hours too. There’s no reason to be slaving over a hot stove for the final hours leading up to your meal. Get some of these things done ahead of time.



I am always guilty of smothering my Thanksgiving meal in gravy. It’s just so tasty. I love a simply gravy recipe. This recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking is perfect!


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We’ll talk about dessert another time. Enjoy! And keep planning!




Our Thanksgiving Table…and My Holiday Tips & Tricks

It’s that time already. We are in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations. (If you haven’t started your preparations already, you should hurry)! Sam and I love to host holidays. Last year we hosted Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful.

This year our decorations are purely ornamental because Sam and I are taking a snowshoeing trip to Central Oregon for the week to celebrate our belated honeymoon. But, nonetheless we have to have holiday decorations up, so here is our dining room.


Here is Sam lovingly laying out the Thanksgiving table cloth and table runner. I hate trying even them out and line up corners…Sam is really good at it!

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Here is one view of the finished product. This table setting is really my testament to how you really can “design on a dime.” You just have to purchase things after each holiday.

  1. The tablecloth was a summertime clearance buy at Macy’s. I paid $5
  2. The table runner was a Michael’s purchase…$2.38 
  3. The centerpiece was only $6.00 at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts. 
  4. The green tapers and their holders were less than $10 at Target. 
  5. The plates and water glasses were from the DollarTree. Don’t judge…they look great.
  6. The napkins were literally 25¢ each at Kohl’s in July. 

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Here’s another view of our table. Complete with bread and the gravy boat that my mom bought us.

Next stay tuned for my EASY THANKSGIVING HACKS…

All My Thoughts on…Throw Pillows


I have a deep love for throw pillows! I always have. We have throw pillows for every season. The smattering you see here is just a tiny sample of the collection. Along with other random stuff in our upstairs loft that doubles as family room, exercise space, and holiday storage area.

Recently, one of you asked about my advice on buying throw pillows. So here are my thoughts.

  1. NEVER NEVER NEVER pay full price for throw pillows! They are ridiculously over priced. At retail, they seem to range anywhere from $25 to $50, and I don’t know about you, but I would feel pretty silly if I came home with at $50 decorative pillow.
  2. Don’t buy throw pillows at department stores! Our dear department stores need to make a buck off you anyway they can, so many things, like throw pillows are always priced at a huge mark up. Buying throw pillows from department stores is literally like throwing money in the toilet!
  3. Buy colors, not necessarily designs that you like. Here’s what I mean. In the photo above There are several pillows with specific designs like the “letter” or the “Jack-o’-lantern.” Those pillows cost more, so I usually buy just one for each season, usually for the center of my couch or love seat. Keep reading…
  4. Buy in pairs. Some of the pillows I have are just seasonal colors. The orange pillow in the photo came in a set, and so did the blue floral pillow. Each of those pillows work on my couch at different times of the year. They both came in a set of 2 for $14.99! You don’t always have to have the pillow with the pumpkins, or the hearts, or whatever, just make sure you have a festive/seasonal color and your room will look great.
  5. Obviously, Look for Sales! I picked up some great Thanksgiving throw pillows that Sam fell in love with last weekend. They were only $9.99 at SEARS! So maybe I’ll buy throws at ONE department store. But, that’s only because Sears has basically become a discount store now.
  6. Where to buy? Okay here’s the part I love…giving you advice. The best throw pillows that come in pairs come from TJ MAXX. Hands down. They will always have the best price. Usually just $14.99-$19.99 for a set of 2. Marshalls and Ross Dress for Less are a close tie for 2nd place. Finally, Target is another gem for pillows too. They are usually overpriced, but less than major department stores, so take a look there. I know you shop there already!


Here are the pillows that Sam fell in love with at Sears. And I must admit, I love them too.


Here’s one of them on our love seat!

20171105_213620Here’s another new pillow in our arm chair


Dusting…why is it so hard? HELP!


Well here we are…Halloween has come and gone. I know it ended less than 12 hours ago, but I suddenly feel guilty for still having any Halloween decor still up, outside or inside the house. I don’t want us to be “those” neighbors.

Suddenly all I can think about are cornucopias, turkeys, and pilgrims. I think we’ll have to endure our Halloween decor until we have time to transform our house into an “Ode to Jamestown” on Friday afternoon.

But here are my real thoughts for today. How did everything get soooooo dusty over the past few weeks? We keep our house impeccably clean! Bathrooms cleans, bed made, rugs vacuumed, furniture vacuumed, floors swiffered, pillow fluffed…but some how there is the inevitable collection of dust that accumulates much faster than I think it should. I’m sure Martha Stewart’s house, or houses/farms/estates rather, are never dusty (let’s just chose not to think about the army of people she employs to make sure of this).

And as much as I love to clean, I HATE to dust. And I’m not really sure that I know how. I have memories of my mom using Pledge Lemon furniture polish and then Orange Glo when that changed the world in the 90s. The wood surfaces in our house always smelled like citrus and were unusually slippery. But, we don’t have any real wood in our house and I’m not sure what to do.

What I do: Currently, I use a Swiffer Duster .  This little beauty magically traps dust while I frolic about the house thinking that I’m doing something amazing. But, then the dust comes back all to soon. Then I inevitably end up begrudgingly slaving around the house with a damp cleaning cloth trying to pick up all the dust. It never seems to work…and there’s not the satisfyingly wonderful, yet seemingly toxic,citrus smell.


Please tell me how you dust. I’d really love to know. Do you use the Swiffer too, furniture polish, some magic tool I have yet to discover? Please please please share your dusting secrets, or any other secrets for that matter 😉 with me.



Finally Our Fall Decor

This weekend I still haven’t felt the greatest, so my wonderful husband has been taking pictures so I could share our Fall decor with all of you. The thing I want to point out is that, so much of what we have is what we have collected over time. Most of our fall collection consists of things that we bought on clearance after the holidays or things from our favorite discount stores like Ross or TJ Maxx. Enjoy!

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Let’s Start with our mantle. I just love having a mantle, it is so much fun to decorate for every season.


This fun piece I picked up for $3 at Kohl’s in June.


I love throw pillows. Sam and my parents can attest to this. We have two VERY large plastic bins full of seasonal throw pillow stuffed to the brim in our loft.


Here’s another shot of the living room. The area rug was less than $50 at Ross. The cute ghost throw blanket was $9.99 at another of our favorite stores, Fred Meyer. The wall art you see is all from World Market. I paid full price for that, but I just loved it!


The wood tray on the ottoman we picked up for less than $20 at Costco. The cute pumpkins you see were one of Sam’s find. They were only $1 at Target (a store which sometimes feels like our second home).


We have so much fun decorating our end tables. The birds you see were a must have this year. They are a Target find. We have them for every holiday, and we just had to have them for Halloween.


The other table has this cute floral arrangement was originally $39.99 at Michael’s. I picked it up for $3.99 in December!


Our table is one of our favorite things to decorate. All the decor you see on the table was purchased on sale or clearance at Michael’s.


I always love to have Suzy’s Zoo calendar hanging on my pantry door.


We always have seasonal list pads on our fridge. These were only $1 each at Michael’s.


These spooky ghost lights were 50% off at Fred Meyer.



We do have to have our seasonal hand sanitizer from Bath & Body Works. We bought these this weekend for 50% off.

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This cute little Jack-o’-lantern tree and ornaments were not on sale but we fell in love with them at Hallmark Gold Crown, where we are platinum members. The “book” it’s sitting on is a storage box that I picked up at TJ Maxx for $6.99.


I just love this little corner. The flower arrangement is from our wedding. The wreath was a find. I bought it in March at Lowe’s for $5. The ghost cutout is one my grandma bought me in the 1990s and the little Jack-o’-lantern was just $0.98 at WalMart.


Here’s a better view of one of our end tables. I love the shade decorations. I just made the bats out of black cardboard paper.


I spruced up the front door with this adorable scarecrow. My mom bought this for me last year. The closer we get to Halloween the cheaper they are.

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Finally, here are our pumpkins this year. We waited as long as we could before Halloween. Sam carved the cute spider and I carved the spooky ghost.