It has been a year of transitions at the Zoo. The children are growing up; it is hard to believe the “babies” are going to be teenagers in a few short weeks. The time has flown!

Since 2014, I worked as a Legislative Aide for a local County Council Member. When he chose not to seek re-election, I stepped up to run for the office. However I lost the election and the incoming council member chose not to keep me on as the Legislative Aide. I took the opportunity to focus on completing my Master in Public Administration degree which completed last month. I have also stepped out and up and opened a home based business which I am enjoying getting off the ground.

Now the challenge is to refocus where I want to spend my time and efforts.

Stay tuned as we explore this together.

Update and Menu Planning Monday – June 20th

It has been a crazy couple of weeks.  The county was dealing with it Master Land Use Plan. We were getting ready for the public hearing.  We were fielding many phone calls, letters, emails and visits.  Then last week, amendments to the plan were introduced.  This week the council will be voting on the plan.  After Tuesday the Council begins its much needed summer recess.

Mandy and I also went to Oklahoma to celebrate her very significant other’s graduation from boot camp. ¬†During the weekend she and Darius became officially engaged!Mandy_Darius

Now for this weeks Menu Plan.  I have included cookbook reference and links to the recipes we use.

MP June 20 JPG

Menu Planning Monday – June 6, 2016

The family and I have a busy week this week. ¬†Monday we have a funeral for a friend who passed away unexpectedly last week. Tuesday I will have a late meeting with the County Council. Wednesday Mandy and I head to Fort Sill, OK to attend her long-term boyfriend’s boot-camp graduation. ¬†We will be gone until Sunday, so I wanted to keep the planned meals easy for the ones left home who will be cooking.


Menu Plan-June 6

To Trash or Not, that was the Question

Part of the job the of a Legislative Aide is to attend monthly Community Advisory Board Meetings. Tonight was one of those meetings. It is also a Thursday night, and that means Boy Scout meeting. Thursdays are usually YOYO dinners (You are On Your Own). Life has been hectic, and there have been A LOT of these meals lately. Douglas was tired of them. He took the initiative tonight to make a homemade “hamburger helper” meal for everyone. I am so glad I have children who will step up and help out the family on their own initiative!

He used one of my favorite stainless steel pots to make dinner. I am not sure what he did. I don’t know if he cooked it on too high of heat, didn’t stir it enough, walked away for too long or a combination of all of the above. It wasn’t pretty! I came home to my oldest daughters saying Douglas ruined my pot. Becky had already gone through one steel wool pad spending 45 minutes to clean the bottom. ¬†She then put it on the stove with some Dawn trying to loosen up the burned stuff which was at least a quarter inch thick. Looking at it, I was sure the pot was going need to be thrown out. ¬†


After 45 minutes of scrubbing by Becky.  Give up and trash it?

Then I remembered something my mom told me my Grandmother had used years ago for cleaning pots and pans in the kitchen:


I emptied the water out of the pan and poured half of the bottle into it. ¬†I rubbed it around the bottom and let it sit for a few minutes. ¬†I took a scrubby sponge and started to scrub. The charred-on stuff began to peel up a little at a time. ¬†I set the sponge aside and used one the of the nylon pot scrapers and it started to come up in chunks. ¬†I continued to scrape the pan for a minute, then went back to the sponge. The little water in the pot turned black, and I couldn’t see the bottom of it. ¬†I scrubbed a minute more, then dumped out the water and rinsed the pan.


First use of the cream of tartar

The black was going away; a lot more pot was visible, and the remaining black was much thinner. ¬†I emptied the rest of the bottle of cream of tartar into the pot, rubbed it around and let it sit for another couple of minutes. ¬†I scrubbed the bottom again, and more junk came off. ¬†It was down to a just a thin layer, but I was out of cream of tartar. ¬†I rinsed the pot one more time ¬†and thought of an alternative — Baking Powder. ¬†I poured some in, rubbed it around the bottom and used the sponge to scrub the pot. ¬†The pan was almost perfect.


Just about perfect!

But I really wanted to get that last remaining stuff off.  I needed some abrasive power.  I personally hate to use steel wool pads.  I thought about what I had one hand and reached into the spice cabinet and pulled out the regular table salt.  I poured a couple of tablespoons into the pat.  Took a clean dry sponge and went to work.


Salt for srubbing

After another minute the work was done and the pot looked almost new!


Ready for it’s next use!

I think I spent a total of 15 minutes working on the pan. ¬†Nice to know those “old fashioned” tips work!

Now to work with Douglas to make sure it doesn’t happen again. ¬†ūüôā



























Memorial Day

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs:

Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military ‚ÄĒ in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served ‚ÄĒ not only those who died ‚ÄĒ have sacrificed and done their duty.

So today while you enjoy your picnics and kick off the start of summer, take a moment to remember those members of the service who gave their lives so you can have the freedom to celebrate.

I am going to post my father’s headstone. ¬†He did not die in the line of duty, but he was injured in Korea and served in the Army for 32 ¬†years before he retired on June 30, 1976. ¬†He and my mother are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


Hello Again!

It has been quite awhile since I posted. Life has been moving on, and the children are growing up. Liz and Mandy are entering their last year of college. Liz is finishing her degree in biology and Mandy is completing her degree in Chemistry. We continue to home school the remaining children. Douglas is entering his senior year of high school. Becky, Emma, and Patrick are entering 11th grade. The “little” girls are not so little anymore. They are starting the fourth grade and will be 10 in October. WHERE has the time gone?!

My life took and interesting and unexpected turn in December 2014 when I began working as a Legislative Aide for a Council Member of the Harford County Council. I applied for the position on a whim when I saw an opening posted during the 2014 election season. I was hired by one of newly elected council members. In this position I have daily interactions with all levels of county government, help citizens resolve concerns and issues, research legislation issues for the council member, and complete a bi-monthly newsletter. It is an exciting job, and I am enjoying it. So much so, I have begun my Masters in Public Administration. Mandy laughed when heard about it because she says we have switched lives. She planned a career in politics, and I had wanted to pursue a career in science.

This summer is going to be an active and busy one. Douglas will be working at the Broad Creek Scout Reservation here in Harford County for ten weeks in his first official job. Richard and Patrick will be attending Mt. Norris, a Boy Scout Camp in Vermont the second week of July. After they return, they will be working the Harford County Farm Fair with Boy Scout troop. Right as Farm Fair ends, Emma and Becky will attend Camp Veritas, which will last through the first week of August. Some time this summer we hope to squeeze in a couple of days at the beach as a family.

I wanted to give a quick update on us and I hope to be posting more regularly from now on. ūüôā

My how time flies! An update on us

Wow, my last blog post was December 2013! ¬†I planned to¬†post much earlier this year, but life kept getting in the way. ¬†We were in the midst of several major, but much-needed updates to the house. A leaking roof is never a good thing, not to mention rotted bathroom floors. ¬†Those took the “oh, let’s replace the bathroom floor” to a total bathroom revision, times two. ¬†The deck also was falling apart and needed to be rebuilt. While we were on a roll, we decided update the kitchen. ¬†All this in the midst of home-schooling and trying to keep everyone on track academically. Blogging took a back seat to real life.

The big news this year is our oldest two daughters graduated from the local community college in May. ¬†They have now started their journeys¬†toward completing their Bachelor’s degrees. ¬†However, I have over-achievers. ¬†They have both entered into programs which will allow them to graduate with¬†a Master’s degree too.

July was a busy month.  During the first week, the boys attend Boy Scout summer camp at the local scout reservation. The third week of the month saw the high schoolers attending the first ever Camp Veritas for the Baltimore/DC area.  They had a wonderful, faith-filled week and are talking about attending again in July 2015. The last week of the month the boys headed to the county fair once again for trash detail.  This is the major Boy Scout troop fundraiser for the year, and the boys earn money for their scout accounts by working at it.  These accounts pay for all things scouting, including their annual summer camp trip.

In August, Douglas was awarded his Eagle Scout Rank.  This was the culmination of a year of planning and hard work for him.  He becomes the 5th boy in the family to receive the rank.  His father, three uncles and his cousin are all Eagle Scouts too.  We were blessed to have them all here for his Eagle Ceremony.

After Douglas’ Eagle ceremony we began our home school year. I now have a tenth grader, 3 ninth graders and 3 second graders. ¬†Keeping up with everyone’s schooling is making life interesting! ¬†In math alone I have 5 different courses being taught, from Geometry down to Math 2. ¬†In language arts/reading it is the same, American literature down to second grade and still learning to read proficiently.

We also participate in a home school co-op which meets once a week. ¬†This provides a great opportunity for the needed “socialization” and some fun classes too. ¬†Where else can a chemistry lab be all about cooking in the kitchen or basic logic come from discussions using the Fallacy Detective and Thinking Box books. ¬†The younger ones get to perform in the Disney musical theater class, learn about famous artists by recreating the artist’s works and learn science from The¬†Magic Schoolbus. I have a blast teaching French, Civics and American Government to the high school crowd.

As the calendar year winds down, we are beginning to gear up for the holidays. It is hard to believe Christmas is a little over two months away.  Now that it is October, we have decorated for Halloween. We have decided only the younger three will be trick-or-treating this year.  The others are going to be helping out by walking them around the neighborhood or handing out the candy at home.  Next up is to plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I hope you have all had a wonderful year so far.

Coming through the grief

This¬†has definitely been an interesting year. The loss both of our mothers took more out of me than I realized. Grief is very tough thing. Not only was I grieving the loss of my mother, I was grieving the loss of my mother-in-law. It was a very hard process for me. In July¬†all the feelings I went through with Andrew’s death 8 years ago came rushing back. I felt I was at the beginning of grieving process all over again.

I backed away from friends and activities because I just didn’t have the energy to deal with things outside of the house. Even taking care of things inside the house was difficult at times. It has taken me the better part of the last 6 months to work my way through it all. I am in a much better place now and am actually looking forward to Christmas Day, even though it is the anniversary of my mother’s death. We have decorated the house: the tree is up, the outside lights are lit and¬†our Elf on the Shelf, Happy Red Fred,¬†is making his daily appearances.

Soon¬†we will start the Christmas baking, something we haven’t really done the past three years. Emma and I sat down today and decided on¬†the cookies we will be making this year. We have picked some oldies¬†the family loves: snickerdoodles, chocolate crinkles, peanut blossoms, chocolate chip cookies and of course, fudge. We are also going to add in some new ones: Russian tea cakes, candy cane cookies and basic sugar cookies.

Later on this week we plan our Christmas week menus and activities. My two oldest now have beaus and they will be visiting over the holidays, plus we will other friends and family coming to visit so I want to make sure we are well stocked with food and drinks for those people who will float in and out over the holidays.

This week I really need to get on the wrapping. All of the presents have been purchased, now I just need to wrap them. I really dislike wrapping! Richard is talking about taking the children out shopping tomorrow, so I probably use that time and wrap his presents. After his presents are wrapped, either of us can wrap when we have a free moment.

I hope your Christmas plans are coming together for you and your family. Mine finally are.