November 19, 2013

It Takes a Village to Feed Those in Need

Hillary Clinton popularized the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child."  The same can be said for feeding those less privileged.  The Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities sponsors a community meal program where hot meals are provided for those in need, five days a week.

With the help of many loyal volunteers, once a month I am the lucky one who gets to coordinate and cook the community meal.

This time we prepared and served roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, apple sauce, corn muffins and pumpkin pie.

Via Facebook, I asked for donations of corn muffins and pumpkin pies.  Krista and her sons baked and delivered 100 corn muffins.  Thank you!

Fourteen pies were donated by caring friends.  Pottsgrove Middle School's Life Skills class baked two pumpkin pies.  How awesome is that?

Pies and muffins!

Our village preparing mashed potatoes, with Chris serving as the muscle (thank goodness!).

My right-hand woman, Bev, peeling a mountain of carrots.


 A time of celebration!

Hunger knows no age limits.

There is no THANKS without GIVING.  Would you please consider helping those in need in our community?  It is easy to make a donation to the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities by clicking HERE.  Thank you!


November 6, 2013

Birthday Balloons in a Box

Birthdays are a big deal in our house.  So when the birthday girl is a college student and not in the house, the party goes to the girl.  I mailed this huge box to my daughter at school, with each birthday balloon containing a special surprise.

The balloons were filled with money (rolled up bills), gum, erasers, mascara, bubbles, a ninja, a mustache, candy, pens, a crazy straw, lip gloss and more.

I used 9-inch and 12-inch round balloons from a party store as they were thicker than those I first tried from the dollar store.  The 9-inch were perfect for rolled up bills, and the 12-inch, with patience, worked for the small toys.  The ninja was the toughest, but everyone should have a ninja in their life.

I taped a safety pin inside her card for ease of popping.

Her Facebook post.

Happy birthday, Sweet Pea!


October 13, 2013

Falling Into Fall

Fall means hayrides, pumpkin patches and apple picking.  On a recent warm fall weekend afternoon, we experienced it all!

This is Justin in the early years exploring pumpkin patches, when autism was just a word.


Fast forward 20+ years, and here he is today ... still exploring, although he and the pumpkins have gotten bigger.

Lauren chose the perfect pumpkin to carve.

Freshly made caramel apples are yummy!  We bought the one on the left and a few of its friends.

Children of the corn.

Hayride love.

Apple picking and eating.

Apple slushes while apple picking.

October 3, 2013

How to Make Hand-Stitched Thank You Cards

This cute handmade card is super easy and serves as the perfect token of thanks for that special gift.  When the gift is handmade, I especially like to return the kind gesture with a handmade thank you card.  Hand-stitched cards are also great for birthdays, Christmas ... any celebration!

For my birthday, I received a special surprise from my jewelry designer friend, Tami, of a beautiful handmade necklace and bracelet.  She even made the beads from paper that was originally sunflowers.  Knowing that I am wearing sunflowers brightens my day!  What a clever idea.


Materials Needed:

Embroidery Floss in color/s of your choice

Pencil, or computer, printer and tape
1 sheet cardstock 


1.  Cut your cardstock to size.  I cut mine to 8.5 x 5.5" (then folded it in half so the finished size was 4.25 x 5.5).

2.  Either use a pencil to lightly draw your word or words, or use the computer method.  Because I forgot how to write in cursive sometime during sixth grade, I found a cursive font I liked (EnglishScriptEF for me) and typed out Tami.  I resized it to be 100 pts.  If using the computer method, print it, cut it out and use painter's tape (if you have it, if not use tiny pieces of any tape) to adhere it to the front of your card.

3.  Using an embroidery needle, punch holes around each letter.

 4.  Using embroidery floss (I used three of the six strands, but you can use all six if you would like a thicker line), use a backstitch to sew around each letter.  To make a backstitch, first tie a knot in one end and stick your needle up through hole 1 on backside of the card.  Then go down through hole 2.  Come up through hole 3.  Go down through hole 2.  It will soon make sense as to why it's called the backstitch. 

Next time, I think I will use a little button for the dot over the letter I.

I like to doodle on my envelopes.  This one got a flying monkey and some tattoo lettering. 


Here is my awesome new sunflower necklace and bracelet, courtesy of Tami.  There have been whisperings about her opening an Etsy shop, so stand by for breaking news!


September 30, 2013

Mother-Daughter Pottery Painting: The Finale

I cherish the time spent with my daughter, so for Mother's Day she and I spent a fun-filled afternoon together painting pottery.  I chose an oatmeal bowl for my husband for Father's Day, as we all know that handmade gifts are the best.  On the bottom I painted MERRILL LOVES BOB because it's so very true.  My daughter painted a funky mug in a patchwork pattern.  HERE is our work in progress. 

My beloved assures me that oatmeal is tastier when eaten from a hand-painted bowl.


Lauren with her new mug.

Most creative!


August 1, 2013

A Giraffe Themed First Birthday

Today I worked on creating giraffe-themed party favors to help Kendall (and 40 of her closest friends) celebrate her first birthday.  Kendall's mom wanted giraffe crayon favors in purple and yellow, and the end result was super cute!  By the way, a herd of giraffes is called a tower.  I did not know that.

Nifty giraffe crayons are available HERE in my Ivy Lane Designs Etsy shop.  All of my super duper crayons can be found HERE.

Color on!


July 27, 2013

Autism, Dorney Park and the Kindness of Strangers

A day at an amusement park with a child who has autism can be challenging and stressful, though not so much when the destination is Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  My son Justin obsessed and talked about little else for weeks.  He was so excited that we moved up the date.  On an unseasonably chilly summer morning, Justin, his sister, her friend and I headed off to Dorney Park. 

Justin knew which rides he wanted to go on and in what order.  Which brings us to the Stinger.  During that one minute and 30 second roller coaster thrill ride, Justin's prescription glasses flew off his face.  This is where the day could have ended in disaster.

I took Justin to the car so he could be in a quiet place with little stimulation while his sister and her friend searched for the missing glasses.  From the parking lot, I called ride services and spoke with a supervisor who told me there was nothing he could do and that we would have to wait until 10:00 pm when the park closed and the rides were turned off before we could get any help in our search.  I was crushed.  I thought that weeks (four) of anticipation and planning were down the drain and that we would be heading home.  I didn't cry.  Not yet.

Imagine my surprise when shortly after returning to the ride, a crew of uniformed employees arrived to help us in our search.  A supervisor gave instructions and the reinforcements were off.  I don't know if they closed the ride to clean up throw up (which they did in fact do) or to look for the glasses, but either way the Stinger was out of commission long enough for them to search the places we couldn't go.   

One young male employee ended up saving the day.  He, on his own initiative, started searching moments after Justin finished the ride.  He said he wouldn't stop looking and, by golly, he was true to his word.  He found one lens and, eventually, the other which was far away from the first.  I wish I would have hugged him and given him a reward because he deserved both.

The frames never resurfaced, but with the assistance of two first aid employees, I was able to tape Justin's prescription lenses on top of a pair of weak reading glasses I found in the bottom of my purse.  His sister said he looked like a minion from Despicable Me, but the MacGyver fix worked and we were able to stay and enjoy what was left of the afternoon. 

Here is Justin wearing his minion glasses.    

I would like to thank Keith Koepka, Director of Operations, for his kindness, and all of the employees of Dorney Park who worked together to make Justin's day a happy and memorable one.  Thank you for the tears of joy and relief.


Note:  Many people with autism easily become anxious and overstimulated, Justin included.  If you have a child with autism and are planning a trip to Dorney Park, I recommend you check out their Tips for Guests with ASD page, as well as Ann Schlosser's and The Autism Society's amusement park guides. 

July 18, 2013

A Happy Anniversary!

This year we celebrated our wedding anniversary with a New England adventure.  Here we are in Bass Harbor, Maine, still madly in love after all these years.

June 28, 2013

Autism Meets Paula Deen

Some boys love sports.  In Justin's case, it is Paula Deen!  My son Justin has autism, and for as long as I can remember, he has been crazy about calendars, food, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and ... Paula Deen.  Because Justin has autism, he has little interest in current events, including news of celebrities who have made poor decisions.  Instead, he lives his life one day at a time.

Justin left school early on a cold December afternoon for a chance to meet his idol, Paula Deen.  When Williams Sonoma learned that Justin had autism, they brought him to the front of the line.  Thank you, Williams Sonoma!

Paula and her husband, Michael, were gracious, friendly and funny.  They were most kind to Justin and seemed genuinely interested in hearing about the meals he was helping to prepare in his life skills class at school.  Justin was quite happy that they signed his cook book and his Paula Deen t-shirt.

During a trip a few years later to Savannah, Georgia, we took an old time trolley to Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady and Sons.  The restaurant occupies an entire city block and is hugely popular with tourists.  We went to buy a red "Hey, Y'all!" t-shirt for Justin and ended up going back for dinner.

At the time, they did not accept call ahead reservations which meant we had to wait quite awhile for table.  Genius on their part to locate the gift shop right where one needed to wait in order to hear his or her name being called for a table.  

When our name was finally called, we traveled by elevator to the third floor.  I ordered tilapia which was greasy but good.

Hands down, the highlight of the meal was the skillet hoecake.  Topped with maple syrup, it was a taste of heaven! 

We had a wonderful time in Savannah, and can't wait to go back!