Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mitchell's Bacon Jalapeño Dip


One of my husband & son Mitchell's favorite things are jalapeño poppers. Tonight I turned my recipe into a dip just for them because, you know, I love them & all and I am not going to lie, I was craving something spicy. You could be as creative as you wish & add shredded cheddar or gouda on top during the last 10 minutes to add an extra kick. Be prepared though, this dip is HOT so if your not a hot & spicy fan this is NOT for you!

Check out the printable recipe below:

 Mitchell's Bacon Jalapeño Dip

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sleep-deprived and Stomping on Serpents

Luke 10:19 has long been one of my favorite verses of scripture. It reads as follows in the Amplified version:

Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.

Jesus spoke these words to "the seventy," after they returned from being sent out by Him "like lambs into the midst of wolves" (Luke 10:3). The seventy were returning to the Lord with joy and marveling to Jesus that "...even the demons are subject to us in Your name!"

I love the picture of power this scene paints--the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, creator of the universe, given to a bunch of guys whose names we don't even know, guys we know only as "the seventy." This scene reminds me that Jesus freely gives His power to anyone genuinely seeking to do His will. It reminds me that, whenever we find ourselves feeling like a lamb in the midst of wolves, we can take comfort knowing that God's power is always stronger and more real than any feeling we may have. No matter how insignificant or incapable or unequipped you ever feel, if Jesus is your Lord then you possess physical and mental strength and ability over ALL the power of the enemy! And we don't just tiptoe around serpents and scorpions, either. No, we walk right over them, trampling them unapologetically and without missing a stride, knowing that as we do nothing will in any way harm us!

What an awesome promise this is. What a completely amazing truth! The trick is, though, as a follower of Jesus do you actually believe this promise? Do you receive it? you? I think that many times Christians don't see this truth play out in their lives, and they don't live with this sort of power and command over their circumstances, because of how they feel. I think Christians often don't feel like they have the power and authority of Jesus to trample their serpents and scorpions, and as a result they get tricked into believing they do not have it. Wrong! This promise from the lips of Jesus has absolutely nothing to do with how we feel, and the sooner we realize that the sooner we can get on with the trampling!

I remember about 17 years ago, as a young Christian with a young family I was working a full-time job all day, pushing myself to progress in my fledgling career while also working a second job delivering papers at night. I would go home each day after work from my day job, spend a few family hours together with Colette and our 2-year-old son Jackson, then sleep for a few hours and get back up at 1:00 or 1:30am and head out to work the paper route till 5:00 or 6:00 am, after which I'd change clothes in a McDonalds bathroom and then head back into my day job and start the cycle all over again.

We did this crazy routine for a whole year. Colette miraculously handled virtually every aspect of our home (while pregnant with Boy #2 Hunter, I might add) so I could work the 2-job schedule we needed at that point to make ends meet. We knew this routine was hard, seemingly impossible and utterly exhausting. But you know what I remember most about this time? Not that it was a hard time, although in the natural it was hard in many ways. No, I remember it mostly as a joyful, purposeful, and thriving time for our young family as we pursued our destiny and dreams together. I remember the satisfaction of working hard--together--doing what we could and leaving what we couldn't in the hands of the Lord.

I remember a simple contentment and joy at night, coming home exhausted but thankful, and laying down to precious if short sleep with my beautiful wife and our little son.

Taking a break with newborn awesome year and one to remember for sure!

I remember having a real sense of purpose when the alarm went off each morning at that crazy hour when no one in their right mind should ever be awake, and trudging back to the grind because it was necessary; and even more than that--because it was my privilege and honor to be entrusted with such a great responsibility of love. I remember driving the eerily silent midnight streets of Detroit alone, delivering papers in the midst of the very real and tangible presence of God who was right there with me in the car. It was like me and Jesus were the only ones in the whole city awake at that hour, like two old friends just hanging out together. In an odd sort of way it was always just a little bit disappointing when the sun finally did start to crack over the horizon.

Then, after a full year of this routine, I remember the utter joy and excitement we had when I landed a new job that provided the income we needed so I could quit the paper route and focus on advancing in a one-job career. And fast-forwarding to today, God has in His infinite grace and love and generosity continued to surprise and bless us in so many ways over and over ever since.

Family times with Grammy & Papa!

Out to eat at one of our long-time favorite places - Chili's!

Looking back, if at the time we would have focused on the difficulties and struggles we faced, I'm not sure how we could have done it. But I've learned that whenever you make up your mind to take Jesus at His word, impossible--as they say--is nothing! We trampled the serpents and scorpions of fatigue, mental exhaustion, financial stress, and discouragement. We walked in the very real physical and mental strength and ability Jesus provides each of us over all the power that the enemy possesses.

We leaned on God. We had to. But does that ever really change? Don't we always have to lean on Him, really? Does our need for Him in any way ever lessen, even after the many blessings and provision we may experience over many years?

No, of course not. In fact, our need for Jesus should actually grow each and every day, out of gratitude for His goodness and a simple desire to know Him more closely. But we need to remind ourselves of this often. We need to ask ourselves frequently if there are any areas of our life where we've relinquished the power Jesus has given to the power that the enemy possesses. And if the answer is ever yes, even just a tiny little yes, then it's time to kick ourselves in the butt and remind ourselves who we are in Christ, recall what He has given us to face every need, and then get back to trampling and stomping all those serpents and scorpions--In Jesus' name!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Office Make-over - Floor Edition: An Awesome Flooring Solution to Replace your Old, Worn Out Carpet

Hello! Dave here - I'd like to share a little about a very recent DIY project we just completed to replace the floor in Colette's art room/office. Maybe it'll inspire you to replace your own floor!

This is Colette's art room/office today:

And this is how it looked before we bought our house:

As you can see we've made a lot of changes to the room, but I want to focus here on the flooring change which I recently completed because the ancient berber carpet in the room had gotten irritatingly frayed and worn. The carpet actually starting shedding a while back. This is NOT acceptable.  So I was determined to make sure my beautiful and amazingly talented Artiste would be comfortable and free to create in her work space--not itching and scratching which I'm pretty sure must stifle creativity!

The "wood" flooring I installed to accomplish my goal (in the "after" picture above) is actually a vinyl flooring product from Home Depot called Allure trafficMASTER. I discovered this great flooring option a couple years ago while remodeling the kids' upstairs bathroom. Allure trafficMASTER is an economical flooring product that looks terrific and is also really easy to install.

A couple more before and after shots:

A few more words about the flooring product itself, then I'll briefly walk through the installation process. Allure trafficMASTER comes in 2 primary grades - Allure and Allure Ultra. The Allure Ultra grade is a little more expensive but is completely waterproof, while the Allure version is less expensive (about $1.79 a square foot) but is also a little less waterproof. Allure comes in 6" x 36" planks, while the Allure Ultra planks are a little wider and longer. Both versions result in a very professional looking "wood-like" finish when installed.

Both grades come in a large selection of colors, basically all sorts of wood shades running from very light to very dark and everything in between. You can see the selection on display in the flooring section of your local Home Depot store, and the selections are also available for viewing online.

I went with the Allure Ultra grade for the bathroom, in order to get the full waterproofing benefit, and used the base Allure version (in the Blonde Maple shade) for Colette's art room.

As far as how to install Allure flooring, it's a pretty simple process. There is a slight difference in how the 2 different grades of Allure flooring are installed, but they both go down pretty much the same way. The Allure version has a strong adhesive on 2 sides of each plank, and when you lay each plank in place you simply press down firmly on the 2 adhesive sides to ensure a strong bond.

Allure Ultra, by contrast, does not utilize any adhesive. Instead, each plank is constructed with interlocking tongue-and-groove edges that you connect with each adjacent plank of flooring to ensure a very tight, interlocking bond between each piece.

The first step was to get rid of the old carpet. This was a pretty straightforward process. I moved all the stuff from one half of the room to the other half, and then using razor-blade utility knife I scored a deep cut in the carpet right down the middle of the room, from one end of the room all the way to the other. I then just started ripping up the old carpet, being careful to pull it free of all the carpet nails and staples that were used to fasten it to the floor. Once you get a corner started, the whole thing comes up pretty easily.

With the carpet now free from the floor, I was able to roll it up and haul it out to the trash.

Next I essentially repeated the exact same process to pull up the carpet padding that was installed as a base layer underneath the carpet. So again, I used the knife to cut down the middle of the room, along the same line I cut the carpet layer. Then I pulled the padding free of all the nails and staples holding it, and just rolled it up and hauled it out to the trash.

And here's the end result of all this. (Note: the small legs on the right belong to one of my excellent helpers, our very own Princess Chloë who started out very strong on the job but then quickly retreated for more "girly" endeavors.)

After you've removed your carpet and padding, you should be down to whatever the sub-floor layer is, and hopefully you find that it doesn't require too much prep work before you can start installing your new floor. In our case, the floor beneath the art room's carpet and padding was a typical plywood sub-floor, since it's a second story room right over the garage. Note, however, that if you're working with a first story room (and it's not over a basement or garage) you may find cement slab beneath the carpet. It doesn't really matter what the sub-flooring is, though, because to install the new Allure plank flooring the only real prerequisite is that whatever sub-floor material you're dealing with just needs to be completely clean and free of debris, so that you're left with a clean, even surface upon which you can start laying down your new flooring. So you need to make sure you remove or repair all nails, staples, or anything else that makes the floor uneven, bumpy or jagged.

For our project, we thankfully found the sub-flooring to be in good shape and it was a simple process for me (and my helpers!) to pull all the remaining nails and staples from the floor (using pliers), and to also remove the narrow wood carpet strip from around the perimeter of the floor (using a nail puller and hammer).

A few shots of this part of the process, featuring Princess Chloë (in her last official task of helping before the job lost its charm) and our 14-year old Mitch who was a huge help and hard worker throughout the project (thanks so much Mitch!!)

I was happy to find this part of the project much easier than what I ran into when replacing the bathroom floor a couple years before....that project involved removing several layers of tile flooring (and an old nasty toilet, which is always fun to mess with) to finally get down to the plywood sub-flooring only to find it in need of much replacing, repairing, and decontaminating in several places that were rotted and moldy. Needless to say, compared to that simply pulling a bunch of nails and staples this time around was a very welcome task!

Once we'd finished all this I did a thorough vacuuming with the shop vac and we were finally ready to start laying down the Allure flooring.

Voila! Ready to put down the new floor!
As far as the actual installation process goes, there are a lot of good videos readily available online that show you how to work with and install the Allure planks. There are a few tricks you need to learn--for example how to measure cut the pieces, how to properly connect them together, how to install around obstructions, etc. But it really is very easy and doesn't take long to get the hang of it. You can actually get everything you need to know to get started by spending about 10-15 minutes watching a couple of installation "how-to" videos. Here are a couple pretty good ones I found - there are many more...

Video: Installing Allure Flooring

Video: Installing Allure Ultra Flooring

Because of the way the Allure interlocking strips are designed, you should always lay this flooring down from left to right. Aesthetically, because Colette's art room is a rectangular shape, I wanted the planks to run long ways down the length of the room rather than sideways across the narrower span of the room (which would have looked really weird). So with that orientation as my guide, I started in the "upper left" corner of the room (see first picture below) and began laying down each interconnecting piece moving left to right to ensure the interlocking tongue-and groove edges connected together properly.

I should note that it's really important to take your time and make sure your first couple of rows are installed nice and tight together, and to ensure that you lay them down very straight and square with the edges of the room. If you start out straight and square, everything will end up straight and square and look great. But if things get off track or crooked in your first couple of rows, the whole floor will end up off track and crooked.

Almost done with the first half of the room - Let's go Mitch!
Another important installation point has to do with the pattern you should follow when laying out each subsequent row of flooring. You do not want to line up your seams from one row to the next, you instead want the seams from one row of flooring to the next to be staggered, intentionally not lining them up, which will result in a very professional and finished wood-floor look when you're finished.

Accomplish this look is easy. All you need to do is make sure you start each new row (again, going left to right) with a different sized plank so that the seams from one row to the next are staggered and don't line up with or near one another. It's also not necessary to be exact in how long each starting piece is from one row to the next. You really can just eyeball it and make your cuts accordingly.

Generally speaking, you should start about each 4th or 5th row with a full-length plank, with the rows in between each starting with smaller planks following a set pattern (apprx. 3/4 of a plank long, then 1/2 plank long, and 1/4 plank long). Again, it's not necessary to be exact in measuring your starting plank lengths - all you're really doing is eyeballing it to vary the sizes of each starting plank so that the seams end up staggered in an alternating pattern. It actually looks a lot more natural if the lengths are not exact and there is some natural variation in them.

That's really about it. The key is to make sure you use a lot of elbow grease and install each plank very tightly against the planks it buts up against. If you do that for each and every piece you lay down, the floor will look grat when it's done!

So, after finishing the first half of the room, Mitch and I moved all the stuff over to the newly finished side to expose the remaining carpeting on the other side of the room.

Then we basically just repeated the same process we'd followed for the first half to remove all the old carpeting and padding and prepare the sub-floor.

From there it was just a matter of continuing where we left off to lay down the remaining rows of flooring until we reached the far wall of the room. The final row required some length-wise trimming of the planks to make them all the right width, and also some cut-outs were needed to go around a few places of molding and woodworking along that far wall.

After laying down the final rows of planks it was time to clean up and enjoy the fruits of our labors! Enjoy your new floor, my love!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Good-bye Halloween, Hello Christmas!

Well, it's the end of October, so that means Halloween...right? Wrong! It means Christmas! Yes, we'll get Chloe all dressed up as Elsa tomorrow night and take her trick or treating around the neighborhood and gobble up a few pounds of candy in the process. But then, when that's done, we can get on with the good stuff!


Yes, as Halloween goes whizzing past we officially get the green light to start putting up trees and lights and elfs-on-shelfs, and even to start cranking up the Christmas music playlist in the car!

I know, some of you feel passionately that November 1 is WAY too soon to move into Christmas mode, but to each his own, right? And for me, that means Jesus really IS the reason for the season--which includes Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything in between!

And what could possibly be a more appropriate and proper to kick off to this year's Christmas season than Barney the Pug spreading a little Christmas cheer while he sheds on one of Colette's new Isaiah 9:6-themed Christmas throw pillows!!

So as you get into the holiday swing, feel free to browse & shop the whole pillow set!

And whether it's early or just in time, a very Merry Christmas, to all!


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Super Scrumptious Baked Fontina
Anyone who knows Colette knows that, among her many talents, she is a superb and creative chef. Delictable smells from her culinary creations fill our home and spoil the kids and me daily. But cooking is hard work, especially when feeding our hungry crew! And so I like to give Colette a break from the kitchen sometimes by turning the tables and cooking for and serving her, while she kicks her feet up and relaxes with spa candles and a glass of vino.

Now, at the risk of stating the obvious, my chefly skills are pretty amateurish compared with Colette's, but I do have a couple things I'm pretty good at making and which Colette really enjoys. I'm probably best at homemade pizza, and maybe that's worth another blog post someday. But right now I'd like to describe how just about anyone can make a delicious baked fontina--a dish (actually, probably more of an appetizer/dish) whose WOW! taste will pleasantly surprise when you see just how simple it actually is to make.

The recipe I use is from Food Network chef Ina Garten (i.e., Barefoot Contessa). It's a recipe that Colette discovered and made for us a few years ago, and was such a hit that I now make it every so often for the two of us to enjoy together.

Of course, you can always read and follow the original recipe directions (it's pretty straightforward), but I thought it might be helpful to some to describe in my own words how I make it.

The shopping list for this dish is pretty straightforward, but I can't stress enough how important it is to spend a little extra and go with the freshest stuff you can get for this--it really does make a worthwhile difference in the end product! I buy the necessary ingredients from our local Wegmans grocery store because their bakery is amazing and their cheeses and produce are excellent and fresh...(And speaking of the Wegmans bakery, try their fresh bagels if you can--they are unbelivable!)

So here's what you'll need:
  • 1 & 1/2 pounds of Italian Fontina Val d'Aosta cheese. I'm not a cheese expert by any stretch, but I've learned over the years from Colette (who IS a cheese expert) that cheeses are definitely NOT all created equal! So make sure you get the right cheese and ask if you need to. In the case of this cheese the name will be spelled just like it's written here: "Italian Fontina Val d'Aosta." You may need to go to a higher-end grocery store to find this cheese. At Wegmans the Italian Fontina Val d'Aosta comes in hand-wrapped chunks of approximately 1/2 lb each, so I usually end up getting 3 of these.
  • 1/4 cup of good olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves. Maybe I'm the only one who needed to look this up to be certain, but just in case I'm not--look here for a crystal clear description of exactly what a garlic CLOVE is. As you can easily imagine, a misunderstanding about garlic anatomy could give your dish an unexpected and near-toxic punch!
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves. You can use pre-packaged thyme if you want, but I think it makes a difference and is worth the effort to buy fresh thyme leaves and mince/cut them by hand (it doesn't take too long- 1 TBSP is not that much).
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves. Same thing on this- mince/cut fresh rosemary leaves if at all possible.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A couple of fresh French baguettes (fancy word for long skinny loaves of French bread). I usually get one whole wheat baguette, which Colette prefers, and one white baguette.
Preheat the oven to "broil" and make sure the oven rack is about 5" from the broiler heat.

To assemble the dish, I usually start by preparing the cheese. If your cheese has a rind (the thin layer of "skin" that's sometimes on the edge), just slice the rind off. Then cut the cheese into cubes with about 1" sides.

Place the cheese cubes into a either a ~12" cast-iron skillet or similary-sized no-stick square cast-iron baking dish.

Cut or pull (whichever you find easier) the leaves off the thyme and rosemary and cut into fine pieces. Peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves, and then mix the thyme, rosemary and garlic together in a small bowl. Drizzle the olive oil evenly all over the top of the cheese cubes, then spread the garlic/thyme/rosemary mixture evenly over the whole thing.

Finally, sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top of the cheese and then bake the dish under the broiler for about 6 minutes. You want to cook until the cheese is melted and bubbling and starting to brown. Keep a close eye on the dish while it's cooking--it won't take long to cook, but your baking time may vary depending on your oven and your individual taste preference. We prefer to bake until the cheese is spotted with a nice deep & bubbling brown. Serve the fontina piping hot right out of the oven with the bread.

As for the bread, just slice it and serve it either soft & fresh or--as we prefer--toast the bread slices in the oven. (To do this you just need to arrange them on a baking sheet, brush them with olive oil, and sprinkle them with garlic salt and crisp under the broiler for a minute or 2). You can either dip the bread into the fontina or spoon it onto the bread slices (this seems to work best).

That's it - Hope you enjoy!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Planted, Watered & Headed North

Whenever you navigate to some destination, it's critical to be certain of which direction you need to travel in relation to some fixed point of reference. In navigational terms this point of reference is generally the direction "north." By knowing for sure which direction north is, your navigational tool of choice can calculate with accuracy where south, east, west, and all points and directions in between, are. And if followed, a navigational system based on the known direction of north will ultimately help ensure you reach your desired destination.

Sounds simple, right? Not so may not be. In the realm of navigation, north may actually not be North, because it turns out that there are actually different kinds of "north." There is what is known as "magnetic north" and also what is referred to as "true north."

Magnetic north and true north are close to the same, but are inherently different in a way that is especially crucial to accurate navigation. Magnetic north is the direction a compass points, toward the magnetic north pole of the earth (which is different than the "true" north pole). True North, on the other hand, is the direction along the earth's surface towards the geographic (ie, "true") north pole, located right on the actual top of the earth. The problem with using magnetic north to navigate is that it is always moving, and in fact today magnetic north is actually someplace over northern Canada. When pilots and other navigators use magnetic north, they must make sure they factor in a precisely calculated margin of error or else they'll end up miles off course.

This idea of true north and magnetic north seems to me an appropriate concept in relation to many societal issues which have been brewing in our country for some time, and which are plastered without end across news headlines and our collective attention as a nation. All you need to do these days to raise just about anyone's blood pressure is make a definitive statement of any sort about one of a host of popular topics categorized via names and buzz words like (just to scratch the surface): Bruce Jenner, Planned Parenthood, Kim Smith, Michael Sam, Ashley Madison, Same-Sex Marriage, Traditional Marriage, Liberal, Conservative, Religious Freedom, Abortion, Gender Confusion, etc...

I'd like to suggest that it would be infinitely more productive for us to start talking less about the actual topics themselves and more about the differences that exist across the values and life-views underpinning people's opinions on the issues. In other words, I suggest we start talking about what version of north we as a country are using to navigate, how this has shifted over time, and where our presently charted course is taking us.

I suggest we start taking a much closer look at our country's history when considering its trajectory into the future. And forget the Constitution and where our founding fathers would certainly have stood on the sorts of social issues that are dividing our country today. Let's go back even further. Consider for a minute those brave souls who sailed across the Atlantic 400 years ago, landing on Cape Cod and forming the small society that eventually grew into our great nation.

Let's not forget that the pilgrims traveled here on a mission, laser-focused on establishing a new society based expressly on freedom of Christian religious beliefs. In fact, they felt so strongly about the importance of establishing societal order based on their Christian beliefs that they didn't even wait to get off the ship to put their rules of community and government into writing. Before they journeyed out into their new world, these folks wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact which was the governing document of their fledgling society. The Mayflower Compact is beautiful in its brevity and simplicity, and among its few central declarations includes the following:
"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten...Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid..."
If we're honest with ourselves, I believe we can't help but see how liberatingly on point this one simple document was for the Pilgrims, and just how refreshingly relevant and on target its precepts remain for us today. The pilgrims didn't need long, wordy documents or endless heated debates to deal with life or to get along and agree on what was best for their society. The short and crisply directive Mayflower Compact was all they needed--not because it contained all the answers, but because in its simple, humble wisdom it pointed to the One who has all the answers: the Lord God Almighty.
Expressly and without question, our country's forebears placed God's authority and His Word above all other authorities. They made prideful reliance on their own beliefs and ideas subject and secondary to humble obedience to God's ideas and beliefs. In short, the pilgrims plotted their course using True North.
This is why they succeeded, and it's why America has enjoyed so much success ever since. But somewhere along the way, we as a country fell asleep at the wheel and veered dangerously off course. We're now barrelling down a new path chasing the deceptively elusive and shifting magnetic north. We've lost sight of True North and, like all lost travelers, are in danger of landing in a destination far from where we intended to go.
But thank God, there is still hope. With God, all things are possible and in His infinite love He longs for us to turn our lives and our country back to Him. In the end, the strength of any tree is always determined by the quality and strength of its roots; I think it's high time we take a long, hard look at ours.
Thanks for reading,

Friday, August 28, 2015

Where in the World Did Summer Go?

Where did August go??!!  I am not looking forward to the colder weather, which will be upon us soon and which always seems to come way too fast in New England.  But I think, as August quickly draws to a close and we look ahead to a change of seasons, that it's only fitting to take a few moments to look back and remember a truly amazing summer.

After our brutally cold and snow-packed winter, I have to give praise to the Lord who has truly blessed us with what is probably the best summer weather we've had in our 10 years living in Massachusetts! I truly believe you can never fully appreciate summer more completely than when you live somewhere like Massachusetts. The ever-present stark reality of another impending long winter on the horizon just has this way of building in you a near-desperate longing to enjoy every single last moment of the short but beautiful summers here.

It seems that each summer is just a little bit different, as the kids keep getting older and inevitably move into new directions and activities, but I love that our family is always the constant. And no matter what, the one common thread we always manage to weave through each summer is spending ample time together as a family outside under the summer sun.

This summer has been especially busy, but also especially great, filled with new and exciting changes, and lots of great family time together. Some of the highlights were:

Our new pool. We loved and enjoyed our pool in Whitinsville so much that we "took the plunge" this year to put in a pool in our new backyard.


Getting ready to dig


Digging under Barney's Watchful Eye

And Done!

New Flowers by the Pool

Fourth of July weekend at Seacrest in Cape Cod and one of our favorite family destinations, the Harbor View in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard! So glad Chloë got a chance to fully enjoy the experience this year now that she's a little older, just like the boys did for so many years when they were little!

Pizza, grilled to deliciousness on my new outdoor pizza oven that Colette bought me!

Around the house & town!

Grilling--Hunter style!! (Sorry Barney, none for you!)

Hunter & Mitch had a summer full of great football camps!

And we also managed to squeeze in one last trip to the Cape to ride the Shining Sea Bike Path, eat at Landfall, and hang out at the "rock beach" along the bike path! Jack had to work unfortunately this day!!

But of course the biggest event of the summer was Jackson heading off to college! We had a farewell sendoff graduation/birthday party for him at our house, then it was off to Holy Cross College in South Bend, IN!! We love you and miss you Jack!!

Orientation weekend for Holy Cross

Last dinner  at Amici's with Jackson before we leave for college (mitch was at football)
we took this picture by propping the cell phone on a ladder- not bad… and it was the first shot which never happen!! 
In the car headed to the airport!
Here we come Chicago!
got in late but still made the trip to target to get all Jackson's supplies… we were so tired!
OHH k. I am too old for this, says Jackson. He did play along a little though.

Great roommates!! 

Our hotel going home was right by the airport were you could see all the planes coming in.
Chicago pizza time!!
no more pictures!!

And finally, just this week Chloë headed back to school at St. Bernadette's...she's had a great first couple days of first grade already and looking forward to an amazing year ahead!

Hunter and Mitch will be the last to head back to school next week, and soon after we'll begin settling into our fall family routine which has its own very special rhythms (not to mention tons of football- hallelujah!!)...and so as I think ahead with thankfulness and anticipation for the many new blessings God has in store for us, I find it just a little bit easier to close the chapter on summer.

With a grateful heart and with many fond memories, I thank God for all He has done in my life, which this special summer has reminded me of so beautifully and so often...I thank God for my beautiful wife, soul mate & best friend Colette, who is the most precious gift I will ever receive; for our 4 amazing and special children who light up our life continually and fill our days with joy; and for the love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus, who gave us all the ultimate gift.

God bless and thanks for reading!