Thursday, July 27, 2017

Delighting in Humor with teens...

 Just the other day, I was stopped by a sweet mom of littles.  She asked me what the secret to liking teenagers was, because like most of us, she had heard all kind of stories

Okay so a couple of things here. 

Firstly, wait, what? 

How did I get to be this sweet young thing's poster board mom for liking teenagers?  I think my answer was mostly confusion-driven, because I am the farthest thing there has ever been, to an expert on anything kid-wise... However, I am also the first to say, "Hey FRIENDS, gather...  this actually worked for me and if it can help you, take it and run with it."  (I'm hoping that she approached me because of the latter and not a misconception from the former.)

And also, the jury isn't out yet about how it will all turn out for my own, so mentorship moments are about the most terrifying things in the world.

And also, even though the jury isn't out about my own kids, doesn't mean I should fear any kind of mentorship moments because duh, it could go sideways for anyone at any given time.

(You can see, I'm a bit double-minded about this whole thing.)

But actually that's kind of how I answered her.
But let me back up. The thing she got right about me, was that I love, adore, and can't almost hardly get enough of teenager-type-people.

I always loved the middle school years before I became a mom.  Adrain and I did a short stint as middle school youth group leaders before we became parents.  It was a roller coaster kick in the pants and we loved every moment of it. (Babies and toddlers weren't really ever my thing but give me hormones every time. I know, right?) The sitting on a church doorstep with an angry and emotional girl, listening to her pour our her little heart over friends, boys, parents... you name it, I was all in.  Flash forward to my own kids becoming teens and realizing that if you feed them, they will ALL come.  Even if all you're feeding them is popcorn. Nothing in life thrills me more than a house full of their obnoxious sounds, smells, messes and jokes.  (And also, nothing drives me bonkers more than a house full of teenage sounds, smells, messes and jokes.  The struggle is real.)

We have a house where adoption is a real, non-real thing.  In that we "adopt" them all, and a few of them literally stay for days on end, eat all our food, sleep everywhere, do their laundry here and all but get their mail here.  For those without intact families, we adore this and it's a pay-it-forward thing for us, because my husband came from high dysfunction in early life, and several families adopted him in for years as a teen.  That said, there is really only one thing that has helped me love this season. And I use the word love very seriously.  From the depth of my toes, I love this season. 

That one thing... is humor.  Honestly, teenagers are perhaps the funniest creatures on the planet.  Sometimes they tell me stories of their days and I find myself clutching my stomach, rolling on the kitchen floor. (This is an actual story.) The way they respond is so flippity.  To each other, to situations. It is screaming hysterical. Especially when they include impersonations and movie lines to perfection.  Hanging with teenagers is equal parts; remembering how it was for you, guiding them,  boosting them full of genuine confidence, and delighting in them.  Absolute delight can't be faked, and trust me, a teenager can sniff out fake like nobody's business. I tend to believe that delighting in anything or anyone can be learned. It's mostly about me, not them.  For example, I learn it best, when I set my phone down and listen- thus giving them the gift of my time.  I learn delight when I make a choice over something they say- I can generally go two ways-  1) Get flat out annoyed or 2) Allow it to sink in, hit my funny bone and burst out as I laugh.  (I've noticed that whenever you laugh, when you could also have gotten royally annoyed, it dissolves whatever underlying tension teens almost always have, that can flip into anger and disrespect at any given moment.) 

Choosing laughter as I learn to delight in these stormy little relationships, is my go-to.  Sometimes I do get annoyed. Sometimes I have to call them on something and we have to go down that road. But mostly... I laugh.  (With them (key) or because of them (also key) but never at them.)  Because what they say is witty, intelligent, worthy of my notice and enjoyment.  It's amazing what that little choice does.  The mood and tone it creates is my favorite.  Our home regularly rocks with laughter when it's filled with teenagers. 

And that's my only secret. It doesn't fix everything but it eliminates and prevents a lot!  I'd love to hear how you have found ways to delight in the teenagers in your life! 

And speaking of teenagers... my firstborn is now licensed to drive.  I'm crazy proud.  I'm crazy panicky.  I'm both.  All.the.time.  Ha!  I had to include this photo since many of you remember this little tyke and all that he's conquered in his amazing life so far.  What a great young man he is becoming.  You young mama's in the thick of it with a journey that seems daunting... take heart.  God wastes nothing in our stories and the stories he gives us through our kids. Those challenges are all part of His plan even on the days it seems impossible and you feel all wrong for it.   

We are about to leave for the mountains for a glorious family vacation, hence the funny little sign I made for my kids, pictured above in this post.  I'm busy getting the house all ready for our missionary friends who will be staying here while we're away, as well as packing as light as possible.  I'm excited but also I don't like bears and there will definitely be bears.  Y'all can pray for us if you want!  I can't wait to come back and share the beauty of Banff, Alberta with you! 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Downsizing your wardrobe- One year later...

 As promised, (for the past year or so) I've been talking about the ten-item wardrobe concept, and how it's changed my life.  (I've probably had more private email convos with many of you about this topic than any other!)

In this post, I'm including sources where I am able, as well as a couple of not so great images of my closet so you can sort of tangibly see what I've done. At one point in my life, like many women, I had a closet stuffed with clothing I mostly didn't wear, and I've downsized it hugely!  About a year and a half ago, I got rid of about two thirds of what I once owned, re-evaluated my style and remaining items, and strategically filled holes in my wardrobe staples over the course of last year.  But let me back up... I came across Jennifer L. Scott's Daily Connoisseur books (The Madame Chic series) on the recommendation of a friend and they have become some of my very favorite books ever!!  I won't detail reasons for downsizing a wardrobe to only what you love, wear regularly, or feel great in, but DO go and read her book (20 Style secrets).  I highly recommend it.  I loved her viewpoint and it has really impacted me.  In fact, I've watched the overflow of this type of thinking change all areas of my life where purchases are made.  It seemed to take about a year to fully curate my wardrobe into what is now streamlined, which is why I am just now getting to this post.  I focused on quality, polished pieces that fit well.  The reason it took me a full year, is because I really found myself thinking it out, proceeding slowly, season by season, and also -quality clothing can be expensive.

I used to save items that I might want to someday wear if just the right occasion happened, or save certain outfits for special.  Jennifer's words about how we're special enough occasions to wear something polished and nice any time, even if we're home all day, changed my thinking.  When you look presentable (and yoga pants only count if you're working out in them), you feel good and that changes everything!  Just read her books okay? You'll thank me.

Practically speaking, here's how I started. I followed her advice and tried every item on. Yes, EVERY item. It is imperative that you do this, so that you can evaluate stains, fit, cut, color, wear and tear, ask if you're comfortable, is the item your style, is it flattering to your unique body type (whether or not it's a trendy style) and finally, do you find yourself adjusting or pulling at it to make it better? I actually wore a few things half a day to determine this, though most things only took moments to evaluate. Once you answer all of those fit questions, it's much easier to decide if it's a keeper or not. Next, evaluate what you have left.  I even begun a Pinterest board to see what I tended to like and quickly identified a style I was drawn to which helped me.  I then used that to create the bones (or core items) of my wardrobe, using what I had, and made a list of items I'd like to purchase to complete that.  (She speaks in her book about being free to delete items from your wardrobe even if you spent large amounts of money on them.  Why keep it just because it was expensive?  On the front end going forward, it's good to ask yourself all of those fit and style questions before spending money on an item and this has been really helpful to me in the dressing rooms!

I love how Jennifer talks about not getting hung up on the amount of items you have, but on what you actually wear. So, you may not be a ten-item wardrobe girl exactly, but that's okay if you wear fifteen items in regular rotation, in a season. In her books, Jennifer talks about choosing your core items (your ten-ish everyday items) your basics, your extras (things like cardigans and basic tees or tanks) and special occasion items ( like cocktail dresses etc.) Every woman is unique so I imagine every woman's take on this is also unique and I love that. I keep my off season items in labelled baskets on the shelf  in my closet, and the current season hanging and wearable. For example, I currently have all my summer items hanging in the closet, but my winter items are in a bin alongside a fall/spring bin.  (I may share what each of those seasons look like as I switch out my clothing because I've found Jennifer's videos on this to be really helpful in guiding me and I'm happy to share what I came up with if that is something you'd like to see. Let me know in comments!)

I identified my personal style which she encourages you to do in her books, and I'd say that mine is "polished classic with a preppy twist."  I love preppy button downs, and solid cashmere sweaters with blazers in the winter, denim dresses with ballet flats in the spring and fall, simple a-line dresses as well as solid tanks with quality leather sandals and easy, clean-lined shorts in the summer. This idea of streamlining to ten items, translates into outerwear, footwear and accessories as well.  Once you begin really thinking about the way you want to present yourself, you'll find yourself truly considering your purchases and how they work together.  My color palette continues to be neutrals and solids that work together and the occasional pop of fuchsia or cobalt and you can see a few of my favorite summertime go-to outfits below. 

Additionally, once you have identified your personal style, you might find yourself gravitating toward certain shops that broadcast your style well.  (I personally love Ann Taylor.  It has to be a top favorite of mine.  I also really like Talbots, Boden, and though the quality isn't as fine, I do love the deals you can often find at Marshall's.)
Navy scalloped shorts- Talbots, this season
Boyfriend Oxford stripe button down- Gap
Leather wedges- old, Sundance (women come up to me constantly about these sandals)
Large pearl studs- Kohls, a year ago? (I wear them almost daily)
Straw hat- old, not sure source. My daughter hates this hat, but I still like it.  
Navy blouse- Marshall's (I can't tell you how much I adore this top.)
Denim cuff shorts- old, not sure source.
Leather sandals- Eddie Bauer, a year ago.
Necklace- local boutique
Dark wash skinnies- Democracy brand (LOVE.  Wish I had bought a couple pairs!)
Black ruffled tank- Ann Taylor (Seriously a favorite that gets worn once a week.)
Straw hat- Marshall's
Tassel Necklace - made by me (JoAnn's tassels, cut to shorter length, clear nail polish coating the weird chalk-coated rock, and strung on a chain. Boom!)

Now for a quick closet tour. (Please excuse the poor photos- it's dark and difficult to photograph in here, but this will give you a bit of an idea.) We have moved our dresser into our bedroom (see previous posts) and I store all my underthings, socks, camisoles and pajamas in that.  In the dresser, I also keep two pairs of yoga pants, four sweatshirts of varying weights, and a few tees and tanks strictly for working out.)

I have three pairs of summer bottoms stacked in here- Denim shorts, navy shorts, and a black skirt. I have five handbags in all- four are pictured here, plus my camera bag. (A cross body, special black purse that was a gift from my sis in law from Italy, a gray bucket bag and a wonderful leather bag.) I have the two columns in this cubby to the left, and my husband has the two to the right.  I have four pairs of pants- black skinnies, denim skinnies, short bootcut, and long bootcut which I wear year-round.  I also have three light cardigans that I keep as core basics year-round.)
On the left side of my closet, I keep party dresses (I have two- one long and a cocktail dress), outerwear, and two current season career dresses, plus a blazer.  Over to the right a bit you'll see the bulk of my core wardrobe.  I keep several blousy tanks, and light tops, that coordinate with the summer bottoms, along with a few dresses, and that's it. My necklaces hang beside my clothing to the far right.
You can see the out of season bins, which I store on the shelf, each holding about ten to twelve items.  I also used some glass blocks and pre-cut shelves from Home Depot, for my shoe storage. I have three winter pairs in a bin on the shelf, that I will switch out with sandals as the weather cools.  Not pictured here are a pair of black leather flip flops and some tennis shoes. 

I have a couple of winter core basics that I plan to purchase in the fall, such as a black crew neck sweater, career suit and wedges.  Other than that, I am totally set with a year round "ten-item" core wardrobe.  I do laundry once a week, but often hand wash a top in the sink and hang it to dry at night if I want an item before laundry day.  I do still love to shop but I try to only fill holes from items that need replacing. After a year of doing this, I've found the overall approach of only owning what you love, wear and feel great in, is extremely freeing.  (Also, not going crazy amassing dozens of outfits, and caring for all of them, while neglecting over half of them, is freeing too!)

Is this something you could see yourself doing in your own closet?  Do you have any questions or thoughts about this? Please feel free to leave them in comments below and I'll do my best to respond.


Monday, July 10, 2017

My New Favorite Camera

 I worked so hard researching for about a year.  Asking people with amazing photos what they were using. I debated- Nikon or Canon?  I researched some more... plotted, saved, and finally made the plunge.  I was ecstatic and read the manual from cover to cover.  I used that Canon Rebel for a couple of years and literally wore the poor thing and it's little kit lens out, learning photography. I purchased an inexpensive 50mm for it, at the recommendation of a professional photographer and loved it because it stretched me and taught me new things about photography.  After a few years of blogging, I was finally ready to upgrade and settled (after more months of review reading and research) on a Canon 7D with a macro lens and a very nice 50mm with amazing glass. I loved it. weighed a ton and my neck and back would ache when we took it out on day trips or hikes.  Enter the age of amazing smartphone (and Samsung galaxy's) gorgeous phone cameras that took high res shots that rivaled those of my big camera.  I found that I could even achieve a nice bokeh and manipulate the settings to some degree.  It was by far lighter and easier to bring along anywhere... so my camera sat in the bag and began to come out less and less. 

I did the occasional photo shoot with my kids and friends, but that was about it.  I felt wasteful and I didn't like that. One day, I saw someone talking about "mirror-less" micro four thirds cameras, the lightweight wonders, and I started thinking about changing my gear.  For another solid year, I read review after review, watched too many videos and chewed on the idea of selling off all my Canon equipment.  I finally jumped, listing it all on Craig's list and waited.  Once it was all sold off, I used the funds to purchase an Olympus Pen-F, and NOW I shall tell you my own little review because I've heard a ton of people in my life say the exact same thing... "I hardly ever use my big camera anymore- even on vacations... it's so heavy!" 
The Olympus Pen-F camera.  (By the way this review is all me, no affiliations, just a product I love to pieces and think many of you will flip over, if you're in the market.)  Just take a moment and soak it's prettiness in with me okay? It looks like it belongs on the shelf with my vintage cameras.  But it's so much more than a pretty face! It's light, all metal and solidly made, and you can spend hours researching reviews from photographers that know gallons more than I do, including technical videos that detail it's capabilities.  But, I do street shooting and shooting for the love of it, and I can tell you what I think from that perspective.  The color.  Oh my!  I always heard that Fuji and Olympus left Nikon and Canon in the dirt when it came to color. I'm quickly seeing why. I've included a few shots from my first official weekend with this little camera, and no edits other than watermarking and resizing for this blog, were done. 
So my favorite things- there are so many, that I'll choose just a few to share.  There is a WiFi capability.  What I mean is that, I snap a photo and if I want to Instagram it or text it to someone, I tap the app on my phone, and the word "WiFi" on my camera screen, and it transfers in seconds.  It has a flip screen that allows you to take a selfie, or recordings while seeing the screen. I used this while trying to snap a photo in my last post, where I was holding the little shell ring-dish,(above) but wanted to photograph it.  It also has gorgeous movie-like recording ability- I took a video of us driving through the mountains this weekend, with music on the radio and it looked and sounded straight out of a movie. (I'm not sharing it because I deleted it on accident. Hey, I said I'd only had it a week and I'm still learning what buttons to press. Ha!) It has built in art filters (which I'll probably never use).  It has a digital viewfinder which I've never used before and that took some adjusting, but now I actually really like it.  I also like the auto feature that senses when your eye is in the viewfinder, vs. using the flip screen to take your photos.  When your eye hits the viewfinder sensor, the screen flips off, and vice-versa.  Super handy and high tech.

On a technical side, I've decided that I want the soft-shutter button that screws in just like the vintage models, and It was about $6 item, which I've ordered and am waiting excitedly for. (I know. A $6 camera button makes me giddy.)  I may also have taken my manual to Office Max and had it spiral bound.  I totally and unashamedly geeked out over this thing.
I also ordered the leather camera strap from "b.still," on Amazon.  I big time heart it. I've snapped a few portraits and they were candid but again, the color... beautiful. I zoomed way in on Joe's eyes before I resized it for you here, and I could see myself.  He has such beautiful green-gray eyes. I love how the camera seeks out eyes for it's focus points.  I'm using a lens that is the equivalent of a 35mm and I really like it.  It's a prime lens, and I'd love a little pancake lens or a big zoom eventually but they aren't inexpensive so I'll need to budget and plan!  (This image of Joe, for those who like the details; Shot in A Mode 1/50s f 2.8 500ISO)
 The colors are going to keep blowing me away.  The site we were standing at was just this beautiful and I figured there was no way it would translate, but it did.  (This image shot in A Mode 1/800s f7.1 500ISO)

 I am loving what this camera does with light.  I snapped this without even thinking about focus points and such, and it perfectly captured the morning light that was filtering across our breakfast table. (This image shot in A Mode; 1/400 f2.8 500ISO)
 I don't have a macro lens so I can't get quite as close as I'd often like with this lens, but really pleased with the camera's capabilities in spite of my lens capabilities. (This image 1/60 f4.0 500ISO)
(This image taken as the sun was sinking, 320/s f4.5 500ISO)

So.  All in all, I'm going to drive you and everyone crazy now with photos until the new wears off... and I hope it never does!! 


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Pretty, DIY shell ring dish

Over the 4th of July, my sweet husband continued a little family tradition by booking a short stay at a local-ish resort, Semiahmoo. Its always been a favorite get-away spot for us as a family, and also a weekend or date night.  I probably thanked my husband a million times for this getaway, over the past week. And, I didn't even bring my phone with me!  I challenged myself with extreme rest because I don't think I've ever needed it more, and you guys... I can't begin to tell you what that feels like.  If you've never actually left your home behind for several days, I encourage you to!  At first it feels almost scary... then you begin to relax and something crazy happens-  You become truly unplugged and engaged.  We love this resort-always have.  You can literally sit on the beach, sip a cocktail and watch the tide go out, while keeping an eye on Canada.

They set everything up for family playfulness, and there were groups of generations there playing together.  Grandparents, teens, toddlers and babies.  It was delightful.  There are long stretches of beach to walk, shells to find, rocks to skip, great blue herons fishing (they seriously take my breath away every time), nightly bonfires on the beach for s'mores, live music, croquet on the lawn alongside several other fun outdoor games, gorgeous sunsets, delicious restaurants with local offerings, and huge, cozy chairs snuggled up beside massive fireplaces where my daughter parked herself to read for hours on end.  Board games get scattered all over the place as people rest and play them and the entire resort is decorated with a relaxed, yet luxe, coastal vibe that makes you breathe deeply.  There also happens to be a great outdoor swimming pool and spa.  In case you need that sort of thing. You can bring your own bottle of wine and wander the beach in search of the perfect log to sit on while the sun dips.  There are weathered wooden rockers on a big patio so you can read an entire novel while your man sits beside you soaking up sun.  (We did that.) We honestly never want to leave when we are there.  Crisp white linens, and squishy pillows, a view of the ocean, watching the boats come in, harbor seals jumping off the dock and kayaks to rent.  It's beyond anything.  (I almost didn't want to share it with you because then you'll go and it will get too crowded for me. Ha!)

What we have loved as our kids have gotten older, is the fun freedom to roam there.  They had a blast doing their own thing and then we'd meet up for meals and beach time, etc.  One morning, Joe left and came back with some big clam shells that were softly sand-washed and beautiful as a little love-offering to his mama.  I knew I wanted to do something special with the biggest one.  I decided that a treasure like that should be used daily.  I went to the craft store and found some metallic blue paint, coated the inside and now have the most special ring dish for my dresser!
I loved this color.  It was called "ice blue." 

First, I washed the shell with a mixture of bleach and dish soap, letting it soak for about an hour before gently brushing clean.  I rinsed it well and let it air dry overnight.
Then, I coated it with paint, going all the way to the edges.  I gave it a second coat to smooth it even more, and let that dry. 
Done.  Couldn't be simpler!

It looks so perfect here on my dresser!  Looking at it, makes me smile and remember my son's precious and happy face as he brought it in to the hotel room for me.  They always say that the best things in life are free. My love language is gifts, and for me, it's about his expression as he waited to show me his little pile of shells, collected with me in mind, his excitement over his finds, and I love it, because I love him. I'll treasure it always.

I realized that it would actually be a beautiful and thoughtful (and inexpensive) little gift idea!  If you can't gather your own shells, you can always find them this time of year, at craft stores.  Wouldn't this be a sweet gift to create and combine with some pretty earrings or something, for a friend or family member?


 P.S. Soon, I'll be sharing about the new camera I'm using.  If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen it... but I'm so in love.  That post and a clothing one are coming next week if all goes well!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Feeding teenagers when you're on a budget

I have this constant problem. 

We are always buying food... but we are always out of food around this house! 

Most moms of teens can probably relate to this.  Our house (delightfully) seems to be a landing place for several hungry teenagers (only a couple of which, belong to me) who stop in for food between work, practices, lake time, and youth group events.  I couldn't love this more- and I love how certain teenage friends just basically live here about half the time, sleeping over, showering, washing clothes and helping themselves.  However, they all do the typical raiding of the pantry and fridge, and often need a snack or meal on the run.  My son's job is very active, and he burns a tremendous amount of calories, then stops in to grab a bite and often turns right around and heads out to pre-season practice, where he's running an easy ten miles. (I can't even.)

I need to be feeding him both protein and carbs, but I don't really want to waste my money on empty carbs, so I've been doing a lot of frantic searching for quick and inexpensive things I can make or throw together for a running teenager.  I'm sitting down now, after about two hours in the kitchen, where I knocked out thirty bean and cheese burritos for his grab-and-go dinners, a dozen and a half corndog muffins, chunky monkey bites, and a pan of pizza rolls.  All items have been teen-tested (one of whom is incredibly picky with what they will eat) and got rave reviews!! (Now of course, there aren't veggies and fruits in these snacks, and that's really important. We almost always have huge ziplock bags of ready to go smoothie fixin's in the freezer.  And, I serve fresh veggies with any sit-down family meal we have, or try to sneak things in, plus we serve a ton of spinach salads with fresh, cut-up veggies, all summer, etc.  I also always have a giant fruit bowl out and available for them to help themselves whenever they want.)

These burritos worked out to be a mere forty eight cents apiece!  I purchased a package of 30 burrito wraps ($5.50), 4 cans refried beans ($1 each), and shredded cheese (which I also used some of the leftover cheese for the pizza rolls), on sale 3 packages for $5.  I spread the burrito wraps over the island, put a big spoonful of refried beans, straight from the can onto each, a generous covering of shredded cheese and then wrapped them all up burrito-style. I instructed the kids to microwave them for about 30 seconds before eating.  (I put half into our deep freeze because this made so many.)
The corn dog muffins couldn't have  been easier and worked out to be a mere nineteen cents each, and were my son's very favorite.  He put a little dollop of ketchup on top and said they were amazing.  He always loved corn dogs as a little boy.  For these, I purchased two of the seventy five cent jiffy corn muffin mixes (you add one egg and a little milk) and one package of hot dogs for $2.  I mixed the muffins according to the package, and topped each with three or four pieces of cut up (uncooked) hot dogs.  I baked the muffins according to the package and froze half the batch for later.

 As for the chunky monkey bites... They were a fluke but seriously awesome, according to one hungry child, so we will be making these again for sure.  (I had purchased a ton of bananas a couple of weeks ago, that were on their way out, so I peeled, cut and froze the chunks thinking we could just make smoothies unless we came up with a better idea.)  Each chunk was about 1/3 of a banana.  I also had some flour quesadilla shells just sitting in my fridge, so I bought a can of Nutella at the store and assembled these much the same as the bean and cheese burritos.  These are a great way for me to get some potassium into my runner in the summer heat.
Finally, the snack my daughter loved - Pizza rolls.  I made these because we had evening plans, Ava had a guest, and I didn't want them eating cereal.  A store-bought pizza crust for two dollars, which I unrolled, spread some deli ham slices down the center, and topped with leftover shredded cheese from the burritos.  I rolled it all up in a long roll, sliced it and placed each one (cinnamon roll-style) into a greased baking dish and baked according to the crust instructions.  I don't think the cost breakdown on this was much since I got the deli ham on sale for $2.  Probably about thirty cents a roll.

When it comes to feeding teenagers food that fills them up when you're on a budget, I'm still learning. But one thing that I have learned for sure about them.  They will eat whatever you put out.  And they will eat it all until it's gone.  If I don't want an entire dish of something eaten, I put half into the fridge for later... and when I need to make our bulk shops stretch between paydays, I divide the contents and freeze or store portions out of the pantry, and out of sight.  Special occasion food often gets put into brown bags and labelled for a shelf in the garage until we need it for the occasion.  Trust me, this is the only way to make food last if you want to shop once a week! Ha! 

I would love to hear some of your inexpensive ideas for feeding multiple hungry, active teenagers (or crowds or family) and I'm sure I'm not alone... if you have some additional good ideas, please share them with us in comments so everyone can enjoy!