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You are responsible for your own happiness

I learned a long time ago that no one can MAKE you happy or MAKE you sad.  You in fact are responsibly for your own happiness and the way you feel.  Now, don’t get up in arms so quickly, finish reading with an open mind before you come up with a hundred scenarios to try and prove this statement false.  Yes, there are many, many many situations that are very very sad, even tragic.  And there are many many situations that are so filled with joy is can bring tears to our eyes almost uncontrollably.  Now I ask you, do these feelings last?  Do they last five minutes? Five days? Five years?  Because if they do, than maybe I’m wrong, maybe these are the things that make us happy and sad.

What I mean when I say we are responsible for our own happiness is just that.  I allow what others say and do to affect me negatively or positively.  Take the birth of a child.  If my friend has a baby, I may be filled with joy for their new arrival.  I may be filled with jealousy over wanting a little bundle of joy.  I may be filled with concern over their ability to care for the child, or for the child’s well-being in general should there be an issue.  None of these are brought on by the mother or the children they are all in my head and in my heart and I choose to feel them and think them.

Recently I lost a friend due to alcoholism, liver failure to be exact.  I chose to not be filled with sorrow though I was very sad.  I choose to embrace his memory and his struggle and use it as an example of what alcohol can do.  Share his story and move forward.  I think I would have a good reason to be very sad for a good length of time considering the back story on my particular friend and the situation,  but again…. I am responsible for my feelings and my thoughts.  This is my choice.

When I was a child and was angry or upset, my parents would ask me how long I intended to be angry.  At first I thought it was strange, but then it became normal behavior.  If I responded with twenty minutes, than for twenty minutes, they would leave me alone and let me sulk and be very very angry with them.  However, at the end of the twenty minutes, they would come to me and let me know my time was up.  It was time to change my outlook on the situation.  Now there were situations as I grew older that required full days or even several days of anger or sadness, but just the same, at the conclusion of my time frame, my parents would come back to me and check to see that my frame of mind had adjusted and let me know it was me responsible for my happiness and it was time to find that within me once again.

I watched a video this morning on this very topic.  It spoke of being responsible for your own happiness within a relationship (marriage specifically).  If you are not happy within and responsible for your own happiness, than you come to the partnership with an empty cup, constantly rattling it begging for someone else to fill your cup for you.  If you both come to the table that way, it is destined to fail.  If one of you comes to the table that way, it is destined to fail.

A partnership is defined as a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities.  Notice the words “joint rights and responsibilities“.  JOINT.  Not part, not sum, not half-way.

Come to the table with your own joy from within.  Throughout your marriage there will be many peaks and valleys.  Sometimes you will pull 50% of the line and sometimes 70%, even 90%.  Just remember, there are days when your partner will be pulling the same amount when you are in a valley.  If you are responsible for your own feelings, it will make towing the line int he relationship so much easier.  As thought there is no anchor weighing you both down.

I hope you find your happiness within and enjoy your journey through life.  As always, have a happy day!

Feeling fluffy and finding my way

So I just have to share a little about self-esteem today.  I have struggled with this a lot in the past year.  Probably more so than I ever have in my life.  About a year ago I got super sick out of the blue and was very scared and unsure of what was to come.  I lost a lot of weight as a result.  Though I’ve never been a very large woman, I started to look like Skelator with a bobble head and it was very scary.  My friends and family were noticing and getting super concerned as well.  I have since made a full recovery and have gone in the opposite direction and am now feeling a little fluffy.  Still not a very large woman, but bigger than I would like to be.  Then again, I think this could be the complaint of any woman on any given day.  Now, I am not looking for diet advice or a compliment here.  Trust me, that is the furthest thing from my mind.  What I am trying to do these days is find a happy medium in my mind.  It truly bothers me when anyone makes any comment good or bad about my looks or my weight.  It always has.

I am curvy.  I am not small.  I am not large.  In my husbands eyes, I am beautiful and this is really all that matters.  But I want to see beautiful when I look in the mirror too.  I see other woman who are bigger than me and smaller than me and I am secretly jealous of not their beauty, but of their confidence.  I want to be as confident of a large woman who holds her head high and knows she is just as beautiful as a small chested very petite woman.  Self-confidence starts at a young age.  It is built up and broken down.  I’m not really sure where mine went off track, but in the past year of my body shape drastically changing, coupled with many years of drastic changes due to decisions of my own… my self-esteem was the first thing to suffer.

Here I am trying to re-build it.  I have tried and am trying all the fad diets, the trendy outfits, the make-up and more.  As I think of it, it is truly an inside job.  I have to accept me for me and love me.  I have a beautiful life.  A wonderful husband.  Two wonderful sons who I am beyond blessed to have, grandchildren, a sister, amazing parents, and friends.  (Notice I didn’t mention the “stuff”)  Sure, I have “Stuff”, but it’s the people in my life who make me smile and fill my heart.  The stuff keeps me comfortable, but I can’t take that with me,  The memories I make every day with the people I love is what matters.

I have no idea if anyone out there feels that same way.  Confused and struggling with their self-image, but all the while knowing they have a pretty damn good life and happiness is right there.  The smile is waiting for me in the mirror if I just give myself a chance and cut myself a break.  I guess I just needed a reminder.  A daily reminder to keep smiling at myself in addition to the stranger on the street.

I hope you are having a happy day.

Losing your place in line

Do you ever feel just a little bit lost?  Like you know you belong but you still feel out of place?  Like you’ve been standing in line for a long time and for some reason lost your place and now you are standing outside of a crown looking in?  This has been me lately.  I’ve always shared pretty candid blogs and mostly very upbeat, but today, I’m tired.  I feel like I’ve been trying to keep up for a long time and I’m simply running on a hamster wheel.  Like I have a voice that cannot be heard for some reason and now it feels like I’m drowning.

LOL, Wow, that is a lot of metaphors.  Please don’t misunderstand, my life is wonderful and I’m generally very happy but from time to time I think we all get just a little stuck.  We start to feel maybe a little numb inside where we are sure there should be joy and happiness.  My question to you is what do you do to get out of it?  As I was waking up this morning and to be honest, fighting back tears and the desire to stay in bed under the covers, I watched my husband as he opened the blinds this morning.  This may not sound like a lot, but it truly made my heart smile at the perfect moment.   He isn’t usually the one to open the blinds and let the sunshine in.  He sleeps during the day and works at night.  But this morning, I know he did it to make me smile and feel better.  I am pretty sure I fell in love with him all over again just for that one little act of kindness.

As I watched him, I realized that it is up to me to participate in life.  He open the blinds and it was like a hand up in the right direction.  Now it is time for me to do something to get off the pity-pot.  And to be honest, I’m not even sure what has made me sad.

I may be blue and feeling a little lost lately, but as I got ready for work and drove, I realized how lucky I am to have someone who can see me.  Really see me.  Just when I feel invisible and a bit run-over, he opens the blinds just because I love the sunshine and he knows that.  He sat with me on the back porch and talked about little silly things with me and he hugged me.  It’s times like those that make me realize, I’m not lost… just a little down and there is always a way back.  The people in our lives matter.  Family and friends (no matter how many or how few) matter.  I thought about people n my past.  Relationships, friends, and others who aren’t here anymore or for some reason our lives have gone in different directions.  I am grateful for exactly how things worked out.  My dad used to tell me the most beautiful roses grow through sh*t and come out better than ever.  I think of that often and it reminds me to be so grateful for the path I have walked and reminds me to be very happy with the shoes on my feet rather than want to be in someone else’s.  My path made me the quirky, weird, slightly off woman I am today.  Any other path would have not made me… me.

I know it sounds cliché, but so many times a hug really does fix so much.  A smile, a laugh, or just a text to say hello can mean someone is thinking of you when you feel like the world is passing you by faster than you can keep up with.  I am a pretty spiritual woman and I believe in God.  At my darkest moments, I’m sure I was not alone then either.  I am sure that the people who are gone are meant to be and the people who are right here, are here for a reason.  It is up to us to embrace the little tiny moments and take the hand-up.  If we don’t, than it is our fault we remain on the pity-pot and we will end up sitting there alone.  So if you are there as I am (and have been), it’s time to take whatever smile is tossed your way and grab hold of that joy.

So today, have a happy day.  Realize that even if you are feeling a little blue or down, your smile can change someone’s day and theirs can change yours.  Today, I will smile at a stranger and hope they know “I see them, and they are important”.

Keep positivity in your life, let negativity pass you by

As I was driving into work this morning I was listening to a radio show that was right on target with exactly what I believe.  They were discussing negativity as it relates to social media and in life in general.  The example given by the radio host was this: “If you post a picture of a slice of pizza, comments back should pertain to the slice of pizza.  How can there be much negativity surrounding the pizza?”  Potentially, there may not be fans of the topping flavors and that is acceptable banter between friends of course, but this is not a platform for a political ambush. Would you agree?  Well, I do!

A long time ago a good friend offered me a bit of advice.  Surround yourself with positivity and let the negativity pass you by.  Step aside and let it go whenever you can.  Negativity is everywhere and it is so much easier for us all to go so quickly to the darker side of things so take a moment anytime you can, to find the silver linings in all of life’s little situations.  Your life will be better for it.  I’ve started doing this years ago.  I personally have battled levels of depression at times in my life for various reasons and this advice has truly helped me battle through.  Obviously I subscribe to many platforms of social media and I have a hard and fast rule for all of my connections; If you post three negative things back to back, I will disconnect from you.  This does not mean I don’t want to associate with you.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like you.  It means that when reading my social media feeds, I prefer them to be positive.  Constant negativity is not what I choose to allow to filter through.  Once or twice is understandable and I want to share in the lives of my friends, but continuous complaining or bashing is a no go for me.

Think about it.  When you turn on the news, read the paper, even drive down the road and read signs… is the news 80% happy?  70% happy? even 60% happy?  If the answer is no, then all of this negative information is being inserted into your brain and into your heart for you to filter through and process.  I’m not saying we should block out the news of the world and live sheltered lives where there are only unicorns and rainbows.  I am saying that it is up to us to see the wild flowers growing in the median and notice their beauty.  It is up to us, to see the ducks and their babies floating in the retention pond and maybe stop to feed them once in a while on a lunch break.  Enjoy the beauty and the world around us. Giggle out loud when we see something funny.  Take a moment and think about yourself.  Do you walk around with a smile on your face generally or do you frown?  This is how the world sees you.  Have you ever thought of that?  This is how your children see you as they glance across the room.  Are you a general happy person?  Or have you allowed too much negativity to turn your child-like smile to a more permanent frown?

I will admit, I am a hippie at heart and if I could fill everyone’s day with a happy thought, start everyone’s day with a smile and a hug I absolutely would.  But I can’t.  It is up to each of us to remember to hold the door for a stranger, smile at the cashier, say please and thank you, but most importantly, care for our own precious souls and ensure they are positive ones, always.  Please remember if you have little children, they are watching you always and they see you when you don’t think they are looking.  Even as they get older, they are still watching you and learning from you.  Please be a positive, happy role model for our future and keep the positivity flowing.

As always, have a happy day.

When water is thicker than blood

Many times I have heard the saying blood is thicker than water when it comes to family matters but I have found that this is not always true.  If you have had the pleasure, the HONOR, of living in a blended family than you know that water can be thicker than blood.  Let me give you some beautiful examples from my own experience.

Let’s start with my parents.  Both of my parents re-married when I was young and I was blessed with two step-parents who love me as their own.   My step-mom is my first example.  From the word go, she has treated me as her very own daughter and never waivered.  I have tested her love, tried her patience, and even tried to drive a wedge into her marriage to my father simply because I was a punk kid at times.  (Even into my twenties).  I made some rough choices and she stood by my side, encouraged me, lifted me up and helped dust me off when I fell.  She is one tough lady but has always been there standing next to me and even behind me letting me shine as I found my own light as an adult.  Just as my own biological parents have done.

Next there is my step-father.  This is another example of unconditional love.  He and I have a different relationship than he does with my other siblings.  Though he loves us all very much, he and I have a special bond that I value very much.  This bond is a result of choices I made in my twenties that changed my life and the lives of my family. (I will go into this in a separate blog someday down the road, but trust me, bad choices bring out major changes).  My parents, all four of them stepped in to help me at varying degrees and this opened up many channels of communication that I never thought possible.  It was when I was at my lowest point that I found the most love and tolerance.  I thought I had pushed all of my family to the breaking point, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth.  My parents and my step-parents have taught me what real unconditional love is for a child and for another human being.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

This brings us to the present.  I am now married and a step parent to two wonderful grown men.  They of course don’t need a mommy or by any means even a mother, but here I  am and they are stuck with me.  I say that jokingly.  I love these two men as if they were my very own all along.  I now know how my step-parents felt and feel.  I worry about these guys constantly and want the best for them always.  It’s crazy!  They have children of their own and I am beyond blessed to be their “grandma”.  Words cannot describe the feeling I get when the family I married into comes together.  Some live close by and some are out of state, but I assure you they are all as close to me and as important to me as my sister, my niece and nephew, and my own parents.

Each of my sons participates in a blended family as well and I am so proud of the kind of men they are.  They are great husbands / boyfriends and amazing fathers.  Raised by an amazing man, my husband.  Though I didn’t have any part in raising them, I am still just as proud of them as ever.  My cup runneth over!  For the longest time as a child I took my step- parents for granted.  I was so very wrong.  They chose to marry my parents, they chose to be a part of my up-bringing and they choose to still be a part of my everyday life and for that I am so eternally grateful and blessed.  I too choose to be a part of my sons lives and I am so blessed that at this stage in their lives they let me.  As adults they have the opportunity to accept me into their lives, their homes and their new families.

Throughout my life, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that your family is what and who you make it.  It consists of blood relatives, people you marry and friends that are just as important or even more important than family.  Family can be close in proximity or live far away.  You can talk every day or once a month or once a year, but they are still there for you, supporting you, loving you, and in your corner when you need them and you are there for them as well.

When I play those silly games wondering what would you want with you if you were stranded on an island, my answer is always my family.  I can  make it through anything anywhere with them by my side.

My wish for you, my friends, is that you love your family / friends as much as I do.  That you have the opportunity to make amends if they are needed and that you embrace life and love more than “stuff”.  At then end of the day you “can’t take it with you”.  After all…

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”

As always, have a happy day.

Let the grass grow under you, let your roots sink in

I have lived my life with a bit of a “gypsy” flair and let the wind take me where it will for so many years.  That’s right, I have never actually put roots down anywhere longer than a year or two.  To be very clear, the longest I have ever lived in one place is between 2009 and 2012.  I was renting an apartment on the beach.  That’s right, just barely three years is the longest I have ever stayed in one place until now (and I am 40!).   My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a house and the word process is an understatement!

I have been so fortunate in my life to be able to move from here to there and just pack up and go wherever the wind blows.  I have had so many wonderful experiences and some not so wonderful.  If I am being honest, part of not settling down was probably due to fear of getting older, fear of responsibility, fear of losing my “free-spirit”.  I am here to tell you, there is also something wonderful about this part of life.  I feel very stressed, this is true, but I also feel very proud of myself and of my husband.  I feel like we will now have a home-base and a foundation.  I may not be communicating this feeling very well, but if you have that free-spirit in you as I do, then maybe you can understand where I am coming from.

I wanted to share with you a bit about the home-buying process from someone who has never done it before and is doing it at a bit of and older age.  First of all, I am an extremely organized person.  I have gone so far as to create a spreadsheet for all tasks to be completed as far as paperwork to be signed, deadlines, inspections, etc.  I am treating this as though I am the project manager and this is any other work related entity that has a beginning, middle, and end.  I have found it is the best way to stay on top of the vast amount of documents, uploads, and e-mails that seem to occur almost daily!

Between my husband and I, we have one point of contact for the lender, realtor, title agency, and any other contact and that is my husband.  I do the paperwork, he does the talking.  It works best for our schedules and cuts down on the “he said, she said”.  That way, at the end of the day when he and I come together we can have a pow-wow on my progress and his and meet in the middle.

We close on our home April 10th if all things go well and the stars align.  (I say that because I have learned that until you sign on the dotted line, there is always room for something to go wrong).  I am usually a glass half full kind of gal, but with the home-buying process, this is one place where you can never afford to put the cart before the horse.  It can literally leave you homeless!  Yikes!

We all know I love a good list, so in following with all of my other blogs, here is a list of the top ten things I’ve learned so far in the home-buying process.

  1. If at first you don’t succeed, try about 100 more times! (We have had to put offers in on several homes.  Just because we fell in love with a home didn’t mean the seller fell in love with our terms or our offer price or our conditions or maybe a higher offer came in, there were a multitude of reasons!)
  2. Be patient. (The whole world is not on our time schedule and that has to be alright, but it is also ok to be on top of things and follow-up if inspections or appraisals are not happening in a timely manner. This is a fine line.  Be polite, but not a doormat)
  3. Over-budget! (This is the time where you should not be spending money on anything extra and you should be planning on money to be needed in areas you never considered! Binder Check, Inspection, WDO, Appraisal, and the list goes on all the way to closing and beyond!  Don’t forget about moving costs, cleaning your current home, packing supplies!)
  4. Think long term (if you are like me and have been renting you place(s) forever than it is time to think long term. Do you LOVE the house, can you see changes you want to make, and can you see your family growing here? If you don’t love it than this isn’t the place)
  5. Life Insurance (Once you purchase your home, it’s time to think longer life planning. Make sure you have insurance in place should something happen to yourself or your significant other you will still be able to afford your new home).
  6. Schedule the best you can! (This isn’t always easy to do if you are selling a home and buying one at the same time, but if you are renting like us, it is a little easier to manage. Make sure you don’t leave yourself without a place to stay.  Schedule your closing on your new home BEFORE you have to be out of your current home.  If this is not an option, you may need to utilize storage PODS for your moving expedition or get creative and hopefully have friends you can stay with).
  7. Once you close, clean! (Before you move in and get boxes in the new home, you have a blank slate in front of you.  Take a few days to paint, clean, make alterations to the home prior to having boxes and furniture in your way.)
  8. Keep good records. (You will sign tons of documents and have a ton of papers at the end of your home-buying experience.  Create a file for your new home and put all of those papers neatly into your file cabinet.  You will need to address your home purchase when you do taxes, should there be an emergency, should there be an insurance claim, etc.  Stay organized.)
  9. Make a contacts list (Through this process you will have gained a lender, a realtor, a title agency, an insurance agent, security system, company, and many more contacts. Generate a contact sheet that is a quick reference guide for your home.  My husband and I live in Florida and this past year experienced a very difficult storm season.  We have an “important papers” file that we use during evacuations and keep handy during any emergency situation.  This contact sheet should be included in that file in case any damage is done to your home.)
  10. Have fun! (This is the most important part of the whole list. I can tell you that my husband and I have bickered and gotten on each other’s nerves from time to time during this process but at the end of the day, we have enjoyed finding our dream home together and planning our future together.  Day-dreaming about each room and how we will decorate and what we want for years to come.  These are memories we are making together and this is how our house will become a home.)

If you are like me, than letting the grass grow beneath your feet is a very big step to take and I can tell you, there is no one in the world I would rather take it with than my fabulous husband.  When you find the right one, you just know.  The world becomes a brighter place and troubles become less.  If you are bold enough to buy a home on your own, than you have my greatest admiration as well.  No matter how you find yourself letting roots sink into the ground, just make sure they are solid and in the right place.  I hope this list helps someone on the same path or made someone feel like they are normal for having the same stress level as we have.  As always my friends, have a happy day.

Easter isn’t just for the little ones… it is a family affair!

Don’t let the fun of Easter fade just because your little ones are growing up.  This season try a new twist on the Easter holiday if you have slightly older kids in your home.  If you are planning an Easter dinner, you are of course going to spend a little on grocery shopping and that will take time.  or maybe you are planning on eating out as a family.   Well, I propose a little something different.  Take that cash you will spend and hide it in the little plastic eggs you can buy at the dollar store.  Send your kids on a fun (potentially long) egg hunt and this one could include a scavenger hunt if you have older kids.  If you prefer not to do the plastic eggs, than just make it a scavenger hunt where each clue leads your kids to a cash prize and closer to the finale where they will find out the location of dinner (and the fact that the cash is what will pay for the dinner!)  That’s right…. dinner is on them this year!

If you are a softy like me, you will of course have their Easter basket for them at the family dinner or at the final clue location so there are candy and treats to be enjoyed, but the fun can be had for older children as they figure out the clues and race through the yard as they did when they were younger hunting for eggs.  Below are some examples of great clues:

  1. If you’re in a hungry mood, go here first and find some food.
  2. Now you’re on your second clue, these go on before your shoes.
  3. If you want your teeth to shine, pick this up and spend some time.
  4. Take a walk and step outside, this is where you go to ride.
  5. I used to write to send a letter, but now this machine does it better!
  6. Rubber ducky your the one!  You make ______ lots of fun!
  7. Hickory Dickory Dock, The mouse ran up the ________!

There are so many more you can come up with.  You can google “Scavenger Hunt Clues” and the lists are endless or come up with your own to include the fun places in and around your house.  Use a theme, rhyme, or make fun jokes.  Have fun and make it interesting.  This can be a fun tradition your children will look forward to each year.

On a side note, have you ever wondered about the history of the Easter Egg or the Easter Bunny?  What are they and where did they come from?  Well here is a quick history lesson for you as we hop into the holiday and hunt for our eggs.

The egg is an ancient symbol of new life and rebirth. In Christianity it became associated with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.[102] The custom of the Easter egg originated in the early Christian community of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion.[103][104] As such, for Christians, the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb.[14][15] The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute decorated chocolate, or plastic eggs filled with candy such as jellybeans.

The Easter Bunny is a popular legendary anthropomorphic Easter gift-giving character analogous to Santa Claus in American culture. Many Americans follow the tradition of coloring hard-boiled eggs and giving baskets of candy. On Easter Monday, the President of the United States holds an annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn for young children.[105] Since the rabbit is a pest in Australia, the Easter Bilby is available as an alternative. Easter eggs are a widely popular symbol of new life in Poland and other Slavic countries’ folk traditions. A batik-like decorating process known as pisanka produces intricate, brilliantly-colored eggs.

The celebrated House of Fabergé workshops created exquisite jewelled eggs for the Russian Imperial Court.

I hope you enjoyed the quick little lesson and I certainly hope you plan on trying a scavenger hunt or something fun with your family this Easter.  As always, have a happy day!

Vacationing – “Gypsy Style”

The best vacations are the unplanned ones.  My husband and I have just returned from a whirl wind trip around Florida where in one week we accomplished the following:

  • A weekend trip to a friends wedding where I participated as a bride’s maid.
  • A visit to my dad’s lake house to pick-up a few things for my dad (pre-surgery for him)
  • A few days in the keys (fishing, kayaking, site seeing, etc.)
  • A celebration of life for my Great Aunt who has passed away (at 95 years of age)
  • A visit to my father’s house (post-surgery)
  • A visit with  my son and some house hunting
  • And home to in-pack and do some laundry.

Now, I will admit, some of these little day or multi-day trips were pre-planned, but for the most part, we just jumped in the car and headed out for a road trip and our vacation worked our beautifully.  Stress free and my husband and I laughed harder and longer than we have in so long.  Along the way we made new friends and connected with old ones.  We made side trips to the Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs and took a little hike thru the Florida Panther and wildlife preserve down in Alligator Ally (neither of which were even thought of in advance).

If I can offer a few pieces of friendly advice they are the following:

Love often and laugh hard.  Tell jokes!  Sing along to the radio.  And don’t get mad if the other person likes to hum.  That’s right hum.  I have learned that my husband hums when he is happy.  It used to irritate me, now, I listen for it because it lets me know that he is genuinely happy in is heart and then I have done my job.

Hold hands with your best friend just because you can.  I love it when my husband comes up beside me and takes my hand to go for a walk.  There is no reason.  He isn’t “Dragging me somewhere” or “Showing me something”.  He just likes me close to him, and I, he.

Stop and smell the roses, and take a picture too!  Along our trip, we noticed things that had we been in a rush we would have missed.  The Alligators on the shore of the ditch along the road.  The iguana eating lunch in the mangroves as we kayaked in the afternoon.  The beautiful shells along the seashore and the tide changed.  The local food, the music, the smells in the air, all so beautiful if we just slow down and put our electronics away for a moment.

Stop worrying.  We had so many things to see and do during the week.  A wedding, time for each other, a surgery for my dad, extended family worries, and a funeral of sorts.  But as my dad has always told me….  Even when you leave this world, someone will still pile things into your “inbox” and the world will still turn.  Do what needs to get done and don’t sweat the small stuff because after all, it’s all small stuff.

So with that in mind, we enjoyed the heck out of each day and love each friend and family member as we made it to them.  And all the while, we held hands, sang songs and laughed.

May your next vacation be very soon.  Try to take an evening away, a little weekend getaway or even a few days to get back to what is really important and that is each other.  As always, have a happy day.

The best advice ever…

I read an article today that struck my fancy and I just have to stop and share a few tidbits.  I hope that it will inspire you to either share your own words of wisdom or pass these on.  The article asked women executives from across the country to share nuggets of knowledge that had been so kindly shared with them.  Little quips that helped to mold their careers, the way they face the world and/or everyday challenges in life.  You know I love lists, so of course, I’ll share them in list format.  I feel a list makes them easier to pass on, remember, or if you are like me, when you see it… you copy and past it into your digital notebook of tasty treats for your mind and soul to be nibbled on at a later date.

  1. Get your education
  2. Follow your compass
  3. Make whatever you do your passion
  4. In a world where instantaneous action is expected, we cannot lose sight of the value of pause…
  5. Approach every situation as if you area a small child.  Observe those around you, honor their experience and learn from their expertise.
  6. Build a network, add value to a room
  7. Set your bar high and go get it…..When you reach your goal, reset and do it again… continue to aim high.
  8. You create your own destiny by how hard you work and the time you put into the business
  9. Always sit at the table
  10. Don’t give up before the miracle happens, and it does happen (this one was my addition).

This article was found inside the pages of the Jacksonville Business Journal Vol. 33, No 19 in case you care to take a peak.  Here is a little blurb from the paper….

“A mentor could be your mom or dad, your first boss or someone you admire from afar.  You can talk to that person every week or remember his or her words for decades.  A mentor’s advice stays the same when you change jobs.  It prepares you for your next promotion and helps you recover from your most-recent setback. And the day will come when you hear your mentor’s voice in your head and the message becomes your own.”

My wish for is that you have a mentor and become a mentor.  Remember that everyone should be treated with the same respect from the Janitor to the CEO and that includes yourself.  You can go so far in  life and you are only held back by your fears of success.  Go move mountains my friends and remember along the way….

have a happy day

 

Speaking without words – love

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like without the words “I love you” or “I’m sorry”?  Without being able to say “I’ll fix it” or “I’ll make it up to you”?  Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if we all “spoke” without ever saying a word.  No sign language, because after all, those are still words.  But actually not using those phrases or anything similar to those at all?  Here it comes my friends, another challenge!  Valentine’s day is right around the corner. New Year’s has come and gone, and I suspect some of us may have already fallen short on a few resolutions.  So here is my February Challenge for everyone.  Try speaking without words.  You read that right!

I’m asking you to try to learn all of the different languages of love that are out there.  Try “doing” instead of “saying”.  Is it a smile instead of a frown?  Is it a gesture of making the bed or actually hanging up the towel or folding the laundry that catches your partner’s eye and lets them know you heard them?  Is it showing up maybe five minute early to pick up your child so you can see their face light up that you took time out to put them first instead of being the last to pick them up?  (It does make a difference.)  Is it remembering what a favorite meal is for breakfast or adding a note in a lunch box or writing a note in the mirror from the steam of the shower?  The point is to slow down and not make excuses or high five in the hallway this month with the traditional kiss goodnight and “I love you”.  Please try to figure out what makes your friend and family feel special or make them feel like you heard them and DO THOSE THINGS.  I promise, it comes back ten fold in happiness on all levels.

I will give you a hint (and a glimpse into my life).   Even setting up the coffee in the morning for your spouse so they just have to turn on the machine goes a long way.  My husband does this for me and every morning it starts my day with a huge smile because I know in his morning rush, he took a few minutes to think of me when he didn’t have to.  He measures out the cream and sugar and puts the K-cup inside the Keurig so that all I have to do is press the button.  He even puts the spoon inside the cup to remind me to stir.  Every single morning, he manages to melt my heart without saying a word.

I hope this challenge pays off for you and everyone you try it with.  As always my friends, have a happy day!

 

DIY – Valentine’s edition

February is a fun month!  Love is in the air.  Winter is just peaking and starting to pass.  Tulips are popping up through the snow.  It’s time to have some DIY Fun with Valentine’s Day ideas!  Here a few suggestions to get an un-expecting, friend, child, loved one, or even co-worker giggling and into the spirit. 

1.       Love potion labels – Get your kids in the Valentine’s Day spirit by removing existing water bottle labels and replacing them with these free “love potion” printables. Crack these water bottles open and love just might fill the cafeteria. Is it magic or just a mother’s love? (suggestion from good housekeeping.com)

2.       Heart Crayons – This is fun to do as a surprise for the little ones in your life or as a project with them so they can spread their own love with friends.  (NOTE: this project can be rough on your metal pans, try using a silicone heart mold.  This can be purchased on line or found in your local craft store).  Separate your crayons by color groups: reds/pinks, purples, blues, greens, oranges/yellows. To get the paper off easily, cut a slit down the length of the crayon with a knife. Break them into ~1/3″ – 1/2″ pieces and place like colors into pans. You get a better result if you mix lighter shades of a certain group with darker shades. The color contrast is pretty fun and makes for unique hearts. Bake between 225F and 250F for about 10 minutes. Take a look at them after 10 and if they are completely melted, gently take them out, and let them cool for at least 10 minutes. If there are still some chunks after 10 minutes, let them go for another minute or two. Keep an eye on them! (Recipe from goodknits.com)

3.       Heart Shaped Hand warmers (Or any shape and color to use for all cool seasons) – You will need, felt, Embroidery Floss and a needle, Un-cooked rice, dried lavender or an essential oil that you find soothing.  Cut the felt into the shape you prefer (hearts are great this time of year).  You will need a total of four identical pieces (two for each warmer).  Knot the embroidery floss and thread your needle.  Sew your two shapes together until you are about ¾ complete.  Be sure to sew you loops close together as not to allow the rice to escape through large gaps.  Add the rice and lavender / oils to the pouch you have created.  Be sure not to pack it tight as you need a little wiggle room to sew it shut and also keep them flexible.  Finish sewing the open gap closed and secure the thread.  To use these awesome warmers, microwave the, for about 30 seconds and tuck them into coat pockets.  Your hands will stay warm and toasty.  Re-heat as needed to re-use, but be sure not to heat for too long. 

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking creatively.  Ignite the passion and creativity inside your heart and share it with others.  As always, have a happy day!

Everyone is someone’s valentine, don’t forget to spread the love

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and love is in the air everywhere I turn!  It makes my heart smile so big this time of year.  Valentine’s Day isn’t just for new love or celebrating old love.  It is also for celebrating friendships and family.    This Valentine’s Day, remember to do something for those extended friendships or family members that deserve to know how much they mean to you just as much as your husband, wife, or significant other. 

This is one of my favorite times of year.  It gives us all the ability to re-enact the “Secret Santa” idea and leave secret notes to brighten a day.  If you have the means, send flowers to your best friend.  Leave a little love-note for your child in their lunchbox from time to time through the days surrounding Valentine’s Day (or all year for that matter).  Make pancakes or eggs in the shape of a heart for breakfast.  (NOTE: Use a metal heart-shaped cookie cutter as a mold when you break the eggs into the pan or when you drop pancake batter into the pan.)  Why not have breakfast for dinner and change things up just to add a pinch of spontaneity to your day. 

Make this day, weeks and month fun for everyone.  Try a scavenger hunt through your home for your loved one or for your children with a treat or gift at the end.  Send a card or note in the mail to your parents reminding them how much they mean to you.  Spreading love with make your heart feel warm and fuzzy inside and knowing you’ve brightened someone’s day is the cherry on top. 

My wish for you as Valentine’s Day approaches is to think outside of the box.  This is always my challenge for you.  Get creative, get generous, get crafty, and get sentimental.  Don’t forget those less fortunate.  Money isn’t always the answer.  Sometimes holding a door or offering a hand goes so much further  What a better time to spread the love than now?

Lastly, remember to love yourself on Valentine’s Day.  Dress a bit nicer.  Be sure to do your hair and/or make-up and give yourself a little extra smile in the mirror.  After all, if we don’t love ourselves, no amount of love from anyone else will ever measure up.  I was once told that you can’t take “pretty” with you unless you have it on the inside.  A compliment is wonderful and always welcomed, but get up, get dressed and look at the person in the mirror.  Tell that person you love them and they are worth it. 

As always, have a happy day!

A Tidy home – a little cheat sheet of suggestions to save time and money

Keeping your home clean can seem like a constant battle, especially for a large family or people with little one’s in their home.  (This is also the case after guests come to visit).  House-keeping is a constant and never-ending chore.  Here are some great tips (life hacks) for keeping up with your home and making the tasks easier or more efficient.

First, you need a few regular items on hand.  I try to get as much as I can from the dollar store and rags can come from the thrift store or even recycled clothes or possibly that one sock the dryer forgot to eat.

1.       Fresh lemons.  They last a while and are a great additive for a cleaning agent. 

2.       Kosher Salt (or table salt of some kind)

3.       Vinegar (White)

4.       Baking Soda

5.       Old socks

6.       Hair Dryer

7.       Olive Oil

8.       Cream of tartar

9.       Dryer sheets

10.   Chalk

11.   Plastic Bags

12.   Lint Rollers (Dollar Store Purchase)

13.   There are countless other items that are handy so feel free to add to this list and personalize it.

Here are some house-keeping life hacks to give a try and see what fits nicely into your schedule allowing for more time and some cost savings:

1.       Vinegar and baking soda = clean oven

2.       Vinegar and water (50/50 mix) and an old sock = clean blinds

3.       Lemons = clean facets and sink handles

4.       Lemons and salt = clean cutting board and clean coffee pot

5.       Cream of Tartar = clean stainless steel appliances

6.       Dryer Sheets – adds a fresh smell to your freezer or refrigerator (change monthly)

7.       Dryer Sheets – clean and protected baseboards

8.       Plastic bag filled with vinegar wrapped around shower heads = clean shower heads

9.       Toothpaste = clean jewelry and clean sneakers

10.   Lint Rollers = clean lamp shades

11.   Hair Dryer and Olive Oil = clean drink rings on a wooden table

12.   Baking Soda = removes oil stains from carpet

I hope this either makes things a bit easier, solves some mystery for you, or just changes up your routing at home to get your house neat and clean.  As always, have a happy day!

 

Stay Warm and get cozy!

I don’t know about you, but I am a true blue Florida girl and in case you aren’t aware…. It is soooo cold right now!  So, I thought I would share with you a few ideas I’ve had about getting and staying warm.  Of course there are the old stand-byes of dressing in layers and hanging out by the fire, but I think it is time to get creative.  Let’s not let this crazy winter weather get to us.  Let’s take charge and have fun with it.  I started off by adding a heating pad to my bed.  Yep!  You read that right!  It’s not like I have an electric blanket handy down here in the typical tropical weather, so I slipped a heating pad between the sheets.  I turn it on high about 10 minutes before bedtime.  That is one warm and toasty bed that I slide into at night.  However, I did realize last night, that it does not warm up my husbands side at all and that wasn’t the nicest thing I’ve ever done.  But sometimes, you have to crawl before you walk and it’s all about learning.  Here I am, brainstorming with my friends on the internet….
Enjoy my latest list:

  1. Take a hot bath – nothing says warm and cozy like  hot bubble bath.  Not to mention it is super relaxing after a long day.  Add a good book to that and it is pure bliss!
  2. Get to cuddling – what a perfect reason to get close to your loved ones in front of a good movie or under the covers!
  3. Exercise – start breaking a sweat and get your heart pumping and blood flowing.
    Right after the holidays is the perfect time to jump on a treadmill  or do some jumping jacks anyway.
  4. A hot beverage – this will not only warm your insides but your hands too!  And the steam from your drink feels great on your face.  It’s a trifecta of perfection!
  5. Here’s a fun fact, run your ceiling fans in the opposite direction.  There is typically a little switch that makes them turn the other way pushing the air toward the ceiling.  This will help circulate the air the opposite direction in your house.  (Super helpful if your have a fireplace roaring.
  6. Open curtains and blinds during the day to let the sunshine in and allow the natural light to warm your home or office.  (and remember to close the flute on your fireplace when it is not in use to keep the cool air out)

I hope these tips help.  If you have any other ideas, post them in the comments.  This lady needs all the help you have to offer through the cold season.  Most importantly, keep a smile on that beautiful face of yours and I will do the same.  Be sure to enjoy each day and not let a dreary day get the best of you.  As always, have a happy day!

Loneliness – the feeling that can happen as you stand in the middle of a crowded room.

Sometimes during this time of year it is easy for the feeling of loneliness to overtake us.  The Holidays have passed, family has all gone back home to their day-to-day lives and on top of all that, the weather is gloomy and cold.  Has this feeling ever crept up on you?  Loneliness in some form, happens to all of us at some point in our lives.  It happens to different degrees and for different reasons, but it happens. There is a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely.  If you are nodding your head as you read this, than I suspect, you’ve experienced both.  I thought it would be a great time to share some ways to combat this awful feeling since my personal goal this year is to keep that holiday cheer and inner happy glow burning bright.  Loneliness is a feeling that can creep up and extinguish that beautiful glow inside of us if we are not standing guard over it and making the most of the days, week, and months as they pass by.  Here are a few tips from myself and a few others out there in internet land.

Be aware of yourself – pay attention to your moods and feelings.  Don’t go too long without a quick gut check.  Are you happy, sad, bored, or restless?  Staying on top of your feelings can help to keep the ugly ones at bay.  When we find ourselves getting a bit down, don’t wait to change our situation, be proactive and jump start your emotions into a happier phase

Write it down – journal, be creative, and be expressive.  Sometimes, there is a good reason for the lonely feeling and we just need to work through it.  Keeping a journal is a great way to work through our emotions and understand them rather than let them mill around and rent space in our head.

Look for like-minded people – If you are feeling alone vs. lonely, it’s time to find people you have things in common with and get active.  Start talking, texting, e-mailing and fill your schedule or time with conversations and activities.

Make your current bonds even stronger – Reach out to your friends and families.  Learn more about them and let them learn about you.  Make a lunch date with an old friend, go for a road trip to visit a cousin, or plan to go shopping or see a movie with a sibling.

Be aware of your health – don’t let the cold weather get to you and don’t let feeling down lead to not eating or sleeping well.  At the first sign of a health change, again, be proactive.  Fight back with a change in your lifestyle.  Start taking walks, work out at home to a you-tube video, plan meals or try new recipes to find enjoyment in eating rather than feeling like food doesn’t taste good.  Eat smaller meals rather than one large one if you aren’t in the mood to eat.

Set goals to get involved, set a schedule, volunteer, and get involved in your community.  Use your resources.  Read the happenings on the bulletin board of a local coffee shop. Take a class at a DIY store or craft store.  Take time to learn a new skill or hobby.

Surround yourself with things that provoke positivity.  (Humorous feeds on social media, comedy on television or movies, Art with positive slogans in it).  I can tell you, I have even gone the distance of writing my self notes and leaving them around the house from time to time.

Just to be clear, I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist or hold any medical degree whatsoever.  I am just a lady who has felt lonely a time too many and wants to share how I manage to get through a few dark days in hopes that you can do the same.  If you are feeling overwhelming sadness or significant loss of interest in life, please seek professional help or reach out to someone.  This is just a blog to offer suggestions and a virtual hug for those who need one.  Sometimes, it’s nice to know that others have been there, and made it through dark days so you can too.  As always, have a happy day. ~ Mrs. Go to Girl

 

Apple Pie Stacks – A Recipe Promised

I made these cookies for the first time this year and they were amazing!  Personally, I think they would be great any time of the year.  They were a huge hit with my family and adorable to boot!  I will admit, they were a bit messy to set-up, but fun and very worth it.  My husband requested I make these over a year ago and I finally did!  I highly suggest you give this recipe a shot if you are up for a cookie challenge.  (And I know you love a challenge if you are any friend of mine).

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

4 apples, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoons cornstarch

4 sheets pie crust pastries (I used frozen pie crusts)

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Icing: (Optional)

¾ Cup Confectioners’ Sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons milk

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add apples; toss until coated with butter. Stir in brown sugar, white sugar, lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves; cook and stir until apples have softened and sugars have melted, about 5 minutes. Bring to a boil.
  3. Combine water and cornstarch in a bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into the apple mixture; cook and stir until apple mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool completely, about 20 minutes.
  4. Dust work surface lightly with flour (This portion of flour not included in ingredients). Roll out 1 sheet of pie crust on a work surface with a rolling pin; Use a round cookie cutter and create circles for cookie base. Cover each base the cooled apple mixture. Roll out a second sheet of pie crust with a rolling pin; slice into thin strips with a sharp knife (or pizza roller works well too). Weave pie crust strips together over apple mixture to create a lattice top.  NOTE: Alternative method is to make one large pie flat and cover with apple mixture and lattice then cut circles all the way thru with floured round cookie cutter or drinking glass. Press cookie cutter through dough to create 12 round pies. Transfer to a pre-greased baking sheet or one covered with parchment paper.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until crust is cooked through a golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 10 minutes. Be sure not to over-cook.
  6. Repeat with remaining pie crusts and apple mixture; place on a second baking sheet. Bake in the oven until crust is cooked through a golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  7. Combine confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a mixing bowl; add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in milk slowly until desired consistency is reached; drizzle over cooled pies.

Let cool to set-up and as always, have a happy day!

What is a resolution?

Every year so many of us make a list of our New Year Resolutions.  What does this mean and what is the point?  I think I either need a better understanding, a change in perspective or a new list (and oh I love lists!)

First, lets define the word resolution.  According to Google, it is a firm decision to do or not to do something. Ok.  That being said, let’s define the word goal.  Again, according to Google, it is the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.  Slightly similar, but I like goal better.  A resolution is a firm decision, thus not allowing for a stumble along the way and let’s face it, we all do that.  Maybe this is why not many of us succeed at resolutions.  A Goal is an object, a focus, sort of a light at the end of a tunnel, thus allowing you to fall as many times as you want as long as you keep going.

My point here, is that let’s make New Year GOALS this years.  I challenge you to make a list of things you want to accomplish this year.  Places you want to go, things you want to do, books you want to read, etc.  Make them realistic, budget minded and creative.  Write them down.  Hang your list up somewhere in your home where you will see it on a regular basis.  Mine will be hung in my bathroom.  My husband and I have been talking about making our list for a week or so now and thinking about the things we would like to plan for the new year.  He has a few items as do I that we would personally like to see happen this year and combined I think our list will make for a great 2018.

I hope this ignites a fire in you and your family for a creative and fun start to your year and helps to keeps the spirit of family, sharing and caring in your heart from 2017.  As always, have a happy day.

Happy New Year!

I always get super sentimental this time of year… Goodbye 2017, hello 2018. Lessons learned. Friends made. Loved ones lost. Memories made. Here is my list (I do love a good list) of lessons/thoughts/memories/ I will keep close to my heart.

1. Always keep it simple and when all else fail go back to what you know… Back to the basics. It will always help you find your way to the right side of the road.

2.  Put a little of yourself and everything you do and the details really do matter.

3.  When seeking the opinions of others be sure to seek the correct ones. Don’t ask a professional ballerina how to fix a car just because she is your best friend. Everyone has a gift but not everyone has every gift. And remember that everyone will have an opinion, you don’t necessarily need it.

4.  Find the best in everyone. We all have bad days. I know I have and will. Love people despite your differences.

5.  Try new things. Even if it means trying food that touches!  You might just like it. You only get one shot at this life. Make it count.

6.  Smile often. It’s contagious. (But be careful, apparently so is the flu). Just the same, give hugs to your friends and family. You might just make their day.

Happy New Year to all of my friends and family. I Love You for being a part of my very strange beautiful roller coaster ride of a life. Thank you for loving my silly gypsy spirit.  As always, Have a Happy Day!

Re-purposing Christmas Cards – a Fun DIY way to keep them going

Have you ever thought that there should be a way to keep Christmas cards after the Christmas season?  So many of them are beautiful and some are sentimental.  Some are photos of loved ones and it is a great way to see how our friends and family members grow and change from year to year.  I thought it would be fun to share some DIY ideas of how to re-purpose and craft the Christmas Cards you received so that you can cherish them throughout the years.   As usual, I‘ve done some research, so I can’t take credit for all the ideas I share, and I would love to hear about any ideas you have as well.  NOTE: before you re-purpose any Christmas card or toss an envelope be sure to update your contacts and make sure you have the senders correct address so you can be sure to have them on your birthday and holiday card list for the coming year!  Especially if you have a growing business.  Sending holiday cards is a great way to keep your growing business in full swing at the close of the year.

  • If there is no writing on the backside of your card cover (where the image is), you can cut off the top fold and use it as a postcard, writing your message on the blank back side.
  • You can slice card covers into four to six different rectangles and use them as gift tags. Punch a hole in the card and slide it onto your ribbon before you tie your bow.
  • Cut the card covers into festive shapes like Christmas trees, ornaments, and stars. Then punch a hole, and tie a loop through it with ribbon. Then, use it as an ornament on your tree. You can spice them up with glitter, beading, etc.
  • Cut the card covers into star shapes and letters to spell out words like “Merry Christmas.” Then, make a garland out of them by stringing them together with twine, yarn, or ribbon.
  • Use them for book marks! Cut the image out of the front that of the card that you want to keep in a long rectangular shape.  Punch a hole in the top and thread a ribbon thru making a knot around the hole.
  • Use the images from your cards to decorate an ordinary brown gift bag. Cut the images out of the card and glue them onto the gift bag turning your gift bag into a beautiful and unique 3D gift bag and keepsake.
  • Keep photo gift cards for ornaments on your tree. Cut the photos out.  You can either laminate the photo and hot glue ribbon to the back and remember to add a date or insert the photo into a store bought photo ornament with the year already on it.  Year after year your tree will turn into a family and friend tree and keepsake.
  • In the past, you used to be able to donate your Christmas cards to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.  This program has since been discontinued, but if you have a local organization that you work with, reach out to them and see if they can use your Christmas cards for Re-purposing.  (Be sure to remove any personal info first, of course).

Lastly,  I hope your holiday was everything you wished for and more.  Mine certainly was.  As you take down the decorations this week and move into the new year, please be sure and not pack that beautiful holiday spirit away.  That special feeling should stay with you all year long.  As always, have a happy day.

The Gingerbread House Mystery

I have questions about holiday gingerbread houses. This year, my husband and I made our first gingerbread house. It was a blast, messy, but lots of fun. However, it was not at all what I was expecting. We bought a kit from our local store and bought it home and to our surprise the walls came pre-constructed. The icing was premixed and in a foil bag. The decorations were pre-portioned and there were even decorating instructions included in the box! It was like a paint-by-number page. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I half expected to half to bake the walls and mix the icing ourselves. That the kit would have simply included a recipe, cookie cutters and the candy decorations.
We built the house and had plenty of laughs along the way none the less. Since the construction of our tiny holiday cabin of candy and icing, he and I have noticed these little houses in every holiday movie and commercial. We have found ourselves discussing the construction of the ones we see and how we would like to enhance our house building skills in years to come. So my questions for you are as follows:

1. Have you ever built a Gingerbread house? Is so, was it a kit or homemade?
2. Do you eat it after you construct it? How long after you construct it?
3. Should eating your Gingerbread House be a Christmas Day tradition in my home?
4. Is it even safe to eat the boxed kit Gingerbread houses? After all, how long have they been sitting on a shelf or in a warehouse?

I’ve done a bit of homework on the subject and asked around. Here are a few fun facts on Gingerbread houses.
1. Gingerbread is made from Ginger, cinnamon, Cloves, nutmeg, Cardamom, anise, and sweetened with honey or molasses.
2. To be considered Gingerbread, Ginger must be the dominant flavor and use either honey or molasses as the sweetener instead of sugar.
3. Queen Elizabeth I is believed to be responsible for the first Gingerbread mas as she had them made to resemble visiting dignitaries and presented to the visiting dignitaries as gifts.
4. Unmarried women in England would often eat Gingerbread men for good luck in meeting a husband.
5. Since the early 1970’s, pastry chefs have baked, constructed and decorated a gingerbread house for the enjoyment of the First Family, the American people, and White House visitors. This gingerbread house is typically a mock of the actual white house as it is decorated for Christmas that specific year (window wreaths and all)
So the mystery of the gingerbread house is this, I’ve seen many holiday movies and many house constructed in our home by families and friends, but I’ve never seen them eaten.

MYSTERY….. What happens to these houses right after Christmas?
a. Eaten?
b. Thrown in the trash?
c. Put outside for critters to find?
d. Demolition derby by children (or adults?)

Looking forward to hearing what you do or have done.  In the meantime, Have a Happy Day!

The importance of a morning routine

Ever stop to think about your morning routine?  Ever try changing it and feel either totally rejuvenated or completely out of sorts.  Isn’t it funny how one or the other is bound to happen?  I will share with you my morning routine and hope to hear about yours as well.  First let me share with you the back story for this little blog.

I never used to have a morning routine.  Or, maybe my routine was that I didn’t have one at all.  I would set my alarm, hit snooze about five or six times and then after running very late, charge out of bed like a mad-man, rush around then out the door!  It wasn’t very relaxing and not the least bit productive.  I was neither reliable or organized.  Oh how times have changed.  I have come to learn the value of a morning routine.  Looking back at my childhood, I remember my parents and their morning routines.  Each had their own, but each definitely had specific routines.  It is my mother’s that stands out the most to me.  She would get up before my sister and I and make her coffee.  She would sit on the end of the couch in total silence and sip her coffee and just be still.  These days, she still does the same getting up before my step-father and before her dogs awaken to enjoy her peace and quiet.

As an adult, and a wife in my own home, I see the importance of this very routine.  It is the way you start your day and it truly does set the tone for your day.  Looking back on  days that I jump up out of bed and run through my morning, my whole day tends to follows suit.  I feel rushed, unorganized and behind the eight ball all day.  More often than not, my morning routine is as follows:  I still awaken to an alarm and I still tend to hit the snooze button once or twice. My husband and I enjoy a cup of coffee together outside on the back patio as our dog does her morning business in the yard.  Then my dog and I chill out in the hammock and watch the birds flutter around in the trees and we listen to the leaves dance in the breeze for about 20 – 30 minutes.  There is very little conversation between my husband and I in the morning.  Not for lack of points of discussion, but more for true enjoyment of space and time.  It is my favorite time of day.  To be with the one you love and just be still.  It is beautiful.  To watch my dog be happy in the yard and then cuddle with me in the hammock is blissful.  (side note: she is only three pounds)  After our little outdoor time, I wander inside, feed the puppy and then begin getting ready for my day by making the bed, showering and getting dressed as usual with the accompaniment of a great playlist.

My point in sharing this with you is two-fold.

  1. to share with you my beautiful morning routine and reflect on the idea of enjoying a slow start vs a quick jolt to your morning.
  2. to ask you how your morning routine is?  Do you prefer to fill our morning with news and social media?  Do you prefer to exercise?

Think about how you start your morning.  As I asked before, what happens when there is a change in your routine.  When I am running late, my whole day is a mess.  On the flip side, When I am trying like crazy to start a new healthy routine, I am frustrated and rejuvenated all at once.  Like trying to start a new work out regime, or trying to switch up and do my household chores in the morning so I come home to a cleaner house.  I’m happy with the change, but a bit frustrated until I get the swing of things.  (Neither ruins my day, in fact I feel empowered).  There are so many versions of a great start, I hope whatever you do provides you a very happy day!

 

What quirks make you… you?

Some would say I am a creature of habit and others would say I am a wild unicorn with a gypsy soul, leaving a trail of glitter wherever I go.  Is beauty in the eye of the beholder or is it your the time of day you catch me?  I will admit there are not too many thing I do on an extremely regular basis and I find it incredibly difficult to pick up good habits (bad habits are a completely different blog all together, and thankfully, a different time in  my life).  However, there are a few things I am know to do and my day is a miss when these things are out of sync.  Ever stop and think about the silly little idiosyncrasies of your life and how if you don’t do them regularly you just feel all out of whack?

I will share of few of mine with you in hopes that you can feel a bit more normal. (And I will assume there are readers out there nodding their heads saying, oh yes I do that to, so I too shall feel a little less out of place).  Here we go…

  1. I must make my bed everyday. (Today, by the way, I did not and it’s making me nuts)  I love to have my bed made and when I am running, so late that I don’t make it, I come home at the end of the day and make it anyway.  I truly enjoy climbing into a freshly made bed.  I love having the sheets folded back like my own turn down service.
  2. Speaking of bedtime, I always sleep under the covers and I prefer a comforter to a quilt so if it is super cold, I will just pile blankets on top of my fluffy comforter rather than exchange the comforter for a heavy quilt.  Also, if it is hot, I will turn the AC to super cold just to I can feel nice and cuddly at night.
  3. I drive the same way to an from a destination.  Once I go somewhere once, that is how I know to get there and I cannot deter from those directions or I get lost.  don’t get me wrong, I love to go on driving adventures and do very frequently.  However, as I drive to work, my kids house, my husbands work, etc. I can only go one way or I am completely lost.  Additionally, I get very frustrated at the suggestion of a new way to travel.
  4. Whenever I take a road trip, I must have the proper road trip snacks.  These consist of a Fountain Soda and something sweet (usually skittles) and something salty (usually Pizza pretzel Combos).  And a road trip can be any drive longer than two hours.

These are just a few of my always, no matter what, absolute never changing things I do.  I would love to hear some of yours.  I love my little quirks and I have plenty more that I’m sure I will share along the way.  I hope these made you smile a bit today.  As always, have a happy day.

The Hustle and Bustle

Its that time of year where no matter how hard we try it seems that we can’t slow down the clock and there seems to be more on our “to-do” list than there is time in the day.  It’s crazy how that happens year after year.  I have to share a few phone calls with you that made me just sit back and smile and reminded me that the world will go around no matter what I do and that is really just fine with me.

I spoke to my mother the other day.  She started a business a few years back and this is her busy time of year.  She has yet to put her tree up or trim her house in holiday decorations and I was surprised to hear this.  Her answer was that it will get done next weekend and she didn’t seem that rushed to do it.  It will get done before the holiday and before the family gets there.  That was what mattered.  It made me smile.  Now, I know she loves her decorations and I know she loves her morning coffee in front of the lights, but she reminded me without even knowing it, that everything will get done in due time.  I needed that reminder so very badly.

Around the same time frame, I spoke with my step-mom who had been ill for a few days.  She and my father have company coming for the holidays. Though the company won’t be staying in their home, they will be in and out and they want their home decorated for the holiday.  Due to not feeling well she said she felt like things just wouldn’t get finished in time.  My father and she looked around the house and decided that what was decorated would be great and  once the boxes were put away, what was set-up would be perfect.  Again, another reminder that we get what need to get done in perfect timing.  Another reminder for myself was that sometimes we set the bar higher for ourselves than others do and our friends and families love us just the way we are.

Ironically, for the first time since I can remember, I have my tree up and gifts wrapped and am not stressing over the holidays.  My biggest concern is making sure I am setting traditions and keeping traditions with my family.  I have a goal this season of making the most of the little things and finding the good in the smallest things. Its funny, with parents like mine, ever reminding me that life will go on and not to sweat the small stuff, I have learned to calm down and get the things that really do matter to me done and let the rest fall to the wayside.  I may not have the finest things in the world, but I sure do have the greatest family a girl can ask for.  They are crazy, silly, and full of quirks in all the ways you can think of, but I would not trade one of them for all the gold in the world.  I sure do hope you feel the same about your family.  Large or small, friends and family are the greatest gifts by far.  You can’t take it with you in the end so enjoy the life you are given and make the most of each beautiful day.  As always, have a happy day.

 

It’s time for cookies

I love love love this time of year!  There are so many reason to be happy and spread the cheer.  Cookies are one of the top things on my list to do each year.  I love to bake and I love sharing fun cookies with my friends and family.  This year will be no different.  Cookies are coming out of the oven this weekend.  I thought I would share a few of the recipes that my family has enjoyed over the years and encourage you to jump into the kitchen yourself.  If you are not much of a baker but have always wanted to, baking cookies is a great way to start.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

½ cup shortening

14 cup granulated sugar

12 cup brown sugar

18 teaspoon salt

12 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon Hot Water

1 14 cups flour (all-purpose)

12 ounces chocolate chips

12 cup nuts (optional, but if you prefer I suggest pecans)

1 egg, well beaten

Instructions:  Cream shortening then add granulated sugar, brown sugar and egg.  Dissolve baking soda in one tablespoons of HOT water and then add.  Add flour, salt, vanilla extract and mix well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips and mix again.  Drop teaspoonfuls of your cookie dough onto greased cookie sheet. (Note the change from Tablespoon to teaspoon size measure for these cookies, they will spread) Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes.

German Chocolate cookies

Cookie batter

2 boxes German chocolate cake mix, dry

4 eggs

10 Tbsp. butter, melted

FROSTING

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

½ cup butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1⅓ cup sweetened shredded coconut, for drizzle

1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions: Combine cake mix, eggs and melted butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until well mixed. Batter should be sticky and thick.  Roll into one inch balls and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. 12 balls to a cookie sheet. (Try using a Tablespoon Measure as a scoop to keep your proportions)  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes. DO NOT overcook these cookies. Place on wire rack once they are out of the oven and let them cool completely. (Add frosting to completely cool cookies to avoid melting your frosting and having a drippy mess)

Frosting Instructions:  Add evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla to a large pan and place on stovetop over medium heat. Stir to evenly combine and continue stirring until thickened (takes about 12 minutes). Once thickened remove from heat and add coconut and pecans. Beat until thick enough to spread. Spread frosting over the tops of cooled cookies.  You can always add an extra touch by melting some chocolate and drizzling over the tops of the cookies.  Before packaging, let the cookie set-up so the drizzle can cool and the frosting can stay thick.

Snickerdoodles (My Daughter-in-law’s favorite)

Ingredients

1 Cup (2 sticks) Unsalted butter

2 Cups Granulated Sugar

2 Large eggs

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

3 Cups All-Purpose Flour

½ tsp Baking soda

½ tsp Cream of tarter

¼ Cup Sugar (separate from the above amount of sugar)

1 tbsp Cinnamon

Instructions:  Combine butter with 2 Cup Granulated sugar and beat on medium speed until well creamed together.  Add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix into butter and sugar until egg is well beaten.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Slowly add into batter and beat on medium low speed until well combined and dough forms.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a small bowl, combined cinnamon and a ¼ Cup granulated sugar and stir to combine.  Use a Tablespoon to measure your cookies proportionately and scoop cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roll each cookie dough ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350° F 10-12 minutes. Allow cookie to cool on the baking sheet for several minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oatmeal Raisin (My husband’s favorite)

Ingredients

¾ Cup Granulated Sugar

¼ Cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ Cup Butter

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Egg

¾ Cup All-Purpose Flour

½ Teaspoon Baking Soda

½ Teaspoon Cinnamon

¼ Teaspoon salt

1 ½ Cups of Quick-cooking rolled oats

½ Cup Chopped nuts (Walnuts work great in this recipe, but nuts are optional)

Instructions:  Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar and margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg; blend well. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Stir in oats, raisins and nuts.   Use a Tablespoon to measure your cookies proportionately and scoop cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roll each cookie into a ball prior to setting the dough on the Parchment Paper, and set each cookie about 2 inches apart.   Bake at 375°F. for 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets and transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Peanut Butter Thumbprint

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (Stir the flour and then scoop it, so it’s not packed into the measuring cup/spoon.)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 Bag of Hershey Kisses

Instructions: Cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl.  Add the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla. Mix well and scrape the bowl.  Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture all at once and mix well, but don’t go overboard.  You just need the ingredients combined.

CHILL dough for 2 hours in fridge. (This keeps helps keeps the dough in good form rather than melting into a flat cookie)  Scoop dough and shape into balls, about 1 rounded Tablespoon each. Place 2-inches apart on silicone lined baking sheets. (Use a Tablespoon as a scoop, this will help with your proportions)  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately place a single Hershey Kiss in the center of each cookie while still warm. Let the cookies sit on the tray for about a minute while the Hershey kisses set, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Here a few tips I’ve either read about recently or learned along the way:

Start your recipe with cold butter. It takes longer to soften in the mixer, but warm butter makes the cookies spread too much.

Refrigerate the dough before baking or you will have flat pancake cookies. 30 minutes is good enough, but an hour would be great.

If you are doing a “great cookie bake”, (baking several different types of cookies for sharing).  Try to make all of your cookies the same size.  Using a Tablespoon for measuring is a great way to help your portion control.

Use parchment paper rather than a greased cookie sheet.  This will help is you are using several different recipes or baking a lot of one type.  Unless you clean your greased cookie sheet between each batch, you may end up with severely cooked grease on your pan and a funny taste on the edges of your cookies.  You can toss the parchment paper after each batch and ensure a smoother trend across all of your cookies.

Use butter instead of margarine.  I promise, it makes a difference.  If you choose to use margarine, check the label and be sure it has at least 80% vegetable oil.

Happy Baking, Happy Holidays and as always, Have a happy day!

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