Wednesday, February 10

Valentine's Day is a Family Affair

Valentine's Day was always rather melancholy for me until I met my husband in 1988. No one in my life really celebrated the holiday, and it left me feeling lonely and left out. My husband changed that for me:)  We didn't have much money but I never felt as if the day passed me by because even the little things are romantic when it's the right person.  

After my children were born I loved Valentine's Day even more because it was so much fun to have little parties with them at home, and later at school. I wasn't online then, so I had no Pinterest, Facebook or We Heart It for inspiration.  I was determined that I would make the day special for everyone, no matter what their age. We had tea parties once my daughter was born, and yes, her brothers always participated. We colored, made crafts and always made Valentine's Day cards for each other.

My grandson is almost three, so now I get to include him in the festivities. His little brother is only three months old, so he'll have to wait a bit before attempting to color or craft:) 

Today I have some neat printables I found online while planning our tiny Valentine's party for my grandson. I couldn't resist sharing.  

Another grandmother blogger shared these adorable Valentine's Day cards that come with a free printable. What I love is that it can be kept simple for little hands or jazzed up by the older kids.

You'll find the printable links and instructions HERE.

The DIY Village Blog has three lovely chalkboard prints like the one above that can be printed out for free to craft with or use as Valentine's Day cards. Click here.

The print above is one of several that can be printed off from DebbieDoos blog. I especially loved this graphic. Click here for instructions and the printable graphics.

The blog at Yellow Bliss Road has several printables like the one above that can be printed in three different sizes. These can be used in many different projects for adults or children. Click HERE. 

Finally, I came across a lovely blog post from Kari Anne at Thistlewood Farms about how even adults still get butterflies at times. Her story is a must read for Valentine's Day.  Click HERE

I hope you have a Valentine's Day full of love and laughter.


Tuesday, February 2

Thrift Stores Part I: The Basics of Smart Spending

Shopping at thrift stores is not just for those that can't afford new clothing. For some it's a "hip" thing to do, for others it's about searching for vintage and collectible items. For me, it's practical, thrifty and challenging.

Most of my shopping is done at Goodwill stores because they are close and convenient. I've also found, at least here in Michigan, they are clean, organized and frequently add stock to the shelves. What do I look for when I'm shopping?

Casual and dressy clothing for my teenage daughter
Baby and Toddler clothing
Shoes for everyone in the family
Brand name clothing for my sons who are 21 and 22
Clothing for my husband and I
Baking pans, dishes and glassware
Gardening items
Wood furniture
Scarves, hats, gloves, purses, wallets
Blankets, Afghans

To get the most for your money it's important to remember a few things when shopping at thrift stores. Think before you buy.  Impulse shopping will only add to the clutter in your home. It's easy to get distracted in a thrift store.  The shiny will call to you. Do not let yourself become distracted. Buy what you need. It's easy to start tossing things in the cart without thinking purchases through. Ask yourself:

Do I need this item?
Will it be worn/used?
Is it a quality item?

If you answer no to any of these questions put the item back on the shelf. If you aren't sure, put it in your cart but pause before going up to the register to consider again if you REALLY need it.

Before checking out it's also smart to go over each item for damage.

Next time I'll have more detailed tips based on my experiences.


Tuesday, January 26

Garden Dreams

I know many of you are under snow, some literally, so it's hard to look ahead to spring, but we can dream. The seed catalogs have been arriving already, and I'm dreaming of a garden makeover. I'm going to try something different this year using containers and raised beds, rather than a traditional garden plot.

Until it's warm enough to dig in the dirt,  I have a few freebies I found while browsing online that I thought I'd pass along.


When you subscribe to Lady Lee's Home newsletter (and anytime afterwards) she'll give you access to a few free printable charts for the garden season. Her blog is lovely with recipes, garden tips and do-it-yourself projects.


For an escape on a cold day or evening, print out this adult coloring book from Botanical Interests.


I love peonies. They are old fashioned, fragrant, beautiful and once established they live for many years. Peony Envy (snicker) is a peony grower with oodles of amazing varieties of peony. They also have an in depth section on planning your peony garden that is very helpful. Since peonies are so long lived and don't appreciate moving to new spaces, it's important to place the plants carefully.


This isn't exactly a garden project but it would be amazing near the garden area. It's a Willow Playhouse. If you don't have a willow tree on your property find someone who does and explain what you need. It won't hurt the tree and you can share the instructions with them so they can make their own playhouse. The instructions are here:

Stay Warm,

Monday, September 7

A Late Summer Walk

It's Labor Day weekend and the dew point has been over 70 percent all week long with temperatures in the 80's. It's felt like a rain forest outside, and we're in Michigan, where we've already had nights in the 50's in August. Earlier in the week I took a walk around our ten acres, which oddly, is a a mixture of wet, very dry, sandy and finally, some fairly fertile soil. This summer has been rainy with a weird range of temperatures. It cools off and we have a beautiful breeze, then it turns very hot, rainy and humid. This has made a big difference in which kinds of  herbs, flowers, grasses, wildflowers and weeds have flourished.

We have a lot of Autumn Olive on our property, which is extremely invasive, but it does add visual interest in the fall with its bright red berries. I've been doing research for a blog post later in the month. 

I know Dandelions are considered weeds, but I love them . Their bright yellow flowers had my grandson running all over the yard in the spring yelling "Flowers!", and the seed heads still fascinate me. Watching children blow on the fluffy seed head is something I never tire of during the summer.

My hibiscus are in bloom, which is always lovely. I had thought the Japanese Beetles weren't attacking the plants with their usual aggressiveness, but they have been busy munching on the hibiscus, and the plants aren't faring that well this year. 

The Trumpet Vine is growing like mad, obviously enjoying the extra rain and heat. Sadly, I haven't noticed any hummingbirds near the blooms because the vines out near the road, where they can grow unhindered on a rustic piece of fencing. I need to do a little pruning and control next time around.

I was looking for a bird nest in one of our large pines and this walking stick landed on a branch near my head, and cooperated for this cool picture.

Thistles are tough, and when I'm weeding the flower beds, they are the bane of my existence. When I'm in nature mode on my walks, I can't help but love them in all their variety. This is a small thistle in our wet area that is only about a half inch wide. 

This is a wild sunflower, or more specifically, Western sunflower (Helianthis occidentalis). We don't have many of this wildflower on our property, mostly I find the blooms on the roadside.

I love walking on our property and taking note of the differences from year to year. I'll share more throughout the autumn. 

I hope you all have a lovely Labor Day Weekend.

Monday, May 18

How to Handle Mom Guilt

All good moms have Mom Guilt. It's the nagging voice in your head that whispers things such as: 

 I should have eaten better when I was pregnant.

 I didn't breastfeed long enough, or wait, was it too long? 

 I gave my kids too much candy and now they will end up in prison. 

 Red dye? Does that mean the cherry drink they sucked down all last summer might have stunted their learning? 

I should have KNOWN her eye sight was bad BEFORE they sent the letter home from school. 

I think you get the idea. Mom Guilt can drive you insane and make you doubt yourself. It starts when we find out we are pregnant and goes nonstop from there on out. It doesn't end when your kids move away from home. It's there, waiting to jump out at you when you least expect it. It makes you question all of your decisions involving your children.

It's up to us to talk back to our Mom Guilt. Get in it's face and say: I'm a good mom. My kids WILL be okay. I'm nurturing them and doing my best. Don't let the "experts" tell you that you aren't doing things the right way. Read advice and ask questions, but follow your gut. Learning is good. Asking questions is also good. Believing everything you read on the internet or view on television is bad. 

Your mom instincts are important. Don't ignore them. Sometimes you have to push aside the Mom Guilt to get to them, but they are there and they are awesome. I have an example of a situation where I didn't follow my instincts and later wished I had. 

My son had a dry cough on and off for a couple of years. We have a family doctor. We'd been in for all the check-ups. I'd asked questions, but was politely told it was fine and not to worry. I KNEW it wasn't just a dry throat. We moved into the country and one weekend my son had an asthma attack. After taking him in to the ER, they FINALLY figured out he had mild, allergy induced asthma. Lo and behold, they gave him an inhaler to use once a day, and prescribed an allergy medicine.  No more dry cough. No more bronchitis. Amazing.

Doctors have the education and the skills, but they don't know our kids like we do. My INSTINCT told me something was wrong and I pushed it aside. I should have trusted myself and pushed harder for answers, but I didn't. Instead of feeling guilty about what happened, I use the experience to remind myself that I need to trust my instincts. 

Over the years, I have heard from many moms who worry they aren't doing something correctly when it comes to their children. I have found that when a person worries they aren't doing it "right", they tend to be a loving parent who wants the best for their children, which is why they are questioning themselves. Mom Guilt is busy whispering in their ears, causing them to doubt everything they've done as a parent.

Moms, and Dads, need to have more faith in themselves and their instincts. Look the doctors, dentists, teachers and experts in the face and tell them you don't agree, or that the situation needs to be looked into further. Ask for other options, second opinions or better explanations. Don't give in unless you are satisfied with the answers you are given.

As parents, we know our children better than anyone. Don't let someone tell you differently, including yourself.

Repeat to yourself (while looking Guilt in the face): I am a good parent. My kids WILL be okay. I'm nurturing them and doing my best. 

Now, make yourself a cup of tea and give yourself a break. You deserve it.

Wednesday, May 13

What Does Mom Need?

When I became a mom, I lost myself for awhile. It happens. Caring for the baby, entering into a new relationship with your husband as a partner in parenting, and dealing with changes in your body that no one warned you about. Don't let anyone tell it's not overwhelming. They will be lying to themselves and you.

All mothers need someone to vent to that will not judge or try to fix what is wrong. Sometimes we just need to say: 

"What the heck was I thinking. This is SO hard. Why didn't someone warn me." 

Moms need to vent often. They need someone online or offline that will let them scream, cry and rant. Afterwards they will feel better, and laugh at what made them so crazy. As much as I love my husband; I found you really need another mom, or two, as a sounding board. Do not vent on social media. Afterwards the guilt will set in, and once the words are out there, they can't be taken back. Venting about children, who we love without fail, needs to be with people who can be trusted, have a sense of humor and are like-minded.

Moms need time to themselves EVERY day. I don't care if it's a half hour in the bathroom pampering yourself with a bath and a good book, or a quick walk by yourself around the block while cranking up the tunes on an MP3 player. Moms NEED space to breathe. Take my word on this. There were times when my children were toddlers that grocery trips were my outings. We still laugh about this in our family, but those trips to the store were a sanity saver.

Moms also need to talk to their partner in a calm and rational voice BEFORE things build up and there is banshee-like screaming or baby style weeping. Explain what you need and work out a plan. This is different for each couple depending on who works and what your schedules are from day to day. Do not assume that he won't be comfortable with certain things. If you don't talk it out you won't know. My husband encourages me to take time for myself.  Are we always calm and rational? Hardly. However, throughout the years we have both learned to talk things out rather than hold in our thoughts.

 Motherhood is everything I thought  it would be and at the same time NOTHING like I imagined. It's a daily adventure; one that can make a mom forget that she is also a woman who had a life and interests before having children. The key is to be true to yourself, knowing that your children will look at you as an example of what they should strive for as they grow and learn. Moms need to care for themselves, emotionally and physically, just as they care for their children. 


Wednesday, April 1

Potluck Favorites: Coconut Quick Bread

My husband is a registered nurse in a city hospital, and has been for over 15 years. His co-workers love potlucks. They have more potlucks than a church auxiliary. If a resident or nursing student moves on they throw up a sign up sheet in the break room. 

Over the years I have sent many dishes, desserts and breads with my husband on Potluck Days. The quick breads I bake are by far the most popular, but I always feel the need to mix it up with new recipes. Last week I used a recipe for lemon bread but changed the ingredients and came up with a coconut bread. It was a big hit, which means it's a keeper. Enjoy...

Coconut Quick Bread

1 box white cake mix (18.5 ounces)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 box coconut cream instant pudding (3.4 ounces)
1 cup light or regular sour cream
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8 inch bread pans with cooking spray or butter.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. The batter will be thick. Spoon the batter into the bread pans, splitting evenly. Place the pans in the center of the middle rack, spacing several inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees. F. for 45 minutes or until done. A toothpick gently pushed into the top center of the loaf will come out clean when the loaf is finished baking. Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes.  Use a knife around all of the edges, and gently pat the loaf to remove it from the pan. 

I cut off the ends (perfect for taste testing), then slice the remainder of the bread and place the slices on a platter. Wrap well with plastic wrap until it's time for the potluck. I usually bake the night before the event.

Notes: I'm making this again on Sunday, along with lemon bread, but I'm going to add in mini chocolate chips. It will be a nice treat, along with our brunch menu.