May 16, 2018

How to Host a Royal Wedding Watch Party


Saturday May 18th is the day that Prince Harry and American Actress Meghan Markle will say their "I do's." Will you be watching the Royal Wedding and hosting a Royal Wedding watch party? If you do watch, you'll be among an estimated more than 3 billion other viewers tuning in to witness Great Britain's Prince Harry wed his bride, Meghan Markle.


Since my invitation obviously got lost in the mail, I won't be in attendance at St. George's Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle. I paid a visit to this site on my first ever trip abroad, as a recent high school grad traveling with friends. I remember how lush and green everything was and how knowledgeable I felt after having just finished my senior year of high school honors English, which was all about British history. What a nerd I was/am.

Just because most of us none of us will be in attendance at the wedding, it doesn't mean we can't celebrate the occasion. Want to throw your own royal wedding watch party? Here are some simple, last minute tips to enjoy the festivities.

How to Watch the Royal Wedding


The Royal Wedding will be shown on several networks, including NBC and PBS. Most coverage begins around 4 a.m. EST. 

Decor for a Royal Wedding Watch Party


Set the tone for your Royal Wedding party with some festive decorations such as Union Jack flags and anything with crowns, British symbolism or images of the monarchy on it. 


I found a cool clock at the thrift store that said "London" on the face and thought it would be neat to use that as a decoration for my party, set to London time of course. 

Food for a Royal Wedding Watch Party 





Rumor is that the Royal Wedding cake will be a lemon and elderflower confection, which sounds perfectly heavenly and just lovely for springtime. I wasn't able to find anything about the history of this particular flavor combination. However, the elder tree is said to be a symbol of transformation, and "the crossing of thresholds." So that makes sense. 

For a much simpler variation of this sweet treat, I opted to make lemon elderflower parfaits. 

All you need are some good store-bought Madeline cookies, which I crumbled up in parfait glasses. Then I topped them with a bit of blueberry jam and some lemon curd. Drizzle some elderflower syrup or liquer over it and top with whipped cream. 


As for other snacks, you might want to snag some authentic English goodies to nibble on. My local grocery store has an International aisle, but World Market is also a great place to visit for traditional British snacks and sweets. McVitie's Digestives, Hobknobs, and Walker shortbread are all tasty options. Here's a fun guide to British biscuits, in case you were wondering what's what. 


As for drinks to serve at your Royal Wedding viewing party, tea is a must have! I have been drinking PG Tips, a popular brand in the UK. Make sure to serve plenty of milk and sugar too. 


For a signature cocktail to enjoy during your Royal Wedding watching party, how about incorporating the elderflower again, which should pair nicely with the royal wedding cake. Belvoir is a good option and available at many grocery stores, including The Fresh Market and Whole Foods. Add a splash of Pimm's for a spirited cocktail or drink the Belvoir by itself. It's really tasty! 


Favors for the Royal Wedding Watch Party 


If your guests are good enough sports to get up early and come to your house at the crack of dawn, at least make it worth their while with some fun favors. 

Butter mints or Jordan Almonds in little wedding favor boxes might be appreciated. You could also make DIY scented sachets using dried herbs or rice and essential oils. 


I hope you enjoy the Royal Wedding festivities however you choose to partake. Some might think it's silly for everyone to get so wrapped up in it all, but there's a part of me that feels hopeful that something happy and joyous could bring so many people together. People celebrating love and wishing someone well...What's the harm in that? 


May 2, 2018

How to Throw a Dog Party


May is National Pet Month and around my house, 'pets' = dogs. In fact, my husband and I share our home with three of them. Our dogs, a yorkie, a chihuahua and a terrier mix, are all rescued from local shelters and are all fairly small. Having small dogs works better for us in our small to medium sized mid-century home.

But that doesn't mean I've never pondered the idea of living in even less space. And I'm not alone. Lots of people are embracing minimalism and even opting to live in tiny homes. My best friend's daughter, who is currently in middle school, already has plans of living in a tiny home one day, with a few dogs of her own.

So when I got the opportunity to throw a dog party, along with my BFF yorkie girl Ruthie, in a tiny home, I jumped at the chance!

Planning a Dog Party 


When planning a dog party, it's important to manage your expectations. Dogs are man's best friend, but partying with our pampered pooches might be a little unpredictable.

Consider your guest list before you send out any invites. Which of your pal's dogs are most likely to get along with each other and enjoy the party? Make sure to consider your space and keep things manageable.

Time of day matters when party planning too. If you have a party during what is traditionally a lunch or dinner hour of the day, your guests will expect to be fed a meal. If you plan on serving lighter appetizers or just desserts, time your party right.

Brunch parties are always fun too! 

Creating a Custom Invitation for a Dog Party


Invitations always set the tone for any party, since this is the first thing your guest is going to see to let them know what fun is to come! 

I love the look of classic cut-out silhouette art so I decided to recreate this style with my dog party invitations. 

First, I created a template in Microsoft Publisher, but you could use whatever program you prefer. If you'd like to access a PDF of my invitation, with fill-in-the-blank options, click here. I had mine printed at a local print shop on nice cardstock. I left the space on the right side blank so I could add a bit of my own style with the hand-cut dog silhouettes. 



To create these, I just gathered a couple small photos of dogs and cut out just the outline. You can also do a Google search for "dog silhouette" and you'll find TONS of options to use for inspiration. Once I had my dog silhouettes picked out, I created those same shapes in bright colorful cardstock. 


Ruthie supervised the entire process, but was really no help at all. 

Finally, I glued my cut-out silhouettes to the cardstock invitations. 


I really love the way these turned out! 

For the envelopes, I chose some plain brown paper ones and gave them a little bit of pizzazz with a stamp technique. Using acrylic paint, I added a bright pink puppy paw to each envelope. Like I said, the invites are really what set the tone for the party so your guests will know something fun is inside this envelope before they even open it! 


Who wouldn't want to attend what is sure to be a tail waggin' good time? Now that you've got your invitations taken care of, it's time to get to my favorite part of any party, the food and decorations! 

Decorations & Food Ideas for a Dog Party 


To really create a memorable dog party, it's important to set the scene. Contrary to popular belief that dogs are color-blind, they do actually see some colors, including blue and yellow. So Ruthie & I made sure to use plenty of those shades for our party, including a bright blue tablecloth as a backdrop for other punchy shades. 

Use party hats in bright colors instead of a big floral centerpiece. This will add lots of color to your table, but still be dog-friendly. I also found some multi-colored cardboard cake rounds from the baking section of my local party supply store. Then I snagged some cardstock circles in vibrant hues from the scrapbooking department. These are an inexpensive way to add more color to your decor. 

When planning the food for your dog party, consider delicious options that guests can eat in a couple of bites. Since your guests might have to double as dog wranglers, they probably don't need to try and eat anything too involved. No spaghetti please! 


Antipasti salads on wooden skewers are always a crowd-pleaser. I made mine with cured salami, pepperocini, green & black olives, and small mozzarella bites. 

When in a smaller space, I find that it helps to serve your food buffet style and create small stations where people can enjoy different things as they move about the party. 

I also grabbed a few doggie food dishes at my local Dollar store and used these (after washing them) as serving dishes for popcorn and other snacks. It definitely helped keep with the theme and made for a fun conversation piece. 


Another great dog party food option is some type of slider or mini sandwich. You can't go wrong with ham and Swiss on Hawaiian rolls with a pickle on top. I have said this before, but the secret to planning memorable parties is all about presentation. You can put out a few bags of chips and open some plastic tubs of dip for a so-so gathering, or you can put in a tiny bit more effort and pay attention to how things are presented, for a really wow-worthy shindig. 

Small plastic stemware from your local Dollar store makes a great way to serve some individual cups of guacamole with a few pita chips. I snagged some colorful doggie chew toys (including the cute braided rope pictured below) to use as an accent on my food serving station. 


Some other doggie chew toys from the Dollar store made a great addition to the decor, scattered around the table and food serving station.


For beverages, Ruthie & I decided on a variety of flavors of classic sodas, which we served in a big metal tub. You could also create a signature drink for your dog party, like this cherry soda mocktail, made with cherry syrup and club soda (or your favorite lemon-lime soda) over ice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and a brightly colored paper straw. Cheers!

And we can't have a dog party without at least one treat for the dogs! I found a great recipe for a healthy doggie treat made with pumpkin and peanut butter on the blog Pinch of Yum.

These were super easy to make and a BIG hit with the pups in attendance at our party!


Pet-Friendly Party Favors for a Dog Party


Something else you might want to consider when planning your dog party is what to give your guests as a favor to remember all the fun they had!

Ruthie and I had a blast making these fun custom tote bags as party favors for our guests. To make these, all you need is:

1) Plain canvas tote bags
2) Iron-on letters & shapes 
3) An iron 

We selected gold glittery letters in a classic font as well as a few pink glittery hearts. These, plus the canvas totes were purchased at my local craft store. Using the letters, we created bags that said fun dog-related phrases, such as "Arf," "Wag More," and "I (Heart) Dogs!"


You could also customize your canvas tote bags with the names of various furry friends in attendance at the party. What a fun favor to leave the party with!



Enjoying Your Dog Party! 


After all your party planning is complete, the best part is getting to enjoy your fabulous shindig. Our guests seemed to have a wonderful time. Even my Yorkie Ruthie, who is normally a refined English lady, let her hair down enough to hop up onto the table. Keep in mind that dog parties don't have the same etiquette rules as people parties and a dog on the table means it was a success!


We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our dog party in the beautiful tiny home. It served as the most beautiful backdrop for our event and with just 452 square feet, we had plenty of space for everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.

From planning and creating our dog party invitations to gathering our food and drinks, decorating for the party and entertaining our guests, this was a truly memorable experience for my adopted dog Ruthie and me. And finally, it was fun to send everyone home with their custom tote bags!


I hope your next dog party is as fun as ours!

April 18, 2018

Celebrate Earth Day with Spring Projects, including Easy Indoor Container Gardens


April is Earth Month and Earth Day is April 22nd. In honor of spring and all that it brings, I'm sharing some fun and simple ways to honor the Earth, including easy container gardens, DIY bird feeders and a tasty drink using herbs you can grow yourself!

Upcycled Containers for Spring Gardening


One way to live a more sustainable life is by simply using what you have instead of buying more stuff. And a really fun way to do this is by upcycling some containers you already have for pretty container gardens. There's no limit to what types of containers you might use, depending on your style and aesthetic.  

One option that I really loved when I ran across it a few years ago was this wonderful idea from author & blogger Fern Richardson. In her book, Small Space Container Gardens, she shares lots of inspiration, including re-purposing this vintage flour sifter as a container for plants.


Another great kitchen item that can have a whole new use is a colander or strainer. I used a colander for some pansies, but I also saw this great idea for using a colander to create a salad garden. 


Another item I re-purposed as a garden container was an ironstone gravy boat, similar to the one shown below. I decided it was a great place for a small African violet plant since they need to be watered from below. Another good tip for African violets is to fill your watering can after you've finished watering and let it sit until the next time so the water is completely room temperature. These lovely flowers don't appreciate cold tap water! 
                           


And finally, one of my very favorite plants to grow: Mother In Law's Tongue. This and snake plant are two very closely related specimens (one has yellow edged leaves, one doesn't), but both are easy to grow and hard to kill. Not only are they funky to look at and add some visual interest to your home, they purify the air while you sleep, so it's a win win. 


DIY Bird Feeders to Make with Kids


Another fun idea I stumbled across was this DIY bird feeder from The Resourceful Mama. Spread peanut butter on a toilet paper tube (or cut up paper towel tube) and roll it in birdseed. Then hang it with some twine and wait for the birds to feast!

I love these kinds of easy projects that use items you probably already have laying around.

Fizzy Mint Lemonade = A Tasty Drink for Spring


Mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow. In fact, you might not even mean to grow it and once you start, it will pretty much take over. But it smells wonderful and has many practical uses, so I don't really mind.

My favorite drink for spring is a fizzy lemonade with a hint of mint. It's so easy to make, but so delicious.

My favorite lemonade is Hubert's but Simply Lemonade will work too. Then I add some type of sparkling water (plain or flavored). Finish off with a sprig of mint and cheers!

April 11, 2018

Spring Cleaning: Non-Toxic DIY Products to Make at Home

Spring is here and it's time to sweep off the porch, throw open the windows and enjoy the sunshine. But what if like me, your home got a little dank and dusty through the winter months?


There's no better time than now to begin your spring cleaning. I definitely need to do mine! Don't you just feel more at peace when your home is tidy and clean? Clutter and grime breeds chaos and stifles creativity for sure.

I'm trying to be healthier and I know that goes beyond just what I eat. So many of the products we buy have harsh chemicals that aren't good for our skin and lungs. I've been guilty of mixing the wrong things while cleaning the bathroom and my home smelled like a swimming pool.

This spring, I'm trying my hand at making some all natural cleansers to use on my home. And I thought I'd share them on the blog too.

DIY Cleaners for the Bathroom

The bathroom is one of those areas in my home that I want to be clean, clean, clean. So I've been hesitant to use all natural cleaners because I was afraid they might not do the trick.

After reading about tea tree oil and its disinfecting properties, I'm going to give it a try.

To create a toilet scrub that freshens odors while cleaning, mix a half of a cup of baking soda with approximately 15 drops of tea tree oil. Pour that into the toilet bowl. Then, add 1/4 a cup of white vinegar and get to scrubbing. The vinegar and baking soda creates a fizz and the tea tree disinfects.

You can also mix some vinegar and tea tree oil in a spray bottle to use for routine cleaning of the seat and tank of your toilet.

The spray bottle of vinegar also works for your shower and sink. I keep a little jar of baking soda near my bathroom sink that I use to exfoliate my skin after washing my face but I learned that if a little bit fell into the sink, I could rub it around to clean that as well.

Cute salt & pepper shakers from the Dollar General Store make a great container/dispenser for this!

Got a cast iron bathtub with rust and stains? Did you know you can use half a grapefruit and some salt to clean it? Sprinkle the salt liberally and use the grapefruit half as sort of a scrubber. Get lots of juice in there and add more salt if needed.

DIY Cleaners for the Kitchen

Clean kitchen countertops with your spray bottle of vinegar and a little water. If you have granite, stone, or marble counters, substitute the vinegar with rubbing alcohol. You can also use vodka and I prefer the vanilla flavored version because of the great scent.

Cutting boards can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Use half a lemon to clean both plastic and wooden varieties. If it has stubborn stains, put some iodized salt on first and scrub that with the lemon to really get it good and clean.

If you need to clean cast iron, use olive oil and salt to make a paste. Then scrub well either with your fingers or a stiff bristled brush. You can rinse with warm water before re-seasoning your pans in a warm oven. NEVER use soap on your cast iron as it removes all the good baked in seasoning. Cast iron cookware can get to 400 degrees after just 4 minutes in a medium oven and it's sterile at 212 degrees.

Got an older fridge that needs some TLC? Use about a half a cup of baking soda mixed with warm water to clean it. The warm water will soften dried on food and stains while the baking soda is a mild abrasive to rub them away.

These are just a few of the simple recipes for cleaning products you can create for your home this spring. When you get ready to work around your home, consider your health and wellness. Choose products that contribute to your family's health and safety...not harsh chemicals that could do harm! Think outside the box next time and make your home really shine!

March 21, 2018

Simple Easter Decorations & Treats

Spring is here and it's a great time to indulge in some fun and simple Easter treats for the entire family. You don't have to spent a lot of money or go to a lot of trouble. There are plenty of great springtime projects to make and do. 

Check out this fun little round-up and maybe you'll be inspired to get creative this season! 

Pear Bunny Salad


Who better than Betty Crocker for a little inspiration...check out this adorable bunny salad made from pear halves. It's healthy and cute...and super simple to make. You might even have all the ingredients on hand. 


Honey Bun-ny Sweet Treats


Check out this cute tutorial from the delightful blog Eighteen25. Using store-bought pre-packaged honey buns, you can add some colorful twine and a cute tag and voila, such a great little Easter goody. Tuck it into a school lunch or pop it in an Easter basket. 

DIY Glittery Easter Eggs 


I don't care how old I get, I'll never tire of good ol' glitter as a go-to for crafting. And those traditional plastic Easter eggs definitely lend a great surface for it. With some simple glue or mod podge, you can turn neon colored plastic eggs into something that looks sophisticated and fun. 

Chocolate Eggs in Tiny Easter Baskets 


Everything is cuter on a miniature scale. I snagged some tiny straw baskets at a discount store and plan to use them as party favors holding small marzipan eggs at Easter. My local Aldi store had some great varieties of Easter candies and treats. 

Some of my other favorite places to shop for seasonal decorations and supplies include thrift shops like Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc as well as Dollar Tree/Dollar General. You can find some great options without spending much money. 

Happy spring & Happy Easter y'all! 

March 7, 2018

Three Simple Drink Recipes for Spring

Spring is just around the corner and lots of trees and flowers are already blooming. Except Knoxville just got hit with a bit of colder weather. Hopefully it won't last and before too long we'll be enjoying warmer days spent outside on patios and porches. And what's better than a refreshing drink on a warm spring day? Here are three simple drink recipes you might want to make this season!

Not Your Childhood Cherry Cola 


Cherry cola always felt like such a treat in childhood. Granted, it was easy enough....just putting a few maraschino cherries into your Coke, but that combination of flavors hit the spot.

Not only are cherries delicious, they are great for your health. Packed with antioxidants, cherries may help fight cancer. Plus, one cup of cherries has as much potassium as a small banana. This helps keep your blood pressure under control. 

So let's drink to our health....with an updated version of that childhood favorite.

Try swapping your usual cola for Red Rock, a brand of soda founded in 1885 in Atlanta, Georgia. For the first part of the 20th century Red Rock was a soda leader, even getting endorsements from baseball player Babe Ruth. It fell out of favor but has made a comeback in the past twenty years or so. I thought it was delicious and had a less syrupy quality than other colas.

Instead of those bright red maraschino cherries, try using morello cherries, which are more sour and commonly used in pies and cobblers. It makes for a great flavor combo if I do say so myself. Cheers y'all!

Iced Chai Tea with Grenadine & Vanilla


I drink iced tea all year long, but spring is definitely one of the times I enjoy it most. There's pretty much no iced tea I don't like, but sometimes I enjoy adding something a little bit special.

I've been on a chai tea kick lately, enjoying the savory and aromatic variety with all its flavors. To take my chai to the next level this spring, I'm adding grenadine and vanilla extract.

The vanilla only helps to enhance the flavors already in the chai and the grenadine adds just the right amount of sweetness. Delicious!

Dreamsicle Margarita 


Recently I saw a guy on television making margaritas with Mountain Dew and tequila. While this doesn't exactly sound all that appealing to me, it did inspire me to experiment with a few other options. This is how I ended up finding a recipe for the Dreamsicle Margarita....tequila, orange soda, and vanilla ice cream are all on the ingredients list....delish! Head over to Genius Kitchen to find the full recipe.

Yum! I'll definitely be enjoying this one come spring.

Happy sipping y'all!

March 2, 2018

This Will Not Break Us.


I'll never forget when my then fiancĂ© and I were completing our wedding registry at Belk and looking at china patterns, the sales lady took a delicate plate and banged it against the display shelf to show us just how durable bone china really is.

I was horrified at first, but saw that she was right....it didn't crack or break. While I'm not saying this is necessarily a good way to test the strength of your fancy dishes, it was a good reminder that not all is what it seems.

If you had asked me prior to this demonstration, I would have sworn bone china was the most fragile and delicate option available. I would have been incorrect. In fact, bone china, though thinner and lighter than porcelain, has the greatest strength and highest chip-resistance of all ceramics. Stick that one in your save for later trivia file.

Isn't it funny how something that you perceive to be very delicate or fragile can surprise you with an inner strength you didn't know it had?

I found myself in this very situation recently while having a conversation with my paternal grandmother. While our relationship has been somewhat complicated over the past decade, she remains one of the most influential people in my life.

Some of my earliest, most vivid memories are of time spent with her, playing Barbies or cooking or making arts and crafts. And it wasn't just the things we did together that felt special. It was the way she related to me. The way she made me feel valued, without expecting me to do anything to earn her acceptance or approval.

In many ways, she was my first best friend. Actually, I think I always saw her as more of a friend than a grandma. Maybe that's why I have never called her Grandma, opting to instead call her by her first name, Patsye. In my childhood mind, it was more than a name....sort of a term of endearment more special than the generic 'grandma' used by most kids.

I always saw her as one of the most creative people I knew. She could make anything. As long as I could dream it up, she could figure out a way to make it. A talented seamstress and quilter, she brought to life the beautiful dresses and outfits I would sketch. When I asked her to make me a quilt with a ballerina on it, she rose to the challenge, turning scraps of satin and vintage lace into a tutu and toe shoes.

But while I always saw my Patsye as talented, creative and kind, I knew she had another side. A very fragile, sensitive side that could surface in any given situation and leave me feeling very confused.

Once, while looking at old photographs of her as a teenager, I saw one where I thought her hair looked funny. It was the 80s, and I'm sure it was the fact that hair styles of the 1950s were very different from hair styles that I knew to be 'normal.' I said, "Patsye, why does your hair look so funny?" not meaning any disrespect, but truly wanting to know.

This upset her very much, hurting her feelings and somehow she didn't understand that I didn't really mean it as an insult, just an innocent question. She went to her room and as I recall, didn't come out for the rest of the evening.

There would be other situations like this. When things would upset her or cause her to withdraw into herself. I learned early on that I had to tiptoe around her in some ways. But my grandpa was always there as a buffer, swooping in to make a joke, or change the subject, to protect her from one thing or another.

While I love my grandmother dearly, I would never have used the word strong to describe her.

But thinking back to her life, I can imagine that it was challenging. Her parents had an actual shotgun wedding and she always believed they were never in love. She told me on more than one occasion she never saw them be affectionate or say that they loved each other. She also felt very rejected by her mom, which I'm sure impacted her in many ways. These early life experiences shape us so much and while as a kid I only saw her as my grandmother, as an adult I can look back and see that things weren't always so great for her.

There have been plenty of not so great things that have happened since then as well. Family dramas, fractured relationships, addiction and illnesses that threw a major wrench in all the plans. This is not where I thought we'd be.

The other day I was visiting with my grandmother and found myself getting emotional about a situation I have been facing. It sounds cliche and I guess it is, but after I poured out my heart to her, I said, "It's just not fair." 

"No, it's not fair," she said. "Nothing ever is. But we are strong. This will not break us." 

I remember looking up at her through my tears and thinking, who is this person? Where did she come from? 

Perhaps she has had this inner strength all along. No, not perhaps. I'm sure of it. I don't know where it was or why she kept it hidden from me for the most part. But when I needed a reminder, she was right there. Speaking wisdom.

And she's right. This will not break us. I won't let it. And even though I have no idea what you're facing....hear this: it will not break you. Even if you feel like you are already broken. The part of you that matters most is fully intact. Unbreakable.

This is why I eat peanut butter crackers on my Wedgwood wedding china. Or whatever else I happen to be eating on any given day. I want to always be reminded of the importance of putting my valuables to good use. And also I want to remember that whatever I'm dealing with, it will not break me.

February 23, 2018

If Life is a Contest, I'm Changing the Rules


I've been doing Girls Inc mentoring since the fall. Each week for one hour, I spend time with a group of  9- and 10-year old girls at an elementary school in my neighborhood.

Mostly we do art projects or some other type of crafts. We meet in one of the school classrooms and we're limited on space and time, so our activities aren't anything too extensive or messy. A lot of paper crafts and drawing and coloring.

Last week we were drawing and making posters with magic markers and puffy dog & cat stickers, as 9 and 10 year old girls do.

I try to comment about everyone's projects and tell them what a great job they're doing. I think back to how much it meant to me when one of my teachers made a big fuss over something I made or did in class. I try to find some kind of unique element in each of their artworks to draw attention to and make them feel good about.

Last week somebody in the group said that somebody else's drawing was better than hers. I said, "It's not a contest. Plus yours is really great." Another of the girls, who strikes me as something of a cynic (just for the record) said, "Oh, it's ALWAYS a contest." And she was definitely referring to more than just an art project.

Something about the way she said it made me feel like she had known this for a long time. And she pitied me for not being in on the secret.

This got me thinking. First off, it made me sad that a 9- or 10-year old girl would have this philosophy about life. That there are always winners and losers.

As a 35 year old girl, I definitely feel like it's a contest but I don't think I felt that way at their age. Maybe I'm just remembering it wrong. For some reason, I thought it was the world and all its screwed up messages that had somehow led me to believe this at this point in my life.

Maybe I've always adhered to this belief system. I didn't try to argue with her or tell her it's not a contest. I just started thinking about it a little bit.

So what if life is a contest. What are we competing for? And in what categories are we competing against each other?

Prettiest? Skinniest? Most successful? Nicest house? Fanciest car? Biggest bank account? I'm sure there are plenty more, but these come to mind first.

Maybe if we rethink the contest itself we can have a healthier, better perspective on how we relate to each other and how we view ourselves.

What if the categories include things like "How kind was I?" "Did I take advantage of every opportunity that came my way?" "Was I willing to go the extra mile for people who needed a little bit of help?"

What if we're actually not competing with each other at all but really we're competing with ourselves? Those other versions of ourselves that try to creep in and sabotage our progress. The ones who want to lie to us and tell us that we're not good enough...that we'll never be good enough...that we really can't do it and we might as well just give up now.

It would be easy to blame the world for this and all these crappy messages but on some level, we still get to decide what comes in and out of our own minds. We can build a wall like a strong fortress that keeps those lies out. And we don't have to do it alone. With a support system of faith, friends, family, and personal cheerleaders it is possible to build a foundation of Truth and positive hooplah in our hearts.

Have you been watching the Olympics? I have to admit I haven't, but I know that each athlete competing didn't get there overnight. Just like anything else we want to be good at, it takes practice.

Keeping our negative thinking in check takes practice. Celebrating our accomplishments instead of ripping ourselves apart takes practice.

Whether you believe life is a contest or not, at some point we will all end up at the end. I have to believe we won't care so much about winning and losing when we're taking our last breaths. But hopefully if we have won the race in the ways that it matters we will experience a feeling of accomplishment, and much more important than that, a peace unlike any we could have known otherwise.

February 14, 2018

How to Host an Olympics Watching Party

The Olympics are such an exciting event and what's not to love about finding a reason to host a party? I've got a great round-up of some fun Olympic-themed party ideas from the blogosphere...check these out and consider hosting an Olympics party of your own!

Project Nursery's Entertaining with Emily went for the gold with this adorable tabletop display! Create your own with gold and blue paper plates plus mint julep cups stuffed with colorful tissue paper for the Olympic torch.


Speaking of the Olympic torch, make your own edible version using traditional ice cream cones and cheese curls. Too cute! (via Living Well Spending Less)


By far, one of the most fun Olympics parties I came across was this one from Bird's Party...one of the cutest blogs around.


Some other ideas I had play off the color scheme of the Olympic rings, arguably the most recognizable thing about the Olympics.

1) Buy small tin pails in red, blue, green, black and yellow and use them to serve popcorn or other snacks at your event. [I found some at Party City]

2) Buy small plastic bowls in red, blue, green, black and yellow and use them to serve color coordinating candies. [Again, Party City]

3) Hang a garland of American flags [USA! USA! USA!]

4) Serve cupcakes with chocolate coins in gold, silver, and bronze.

5) Small colorful gift bags are great for favors.

6) Serve drinks in cups with sugared rims (color coordinating sugar in Olympics shades).

7) Play games and give out small toy medals to guests.

8) Watch classic Olympics films [Cool Runnings, Miracle, The Cutting Edge, etc]

February 3, 2018

The Things We Lose


I've been thinking lately about loss. Not so much in a emotional, melancholy, can't get out from under the covers way, but more about loss from a straightforward logic perspective.

After changing my college major at the end of my sophomore year, I learned I would now be required to take a sequence of science classes my previous major had not required. I didn't want to fall behind and had to find an option I could complete in the time frame as well as one that would fit into my already set schedule.

Somehow I landed on Botany. Nobody I knew had taken it so there would be no sharing of notes or hitting up friends for old tests and study guides. But, plants, yeah that could be cool,  I thought. Might learn something practical I could use later on.  The class included a twice weekly 1-hour lecture plus a three hour weekly lab.

It was in the lab that some of the info I was learning really seemed to click, and while I have sadly never become a botanist or put my plantly knowledge to any sort of real use, there was something very important I learned.

The apical meristem.

Never heard of it? Yeah, I hadn't either until I randomly took a college botany class. Prepare to be enlightened.

You see, plants have this thing called an apical meristem. Located at the very tip of a plant's shoots, it sends little messages for the plant to keep growing. One definition says it encourages growth. So it's like the plant's tiny cheerleader. Come on, keep going, you've got this! 

But what happens if the apical meristem gets broken or cut off? Oh never fear my friends, because SCIENCE! (and God). If a plant loses its apical meristem, aka its cheerleader, then the lower regions on the remaining branches (which also have meristems of their own that are just waiting to be needed), start to grow to make up for what was lost.

This is why you will see trees or shrubs that have been topped or cut down to just the sticks grow back even fuller and bushier than before.

And it isn't just the parts of the plants we can see above ground that have this. There are root meristems too. If a plant loses parts of its root, the same little workers down below send messages to grow in other areas to make up for what isn't there anymore.

And this brings me back to my starting point about loss. We have all lost something in our lives. Some of us may feel like we have lost everything at one point or another. Maybe you're at that point right now.

My husband likes to joke about makin' gains in relation to his time spent at the gym. Gotta eat right so I can go to Gainsville. Need to lift so I can get those gains. And it does feel awesome when we gain something in this life. Our gains and accomplishments definitely have a way of trying to define us.

But I wonder if it's really our losses that can sometimes have more power over us.

Like you're just chugging along, trying to live your best life, and all of a sudden something swoops in and removes one of those all important apical meristems....someone or something that made you feel good, encouraged, like things were working right for you. What happens then?

For me, it's very much like what happens in plants. I tend to go into freak out mode, and I start scrambling to make up for what was lost. Digging deeper into the reserves to keep those all important growth encouragers activated. Sometimes this is good because it means I'm not giving up. But sometimes it means I'm trying to replace things that can't be replaced.

Have you ever lost something (or someone) and tried desperately to replace it with something (or someone) else? How did this work out for you? For me, it's never good. The replacement always ends up feeling like a cheap imitation.

But even in loss, there is room for growth. And sometimes it's the things we lose that leave us feeling more like ourselves. More free. More beautiful.

I have a wonderful, joyous, abundant life, with so much to be thankful for. But I still have huge gaping holes of loss. Loss of relationships that I thought would last forever. Loss of identities that I clung to because they felt so safe and comforting. Loss of opportunities that may never come around again. When put that way, it doesn't seem like a very pretty picture.

But I think of the apical meristem. And how even after it has been hacked down to very nub at ground level, a beautiful plant may very well grow back from it, fuller and stronger and more vibrant than ever before. To me, that is encouraging.

January 31, 2018

Simple DIY Flower Arrangements to Brighten Up Your Space


As winter lingers on, there's no better way to brighten up your space than with cheery flowers. And who says you have to spend buckets of money on expensive arrangements when you can DIY. I'm a big fan of grocery store flowers. I'm known to grab a few bouquets and take them apart, mixing and matching colors and types of blooms, and scattering them around in various containers.

And who's to say you are just limited to boring old vases? If a container holds water, it can work as a vase....in my humble opinion. This is why you'll see me using anything from a vintage Ironstone pitcher to a delicate teacup or re-purposed bottle or jar to show off my blossoms.


I was inspired by Vintage Romance Style to turn a Dollar General glass votive holder into something Kate Spade might put her name on. Isn't this adorable? The glass container will run you a whopping $2 and a paint pen or tube of acrylic paint might be another dollar or two. Or if you're like me, you may already have this stuff lying around. So go to town shopping your supplies and make something like this to showcase a few pretty stems.


While you are scrounging around for things you already have, keep an eye out for a straw place mat or cork trivet. These can be used to give new life to a plain old can or vase. Hester's Handmade Home inspired me to try something like this, and what a cute blog it is for all sorts of ideas and projects.

I snagged a few mismatched place mats at my local Goodwill that were perfect for wrapping around a tall glass cylinder vase. This is great for flowers with long stems that need more support in an arrangement.


Finally, I turned an old t-shirt into something a bit more stylish. For a few bucks, I found a cute black and white striped tee at Goodwill. Then I cut it into random triangles and used homemade Mod Podge to adhere it to a clear vase from my stash. Full disclosure, this was inspired by an old issue of Better Homes & Gardens I had been saving, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Here's the original inspiration....


I hope these ideas inspire you to give your next grocery store flowers a little something extra with the containers and arranging. It's all about the presentation y'all....happy blooms!