October 28, 2017

Monsters Made with Love

I'm trying to do more things. Well, I'm actually try to do less things but I'm trying to up the quality of the things I am doing. Less obligations and more things that have potential to bring me joy. It's easier said than done, but at least I'm trying. 

One of the things I've been doing is looking for local events to participate in. Things like classes and workshops to get me out of my comfort zone. When I saw a "Make Your Own Monster" workshop with Knox Makers, I immediately signed myself (and my unsuspecting husband) up for it. 

Knox Makers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Knoxville, Tennessee. They rent and share a physical space where members are free to come together to work on gidgets, gadgets, and "otherwise Earth shattering breakthrough novel science." 

This great local org is focused on offering a place where makers can support each other, collaborate and share ideas. 

I saw the "Make Your Own Monster" workshop on Knox Makers' Facebook page and it just sounded too fun to pass up. The workshop was held on a Saturday morning at the Knox Makers headquarters off Chapman Highway. It was one of the first cool Saturdays of the season, perfect for getting into the fall spirit. Taught by Laurie, founder of Monsters Made with Love, the class was really fun. 

First, we chose our monster kits, depending on the size and color monster we wanted to make. Laurie gave us everything we needed to make our monsters, from colorful fleece and sewing notions to stuffing and monster eyes.  

I hadn't done in sewing by hand since my childhood days of making Barbie clothes with my grandma but tapping into that little area of creativity felt great. My husband hadn't done much sewing but he found his way, making a right nice monster of his own (below, right). 

Part of Laurie's spiel is making sure you give your monster a little bit of love and that the first monster you make is for yourself. Then, once you have loved yourself, she reckons that you spread the love to others with each subsequent monster you make. She even made us all give our monsters a little hug. It was pretty sweet. 

I gave my monster flaming orange out of control hair and big pink lips. Her closed eye is winking and her open eye is batting its thick lashes. I even managed to sew on some bright pink toenails. 

If you get the chance to take Laurie's workshop or find a class like this in your area, I highly recommend it. Adulting (I know, I hate that word) can sure suck the joy out of life. It's good to inject a little whimsy back in when you get the chance. 

October 27, 2017

What's Hot Right Now (It's Not What You Think)

I know you've seen them. Bright glossy magazine covers staring you in the face as you stand in line to check out at the grocery store or Target. Beautifully made-up smiling celebrities that you sort of recognize. Bold headlines in punchy colors that read things like:

Must haves for Fall
This season's hottest trends
What's hot right now! 

It's always something like a ridiculously expensive coat that is so right now, even though you have a perfectly good coat in your closet that keeps you plenty warm and still fits. Or it's a way of styling your hair or doing your makeup. Or perhaps a certain color of lipstick that you can't live without. 

But are any of these so-called must haves really a must? Will our lives be rendered incomplete without matte lipstick, ruffled sleeves and embellished denim? 

I was at the hair salon a few weeks ago when I first starting thinking about this. I love my hairstylist but I don't so much like the salon where she works. They could definitely use a bit of customer service revamping. I was waiting in the lobby when a twenty-something woman came to escort me to the hair washing station. I smiled at her and stuck out my hand to introduce myself and she gave me a confused look before presenting me with a limp, floppy fingered handshake. 

Are handshakes a lost art? I really hope not. What about opening the door for people or standing up to greet someone when you are introduced? I continue to try and do these things, even though I encounter many folks who do not. 

So this got me to thinking about another list of things. Things that are not only hot right now, but in my opinion, will be hot forever and always. These are truly our must haves in every season of every year. They aren't passing trends, but timeless options that will always flatter us and always leave us looking and feeling our best. 

:: Trying to appear interested more often than we try to be interesting  

:: Being on time, all the time. Or maybe even a few minutes early 

:: Eye contact! Seriously, is this really something we need to be reminded of? Apparently so. 

:: Big smiles and firm handshakes (it's not that hard, people) 

:: Going out of our way to make others feel comfortable and at ease (this is the very basis of southern hospitality) 

:: Showing genuine concern when someone is going through a rough patch 

:: Putting down our phones and actually looking at the person across from us

:: Remembering that each of us has silent heartaches and invisible struggles and that we could all use a little (or a lot of) grace 

:: Keeping in mind that no matter where you are in life, there are always people who have it way better and plenty of others who have it way worse 

:: Instead of interrupting, wait your turn to talk. Then say something worthwhile. 

:: Don't waste time or resources that don't belong to you. 

:: Be the type of person you want to meet. 

October 23, 2017


In writing, I have found that the way to improve on anything is in the editing. I think about all the writers through time who had nothing more than a parchment or scroll on which to capture their thoughts. The pressure they must have felt to get it right, the first time. We are so spoiled with the ability to push our fingertip on a little square and see a letter or number appear on a brightly lit screen in front of us. And even more spoiled we are to be able to quickly add, edit or delete letters, words or entire paragraphs.

Editing is crucial to writing, but it's also important in other areas of our lives. Take our homes and closets for example. You've probably read at least one article in a women's magazine that stressed the importance of editing your closet, or your collections of bric-a-brac around the house. Editing means using a critical eye to assess what's in front of you and be willing to remove some of what you see. To pare it down and get rid of what's unnecessary so that the most crucial bits will get more attention.

My problem is once I start editing, it becomes difficult to stop. And it's not limited to just my closets or my collection of mismatched linens. I find myself wanting to edit the past.

It's very easy for me to get lost in my own head. To look inward as a way to get clarity on things that have happened before, or are in the midst of happening now. And in doing this, I always end up replaying certain moments or periods of time in which I wish things had been different.

Things I wish I had said differently, or not said at all. Decisions I made that I wish had taken a different turn. Entire periods of time when I felt so disconnected and alone.

Once I begin to dance around the entrance of this particular rabbit hole, it takes no time at all for me to find myself falling deeper and deeper into its seemingly endless darkness.

On the way down, I am reminded of all sorts of different occasions where I said what seemed like the wrong thing, or behaved in what now is so obviously the wrong way, or I didn't speak up when I wished I had. And because I have a tendency to be very critical of myself, it becomes very easy for me to punish myself for all these past mistakes.

But try as I might, I can't actually do anything about it. We can't go back and edit the past. What's done is done. And all we have is the next moment in which to try again.

Last night my husband and I watched Dead Poets' Society. He had never seen it (how is that possible?) and it has such beautiful scenes of fall that it felt like a great movie option for an October Sunday evening date night at home. I had forgotten just how heartbreaking the film is, made even more so when you consider the real-life struggles Robin Williams must have faced that led to his suicide. So much talent and personality. His films are some of my all-time favorites. He was more than just a Hollywood celebrity. He felt like a part of our history. I can't believe he's gone.

While sometimes certain words and phrases become trite or cliche with time, I believe they bear repeating. And more than that, they sometimes require us to edit our perspective so that we can approach the next opportunity with new eyes. And perhaps avoid making the mistakes our future selves will want to edit out.

Like Williams' character in the film said to his students, "Carpe diem. Sieze the day." 

We think we have all the time in the world. Especially if we are relatively young-ish and somewhat healthy. It isn't always the case. And it's so easy to get sucked into the daily grind. The little workplace dramas and uphill race to success.

But what are you doing in this life? What important things are you really tackling? And by important, I mean things that are true to who you are. Meaningful things that, when repeated, produce true happiness.Sometimes it's good to get a little wake-up that helps create new point of view. I needed it today.

October 18, 2017

Simple Last Minute Halloween Decorations!

Halloween is nearly here and even though we don't typically get trick-or-treaters, it's still fun to inject a little spooky style into our home this time of year.

I've got pumpkins on the porch, and a few skulls here and there. Plus some cute bat cut-outs scattered about. But this year, I wanted to add a couple more spooktacular decorations without breaking the bank.

What's a thrifty blogger to do? Head to my local Dollar General store of course! I scoured the shelves and was able to get several things I just knew I could work my Halloween crafty magic on.

First stop? Googly eyes. I mean, you just can't go wrong with these silly accouterments. My inspiration came from this cute blog. In no time, I had covered a couple of small glass jars with eyes to create some sweet and silly Halloween monsters. I filled my jars with brightly colored crinkled paper, but you could also paint them like the one below.

Here's looking at you, kid!

Next, over to the candle aisle to nab a few plain white pillar candles, in glass jars. I think I might have used these for snowmen around the holidays last year, but this time they are perfect for ghoulish ghosts! A black sharpie was all I needed to give them some personality. You could also paint or stencil these with Hallloween scenes.

Check out these adorable white candles turned spooky from Creative Ramblings! So cute and super simple to make.

Via Creative Ramblings

Finally, there's just no end to what you can do with a little creativity and a hot glue gun. As a child of the 80's whose mom was crafty, I loved glue gun crafts! I finally broke down and bought one of my own recently and Halloween projects are a good use of my new tool.

You can make all sorts of spooky spiderwebs with the glue. Look at this unique creation from a blogger who turned a plain old Dollar Store vase into something straight out of the Addams Family!

I hope these ideas have inspired you to think creatively without spending a fortune. They sure did inspire me! 

October 11, 2017

All Pumpkin, All the time - A Round-up of Pumpkin Flavored Foods for Fall

October is here and there's no better way to celebrate the season than with all pumpkin, all the time. Your barista isn't the only one holding the keys to the pumpkin spice kingdom. You've probably noticed that all sorts of your favorite foods are now available in pumpkin varieties.

I went on a shopping spree at my local Trader Joe's and gathered up all the pumpkin flavored things I could find to do a little taste test. Some of it was delicious, some a little different, but there's no shortage of pumpkin fun to be had.

Check out some of my favorite pumpkin flavored grocery items below!

Pumpkin Flavored Breakfast Options

Start the day on the right foot with your favorite breakfast items, only pumpkin flavored! Need a little eye opener? Try a cup of pumpkin flavored coffee. Or if tea is more your thing, there's that too! There's even a pumpkin spice flavored almond milk that would make a great dairy free coffee creamer for a Vegan pumpkin spice latte. 

Looking for some pumpkin breakfast foods to complement these a.m. beverages? Try country pumpkin spice granola cereal, pumpkin biscotti (would be great dipped in your pumpkin coffee) and organic frosted toaster pastries, in pumpkin flavor of course. 

Pumpkin Snacks to Enjoy Anytime! 

Pumpkin is not just for breakfast...Trader Joe's also has plenty of great pumpkin options for lunch too. Things like yummy pumpkin soup, which goes nicely with pumpkin flavored crackers. Are you tired of pumpkin yet? 

Pumpkin Sweet Treats 

Nothing like finishing up our pumpkin round-up with some sweet treats. Pumpkin seeds are actually very healthy for you, but I'm not sure that putting them in cookies really counts as a health food. But it's important to remember that pumpkin season comes only once a year. Pretty soon, we'll be egg nogging it up so let's just enjoy the pumpkin parade while it lasts. 

Probably my least favorite of all these pumpkin flavored treats was the petite pumpkin spice cookies. I wanted to like these because they are so cute, but the flavor just seemed a little bit too much for me. 

What's your favorite pumpkin flavored treat? Where do you go for all things pumpkin? 

October 9, 2017

For the Love of Dogs

In life, there are different kinds of people. Cat people. Dog people. Iguana people (that's a thing, right?). I am a dog person. Cats are fine, but dogs are definitely my thing. I come from a long line of dog people, at least as far as I know.

I've heard stories of how, as a child, my great grandfather used to roll around in the dirt, kicking and squalling if a stray dog came along that he wasn't allowed to keep. His daughter, my grandmother, grew up on a farm, in a house that had a door in the floor. I've never been exactly clear on this, but from her description, it sounds like the door led into a compartment or cellar of sorts. She describes her childhood as having a steady stream of puppies always readily available. The mother dog would give birth in that compartment and my grandma, whenever she felt like it, would reach in and pull out an armful of puppies.

My mom had dogs from a young age too, including a beloved Saint Bernard (whose name escapes me) and a mutt named Mussolini. Some of my earliest memories are of dogs. My grandparents' beloved brown and white beagle mix, Inky and my great-grandparents' fluffy brown sheep dog Tippy Sue.

The first dog that belonged just to me was a little dachshund mix that I named Duke, after a dog in a book I loved.

When I was a teenager, my family got a black lab named Commodore who ruled the neighborhood. We defied all the leash laws, which allowed him to come and go as he pleased. This included adhering to a strict schedule of daily walks with many of our elderly neighbors who treated him to a slice of bacon or bologna afterward. Commodore died in 2010, on the same day as my great grandfather. They didn't really know each other but I loved them both so much that it was somewhat comforting to think they took that last journey on the same day, if not together.

In January of 2006, I brought home a shelter pup that would change my life and my heart forever. A black and white boxer/pitt bull mix, Leon Otis Spears was magical. I surely didn't deserve his particular variety of pure love and adoration, but somehow I was lucky enough to receive it for nearly ten years.

Some of the darkest days of my life were after Leon died. For nearly a decade, his had been a consistent presence that always made me feel safe and loved. I was devastated after his passing and it was nearly a year before I felt ready to bring another dog into my family.

When my husband and I adopted Ruthie, a special needs Yorkie from a local rescue group, it just felt like the exact right time. That was in January of last year and I can't imagine our life without her.

Later in the summer of last year, I saw a Facebook post by an acquaintance whose co-worker was fostering a tiny, ancient chihuahua. The photo spoke to my heart and we decided to adopt Sweetie, a twelve (maybe fourteen?) year old black and white chihuahua with spindly legs and bright, bulging eyes.

As I type these words, she is eating her dinner of ground turkey, peas and carrots and brown rice, which my husband prepares in the Crock Pot for her and her siblings.

She was cuddling with me recently and I remember thinking that I couldn't imagine our family without her. Even though she's only been with us a little over a year, it feels like forever. And Ruthie, who we've just had nearly two years feels like even longer.

After Leon died, I thought I'd never love another dog again. Ever. I was practically certain of this. And when we first got Ruthie, I thought I'd like her but I never dreamed how dear she'd become to me.

There are so many good life lessons to be learned from our experiences with dogs. What I'm starting to realize is how they change our hearts permanently. I haven't always been the best at giving or receiving affection. I guess it's just a defense mechanism of mine....a form of self-protection.

But with Leon, it was like I had a safe place to pour out my love and snuggles to someone who always wanted to be on the receiving end. He never pushed me away or acted aloof. He never rejected me.

Having that opportunity to practice acting out my affectionate side helped me grow more confident in that area. It might sound silly, but I know it helped me become better able to give and receive affection with people.

I got this image in my mind of the human heart, being sort of closed up at first until something powerful comes along and cracks an opening. It's not always easy to let love in, but then over time, the opening grows. That's why I think I've been so quick to fall in love with these most recent dogs. Because Leon split my heart wide open so there was plenty of space for them to find a place in there.

And that brings me to the latest addition to our little odd squad. A few weeks ago, the lady who works with the rescue organization that brought us Sweetie called me. I was at Wal-Mart, in the frozen food aisle, when she started telling me about this old ragamuffin dog that had been surrendered to the shelter. He was matted almost beyond recognition and they thought he had come from a hoarding situation. She thought of us because of our willingness to adopt older dogs and asked if we'd consider taking him.

It didn't take much convincing (thank goodness I married a dog person too) and the following week, she brought him over for a meet and greet. He's really old...we have no idea exactly how many years. And he's blind in at least one eye. We've been calling him Grandpa because so far it's the only name that seems to fit. He might live two more years or two more weeks, but we wanted him to have a safe, loving home where he could spend the rest of his life.

And we'll benefit from it too. Or at least our hearts will.