Category: Oklahoma Women Bloggers

Discover Happy

What makes people happy?

I read somewhere happy people set goals and exercise, show gratitude and have life satisfaction. It is said they are spiritual, volunteer their time, and are stewards of their environment. Content people forgive and socialize.

I began thinking about this. I started obsessing about happy people. I looked for them in stores, restaurants, church, and even at celebrations. I calculated their smiles into categories. I watched their body movements. I even went as far as secretly sniffing people. I wondered what happy smelled like. If I walked into a store and heard laughter my shopping cart would automatically follow the sound.

I know people have hard times and no one is happy all the time. But some people seem happier than others and my curious mind was intrigued.

As I was thinking about happy people I reminded myself. America is confronted with some very serious issues…obesity, diabetes, crime, incarceration, bankruptcy, depression and suicide this is just a few. I heard people talking about improving the quality of life. I started taking notes. I know from research writing your intentions down creates a 42% higher chance of success.

How can we be happier? What can we change? How can we find balance? What are the things we worry about?

First, I listed fears, frustrations and victories on paper.

I set up goals and took out my journal to track my progress for 30 days.

  1. Educate yourself on financial matters
  2. Look for places to volunteer.
  3. Write down three positive things a day.
  4. Eat three healthy meals a day.
  5. Exercise more.

As I was wrapping up my assignment I noticed some things.

There are many people struggling with money matters today in our society. You are not alone. I learned to review and protect my credit score. I learned about saving money and emergency funds. Learn good money habits. I learned to set milestones It’s valuable to learn about money matters.

Be patient. Slow. Take one step at a time.

Doing good, is good for you. It is about impact, connection, and support. I volunteered at a senior citizens center. They appreciated my help and I enjoyed uncovering hidden history of the seniors. During my volunteering time I felt a sense of pride bursting from my center. Opening yourself to others strengthens your connection and community. It is simple. The positive energy exploded into my writer’s life. It was like walking on well manicured grass, barefoot, for the first time.

Cynthia Stevison

People have been writing for centuries. Of course I knew that. They have expressed their joys, frustrations, fears, hopes, sorrows and some victories. Expressive writing for 15 to 20 minutes a day over the course of several months has been found to reduce stress and significantly reduce sickness.

I felt better writing three positive things a day. You are loved! I choose this day. I am grateful for my family.

When I was reading about journaling I read it does wonders for your health. It can get you thinking. Writing can let you relive events in a safe environment. Counselors and therapist often encourage their clients to journal. The key is to focus on what you are thinking and feeling during the writing exercise. Writing makes it real. Just a few minutes writing provided me with a sense of relief. I wrote before went to bed or at early in the morning. I missed a couple days and I noticed that negative emotions started to creep back into my mind.

I tried to reduce my intake of refined sugars and caffeine. Eating three healthy meals a day for me was a challenge. This improved my health. I lost eight pounds. I tried to avoid eating fast food. Old habits are hard to break. I did not judge myself. I just started fresh each day.

Drink water, then drink more water.

I joined a gym. I am morbidly obese and I feared walking through the doors of a fitness center where everyone was skinny and athletic. Don’t go. People will make fun of you. You are too fat to fit on the equipment. I discovered there are gyms that are no judgment zones. You will be welcomed not matter what your size and shape. I did it! I was so proud of myself. I know I was glowing.

 This encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and be outside more.

I learned being outdoors can relieve depression and negativity. Green exercise can help you improve your mood. The light exposure can increase your level of vitamin D. This vitamin fights infection and helps regulate your immune system. I was like anthropologists have discovered a prehistoric cave dwelling. I never knew it was there for me to discover. It was beautiful. I learned forming good habits prepares you for wisdom. I am happier. I am thankful. I am a miracle.

Cynthia Stevison

I discovered healing powers and we hold the keys.

Did I just write that? Inhale, Exhale.

Just 30 days made a difference. You can’t steal happiness. You have to create it within yourself.

It’s a simple plan.

 

 

Cynthia StevisonCynthia Stevison is the author of The Tree of Happiness available on Amazon. She writes about mental health awareness and you can read more about mental health and happiness on her blog, Root Words Alliance. She is a speaker and an entrepreneur. Cynthia earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She lives in Oklahoma.

 

 

 

 

The Oklahoma Standard

OKStandardCommit

Contributed by Stephanie Clinton, OKWB Community Manager

After the Oklahoma City bombing and the outpouring of support, resources, donations, volunteerism; the rest of the world took notice and started to call what came naturally to Oklahomans “The Oklahoma Standard”.  When you walk through the OKC Memorial Museum there is story after story of people giving, helping, doing what they could for the victims and their families.  Not just friends and family members but strangers.  One man drove to the site, pulled off her nearly new work boots and gave it to a rescue worker whose boots were nearly worn out.  A stranger, helping a stranger…just because he knew it was the right thing to do.

That’s what the Oklahoma Standard is all about.  Honoring those who perished in the bombing, volunteering in the community and showing kindness to those around you.  20 years may have passed but the spirit of the Oklahoma Standard is still going strong.

Oklahoma Women Bloggers has committed to the Oklahoma Standard and participated in March and April.  In March, a small group of us met at the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank to pack boxes.  It was hard work but very rewarding.

IMG_6095Mari Farthing packing up the juice

OKWB continued the call in April by visiting the Memorial.  I’ve visited the Memorial several times but each time I walk through the 9:03 gate I feel a wave of grief, compassion and healing hit me.  I see the chairs and I feel like time stands still.  Those babies are still just babies, cradled in eternal arms of love; those fathers and mothers wait patiently to be reunited with the pieces of their heart they were forced to leave here back on earth.  No matter your religious upbringing or your understanding of why we are here, you can’t help but know that there is something “more” happening at the Memorial.

IMG_6436Survivor Tree

IMG_6433Reflecting pool

IMG_64379:03 gateway

IMG_6439Oklahoma Women Bloggers members left to right: Katie Trattner, Mae Kiggins, Stephanie Clinton, Marisa Mohi,
Rose Marie B

More than likely you have participated in the Oklahoma Standard without really knowing it.  Have you shown kindness to a friend or stranger?  Did you run in the Memorial marathon?  Do you volunteer in your community?  Do you have kind words for those around you? Do you donate to a local charity?  Those are all ways that make up the beautiful tapestry of Oklahoma and the values we cherish.

So lets here it.  Share with us in the comments how you have participated or share your blog posts about your experiences.  Don’t be shy, lighting your candle chases the dark away.

Oklahoma Women BloggersStephanie is a writer, blogger and avid housework avoider.  In addition to being a Community Manager for Oklahoma Women Bloggers, she also writes her own blog, Hugs, Kisses and Snot.  Discover parenting, humor and all sorts of shenanigans at hugskissesandsnot.com 

Ralph Ellison Festival

Contributed by OKWB member Constance Burris

On Friday, January 20, 2015, I attended the First Annual Ralph Ellision Festival.

Let me use some extra sentences and tell you again: I was a part of history. I attended the First. Annual. Ralph Ellison. Festival.

And most importantly, I had extremely good time and I can’t wait for next year. Following are some random photos and links to some pretty cool Oklahomans doing their things.

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The festival began at 6:30 pm at the Dunlap Codding building. I’ve passed by this building dozens of times, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the outside decor. So I was super excited to see inside. And you know what? It was dope. See below:

pic 1

The art work on the left was created by Skip Hill and Quraysh Ali Lansana performed some of his poetry. By the time it was over he had every one in the room trying to rap.

pic 2

After the opening ceremony, we moved to Individual Artists of Oklahoma IAO  (gallery) for a book fair.

pic 3

Above we have the Beautiful Mrs. Shirley Howard Hall, coming to us from Broken Arrow, OK. She is an author, poet, and editor. Visit her at www.shirleyhallpoet.com.

pic 4

And then this young man is a comic book creator. I bought two of his comics for my son. Interested? You can find him here: www.newmythcomics.com.

pic 5

I was getting my fan girl on when I saw my favorite Oklahoma artist, Ebony Iman Dallas. I’m the short one by the way.

After the book fair we headed to The Paramount to hear world renowned Oklahoma poets Lauren B. Zuniga, Grace Franklin, and Candace Liger.

pic 6Constance Burris is a nerd, writer, a mother and a wife. Her upcoming novel COAL is about a human boy living in a world filled with elves, dwarves, giants, and dragons. 

Connect with her on Google+Facebook, and her blog

Play – The Difference Between Survival and a Satisfying Life

Submitted by OkWB member Christina Kamp

Working in Family Childcare is hard work! Yes, I do play a lot, but there is so much paperwork, rules to follow, and overwhelming need to please a large range of people with different personalities and beliefs, that this job is tough. Add the very long hours and you have the recipe for a tough row to hoe. It’s also a very fun job. I get to see milestones, share victories, and help little people and families succeed, which is incredibly satisfying. Yes, there are always times when a parent seems unpleasable, or they are unhappy when you do what you know is best for their family, or when kids are just in a grouchy mood, but there are also the quiet moments shared between two children or between me and a child that are irreplaceable.

Play is a very important part of life for everyone. We NEED to play! All of us. Play is the way children learn and figure out the world. Play is how we figure out what we love and hone the skills we have for what we are good at. Play is how we work out our feelings and figure out solutions to our problems. Play is how children build social skills. Play is how they learn to cope with fears, failures, and successes in life.

For children, free play is critical for building all the skills they need to manage the world. It’s very concerning that all forms of play and creativity are steadily being shortened or removed from our public schools. Dr. Stuart Brown writes in his book Play, How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, “Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner. Play is like fertilizer for brain growth”.

This is true for children as well as adults. We CANNOT learn without play. There is so much brain development research that shows the brain’s areas for learning lighting up when children laugh, run, and create. You cannot have one without the other. We cannot constantly drill children to pass standardized testing requirements and have them succeed. They must play in order to find success in life. Children must be given time to explore their interests on their own. Trying and failing are a big part of what play provides for children. They are learning to problem solve. They build social skills through play. They build knowledge of how things work through play. Everything they learn stems from the processes they go through when they are free to investigate, experiment, and learn from their own ideas and interests.

Dr. Brown also states that play is a catalyst to improving all parts of our lives. Avoiding burnout is largely dependent on us taking time in our lives to play. Relationships are strengthened by play. We all NEED to play.

Playing for a living is a great choice for me. I am able to be a business owner who can work hard to provide my children with the very best environment possible while at the same time allowing children the freedom to play and learn from it. I work tirelessly to learn new things to be able to improve the care I provide. In addition, I have the freedom to stop “working” and play with them to work through tough decisions or feelings I might be dealing with. I also have the ability to work my favorite forms of play into our day.

Take gardening for example. It’s amazing for my mental health, I learn a ton from doing it, I love feeding my kids and family healthy food I know is safe, and it’s great exercise. But, it’s also great to teach the kids. They can learn skills to feed their families someday, while they are exposed to fresh air, exercise, and sunshine. We spend a lot of time playing in the garden with toys next to our plants. It gives the kids another sensory experience that is great for their minds, bodies, and souls. But we also play with the food, we cook it, we taste it, we harvest it, we play with the plants, and many other things that teach us so much. I can combine my love for playing in the dirt with sharing that experience with the kids and we are all learning and playing at the same time. We make up songs about the garden, sing and dance in the garden, play hide and seek in the garden, the examples are limitless of how we use the garden as a play space. This brings me a lot of joy but it does for the kids as well. If you have never planted a seed with a child and watched it grow with them, I recommend you do it. I still feel this child like amazement every single time, but it’s so much fun to watch them feel it too.

I adore working with children. I adore the garden. I adore sharing the garden with the kids. I adore play and all that it means for life, for futures, for success. I love learning about all the places it touches in our minds, bodies, and souls. If you have not taken a break for a while to play, I suggest you drop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW, and go have some fun. You will be amazed at what some play time can do to your productivity level, mood, heart, and soul.  Get out there and play today!

DSCN5507 (2)Blogger Christina Kamp is a family childcare provider in Oklahoma with a passion for giving her kids the very best. Read about her learning adventures at Little Sprouts Learning.

Bloggers IRL

Submitted by Oklahoma Women Bloggers Admin Mari Farthing

When you get a group of bloggers together in real life (or, IRL, as the title of this post indicates), you can count on a few things.

  1. Everyone—all of them, in my experience—will discuss how they don’t feel legitimate. Though they might be incredibly talented and prolific writers, marketing experts promoting products or serving as brand ambassadors, skilled photographers—all of them feel as though they aren’t professional. Which is just crazy.
  2. A majority of those present will identify themselves as shy or introverted. Every other person will not believe them.
  3. They will talk numbers. Specifically, SEO and analytics. How many followers, what days to post for the best impact, how to get shares, what’s the magic number of words for an effective post, all the things about all the things relating to numbers.
  4. They will discuss social media. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr and all the other social media platforms that come and go. They will discuss how to use email notifications on posts. This conversational thread will cause both nods of assent and nose-wrinkles of dissent.
  5. They will have a heated debate over WordPress versus Blogger. This debate will be unresolved but someone will make the jump from Blogger to WordPress soon after the meet up (because going from WordPress to Blogger is simply not done).
  6. They will discuss hosting. Not party hosting, but rather blog hosting. Self-hosting. Owning domains vs. not owning your domain. Web design. Avoiding web design. Embracing web design. And occasionally you might hear a little HTML.
  7. They will identify themselves as a sub-group: mommy blogger, lifestyle blogger, fitness blogger, food blogger, fashion blogger, travel blogger, crafting blogger, photo blogger. They will realize that they love their niche or that their niche has become a rut and maybe it’s time to redefine their platform.
  8. They will discuss how great travel blogging is because of the travel.
  9. They will use words like “Widgets,” said unironically and with no laughing.
  10. They will all say “we need to exchange business cards!” which they all have but only one person—maybe two—has remembered to bring.

Most of all, they will all discuss how they need to do this more often, this meeting up in real life. How the community part of this community is one of the best parts. Because non-bloggers just don’t always get it and can’t relate when you talk about these things.

OWB XMAS Bloggers

From left: Mari, Jen, Rose, Elizabeth, Shel and Mae. Thanks to Jen for hosting!

This is what I love about Oklahoma Women Bloggers; I have a tribe of women who do what I do, who love what I love, who thing about the things I think about. We’re all different and yet we all find common ground. So don’t worry if you’re introverted or shy or don’t feel legitimate. The next time you have a chance to meet IRL with other bloggers, take it. You’ll be among friends.

IMG_0384Mari Farthing is the administrator of the Oklahoma Women Bloggers along with being a military (retired) wife, mother of two preteens and a freelance writer and editor. She identifies as “introverted” which usually is met with chortles of laughter by those she knows. When she should be doing chores, you can find her online at her blog Mari, Quite Contrary, Twitter and Instagram.

September is here

By OWB Admin Mari Farthing

First off, let me say: the theme for OWB this month is “back in my day,” which is so fitting for me as I catch myself saying it way too often. I think it’s about having two kids entering their tweendom and hearing their laments. They whine about their first world problems (“everyone else in my class has a new iPhone!” or “I’m the only kid who has to be in bed before midnight on a school night!” come quickly to mind). Some days these bits they feel compelled to whine about make me crazy. Some days they make me laugh, because they remind me of when I was a kid.

I remind my son that, once upon a time? I was 12. I didn’t have a phone because cell phones—heck, cordless phones!—weren’t even a thing yet. Our phone was avocado green with a 24-foot cord that hung on the wall in the kitchen and weighed about 20 pounds. Not so much suitable for carrying. And I woke up at 6:00am and walked almost 2 miles to school, I didn’t get to ride the fancy bus where I could take a nap.  In my defense, it was not uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes, but you get my point.

As long as there are parents and children, we will always have “back in my day” to think back fondly on or kvetch about. Because unlike cell phones and the like, some things don’t really change at all. I will say that back in my day, we started school after Labor Day, so this first weekend of September really did feel like the unofficial end of summer. Now it’s just a weird 4-day break that happens 2 weeks after school starts.

arwbArkansas Women Bloggers University is here!

No matter what you’re excited about this month, get excited about next weekend—AWBU2014 is here! A weekend of fun, connection and information in Rogers, Arkansas featuring keynote speaker Alli Worthington and sessions on a wide variety of topics. AWBU is a great time to meet other Women Bloggers and invest in yourself. If you’re going, be sure to let us know so we can find you! You’ll recognize the other Oklahoma Bloggers in the house by our Oklahoma swag—we’ll be representing for the red dirt!

New Blogger of the Month

With a new month, that also means we are working with a new Blogger of the Month. This month, we are featuring Jordan Skaggs, an accountant by day/food blogger and photographer by night. She describes herself as the main creator of dirty dishes in her home and we’re looking forward to learning more about her.

Local Flavor: Heroes & Hamburgers

Submitted by Mari Farthing, OKWB Admin

We had a free morning and the kids were itching to go somewhere… anywhere! We’ve done all the normal hot spots and needed something new. A visit to a local comic book store (which I recommend—friendly, funny staff and a big selection!) gave me the idea to head to Paul’s Valley, to the Toy & Action Figure Museum.

It’s just about a 40 minute drive (in good traffic) from OKC, so there’s really no reason not to go. I used a coupon from MetroFamily Magazine (which can be downloaded from their website) for a free kid admission and then when I showed my ID to the cashier with my credit card, she told me that there is also a military discount—so even though I was planning to spend just under $20 for the three of us, I ended up paying about $7. You can’t beat that!

The small gift shop greets you when you first enter, and it’s filled with store-branded items (the store’s logo is pretty cool) plus toys both old-school (accessories for full-size GI Joe dolls—err—action figures) and new (Minecraft!) to satisfy kids of all ages. And when you walk through the archway into the museum proper, you are assaulted in the best way possible with all things toy and action figure.

Though the museum is relatively small (about the size of a strip mall storefront), you could easily spend hours here, especially when your kids find the play room (more on that later). But a picture’s worth a thousand words, so I’ll just show you some of the fun we saw:

IMG_6272Captain America keeps the world safe for democracy.

IMG_6283Some action figure favorites, including Lost in Space figures and Mork!

IMG_6287“Look! It’s Watto! Get a picture!”

IMG_6288Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, BATMAN!

IMG_6304The play room at the museum. Not shown: the teens &
twenty-somethings playing just out of frame.

IMG_6303This was the lone Pokemon my son found, in the play room;
he wanted me to include it here.

The play room was stuffed with all kinds of costumes and toys, and my kids spent a full hour there—would have spent longer if I hadn’t wrangled them for lunch—and while this surprised me since they’re not little kids any more, they were not the oldest kids in the group. With action figures and cars and bright red rotary phones that counfounded most of the younger set, the play room was bright, fun and welcoming.

After we had our fun at the Toy & Action Figure museum, we were beyond hungry—bordering on hangry—and I was all set to go to the restaurant next door. Problem is, my car was in 2-hour parking and my time was up. And the line for the restaurant was out the door (a testament to the restaurant in a small town that can have a line out the door!), so we decided to head back toward the highway. I’d seen a little diner that looked promising, and we were not disappointed!

IMG_6306On Grant Ave (State Hwy 19, exit 72), just east of I-35 and surrounded by chain restaurants, the Happy Days Diner sits, like a slice of old-school charm. We were greeted by a giant glass case of pies as we walked through the door and shortly after that a hostess who seated us in a sparkly vinyl upholstered booth. It smelled great and looked old-fashioned except for the modern pop songs coming from the juke box. My daughter ordered the chicken strips, my son and I both ordered the cheeseburger with seasoned fries. As we waited for our food, we discussed what kind of pie we were going to get after we finished our lunch.

But that never happened because our lunch was so filling! My son said it was the 2nd best burger he’s ever had (and he knows good burgers. His favorite is a buffalo burger he got a year or so back), and I’m inclined to agree with him. I wasn’t thrilled to only have American cheese to choose from, but this is how burgers used to be! If you’re gonna eat a burger? Make it a good one. This burger put others to shame.

lunchMy lunch dates & their awesome food!

Then we were back on the road and headed for home. There are lots of other things to see and do in Pauls Valley, and we’ll go back to do them. But since it’s just 40 minutes down the road, it’s close enough that I don’t feel bad about not getting it all done in one day.

B+W head shotSubmitted by Mari Farthing. Along with being an administrator of Oklahoma Women Bloggers, Mari blogs about all kinds of stuff at Mari, Quite Contrary and about writing and editing at Mari Edits. Mari will be one of the speakers at the upcoming AWBU 2014 conference, held in Rogers Arkansas September 6-8.

AWBU 2014

By Mari Farthing, Oklahoma Women Blogger Admin.

Are you a blogger looking for community? Looking for a great conference that’s in your region and maybe even affordable? AWBU is for you.

Arkansas Women Bloggers fourth annual conference will be held in Rogers, Arkansas this year on September 5-7 and promises to deliver a full roster of information to inspire and inform all who attend.

This year’s event will feature:

  • Keynote speaker Alli Wentworth—digital strategist, business coach, speaker, author, co-founder of the Blissdom Conference and founder of Blissfully Domestic online magazine, sponsored by Great Day Farms.
  • Business-themed sessions about branding yourself, working with PR & ad agencies, blogging for socially-aware causes, travel writing and more.
  • Creative-focused sessions including how to network when you’re an introvert, how to make your blog stand out, tips for strong writing, overcoming writers block, storytelling and more.
  • Technical topics including photography, coding and SEO.
  • Foodie Friday event add-on session for food bloggers or home cooks.
  • And more; so much more!

What’s not on that list that you will also find? Community. Connection. Other women bloggers who are doing the best they can and are excited to meet others doing the same. The conference is designed as a place for women from all walks of life to gather in a warm and welcoming place, to share ideas and inspiration and create connections. This is exactly what I found when I attended the conference last year, and I’m looking forward to 2014!

How do you get signed up?

  • Make your reservation at Embassy Suites (not included in registration). There is a conference room rate of $89/night via this special Arkansas Women Bloggers booking link for registered attendees only or you may call the hotel and reference group code BL2.  There are two queen beds and a pull out couch in each suite so you can fit three blogger gals comfortably in each room (just do not bring too many shoes). We HIGHLY recommend booking early as we only have a certain number of rooms booked (it is a Razorback home game weekend) and you will not want to miss out! Also, for you gals that live in Northwest Arkansas, do not miss out by trying to travel home each evening (you will get caught up doing laundry and miss out on all the fun, oh, and again, it is a Razorback game weekend, the traffic will be horrendous).  So many of the connections and camaraderie happens when not in the sessions! Did I mention that Embassy Suites has an amazing spa?
  • Looking for a roommate? Fill out this form, we will then share the form with you and you can contact others looking for roommates.

Hope to see you there!

Five Ways to Make Your Home a Getaway

Jenny CazzolaTired of the stress of city life and motivated by a desire to be more self-sufficient, Jenny and her husband decided to trade life in the busy suburbs for life on a quiet country homestead. In the fall of 2012, they moved to an acreage in rural Northeastern Oklahoma where they are learning to live off the land. On her blog Black Fox Homestead, Jenny writes about their transition from city to country life, offers tips on natural gardening, chickens, recipes from her kitchen, and ideas for frugal, simple living.

The summer season hits and the first thing that comes to mind is “summer vacation”.    However, for my husband and I, vacations can be complicated.  We live on an acreage just south of a small rural Oklahoma farm town where we keep a large garden as well as a small flock of chickens and four dogs.  Finding someone to mind our tiny homestead for a week or two is not always an easy task.  Rather than plan for vacations abroad, we prefer to focus on a “staycation”.

Here are some things that we have done to make our home a comfortable, inviting getaway :

  1. Give Every Room a Cozy Corner

I define a cozy corner as a tucked away area within a room where one can sit and enjoy the quiet.  Every cozy corner needs a soft chair with a pillow or two, and perhaps a throw or a homemade quilt.  If there is space, a table (even a small one) for holding a cup of tea and a candle is nice.  Baskets within a close proximity for books and magazines are also ideal.  I love to have my cozy corners situated near a window.

  1. Keep it tidy

Summer is a busy time.  With all of the gardening, summer holiday preparations, and family company, we don’t always have hours to devote to heavy cleaning.  Clutter can be stressful, however; and who wants to sit and relax in a room with breakfast dishes in the sink and unsorted mail on the counter?  You may not have hours to devote to scrubbing floors but what do you have time for?  Set the timer for  15,20, 30 min and do a fast walk through once a  day even if it is to just declutter.

  1. Cook in

Instead of eating out, invest that money in some wonderful ingredients.  Turn a trip to the local farmer’s market into a date or fun family outing to shop.  Then, turn off your phones, turn on some music, pour a glass of something nice, and work together to create a great and memorable meal.

For in-between meals provide a snack shelf on the fridge.  Create cheese tray or antipasto platter.  Have sparkling water chilling in the refrigerator door.  To give your home the atmosphere of a bed and breakfast, serve afternoon cookies on a sideboard and keep a bowl of seasonal fruit available.

4. Set the tone with music

Sunday brunch is a familiar routine in our home and we enjoy Vivaldi playing very softly in the background.

Jazz is a great way to kick off an in home date night cooking in just as described above.

For quiet girlie time I like to listen to Rachel Portman.  The soundtracks from Emma and Miss Potter are very relaxing.

5.  Bring the outdoors in

Fresh cut flowers in a mason jar are perfect for this time of year.  If gardening isn’t your thing, try the local farmer’s market, or purchase some inexpensively at the grocery store.

Don’t just stop at the standard kitchen table centerpiece though.  Set flowers on the bedroom dresser, on the nightstand, place some in the bathroom, and don’t forget any cozy corners you have throughout the house!

 

Do you enjoy a summer staycation?  What are some of your suggestions for making your home a fun “getaway”?

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Aren’t these flowers beautiful?! To me, they are beautiful for more than their physical appearance. They are beautiful because they represent a sweet friendship with one of my neighbors, an elderly woman who has been widowed for more than 20 years. She picked them from her yard & brought them over one day just because.

Her friendship is so precious to me because I believe we are all intentionally planted in our areas of life & are able to have an impact on those around us in ways that other people may never have the opportunity to. But, the question is do we take those opportunities to invest in others? Do we thrive where we’re planted? Or do we simply live our lives and keep to ourselves?

I missed major opportunities to impact those around me, to ‘bloom where I was planted’, while living at our last house. We lived in that house for 5 years, in a neighborhood bustling with people, and to this day I only know the names of two of our neighbors. That realization made me so sad, yet lit a fire within me to not miss a chance to invest in those around me.

We have lived in our current home for a little over a year. In that time, I have been intentional about praying for our neighbors & praying for opportunities to love them and grow relationships with them. The Lord has been faithful to provide those opportunities & I’m so thankful to say I(we) know the names, and have growing friendships, with our immediate neighbors & beyond. I(we) hope to continue building these relationships.

My challenge to you (and myself) is to not miss opportunities to really thrive where you are planted in life today. I realize not every situation is ideal & you may not be where you had imagined or want to be, but we still have the opportunity to invest in the people around us. To impact our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family in simple ways that could be huge to them.

My friendship with my widowed neighbor doesn’t cost me anything but a little bit of time and it means the world to her. It brings her company and companionship that she’s been missing for years. And I have made a precious friend who has impacted my heart probably more than I’ve impacted hers.

 

So, take inventory of your life. Are you blooming where you’re planted?

Via

 

 

The Strong Family
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