You know how sometimes you make plans for something and you’re just sure they’re going to be awesome? And then they’re not? They’re actually better? I love it when that happens. That was our story a few weekends ago and it was so sweet.
Our church family started a wonderful tradition a few years ago. We reserve a cabin, or three, in the Smoky Mountains and spend the entire weekend just hanging out and enjoying the views. Or hiking, playing games, fishing, cruising Gatlinburg or doing nothing … basically whatever strikes our fancy at the time.
It’s such a fun balance between being away and being together. Oh, and we eat. And maybe nap. And then we eat again. And enjoy the views.
Our family drug in pretty late Friday night this year. I was up early Saturday morning as part of the breakfast crew, which obviously called for coffee. I was a little surprised when the mug had the name of a Bed & Breakfast where we had stayed for two nights as part of our honeymoon almost 25 years ago.
I sipped my coffee as we finished up breakfast and then headed out to the other cabins to let everyone know breakfast was ready. As I was heading back I noticed a little tree house off one of the rooms of the main cabin, and that’s when it dawned on me.
Made a little sweeter this year
It was the B&B where we had stayed, and suddenly it’s like I saw and remembered so many details. The latticed brick entryway floor and beamed ceiling in the kitchen. The deck stretching across the entire back of the large cabin. The little bridge out to the private tree house that at one time held a hot tub.
I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I quickly found another mug with the name of the B&B on it and poured Steve’s coffee. When he showed up a few minutes later I led him out to the little tree house deck to show him the view.
As if that wasn’t awesome enough, his expression showed the exact moment he recognized everything. Even our teenage girls were impressed with the story.
What are the odds? There are hundreds upon hundreds of cabins for rent in the Smokies, and we just happened to be at the very one where we had honeymooned.
I had actually searched for the B&B a few years ago to surprise Steve for his birthday, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. We ended up camping for his birthday and it was great fun. And this better-than-expected surprise was such fun to share with a few of our kids and each other 25 years later.
My own reminder to notice the details and savor the surprises
So I guess my reminder in all of this is to pay attention. I’m sure at some point it would have dawned on me where we were staying, but I’m so glad it was at the start of our weekend. It made our time even more enjoyable and special.
And the other lesson? Coffee. First thing. Every day. You’re welcome!
What sort of better-than-expected moments have you celebrated lately?
This scene caught my eye the other night as I was driving home.
Rain had poured down much of the afternoon leaving the horse farms bathed in the glow of the setting sun.
Just past this was a section of busted up fence and the once-green tree that had crushed it in a previous squall.
And then there was this scene …
The sunbathed beauty that came in the wake of the storm had left the countryside glowing a bright green and the flowers bursting with blooms and life.
Isaiah 43:18-19 immediately came to mind.
It felt a bit like a rainbow moment. A sort of promise that even in the wake of a terribly strong storm, God can bring tremendous beauty. He can bring such healing and light that it’s almost brilliantly blinding.
I don’t know about you, but there are moments and seasons in the past few years that have felt like the worst of storms in my world.
You may be counted among those facing rising waters in the south or raging fires in the west or your own more private storms and battles.
May you find encouragement in knowing that God’s desire is for redemption. May you find Him doing a new thing right smack in the middle of where a mere moment before you only saw destruction and devastation.
May you see this new thing even today and see His healing more clearly in the light of a new day.
Part of Summer’s beauty is found in being outside and having a slightly slower pace to enjoy those around us. Granted, we don’t all enjoy the childhood privilege of having the summer off, but the pace tends to be slower in many ways. To quiet these summer days and create even more summer thriving, alfresco dining is a great option.
We spent this past week in Birmingham and found this wonderful little street cafe, Delta Blues Hot Tamales. It was just perfect! From the ivy covered patio entrance off a bumpy old brick street to the bamboo shaded tables and a nearby waterfall.
The food was delicious, but the atmosphere made it even more enjoyable, even at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I was a bit beside myself to have found a dedicated gluten-free restaurant too, those are hard to come by!
Somehow, taking any meal out to the deck just makes it taste better. Whether it’s a few minutes alone, or gathered with family and friends, there’s just something significant about it. Maybe because it so easily lends itself to lingering a little longer after the eating is done. And picnics and summer? Well those two were made for each other.
With the freshest ingredients
If it’s just entirely too hot in your zip code, then the next best thing might be stopping by a local Farmer’s Market. We have several in our city throughout the week. It’s fun to browse the tables and find new fruits, veggies and flowers that I never knew existed, and fresh produce is always tastier than canned or frozen. Just think about it, if you have to go grocery shopping, it’s just more pleasant to do so surrounded by food laden tables, fresh flowers and the sound of the outdoors as opposed to the piped in music and fluorescent lighting of the grocery store, no matter how nice your grocery store is?
If it’s just too beastly hot or if your alfresco plans are hijacked by rain, just move the party inside. Throw a blanket on the floor and have an indoor picnic, followed by a game of cards, becausemost of us moms have no appreciation for frisbee in the house.
And a hint of extra flavor
While you’re at it, add a bit of fresh mint or fruit to your water or tea. It’s amazing how refreshing a plain old glass of water can be with a sprig of mint or a splash of citrus, or even some lemon essential oil if you forgot to pick up lemons.
What are your favorite tips and recipes for eating alfresco?
When you buy a two-story brick house with a window tucked in the high peak above the garage, then it will all but beg for a window box.
And when your kids reach a stage of life where they can fin for themselves in many ways, then you may even find that you can keep both kids AND plants thriving at the same time. It’s a harmony of sorts that seems almost unattainable in the throws of so much hands-on parenting in the early years.
And sometimes, when each exciting event comes all tripping on the heels of the next, planting flowers just doesn’t take priority. But soon enough, along comes a day, like Mother’s Day, when it’s easier than most to recruit an entire family of gardeners and you’ll find the boxes, baskets and pots bursting with blooms in no time.
And then all that’s left to do is enjoy the colorful welcome home that greets you each time you return home.
And the designated photographer may find himself getting all artsy too and snap a few non-family-planting shots.
And how can that not bring a smile to your face. Kids planting, and photographing and being all artsy.
And you’ll also find yourself, looking in the rear view mirror as you pull away just to get a tiny glimpse of the beauty that brings you back home.
Just because you can.
So what are your favorite annuals for hanging baskets and window boxes? I do hope your weekend involves a bit of family, along with some blooms and maybe even a bit of digging in the dirt.
I want to let you in on a little secret I discovered when it comes to real life gardening. Most of us love Pinterest for all sorts of inspiration, and photo filters for the way that can make a picture almost as awesome as if you were there. But, there’s nothing that can replace real life.
Spring weather makes most of us itch to plant flowers and spruce up our outdoor spaces. Instead of the usual Pinterest search, might I suggest simply grabbing your camera and taking a stroll. In your own community. With real live plants and flowers and people who are generally more than happy to share why their Iris are so vibrant or their roses are climbing so well.
If you can arrange a mid-morning stroll after a late night storm you’ll find the most beautiful hue making everything a bit magical, from the layers of green to the vibrant flowers and architectural details that draw you into their charm.
Gates and Secret Gardens
Arched wooden gate
Layers of Green
And the best combination brings all of these together in a seemingly effortless space that draws us in and makes us want to stay a while.
At the end of just 15 minutes, you’ll have all the inspiration and information you need to plan your own outdoor spaces. And you may even strike up a conversation with a few new people along the way. Because what’s the point of a beautiful garden if it can’t be enjoyed by as many people as possible?
One of the perks of our house is that the deck is right off the kitchen. It’s a great place to eat breakfast and lunch and the perfect spot for a potted herb garden. When our “bedheads” were little we had herbs in a raised bed garden in the back of our yard. It’s so much nicer having them right outside the kitchen door.
As I was perusing Pinterest a week or two ago I came across these adorable plant markers by Amanda over at Wit and Whistle. I love everything about the ones she made. The color, the size, the simplicity. I decided to try some as part of this series, and chose a bright color that I’m quite sure my kids would have gone with a few years ago.
And while we’re speaking of plants, I’ve finally learned that it’s good to keep a garden journal of some sort from year to year. How else can I be expected to remember types of plants, colors I preferred, what worked in which spot and how I killed each plant? Welcome to the ugly reality of my world. FYI – hydrangeas are a very thirsty sort of little beauty.
Supplies needed for the Raised Beds and Raising Bedheads Kid-tested Mom-approved Gift Set
Polymer clay – one package will make 4 – 6 plant markers
Thin line permanent marker
blank journal with write-able cardstock type cover
calligraphy pen – I use a 2.0 mm size in black
Making the Polymer Plant Marker
You can click here to read Amanda’s post about her plant markers. The basic steps are as follows …
Place your plant markers on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake according to package directions. Once they have cooled, you can go over each letter with a permanent marker to make them stand out a little more.
That’s it! This is such a quick, inexpensive project that can be done by children of all ages. And it’s easy to add your own little touches by changing the labeling, or mixing colors of clay, or even the size and shape of the marker itself.
Making the Garden Journal
The Garden Journal is a very simple project that you add your own quotes and touches throughout. Click on the link or picture above for a quick video of how I did mine …
Tips and Tidbits that I may or may not have learned the hard way
Wash your hands before you start either of these projects. If not, you may realize after shaping the plant markers that remnants of chalkboard paint that had dried on your hands during a previous project will become part of your polymer clay. It doesn’t come out. That’s just a hypothetical situation for you.
You may also want to read the directions on your polymer clay before throwing it in the bottom of the trash can where you can’t dig for it. Or at the very least, remember exactly which clay you finally settled on and purchased, since the baking times and temperatures vary from clay to clay. There are some great tips on baking polymer clay here at polymerclayer.com
So what color clay would you use for a plant marker? And if you have good quotes to add to a Garden Journal, we would love for you to share them.
According to the calendar, it is officially spring. It has been for a good two weeks. But don’t tell those parts of our country that have been covered in a fresh dusting of snow … or more. We even had a slight prediction of the white stuff in the wee hours of this morning here in Kentucky. Ahh, spring!
Whatever the thermometer happens to say at the moment, there’s just something about this long-awaited season that just makes us want to get out and explore. And hopefully, enjoy a little sun on our face. And maybe warmth … if it’s not too much to ask.
The great thing is, it really doesn’t matter if you live in the country, a small town or a metropolis of some sort. There is beauty to be discovered anywhere.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying these shots we captured last month when we were at Navy Pier in Chicago. What a great city to explore!
Whatever your weekend holds, may it include a bit of adventure and beauty seeking!
It’s been one of those for us this past week. As a dear friend Jack Purcell always said, “I’ve had a long month this week.”
Steve and I headed for Florida a little over a week ago. Just the two of us. Sounds awesome, right? It was. But things aren’t always as they seem.
We spent most of our week less than 15 minutes from the ocean and we didn’t even get our toes wet with saltwater. Not even once, y’all! That’s just wrong in my book!
We did however get to see several friends and family. And we had some good Cuban food, and fresh seafood and an Asian feast. And a paint fight or two. My sister-in-law started the first one, And that oldest daughter of ours started the second one. Honest, they did!
Five years ago when we moved from the beach to the bluegrass, we had been living in the same little house where we raised our kids for 15 years. We had replaced just about everything – roof, windows, flooring, woodwork, kitchen, baths, we even added a few rooms and a pergola.
And the housing market had recently tanked in our area. I mean, seriously tanked. Like, it wasn’t even worth a thousand dollars more than we had originally paid. We had put too much equity into it at that point to sell – sweat, time and otherwise. So we rented it out, and it was great.
And now, for a variety of reasons, including a greatly improved market, it’s time to sell. But first … We had a bit of fixing to do.
And some planting.
And painting what we affectionately started calling, “The house of beige”
And gazing at the flowers.
And more flowers.
There are still new counter tops, a bit of flooring and tile work and an updated front door in the works, but we did get a lot done. With the help of a small army of family, friends and teens needing to raise money for mission trips.
In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the pics and the way the burst of curb appeal color seems to help ease aching muscles.
And, as much as I love snow and winter, I think this past week has put me in the mood for spring. Besides, since last week was the equivalent of a month, that puts us squarely in the midst of spring. And when we arrived home yesterday, it appeared that our blue hyacinths quite agreed.
By the way, if you ever find yourself in need of latex paint then might I suggest the Habitat for Humanity paint recycling program. We have used it in our home and several rental homes and have been beyond pleased with the quality and color selection. And there’s no way to beat a price of $35 for a 5 gallon bucket! Here’s a little blurb on the program at our local ReStore.