FREE TIME~

Free Time. We grow so addicted to not having any that we are at a loss as what to actually do when we find a bit. If you are a full-time working person, your time off is so limited that you likely have become possessive of it. You have to cram family care and events, errands and shopping, cleaning and lawn work, into such a few hours that youTN_girl-working-on-computer-classroom-education-clipart-2.jpg feel overwhelmed, stressed and constantly tired. Days off are oftentimes as filled with duty and responsibility as work days that it feels like you never really have a break. Now that I am free to live without the burden of a full-time job, I have the luxury to budget my time differently and I don’t miss the days when ‘free time’ was such a commodity that I would have given anything for it. How did I do it?

 
For starters, I took inventory. I had been in a professional position in an extremely hostile work environment for years. The fight to end the turmoil there became more overwhelming than my professional duties ever could have been. Free time was something I never had because I couldn’t let go of the worry, concentrate on my personal life and live in those few hours. I always had coworkers and underlings, and their well-being, on my mind. It was a very unhealthy situation. Eventually I would want to do nothing but sleep and it was then I realized I had to take back what I could of TN_girl-sleeping-in-her-bedroom2.jpgmy spare moments. I began by making a list of what I did and could do for myself. I already made physical self-care a must: from daily walks with my dog, riding and caring for my horse, and taking exemplary care of my skin and appearance. Despite going through a serious physical illness during those last few years of my work life, I looked pretty darn good!

 
I also took inventory of what I did for my mental health: outdoor activity is a must for me. Hiking in park, beach walks with Mr. LucyLoves, enjoying meals on our backyard deck. Then there was ‘girl time’ that allowed me to vent frustrations and progress to friends who knew my situation and who prayed for and looked in on me from time to time. There was little else I could do in terms of self-care. But I was still overwhelmed by the idea of housekeeping, grocery shopping and cooking, getting to appointments and TN_shopping-cart-full-of-grocery-clipart-5122.jpgpaying bills, and the multitude of others things that go into maintaining a home when my husband worked 12 or more hours a day. I never really had the opportunity to feel rested because the stress of my situation was always on my mind.

 
Once I knew I had done everything I could for myself, I had to decide how to make more ‘free’ time for me. Time that would allow me to sit and read a book or go on a date night without worrying about what still needed to be done. Time to enjoy my rural property, watching ducks on the pond or napping in a lounge chair while the birds sang. TTN_girl-jogging-in-city-park-vector-clipart-image.jpghis required a schedule much like one I kept for work. I would have to make appointments for free time and force the ugliness of my work environment out of my thoughts or I was never going to ‘get a life’.

 
It sounds strange but I realized that in order to have more time for fun, I might have to cut back on things I enjoyed. Barn time was a seven day a week treat for me. Going to the TN_family-enjoying-sitting-in-swimming-pool-together.jpgbarn after work every evening to spend time with my horse was critical to my well-being. But I realized that if I took one night off every week, I could get my house cleaned in that time and free up Saturday mornings. And my horse wouldn’t miss me because there was so much activity in the barn every day with the other owners and riders that I needn’t worry about him. And what a relief those few hours of freedom on the weekend brought to me. I also took grocery shopping out of my weekend routine by going out with hubby for a late Friday night meal followed by an even later trip to the market. Bonus: we had the store practically to ourselves! OK, maybe it doesn’t sound like the most romantic date in the world, but it worked for us. We ended it by putting the groceries away together when we got home followed by a nightcap. We turned what used to be a chore for me into something I could look forward to. And in the process, I now had all of Saturday for fun! I was tired on those evenings that I did those woman doing alpine skiing winter olympics cliparttasks but no more so than I would be from stress after a work day. And it actually helped keep my mind busy those couple evenings a week on something other than the situation at my office.

 
There are numerous ways to alter your schedule even if it takes some thought and help to do it. You might need to enlist the aid of a partner or friend, and you might even have to say ‘no’ from time to time. So many Americans have gotten so used to over-scheduling their families that they forget their lack of free time is, in great part, their own doing. If your child is in an activity every night of the week, you’re probably doing too mTN_ballerina-ballet-pose-2a.jpguch, which is another issue you can control. Children need to learn that we can’t do it all just as we adults have learned it, oftentimes the hard way. Maybe one dance class and one sport’s practice a week is enough. Or, maybe there is a dance class you can take while your children are enjoying theirs. One couple I know rotates their attendance at children’s activities, with mom taking one week and dad the next. The parent who stays home prepares the evening meal, packs lunches for the next day and sets out school clothes. And they swear they are all the better for it. It is possible to save more time if you take a hard look at how you spend it. Don’t forget to include the time you ‘waste’ with your electronic devices which are real time sappers.

 
Man Walking Dog ClipartOnce you’ve carved out time for yourself, you might actually be at a loss as for what to do. We become so used to always being active that sitting idle makes us feel we are missing something. I remember asking myself the same thing. I had to remind myself of some of the quiet things I enjoyed, on my own and with hubby, and then I was able to randomly select a pleasure, be it working a crossword puzzle or searching through recipe books that had been long neglected. Once I got used to having a day just for play, I started making more adventurous plans such as outings at museums and concerts and local festivals. It just took me awhile to get used to having time to truly savor life. Once I was able to do that, I was also able to be less critical of myself for letting some things go. Maybe I didn’t get all the house chores done on cleaning night and TN_young-girl-holding-basket-of-vegetables-from-garden-clipart.jpgmaybe the bathroom really did need a thorough deep cleaning but I no longer focused on those things. I was able to let it go until scheduled cleaning time came around again. Because no one really cares if there’s a spot on the shower curtain.

 
If you are having difficulty finding time to truly live your life, to focus on working to live and not the other way around, maybe you need to schedule your own free time. You may have to take baby steps, such as contemplating what seems like an impossible dream on your lunch break or waking up an hour early one morning to draft a new time schedule. Once you get started, you’ll soon get excited about the possibilities and before you know it, you’ll have a bit more freedom you crave. Freedom to enjoy the gifts your work and family bring as opposed to the efforts they take.

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As always, live a beautiful life!

 

*Images courtesy Classroom ClipArt. 

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WHERE I’VE BEEN AND WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING~

It’s been a long while since I’ve been here on the blog and for good reason. I have been continuing on my journey of reinvention!
Last year I wrote a short series about my pre-breast cancer diagnosis and the process of surgery and treatment. I’m so very grateful to say that one year later, my test results are perfect and I am healthy again, albeit a little heftier than I care to be. Darn those medication side effects! But I am so very blessed and grateful.

 

wedding-ringsAnd a year out from surgery, Mr. LucyLoves and I celebrated our 31st wedding wedding-rings.pnganniversary, which also makes him one year closer to retirement—just a few short years from now. I have been working more as a professional temp and found one recurring seasonal position I have fallen in love with. I so look forward to future stints with the company. As a wife who is a decade younger than her other half, I have many more years to work and earn and be productive, if only on a part-time basis. But as hubby slows down, I’ll want to be right there beside him, doing a bit more traveling and enjoying a quiet home life, surrounded by family and friends. The big question for us has been, where will we make that happen?obi_Castle_with_flag

 

Over the last couple of years, and more seriously, over the last several months, Mr. LucyLoves and I have been pondering the decision about where to spend the coming years of life as we prepare to enter that long-awaited ‘freedom-phase’. We have considered staying in our home territory, moving a county or two away, and even changing states. We wanted a home that would allow us to maintain our privacy while giving us continued access to the water, which we are blessed with on Lake Erie. After talking with friends who have made distant relocations, as well as driving through various local neighborhoods visiting beach condos and town houses, smaller country properties as well as city homes, we finally made a decision. We are going to stay put. No ‘For Sale’ signs for this homestead.

 

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I honestly hadn’t fathomed we would stay in the home we have occupied through our working years but here we are: happy with the beauty and solitude of our rural property, and thankful for our retirement aged, quiet neighbors and the growing Amish community now absorbing many of the surrounding small farms. While I remain somewhat concerned about our abilities to continuing climbing stairs and managing a basement laundry room in our old age, as well as keeping up with a large-acreage lawn FarmPack.pngand pond, which serves as our fresh water source, we have tentative ideas for options when the day comes that we can no longer manage those things. And no, I won’t be getting that big kitchen I have dreamed of or the luxury master bath we had in our previous home, which I so miss on many a day. But there are trade-offs to any homestead decisions, at least for those of us who haven’t an unlimited budget. And we do have tentative plans for managing the few problems we have pondered, should the need ever arise. But, what about those ideas for a smaller home, a simpler lifestyle and the desire to live next to the water? Well…those will be answered with a bit of renovation. Which may turn out to be a bigger challenge than finding a new home! But we decided to proceed and now we are off.

 

What does one need in a rural home after twenty years of life? For starters, a new outbuilding and driveway. Perhaps not what most gals out there would look forward to but bbarnelieve me, there’s a reason! First, our outbuilding has sustained storm damage on several occasions and is no longer ‘rebuildable’, but rather, in need of replacement. As for the drive, our wet, boggy environment has caused the gravel drive to sink over the years and hold water, making it a terrible mess during our wet and wintery seasons. So yes,our outdoor renovations are much needed and will make life much easier for years to come.
As for our home itself, most of you would agree that the most used rooms are the kitchen and bathrooms, and no matter what level of resources you have to invest, even the best of cabinetry, flooring and hardware does sustain heavy wear. And that is where we are: in need of more than a face lift in those places in our home, in addition to a few cosmetic changes we hope for. The challenge here in rural America: finding dependable, qualified contractors who want the jobs and actually show up to complete good work. Which kresba.pngleaves Mr. LucyLoves and I strapped to perform a great many of these renovation tasks ourselves. That may mean slow going on some of our projects but we shall persevere.

 

Making our home, both inside and out, a ‘new’ place to spend the next couple decades or more, will be where my time and energy goes in the coming year. From taking down trees that are becoming a fall risk in foul weather, to re-dredging and cleaning the pond, and installing a new, state of the art water system, we have our hands full and we feel our bank account may well bleed dry.

 

All of this doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my love of fashion and skincare, and certainly not of nature and art and supporting my area parks and museums. I’ve just had to shift poolside-villa.pngmy focus from installing new products in my vanity to picking out a new vanity itself. I’ve had to temper my museum visits to the hottest days when we need a break from rural life to soak up some city fun. Just another adventure to look forward.

 

Whatever you do, however you spend your time and whatever you plan for your own future, do so with gusto. Live your best life, every day, be grateful for what you have and give much of yourself. And always love your own home.

 

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WET WEATHER READS~

Late winter and the wet, dawning of spring is a great time to dive into some new novels, be it from your favorite genre or outside of your norm. A few I have indulged in over the last few weeks have helped me to pass the time during some torrential downpours as well as windy nights. All of them kept be me entertained and guessing.

THE WIDOW by Fiona Bartonwidow.jpg

This twisting mystery takes you through the years of Joan and Glen’s marriage, from the early days to the unspeakable drama that left the community—and a wife—reeling. Not for the faint of heart, this thriller deals with the dark evils of child pornography and missing children and will have you wondering how anyone could find pleasure in the loss of innocence and pure hatred. It may also leave your wondering how anyone can keep secrets for so long from the one person they have taken an oath to love, cherish and honor for all of their days knowing, that in the end, their secret will be revealed and another life will be destroyed. Fiona Barton has developed an in depth character in journalist Kate Waters and sets the foundation for future thrillers that are just as mysterious and enthralling.

THE SISTERS by Clair Douglas

sisters.jpgThis one is a little less my style but kept me entertained for several evenings nonetheless. While Abi struggles to come to terms with her role in the death of her identical twin sister, Lucy, feeling herself solely to blame, she can’t help but be drawn to a stranger who so closely resembles them. Her new friend, Beatrice, seems to be the perfect new companion and pillar of support in a new life that Abi is pursuing for herself. But Abi is soon pulled into the world of another set of twins with a secret of their own that will leave her revisiting her past and coming to terms with the life ahead of her. Abi overcomes so much self-loathing and anger that we are relieved when she realizes her own happiness and finds a way to move forward. Or does she? THE SISTERS has you rooting for Abi and her ability to grow into her own person alone and will leave you wondering where the next path she has chosen will lead.

THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith

cuckoo.pngI read the third installment of Robert Galbraith (AKA, J. K. Rowling) this past winter and immediately checked out books one and two from my local library. This series of thrilling adventures starring private detective Cormoron Strike takes you through danger and mayhem to find the one person Scotland Yard seems to have no luck finding–the murderer. Strike is a charismatic character with a way of charming information out of even the most guarded potential suspect and his penchant for finding the truth at all costs helps him to follow leads that others might, and often do, toss aside as inconsequential. At heart, Strike is a likable and generous spirit whos charm is not lost on his accidental, and very engaged, receptionist-turned-partner. As the mystery plot thickens, so does the relationship between Strike and the one person he thinks he can’t have. Galbraith builds a strong character and a good mystery that will keep you entertained and guessing all along the way.

Wet, soppy weather is great weather for indulging in a good book. If you don’t find one that suits you here, visit your local library or bookstore and enjoy!

As always, live a beautiful life.

GOING CRUELTY-FREE~A Gradual Transition

Like many people, I transitioned to a cruelty-free beauty lifestyle when China opened its market to American and European cosmetic companies but required animal testing for those products in order to be sold in mainland China. This is NOT OK with me and it’s bunny rabbitNOT OK for tens of thousands of people. Fortunately, there is access to vast information right at your fingertips to help you determine your preferred definition of cruelty-free, as well as to help you find cruelty-free products that meet your needs. I also went the route of cruelty-free household chemicals at the same time, which was just as simple.

 
Once you decide to go ‘cruelty-free’, you might be tempted to toss all your now non-cruelty free items into the recycle bin and embark on a major spree. No need, however. To toss out items you have already paid for isn’t hurting anyone but you by wasting your hard-earned money. Regardless of your budget, wasting money is always a bad idea. dollar bunny
It’s far easier to do your research at home with regard to substitute brands for items you know you will repurchase and then start a list that you keep handy. When you find yourself in need of a product, you will already be armed with information to make new, cruelty-free purchases as the need actually arises.

 
Another way to ensure you are shopping cruelty-free is to research and download a couple of cruelty-free shopping apps on your phone or tablet and then you will be able to look up products you stumble upon when you are out and about. Once I decided to go cruelty-free, it took me about six months to convert the majority of my products to safe bunniescruelty-free brands and I still have a few items from non-cruelty free lines in my vanity drawer. Those Estee Lauder and Dior eye and highlighter pallets which last forever are still in my makeup stash and will remain so until they spoil or are used in full. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I spent a lot of money on those products, I still enjoy them, and I won’t disrespect my wallet—or the animals that now find themselves in research facilities—by tossing them in the trash.

 
If you are truly adamant to rid yourself of non-cruelty-free products in one swift motion, consider sanitizing and donating your products to family, friends or a women’s charity where they will find a new life. purchase on sale or full price

 
The transition to cruelty-free products will go much more smoothly than you think. There are numerous brands in all price ranges to fit everyone’s budget or level of prestige. A little homework and a bit of shopping now—and later—will help you begin—and live–your new beautiful, cruelty-free life.

CHARITY ON A BUDGET~Helping Others in Need

I want for nothing. I have been blessed with a profitable career which I was able to give up when I needed to take care of myself. My husband has a career that supplies us with all our essential needs and then some. I have nothing to complain about.

 
Unfortunately, not everyone can say that. And in rural America, it can be particularly difficult for people in need. Our communities lack the resources for the hungry and the homeless that many find in larger, more metropolitan areas. We lack both shelters and soup kitchens. We have nothing much beyond the social service welfare programs that the state and federal governments provide and then you must meet the eligibility dollar-bill-1237473.jpgcriteria. Often, the working poor don’t meet those criteria and they still don’t have enough to make ends meet. Living in a small community, I know elderly who don’t have enough retirement income to cover both necessary food and prescription medication. There are single parents earning near minimum wage, paying rent on run down apartments, struggling to maintain a battered automobile and lacking in nutritious food for their families. The homeless have established communities in sheltered areas of a wooded park in my community within walking distance to town where they can access public restrooms and purchase what goods they are able. All of these people and more are dependent on the kindness of others in order to survive. I’m sure it’s this way in your community as well. It is up to those of us who have, to provide every little bit we can. And how can we best give?

 
drawing-5-1411626.jpgOne need not be well to do to make a difference for others. No amount is too small to help just one person in need. You might think helping one person won’t change the world but it will certainly change the world for them. Even if you are struggling yourself, you can do something to contribute. It’s easy if you add charitable contributions into your budget and commit to paying them just as any other expense. Here are some actions I take that make contributing an easy habit to maintain:

 
1. Determine a charitable budget and withdraw it in cash each payday. Be it $10.00 or $100.00 per month, it all helps.

 

2. Locate charitable collection sites in your community where you can make donations and frequent those establishments, if only to drop off a few dollars from time to time. By having your donation available in cash, you can easily give when a spur of the moment opportunity arises.

 

3. Consider altering your charities to spread your donations further around. Perhaps you donate your entire budget to only one charity every month, but in choosing a different charity each month, you personally touch more people. And don’t forget the animals. Pet charities are always in need.dog-1153564.jpg

 

4. Inquire with your local grocery store as to any food bank programs they participate in. My local grocers collect for specific charities throughout the year, such as United Way and the Red Cross but they also accept donations of canned or boxed food for the local food pantry and you easily buy one or two items when you do your personal shopping and leave them in a cart by the door.

 

5. Consider making your charitable donations at the cash register. Many businesses collect for worthy, well-known charitable causes making donations easy. McDonald’s run it’s very important Ronald McDonald House and several retailers collect for St. Jude’s and the Red Cross.

 

girl-silhouette-1153730.jpg6. Look into payroll deduction as a means to make charitable contributions such as to an annual United Way campaign.

 

Of course, our money is not the only thing we have to give that will help others but it usually is the easiest way for most of us to contribute. If you have time to spare, that is just as valuable if not more so. Consider giving just one hour a week to a charity in your community and see what a difference your time makes. Some of the local charities that likely need you include:

 
1. Your local library or community college, which often needs volunteers for literacy programs.

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2. Food banks always seem to need people willing to cover a few hours now and again to stock shelves, pack boxes and hand out supplies. “Meals on Wheels” programs look for drivers and food prep workers, both of whom provide a much-valued service to the elderly and disabled.

 

3. Local parks often host ‘spring clean-up’ days or weekly maintenance shifts that require assistance from the public so you can enjoy the park while helping others enjoy it as well.

 

All of these charities and more will be grateful for any time that you can give but more importantly, those who benefit from your time will reap rewards you probably can’t imagine.stark-tree-1247860.jpg

 
Giving to others is a gift to both the recipients and the donors. Knowing you have done something to make life better for others in your community will give you a feeling of contribution and elation. While your contributions may almost always be anonymous, know that recipients are grateful beyond words. You may make the difference between a family having a bowl of soup or an entrée with healthy sides tonight. That homeless man you pass in the park who walks with the stray dog may keep his companion for a while longer thanks to the heartworm medication he received from the local animal clinic. No matter how much you give, or where it goes, it is lending a hand to a good cause and improving the life of someone in your community. And that is a gift we may all benefit from.cats-in-love-1147252

 

Live a beautiful life.

Images courtesy freeimages.com

LEARNING LESSONS OF LIFE~The Cleveland Museum of Natural History

I am by no means a history ‘buff’ but I do enjoy reading, learning and immersing myself in various forms of history. Be it books, movies or a visit it a museum, there are alwaysafrica.jpg valuable lessons in the history of absolutely everything. And a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is a great place to learn about the roots of our planet, our universe and all of life.

 
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History explores everything from the foundations of the planets in the Planetarium, to the dinosaur age, to formation of life from human and plant to aquatic. There are museum sections dedicated to the preservation of wildlife including an outdoor walkway complete with various animals native to the otter.jpgNorthern part of the Unites States and Canada. This ‘mini-zoo’ provides entertainment and education that all ages love to enjoy. The museum even houses a gem and jewelry collection that is sure to put a smile on the face of everyone who adores natures brightest decorations.

 
I had the opportunity to visit and learn about Balto, the beloved dog who inspired the Iditarod Race, one of my favorite events to follow, as well as dozens of other animals tbalto.jpghat have shaped our surroundings. I learned more about native cultures from my own area, including the Erie, as well as those of more distant regions. I loved hearing about the predator and pray relationships of the wildlife of Africa, which I dream of visiting via safari one day. The display of our own animal ancestry is telling and moving into the prehistoric and ice age displays is a massive joy for every visitor. For those who love the sea life, there is a bit of that as well, and also a grand opportunity to learn much that is known of the construction of our universe and space.

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There is absolutely something to suit everyone at the Cleveland Museum of Natural wolf.jpgHistory and there is likely something that will peek your interest at your own local museums. If you have the opportunity to visit any museum of natural history, you will have spent a day doing something enjoyable and educational for yourself and your companions. Most museums also host seminars, classes and field trip opportunities which focus on specific areas of interest for those who want to learn more about any area. And once you’ve made the trip, you are likely to consider a museum membership to save on your many return visits.

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Consider spending a day supporting your own local history museum or visiting those around the world, wherever your travels take you. You won’t be disappointed.

 
Live a beautiful life.

 

A SUMMER DAY IN FEBRUARY~The Cleveland Botanical Garden

Winter is particularly cruel here in the Midwest for weeks on end and finding escapes to warm your he

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art and lift your mood can be difficult. Just traveling can be a burden when the roads are often snow and ice covered, not to mention the layers of clothing you have to endure to fend off the bitter winds. Any escape in a warm, relaxing environment is a godsend. And the Cleveland Botanical Garden is just the place.

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Each February, the Cleveland Botanical Garden is host to Orchid Mania, an exhibit of thousands of blooming orchid plants throughout the halls and green houses. The vibrant colors are stunningly vivid amongst the greenery. The sauna-like feel of the

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greenhouse is a welcome reprieve, allowing visitors to check their coats and enjoy hours walking about the bright, colorful displays in a single layer of clothing. What a joy in and of itself!

Accompanying the gardens and greenhouse are art displays, a children’s learning center, gift shop, café and a variety of classes available throughout the year. A spring and summer trip to the gardens also provides vast outdoor enjoyment amongst the many flowers, while the winter allows for a brisk walk through the

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dormant shrubs and trees around University Circle’s park. There is also a bit of wildlife within the gardens, both indoors and out, as birds and turtles live within the greenhouse and butterflies are released indoors each afternoon. Visiting a botanical garden is a gift any time of the year but especially in winter when many of us see so little sunshine and color.

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Orchid Mania is a delight for those of us who enjoy our own orchid collections as well as for the non-green thumb who likes to dream in wonder amidst these amazing stunners. While orchids were once only maintained by the elite with far deeper pockets than my own, modern science has made breeding hardier, easier to maintain plants a reality and rapid multiplication of these blooms has made them ever so affordable for everyone. Today you can purchase of variety of orchids in home and grocery stores. Maintaining orchids requires less maintenance than you might think and the beautiful, long term blooms they provide will brighten any living area.

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I was lucky enough to add two less common varieties to my own orchid collection via the Cleveland Botanical Garden Orchid sale, as a birthday gift from Mr. LucyLoves. While a bit pricier than orchids I would have purchased for myself, the proceeds benefit the ongoing success of the gardens. My sister and I have already planned a return trip to take part in an upcoming silk painting that will allow us to enjoy another day in the warm, gorgeous surroundings of this special event. Another summer-like reprieve to look forward to.

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Anyone who lives within a couple hours drive of a major city is likely to have a botanical garden or public greenhouse at their disposal and a visit is well worth the trip. Especially for

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those who live in darker, colder climates who go months without exposure to regular sunlight or colorful outdoor views, a public botanical garden is a real treat. As pleasant as a day at the spa and as lively as a walk in the park.

If you have the opportunity, check out a botanical garden or greenhouse near you. You likely won’t be disappointed and you may be inspired to perk up your own indoor or outdoor greenery.

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As always, live a beautiful life.

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WINTER READS 2018~

I’ve been loving this winter with all its heavy snows and bird watching and of course, reading for hours on end. Here are just a handful of the finds I’ve indulged in over the last couple of months that are well worth a day curled up in a cozy chair.

THE PERFECT HORSE by Elizabeth Letts

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The author of the Eighty Dollar Horse does the equine world justice again while delving into the United States Calvary’s final mission to ensure the majestic horses of Austria and Poland were not lost to Europe and the world. This biographical account of the parties from both sides of WWII, who fought to protect and preserve these precious animals for all our generations to come, is a spellbinding read for not only the horse lover but the modern history buff as well. You will quickly find yourself immersed in the daily struggles of trainers, farm owners, soldiers and leaders who come together despite political differences in order to save herds of horses that remain well known entertainers and educators today. The perfect book for everyone.

THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER-MY LIFE IN THE HERD by Lawrence Anthony

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Years before Lawrence Anthony’s untimely death, he was able to put pen to paper to record the amazing account of his life in South Africa, developing a wildlife preserve to protect his native species for future generations, which came to include the African Elephant. But Anthony didn’t take on just any herd, he committed to adopting and acclimating a rogue herd that destined for slaughter. While the task was far from an easy one, and in fact, nearly cost a few human lives, Anthony was able to build a success that was profitable not only for himself and the surrounding community, but for the elephants throughout South Africa. These beautiful creatures have a new lease on life in their native land thanks to the hard work and dedication of Anthony and his team. This turbulent, sometimes sad, often frightening but always enlightening account will leave you wanting to book your trip to the range faster than you can get to your keyboard. Anyone who loves animals, the wild and safari life in particular will love this read.

UNDER A SILENT MOON by Elizabeth Hanes

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Deep in the heart of small town England, country life is rocked by the deaths of not one, but two women from the same town, who die under violent circumstances on the same night. And it’s up to newly promoted DCI Louisa Smith to crack the cases and find any relevant links that may link the two women and their deaths. Haynes, a former police intelligence analyst, does a superb job in leading the reader through the process of fact-finding, sorting, and pin-pointing the evidence to lead her force in the right direction. Mystery lovers will delight in this new series and be left wanting for the next installment.

VILLA AMERICA by Liza Klaussmann

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Period drama lovers will find themselves quickly taken back in time when the elite relished in the glamour and the arts, the latest technology, and traditional as well as ‘forbidden’ love in this WWII romance. Set primarily in the French seaside, the reader will travel from America to Europe and back in this racy story of life and loss during one of the most tumultuous periods in our history. The well-known characters in this story were real, although quite some liberty has been taken to give the reader insight into what life was like for the 1% of the day. This purely fictional account provided entertainment and insight into a different period in time, for an elite group who find themselves suffering from the same heartbreak and loss that nearly everyone from the era suffered to some extent. Those who survived to go on had decisions to make that would forever change their lives. Romance readers in particular will relish the vivid accounts of the years that once provided the rich and famous with a lifestyle that few enjoy. A box of chocolates and a cup of cocoa are just the thing to see you through the journey.

CAREER OF EVIL by Robert Galbraith

book.jpgGalbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, does not disappoint true mystery aficionados in the latest installment involving P.I. Cormoran Strike.  Yes, this series is as beloved as Harry Potter for those who immerse themselves in the world of hardcore detective fiction and you even watch the TV series based on the books with a monthly subscription to Netflix.  But diving into the details of Strike’s life, his past and his penchant for solving the most gruesome and puzzling crimes is pure satisfaction.  Even Scotland Yard has been put off by Strike’s ability to piece together the puzzles that have left HRH’s best at a loss.  And this installment is no exception.  Not for the faint of heart, Career of Evil will leave you breathless and exhilarated, while keeping you guessing through every plot twist and turn.  If you haven’t been introduced to Strike yet, now is the time.

Whatever you’re reading this winter, enjoy your immersion into another world.
Live a beautiful life.

REFLECTING ON THE SEASON AT HAND~

Christmas is more than a week behind us and the New Year is a but a few days old.  We’ll soon move on to the continued work of winter, plowing snow, clearing the walks, and weeding through the seed penquinscatalogues as we dream of spring’s thaw and those first buds that will blossom.  For me, the end of the holiday season is just the beginning of a new adventure.  My birthday will soon be here and I’ll have the opportunity to celebrate via my traditional day trip with Mr. LucyLoves, some lunch dates with girlfriends and a gathering with family.  Spring will bring clean up and colorful blooms in the yard, followed by the heat of summer, walks on the beach, hikes in the park, and a road trip or two.  Then fall will roll around again and we will start the preparations for this joyous season once again.  That’s not enough for me however.  I like to reflect on the year that has past, the beauty and newness of our most recent holiday season and find a way to keep it alive in all the months to come. 

 

red p pI’ve cleared the tree and packed most of the decorations away but there are still reminders throughout my home of the happiness my family is still enjoying.  There are still Christmas fragranced candles burning, poinsettias around and about, and a couple of my favorite ornaments that I maintain on display for the entire year as a reminder of the beauty of the season.  My holiday china remains in use until winter’s end and comfort foods remain a staple.  All of these things and more help me to maintain the joy in my heart that is so very full this time of year. 

 

But the absolute best way to maintain the holiday spirit is to practice gratitude.  In my family, we are so very blessed and so very grateful.  Not a day passes that I don’t think my higher power for the gifts in my life, from family and friends, to animals, to a few cherished items that bring me elation.  Being grateful for what you have is the key to being happy no matter what your current situation may be.  Grateful people don’t want more, they want to give more.  And that brings a joy that many have yet to grasp.

 

Of course I maintain holiday spirit by enjoying my material gifts to the fullest.  My family goes to great effort to share truly meaningful presents which I cherish the entire year through.  And not only my own, but those giftsMr. LucyLoves receives as well.  Every time I wear my new cashmere sweaters, which are quite a treat, I will think of Christmas morning.  Listening to music on Mr. LucyLoves new, long wished-for BOSE will absolutely fill our home with joy.  The new hot pink leather gloves I received from my niece and the puzzles we so love that Santa left under the tree will make me happy long after the wrapping paper is stowed away.  Gifts should be shared and enjoyed and bring pleasure when you see and use them.  But gifts received are not the spirit of Christmas, it’s the joy in sharing gifts that sustains true meaning.

 

My favorite way to keep the holiday spirit alive is through the act of giving throughout the year to come.  We all tend to consider giving more generously during the winter holidays.  Who can resist the bell ringers and the food collection bins, the children’s toy charities and the coat and blanket donationcookies sites when we are vividly reminded of them each time we go out?  Yet, once the weather begins to warm, many tend to slip back into life routines without a second thought to charities in need.  I make a conscientious effort to continue giving throughout the year, be it a few dollars at the grocery store fund drive, purchasing and delivering extra pet supplies to a local shelter or even buying fundraiser items from the children in our local schools and scouting troupes.  The need of our local charitable foundations doesn’t stop when the holidays fade and often the need increases.  I may not always be able to contribute as much as I would like but there is no amount too small, be it a few coins or just thirty minutes of time.  There are always people, and animals, who are living in strife and I can make some bit of difference.  Doing so has become a pleasure.

 

Perhaps the liveliest way I maintain the Christmas spirit year-round is to keep a few reminders withincandles.jpg eye’s view in my home.  I have a lovely cloisonné bird ornament that sits in my dining room to remind me of holiday joy.  A miniature snowman wind chime hangs in my stairwell and smiles at me every time I climb passed.  Even the bright blooms on my orchids have me recalling the wonder of Christmas and the New Year long after the normal décor has been restored. These few reminders are all I need to keep Christmas alive and the spirit soaring with me.  I am Christmas-time happy all the time.  I am filled with the joy of the New Year the entire year long.  My journey is living in this snow-globe season and we can all live happier, more bliss-filled lives with a little effort.  And a little effort leads to a lot of ease. 

 

Whichever way you choose to keep the holiday spirit alive, share your blessings and ideas with those around you.  Make your home a holiday haven, twelve months out of the year, by living every moment like it is as special and meaningful as it is and be grateful for the same.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Live a beautiful, holiday life.

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A RURAL AMERICAN NEW YEAR~

Not much happens here in rural America on New Year’s Eve. Truth be told, if you are up at midnight it is probably because you have farm chores to do or you’re basting the pork roast for your family’s New Year’s Day brunch.

tree 2017.jpgWhen I was a child, ringing in the New Year in rural America consisted of a card and game party at my parent’s house while the kids watched the ball drop in Time’s Square on TV. Not much has changed since I was a child. Mr. LucyLoves and I prefer a movie or music to today’s televised ringing in, as New Year’s Day is our holiday to host our family for a traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner so we are usually busy making preparations on New Year’s Eve. But on occasion we have ventured out, when the weather wasn’t terribly bad and a few others wanted to meet up for a night on the town at a local pub. If my eldest niece isn’t on duty, she has hosted a family gathering at her house. Otherwise, Mr. LucyLoves and I celebrate at home in cozy pajamas with a glass in hand. And so, this is life in the middle of nowhere.

zoo lights 2.jpgI imagine the city dwellers attending street parties or dining with friends, wearing their sparkly garb and clinking champagne glasses while music blares in the background. I see couples attending the theatre or a museum event that promises some wonderment or another. I envision families walking through city center light displays and buying cocoa and roasted chestnuts from the street vendor. None of these are a reality here in rural America. We have a few restaurants and bars that stay open late and serve New Year’s Eve drinks while the zoo lights.jpgbig screen TVs are emblazoned with a variety of events. Churches open their doors for evening services. The local community theatre sometimes hosts a New Year’s Eve matinee. Little else happens here in the small town. If you are lucky, you might get invited to a friend’s house for dinner or host a party of your own. Otherwise, New Year’s Eve is like any other eve. Quiet and down to earth. And I love that.

After the bustle of Christmas preparations, celebrating for two days with family, and puzzle.jpgbeing relieved of the anticipation of Christmas morning, it’s nice to have a laid-back holiday. A quiet evening of cooking and setting the table for the next day’s feast. When New Year’s Day arrives, we can then enjoy a hot, cozy meal, talk, play a game or solve a puzzle with the kids and just be at peace. It is a joy to appreciate all the gifts we have in each other and relish life in our home. There is no chore in doing the dishes together after everyone has left, cookies.jpgand to savor the peace of a hot cup of coffee and some leftover Christmas cookies. This is our rural American New Year.

The New Year holiday always puzzled me. As I child I wondered why everyone was so anxious to see the old year die. What was wrong with the old year? What is going to be so great about the new one? Perhaps that’s why I still appreciate a quiet ringing in. I don’t understand the excitement surrounding the transition. alpaca.jpgNonetheless, I love this quiet, undisturbed holiday in my remote country house on a dark, dirt road. I love the only light coming from the stars overhead instead of a sparkling disco ball. I prefer the warmth of the fireplace over the blare of fireworks. This is what New Year’s means to me: a joyous but down-to-earth celebration of our future, just the way I want the future to be—quietly joyful and graciously blessed.

However you celebrate your New Year, live a beautiful life.