WINTER READS~

Now that warm, outdoor activity weather is behind us, I’ve been continuing to read the latest books for two series as well as a few new finds over the last several weeks. As always, I’m enamored with mysteries and these did not disappoint.

GUILT IN THE COTSWOLDS by Rebecca Tope

RT book 2 coverThe latest in the Thea Osborne series, Thea is now engaged to undertaker Drew, a character from Ms. Tope’s Drew Slocombe Series. Thea once again finds herself thrown into the depths of a suspicious murder billed as a suicide and is left to find the truth of the matter on her own accord. With a little help from Drew, she pieces together the truth and but not without rubbing a few folks the wrong way. Thea’s strong character has continued to develop throughout this series and I enjoy the plot twists in these albeit silly cozies. The latest in the series, Peril in the Cotswolds was released in September and I’m looking forward to my library securing a copy.

RT book 3 cover.jpgTHE TROUTBECK TESTIMONY by Rebecca Tope

The fourth book in the Lake District Mystery Series finds florist Persimmon Brown struggling to keep up with the orders for funeral flowers for a local popular resident and ends with her solving another murder. Dog lovers will delight in this episode as ‘Simmy’ must break up a dog napping ring in order to track down the murderer stalking the village. While all of Ms. Tope’s books are rich in historical knowledge and colorful scenery, I find the Lake District Series to be the most vividly descriptive. A great bedtime read for mystery fans.

DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW by Maureen JenningsMJ book cover.jpg

Fans of the Murdock Mystery Series, now a popular long-running TV show, will love Jennings’ other books set in both World War II Germany and present-day Canada. I started with DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW, which follows former police detective and now criminal profiler Christine Morris, on a journey from Canada to Scotland where she solves more than just one mystery. Called upon when her mother disappears from the scene of a murder, Christine is also pulled into a family mystery that will leave her reeling. Jennings characters are rich and descriptive and you are quickly pulled into the events of their lives. I’ve already reserved the next in the Christine Morris series and look forward to starting it soon.

THE CROSSING PLACES by Elly Griffiths

I discovered this mystery series through a google search and quickly found my library was in possession of the entire lot via e-book. It took me no time to breeze through the first thr51eh9UCxTUL._AC_US327_QL65_ee installments and I’m chomping at the bit for more—nine thus far. From the get-go, Gritthith’s builds interesting, well-rounded characters who draw you in to her stories and give you the impression that you could really get to know and like these people. Her mysteries are compelling and realistic, starting with the very first murder mystery set in a seaside town near Norfolk, England. Ruth Galloway is delightfully modern woman—a ‘bone’ expert, facing the same perils and challenges of all single professional women her age in curent times. And she finds herself in the same boat as many a gal when the sometimes cantankerous, never-the-less charming, DCI Harry Nelson enters her life. This duo teams up to solve some not only new, but sometimes age-old murders, with an archeological twist. Entertaining and educating, I’m anxious to spend more time with Ruth and her vast array of friends.

I hope you enjoy some of your winter hours cozied up in front of the fire, cocoa in hand, reading some much loved literature, be it from a mystery collection or another genre. Books can make the best of friends for us all.

Live beautifully.

 

 

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BLUE APRON MEALS~

Mr. LucyLoves and I both enjoy cooking and we love to try new things. That said, we also enjoy a heart-healthy, low-fat diet containing a few lean meats per week and lots of fruits and vegetables daily. Of course, eating an organic, hormone and antibiotic free diet is not inexpensive and our grocery bill has only skyrocketed over the years. I would have never thought a home delivery meal service would help us to not only eat well, but save money.

BR insert 2.jpgBlue Apron is just one of several mail order food companies that provide a weekly home delivery of fresh, seasonal produce and hormone free meats, complete with step by step instructions and recipes for delicious meals. There is a vegetarian option available as well.

Blue Apron subscribers select from two options: a couple’s plan for either two or three meals per week, or, a family plan for two, three or four meals per week. Mr. LucyLoves and I opted for the three meal couples plan, for $60 per week. You can also choose your delivery day and we opted for Thursday.

Our food arrives via FedEx, nicely packed, with the meat products on ice. Produce and ‘extras’ are on top and everything stays adequately cold for the trip. All we must do is open the delivery upon arrival, put the meats in the freezer and the produce and herbs, seasonings and sauces in the refrigerator until we are ready to prepare a meal.

BR insert.jpgI like to review the recipe cards for each of the three meals in advance so I know what preparation is required. Most of the meals can be prepared in about a half hour, with a few maybe taking a bit longer depending on complexity of preparation and meat cook times. The directions are simple to understand and make learning new ways of preparing things rather fun. One person can prepare the meal easily but if you enjoy cooking with a partner, you can easily divide the duties. And the best part is, the meals are healthy and delicious!

There are other positives to a home delivered meal service. For starters, with Blue Apron, Mr. LucyLoves and I seldom eat the entire meal and usually have enough left for at least one lunch during the week. The produce provided is usually very close the amount needed per each recipe so there is no food waste. If I have an extra onion or clove of garlic, I can easily incorporate it into another dish during the week.

As far as feeding ourselves for the remainder of the week, we usually prepare vegetarian meals including lush salads, pasta, potatoes or rice. We purchase only what we need on a weekly basis now, such as breakfast foods, coffee and other drinks, a very few dairy products and the remainder of our produce. No more purchasing food in bulk packs that we can’t always eat up before it spoils, or having too much of one dish and not enough of another. Blue Apron has helped us to prepare just what we need with a bit of leftover items for packed lunches but not so much that we are throwing food away. And that is good for us and the environment. Furthermore, if you don’t have recycling in your area, you can return on the packaging, free of charge, and Blue Apron will recycle it for you.

In the past month, Mr. LucyLoves and I have reduced our grocery bill by about $80 over the previous month. Our bill may vary depending on what we need in any given week and what we choose to eat but any savings, no matter how small, is a savings nonetheless. And I’m always up for putting money in my own pocket.

BR cover.jpgHome delivered meal services may not be for everyone but don’t assume the expense is more than you can afford. If you are willing to make some adjustments to your budget and shopping routine, you may find you are eating healthier while better managing your household funds.

As always, live a beautiful life!

 

 

ALL AMERICAN QUARTER HORSE CONGRESS~

horse 1.jpgOne of my many blessings is to live just a three-hour drive from Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is a vibrant, energetic city that is not only home to the OSU Buckeyes, but also to the All American Quarter Horse Congress, the world’s largest single breed horse show. Running throughout the month of October, ‘The Congress’ attracts both competitors and spectators from around the globe, offering everyone the opportunity to compete with their horses, enjoy the show and shop the dozens of equine related vendors. It’s a horse lover’s dream to the extreme.


Mr. LucyLoves and I make an annual trip to the Congress in early October to enjoy the NRHA Futurity as well as other reigning and cutting classes. While these are our favorite western equine sports, horse enthusiasts can schedule visits throughout October to enjoy classes such as jumping, hunter under saddle, dressage, and roping. In fact, we usually make two or three trips down to watch a variety of events. If you can do it from the back of a horse, you can find it at the Congress. And it’s not only professionals who compete at the Congress, but intermediate and amateur riders can enter classes to compete against fellow equestrians of equal riding ability, regardless of age. In addition to watching various competitions, there are a variety of equine experts giving lectures and demonstrations.

If you are in the market for a new saddle, new riding attire, grooming equipment or some pretty bling for your horse or yourself, the trade show at the Congress will not disappoint. Even if you don’t need anything, it’s hard to resist the bits and baubles that are dangled before your eyes amongst the many vendors on display. From dapper toppers to dazzling diamonds, there is something to entice everyone to part with a few dollars. And if you need a new truck, trailer or RV to transport your horses and family, there are hundreds of those to choose from as well. If they build it, they sell at it at the Congress.

Even after years of annual attendance, Mr. LucyLoves and I still enjoy our trip to watch the competition and browse the aisles of wares. And womenswhen we’ve done with that, we indulge in a bit of the goodies available to eat on at least one or two occasions. You name it, you can find it, from fish ‘n chips to walking tacos to hot apple dumplings, there is something to help everyone stray from their diet on at least one occasion.
toys.jpgEven folks who aren’t horse minded can find something to enjoy at the Congress. Children can delight in watching all the horses and visiting the puppy tent while adults can indulge their fantasies among the rows of designer pick-up trucks and campers and the array of tools, clothing and boots, and glittery bling. The All American Quarter Horse Congress is a family event providing a world of rural opportunity within the confines of the big city. So, when you are ready to take a break from the beautiful horse, you can visit one of many shopping areas, including the well-known Eastern Town Square; a variety of museums and cultural events; perhaps an OSU game and without a doubt, any number of downright delicious restaurants located throughomehout Columbus.
The All American Quarter Horse Congress is a destination for everyone and the city of Columbus is a beautiful host city. Whether you are after a quick weekend get-away, a few days with the girls, or a week of vacation events, you won’t be disappointed in the trip.

 
As always, live a beautiful life

WHERE I SPENT THE LAST THREE WEEKS~ an unedited photo journey

Mr. LucyLoves and I finally made our number one travel dream come true this summer: three weeks touring Germany, in part to visit his former Army posts and also to catch up with friends, both old and new.  To say this was an experience of a lifetime would be an understatement.  Indeed, words cannot describe our adventure so I am sharing it in some of the dozens of pictures I snapped along the way.

Our trip began with first class accommodations and was it ever worth the ticket price!

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After we landed, the real fun began.

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And while we enjoyed every moment of our journey, coming home to familiar surroundings and our family was just as joyous.  This is an experience we will never forget and one we will share in our memories forever.IMG_20170802_195735.jpg

Whatever your dream may be, make it happen.IMG_20170727_154247.jpg

ANTICIPATION~


There’s a difference between anxiety and anticipation. Anxiety is a nervous, angst provoking emotion that can bring on panic and fear, while anticipation is usually filled with a level of joyous excitement; like a kid awaiting Christmas or a fiancé awaiting his bride walking down the aisle. I relish in the fun and nervous edge that anticipation brings. I’ve been anticipating the biggest trip of my life to date for a while now, which has left me in a state of excitement like I haven’t experienced since I was a child.

Mr. LucyLoves and I are preparing to embark on our first long term, overseas vacation waiting-2-1431368together. By long term, I mean three weeks. This is considered an extended vacation to Americans although I realize it is more the norm for my European friends. Fortunately, we have reached the point in life where such trips will be more frequent and feasible but this first ‘bucket list’ trip has left me giddy.

I have spent weeks figuring out how to pack for three weeks of travel in one suitcase, not to weigh more than 70 pounds. I have planned for pet care, home care, bill paying and communication with family while we are away. I have reviewed travel books and maps and brushed up on the language and road rules where we will be visiting. Hubby and I renewed our passports this year and applied for our international drivers’ licenses as we will rent a car for the duration of this trip. We are going to be spending time with old friends we haven’t seen for years and new friends we have only communicated with via social media.

finn-on-the-beach-1505384.jpgThis is a return trip for Mr. LucyLoves, who spent many years in Europe during his military career. He is anxious to show me where he used to live, play and relax. He is also looking forward to exploring new finds with me and seeing how his old haunts have changed. What’s not to be excited about?

I enjoy flying and I also enjoy exploring new territories, riding on trains and seeing new things. I love casual strolls through old architecture and brisk walks through forests new to me. I love food and window shopping and people watching in general. Yes, there is so much to look forward to that it can become overwhelming thinking about it, especially for an introvert such as myself. So, taking it one day at a time, including savoring in the days leading up to a new journey, are part of the excitement of the experience. I know that no matter what little glitch may arise, Mr. LucyLoves and I are on the same page where travel is concerned: we go with the flow and we’re open to change. We don’t let one bad apple or one less than satisfying meal take away from our ability to live in the moment and look forward to—and enjoy—the next item on the itinerary.duffy-1392667.jpg

Whatever brings excitement to your life, I hope you look forward to the experience of ‘looking forward’. Relish in the anticipation, the excitement, the pure joy of planning and waiting. We live in such a fast paced, ‘gotta have it right now’ society and that we seldom take the time to enjoy the pleasure of wanting and looking forward to something. In this regard, I feel a loss for today’s children, who never seem to want for anything more than five minutes. Oh, what a joy you miss when you miss the wait.

May you spend every day in anticipation of sheer joy and live a beautiful life!

*Images courtesy freeimages.com

SPRING READS~

If you are looking for a few good books to immerse yourself in while lounging on the beach or passing time in the air, here are a few that I have particularly enjoyed the past several weeks:

TROUTBECK TESTIMONY by Rebecca Tope51PJaeDtonL._AC_US218_.jpg

I’ve been a Rebecca Tope fan for ages now and love all three series she writes.  Troutbeck Testimony is the fourth and most recent book in the Lake District Mystery Series featuring the delightful florist Persimmon Brown.  Set in rural England, ‘Simmy’ has been finding her new life full of unwanted adventure as she is dragged into yet another distressing murder.  But this time Simmy has a special interest in the case as her father is quickly drawn in to the dangerous drama playing out in their serene small town.  Troutbeck Testimony is an easy backyard or beach read that will keep you entertained while enjoying a much needed break.

OUTFOXED by David Rosenfelt51yHmdtvQML._AC_US218_.jpg

Dog lovers and mystery fans alike will delight in the latest Andy Carpenter Series as book 14 does not let us down in terms of entertaining us with fun loving pooches and a plot twisting murder scheme.  Carpenter is an attorney with a heart and dry wit to boot.  Those who favor a bit of sarcasm will find themselves giggling throughout the pages as this upstanding but sassy crime fighter works to nab yet another murderer before he joins the land of the dead.

TO DWELL IN DARKNESS by Deborah Crombie

61KnzS08IgL._AC_US218_.jpgBook 16 in the Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James mystery series, To Dwell in Darkness, finds us fully involved in the ever progressing lives of the crime fighting duo of Kincaid and James.  Now married and surviving the dramas of a blended family, this crime fighting duo must reel in yet another murderer before another victim is claimed.  As the Kincaid and James mysteries progresses, the characters become like old friends and you can’t help but root for the continued success of this pair, both professionally and personally.  Set in the outskirts of London, the descriptives in this series are so spot on you feel like you are present in the moment.  Kincaid and James are likable characters with real life issues that we all face as working professionals trying to balance career and family, but with other lives at stake if they don’t succeed.  If you haven’t read this series from the start, it’s well worth beginning with book 1 and getting to know everyone one murder at a time.

TROUBLEMAKER by Leah Remini51RSTOZb8NL._AC_US218_.jpg

I was browsing my online library searching for something to read and since I enjoy biographies and autobiographies about strong women, I added Troublemaker to my check out cart.  I quickly became absorbed in Remini’s story of life inside the secretive group known as Scientology.  Remini is a strong personality by nature so it is easy to understand how Scientology can pull in so many people and convince them to dedicate life and resources to their cause: If they can hold on to Remini for so long, less confident folks don’t have a chance.  Remini’s account of her life in Scientology gives the inside scoop on how cults operate and manipulate people into surrendering all for the good of a few. And in Scientology, the elite are the only ones who benefit.  Remini walks us through her personal journey and that of her family as she works to reconcile the teachings instilled in her since childhood against the realization that Scientology wasn’t in the congregants’ best interest, but rather, in the interest of a handful at the top. You will feel the loss Remini experiences in walking away from the life she always knew and you’ll be cheering her on as she faces a new life of self-discovery and freedom. A strong woman she is, indeed.

I hope you are enjoying some of your own literary finds this summer and indulging your penchant for books.  Please let me know what you are enjoying and what I am missing from my own reading list.

Beating the Heat with Your Pooch~

Dogs are active creatures.  Some more than others, but they all need their daily exercise and play time.  We have a very high energy dog who is accustomed to walking two to three miles per day and playing routinely in the yard. However, when the summer heat strikes here in rural America, keeping a dog happy, healthy and well exercised can become a challenge.  But there are activities you and your dog can engage in that are safe and fun.

469867021.jpgThere’s no need to skip your daily walk or run with your dog.  You just need to adjust your schedule to make exercising with your dog an early morning or late evening routine, when the sun is low and temperature is still relatively bearable.  I prefer being on our local trail by 7 AM but if I have an early appointment, I have been known to hit the trail after dinner, around 8 PM.  You still need your sunscreen and you may want to top it off with a bit of bug spray but you can enjoy.

Evening is also time to light the citronella torches, grab a drink, and enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors in your own backyard.  Just be sure your pooch has adequate flea and tick protection for laying in the grass.

To prevent hot weather boredom due to ongoing, unsafe sweltering heat, there are other fun activities you can try to keep Fido or Fluffy occupied while enjoying your time together.  Try taking your dog for a car ride and make a stop at your local ice cream parlor.  The sightseeing will occupy your pooch and let him or her feel that they are on a bit of an adventure, and the doggy ice cream cup will be a special added summer time treat.  Just don’t ever leave your dog 479480074unattended in the car.  Run the air conditioning while driving with your pooch and then take them home if you have errands or an event to attend to.  While many dogs enjoy hanging their head out the car window, this can be dangerous as pebbles or other flying debris can hit your dog and cause an injury.

If you live in an area with a park that contains a river with a swimming area, or you have a dog friendly beach, consider taking your dog for a romp in the water if he or she enjoys a swim.  It is refreshing and allows your dog a bit of exercise without getting overheated. Just be cautious of areas that fishers frequent as you don’t want your dog stepping on a fishing hook that may have been lost among the rocks.  An alternative is to purchase a plastic kiddie pool and place it in your dog’s play yard.  Take a dip with your pooch and encourage him or her to enjoy water play by tossing in a favorite toy or treat to be retrieved.

507957122Stuck indoors?  Practice obedience training or new tricks. You can never over-practice positive lessons or go wrong by teaching your dog something new. Another easy means to keep your dog occupied indoors is to give him or her a ‘busy bone’ or other safe chew toy.  You can also purchase treat dispensing toys that provide the same effect.  Simply toss a few pieces of your dog’s favorite food inside and keep your dog busy indoors for some time.

For a big adventure, a good internet search or pet friendly travel guide (AAA carries a great one) will provide listings of local as well as nationwide dog welcoming establishments and activities that you can enjoy.  Surprisingly, there are a lot of restaurants and cafes that allow dogs and have well shaded seating available so you can even dine with your best friend.  Many state and federal parks allow dogs in certain areas where you can safely walk your pooch at a leisurely pace.  Some also have very affordable rental kennels where your dog can enjoy the cool breeze in the shade, as well as possibly some canine companionship, while you venture through the areas that are off limits to pets.  We have used these self-serve kennel set-ups and have never had an issue.  Pet friendly vacations are also surprisingly easy as many kennels offer day boarding or doggie day care.  You and your human travel partners can play a 472677506.jpground of golf, visit a museum or engage in any number of activities while your dog plays the day away at an air conditioned facility.

No matter what you do to beat the summer heat, always make certain your dog has fresh, cool water at all times.  Change it frequently and carry water with you when you take your dog on outings and offer drinks on a regular basis.  And as always, have a wonderful time with your faithful companion and live a beautiful life.

freeimages.com

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS~

The world has become such a crazy, chaotic place.  Rudeness, vulgar behavior and obscene adjectives have become the norm for so many.  Going on an errand run or spending a day out is often littered with visions and sounds of lewd and sometimes, downright mean behavior.  So what a surprise acts of kindness have become.  For the most part, I encounter happy and pleasant people on my ventures.  Those who behave otherwise, I try just to ignore as best as I can.  But even in the workplace people have become less than pleas155886454ant and often rude and unaccommodating.  I know I am not the only person who is put off by modern social standards and I hope I am setting an example of how I wish the world would behave.  Then I had a little fun reminder yesterday of what kindness can mean and how easy it is to share it with others.

While walking my dog on our morning hike, I stumbled upon a brightly painted rock with a little message glued to the back.  I had heard this game was going on in my area and here I had become a part of it.  An anonymous group of people are painting little rocks and hiding them all about my corner of the state.  They ask that you take a picture and post it to their facebook page, if you have access, and then hide the rock in a new location for someone else to find and enjoy.  By posting to the page, people can track the rocks they find, as well as others.  It’s just a fun little game and if you do not enjoy the experience of engaging in a little play, then nothing is likely to put a smile on your face.  What a gre462970629.jpgat idea for spreading a little joy in our community.  Then by some bizarre chance, I found another such rock today, just 24 hours later.   According to the facebook page, these rocks are now popping up in other states as finders are traveling with them to spread joy on a much broader scale.  What joy!

This brought to mind the little secret acts of kindness I used to try to bestow on employees in my organization from time to time.  I would send anonymous gifts to random employees from our directly listing, just to do something nice for someone for no particular reason.  You never know when a little surprise might lift someone’s spirits by making a bad day brighter or a good day even better.  It was never anything substantial, usually just a candy bar or a cutesy office supply item I picked up at a discount store.  But people would talk about receiving these little gifts or I would see them out on desk tops around various offices and know that my secret act was valued.472513714

I have also enjoyed engaging in other random acts of kindness such as covering the cost of the toll or the coffee order for the car in line behind me.  And I have received similar gestures of kindness from others throughout the years like having my dinner tab paid by a stranger or receiving a surprise anonymous bouquet of flowers during a period of illness.

Acts of kindness need not cost anything at all.  If you can afford to pay a bill for someone, by all means, enjoy giving the gift at your expense.  If not, even a painted rock can put a smile on someone’s face.  No matter who the recipient is, a message will be heard.  It will bring joy and happiness, or may bring a grunt but regardless the recipient cannot deny that someone did something for them without reason, without cause and without expecting  any payment in kind.  And the grumpy, unappreciative folks perhaps benefit the most. If nothing else, it may make them stop and think about their attitudes toward others and how they present themselves.  Maybe they will take that moment to realize they too can be part of a positive movement in their community. 494348531.jpg

A random act of kindness serves two purposes: to make someone else smile and feel positive worth and, to make the actor smile and feel positive worth as well.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

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Housewifing my way into a new future~

Who knew staying home could be so much…well…fun?  When I walked away from my career I had no idea what I would do with the latter part of my working life.  After taking a little time off to just recoup and restore, I went to work part-time doing mindless but nonetheless important work, as a means to be out and about in the community and to add a bit to the household coffers.  I felt I owed it to everyone to continue some type of work because I have such a valuable education and so much experience to share.  To not work now seemed to me such a sin.  I felt that in walking away from my career I was wasting what I had invested in for years so I needed to make some use of that history.  I have now been engaged in my part time job for a year but honestly, I am not really getting much out of it in the469867021 way of personal satisfaction.  Others are certainly reaping the rewards of my labor but I just do not feel very ‘connected’ to what I am doing.  It is also wearing me out physically, being on my feet and engaging in a great deal of manual labor for eight hours at a time with very little in the way of resting periods.  As a result, I am usually too tired to thoroughly enjoy the few things I do still love like riding my horse and hiking with my dog.  And those activities are far more important to my well-being than a mindless part time job.

What I am enjoying more these days is working around the house.  Of course there are fewer financial benefits although I do save money on gas, eating and snacking out at the lunch break and work related clothing.  More important, I am once again loving taking care of m460630323.jpgy home.  I have renewed a love for cooking and find joy in making dinner for Mr. LucyLoves and me on a daily basis.  We eat out far less often not only because of the expense, but because we would both rather eat at home when I am fully involved in meal preparations.  I have time to clean my house regularly and tackle projects that used to get put off until I had no choice but to do them, like cleaning the storage closet or the oven.  I can alter my schedule as I so desire and walk the dog when the weather is cooperative instead of sticking to the schedule that work hours left me with.  I am looking forward to doing yard and garden work again in the coming weeks which is something I had grown to dread when I was working full time because of the amount of free time it interfered with.  Yes, I had become so possessive of what little me time I had away from t164308365.jpghe hostile environment I worked in that I began to resent the things about my home and family life that I once loved.  And life should not be lived that way.

It has taken a great deal of time for me to realize that my education and experience are not wasted simply because I do not report to an office every day.  I am not squandering knowledge and talent because I am not putting it to use in a business practice making an organization successful.  It is OK for me to use my brain and my know-how to improve my personal environment and to be a better person for my husband, family and friends.  It is certainly OK to be a better person for me.

Now that I have had some time to do a mindless job, interacting with people in a major organization on a low key level, I realize that the purpose of my knowledge is not solely to make money and help others succeed, but is indeed a means to make myself a more well-rounded human being.

There is nothing wrong with cleaning cupboards and experimenting with new recipes.  There153565652 is no shame in thriving through daily dog walks and pleasurable exercise rides.  There is no waste in sleeping in until the sun wakes you instead of the alarm clock.  After 25 years of living life as part of an organization, I can finally live my life for me.  And that is a gift far greater than any paycheck.

I am leaving my part-time job in the coming week in lieu of working on an ‘as needed’ basis to fill in for occasional vacancies, while I again take some time off to enjoy a bit of travel with my husband and family this year.  And while I am doing that, I can consider starting a business of my own to make use of my skills and interest514710650s without feeling the pressure to rush into anything.  I am no longer in a hurry to get things done.  I can take my time exploring options and making the best decisions for me as opposed to for someone else.  And that may be the best use of my knowledge and talents as of yet.

For those of you who have tackled self-employment I would love to hear about how you began and what type of business you chose.  I want to continue living this beautiful life to the fullest.

freeimages.com

 

LOYALTY–AND locks OF IT~

I have had an unsettling but apparently not so uncommon experience recently that made me wonder more about the state of loyalty, not only to others but, to oneself.

My hairdresser of five years quit.  Yep, just quit.  Packed up and walked out of her shop with no notice.  I received a text message from her the night before my appointment informing me she had to unexpectedly take a month off for personal reasons and she was sorry to have to cancel my appointment.  Unbeknownst to me, she had left two weeks prior to this message.  Two more weeks passed before I learned that she had left abruptly with no plan to return.  So if my unacknowledged text message did not seal the deal in 499419053.jpgmy mind, the fact that her coworkers were putting out word that she had quit without notice confirmed it.

My first question of course was how does a person do this?  How do you walk away from the clientele you have struggled to build, and leave your coworkers to do the explaining?  And just when she was picking up even more of a customer base due to a recent retirement in the shop.  Does this person expect to start again elsewhere down the road once her reputation for abandonment and lack of customer loyalty gets around?  This is a small community and word does travel, especially among professional circles.

My second question is, knowing this woman is young, with a baby and a new home, how does one afford to walk away from income and opportunity?  Surely she has some other income she never revealed that she believes will be more lucrative.  But to do so without an honest declaration to your customers seems more than disloyal.  It seems unfathomable. 496584765

Loyalty is not about friendship.  It is about keeping a commitment.  You start a business or enter a job where you serve a customer base and you work hard to build and maintain trust and professionalism.  When things go wrong, you work to make it right.  When things go right, you work to expand on your success.  Loyalty means being there for those who come to depend on you so that your clients trust you will serve their needs.  In return, your clients will reward you with payment and referrals through a good word.

This is not the only negative experience I have had with people in the business community these last couple of years.  At the holiday season, my husband, sister and I all stopped in a local shop on at least a half dozen occasions when the sign said the business would be open.  We wanted to purchase gifts for and knew that because the proprietor was retiring this year, it may be our last chance.  There is even a big ‘Retirement Sale’ sign in the w487771742indow.  In nearly four months, we have yet to catch the shop open.  So we purchased similar gifts at the mall instead.

My friend’s thirty-something daughter took over a small boutique on one of our Main Streets a few years ago.  I know she regularly struggles with seasonal periods of slow business and a temperamental small town market.  Yet, she too often sabotages herself by being absent during her scheduled business hours and, when a customer does enter the barely lit shop, they rarely get an acknowledgment, let alone a warm welcome or offer of assistance.  This shop could do a great business in our small community under the right hands.  I fear she will not survive once another economic downturn seizes us.

Where has loyalty to customers gone?  When did business owners fail to realize that customers are what keeps their bread buttered?  And when did the lack of business courtesy toward the very people who best help you grow your business go out the proverbial window?  Yes, there are some great and successful businesses in our community.  We frequent many of them.  But there could be so many more.464825824

I finally made an appointment with a new hairdresser.  My curly, cropped hair was severely overgrown into one hot mess but I took a couple weeks getting referrals from friends before making an appointment.  The results were pleasing enough and I know it will take another appointment or two before my explanations and her handy-work see eye to eye.  Most importantly, I made sure to get a referral for a hairdresser who has been in the business for a while in one of our well established salons.  While I made ‘curly hair’ experience a priority, it was more important to me after my recent salon fiasco to have someone with business acumen and maturity.

Loyalty is so crucial in the business community, perhaps nowhere more so than in small town America.  One bad experience can damage a business beyond repair.  One hairdresser walking out on dozens of clients without notice can certainly make one rethink the loyalty of the entire staff.  And perhaps unfairly so but it is reality. 504384468

At a time when I am thinking of investing in a business of my own, loyalty is at the forefront of my mind.  Loyalty is a requirement for success in any relationship.  Without it, there is no point in trying.

Live luxe and live loyal!

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