What “Living Winsomely is all about.”

Welcome to my blog site Living winsomely. I am a  believer that our homes are our castles and our hearts snuggery. They are our safe harbor, warm cozy place of refreshment and a berth where beauty can surround us everyday, soothing our souls and spirits.ritz107 As we create the dreams  within our hearts and bring them to life in each room, they add bliss and comfort to our lives and a place of repose and tranquility to every guest who enters our doors.  There is such a wealth of ways to bring forth an abundance of beauty within our ‘safe havens. My desire is to share these ideas with you as we begin this journey together.

Whether it be your Antebellum dining room, woodsy, warm, window filled office or captivating bedrooms that evoke an invitation for romance, refreshing and pampering to the soul, there are a bounty of ways to begin your peregrination to make your home the most inviting, alluring and resplendent home ever. B-4

My goal in creating this website is to share with you, each reader, some of my imaginative adaptions of esteemed traditions in which I hope will inspire you as you create your own lovely and stunning home.

Within my blog site ‘Living winsomely,’ I will explore with you an abundance of ideas of how to create the home of your dreams. All the way from fragrances, lighting, floral arrangements, furniture formations, color schemes, fabrics, room themes, music, cuisine, and delightful party ideas, making your guests (as well as yourself,) feel comfy and pampered. I will also implement some great ideas on how to quickly change your home around with items you already possess if you are desiring a ‘new look.’

Along with the myriad of decor ideas, I want to share how to create a more beautiful life. Your home is the sanctuary where all of your old and new ‘feel good’ memories and quiet joys tarry. I love to bring out that joy everyday and live within it, creating a more beautiful life for myself and our family. Whether learning to cook new cuisine  with your significant other, (we adore the food channel,) having breakfast in bed as Z-55you unabashedly take an hour or two to read the newspaper or watch your favorite classic movie, you can create your own pampered hours. How about making your home a weekend vacation retreat with using your best china, crystal and linens,  lighting a sundry of candles, not answering the phone or door bell and hiding away in your little cache, enjoying one another, (or just using the time for yourself if you live alone,) to bring forth refreshing and rejuvenation. A few other ideas… create a chimera-vision box with articles and photos of your dream homes, places you would love to travel, go to a High Tea at and the renowned eateries you would like to visit.  Create an eloquent setting under an alfresco canopy beneath your heroic trees, or amidst your flourishing garden…bringing forth a ‘sylvan charm’ as you read your novel and sip on your tea, robust coffee, lemonade or glass of Merlot.  Choosing to live a more beautiful life with my family has changed our lives in many positive ways.

anne geddes flower abiesbaby in the garden

Living a winsome life is like going back to our childhood days… where being adventurous, creative and full of life was a normal day! Now, as an adult, it takes a little more work to receive all the childhood gifts that once beheld us.The giggles and endless curiosity and learning of our years as a baby, the bounce, vigor and creativity of our ‘toddler season’ and the urge to throw a snowball, play games all night long and go on adventuresome journeys as we did in our youth.  🙂 It is all there, still available to us in a plenitude of forms as we create our days and surroundings.

I believe that cultivating beauty all around us, enjoying the pampering of all five senses and living life to the fullest each day, (as children do naturally) brings a richness and joy to our hearts and souls!

I hope this site inspires you to bring forth your dreams, whether through decor or the things you choose to engender more beauty and joy into your life.

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”~ Elizabeth Lawrence.

“It’s never to late to have a happy childhood.” Tom Robbinslittle_girl_briard3

Happy Creating!

CREDITS FOR PHOTOS. In placing your computer mouse over any of the photos or graphics, it will display to you where it originated from.

***  Dear readers, I want to encourage you to leave as many comments or questions on my blog site that you would like. There is no E-mail address associated with anyone’s name or comments for other bloggers to see unless you would like to share it. (Don’t forget, I also have a “contact page” if you need to leave a personal message as well as ask questions.)   I am enjoying all of you who visit my site from other countries! The Internet is amazing. PLEASE know that I can’t publish on my site comments or refer sites that are not written in English. I hope that you are able to put it in a translated form as you do your replies.  Lastly, I am implementing “credit”  to where it belongs RE; the photographs I use on my blog…Very few of them are mine and I feel blessed to have such a great resource with Google Images as well as my favorite magazines clippings , (some of them I have had for over 15 years.)  Thank you all for coming to my site and have a wonderful day! Susan

 

“Goodbyes are not FOREVER!”

Goodbyes are not forever.
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I’ll miss you
Until we meet again!
~Author Unknown

Little girl sitting on suitcase looking out onto Golden Gate Bridge

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard! ! ~ Carol Sobieski ~ Thomas Meehan

Dear Living Winsomely readers, I wanted to share with you that I am saying goodbye to this site, but with the words, that ring true in my heart, “Good bye does not mean forever.”

For those of you who have read “And the body just keeps on giving,” vignette , then you know that during my time of healing both physically and spiritually, I began this website with such an excitement and joy. I can not tell you how much having this blog site has been a blessing for me .

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It started with a few, and has grown in leaps and bounds! 🙂

To look back in February of 2013 (when we started the site)  we began with only a handful of readers. This year Living Winsomely has grown “in leaps and bounds.” 🙂 Because my husband owns the server that my site is on, he keeps me informed of the amount of readers coming to Living Winsomely. We both have been in awe at the growth. I am amazed at all of the different countries that are visiting the site, as well as how many readers here in America we have. I never dreamed Living Winsomely would have so many wonderful visitors.  I can’t tell you  how happy that makes me and how honored I feel.  It blesses me so much that you, the readers have enjoyed this  site and the writings.  Your comments to me over this last year and a half have blown me away.  (In a good way.) 🙂 Thank you from the bottom of  my  heart for supporting me, encouraging me and for all your kind words of affirmation, even for those of you who told me I had spelling errors 🙂 (I know…I don’t have an editor and  have tried to catch all my mistakes, but know they are out there.) 🙂

I have a new writing commitment that will be taking up all my time, thus I have to stop writing on Living Winsomely for now.  Its at this time, I wish I would have written much shorter blogs that didn’t take a week to complete, (so I could just write one up quickly whenever I had an hour to spare as I am staring this new writing commitment .)  🙂   But as we all know, I write kind of long blogs. (OK, really long blogs.)  🙂  I still have a few I have started and hope to come back when this commitment is over and put those up, with new ones… I will  miss writing on this site immensely, as well as you, the readers.

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~~~~~ LIVING WINSOMELY~~~~~

I  will be leaving the site up for all of you, the old and new readers as well as the readers who will come in the future. For those of you who have written in that you read the site daily and are on the lookout each week for a new blog, I am sorry…Maybe you can go back and read one of the old ones as you may have already forgotten it by now. 🙂 (Just joshing.) I did just post my last blog for now, “The  Joyous wedding of the old and the new.” I tried something new with adding a very classy (as well as classic,)  music video. (I hope you enjoy it.) 🙂   I know there are a tremendous amount of sites  on the internet that are exemplary.

My hope and heart when I began Livingwinsomely (and still is,) that you, the readers would be blessed with ideas of how to bring more beauty, fulfillment, joy, felicity and winsomeness  to your everyday lives.

I will have to turn the sites comment/ reply ability off as I am currently receiving about 250-300 spam comments a day and it takes a lot of my time to go through them all , especially when my time now will be fully dedicated to my new writing commitment. My computer program will hold all the replies that have already been made, they just won’t be showing up on the site, when I turn that service off.

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“Home”for the holidays!

I wish you all the very best and again, thank you so very much for reading, coming to the site, sending me such wonderful comments and for being such a great audience to write to… The site will stay up so enjoy!

I may occasionally sneak over to Living Winsomely and change the blogs in the main section according to the season.   Especially At Christmas time. 🙂 One of my all time favorite vignettes of Living Winsomely is “Home” for the holidays! (I will take that tour myself once again, this Christmas.)  🙂

 

 

If you have any questions, please know my “CONTACT US” icon at the bottom of the ‘Living  Winsomely’ Home page, is still open. (That comes directly to my e-mail address.)

May God bless you all and thank you so very much.

Sincerely, Susan, Kit and Grantham too.

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“A heart full of thanks TO YOU! “

 

 

 PHOTOGRAPHS CREDITS: In placing your computer mouse over any of the graphics or photos, it will display where the picture originated from.

2014’s “10” to “TEN.”

2017Dear readers, I put this story up again, because even though it is presently the new year of 2017, these ideas are just as winningly  encouraging today,  as they were 3 years ago. Happy 2017, may your year be felicitous , prosperous and BLESSED!

 

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” ~T.S. Eliot ok

 

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. ” ~Oprah Winfrey

  “Every man should be born again on the first day of January.  Start with a fresh page.  Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary,SONY DSC or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past.”  ~Henry Ward Beecher

  “Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man.”  ~Quoted in Benjamin Franklin’s almanac.

“Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.”~Michael Josephson

“We will ofresh start1pen the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve.  Middle age is when you’re forced to.” ~Bill Vaughn

 

As I was leisurely enjoying a few moments of repose on this chilly January morning on our front porch, my steaming hot cup of HOLIDAY BLEND coffee in  hand,IMG_0445(I don’t want the holidays to come to an end,) a feeling of pure joy and abundant gratitude filled my  heart as I still can’t fully grasp the miraculous bestowal of a fresh snowfall, dressing the world outside in an unblemished, transcendent white!!   My mind was already brainstorming with thoughts of my new blog…  I have been thinking of the month of January and what it brings to our lives…my first thought…”its  a month, likened to a fresh, white, blank piece of paper… We have the choice to write or draw whatever our hearts desire, upon it”..new begiings.Its a time of NEW Beginnings… Brand new opportunities.lily4 I can’t help but think about the words…”New Years Resolutions.” I smile! There are so many years that have passed by…every year I make at least five resolutions…some of them have succeeded, yet so many have not! WHY? My belief?   I think that we  make our resolutions in a time where we have all been joyously reveling in one of the grandest seasons of our lives…Christmas. We  have  “thoroughly enjoyed” all the Christmas gatherings with festive confections, See’s candy, rich cuisine, an array of freshly baked breads and pies, (with real butter,) 🙂   decadent Prime Rib, an over abundance of flavored popcorn’s and all the extravagant goodies that arrived in festooned tins from our loved ones across the miles.Happy788 Our days have been unusually busy with the season’s buoyant fetes  and we go to bed exhausted every night… so instinctively, we want to ‘eat better,’ exercise more, plan more quality time with ourselves as well as family…Emotionally and physically, we are READY and  motivated with our ‘desires’ for change, and create our lists of the things we dynamically desire to modify as the New year arrives.  This year, will I succeed? Will I even make any resolutions, knowing they will probably be over by Valentines Day? Then I began thinking, (brainstorming with my husband…) how can this year be different? I came up with two parts to this blog… First off, I hope I can share some ideas and suggestions, perhaps solutions to go along side the ‘top ten new years resolutions,’ according to a professional survey, that will bring forth tips on easier ways to succeed with the most popular ‘decrees and mandates,’ but secondly,I would like to  share ‘Ten’ non-resolution ideas that are pleasurable as well as  A LOT OF FUN!!       Resolutions demand change, work, discipline…and are certainly worth the reward they bring, if carried out...smiley9but I also thought it would be stimulating as well as enjoyable, to come up with TEN new and innovative  ideas for things that you can add to your life, that are felicitous and gratifying, don’t require difficult  changes and hard work, (as you will be having so much fun,)  but will definitely enhance your life and bring it bliss, accomplishment as well as fulfillment. Who  knows…perhaps in adding a new thing or two into your year and life, you will, (“without even  trying,”) :),  change your life in a way, that many of your resolutions may “just naturally happen,” being an unexpected  gift on the side  that comes into fruition.  I am going to try it and will be sure to check back next year and tell you if the ‘TOP TEN,’ not the ‘top 10,’ fulfilled what I am aiming for in 2014!

Are you ready for this years “10” to “TEN?”

The First Top “10”  2014 is the new years resolutions (via the Professional survey,) along with a few helpful solutions, (from our brainstorming,)  that will perhaps be of help , enabling you to attain your goals!  Don’t forget to compare them to our TOP “TEN” 🙂

top10 26  #1 (I know you already are aware of what number one is…Its a chart topper every year…) LOSE WEIGHT and GET FIT! The number one answer is always; exercise, change your diet and drink plenty of water! But does that work for you? How about not exercising, instead, pick something you love to do, add music to it and MOVE? I don’t call it exercise, I call it my time of “letting loose.” 🙂   I love to crank up my R&B music, get out my hand weights and dance until my hearts content. (Singing, (which I can’t) top10 11 with my favorite artists, as I dance, burns up even more calories.)   ( I am so thankful that Graham doesn’t mind my sharp and flat notes as he truly loves me unconditionally.) 🙂

Get busy doing things that you love and enjoy! I find that whenever I am “thinking to much about losing weight,” I gain! 🙂

Self acceptance! Everyone has a different body shape and size…don’t compare yourself to your friend who is a size 2 or one of your work out partners who is a marathon runner as well. Set reasonable, realistic goals.

Don’t diet…change your way of eating...top10 28 Find a lifestyle of “cooking” that you really love! A male friend of mine is passionate about the Weight Watchers program…he chose ‘yoga,” as his exercise, (which he also  uses as his meditation-spiritual time,) and lost 40 pounds! To this day, he maintains his ideal weight and still stays on the program as he loves it… Its his way of life, not a diet.

#2 SPEND MORE TIME WITH FRIENDS.

top10 19This undoubtedly will take a monthly planner! 🙂 Become ‘The director of your  own social life.” Start planning parties, luncheons, dinners, a ladies day out, meeting the guys at the pub, ..”If you plan it..They will come!”

Choose spending time with  the ‘friends that add to your life,’ (not take away,)  bring joy, laughter and color.

Surprise a friend by taking them to lunch one day..and unexpected treat for them…(as well as you.)

Call at least one close, long distant friend per week..top10 18.If it is hard to fit that hour in, put them on speaker while you are cooking dinner…take your mobile phone with you as your enjoying your morning walk, or prepare dinner early and use that extra hour to ‘catch up.’

#3. DRINK LESS ALCOHOL, STOP SMOKING.

top10 45Get out your library card or start surfing-the net…read about what long term damage drinking or smoking does to your organs…education is a motivator!

Start weaning yourself off… If you smoke 7 packs a wetop10 49ek… try to switch to ultra lights and smoke 6… On week two, smoke 5 , etc… Same thing with alcohol… start drinking less, rewarding yourself with a delicious new non alcoholic drink.

Explore and understand the “WHYS.” Why do you like to drink or Smoke? What can you exchange them with? If they make you feel pampered,topten 90 or give you a place of repose, relaxation or get rid of stress, find new things to replace them with. What else brings you the same feelings?

Ask God for the grace to stop a bad habit you know isn’t good for you, but can’t seem to “let  go of.”  Been there, done it..actually, HE did it, I can take no credit.

#4 LESS STRESS … ENJOY LIFE MORE!

Its no wonder this is such a desired change for us all. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol that effects our brains physiology, that can generate negative side effects with  our memory. It also interferes with our ability to learn,  weakens our bone density, increases weight gain, raises blood pressure and puts us at risk for heart problems.

 LaughFour main things you can do to release stress are exercise, laugh, think positive and re-evaluate your life, taking the things out of your life that cause you pressure, anxiety and worry.

Become aware , make a list of your ‘stress buttons.’

READ more! When your mind is activelytopten 200occupied, whether with challenging work , a hobby  that you enjoy doing or diving into a great novel, your body will begin reacting with its ‘happy hormones,’ creating less stress , and you will feel rejuvenated.

BREATHE!  CRY! When I was in my early 30’s, and lost my mom to cancer,  I  suffered from  an anxiety disorder. My husband would always know when an “attack” was coming on, and he would tell me, “Susan, you need to breathe…really breathe , from your stomach and allow yourself to cry…don’t hold back…So, I learned to start doing that and IT REALLY WORKED!

Incorporate in your life moresnowman “Make believe snow days.” (See my blog… Truly this antidote works! 🙂

#5 GET OUT OF DEBT

top10 91Create your own style of a tangible piggy bank… a place to begin filling up with all the money you save,  and don’t allow yourself to look inside of it, (or borrow from it,) for one month. Take the money out of your bank and put it into   your savings account and start it all over again the following month.

Pick someone you trust and start being accountable to them with your spending.

consignmentBegin shopping at consignment shops  or thrift stores, instead of the malls…(you will be amazed, not only at the ‘deals you will find’ but the money you will save.)

Limit your meals out… order in something that will last for two nights instead of one.

Plan out a weekly menu  and shop for one week at a time…create your list within your budget. When you are finished writing it, challenge yourself to take off 5 things “you really do not need.”  (Thus, you end up saving money and adding it to paying off unwanted debts.)

 #6 FOCUS  ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD/ YOUR SPIRITUALITY

It is not  an easy task to stop our activities in our day to calm our minds and bodies down to be still and “listen” to that inner voice within,topten 95 journal our emotions, pray, worship or read our bibles…so, again, PLAN a time  and goal that is realistic for your life and schedule…start with 30 minutes every other day, and increase that time as you feel you can…

Join a church that you really enjoy going to…not one that is an effort every Sunday.

Find God in everyday life… nature, an unexpected gift, a call from an old friend that warms your heart, read  a book or two by someone that you really respect and admire…  Perhaps a devotional book, autobiography, or an inspiring book about miracles…(always encouraging.) Two books I found uplifting and inspirational, “Heaven is for real,” and “To Heaven and back.” (Both true stories.)

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#7 GET OFF CAFFEINE

Again… I believe its all about exchange… change your “drink of choice” to delicious decaf coffees and teas, fruit smoothies,top10 61 ginger ale or flavored sparkling waters.

ENJOY the effects of less caffeine in your body…Your heart is not racing so fast anymore, your actually sleeping more hours,(no more  late nights up while your family is sleeping,) and revel in the feelings of being more relaxed and at peace. (Don’t forget  their are delicious fresh roasted decaffeinated coffee beans for that morning cup of Joe!) 🙂

If you ‘have to have a little bit of caffeine,’ perhaps a piece of chocolate, or a Pepsi…have it first thing in the morning as a treat…and fast caffeine the rest of your day! Feeling treated helps us feel like we are not deprived.

top10 16Occupy your mind with something rewarding and new! Distract yourself from your URGE! Every time you top10 15have the over powering desire to take in some caffeine, get out your ear phones and Cd player and put on an audio book from your favorite author… Pick a  place that you love, in front of the fire, atop your pillowy bed, a porch swing, and “engage” yourself in a story…take your mind to a new land…top10 65 If the urge won’t go away, make yourself a pot of delicious, fresh bean, decaf coffee in your favorite flavor.

 

#8 GET  ORGANIZED

top10 23You are the only one that can change this fate…I highly suggest creating or buying a monthly, daily and weekly organizer. You will discover a  new freedom as you begin capturing all your thoughts and “To Do Lists” on paper. It helps me tremendously every day.

Clean your house… A cleantop10 115 house, free of clutter, creates calmness and you will find your thoughts are free and you can think about a lot  more things…(chaos creates forgetfulness, thus disorganization and stress.)

Clean out your closets, hutches, desk drawers and dresser…I don’t know about you, but when all my drawers are organized,top10 112 my day goes by much smoother, I am more relaxed and my  tasks seem easy and light instead of burdensome.

 

 

#9 TRAVEL  MORE, WORK LESS

Baby Steps. Begin with a day trip...Perhaps one Saturday, instead of working on your computer, take a drive to the wine country, a renowned museum ,eatery a favorite eatery in the country, go to Disneyland, San Diego Zoo or to your favorite seaport village,  treating yourself to a scrumptious seafood lunch!

 

Your next Trip, a weekend get away…a bed and breakfast in Maine, a weekend in Las Vegas, coronadoThe Coronado Hotel in San Diego or  rent a beach house, enjoying the  many gifts  of a maritime weekend.

 

Lastly…plan in  advance, a week  long trip , yes a real yearly vacation where you need a passport to enter into it’s chimerical borders. cabo Paris? Switzerland? Italy? Cabo San Lucas ?

 

 

 

#10 LIVE IN THE MOMENT

Begin your day fresh, (thinking only about that day.) Go about yourtop10 98 routines, job and engagements,  concentrating on the task at hand and nothing else. I have alwaysprime-rib loved the challenging thought, “What would you do  for the day if  this was the last day of your life?” Sometimes I think about that and do somethings I normally would not do…call a friend or sibling I have not talked to in months, watch my favorite movie,west4 (that I  have seen 100 times already,) 🙂 …get fresh ingredients from the grocer and make  my husbands and my favorite meal, tell Kit and Grantham I love them 10 times that day… (They wonder what I am up to, but it feels good to say it and have the assurance that they know my hearts appreciation for them in my life.)

Read the book ‘The Precious Present’ by Spencer Johnson…it will be a ” delightful and eyeopening bestowal for your soul,” helping you to live within each minute you are given in a day.

Choose not to live in regret for the past or worry over the futureno regrets 1no regrets Reward yourself when you see a major change in your way of thinking and you are no longer allowing negative thoughts to steal your day. (A day that you can never have back.) If you are angry…ask yourself, is it worth losing the joy you are trading it in for ?

 

 

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN…

OKAY…Now lets look at an entirely different way tocoin bring  fulfilling changes to your life in this new year of  2014  with my ‘TOP TEN,’ pleasurable add-on ideas that are actually creative and FUN!

#1 Add one new recipe a week to your repertoire.

Many concur that being a good cook is all in your genetic makeup. I disagree… Practice makes perfect. (It also helps if you have  a passion for cooking as well as the extra time to prepare and CREATE.)  For our household, Kit and I began researching on the internet as well as looking through my relishable family cookbooks to find and create one new recipe each week.topten 1 I engage in this activity more often than Kit as he works longer hours. Our meal time has changed to a time of pampering, delicious new dishes and a satisfying event… (We actually hate for the dinner hour to come to an end.)  Kit is gourmet, I am more of a comfort food cook! A great combination!  Your newly acquired recipe can be for any meal you choose, a Sunday brunch, an early supper or a romantic, (after the kids go to bed) dinner or a luscious sublime dessert. Experiment and have FUN! All of these fabulous cuisines are a medley of both Gourmet and down home comfort food! 🙂PD 1 PD 2PD PD5PD4

 

#2 Choose one new hobby for the year that is just for YOU…

A wise person once told me that in our relationships with others, we are able to give so much more when we are strengthened in our own individualism…when we find something to do that we love and are good at it, it brings about depth, self confidence and plenty of things to share and converse with others… This is one of my favorite additions each year as I enjoy so many hobbies…

What do you absolutely love to do?

Perhaps designing and making creative crafts from the heart, write blogs, short stories or your own kaleidoscopic autobiography.

Isaac Bailey Photographytopten 19

Take a dancing class, meet the guys, (or girls) for a neighborhood game of Basketball? topten 15topten 8

Visit your library often and load up on audio books, CD’s, bestselling novels or perhaps  taking up a new sport, a cooking class, an hour of yoga or traveling abroad. topten 11topten 7

Painting ceramic plates or mugs! I have a friend who is quite the artist at this craft and her gifts to us have been so elegantly beautiful! What a great new hobby to invest in as well as creating many new welcomed  bestowals for your home, friends or family.

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How about joining a tennis league for men or women? (Enjoy yourself while giving your heart a little TLC.)  My husbands new hobby last year was learning how to brew his own beer. He and his friend, (teacher,) came up with some fascinating and unique flavors!

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Have you ever thought about starting up Ham Radio? Kits dad was a natural at it and loved communicating with people all over the world, from his snazzy ‘communication set up’ in his living room.

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I have always had a passion for Faux painting…. It truly is like magic, transforming an ordinary room into a stunning, classy and memorable work of art! A wondrous hobby that will not only bless you but all those who enter your home! ham radios 19ham radio 16ham radio 12

Learning to create stained glass designs for lamp shades, wall hangings, storm doors or windows would be a very rewarding new hobby as well as a lot of fun. How about becoming an expertise at monogramming! (My sister had this done professionally for me this Christmas…absolutely stunning! )

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#3 Pursue your “Hidden talent,” and add it’s glorious bestowal to your life.

Everyone is born with gifts and talents. (We usually have them ‘pointed out’ to us in elementary school by one of our teachers, our friends or family members… As we grow older, we either “use that skill” and become greater at it, or we place it away in a hidden place and avoid partaking in its challenging, yet felicific joy.  Why do you think that is? For me, it was because  I never felt I did it “well enough.” Fear crept in as I looked at others with the same gift and watched them flourish and receive praise. I then compared myself to them and came to the conclusion that I could never be as good. Criticism creates fear and fear stifles our creativity as well as motivation. My challenge and add on for you is to go back to that one gift you know is there and begin exercising it , until you become and expertise…  (And do not compare yourself to others.) I am sure there is more than one gift you’ve placed on the back burner in your life… IMG_0345 One fear I did conquer, pursued and now enjoy with all my heart is decorating… My early days were “hit and miss” but I worked so hard at , bringing forth my God given gift, then one day all the fear left and I began creating with abandon. Its not everyone’s ‘cup of tea,’ but its my developed signature style. I admire excelled dancers, musicians and singers who are enjoying success in their senior years as yes, they allowed their talent to be dormant for a season, but they went after their gifts and abilities in the latter part of their life and are so good at it!  How great and rewarding is that?

Deep within, have you always had a passion for dancing and were told you were a natural?  How about singing? (My husband was “quite the singer” when he was younger.) (Still is, but  now he only sings to us! 🙂 ) topten 29topten 28

 

We all hated piano lessons as a child, but now that we are older, what a beautiful gift to behold…music changes everything! How about your dream of becoming an inspiring painter?

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Have you always wanted to make decorative topiary trees or seasonal wreaths for your cozy haven? Create personalized gifts for others, gracing your friends and family with style and elegance for their homes?  Do you absolutely love to entertain? (Its never to late to keep learning and stretching that creative muscle until your 100% satisfied with your creations.)

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Are you a seafaring pirate deep within, wanting to be the master of your own ship? Traveling  the seas in your ” boat of choice,”  is definitely worth the wait and skills you need to be a “top notch” sailor. 🙂 How about your hidden talent of the classic sport of golf?

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#4 Start a new collection in your life, adding beauty, excitement and fun.

Collections shout out to our friends and family a part of who we are, what we love…a part of our personality that we may not show on the surface. Whenever I add to one of my collections, it is pure joy and excitement. Whenever a friend, my husband or a sibling adds to my collection, it touches me deeply, as they are taking special thought in choosing something I really love.  You can never have to many collections! Kit has begun to amass baronial and colorful nautical decor, Lighthouse photos, heartwarming poems and vignettes about one of life’s greatest gifts, “dogs,”  hunting guns and  fishing paraphernalia. It reveals parts of his heart that carry many special memories of his youth. My new collection this year is birds… I can remember when I was a small child, (as well as to this present day,)  how God has used birds of all kinds to teach me important nuggets of truth and speak to me of His faithfulness and love. On the east coast it has been bluejays, redbirds, (cardinals,)  finches and our delightful snow geese.  Last year , my new collections were colorful animated Chefs and stoic Roosters for my kitchen and dining room.

 

I adore my new dulcet and charming blue birds,  (the start of my collection 2014,)  a special gift  from my husband this Christmas! I also feel very blessed that one of Kits collections is also a treat for me…I love lighthouses with their enchanting beauty and summoning mystery! IMG_0491two lights

 

Frames make a wondrous collection, coming in all designs, shapes, motifs, colors and sizes! How about seasonal throws? (I have been collecting throws for over 20 years and they are great for a refreshing makeover when the house needs a “little pick me up.” (as well as serving as a warm blanket to cuddle up with in the winter, as we’re enjoying our nail-biting, suspenseful movies.)

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Begin a collection of the prestigious duo of “blue and white.” Your choices are wide open to not only dishes, tea cups and saucers, teapots, vases, but also pillows, linens, photo frames, throws and quilts.These vintage red crystal goblets go way back to my childhood as they were one of my moms collections! Talk about Nostalgia. 🙂 mens stuff 25mens stuff 24

 

One of my friends is an avid collector of sea shells… I love to visit her Maritime home, as there is always a new shell in her bethnic display…  Shells are so unique and intricate in their array of colors and shapes, always joyfully reminding us of the beach, its beautiful sandy shores and mysterious sea life.   How about beginning a collection of antique signs from old country stores hidden in the most enchanting places?mens stuff 21mens stuff 20

 

Motley, bright vintage pillows, Batten-burg and old English lace napkins, linens and tablecloths, antique plates as well as patchwork quilts…They are all so captivating, I would not know how to decide which collection to begin? 🙂 mens stuff 17mens stuff 15

 

When my older brother was involved in doing litigation work for Lamborghini, his home was filled with beautiful and august model cars…Every room gifting his guests with “eye candy” and wonder. What a baronial collection to have… not only did it enhance the style and allurement of his home, but I am sure it triggered many a happy memory of all the people he worked with. My husband collects fishing paraphernalia… Each treasured piece he adds, brings back a new memory of his glory days , fishing with  his father on beautiful placid lakes, sharing stories as well as their hopes and dreams, over a brown bag lunch on a sunny warm day.

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How about  baseball cards or historical , renowned sports memorabilia?  For many men, as they display their prized collections, they receive the same warm, cozy feeling others may feel when they purchase a new couch or leather chair for their office. Our collections are often times our decor as well…Decorative items are very personal, as it brings our rooms alive with what matters most in our lives..the things we love that make us happy.

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A collection of hatboxes is not only beautiful, but they are quite convenient for holding many things…letters, magazine clippings, old photos, bills, recipes, scarves, etc… How about getting involved in some family genealogy and collecting historic items that have been within your family lineage for many generations?

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Two of my favorite collections of all time…coffee table display cookbooks, (great conversation pieces as well as a resplendent ‘dictionary’ for  scrumptious recipes,) and Teddy Bears in all shapes and sizes… Whether we acquire them brand new, or we ‘rescue them from the storms,’ (in their vintage appeal,) they warm our hearts and bring a smile to our faces… These are two collections I highly recommend! topten 2abear1

#5 Add one hour, every few days of some form of mediation and spiritual nourishment  to your life.

Whenever I spend time writing in my journal, praying, worshiping and praising God for His wonderful love and grace in our lives, I feel 100% rejuvenated, full of energy and an over abundance of peace… I believe we are made up of many components…our body, mind, will and emotions, (our soul,) and our spirit…when we feed or tend to that area of our lives… a new part of us is awakened…there is new strength, power within and a serene  contentment. I don’t know what I’d do without that time in my life…Even if some days, it is only 15 minutes long… 🙂

Praying and  mediating on the beach while taking an early morning or late afternoon walk, is ideal for a quiet and serene get away!  The peaceful sounds of the oceans breezes, gulls cooing and waves  calmly rolling into shore,  is a perfect place to gather your thoughts!   top10 2

There is nothing like praising God! As we worship, our hearts fill with a beautiful gladness,  changing our perspectives. topten 101

Journaling is an excellent way to capture heart felt emotions and feelings that you can meditate upon at a later time…I think journaling is a wonderful way of  self expression and  though it takes stillness, time and true reflection, it is worth every bit of its challenge. journal 1

It is a true honor to be able to worship our maker! topten 100

Have you heard the sayings; “Prayer changes everything?” Or “Things go better with prayer?” I have found both to be genuinely true….and I am so thankful  for this spectacular gift we have been given.. prayer-conversations-with-god.

 

#6. Give yourself one hour of pure bliss a day…(Another one of my favorites.)

You know how you feel when the doorbell rings and there is a uniformed guy standing there with a huge bouquet of flowers? Or the UPS truck parks outside, (making your dog go crazy) and he leaves and unexpected box on your porch? For Christmas this year, two of my brothers in California, sent kit and I See’s candy…our very favorite chocolate in the world. Oh the joy, (and pounds) just joshing, their gifts brought… Well, I have found that by doing something that is “pure pleasure”  once a day…it is a replica of the feeling of pure joy we received from  the gifts they sent, only I do it for myself… In treating and pampering yourself, you create a “better YOU” to give to others… topten 150For Kit,  one of his his hours of bliss is his time at the gym with all of his work out buddies…its social, fun and he benefits greatly from it. It is his “Me time” and when he does not get that hour in, he feels a great void and difference in his day. For me, one of mine  is lighting candles, sitting on our  cozy couch with its ample pillows, reading my new Victoria magazine along with a piping, hot cup of decaf mocha java coffee with Pumpkin spice creamer, a piece of chocolate, (great chocolate,) and writing down new ideas for decorating our house for the upcoming season, then taking a hot bath top 10 12with luxurious lavender bubbles, Caswell and Massey Verbena soap, and talking to God…( I have the best conversations with Him in the tub…I think it is because I am finally still, my thoughts quieted, and I am ready to listen. ) 🙂

What  is your hour of bliss for just one day?

 

One pure hour of uninterrupted SEWING? Painting birdhouses with bright cheery colors, bringing new textures and life to your home?

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An hour of desk time to read, write, journal, plan, draw, think, read…that sounds like heaven! Surfing the net? My husband would definitely like and hour of this a day! topten 209topten 177

Writing real, authentic, (not computerized or typed,) letters to a friend or family member by a warm cozy fire! Definitely tempting to add to my list! mens stuff 29

 

Another hour of bliss for me….decorating…doesn’t matter if its a ‘glue gun fixer upper’ around the house for 60 minutes, changing our sheets on the bed to new colors and patterns, bringing about a new look or creating a beautiful garland for  a stairwell, adding flare, elegance and romance to our home. An hour of decorating is like going to a spa.

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OKAY, this choice of bliss, may have to go to overtime…watching your favorite movie…no guilt and no interruptions… ( a little popcorn on the side and your favorite candy.) Moderation is everything! 🙂 topten 178

 

Maybe your hour of bliss is sharing that 60 minutes with your mate…meeting for a glass of wine and some savory appetizers, or going for a massage together… Couple on date at restauranttopten 140

 

Sneaking away with  the guys, (or girls,) for a game of soccer….calling your best girlfriend to meet you on main street for lunch and and hour of blithesome shopping, catching that early morning hour of swimming before your day begins…(it makes the entire day different,) and lastly, hanging out at your favorite coffee bar with all your friends.  🙂 Whatever “floats your boat,” and rejuvenates you, add it each day for an hour or every other day if your life is exceedingly busy. Remember , it will take planning and time, but its worth it. (YOU ARE WORTH IT.) soccersoccer 3Daniel Bell (AUS) action reflections Swimming 2000 Sydney PGsoccer 1

 

#7 Volunteer a portion of your extra  time to a cause your heart is passionate about.

You have heard “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (And its true.) 🙂 Giving our time, our talents, our very selves, is more rewarding than we can imagine.Happy4 Giving, gets us out of our self…our problems, our ‘funk’ as they say, and brings rejuvenation, a new outlook and an overflow of  joy!

Whether a mentor to a young child, helping the elderly or volunteering your time in the pediatrics ward at your local hospital, the smiles you will see on the faces of those you are giving your skills and talents to, are worth more than money can buy.

How about volunteering at your vets office, a local pet store or kennel? (If you are a rescuer of animals, maybe help out at a soup kitchen.) 🙂 (I would be to tempted to bring all those adorable animals home.) 🙂

Oh for the love of a child! How could one not feel 100% better in their outlook on life when spending time with such purity and angelic love? Children are so blessed and  touched by being read to, sung to or just a listening ear and a little TLC as  they are healing.

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OK, this  is why I can’t volunteer at our vets office  or local  kennels…Kit would be “fit to be tied ,” if he walked through the door, (Graham too, the only child syndrome,)  and I had brought these little guys who need a warm home and some love to our house! But there are  those of you who are much more disciplined and would benefit greatly from giving your extra time helping with these adorable animals. topten 49

 

People everywhere today need volunteers…thrift stores, libraries, the elderly, churches, ….how about within your neighborhood or family…perhaps offer to have the next holiday meal at your home this year… topten 45

 

Volunteer your talent! If you have a church event coming up or a friend who is hosting a luncheon, offer to create the party favors or table-scape decor for them… Not only will it bless their socks off but your heart will feel so fulfilled inside that you were able to bring joy  and beauty to so many! topten 60

 

Volunteer to mow your neighbors lawn…for free. They may fall over and faint, but hey, what a great act of love and service! topten 59

 

How about going grocery shopping for an elderly person you know… It will feel like Christmas day for them…Your binging them a gift they can no longer do for themselves. topten 50

 

Without telling your friend, sibling, mom or dad, wash and wax their car for them… What a wonderful gift , especially for someone who is ill or has a schedule at work that is ‘beyond’ over-time.) top10 119

 

Volunteer your time as a mentor to a young child or perhaps a young adult in high school…many children, who do not have both parents at home, receive so much love , strength and blessings from someone who will take on that missing part, mentoring them in the many needed skills of life. FD-50

 

#8 Live well, laugh often and love much! I love this idea!

I have a beautiful little pillow on my  front porch chair that has this saying on it…It is a great reminder for me everyday! I think in this TOP TEN, ‘Live well’ and ‘Love Much’ are covered, but I love the encouragement to LAUGH OFTEN! What makes you laugh? Smile? Brings you an abundance of joy welling up within your soul until you break out into a chuckle?  It is no fable that laughter is medicine for the soul, but it is also one of the best antidotes for your body and overall health!

topten 125Choose to be around the people in your life that make you laugh! (I am eminently blessed to have exceedingly comedic brothers and my husband makes me laugh daily! )

Learn to laugh at YOURSELF…It’s freeing!

Kit and I love to play pranks on each other, (good pranks…) and always, when we reminisce over our years of mischievous antics or practical jokes, we laugh all over again.

When Kit and I play hide and seek with Graham, we have laughed so hard, (the kind of laughter that makes your jaws ache.) All I have to say to Graham is “Do you want to play hide and seek?”graham100 I have Kit keep him in a room until I am hiding and am ready, then Ibegin calling Grahams name. I always hide in a place that I can watch and see his efforts and captivating expressions as he “tries so vigorously” to find me. I totally give my hiding  place away as I can no longer contain my laughter…(he is so unbelievably cute!)  He wags his tale, kisses me 10 times and goes back to kit as He wants me to hide all over again. It’s  pure joy for all three of us. 🙂

A few more guarantees for a dose of hearty laughter…rent a few renowned, known to make you laugh til you cry, comedy movies, spend time with a baby or a toddler for the afternoon… Both will turn your world upside down and you will be laughing and smiling so much, you’ll forget what you were stressing out about! 🙂

Plan an evening at a comedy club.. or watch your favorite comedian on TV.

 

Just looking at these gentle giants makes me smile... I challenge you to spend some time playing hide and seek or any game  that your dog loves… see if it doesn’t bring you an abundance of joy and laughter. 🙂

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Offer to babysit, take your niece, nephew or a friends baby for the afternoon…get lost in their world and allow yourself to feel their joy and laughter over the simplest of things.  I truly believe that babies are God’s gift of laughter to all of us adults… nicolesmiley7

 

The same is true of the adorable toddler stage…When I was going through a rough time, right out of high school, an 18 month old little girl came into my world and changed life as I knew it.  As we became friends, my days were filled with so much love, adventure , fun and pure laughter. Oh to be a child again! Try it, you may really like it! 🙂

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No kidding, Kit and I laughed so hard at Jimmy Fallon’s and Justin Timberlake’s take on the history of rap… I saved it on our DVR and every time we need to really “belly laugh,” I put it on…Same thing with Wayne Brady or any comedian you thoroughly enjoy…they will come up with words, ideas and phrases that will make you laugh ’til you cry’…oh how we need comedy and laughter in our lives! justinbridesmaid

Two guaranteed movies that we agree will make you “really” laugh…Bridesmaids and Dan in real life. Look for the bride attendants scene after a lunch they all attend with the bride,  and the dancing  bar scene in Dan in real life with Ruthy “Pig face”… Then tell me you did not laugh heartily. 🙂

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I find when I am working at home and The Ellen show comes on, I am laughing at something! She comes up with the most original pranks and jokes,(has some fabulous guests as well…) If you have never played a practical joke on someone safe, (like a spouse, good friend or sibling,) you have missed out on a lot of laughter… You gotta try it this year! (Just once, at least.)

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#9 Express your emotions and heartfelt sentiments on a daily basis. (OK, this is, I think, my most favorite of all….)

I will never forget when I heard the shocking news that Paul Walker, (the race car driver and star of Fast and Furious) died suddenly in a car accident. When they interviewed his father on TV, his eyes welled up with tears as he spoke the word,s “There was never a day that we did not say the words to each other “I love you.” “I love you 3  Loosing a loved one is one of the hardest things we ever face in life...loosing someone unexpectedly is even harder. Just knowing and having the assurance that those most cherished in your life, TRULY KNOW how much you care for them and love them, makes all the difference in the world.

We all express our love in different ways…Here are a few demonstrative ideas to proclaim or declare your sentiments.

Always say “I love you” when ending a phone call with your friends and family.     Tell your spouse or  mate that you love them everyday.     Express love to your precious cargo daily, whether its a treat, hug, praise or a massage, (especially if they are getting up there in age.)     HALLMARK CARDS! They create and write the words perfectly  that are so hard for us to say!     If your gifted with words…write a tribute, a poem or a letter to someone you know who has changed your life and are always there for you, no matter what!     A REAL HUG GOES A LONG WAY!     Put a love note in your child’s lunchbox, or place a post it note telling them how proud you are of them, wrapped up in their lunch money!     For a GREAT and faithful neighbor, surprise them with a homemade spinach-bacon quiche or a warm plate of Toll house cookies, just to say “Thanks.”     Take your brother, sister, best friend, husband, child or parent out to lunch “just because” and say its your treat.       If you are not a person who likes to express with words how you feel, find a  creative way to SHOW those in your life just how much you love them and what your world would be like, if they were not there. (Maybe a bouquet of flowers, balloons and a singing telegram for no reason, buying them their favorite trilogy of movies, or a series of books, create an album of treasured photos of the memories you two have shared together over the years or give them a gift certificate to get a massage. )

Remind your little one often, of how very special they are and how much you love them. Be creative! note

I will never forget the day My husband and I moved from California…(the one place in all the world that held all of my childhood memories, nostalgic teenage years, every family member and my best friends in life.)  It was getting time for us to go and my younger brother Patrick and I waited forever to say Goodbye as it was so painfully hard…we were best buds as well as siblings!  We did not have to say any words…our hug, tears and embrace said EVERYTHING! Hugs go a long way! Pat and I

 

Find creative ways to say “I love you.” i love you

 

When the words and sentiments are hard to say, you can always trust Hallmark! I love you 4

 

Nothing says ‘lovin,’ like something scrumptious from your oven! 🙂 I love you 2I love you 1

 

Tell your boyfriend, girlfriend, mate, fiance, spouse and children that you love them, every morning and every night! myhunk

 

Say “I love you,”  with the aid of the Professionals… A singing telegram with balloons, flowers or a box of their favorite confections! singing T 50 singing T 1singing T 2

 

Say I love you by surprising a dear friend with a relaxing, delightful lunch at their favorite Bistro or a quaint, countryside  eatery. two

 

Sing a love song to your precious cargo…praise them with honoring, loving words, their favorite treat and lots of hugs! (Everyday!) punk2

 

#10  Lastly Learn something new this year in your life to broaden  and educate your mind, and enhance your social skills at the same time.

Do something innovative and completely different that you’ve never done before… topten 109You may feel a little awkward at first…but its like exercising a new muscle of the body…at first it is sore, then it is toned and profits your body with new strength…thus, a new skill will do the same. I still have not decided this years new venture…last year it was getting a camera and pretending I was a photographer for a day, looking for that perfect KODAK MOMENT! (Believe me, I deleted many a photo, but hey, some came out pretty good.)  Kits was learning and researching the world of stockbroking. (Wow, that is an intricate and complicated new skill to learn.) 🙂 He loved it and it  paid off…) (No pun intended.) 🙂

Some thoughts? How about becoming a Beekeeper? Taking a Hip Hop dance class?  Join a bowling league…. learn how to faux paint, pastamake homemade pasta, play an instrument, become your households ‘in home’ researcher…utilizing your local library and  the internet, (I think I just found mine for 2014.) 🙂 Take an elegant cake baking class, (learning how to create exquisite cakes that people only dream of,) learn how to create stain glass paintings, take a motorcycle course, get a bike and enjoy a new view of this beautiful world! Learn how to create your own website to share with  the world whats on your heart, learn a new language, join a Yoga class, try stenciling your bedroom wall, pick up a needlepoint kit and create a wall hanging or pillow with your creative skills  or knit a baby blanket for the new arrival within your family.   There are so many NEW adventures to take on to broaden our worlds, keeping our mind and bodies active… (two wondrous gifts that benefit our lives fabulously!)

I have never tried Calligraphy but I think it would be a wonderful class to take to enhance ones penmanship… How fun would it be, to be able to make your own invitations and stationary? mens stuff 18

 

There are some great “HOW TO,”  magazines and books on the market as well as classes, to learn how to decorate your home for the holidays! topten 205

 

How fun would it be to spend your summer days with children of all ages at the YMCA summer day camp program?  You will come through it with a new degree in Children’s behavior! (Make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen and keep a few Tylenol in your pocket.) 🙂 topten 126

 

Taking a class learning sign language…what a great new skill to be able to communicate with those who can’t hear… (Maybe Kit and I should take that course for when we grow old together in our autumn years.) 🙂 topten 108

 

Learn how to be your own photographer… topten 105

 

Blogging is a wondrous way to communicate your passions and heartfelt emotions on life! topten 102

 

Lately, I have been hearing more and more people say they want to train and run in a marathon before they ‘meet their maker’ 🙂  What a wonderful achievement. topten 10

 

OK, now we’re talking….dancing, letting loose… great exercise and is undoubtedly  an ideal place to meet new people and have a lot of fun. Take a dance class!Fitness dance

 

A “piece of cake?” I don’t think so. Learning the art of diving would be a wonderful new skill to embody…Just think of how many healthy hormones this sport releases to fight your bodies stress… top10 96

 

Have you ever had the desire to really learn about fine wines, take trips to renowned wineries and become knowledgeable on this subject? I know people who have done this and it fascinates me, as they know more about a bottle of wine than I had ever-imagined one could know or learn.  top10 79

 

Take your local bus or the metro line into the city a few times, stay the entire day and learn what it is like to live within a bustling city… Quite different than small town living for sure! top10 70

Learn Astronomy and become a star gazer… Invest in a telescope and learn all about this fascinating art of observing the sky. Keep studying and learning  further about all our planets,  (the universes stellar metropolises.) 🙂

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Have you always had a secret desire or dream to become a celebrity? How about taking a voice over class or an acting class? (You will be sure to meet an abundance of people, have lots of fun and it makes for a wonderful new hobby.)

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Make this the year you learn how to set boundaries in your relationships….Very hard in the beginning, but OH SO WORTH IT…It is wonderfully freeing and decreases  your bodies stress! Two gifts in one!   🙂 Another new behavior skill to learn, saying NO! So easy, yet so difficult… but again, fabulously rewarding when you get it down! 🙂 topten 31topten 30

 

Just being honest…this new skill is a little bit to much on the daring side for me, but we knew a bee keeper in South Carolina and he absolutely loved it! If you are a Thrill-seeker, perhaps this would be the perfect “new Skill” for you to learn in 2014! (If you do, write in and tell us about it! )  🙂 topten 103

 

Are these cakes par-excellent, five star or what?  What a wonderful, creative art to bless so many with.  (A blessing to both the eyes and palate.) 🙂 (I will add this to my list of “new skills” to learn!) 🙂

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I don’t know about you , but I feel awesomely motivated and have great hopes for this new year of 2014.   I look forward to trying a few of these notions and making this year more colorful, creative as well as a fulfilling. I  hope that you have found one or two ideas  you like and will find new joy, strengths and happiness…  Its never to late to try new things… even if its within your safe haven and only you see the changes and experience the smiles it brings to your face and heart!

 

I wish each and everyone of you  AN EXCEPTIONALLY HAPPY NEW YEAR, WITH 2014 BRINGING YOU MANY BLESSINGS, SMILES AND FULFILLMENT!

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PHOTOGRAPHS: In placing your computer mouse upon any of the photos or graphics, it will display where the picture originated from.

Yours always, HOPE!

 

HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS, THAT PERCHES IN THE SOUL, AND SINGS THE TUNE WITHOUT THE WORDS, AND NEVER STOPS AT ALL.” ~ Emily Dickinson

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When the ‘first flicker’ of creating my blog site, “Living winsomely” entered my heart, I envisioned it to be a site where every writing would be colorful, felicitous, resourceful and filled with beauty, as my whole concept of writing these blogs has been to inspire you,living winsomely my readers, to bring more beauty, joy and winsomeness  into your lives. I stared thinking the other day, about how much strength, beauty and life, HOPE brings to our lives. HOPE changes everything… The hard part of it is, that we usually have to be in a difficult place, or “season” of our life, to really appreciate the powerful gift that lays within this resplendent bestowal. I decided to write this blog on loss and hope, because loss is a part of all of our lives in one way or another...especially peaking its head out during the holidays, as we have such a treasure of golden memories during this festive time, of those we no longer have with us. In this blog, I want to share with you a writing about the loss of a love that only comes once in a lifetime. It is a true story that I wrote, when something magical happened, in facing the loss of my my best friend for 33 years, my mom.beautiful mom I want to  share it with you, because it is a writing of HOPE and when I  was given this gift in my ‘letting go stage of accepting her death,’ it truly changed me inside, bringing a peace I never wanted to leave my soul, and it changed me prodigiously… I will always love this word HOPE. ( But it is so much more than a word,) 🙂 …I look for it everyday in the small things that come about that are in need of its help, but always know I can count on it 100%, when the monumental storms of life hit. Hope never fails!

We all suffer losses everyday, in many forms… relationships, our health, jobs, a miscarriage, financial stability, our beloved pets, a friendship, a dream deep within our hearts, a home or the loss of  ourselves, from being abused.

When we experience loss, there are such a wide range of emotions that flood our soul…we try to “avoid those emotions,” for as long as we possibly can, but they always seem to surface and come out in some other way. (Don’t they?)   (I always have loved the “numb stage”.) 🙂  Someone very wise once told me that when we suffer a deep cut physically upon our bodies, the body goes into a place of numbness and we do not feel the injury’s “real effect and pain”  until later. The human body is built that way…it protects us. In the same way, our minds protect us from our emotions that seem unbearable to allow ourselves to feel. When we do “Feel” and embrace them, the  miraculous gift, that begins to unravel, is the gift of becoming whole again and  healing. I myself would not dare to “feel” loss, alone…that is where my faith comes in. We all have different ways of coping, different beliefs, faiths and tools for accepting and grieving our losses. For me, it has always been my faith in God. (Not to say that at times, it took longer to get to the place to be able to receive the precious gift of hope that comes in our losses, than others.)jim and I When I lost my brother Jim unexpectedly, ( who was also one of my best friends in life,) it took me a lot longer to connect with God and for some reason, I took the elongated way around!  But the HOPE came, then the healing and now instead of sadness and what seemed an endless well of despair,  when I think of Jim, I feel a warmth, love and a joy... I miss him now more than words can say, but  with such a gratitude that I was able to  love someone so deeply, that in loosing them,  I could feel such a magnitude of grief and loss. I thank God for allowing me to have him in my life on this earth  for 52 years, as he was one in a million.  I smile now, (inside and out,)  at all of our treasured memories, (which are many,) and my tears are happy tears, celebrating that I had such a phenomenal person as my big brother, in whom I KNOW I will see again one day. HOPE CHANGES EVERYTHING…

To give you some background for this writing, let me tell you a little bit about my mom and I… We were like two peas in a pod…knew exactly what the other was feeling, thinking, loved to spend time together, were each others confidants, and she taught me so much in life about Love, forgiveness, family, etiquette, cooking,snowmen27 decorating,beautiful kat  joy, fun, makeup, apparel, humor, laughter, truth, unconditional love and acceptance. She was actually the one who introduced me to the Lord , as she had been praying for me , (and all my 6 siblings,) for many, many years. I was blessed beyond words to have  her for my mom and best friend. My mom got married young and started her family early with a beautiful baby girl, then after four  baby boys in a row, (she whispered to the Lord;cathy “I’d like another little baby girl again…these boys are wearing me out.”) 🙂 (Sorry guys…) and low and behold, she had twin baby girls, my sister Kathy and I. (One of us was a BIG surprise as she had no idea when giving birth, she would be delivering two babies into this world, instead of one.) 🙂 It was a happy time for her as we were her special gift from God, fulfilling a place in her heart that she had prayed and longed for. Suddenly and unexpectedly,  my twin died when she was 8 months old and my mom , (as well as our entire family) suffered a tragic loss and went through a very dark time… I was told that It was in loosing my twin, that my mom and I began to form the close bond that we were blessed with in life…bebe 18192She protected me like a mother hen looks after her baby chicks, never wanting to loose her other precious ‘care-package,’ God had just given her. ( Three  years later, she did have one more baby boy,) declaring to the world; “Okay, 8 is enough!” 🙂  ( My baby brother was not only magical, but a true bundle of joy to my mom, family and everyone who knew him, and he still is, )  but that will have to be a whole other story! 🙂

As we enter  into this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, and you are personally going through the loss of a loved one, or a loss of any kind, I hope that “my story” will bestow upon you a ray of hope, and that in some way, you will feel a strength and peace in the midst of your journey and season of loss.

 Yours always, HOPEbeautiful kat2

I will never forget the arduous day that changed my life forever. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, late in the month of June. I drove from Irvine California to Laguna Niguel to visit my folks just like I did a few times each week. I loved going to parents lovely home. Every time I’d open their front door, I would always get that same warm, gregarious feeling.allabaster2 I don’t know if it was because of all the heavenly and familiar aromas cooking and simmering in my mom’s kitchen, (her legendary shriharbormp creole with a ‘southern touch,’ savory brisket stewing together with red potatoes,carrots and onions or  her scrumptious, (secret sauce,)  spaghetti and mouthwatering, “seconds please,”  beef stroganoff.)  Perhaps it was the buoyant and content sounds of laughter, a favorite television show playing,  melodic music wafting from my fathers study upstairs or the voices of one of my 6 siblings, harbor10conversing over a cup of freshly brewed chicory coffee with my mom and dad. All I know is I always got so excited knowing I was going  to my ‘second home.’ I headed upstairs to see my mom as I knew she would be resting. merriment14 Her cozy, southern style, beautiful bedroom had become “the gathering place” for our family since she had been recovering from her illness. Being a southerner and a connoisseur of coastal, daunting yet thrilling, summer lightning storms, (  Southern California did not offer that amenity very often,) 🙂  she always  asked me to put her “Thunderstorm tape” in her boom box beside her bed …she played it over and over again, as it soothed her body and soul. 🙂 ( Twenty-two years later, I find myself listening to that same tape, feeling its magical comfort  each time.) 🙂   Everyday, she looked like a radiant angel, in her pretty nightgown and matching robe, always smiling as she greeted us and asked us about our day… You see, my mom’s whole life was about her family and she was ALWAYS interested in every detail of our lives…each one of us could talk to her about ‘anything,’ and WE DID! 🙂 Even our friends felt the same way!

My dad met me on the stair landing, where he stopped me and spoke the very words my heart had dreaded and feared the most.

“Susan, after your mom’s appointment today, her doctor told me that her cancer has returned and has spread throughout her body. He doesn’t expect her to live beyond six to eight weeks time, though they are going to run more tests.”

All of the hope, faith and confidence I had clung to that her cancer was  healed and gone, deserted  me. I felt as if the wind was knocked out from under my feet, and I truly  believe it was at that moment, that God Himself, filled me with His strength and grace. His arms were holding me on that stairway as I didn’t collapse or run out of the house, screaming in despair.  Without preparation, notice and totally unexpected, I was just told that the best friend I had ever had in my life was going to die. I was flooded with so many fearful and angst emotions. A deep sadness overcame me and I felt that a part of me inside was beginning to die as well. The HOPE was gone. I don’t remember what I said to her that day, (as she had not been told yet.)  I don’t even remember driving home…

merriment13My husband Kit held me close as I shared the news with him that evening. He tried so vehemently to comfort me in every way he knew how, but his loving arms and kind, compassionate, words could not penetrate the pain in my soul. Oh, the awful painI never knew a heart could hold something so massive.

 

The warm summer days passed. All I remember is  that I was merely functioning. Although brideI was a new bride and should have been feeling blissful joy, and pure felicity with Kit, the man that I had always dreamed of being married to, I felt lifeless. Going to visit my mom , with the knowledge that this time she was not going to recover, I felt empty, helpless, dismayed, fearful and my heart was overwhelmed with anguish, especially because she had not yet been told the full truth. ( Amongst my melange of multifarious emotions,  I TREASURED every moment spent with her, holding on so tightly to everything she said, her smile, touch, the scent of her favorite perfume that she wore everyday, (Carolina Herrera,) not wanting to miss out on even  one moment of the precious time we had left with her.)  I remember the afternoon I sat in my grandmother’s old rocker, caddy-cornered to my mom’s bed. She was sitting up that day, her animated, beautiful brown eyes filled with excitement as she spoke to me in her sweet southern accent about us returning to her home town in South Carolina the upcoming fall.

“Susan, won’t it be wonderful to visit Marion and see all of our cousins this autumn?harbor2 The fall leaves will be so beautiful with bursts of reds, amber and yellows, and the air will be harbor1so crisp and cold. Maybe we’ll get a few thunderstorms while we’re there?  We can drive down to Pawley’s Island and Murrell’s Inlet, see the Spanish moss on the huge old oak trees and eat as much fresh crab and shrimp from the inlet waters as we want.”

My heart was breaking inside as she spoke these words for I knew that this trip would never be. How I hid my pain from her that day, I will never know. (She knew me so well.)

I begged the Lord not to take my mom. I prayed like I had never prayed before for a miracle… (I believed with the faith of a child that God could do anything and I ached for Him to intervene in this paralyzing news my heart kept trying to reject.merriment1 The heaviness in my soul would not lift for somehow,  I knew in my heart, that this time, her cancer was not going to be healed, the way it was the year before or in the way we expected .  I had a knowing, deep down, that the Lord was going to take her home to be with Him and that would be her healing. At other times, when my mom was ill and I felt the fear that the Lord was going to take her home, (her cancer when it first  arrived, and the 90% blockage in the major artery to her heart), He would always assure my heart that it was not her time. This time, He was silent.

My visits to see my mom were much more frequent and more difficult, (yet in a  strange way, a bit  freeing,) now that my dad and the doctors had shared with her how progressively her cancer had returned, spreading throughout her body and that unless God gave us all a miracle, she was not going to live much longer. One of the hardest days of my life, yet now one of my most cherished, was the day my mom and I sat together on her bed talking.IMG_0272  With her captivating and warm smile, ( almost as if she was reliving time, 24 years earlier,)  she told me that she wanted me to have her grandmother’s Haviland rose china, because when I was a little girl, I admired and reveled in its beautiful roses, each time she took it out for special occasions. She cried as she shared how hard it was for her to know that she would never meet my children.merriment18 She and I had always talked about the day that Kit and I would have a little baby girl …’Kathryn Anne’, (named after her of course.) 🙂  She told me that she was so happy for me that God had brought Kit into my life, that he was a great man and that she  truly adored him, and knew I would always be taken care of. Lastly, we both acknowledged that God had given us a bond like no other and what a wondrous and special  blessing it was in both of our lives. Our tears at that moment were endless as we embraced and held each other, allowing our selves to feel the pain and fear of her death, our loss and having to say goodbye,  together.

One evening in the midst of all of the disquieting and daunting  pain and sorrow, Kit asked me to take a drive and get out for a little bit with him. (He is always so thoughtful.) We decided to drive down to Dana Point Harbor. (The place we met, courted, fell in love, and got married, so YOU KNOW it brought great comfort every time we visited it’s maritime charm .)  Upon arriving to this quaint port side community, we drove up to the marina . harbor5There before us were an abundance of admiral boats, tied up at the docks, bobbing up and down from the strong wind and choppy waters. The harbor was astir and alive with all of the summer visitors, bright lights and the sound of musical bands that often entertained during the summer season. I needed and longed for a quiet place where Kit and I could be alone. Kit drove further down the road, and we arrived to the jetty.  This long strand of jagged rocks with the ocean waves  calmly caressing their intricate banks, was perfect.  Kit and I were the only people sitting upon the serene and quiet quai that evening. It truly was the place my soul needed.harbor9 Kit held me so tight as we sat there in silence. It was a bit chilly with the  cool wind blowing off of the ocean,  but we did not care. Together with Kit, yet so terribly alone in my despondency, I looked out into the vast ocean, the grey, damp fog and the darkness. It was then, I cried out to God.

 

“I need you Lord so much! Please will you speak to my breaking heart.”

Loosing my mother, my dearest friend in life for 33 years was the hardest thing the Lord had ever asked my family or I  to walk through. harbor15 I was so frightened and terrified,  of what life would be like without her. Outside of Him and His power and grace, there was no way that I could go through letting her go. I absolutely, no matter how hard I tried to muster up the faith and BELIEVE we would all be OK without her,  could not surrender her to God.

As we continued to sit on the jetty looking out into the ocean, I saw two brilliant lights together out at sea, looking as if they were floating in mid air. They were the lights upon the main masts of two boats traveling side by side.two lights The darkness and fog hid their forms so that all I could see, were two shining lights nestled together. Suddenly, one of the lights disappeared. I found myself surprisingly impelled to look for the lost light. I searched everywhere to find it, but it was no where to be found. I only beheld the one light.  I felt a stabbing pain in my heart, as the lost light reminded me that soon, my mom would be gone and the ‘fearless duo’ and best friends we had always been throughout my entire life, would no longer exist. In this uncertain and capricious world, she would no longer be beside me to share my heart, laugh, cry and pray with. I would be without her presence for evermore. I became overwhelmed with a sense of devastation and fear, in an even greater amount than I had been feeling since my dad told me the news. I began to speak to the Lord again;

“Why God are you allowing me to feel this horrible pain as I am crying out to you? Where are you Lord? I felt chilled to the bone and so alone… It seemed like God was silent.

The fog began rolling in, becoming more dense.  As I looked out to sea, I could barely see any light at all as the heavy mist continued to thicken. I stopped searching for either light for awhile, very aware of my despairing emotions, until in a sudden moment, I looked up to my left and there to my surprise, adjoined to the shore line, were the two lights together again, beaming ever so brightly. merriment4It was at that moment that a peace, (I had not felt in weeks,) permeated my soul…  I Knew it was Gods presence and I felt the Lord begin to show me and minister to me in a way that changed everything…

This is what I believe He was speaking to my spirit;

” Susan, look. Now the two lights are together again, safely arriving to the shoreline. It was but for a SEASON that you did not see your light that you thought was lost out at sea. Like the fog, hiding from your sight the glowing light out in the ocean, the light was still there….you just could not see it… so it is with your mom’s parting.merriment5 Your mom is only switching places, she will still continue to live, only she will be with me in a new place. It will only be a season of time before you see her again. And Susan, oh what a glorious time of reunion the two of you will have together in heaven.”

With this new revelation, and the peace that had laid rest upon my soul,  my heart felt so much lighter. My spirit embraced a hope it had not known. I felt a new strength to face my days ahead, as hard as they may be. I thanked God over and over for ministering to me as He did, and enjoyed the  HOPE and peace that continued to fill my soul, praying it would never go away.

I  do not believe that it was a coincidence that Kit and I drove to the harbor that particular evening or that God used the ‘lights’ to set my heart free from it’s hopelessness.snomen 19 He knew that I could not bare to loose my closet friend, my mom. Gently, He showed me a new perspective, His perspective and through His mercy, power, grace and kindness, I was able to begin to let her go, with the knowledge that one day, she and I would be together again, and at that time, we would never have to say goodbye again.

 

It was but a few weeks later when we were all called to my parents home in Laguna Niguel. The day was August 14th, a Wednesday morning that will always be engraved upon my heart. The hospice nurse said that for all purposes, my mom should have died in the midnight hours, but she would not give up, and continued to fight for her life. It was not until the last of her seven children arrived to her bed side, and she had the opportunity to partake in her goodbyes, that she was free to “let us go.”  I remember when all  of us arrived that morning to the house, my father told us, that it was very important that  we each  let my mom know that it was OKAY for her to go. (She needed to hear those words.)   Because of the revelation and HOPE the Lord had given me that night at the harbor, I was ready and able to do just that, truly LET HER GO.

As she and I looked at each other, we both knew with confidence (and I spoke it as she could not) that our goodbye was but only for a season of time and not forever. I told her how much I loved her and would miss her beyond what my words could express, but for her, it would feel like only seconds when we’d all be together again…her yes smiled.  She took her last breath after the last of her seven children said their goodbyes. My father was holding her, and we, her devoted and adoring children, surrounded her as she was laying in her beautiful bed . What a wonderful gift that God gave us all to be with her, as well as with one another, as He took our beloved mother to be with Him.merriment6 She was no longer in pain or sick with cancer, but free and full of joy, already having a marvelous reunion with the Lord, her mother, her little girl,( my twin, Kathy,) her grand parents and all of her loved ones that had gone before her.

 

I will never forget how God rescued me that chilly summer night… His peace, loving words and the HOPE He bestowed upon my soul and spirit was undeniable.harbor6 His  Hope changed everything. The days were not easy, as grief never is, but there did come a day, I was free of the devastating pain, and instead of that heaviness and mourning, my  heart began to fill up once again with joy and happiness and a grateful heart that I was given such a beautiful gift and stupendous mother and friend  for 33 years of my life. I knew  in my spirit that she was not “gone”, she was alive, just in a different place.I think of her every day, always with a humongous smile or tears of joy, I miss her augustly, but I am assured and looking forward to that reunion day that God so graciously showed me. His wondrous gift of Hope…

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Hope never fails…Hope changes everything…Hope is not a word, Hope is God and a very real gift to us, His kids.

 

PHOTOGRAPHS: In placing your computer mouse upon any of the graphics or photos, it will display where the picture originated from.

“ESTEEM In BLoom,” A ladies Edification Tea!

 “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” ~ John Holmes

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Ah the impact of uplifting words! What would you do if you were offered one million dollars with the stipulation being,  that in receiving it, you would never hear an uplifting word spoken to you the rest of your life, nor could you speak one? In weighing out the benefits, it hardly seems their would  be a choice to make. (IMHO) 🙂

When you think about the word “edification” what comes to your mind? I was surprised to read that one of the translations of this word is “TO BUILD A HOUSE.” That makes sense as when someone speaks edifying words to another person, it truly does build us up in our self esteem, value and worth as human beings. It also promotes helping one-another in our growth and development of our talents as well as significance and importance in this world. Who does not want to feel that kind of support in their lives?

love tank2Its so easy in this worlds “energetic confusion” and the ‘hurried bustle’ of our daily lives to become so busy that we don’t take the time to be demonstrative with our words, telling others what a wonderful person they are or how much they mean to us in our lives. We innocently just believe they ‘already know’ that they are beautiful, kind, handsome, smart, a spectacular mentor to us, a person of great integrity or someone we look up to. And if we are honest, we at times miss hearing something good about ourselves as well.

Many of us are blessed with a mate or close friends and family, that  tell us quite often that “they love us” and they show their love through uplifting words, telling us daily what our value is to them. Others do not, all the more reason that we as ‘the human race’ need to speak words that edify and uplift others, whether to our families,  friends, siblings, parents, children, co-workers, neighbors, even a stranger in the grocery store.  (And we can’t forget our precious cargo.) 🙂cargo

 

 

I  have come to learn that if I wait to speak something complimentary to someone only when “they look like they need a lift”, I have held on to my ‘words of enrichment’ far to long, as so many of us never show we are in need of just one ‘good bout of encouragement and a kind word.’

lovetank1Everyone wants to feel significant, of value and loved. Like the saying goes, “we all have a love tank that needs to be filled every now and then to ‘keep us going.’ ” Where do we go to get it filled? There is no one answer, as we all receive value, love and significance in a medley of diverse ways. Perhaps  we receive it through praise for our talents and gifts, from our significant other, close friendships, a parent, a mentors smile, our faith in God, His love and what He says about us, or a combination of many things. For each person, the “Love station” they choose to ‘fill up’ at, is unique and personal.   I do know that we all share one thing in common…the power of WORDS effects us all.

If you have come from a background of hurtful words, verbal or physical abuse, traumatic events as well as destructive relationships, then you know what negative words can produce; beliefs about ourselves that are not true, loneliness, low self esteem, shyness and  shame. On the other hand, if your  home was filled with praise, words of encouragement and  unconditional love, then you know how much that bestowal  has nurtured you, and that the words we speak are so important, as you feel loved, nurtured, secure and confidant.

I love the quote by Mother Teresa, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” That truth alone is a prodigious  inspiration that we can, (no matter our age and season in life)  change our own negative beliefs about ourselves as well as help others to change theirs, by sharing heartfelt words of encouragement, edification and love.rose Gracious and good-hearted words spoken in love, can be  likened to a fresh spring rain falling upon a thirsty rose, whose brilliant beauty blossoms as the nourishment reaches its roots. Uplifting words ennoble encouragement, growth, confidence and for many, (without us even knowing it,) eradicates the wrong truths we have been told and believed.To edify is to illuminate, inspire, nurture, elevate, uplift, renew, and transform.

 

Of all times to feel an inspiration from up above, I was vigorously dancing away,( to the Motown tunes of Michael McDonald,) as the thought came to me “Why not have an Edification Tea for your girlfriends?” (It was hard to concentrate on my aerobic exercise any longer as my mind began excitedly thinking about how much fun it would be and how I would  do it.) 🙂 I changed the original theme I was thinking about (an autumn gathering,)  to a time of encouragement with the ‘benefits’ of the joys an afternoon Tea brings.  Thus, this blog is about more than just a resplendent afternoon for ladies to indulge in a few hours of repose and pampering, its that PLUS  a noteworthy , tangible  and  priceless gift to  take home and keep forever…gentle giants 6 the bestowal of edification and feeling loved.  In growing up with five brothers and being married to Kit for 24 years,  I know that not one of them would host an afternoon Tea for their buddies, but I have witnessed and still do,  an abundance of special ways that men can reach out to their friends and bring about edification. I see Kit do that with adventuring off  on a camping  trip with one of his friends,  calling a buddy when he is going through a rough time in life or helping his friend to renovate his home.  (Yes the help is needed, but it is the time shared between two men and the “guy talk” that happens ‘along the way’  that brings about a time for building up one another.) It doesn’t matter what the occasion is or what “stage” it occurs on…it only matters that it happens in all our lives.

(Though I have to admit, if I had a choice of an afternoon tea with sweet indulgences, a delicious meal and girl talk, in the midst of a beautiful ambiance, compared to painting a house and breaking out a sweat, well, you know which one I’d choose.) 🙂

 

A  few selected quotes about ” the joys and gifts of Tea, friendships and edifying others.” (A great combination for an abundance of warm fuzzy’s.)   🙂

 

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“Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.” ~James Norwood Pratt

“The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which, as a rule, I particularly enjoy. I like the crackling logs, the shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, the general atmosphere of leisured coziness.” ~P.G. Wodehouse

“The sounds of the tea being made invite the peach blossoms to peep in through the window. “~Uson, quoted in Sasaki Sanmi.

“Where there’s tea there’s hope.” ~Arthur Wing Pinero

“True friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable. “~ David Tyson Gentry

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones,” or put in another way…”Kind words are like honey , sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” ~ Proverbs 16:24


apple100“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”~ Proverbs 25:11

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” ~ I Thessalonians 5:11

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ~ Plato

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ~Henry James

apple110“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage. “~Catherine Douzel

 

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” ~ Nelson Mandela

apple111“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” ~ Laozi

Never lose a chance of saying a kind word.” ~ William Makepeace Thackeray

apple103Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’ ~ C.S. Lewis

A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. ~ William Shakespeare

 

“Lots of apple106people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

“It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”~ Marlene Dietrich

“Friends are the family you choose.” ~ Jess C. Scott

 

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” ~Ray Bradbury
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“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one many edify another.”   Bible Quotes

 

 

A ladies afternoon Tea , already within itself is a fabulously edifying fete to create and give to those special friends in your life. Its a rare gift of your signature style, love and creativity all wrapped into one.Your home becomes a resplendent stage for a memorable gathering your guests will treasure,  as you treat them to a time of feeling uplifted, pampered and loved.

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THE JUBILANT PLANNING , PREPARING AND CREATING TIME.

OKAY, we already know the theme of this afternoon of bliss, but what about the time of year? There are so many fabulous motifs that each season has to offer. Are you someone who prefers entertaining outdoors, where the warm sunshine and lush landscape with a bounty of color gives you a head start with your backdrop? Maybe you love the winter and autumn months, where your beautiful fireplace can come into play along with a hot (comfort food) 🙂  entree, amidst the marvel that fall’s changing leaves and chilly brisk temperatures brings or the mirth and splendor of the magical Christmas season.   There is really no ideal  time of year to chose , its truly what you desire as the  hostess.

Winter offers the relishable  muses of Christmas and Valentines day…two sublime and glorious holidays to  inspire you with a bounty of wondrous decor ideas for your gathering.

This hostess has created a fabulously classy, festive and eminently inviting table-scape with her wintry greens, soft candle light and romantic reds. elegance500

With an ambiance of romance, the beauty of a Victorian Christmas, the warm glow of a fire kindling and candles burning, who would ever want to leave this inviting, cozy ambiance?

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A Valentines theme is perfect for an Edification tea with “the celebration on Love” being in the air…(and IMHO, you can never go wrong with RED as your foundational  color palete.)  valentines100

If a bouquet of flowers creates a celebration on an ordinary day, just imagine what a garden overflowing with fresh blossoms and bedazzling color does for a festive day of splendor with your best girlfriends?

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Whether you are Irish or not, St. Patrick’s day is a fun , colorful and jocose  muse to use for your gala, and because it falls in the wake of springs arrival, its ideal for an inside or outdoors setting.

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(Being a collector and lover of bunnies, this is one of my all time favorite patina’s for an afternoon tea.) I love the pastel colors this hostess has chosen to celebrate Springs long awaited celebration of Easter.valentines110

Summer whites amidst a sylvan charm…This formal tablescape is elegant , inviting and pleasing to both the eyes and spirit.

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I have never  been to a 4th of July afternoon Tea but just looking at this fetching table-scape, creates a desire to try one. Absolutely stunning with it’s array of vibrant, livening blues, fire engine reds and bright , crisp whites.  Eminently festive! valentines101

An autumn celebration has always been one of my favorites… I adore the abundance of rich golden hues, soft candlelight, the divine fragrance of an ambrosial dutch apple pie baking in the oven, the candescent glow of a fire burning in the hearth and the potpourri of pumpkins, (in all shapes and sizes,) gracing our homes with their charm.  elegance300

An entirely different tablescape for the cozy fall season, yet just as charming and warm! I love these lanterns, showcasing an inviting, gentle shimmering light.valentines103

Whether dining inside your home or alfresco, once you have decided what your motif is going to be for your table-scape,  allow that ambiance to spill over into the other rooms in your home, gracing every corner with your delightful, chosen theme.

For instance, if you choose a spring theme, place a few bright, sunny and blithesome   decorative items in your living room, ladies room  and upon your porch.

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To personalize this fete for each lady,  I place a “party favor” gift at each table setting as well as a  place card. We all love surprises and gifts… its just another way to bless your guests for the festive event.

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I like to  create a seating arrangement, as I know my guests the best and try to sit each person next to ‘just the right person.’ If you decide to do this, there are an abundance of creative ways to display your guests names, depending on your chosen theme.

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The gifts you choose for your party favors don’t need to be elaborate, just something to remind your friends of the special day.  A homemade gift is just as endearing as something you handpick from the florist, a boutique or order on line.

How about giving them a head start for their garden with a fresh herb plant, or if you love to do crafts, get your glue gun out and create a few petite, dried rose-flower arrangements.

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I love these lace covered mason jars, (perfect for a tea-light candle,) and who wouldn’t love an adorable jar filled with Hershey kisses? Both ideas are wonderful and creative party favor ideas.

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If your Tea will be held in the autumn, a pint-size pumpkin decorated with sparkling puff paint would be ideal, (and its a gift you can personalize.) 🙂 For your mason jars, you can also fill them with your friends specific favorite candies… another thoughtful way to let them know you were thinking especially about them.

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For a Christmas Tea, how about a blue Mason jar filled with (as my mom always called them,) “Silver Bells?”

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Party Favors can be as creative as you desire them to be…Jelly belly’s and candy corns for a Fall gala, (spiders optional,) ornate and delicate tea spoons, beautifully wrapped with a tea bag, homemade book markers or an elegant tea cup… (all great ideas to bless your friends with,) as a memorable token of this special day.

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Its always fun to have a formal tea…I think all of us ladies enjoy getting dressed up (in that new dress we bought and have not had a chance to wear,) put on our special jewelry and feel especially graceful and classy for a day.

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Yet,  casual is just as much fun , especially if you decide that your tea is going to be more on the winsome, quirky and bizarro side.

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Tea hats or no hats? And if tea hats, elaborate or simple? Its all up to you. 🙂

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For “just the right” fragrance wafting through your home, Yankee candles amaze me with their wide-ranging selection of candles for every mood you could possibly dream up, as well as for every season. Be sure to have a potpourri of tea light candles glowing at your party as well,  to create a magical, charming patina.

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For your background music,  your preference may be the soft, melodic piano tunes of Jim Brickman or the  enchanting instrumentals form George Winston’s collection. Perhaps the galvanizing Victoria Secret’s London’s Symphony Orchestra ballads of love or their fabulous Christmas carols collection,  if your entertaining during the holidays. Choose music that you love and enjoy, then most likely, all your guests will too. 🙂

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LET THE PARTY BEGIN

As each guest arrives, and are busily saying their hellos, giving warm hugs to everyone, and getting  caught up on one another’s lives, invite them to get their “beverage of choice.” 🙂 (Believe it or not, even though it is a TEA, some ladies still prefer a delicious robust cup of coffee… I serve both.  I always have  a medley of herbal and decaffeinated teas, (Celestial seasonings make a yummy apple cinnamon and Pumpkin Spice Tea,) along with the renowned Earl Grey and Chamomile.  With the Fresh roasted coffee, I always put out fresh cream and sugar and select a few luscious flavored creamers. ( Heath , Peppermint- Chocolate and French Vanilla have proven to be the most popular. 🙂

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Its so much fun to mix and match your tea cups…not only do they create a beautiful and resplendent display , but each lady can choose her favorite cup for the day.

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For each Tea I have hosted, I personally chose to have an  icebreaker game…something fun to get my guests to feel more at ease and bring a little laughter to the gathering.

For this particular Tea, I would choose the “Famous People game” (in my site  under ‘Fabulous party games for every entertaining event category,’) but instead of  famous people, I would make it “Famously admired women.” Here are a few ideas of well known ladies who are all acclaimed for their positions in politics, singing talent, faith, philanthropy work, acting , and  bestselling books they have written; Jackqueline Kennedy, Celine Dion, Cece Winan, Danielle Steele,Condaleesa Rice, Meryl Streep, Mother Teresa, Ashley Judd, Nancy Regan, Julia Roberts, Ruth in the bible, Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters. (I am sure you have your favorites as well that would be fun!) 🙂 Don’t forget to tell the ladies that the winner of this game will get a prize! 🙂 (It gets the competitive  juices flowing!)

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“Ladies, your Luncheon awaits you!!! ”

Your menu will most likely be influenced by the season you have chosen to give your Edification TEA.

For summer and spring Teas, (especially if you are entertaining outside,) it is lovely to use  a few elegant three tiered plates, lined with lace doilies to display your tempting confections, petite  sandwiches and array of fresh breads, entertaining  your guests with a buffet style.

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If your first choice is to serve your guest a hot meal, you can still use your resplendent tiered plates for your dessert or homemade biscuits, assorted jams and fresh fruits. elegance150elegance121

Your menu can be as creative as you’d like…If you are one who adores cooking and baking, then prepare your favorite recipes with abandon. 🙂 If you don’t want to do an abundance of cooking, there are plenty of things at your grocer you can order or pick up…petite quiches, assorted Tea cookies, fresh fruit, a medley of breads, or a cake from the your neighborhood bakery. Some ladies choose to  have their tea catered. Its all up to you, the hostess for the day. 🙂

Here are a few menus that I have chosen if you would like some ideas.

Menu #1 Grilled chicken cilantro salad served on fresh Romaine, sour cream biscuits with assorted jams, and for dessert, chocolate covered strawberries along with a sour cream coffee cake. (Perfect for a summer or spring gala.)

Menu #2 Ham and Swiss cheese quiche, Spinach pecan and raspberry salad,  buttery croissants and a Chocolate ice box cake.

These recipes will be at the end of  this vignette if you need some ideas. 🙂

As each lady sits down at the dining table, its a great time for you to freshen up their teas and coffee as well as encourage them to open their party favor. As they are expressing their ‘oohs an awes,’ begin serving their plates with your hot entree and allow them to help themselves with the breads and salad already placed upon your striking table. This is a great time for you to relax as well...enjoy this special time with your girlfriends and some of your delicious cuisine.  I love this quote by Julia Child; “Dining with ones friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul satisfying and eternal.”

You’ll know ‘just the precise moment’ when to clear the plates and serve your scrumptious dessert. If you already have  your ambrosial  confections  displayed on your summoning and delightful tiered plate(s), invite your guests to help themselves to their choice of sweet indulgences.

When you are all so full you can’t eat another bite, adjourn to the living room or if your already outside, to a new setting of comfortable chairs. This is where the real fun begins. 🙂

You are now entering into the “Edification” part of your luxurious afternoon tea…Make sure you have plenty of beautiful stationary as well as a set of oblong envelopes and a ‘long lasting’ writing pen.) 🙂

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As you are  gathered together with your friends, seated comfortably,  introduce this next and most important part of the joyous and dulcet afternoon.

Probably by now, the ladies are wondering from your invitation,  why you called it an Edification Tea… (Yet I am pretty sure they are already feeling edified, pampered and having a lovely afternoon.)

In opening up this part of the afternoon Tea, you may want to read a few of the quotes about kind words, share whats on your heart and why you are hosting an ‘Edification Tea.’ Explain how this time of uplifting will go… (creating comfort in your guests hearts as this may be new to them.) 🙂 Encourage each of your friends to ‘share their heart felt sentiments’ with each lady, about how they have touched their life, how they see them, what their special qualities and talents are and their appreciation of that person within thier lives.

allabaster500As the hostess, you become the “designated writer” for each ladies page of beautiful words spoken to her. (Choose one of your friends to write for you when you are sharing your heart felt sentiments to each guest as well.)  As you are all sitting together, start with the lady to your right and work clockwise around the group. She will be the “focus” for everyone to be able to share their “words of edification,” and after her ‘page’ is written, (your sentiments included,) you will seal up her envelope, (make sure you write her name on the front,) 🙂  and move on to the next lady and continue until every guest has her “gift of kind words” completed for her to take home.   At the top of each friends paper, write her name, the date and days event. The first line will be the first woman’s (as your go around the circle) name and then in Italics, the kind words that she feels towards this special lady. Some people may make their tribute of warmhearted sentiments, quick and simple, while others, more lengthy with several sentences. (Some of us are more wordy than others.) 🙂  Examples of things that may be said being; ” I don’t know you well, but your always smiling, you are so very kind, you’ve got a great sense of humor, your very pretty, creative, etc…” Or for those in your group who are long time friends,  “I’ve known you all my life and your the best friend I have ever had, your closer than a sister, your friendship means the world to me, etc…”  (You will find that most ladies will openly share their hearts and don’t need any coaching.) There is nothing quite like hearing from our best friends, words of love, edification and  encouragement, to inspire, buildup and fortify us, strengthening our self esteem and worth.

Make sure as each of your girlfriends leave the party, they have their cherished letter of edification to take home with them… If they are like my friends and I, they will keep it forever.

When I hosted  my Edification tea, I can’t tell you how much this meant to every lady...there was plenty of laughter, tears of joy and to be honest with you, most women found it hard to just say a “few words”, thus the tea went on until after 5:00 PM and truly, no one wanted to go home.

When all the ladies were done sharing and receiving, one of my friends asked if she could write down what everyone wanted to say about me. I was so deeply  touched by all the kind words. I still keep my relished letter of edification in a drawer and when I am having one of those days where I need a little assurance, or feel down and need a dose of uplifting,  I go back and read  what people had to say. formal2I was not only surprised, but wonderfully blessed  by their heart felt words to me. I think that we can all be hard on ourselves and often times ‘the worst critic’ of our gifts, talents and overall ‘feelings about who we are.’ HEARING how others see us or feel about us, is a beautiful gift that enables us to take another ‘look’ at all the good things about us, filling our hearts with warm fuzzy’s and our “love tank” begins to fill up. 🙂

A funny story...one of the ladies lost her envelope and months later, when we were all gathered together for a birthday Tea, she asked if all the ladies could tell her again what they had said so she could write it down, as she felt lost without her precious “words of love and edification.”

selfWe never know what just one word will do for a person, but when there are many words spoken, (and often times, things we would never think about our self,) it gives our “self esteem” a face lift.

 

The afternoon, (which turned into an early evening) proved to be a spectacular day had by all! Not only did each guest leave with memories of a wondrous ladies day out, filled with delicious cuisine, ample girl talk, felicity and laughter, a party favor gift, but a tangible bestowal of words. Out of all the Teas I have given, attended, (or have written about in Living Winsomely, ) this by far, was the one I remember most of all. I hope this vignette  sparks  your creativity and imagination as well as brings you inspiration.

I wish for you, ( if you choose to host an edification luncheon or Tea,) that it will be a day of blessing and uplifting for your girlfriends as well as for yourself.  Let me know how it goes and ENJOY browsing through the recipes.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 head of romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, (or more per your taste,) 1 TBSP. Ranch dressing, 4-6 skinless, boneless breast of chicken, grilled and cut into bite size pieces, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 2 green onions chopped, (using the chives as well,) fresh cracked black pepper and salt to taste. (I do put a dash or two of Tabasco sauce in mine.) 🙂

After your chicken is grilled and cut up, mix together with the mayo, Ranch dressing and seasoning…chill at least 2 hours before serving.  This salad is delicious served over romaine lettuce with freshly cut  Granny Smith or Fuji apple wedges.

SOUR CREAM BISCUITS

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups  self rising flour, 2 sticks of butter, (softened to room temperature,) 1 cup of sour cream and a miniature muffin pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease your muffin pan.

Mix together the butter and flour ’til blended, then add your sour cream. Spoon into muffin pan and bake 8-10 minutes. This recipe yields 3 dozen, scrumptious biscuits. (Recipe by Paula Dean.)

CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES

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INGREDIENTS:

1-2  PKG. fresh strawberries, (depending on how many strawberries you want to serve.)

1/2 bag Dove dark chocolates, 1/2 stick butter, 2 TBSP. of half and half .

Over low heat, melt your chocolate, add the butter and half and half, stirring constantly. Allow sauce to cool.  Wash your strawberries and let dry on paper towel. When dried , dip strawberry’s in the sauce and set upon a non stick cookie sheet to cool. Place cookie sheet in refrigerator to chill before serving. (If you have extra sauce left over, it is yummy served hot over French vanilla ice cream. 🙂

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

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Ingredients for cake streusel filling;

3/4 cup  brown sugar, 1/2-3/4 cups of chopped pecans, 2 TBSP. cinnamon, 1-2 Tbsp. butter. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients together until moist for a delicious, cake filling.

Ingredients for cake:

2 sticks of butter, (room temperature,)  2 cups of all purpose flour, 2 cups white sugar, 2  eggs, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 cup of sour cream and 1& 1/2  tsp. vanilla.

For your cake, In a large bowl, measure your flour, baking powder and salt together, mix and set aside.

In another bowl, (using electric mixer) beat your butter with the eggs until smooth, add vanilla and sour cream, mixing until blended. Gradually add in your dry mixture  until your  batter is smooth and ready to pour, (or scoop) into your baking pan.

Place 1/3rd of your batter into a greased and flour dusted tube pan…spread evenly in pan. Add 1/2 of your streusel filling, add another third of your batter, and the second half of your filling, then top with remaining batter.

Bake in a greased tube pan at 350 degrees for 1 hour…( all ovens vary,  so begin checking your cake after 50 minutes…)  To test when your cake is done, insert a sharp knife into center and when it comes out clean, it is finished. (Or you can use a toothpick.)   Cool for 15 minutes, then remove from baking pan to finish cooling, before icing.

Butter cream frosting for coffee cake.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 sticks of butter, (room temperature,) 1 box of confectioners sugar, 3 TBSP. Half and Half cream or heavy whipping cream, 1 TBSP vanilla. (You can also substitute French Vanilla or Vanilla nut creamer for your cream.) If you prefer your frosting to be thicker, (when you have finished beating mixture,  you can always add more confectioners sugar. )

With electric mixer, beat butter until creamy, then gradually add your powdered sugar, vanilla and cream, alternating to create the consistency you desire. Frost Coffee cake when cooled.

MENU # 2

HAM AND SWISS CHEESE QUICHE

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INGREDIENTS for one quiche:

1 boxed pie shell from refrigerated section at your grocer, 2 TBSP. butter, 2 spring onions, 1 & 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 cup Half and Half, 5 eggs, 1-1 & 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese, 1& 1/4 cup chopped ham, dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Dust your pie plate with 1 TBSP flour and fit your pie shell to plate. Set aside. Melt your butter over low heat, add chopped green onion, (including chives,) and saute over low heat until softened.(careful not to brown to much .)  Take off heat to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together half and half, heavy cream and seasonings. Add three whole eggs, and two egg yolks to mixture and whisk until blended together.

Pour your butter and  sauteed onions into pie shell. Place your diced ham and Swiss cheese on top of onions, making sure your ham and cheese are evenly proportioned in quiche.  Pour your egg and cream mixture in and place in a preheated 350 degree oven, baking for 35-40 minutes. (Again, because oven vary, begin checking your quiche at 35 minutes and every five minutes, if it is not fully cooked.) I always check mine with a clean, sharp knife inserted into center and when it comes out clean, the quiche is done.

Raspberry, Spinach and Pecan salad.

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1  large package of fresh and cleaned spinach, 1-2 containers of fresh, washed red raspberries, (you can also substitute with fresh sliced strawberries,)  1-2  small packages of pecan halves, (depending on how large your salad is,) ground black pepper and salt to taste, and your savory dressing.

There are some extraordinary  recipes for a Raspberry Walnut dressing…I personally adore the ‘Ken’s Steak House, Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette’ from the grocer. Prepare your salad ahead of time in a pretty salad bowl and refrigerate.  About 10 minutes before your lunch is served, take your salad out and toss with the Raspberry Vinaigrette.  (The amount of dressing you use is up to you.) Salt and Pepper to taste!

Buttery croissants

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I recommend visiting your grocers bakery or if you have a special bakery downtown you frequent, order some fresh croissants a day before your afternoon Tea.

 

CHOCOLATE ICEBOX CAKE

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INGREDIENTS:

1-2 Boxes of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, 8 ounces fresh whipping cream, sugar and vanilla to taste, 1 bar of Hershey’s milk chocolate.

This cake tastes as if it took hours to create, yet it is so simple and takes no time at all to prepare. With electric beater, whip your cream until thick and creamy. Add sugar and vanilla to taste. Choose the plate you want to serve this cake on at your gala. Begin with one wafer, spreading  the whipped cream on one side, then add your next wafer to that one, and continue until you reach the length of cake you desire. When that row is completed, start with the next one, right next to your completed row. When done, cover the entire cake with whip cream. Place cake in your refrigerator and allow to sit over night. Before serving, with a potato peeler, shave the desired amount of your Hershey bar on top of cake. Not only decadent, but a beautiful confection to bring out and serve your guests.

(My siblings and I , grew up with this cake as it was one of my mom’s favorite cakes to make.) Its not only rich and decadent, but mouthwatering and delicious. Definitely a keeper. 🙂

PHOTOGRAPHS: In placing your computer mouse upon any of the photos or  graphics, it will display where the picture originated from.