New Year's Eve, SMALL TALK

As the New Year approaches -Resolve to be open to whatever comes into your life….tell the universe "Surprise me!"

What a ride this year has been!!! Here I am, (dressed for hiking -not a photo shoot) unexpectedly in the Swiss Alps – with the iPhone in hand that photographed the images of my more than 60 posts this year!

If you were to read the pages of my personal journal for 2019, you might think the entries you found there are a collection of fictional stories filled with faith, hope, love and optimism. My year was not fictional. My year was filled with surprising and remarkable moments shared with family and friends; new experiences and new beginnings I could never have imagined -served like colorful sprinkles throughout the year.

While my blog for the most part is about entertaining, my passions include decorating, cooking, reading, writing and traveling. What my followers may not know, is that my full-time day job is working as a mortgage loan underwriter. My role is stressful, requires a lot focus and concentration, knowledge of ever-changing guidelines, independent decision making and patience. While it is a rewarding field that enables many to realize the pride of home ownership, the majority of responsibility of what constitutes an approval, falls on the underwriter. Someone once said, an underwriter wears the combined hats of an accountant, an attorney and a psychologist all at once. So forty hours or more per week I’m required to work quickly, intensively focus and accurately.

The industry has had it’s ups and downs, and for most of my career I have been fortunate to simply coast through the rough spots without being part of cutbacks; but in November of 2018 I was part of a workforce reduction and found myself unemployed for the second time in a four year period. Yes, it hurt and yes I was a little worried about how long it would take to find another position, but financially prepared and with the help of current and previous work colleagues, my resume’ was being circulated and until the time was right I could only pray and trust that the Lord would take over the situation and use my resources to lead me to where He wanted me to be . During the wait rather than sulk, I tried to use the free time I was given to be productive in ways I usually lacked time for.

A passion is something you can do everyday for hours, forgetting to eat or noticing how much time has gone by. Writing and creating has always had that affect on me. As a young teenager I wanted to be a writer, spending hours alone in my bedroom writing poetry and short stories. As with most of us, life’s responsibilities forced me to abandon my passion for a “real job”. For years I’ve wanted to create, write and share what I’ve learned with others, and recently I realized that a blog would provide the perfect platform to do so. Both limited time and fear of how to create a blog were holding me back from this dream for a long time.

I have been hosting parties for several years, some in the distance past, while more recent efforts have helped me to gradually excel in my efforts with some surprising results. Creating a blog would provide an outlet to share my ideas and write my stories. In preparation, I had written articles to accompany my party pictures (that over time I’ve put more effort into) and saved them to eventually insert into posts of my “one day” blog.

My knowledge of technology is limited and I feared the unknown. I didn’t have a clue of how to begin such a venture. I reached out for help, but the time was never convenient. One morning I woke up and decided I had to face my fears and prove to myself I could accomplish this and doing it on my own would make it all the more rewarding.

With nothing but time to figure the process out and the internet as my teacher, I watched multiple YouTube videos of how to start a blog. The information was more about content than how to actually step by step design a blog site, but I finally found the courage to create a domain and my first blog webpage. A year later with over 60 published posts, it seems like an old routine that I’ve been practicing for decades and challenges me to continue to create content for my followers and joyful memories for those who share in the parties and events I plan.

While not perfect the first post was created.

I remember the feeling of pride and confidence when it finally materialized before my eyes. It took a couple of days – days I would not have had if I had not lost my job. I decided that the job loss was actually meant to give me time. Time to dedicate directly toward personal things in my life that I would usually not be able to, because of my limited time off from my job.

Grandchildren grow up too fast –
those younger years are so special.

Over the next five months my daughter, who lives in another State with her husband and my three grandchildren needed my help on two occasions while her husband had to go out of town for long periods of time for his job. I was free to visit just before Christmas for a week and be with both my daughter and youngest grandson for their birthdays. I then spent another the three weeks with them while her husband was away over the months I was unemployed. Having spent four weeks with them over a five month period in addition to they’re coming into town for a family wedding in March, I’ve enjoyed more time this year than I have in the past four years with my daughter’s family.

Over those months, other family members had brief health issues that I was able to step in and help them through, again time I would have fretted over due to limited paid time off while working. I also read several great books and I planned a lovely Seamstress themed Mother’s Tea and a fun Derby themed wine party for my friends.

While I was truly enjoying life (and a mini-retirement), the months were ticking away and finally in April I received a call to work as a contract employee for my previous employer. It wasn’t a full-time position, but a stepping stone that generated an income and a sign that business was improving. Two months later I was offered two full-time positions on the same day and started with my new employer in early July.

When I started my new job, I was so grateful to a past co-worker (the Lord using my resources from over 20 years ago) who recommended me for the position that’s benefits exceeded my expectations. It’s been a very hard acclimation, but only four months into the position, I’ve grown to feel like part of the current team.

As my contract resignation period came to an end, the week between positions contained a holiday – so I took that week off. I spent the week reorganizing and cleaning the house. During that process I found a blank poster board and had a stack of magazines to dispose of. As covered in my previous post “Creating a Vision Board”, I’ve kept a vision board for years and have done my best to imagine my life evolving into the pictures I had chosen. So much of those images have materialized at some point or another. I was drawn to look over the images on my current vision board – and focused in on the areas that have not yet manifested into my life.

My board is so filled with images, that I decided there were two areas that I very much wanted to manifest sooner rather than later, and that maybe I should create a new board focused solely on those two areas. One was to meet someone to share my life with and the other was to travel after having a decade long sabbatical from both.

It has always been my dream to go to Paris and search through culinary stores, flea markets and eat my way through all of the delicious cuisine while also soaking in the art, museums and culture. For various reasons, my last real vacation took place many years ago, but it was a beautiful tour of Rome, Florence and Venice. France and England were higher on my wish list, but I hoped to travel to many parts of Europe over time.

My updated -re-focused vision board 2019.

I briefly considered flying to Boston, the week I had off between jobs to see the Downton Abbey Exhibit, but it was the 4th of July week and I knew it would be pricey and crowded. But I did find an image of the Exhibit in one of my magazines that I glued to the board. As I flipped the pages of a travel magazine, I found individual black and white images of several European countries that I cut out and randomly glued to the board under the word “Travel”.

While making my benefits elections for my new job, I was advised to enter the date of Dec. 31, 2019 into the vacation calculator to determine what my accumulated time would be by the year’s end. I was then advised I needed to schedule the time off before the year ended. I discovered I had a little more than a week of time to use and a spontaneous idea was sparked!

A friend of mine was currently house sitting in England. She at some point was moving on to another sitting position at a house in Germany. I knew nothing about where or when, but I asked her if I could fly over and spend a week with her. Within days, I discovered another of our friends (from the wine club) was going to meet her and I scheduled a flight to arrive a day later than her arrival (based on the time I could get approved for time off.) The house was located in Southern Germany very near the borders of Switzerland and France. If you take a look at the images of countries I randomly glued to my new board, can you see any resemblance to what I just wrote -to the vision board above??? Seriously??? Front and center – Germany, Switzerland and France!

The lovely 300 hundred year old part time home we occupied during my visit in Germany.

I’m usually someone who plans months and weeks in advance, having a neatly prepared itinerary, and hours of research to create an informative understanding of where I’m going and what I’m going to do or see. With only an airline ticket and packed luggage in hand – spontaneity I’m not known for, a brave face and churning stomach, I boarded the plane for a 9 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany.

Traveling to a foreign country with a language I didn’t understand, alone was terrifying, but the unexpected kindnesses I experienced along the way got me through. A couple was seated across from me at the airport in Atlanta (our connection flight to Frankfurt). A polite smile was exchanged, but it didn’t take long to realize they were German. When the boarding process began, we both stood in the same area to wait our turn and I noticed they had a shopping bag from California. To open a little dialog I asked them where in California they were coming from. We chatted for a while with their limited English and then boarded the plane. I had told them I was very nervous and this was my first time flying to Germany. They told me most of the people spoke English and I shouldn’t be concerned. Later on the plane I noticed they were seated in the middle section of the plane just a couple of rows back from me.

At the end of the flight, I made my way through immigration and found my bags. From there I asked for help to get to the train the would bring me to my final destination. I had boarded the shuttle bus that I was directed to that would bring me to the train station and within seconds the German couple jumped on to the bus just before it was about to leave. My hand rose to my heart when I saw them. I was so happy to see them because I needed help with the whole train situation.

They stayed with me to assist with buying my round trip ticket. Afterwards there was an hour before the train would arrive, so we visited over coffee and tea at a Starbucks in the station and then they helped me to the gate where I needed to board the train which was further up than their gate. My gratitude for this lovely couple is beyond anything I can express, but they were not the only kind people I fell into the care of. At every point of concern of how I would manage to get further, someone would materialize from out of nowhere and help me carry my bags up steps, or direct me to the right area to find what I was looking for or had to go to. We even had other travelers from other countries give us Swiss Francs to put into a parking meter when we only had Euros. Each experience restored my belief that people of the world can be amazingly kind.

Even now it still feels like this last minute- spontaneous trip was all a dream. In fact the entire year has been a bit of a dream, all started with the loss of a job and followed by so many joyful gifts. When something shocking or unexpected happens in your life, it will be scary, it will be stressful, and you may not know how you’re going to work things out. Give your fears to God; lean in and be open; try to see it as an opportunity to discover something new in your life; rely on your resources; reach out to people who know the hard worker you are, reignite a talent you’ve been suppressing for years, and trust that your new beginning was meant to lift you higher and give you more.

In this New Year -resolve to be open to whatever is coming with love and gratitude. Tell the universe “I trust you! Surprise me!” It’s incredible what amazing blessings can enter into your life when you invite them in. Usually the year feels like it passes more quickly year after year, but this year my life was so full, I accomplished so much that makes my heart happy, that it felt like more time has passed than what actually did. It felt like it’s been two years rather than one. Maybe when you fill your life with everything you love and open up to new unexpected experiences – life is simply fuller.

My intention when I started my blog was to share ideas that would bring people together. Resolve in this new year to be kinder, to practice random acts of kindness and thoughtfulness; resolve to regularly gather with family and friends, resolve to try new things and share what you learn with others, to open yourself to what’s coming instead of fearing it! Cheers to new beginnings! Wishing all of my followers a very Happy and Fulfilling New Year!!!

Jesus Calling: December 21

My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when time is right, the way before you suddenly clears — through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift. You feel awed by the ease with which I operate in the world, and you glimpse My Power and My Glory.
     Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles — and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith, rather than sight, enables you to see My Glory. 

Psalm 63:2
English Standard Version
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.


2 Corinthians 5:7
English Standard Version
for we walk by faith, not by sight.

John 11:40
English Standard Version
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?

SMALL TALK

Rose Leaves Dressed in Pearls… angels in the distance

Happy Easter!

Brilliant rays spreading across the sky have always been my God wink. As I raised my blinds to the morning light the delicate pearls of dew tracing the edges of the leaves on my rose bush caught my eye. I struggled from different angles to capture its beauty. The window was smudged, so I had to step outside. I tried several times to hold my phone between the window and bush, snapping, but unsuccessfully capturing the pearls of dew. Once I was satisfied that I had finally achieved the image I wanted, I set my phone aside to move on with my day without further thought.

Today, after I sat in prayer and gratitude as I do each morning, I opened the picture I had taken and realized those brilliant rays were directed right toward my rose bush. It’s as if the bush had been prepared to catch my attention and draw me out to be near it. Those beams that are usually reaching out across the sky, were reaching out to touch me. If I hadn’t struggled to take the picture, I would have missed my God wink.  

I posted this story and photo on Facebook and a friend all the way across the country in California sent me a note that in the back by the fence, there were images that looked like angels.

This Easter season, whatever may be heavy on your heart, evidence of His presence is right in front of you. Just pause for a moment to see and look more closely. Whatever your God wink is, a 🌈 rainbow, a specific colored bird, a butterfly 🦋… watch for Him. He is always there.

SMALL TALK

Spring Forward.. meditate on the beauty of nature and Bloom!

Garden knock out roses and a bloom from a magnolia tree.

Saturday morning…. A voracious rain, hail and wind storm passed through before daylight waking me a few times.  A smiley face text from my granddaughter woke me just before 8 a.m.  I decided to get up although my body protested for more rest.

Last night I watched a few episodes of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Netflix. I’ll blame the multiple images of poured coffee as the subliminal seed that caused me to brew a small pot of coffee this morning in lieu of my usual cup of tea. There really is nothing better than the aroma and gurgling tune of coffee brewing to announce “its morning!” There’s something very comforting about the fragrance permeating the house like a hypnotic melody.

With the shades now lifted and a cup in my hand, I settled on the couch to enjoy the view. While it’s not the view of my fantasies (like the house Diane Keaton’s character in ‘Something’s Got to Give offers’); the windows facing out to my back yard offer me a lovely view of the ever- changing sky, lush green tree tops swaying in the distance, and flocks of birds rising into the air in perfectly formed kite shapes that quickly vanish into the horizon.  I always wonder about the one in the front point.  How do they all know their places? Do they practice like marching bands until they’ve perfected their form or are they born with an assigned location? Ah the wonder of nature. Over time I hope to design a back yard with a view to appreciate and complement what nature has already provided.

Sitting in the quiet of morning, sipping my coffee and watching the heartbeat of nature from my window fills me with gratitude. The sun is peeking from beyond the tree tops and gently stretches its brilliant streaks of colored light across the sleepy blue-gray sky. Morning has broken as the Cat Stevens song says.

The sun has now fully risen, with only glistening drops of rain clinging to the petals and leaves of the rose bushes and trees as evidence of the storm earlier today.  I started my morning mediation and prayers, but was distracted by the loveliness of Spring outside of my window. It as if God knew I needed to just take a breath. For today this is my meditation, to clear my mind of any thoughts and simply be still. Isn’t that what Spring feels like anyway? A chance to stop and breathe in the beauty of everything coming back to life.

I stepped outside to take a look at my garden. My rose bushes are abundant with velvety red buds and blossoms, the drake elm my Mom graphed from her tree for me before she passed away is almost as tall as me now (although I’m considered short). I’m relieved to see it survived the bitter winter we had this year.  The fig tree I bought a couple of years ago had all but died from the excessive summer heat last year. I planted the remaining healthy -looking stick in a pot and it has grown to about 4 feet and is full of beautiful healthy leaves that I can already imagine lining my cheese platters for wine club with.  A cherry tomato plant of the same height is dotted with small yellow blooms and I’ve found 2 tiny tomatoes forming. 

My mother so loved her fig tree (below) and would get so excited when its leaves began to expand from the branches and the green buds of fruit began to form.. She stuck a Fall scarecrow from a craft store into its center to ward off birds eager to grab the fruit in their beaks, but evidence of their theft can still be seen here and there. Every year its limbs are heavy with green buds that swell and eventually ripen to a golden magenta brown. We always share its bounty with others to eat , use both the fruit and large green leaves on cheeseboards or stew into a delicious preserve. I hope my fig tree will look as abundant as hers did one day.

The herbs I planted along the side wall of the breakfast room (a bucket list item for years) have formed into healthy fragrant mounds with flowers about to bloom that I so enjoy garnishing my dishes with when I entertain.

Mediation is about taking time to be aware. Sitting in gratitude at nature’s beauty and it’s quite calming to just take time to access the progress of the things I’ve planted and appreciate the fruits they yield.  There’s a certain pride that comes from growing things. Overall, meditative – my heart filled with gratitude ready to face the day!

SMALL TALK

A Well Designed Bathing Experience…

For as long as I can remember I have always loved a hot, fragrant bath at the end of the day. After a long, stress filled day at work, followed by a long drive in traffic, the first thing I look forward to when I walk through the door of my home is a hot bath. Somehow, before starting dinner, going through the mail, and checking the news, I need to wash the day away in order to feel refreshed and relaxed for the rest of my evening.

Lavender has always been my fragrance of choice. It is known for is soothing properties and I enjoy the many different products that contain its pure fragrance, from body and essential oils, to scented epsom salts, foaming bubble bath, and bar or liquid soaps. My bedding is sprayed with lavender linen spray, I defuse the essential oil or dab a small amount on the wrists to help me sleep and my house is filled with the fragrance of lavender-peach plug-ins. I am so associated with the fragrance that my friends and family know it’s a safe go to when searching for a gift.

The tray is custom designed – standard pre-drilled holes
for metal or plastic lined votive candles on each end and
a crystal knob for a bath loofa.
I requested a place for storing my razor.

A while back, my daughter, her husband and my grandchildren were in town visiting. One morning the kids woke and searched the house for me. ( I had gone outside to water some plants so they couldn’t find me. ) When I opened the door to go back into the house, my daughter told me that the kids had been looking everywhere for me. They told her, “We can smell her, but we can’t find her.” We all laughed – my grandchildren are always telling me my house smells so good – so to them- I smell like lavender.

On the opposite side is a slot for a wine glass or 
the handle of a back scrubber and the second votive candle.
Select your own quote (Space permitting)

Cleopatra was known for her fragrant milk baths and elegant bath houses. When time permits, an extended bath is a luxury and is made more tranquil with candles, spa or meditation music on a bluetooth speaker or Alexa Echo, a glass of wine and thick luscious foamy bubbles. Even the busiest of Moms should be rewarded with a little time to refuel.

Just add some bubbles, additional candles, play a little relaxing
music on your iPhone or Alexa and RELAX!

If you’ve had a rough day, or simply love to bathe like me. Grab a thick luxurious towel, close the tub stopper, open the tap and let the warm soothing water flow.

SMALL TALK

Creating a Vision Board

Manifesting Your Best Life…

Years ago, I was introduced to “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne and the idea of vision boards from various guests that appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I sorely miss all of the valuable resources that Oprah and her producers sought to share on her show and I’m forever grateful for all of the knowledge I gained there. Much in the way Oprah enjoyed sharing the information she discovered as instrumental in building her best life with others, I also enthusiastically wish to share the things I’ve learned with those in mine. There is such joy felt in passing it on.

Image board
The board above is actually my second. I threw my original board away
due to a major disappointment at the time. A few of the images
too vividly reminded me of a time that I wanted to put in my past,
however there were images on that board I still wanted to manifest
and I felt I needed start fresh with a new board.

Not long ago while shopping, I bumped into a work colleague from the past as I was about to leave the store. We embraced and visited for a few minutes to briefly catch up on the changes in our lives since last seeing one another. At one point she paused in our conversation to tell me that she never forgot a conversation we had years ago that lead me to ask her what she wanted in her life. I remember she had no idea what she wanted and really didn’t know how to figure out what she wanted. She reminded me that I had encouraged her to create a vision board, with images and words that represented what she wanted to do and experience in her life. She, like so many others I’ve encouraged to make vision boards, confessed while she had never forgotten my encouragement, she had never made a board. My response, “How will you ever know you’ve gotten what you wanted, if you don’t know what you want?”

I realize that maybe the idea of a vision board may just be overwhelming for some. If you’re not a dreamer like me, this process may seem daunting. It doesn’t mean that you have to want to be a rocket scientist or find the cure for diabetes. The compiled images should be of things that give you joy. Experiences and circumstances that make you smile and want to be part of. Think in terms of the Marie Kondo practice of “Tidying Up” – what brings you joy?

To begin, find a collection of decor, health, travel, cooking, art, organizing or sports magazines and simply search for images and phrases that make you smile and feel joyful. (Some libraries place the back issues of magazines by the door to take for free or try Good Will stores or ask friends for old magazines.) Sit alone and quietly or with very soft “meditative music” to clear your mind and focus all of your energy to your heart as you prepare to look through the photos. You may want to try the Kondo method and tap the magazines to wake them up as she suggests before opening the pages.

Skydiving!

As you find images that inspire you, tear out the pages and put them into categoric stacks such as physical fitness, spirituality/faith, family & friends, relationships, travel, entertaining, hobbies, music or dancing. Maybe you want to quit smoking, but there’s no photo for that. See if you can find the words in bold print QUIT and SMOKING or something similar like SMOKE FREE and use this in lieu of a photo. You could even place a picture of a trophy or something you will reward yourself with – signifying when you’ve won the battle. Be creative. The categories for you will be different from mine or anyone else’s. You have to establish what you gravitate toward.

A poster board can be purchased at a local dollar, drug or craft store for as little as $1.00. Cut out the images and phrases you’ve chosen and begin to organize them in sections of interest on your board; areas of your life that you’d like to focus on improving, expanding or experiencing. Everyone wants meaningful relationships and quality time with family and friends, or a life partner.

In the beginning you may not have enough images to completely fill your board like mine. That’s not important, you may never fill it completely. This will take time, especially if you are not as clear as I was about what gives you joy. Don’t expect to accomplish the entire exercise in one sitting. What’s important is to get started, committing the time to let your heart speak to your mind and over time you may begin to realize things you want that you just had not set the time aside to dream about. Notice that I have multiple images of the same topic that for me strengthens my focus on that desire. Once you’ve started the process and glued down your images into categories, whenever you see another magazine look through it. You may find another image to add and gradually you may or may not fill the board. All that matters are those images you found that remind you of what you’re going to focus on to bring greater joy into your life.

Do you love to cook, entertain, travel? Have you ever wanted to paint or draw? Find the images and text of where you would like to travel to. Here I have images of travel, dining out, cooking, entertaining friends or family and baking with grandchildren of which all have manifested at some point in my life with the desire to continue in all of these areas.

While not a masterpiece, for a period of a year, 
I drove across the Causeway Bridge, the longest bridge in the U.S.,
twice a day five days a week. Each time I soaked in the beauty
of the many sunrise and sunsets that inspired my first painting.

Do you love to dance, but aren’t getting to dance often enough? Is there an instrument you want to learn to play? Are there musicians and vocal artists that you would love to see in concert? If so find images of people dancing or the names and photos of the vocal artists you want to see perform.

Sharing time with grandchildren and family, having a life partner,
being present and creating energy to manifest my best life.

Is there a fear you want to overcome? Run a marathon? Do you want to research your family tree? Learn to ride a motorcycle or man a sail boat? Find images and create a section of things you want to accomplish.

Is there a car you’ve had your eye on for years? Does your bedroom, kitchen, living room look the way you want it to? Create a section with an image of the car you want; pictures of the bedroom or other room you would like to recreate. Concentrate on the colors in pictures that make you feel comfortable. Little by little, seek out similar items from those images and purchase them until over time you have created the room in the image that gave you joy! It may be a picture frame on the table, or a lamp; a throw pillow or rug. Each room in my home took a couple of years for me to find the items I wanted at an affordable price, in the right style or color.

Another way to create a vision board without searching for magazines and photos would be make a virtual version on Pinterest. When you can’t find the images you’re looking for in old magazines, you may find them there. This is how I found inspiration for decorating the rooms in my house. You also have the option of making private boards that no one else can see. However a virtual vision board is harder to look at frequently when it’s not on a wall that you pass daily, so that you can feel yourself having and doing the activities in your chosen images. Of course you could also printout the images from Pinterest to place directly on your board.

Even after my board was complete, whenever something catches my eye
I still cut it out and
add it to or near my board that is pinned to
a large bulletin board in a small office between my bedroom and laundry room,
a place I frequently pass by. Look at your board so often that its image 
is embedded in your memory.

Highly successful people use vision boards, listen in on how they have manifested the lives they have from vision boards and actions. There are numerous testimonies out there. Steve Harvey has talked about his image board on his talk show and in this interview with Oprah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJNed-owcP8

Jim Carey on vision boards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUUU6TQh64w

Allow yourself to dream and tell the universe what you want. Act and dress the part for “WHEN” it happens, not “if” it happens. If not today – when? Pencil yourself in… and bring yourself joy!

SMALL TALK

Notable Moments….Journals & Wine Corks

A cork for a 60th Birthday dinner,

I have always had a passion for writing. It began with poetry in my teens and later short stories in college. As a young girl I expected to write novels, but life happened and I ended up with a career in finance where words were replaced with numbers. Several years passed and I realized that I missed my passion and decided to start a journal to record thoughts, emotions and events that would enable me to practice my writing skills and offer me content to reference if I ever got around to that novel one day.

I also love the look and feel of a slender beautiful pen with a smooth gliding medium point and writing with my hand in the cursive penmanship I learned decades ago, an art that seems to be fading. When looking back at documents from the past I’m so impressed by the beautiful penmanship of my ancestors and it saddens me to think that somewhere in the not so distant future that this personalized skill may become a thing of the past. The beauty of a written signature leaves a tangible image directly from our hand for our future lineage to connect with us.

Italian leather journal with scene of Venice.

At the end of each year, I search for a new inspiring journal for the coming new year. One such year my nephew who was about 10 at the time, accompanied me to the book store in search of my journal. I remember telling him that I wished I could have an idea of what special event might occur in the year, so that I could pick out a journal with an image to match. For example I told him, one year we had a beautiful Monet exhibit at the museum that I attended. If I had known in advance that I was going to attend that exhibit I could have purchased a journal with a Monet painting on front.

My eye was drawn toward an Italian leather journal (above) with a Venetian scene that really didn’t mean anything to me, but it was a beautiful journal and I didn’t especially like anything else. My nephew encouraged me to purchase the Italian leather journal saying, “You never know. You might go to Italy next year!”

Here I am in Venice, Italy and my memories 
are noted in my Italian leather journal.

You don’t have to be a writer to preserve joyful memories. There are other creative ways. Friends of mine have been periodically choosing one of the many historic or new restaurants we have in New Orleans over the past few years. They have a wall of framed menus signed by the chef displayed on their dining room wall to reflect on the many lovely dinners they have shared together.

If you celebrate with wine or champagne, keep the cork and either hand write, use a date stamp (similar to the library) or purchase stick on numbers from a craft store to mark the date or digits for a special birthday, engagement, anniversary, graduation or any number of other celebrations.

Left: Glass cylinder filled with corks from Wine Club Meetings
(others were used to create a Wine Club wreath .
Center: “Josh” cork with glitter numbers for a special birthday or anniversary.
Right: Glass box of memorable romantic dinner dates.
Gold glitter stick on numbers from a craft store.

While attending a wine dinner at a local restaurant, my friend and I especially enjoyed the bottle of wine below. We asked if we could take a picture of the label. The server offered to remove the label for us instead. While this label is framed, collecting several would probably look best in a collage frame or organized in a photo album.

Consider archiving the joyfully special moments in your life in a new and interesting way. Whether you take the time to formally write your memories down in a journal, or choose a simpler method like wine corks, I hope these ideas have inspired you so that when you look back at your special moments, it will bring you joy all over again!

SMALL TALK

My Flower Girl’s Wedding…

In the late 1970’s I married Mr. Darce, long before I actually read or became a fan of Pride and Prejudice, but ironically, I did marry my Mr. Darce. While the family pronounces their surname in the correct French format of (Dar-say) with an accent on the ‘e’, it’s more commonly pronounced (Dar-cee).  The marriage did not result in a “happily ever after”, however some of my most treasured relationships and passions were formed and continue to grow from this union.  Most importantly, I have a beautiful daughter and three gorgeous grandchildren. 

Mr. Darce’s family is large and enthusiastically practiced wonderful traditions of gathering for various holidays and events throughout the years that for a time I was part of and later worked hard to ensure and encourage my daughter to remain part of throughout her years.  In fact, this family not only instilled in me the importance of gathering and family tradition, but also introduced me to many of the interests and passions in my life such as my teacup collection, the arts of live theater such as ballet, Broadway musicals and symphonies, while also reviving my love for reading.  It was my then mother-in-law and a family of cousins that taught me how to cook the southern staples of red beans and gumbo having grown up outside of the south. I can’t really imagine how different my life would have been without having married Mr. Darce.

Among the inspiring experiences formed from this union, was the friendship and sisterly bond with my flower girl I will call Noelle.  Noelle was born appropriately on Christmas day and is the fifth of five siblings.  There is a little more than a decade gap between our generations and a few decades of life experiences passed before we rediscovered each other as mothers and friends and formed a special bond.  She is part of many of the “Social Interactions and Parties” that I host and includes me in many of her own. She continues to lovingly treat me as a family member.

A couple of years ago, Noelle met a very special man and eventually found love again. It filled my heart with so much emotion and joy as I watched their relationship blossom.  Over time, it was clear these two were meant to be together and recently they announced they were engaged and within a few months would be married.

Her wedding was small and intimate and when a friend or family member remarries, especially a little later in life, it can be difficult to come up with a gift idea. There aren’t the usual registries of personally selected items to choose from.  In these cases my go to has always been a set of new bath towels (something everyone can always make use of and usually doesn’t replace for decades) and I did present her with two large boxes filled with a set of  neutral single colored and patterned matching towels. However… 

The night before the wedding I was inspired by memories of my daughter’s wedding as well as my own.  While the months of planning can be very exciting and exhilarating, once the festivities are over, the emotional drain plug gets pulled and the fatigue of the work beforehand sets in.   

Suddenly I had an idea of a thoughtful yet small gesture that I hope would assist in the couple’s unwinding and relaxation process as their honeymoon began. My flower girl and her groom were driving to the beach following their ceremony. So I pulled together a picnic basket filled with small packets of nuts, mini bottles of champagne, candles and chocolate dipped strawberries.  In one evening I made the rounds to Marshalls, Homegoods, World Market Cost Plus and Tuesday Morning in search of items and almost found more than I could fit into the basket (that I had purchased for 70% off at Michaels a while back).  While I was not successful in finding a set of cocktail napkins with the couple’s newly shared initial, I did find stemless bride and groom champagne flutes and a set of Mr. & Mrs. dishtowels. 

Earlier in the day I made puffed pastry tomato basil tarts and stored 2 each in wax lunch bags sealed with French blue ribbons (the color in her wedding) and a sprig of dried lavender from my garden. Other contents include:  Noelle loves to travel and I fell in love with these beautiful Mediterranean plates; silver plastic utensils; small foil wrapped portions of brie and crackers ; a Happily Ever After candle; small bottles of champagne; butter mints, bath salts and more… a box of chocolate dipped strawberries tied to the top with a bouquet of silk hydrangeas. Needless to say I nearly ran out of room in the basket.

If you’re at a loss of what to give a friend or family member for their special occasion, I hope this idea will inspire you.