Featured Article: Increase Your Flexibility and Improve Your Life

I just love my Real Simple magazine subscription gift that I got as a shower gift from my favorite sister-in-law.  This morning, on my train ride into the city I came across this article which is perfect for all of us ladies (and gents) who spend stretches of time at our desks, but also for any of you stay-at-home ladies as well.  Let's face it- we don't all get to work out as we would love everyday, but at least we can all squeeze in 10 minutes a day to stretch (especially when no one at work is looking!).

Featured Article: Increase Your Flexibility and Improve Your Life
by Sharon Tanenbaum

Photo by Robert Maxwell from Real Simple.com

The simple act of stretching does a lot more than make you limber. It may help prevent injuries or even illness—all it takes is 10 easy minutes a day.

In fact, flexibility can help your body reach its optimum fitness level, may play a role in injury prevention, and can even contribute to staving off conditions like arthritis and more serious illnesses.

Here’s How It Works

When you stretch a muscle, you lengthen the tendons, or muscle fibers, that attach it to the bone. “The longer these fibers are, the more you can increase the muscle in size when you do your strength training,” says Geier. That means that a more flexible muscle has the potential to become a stronger muscle, too. In turn, building strong muscle fibers may boost your metabolism and your fitness level. Flexible muscles also make everyday activities easier on your body and may decrease your risk of certain injuries. Common behaviors, like hunching over the computer, can shorten some muscles. That, along with the natural loss of muscle elasticity that occurs with aging, can set you up so any quick or awkward motion (lunging to catch a glass before it teeters off the table, for example) could stretch your muscles beyond their limit, resulting in a strain or a tear. “Even if you’re aerobically fit, it helps to be limber, too, so your body can easily adapt to physical stressors,” says Margot Miller, a physical therapist in Duluth, Minnesota, and a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association.

What’s more, stretching may improve your circulation, increasing blood flow to your muscles. And having good circulation can help protect you against a host of illnesses, from diabetes to kidney disease. Greater flexibility has even been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

How to Get—and Stay—Flexible

To increase your flexibility, start with about 10 minutes of stretching a day, focusing on the major muscle groups: upper body (arms, shoulders, neck), back, and lower body (thighs, calves, ankles). (See The Ultimate Daily Stretch on the next page.) Then, depending on how you typically spend your time, focus on specific stretches for problem-prone areas. So if you’re pretty much parked at a desk from nine to five, you’ll want to give extra attention to your lower back and shoulders. If you’re on the move—picking up toddlers and bags of groceries, perhaps—concentrate on your hamstrings and arms.

Of course, you may find that stretching becomes one of your favorite parts of the day. Since you need to focus on even, deep breathing while listening to your body, stretching is a great relaxation or even meditation break.

Read entire article contents here.

And check out this awesome video tutorial:

How to Stretch at Work Video


Guest Post: "I Need You"

My father-in-law came across this blog post. It's from Gabe Haugland, an officer with the Iowa National Guard, who is being deployed to Afghanistan. Please keep him and all our service men and women in your prayers. Visit his blog here.

"I Need You"
As we agonizingly inch closer to the day we have to leave our friends and family for a distant, hostile war zone, I struggle with the wide range of emotions I experience from day to day, moment to moment. Monday morning I woke up for what I believed to be my last full week of work at Camp Dodge in Des Moines, planning to return home on Friday and then head to our sendoff on Sunday morning.

As I ran around the house at the last minute, collecting my things, looking for my phone charger, trying to get out the door, I realized that Carolyn was already sitting in my truck in the driveway. Right away, I knew something was wrong. As I hopped in, and with tears in her eyes, she announced “So, where are we going?” It broke my heart. She knew she couldn’t come to Des Moines with me, but she was just trying to delay the inevitable.

So, we sat in the car and talked. And cried. And held hands. Both of us doing our best to make the most of our last days together before I am gone for a full year. About that time, our 2 year old daughter was carried out to the truck by Grandma Julie, as she had just woken up for the day. She wanted to sit on my lap and drive the truck (she loves sitting in the car out in the driveway!). She wanted to honk the horn, turn the wipers on, turn the radio up. She was having fun with Dad in the “big truck.”

But I had to go, so I carried her back to the house, hand-in-hand with Carolyn, and tried to hand her back over to my wife as she started to realize that I was leaving again. She started crying. And that’s when she said something I’ve never heard her say before, and something that will stick with me the rest of my life:

Don’t go Daddy. I need you.

Grace, I need you. And I need your Mom. And I need your baby brother Nick too. I need you all.

And I need you all to understand why I do what I do. I need you to understand that I believe in something bigger than myself. I need you to understand that I believe in an America where you are able to walk down streets or go to the mall with your friends without fear of suicide bombers.

And I need you to understand that I believe in what I’m doing in Afghanistan.

I believe with all my heart that little girls like you should be able to go to school over there and get an education. I believe they should be able to do so without fear of being poisoned by bad men driven by bad ideas. I believe those little girls in Afghanistan deserve the same kind of opportunities you will have as you grow up.

I need you to understand that I believe that my job in Afghanistan is crucial to an American future where 9/11 plots cannot be planned in the rugged mountains of that country. I need you to understand that I don’t want you to be afraid every time you board an airplane, and that I’m willing to do something about it to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

And as I will be gone for the next 12 months, I need you to understand, in your own little way, that Daddy is doing what he thinks is best. And honorable. And noble. And just. And brave.
For us. For them. For you.

And that is why I came home from work early today. I took the rest of the week off, in fact. I need every last minute I can possibly have with you. I need to take you swimming at the pool, like we did tonight. I need to carry you back, wrapped in a towel, shivering in the wind so I can hold you close to my chest. I need to look into your innocent eyes and watch your fascination with the Monarch caterpillar you got at Sunday School last weekend as it makes its chrysalis.

I need to hug your Mom just one more time and hold my son.
Grace, I need you. I need you to understand, too. I will be home soon. I promise.. I promise.

Photo from Gabe's blog. Visit it here.


Favorite Things: Birkenstocks

Part of my daily commutes to and from work involve A LOT of walking, and it’s just resulted in discomfort due to the lack of support of my shoes! I noticed I was waking up with pain in different areas: knees, feet, back, hips and shins, and I knew something had to change! I don’t want to end up with problems when I’m older!

I was given a very generous gift from my aunt- A pair of Birkenstocks! After walking all over the city with her on her visit- she with her comfortable Birkenstocks, and me in my supposed walking shoes (with hardly any heel support for my high arches!) a generous decision was made. Thanks so much, Cynthia!

And now, as a proud owner of my first pair of Birkenstocks, (I won’t take them off for anything- they’ve become even my replacement slippers!)  I have to share the interesting and scary details I learned on my shopping trip, as well as this article I found.

Featured Article:
Shoes Designed for the Human Foot
Source: plowhearth.com

The Birkenstock family knows footwear. And they should - they've been making shoes for over 225 years. This famous family can trace its first shoemaker to Johann Adam Birkenstock, born in 1754 in a small German village and officially listed in church records as a cobbler at the age of twenty. To offer some historical perspective, keep in mind that this was prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the presidency of George Washington. In other words, this is a business with a long history.

Over 100 years later, in 1896, Johann's grandson, Konrad Birkenstock developed a theory that was revolutionary for the time: since the soles of feet weren't flat, the insides of shoes shouldn't be either. Previously, shoes were created without regard for the shape of the foot and while providing protection, they usually weren't very comfortable. Konrad is credited with designing the first shoe with a contoured insole, an approach soon adopted by other makers of custom footwear.
Six years later, Konrad Birkenstock expanded on his original idea and developed a flexible arch support to be inserted into factory-made shoes. This insert provided greater foot comfort to the masses, and soon arch supports were being sold in a dozen European countries. Leading medical specialists saw the benefits of the approach and endorsed the Birkenstock system.
In 1964, Konrad's son Karl took the arch support one step further and designed a shoe around it. No longer was the renowned support available only as an addition to already manufactured shoes. The Birkenstock sandal was born!
Birkenstocks in America

So how did this revolutionary footwear make the hop from Europe to America? In 1966, a US clothing designer, Margot Fraser, was vacationing in Germany. She had a history of chronic foot pain and walking all day while in Europe only aggravated the problem. On the advice of a helpful Bavarian health spa trainer, Margot tried Birkenstock sandals. Enjoying immediate and welcome relief, Margot became determined to share her discovery with American women.
The initial reaction of American shoe retailers was not encouraging, however, and included remarks like "Women will never wear those shoes!" (Remember that this was when Twiggy, miniskirts and go-go boots ruled the fashion scene.) But Margot persevered. A wholehearted belief in the product fueled her determination and eventually she succeeded in developing a distribution network on the West Coast. Under Margot's leadership, the company has thrived.
Today Birkenstock Footprint Sandals, Inc. is located in northern California and is still run by President Margot Fraser. In its third decade as the exclusive US distributor, this company is based on the belief that comfortable, healthy footwear contributes to happiness and wellbeing.
Comfort is the Goal

To ensure that end, all Birkenstocks share some important design elements:

  • An orthopedic footbed - This follows the contours of the foot and provides support while walking. Depending on the model and its intended use, the footbed is made from a lightweight resilient cork/latex blend, washable water-based polyurethane or felt covered polyurethane.
  • The famous arch support - This ensures even weight distribution and reduces foot and leg muscle fatigue.
  • Deep heelcups - These keep the foot's natural padding directly under the heel bone, where it provides the most comfort, just as Mother Nature intended.
  • Raised toe bar - This encourages the gripping motion of your toes, exercising your legs and improving circulation. Poor circulation contributes significantly to muscle fatigue - remember how you felt the last time you spend several hours walking very slowly through a museum?
  • EVA soles - These lightweight soles are made from ethyl vinyl acetate to be tough enough for long wear, but sufficiently flexible for comfort. An average step exerts over 500 pounds of pressure on your foot and these soles help absorb that shock.
So who wears these shoes that elicited mostly laughs during the 60s? People who spend long hours on their feet. The polyurethane clogs are favored by those who want to protect their feet from water, mud and dirt during activities like gardening and camping. Workers in industrial environments and in kennels and stables are also fans because these clogs can be cleaned with a hose and even run through the dishwasher on a moderate heat setting.

Birkenstock leather sandals and clogs are favorites of those who stand or walk for long periods including retail store and restaurant staff, and professionals in medical offices, labs and hospitals.

Fit Tips

Any apparel is more enjoyable if it fits well. A few tips to ensure maximum comfort with Birkenstock footwear include:
  • The cork/latex footbed molds to an individual's foot over the first several weeks of use. Give your shoes a little time to shape to your feet.
  • Most of us have been wearing shoes with elevated heels for years. The deep Birkenstock heelcup often requires a short adjustment period for muscles and tendons before complete comfort is achieved. For the first two weeks limit wear to a couple of hours daily.
  • If you wear your Birkenstocks with socks, twisting can sometimes occur. Usually a quick spray of Static Guard will elevate the situation.

While none of us would consider strapping on Johann Birkenstock's flat, rigid shoes today, much of our current footwear is neither comfortable nor good for our feet. If you share the belief that shoes may effect one's overall wellbeing, perhaps you should consider trying the approach that completely changed one woman's life.

~    ~     ~    ~  ~    ~    ~    ~

This is what my beautiful Birks look like- I don’t think I’ll ever go back to anything else!    They are handmade in Germany!

* Apparently there are currently 2 Birkenstock brothers making the shoes. One is in China using cheaper materials of lesser quality while the other maintains his commitment to quality. MAKE SURE if you invest in a pair, that they are certified hand-made from Germany!

Style: Flor Mayari, Color: Onyx

Back to the Best of REAL Foot Support & Comfort


Momentos From the Sea

I'm really missing living by the sea as I've done most of my life.  There's lovely lakes up in the North, but it's not quite the same- the sand isn't as white, and there's certainly no seashells around, so I decided to bring the beach home!
Here's my inspiration: Pottery Barn

Here's my take:

Large pillar candle ($1 at an estate sale), medium pillar candle (free- gift), sand (the beach), sandollars (Florida beach), glass vases ($.99-$1.99 at Goodwill), lantern ($2.99, Goodwill).
What do you think? I still love the clean look of the plain candles, but it's a fun change for the summer months!
We have the sea motif going currently in other little ways.
I love this basket with the rope motif! ($10 TJ Maxx)

We use it for extra storage under our coffee table.basket2
And this cool pirate's ship for our black & white theme in our study.
We placed it on top of the bookshelf ($2.99, Goodwill)
Now if I just close my eyes I can picture myself there, and almost hear those waves crashing and smell the salty air...!


Featured Article: On True Love

On True Love

by Alice Von Hildebrand - July 1, 2007
Source: catholiccity.com
Reason speaks in words alone, but love has a song.
—Joseph de Maistre
We live in an age of confusion. It might even be said that we major not only in intellectual confusions but in affective confusions as well. Many do not know how to gauge their emotions; they cannot distinguish between valid and invalid feelings. They do not know for certain whether they are truly in love or whether they are animated by wishful thinking and believe themselves in love because they crave the excitement that love gives. They confuse "loving" with having a crush, or "discerning" forever without coming to a decision.
Far from claiming that I can answer this question, all I aim to do is offer some "signposts" that might be helpful when people ask the question: Am I or am I not in love?
Great experiences usually come as a surprise—incredible gifts that are in no way the fruit of wile or planning. They overwhelm us, and our first response is: "I am not worthy of such a gift. He (or she) is so much better than myself." Our hearts are overcome with gratitude, a gratitude that makes us humble. We feel unworthy of such a gift, which seems to awaken us from a deep sleep. No doubt, the person in love "truly starts living." The person who has never loved lives in a state of somnambulism and moves about as an automaton fulfilling his daily duties with dullness of heart—a heart that does not seem to beat.
When in love, we experience a deep, profound joy—a joy that is both ardent and calm, like a burning bush; but this ardor is not destructive, and is marked by deep recollection. It springs from the very center of our being. How different from the loud excitement of those who experience violent emotions that do not come from their depths and, like a straw fire, shine brightly for a short while but are soon extinguished.
The heart is not only on fire, but this fire has a melting effect. We feel as if a goodness that does not come from within has taken hold of us. Dietrich von Hildebrand speaks of "fluid goodness" of a loving heart.
True love makes the lover more beautiful; he irradiates joy. If this is not the case, we can raise doubts as to whether he is truly in love. One says in French: "Un saint triste est un triste saint"—a sad saint is a pitiful saint. Similarly, a sad "lover" should question whether he truly loves. Small, modest duties are done joyfully, because either they are done "with him" or "with her," or because they become acts of loving service.
True love makes one humble. All of a sudden our weakness, misery, and imperfection flash up before our minds, but with no depressing effect. We see our mistakes with the wish to unveil them to the loved one, and this unveiling is coupled with the wish to beg for his or her help in order to overcome them. We wish to unveil ourselves spiritually in a chaste way, to be truly known by the person we love; we fear to cheat our beloved into believing that we are better than we truly are. We feel that the loved one is entitled to know both our "valid name" and its caricature.
Love is also linked to a holy realism. The beauty of the loved one appears in front of us, but with no illusion; his beauty is not a fruit of wishful thinking, but a real vision—as on Mount Tabor—that the lover will have to remain faithful to, to hold on to when the vision is inevitably dimmed by the dullness of everyday duties.
The lover will always be willing to give the loved one what Dietrich von Hildebrand calls "the credit of love"—that is, when the loved one acts in a way that we do not understand or is a disappointment to us, instead of condemning him, the lover will trust that, human life being as complex as it is, his actions may be justified, even though at first glance they strike us as regrettable. The true lover eagerly looks for "excuses" when the conduct of the one he loves is a disappointment. He carefully refrains from being overconfident in blaming the other's conduct, baffling as it might be at first sight. He rejoices upon discovering that he was mistaken.
How sad it is in Shakespeare's play Cymbeline when Posthumus, being informed by the scoundrel Iachimo that his wife, Imogene, had betrayed him, believes the slanderer, even though he had ample previous evidence that she loved him and was pure. The play has a happy ending, but it sketches powerfully the bitterness, rage, and despair of someone who is convinced that the one he loved, the one whose image was the source of his joy, has betrayed him.
We can say that we truly love when a loved one's impatience, ingratitude, or "rudeness" (in other words, when his true beauty is veiled) cause us greater grief because he is staining his beautiful garment and presenting us with a caricature of his true face, rather than because he has wounded us. Most of all, the true lover is grieved because the loved one has offended God. On the order of importance, the offense against God is the primary source of sorrow; the harm that he does to his own beloved soul is second; last—even though deeply painful—is the wound he inflicts upon the one who loves him so deeply.
The true lover is more concerned about the interests of his loved one—whatever truly benefits his beloved's soul—than about his own. Hence the readiness to make sacrifices for him in the very many little things of daily life in which people's tastes differ: a very warm room or a cool one; eating at home or in a restaurant; going to a soccer game or staying home; watching a television program when one's spouse wishes to watch another one, and so on. Yielding should be limited to cases of subjective preferences, of course, and should never extend to principles. Still, we all know spouses often ill-treated by their husbands (or wives) who are so concerned about the eternal welfare of the loved one that they accept all these sufferings, offering them up for his or her sake.
A great sign of true love is the loving patience that one has toward the weaknesses of the beloved. It can be his idiosyncrasies, his temperament, his mannerisms (we all have them); it can be his physical frailties, his psychological oddities, his intellectual inability to follow a straight line of reasoning; his disorder, or his fanaticism for order. If a monk is constantly given occasions to "die to his own will" (as St. Benedict says), the same is true of marriages. John Henry Cardinal Newman writes that even in the deepest human relationships, when love is authentic, life in common will give one plenty of opportunities to prove one's love by sacrificing one's preferences.
Mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, moods; physical, psychological, and intellectual weaknesses are either interpreted as positively as possible or are borne with patience. Benedict writes about monks striving for holiness who nevertheless almost inevitably cause irritation for those living close to them. "Let them bear with the greatest patience one another's infirmities, whether of body or character" (Holy Rule, chapter 72).
The History of a Soul, from this point of view, is also a spiritual treasure. St. Thérèse of Lisieux clearly suffered much from the lack of education and manners in some of the other nuns. She learned the holy art of using every single irritation for God's glory, including the nerve-racking noise that a sister made in the stall next to hers, which prevented her from praying and being recollected. Still, Thérèse emerged victorious through love.
Surprisingly, this can also bring happiness to the best of marriages, even though the being we love has wounded our hearts. A true lover whose love is baptized will use these insignificant sacrifices as they did in the Middle Ages, when artists used some bits of wool to make superb tapestries.
The true lover always has the word "thank you" on his tongue. It is also easy for him to say "forgive me," for in the best relationship, one inevitably falls into mistakes. If someone imagines that he can find himself in a situation in which he will never make a mistake, that person should not get married, or have children, or enter a convent. The holy art of living is to know that we will make mistakes, to recognize them, to repent, and, with God's grace, to have the readiness to change.
Simultaneously, it is important that both lovers recognize their mistakes. We all know cases in which one of the lovers is always critical of the other and easily forgets that "the readiness to change" should be reciprocal, and that he too is affected by original sin.
Another characteristic of true love is that the loved one is "superactually" always with us; he is there, even when we are busy or absorbed by some duty. He creates the framework of our thoughts (after God). Just as faith in God and love of God should always be the background of all our thoughts and actions, the loved one is always with us; that is, everything that occurs is never unrelated to our love.
The lover feels a holy urge to say "thank you" and "forgive me." It flows from his heart without effort. The true lover experiences the deep truth of the words in the Canticle of Canticles: "If a man were to give the whole substance of his house for love, he would despise it as nothing."

Alice von Hildebrand is professor emerita of philosophy at Hunter College of the City University of New York and the renowned author of many books, including The Soul of a Lion (Ignatius, 2000) and The Privilege of Being a Woman (Veritas, 2002).


French Country & Toile

 It’s always fun to choose one or two motifs you like to inspire the rest of your home decor. For me it was painted furniture and toile, so it works well because since all of my furniture pieces come from garage sales and are old, they all have that rustic look and feel to them  (character!) and flow together rather than look junky or out-of-place.
I would describe my home’s style as Country Cottage/ French Country. I love the look of painted furniture, especially when it’s painted white,

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And I love  love love French 18th-century Toile de Jouy pattern! They all tell a different pastoral-themed story!
I first became more conscious of it when I visited my husband’s home back when we were dating, and fell in love with the different ways of adding visual interest to different corners.
It all started for me in my own home when I was given the following blue-toile items from Williams-Sonoma at my bridal shower last summer…
…and from then on it just continued to inspire me decorating in my home!
At the end of the summer I found this amazing tablecloth on huge clearance at Williams-Sonoma that my MIL turned into curtains for my kitchen!

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Then she gave me this cute, antique chair she had re-upholstered to go with my antique desk.
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… along with this chair cushion I used on my old rocking hair.
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And I found this little planter at Goodwill for $2.99 and am using it to hold my Aloe Vera plant in the kitchen!
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  And these pretty toile-like china plates at Goodwill ($1 each!)
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And this toile-printed clock at a thrift store ($3)
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I suggest if you’re trying to develop your own style of decorating,  just pick one or two things that inspire you and go from there- it will all flow naturally throughout your home and be a reflection of you! Have fun!


My 25 cent Chair Project!

So I got this cute red chair at a garage sale for just 25 cents! Seriously- I just couldn't pass it up- Who doesn't ever need extra chairs when you have people over, etc? Plus it was so cute! I could just see it painted white! I loooove white painted furniture (as you could probably decipher from all the furniture I've painted white already: hutch, night-side table, dresser and coming soon a bookshelf!)

So here is my simple little morning project from the weekend:

I first disassembled the chair, then wiped it clean. Next I primed it (one coat is all you need!). Then I gave it two coats of white paint (it was a gooey old paint I found left behind in my appartment- kinda messy to work with, but you can't beat free!) I still need to sand it down then wipe it clean again to prep it for the last step: polyurethane-coat the chair so it will be shiny and have that nice, sleek feel!

Ta-da! A 25 cent project (if you have the materials lying around and have a good eye for bargains!)

One old man's garage junk
is another young lady's home  treasure!

How We Cleaned Our Smoke Damage

Here's the update on our smoke damage *warning- very messy house pictures!*
It's been three week now since the "incident" and we're happy to report that everything is under control!

It certainly was overwhelming for the first few days, but we decided to divide and conquer!
First thing we did was to leave all windows open, and place fans pointing out (towards the window) to suck all the smokey air out.

Next thing I did was take down all the curtains, linen and towels and throw them in the wash. I did many many loads of laundry with my Shaklee laundry detergent and added a little vinegar to get rid of the smell. It worked wonderfully! There was only one item that took two washes (the one exposed the most!)

Next we sprinkled baking soda EVERYWHERE: The couch, carpet, on top of the wooden kitchen cabinets, on our pillows, uphoilstered chairs, mattress. . . ! We did two takes of the baking soda on the couch, and it worked well! Only problem is that there was baking soda EVERYWHERE!  (of course it blew around with the fans/ winows open. . . I suppose I'll be finding traces for weeks!)

I also placed the vinegar bowls all over the house and in our closet, as well as inside all my kitchen cabinets! We pulled everyhting out. . . then I started doing load after load of dishes. . .

So all in all, it looked like we were going to have to repaint the kitchen, pantry, roof and bathroom to get rid of the smoke that had soaked through. We started off by wiping down all the walls, counters, decorative objects and cabinets, and I think after all this, my appartment will feel and look super fresh and my bathroom will finally be painted! (It's only been primed all this time!)

Our closet with the smelly clothes was the hardest project because there's no circulation there. We tried the fan thing as well as a pyrex with charcoal and vinegar bowl. The key item that helped the most was the Air Purifier! If you don't have one, invest in one! The best was putting an air purifier in there and leaving the door cracked open (worked like a charm in one day!) We moved it around the house for a few days, concentrating it in the kitchen and pantry the longest and it had by far the most significant effect in the shortest amount of time! We've decided we don't need to paint the kitchen after all, pHhhew! Kitchens are the hardest to paint! Still hoping the bathroom gets painted, thought now it's not so pressing. . .

After those horrific pictures, I at least have to show you some of the progress, right?

So it's our late Spring Cleaning that I never quite completed when I started my new job, but better late than never!


A Lovely, Summer Party

Finally! A three-day break from work is affording me a little time to get back to this little blog of mine!

I have so many posts pending, but since it is the Fourth of July, and it's season of summer parties, I'd like to share some party ideas!

A few weeks ago, like I mentioned in an earlier post, we were able to entertain for the first time a large group of our college friends who were all in town! It was such a nice time, and we had a perfect evening for it!

There was a nice, cool, breeze and we were able to enjoy our deck and the fresh, summer air!
We grilled the hamburgers I made (mom's amazing recipe!) and yummy Boar's Head 100% beef hotdogs! Delicious! We complimented it with baked beans, grilled corn, salad, veggies, fruits, a cream cheese pound cake I made, and chips. We topped off the hamburgers with feta cheese, tomatoes, and arugula, and had the hotdogs Chicago-style, of course! (chopped onions, tomatoes, cucumber, pickle, mustard and celery salt).

the spread

It was fun decorating with lanterns and burning candles, white lights around the umbrella, food arrangements, flowers fresh from the garden, and also the wedding bouquets the girls donated from the wedding from the night before!

 See? It's all so easy- stuff from the house, and it adds such nice ambiance and a relaxing mood :)

The next night, since we were still in the mood for grilling, so we tried thick Argentina-style ribeye steaks cooked to juicy, tender perfection over a charcoal-wood grill and complimented it with Argentinian chimichurri I made, a shiraz and leftover salad and fruits!

Oh how I looooove summer!


Happy Fourth of July!

"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

-Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, 1863

As you enjoy this Fourth of July holiday, please take a moment to offer up a prayer for the men and women in the military who will not be with their families and friends this weekend.

Summer treat

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