Choose Joy

Choose joy.

In my collection of hoodies, I now have a tie-dye one that says “choose joy” across the front. I bought it for myself recently, because sometimes I need a reminder to choose joy.

I like to be happy, and most of the time, I choose to be happy. I’ve had sad things happen and my own struggles in life, just like everyone else, but I try to process that sadness and find joy again. Sometimes it take a while, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I do believe we can all make a conscious decision to be joyful. If we try to see a silver lining, we can usually find one.

And in my experience, choosing joy for yourself makes other people joyful. I find that, if I am happy, the people around me tend to become happier…joy is contagious. No doubt. Just like anger and bitterness are contagious. I know that, because sometimes I’m downright angry and bitter. Occasionally, something will get under my skin and stay there. I get angry or upset about something, and it seems I will never shake it. When that happens, I tend to spread that bad mood…till I realize what I’m doing…and then I try to turn it around. I choose joy.

There have been times in my life that I’ve stepped back and realized I’ve been “spitting venom,” and that’s not good. When I’ve realized it, whether someone pointed it out or I realized it myself, I’ve tried to walk it back and change my attitude. When I was a little girl, if I had a bad attitude, my parents would tell me, “You need to put a smile on your face…now.” Sounds silly, right? But here’s what usually happens when you put a smile on your face: you start feeling a little happier. It goes with the old “fake it till you make it” theory…start acting happier, and you will become happier. I learned that valuable lesson in my 20s, and it’s a lesson I’ve always remembered…and one I’ve tried to teach my teenage daughter. I’ve had to force myself to “fake it till I make it” a lot more through the COVID pandemic, because honestly, it’s downright depressing. But if we look around and find joy somewhere, it makes it a little easier.

About a month into the pandemic isolation, I was looking out the window onto my patio when I realized the trees behind our patio were becoming greener…sprouting tiny green leaves. Because we were all searching for things to do during that lockdown, I spent some of my time taking photos of the trees as we moved into spring. Sounds boring, right? I agree, but somehow it was fun at the time…and it brought me joy! I also got my garden started way earlier than usual…finding joy where I could…watching seedlings grow into flowers and vegetables. I chose joy that way.

Did I still have times of sadness? You bet. The pandemic shutdowns and isolation have been hard on me. But I refused to give in. Sure, occasionally, I had a breakdown here or there…or I made a big deal out of something that wasn’t a big deal. But when I realized it, I adjusted my attitude and chose joy.

That “choose joy” hoodie I mentioned earlier? Well, I found it on a website called Elly and Grace. I got one of those Facebook notifications that a college friend “liked” the Facebook page for the company, so I checked it out, and I was glad I did. Elly and Grace is a small company in Missouri whose mission is “to provide the softest, highest quality Christian apparel, designed to uplift, inspire and point others to Jesus.” Indeed, they do! The hoodie I purchased is the softest ever, and it certainly promotes an inspirational message! They have other items that feature other great messages and Bible verses. You can see what they offer here. I will definitely be shopping with them again very soon, and I know I will purchase some Christmas gifts from them too. I love to support small businesses…and this one seems special.

So thank you, Facebook, for leading me to Elly and Grace, and thank you to Elly and Grace for reminding me to “choose joy.” I am trying to make that conscious choice every single day.

Choose joy.

Spring Is Here Despite Coronavirus

Spring is here despite coronavirus.

Yes, we’re still all locked down. Coronavirus has disrupted our lives like never before. Every day I wake up and wonder if this is a bad dream. And after I realize it’s not, I take a deep breath just to see if I can. That’s my own personal little test for coronavirus, which I know is in no way scientific, but I also feel like it’s a good way to keep my lungs healthy…wake up, deep breath. And every single day, I’m making sure I do some form of cardio exercise, mostly walking. A couple of times, I’ve coughed, but I realized it was because of all the pollen.

While we hate the pollen in the air, it’s a sign that spring is here! On my personal Facebook page, I’ve been posting a few pictures of the signs of spring here in Charlotte, North Carolina, including pictures of us enjoying the backyard pool in the beautiful sunny weather we’ve been having. However, the picture that got the most response was a set of three photos taken 15 days apart. The first picture, from March 21, shows a barren tree behind our house. The second photo in the set shows the same tree ten days later, March 31, when it was turning green. And five days later, I took the third picture, which shows the tree is lush and green. That’s how fast the tree went from bare to lush…fifteen days.

After I posted those photos, friends who live in colder parts of the country lamented the fact that it’s still cold where they are. A friend in the Chicago area said she wished she were here. A friend in Massachusetts said she wishes she had more signs of spring where she is. At first, I felt a little guilty, but then several of them asked me to keep posting pictures of spring! They were enjoying them!

Many times, a friend in Mobile has reminded me how fortunate we are to live in the south during this coronavirus pandemic and the isolation it’s causing. She reminds me we are lucky we live where the weather is warm most of the time in spring, because we can spend time outdoors. And she’s right. In fact, I think we have enjoyed our patio and pool more this spring than we have in any other previous year. We always enjoy it in the summer months, but I can’t remember a time we spent so much time sitting out in the sun or in the pool in April.

So today, I took a walk around my neighborhood, which is absolutely gorgeous this time of year, if I do say so myself, and I took pictures of signs of spring. You can see them all below, and feel free to share them with your friends who live in other parts of the country that are still cold. Blue skies and bright-colored flowers can certainly brighten someone’s day!

Stay healthy!

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Lovely yard in the neighborhood

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Knockout roses in my front yard

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Beautiful, blooming Dogwood tree in a neighbor’s yard

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Blooming azalea

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Angel in a neighbor’s yard

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One of my favorite trees in the neighborhood

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Flowers in one of the prettiest yards in the neighborhood

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Tulips lining a neighbor’s driveway

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The walk down to one of the neighborhood lakes

My Favorite Easter Gifts

I went to Target last night in search of items to put in my teenage daughter’s Easter basket. For the last few years, a friend of hers…we’ll call her Lu…has slept over at our house the night before Easter. It has become a tradition, and I love it! I get to put together two Easter baskets! This year, though, I get to put together three, because her friend from Ohio is flying in to spend the weekend with us too!

Last week, I did some shopping for them at a local store called Paper Skyscraper and got some really cute items there…Greenwich Trading Company soaps, bunny slippers, and more. I’ve also ordered some favorite childhood collectibles on eBay, but last night, I was on a candy mission.

Easter candy is the best. I know you’re thinking Valentine or Christmas candy might be better, but I’m telling you, Easter candy wins, hands down.

Every year, when they put the Easter candy out…right after Valentine’s Day…I purchase some Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. I don’t eat Whoppers any other time of year, but at Easter, I want the Mini Robin Eggs. They make me think of my friend, Angela. We have been friends for 33 years, so we’ve made lots of crazy memories. In the early 2000s, when we were both married without children, I visited her around Easter one year, and we sat on the sofa in her den, laughing and eating Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. We might have eaten them till we both felt sick. But the point is…I have to buy them every year, because they make me think of Angela and good times!

I have other favorites too, so whether she likes them or not, my daughter gets these candies every year:

  • Peeps. I think Peeps are the best-selling Easter candies. Some people absolutely love them. Me? Not so much. But the Easter Bunny put them in my basket every year anyway. As an adult, I’ve discovered they aren’t that bad, but still not my favorites to eat. They are, however, necessities for Easter baskets. It just wouldn’t be an Easter basket without Peeps. I feel pretty sure my daughter throws them away every year, but this year, she and her friends will be getting a Peeps candy/sock gift combo. So cute!s-l1600-2
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. When I was a little girl, Daddy would give us our “allowance” on Saturday mornings and take us to the “candy store,” which was really a little, locally-owned convenience store called Murphy’s. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy were always there, and they were always kind to us. We would go in with our money and pick the candies we wanted. My favorite was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I would pick up those first, before getting Now & Laters, Super Bubble Bubble Gum, a Three Musketeers Bar, Spree, a Blow Pop, and sometimes a Marathon Bar. But Reese’s were my favorite. Somehow, the Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs taste more like the peanut butter cups tasted when I was a child. Whether my daughter likes it or not, she’s getting those.9101dS1S5jL._SX522_
  • Pez. Come on…Easter baskets wouldn’t be complete without an Easter-themed Pez dispenser. Little chick? Little Lamb? Little Easter Bunny? Sold! Pez candies are OK tasting, but the real novelty is in the dispenser. easter-pez-127510-im1
  • Fun Dip. My daughter loved Fun Dip when she was little, and so did I. They make a “spring” edition….pastel colors. She’ll be getting some in her basket, and so will her friends!springtime-fun-dip-multi-pack-16ct-sold-out-2
  • Chocolate Bunny. I don’t care if it’s good chocolate or cheap chocolate. Because I always received a chocolate bunny in my Easter basket, my daughter and her friends get chocolate bunnies too. One year, my daughter left it on the dining room table…right where the sun shines through the window. I walked in later to find an unidentifiable chocolate creature that looked a little zombie-ish, because it had melted.Palmer-Hollow-Milk-Chocolate-Bunny
  • Chocolate Cross. It’s Easter, people. solid-chocolate-cross-2-5oz-milk-or-white-chocolate-22

And then, there are gifts of the non-candy variety:

  • Devotional Book or Bible. There are devotional books that contain daily or weekly devotionals. There are books that explain The Bible in plain speak. There are books of Bible stories for children…and frankly, I see no shame in reading those myself! When we were little, Mother would read to us nightly from a children’s book of Bible stories. Amazon offers lots of options for devotional books and Bibles. I found one for teenage girls here.51LHcMF7M7L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_

Silver cross necklace. Nordstrom has a nice variety of cross necklaces…a meaningful gift to add to the Easter basket. You can see their selection here.

There are other little things I put into the baskets on Easter, so I’m going to share some of those ideas too (some will appear in baskets this year):

  • Lip gloss
  • Hand lotion
  • Garden gnome (every…single…year)
  • Flower seeds or Grow Kit
  • Starbucks gift card
  • Other gift cards (Chick-Fil-A, Target, Smoothie King, etc.)
  • Good-smelling soaps. I purchased some made by Greenwich Trading Company.
  • Lacrosse and field hockey balls.
  • Decorative cross. Again, it’s Easter, and a decorative cross makes a lovely gift any time of year…to remember He is risen.

Happy Easter, friends! Christ died so we could have everlasting life, and on the third day, He arose. Let’s celebrate His resurrection.

 

Quick and Easy Brunch

Anyone who knows me will quickly tell you I am no Martha Stewart. I like to cook, but I’m no chef. I don’t have the attention span for recipes with too many ingredients, and I tend to be a “squirrel chaser,” i.e. I’m easily distracted.

Every now and then, though, I like to invite some friends over for a brunch. Sure, I could get it catered, but it’s a great opportunity for me to try my hand at some recipes.

As always, the key for me is the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. When I start trying to get too extravagant, I lose control of the situation. I learned a long time ago that it’s best for me not to make it too elaborate.

I plan to host a brunch in my home later this month…a lovely, spring brunch. In the past, I’ve used plain glass or even clear plastic plates, but this year, I’m doing something different.

In the early 1940s, my maternal grandmother got her first set of Franciscan Desert Rose dinnerware. If you’re not familiar with it, the first Desert Rose dinnerware was produced in California in 1941, and it became the largest selling and longest running dinnerware pattern ever. Jacqueline Kennedy purchased some for use in the White House. In 1979, the company was sold to Wedgewood in England, and all production was moved to England in 1984. According to cedarhillfarmhouse.com, production was moved to other countries in 2000, but the entire pattern was discontinued in 2013.

It’s not a “fancy” pattern, and it was never expensive, but it’s pretty.

Over the years, my grandmother grew her collection and eventually gave it to my mother. I added to my mother’s collection over the years. When my mother died in December, I brought the Desert Rose to my house. My husband took one look at the boxes and wondered aloud what I was going to do with them. I still haven’t figured out where to keep them, but I plan to use them this spring for a brunch.

There are lots of things to consider when planning a brunch at home, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here is what I make notes on:

*Dinnerware (Desert Rose), where to place food, what to serve, when to prepare food, what beverages to serve, music, seating arrangements, flower arrangements, and party favors.*

The brunch I will be hosting is for a school committee, and the date and time have already been decided, so that decision is off my plate.

The dinnerware/flatware/linens question is the first one you should decide, simply because you can build around that. I have some light green cloth napkins I plan to use, because they will coordinate nicely with the Desert Rose dinnerware. I plan to have all the food served buffet-style from my dining room table, so I’ve selected a table pad and a tablecloth that will work with the dinnerware.

As for flatware, I have collected several sets of stainless flatware from eBay for great prices, so I have place settings for 40 and serving pieces too. eBay is a great resource for collecting.

Music is easy too…we have DirecTV, which offers a myriad of music channels. Usually, for brunch functions, I find a jazz station to provide a light musical background.

For me, deciding on a menu for a brunch is far easier than picking a menu for lunch or dinner. I love the Hungry Girl cookbooks, because she offers low-calorie, healthy recipes for just about anything, and she has some awesome breakfast/brunch options.

For this particular spring brunch, I plan to have this menu:

FRESH FRUIT BOWL: (cut up strawberries and stir in blueberries the night before)

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HUNGRY GIRL CRAMMED WITH CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS from page 38 of Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed (baked the night before and warmed before the brunch)

HUNGRY GIRL BANANA BREAD BONANZA MUFFINS from page 41 of Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed (baked the night before and warmed before the brunch)

HUNGRY GIRL VEGGIE-LICIOUS BREAKFAST BAKE (recipe can be found here), assembled ahead of time and bake the day of the brunch

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Veggie-licious Breakfast Bake photo from http://www.hungry-girl.com

MY PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER’S SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE I could give you the recipe, but I’d have to kill you. That will have to remain within the family.

For beverages, I will serve coffee, water, and orange juice…easy enough. If it weren’t for a school committee, I’d also offer Prosecco.

It’s an easy-to-assemble menu. I will display the muffins on a Desert Rose platter. The Breakfast Bake will be in a Pyrex dish, and the fruit will be in a large bowl. All those foods will be on the dining room table, and I will arrange beverages on the kitchen island. I will grab coffee the morning of the brunch at Panera, and they will provide all the cream and sugar/sweetener. I will have water and juice in two pitchers.

If possible, I always recommend fresh flowers. I love having fresh flowers in the house all the time, but I get an extra arrangement when entertaining…one for the dining room table with the food, and one for the kitchen counter.

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As for seating, the group will be small enough for me to have everyone in the kitchen and keeping room off the kitchen. There is a loveseat and a chair-and-a-half, so that is seating for four people. There are four chairs at my kitchen table, and two taller chairs at the kitchen island bar, for a total of  ten. We have eight dining room chairs we can bring in as needed.

The kitchen/keeping room combo is a perfect place for everyone to congregate, visit with each other, and discuss any committee business.

When the fun is over, it’s always nice to send something home with your guests…a small token that shows you were happy to have them in your home…a party favor. In a previous post, I sang the praises of Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies. For this particular event, I plan to have 2-oz jars of Fire Island Peach Jam and/or Apple Pecan Pie Preserves with blue ribbons around the top, because the school colors are blue and white. Everyone will love these! To see what Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies has to offer, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies Facebook page

So, if you are planning a small brunch at home that you don’t plan to have catered, this is the easy way to do it…keep it simple!

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Happy Hosting!

Kelly

***All Hungry Girl photos courtesy of hungry-girl.com or her books.***