Pondering Some Sweet Things

One of my new friends! Sweet Bites Cookies
One of my new friends! Sweet Bites Cookies

I’ve met some interesting people in the last couple of weeks as I venture out and promote my wedding and event business.

There was the group of local women business owners who invited me to a networking event last week. Included in the bunch was a lovely woman who brought her magic cookies and shared them with all of us. I was so impressed with Diane that I’m adding her to my business website! (Click on the link under the cookie picture to check her out)

I also went to see a local farm- Destiny Hill– that does weddings on their real working lavender farm. And they design bridal flowers pulled from their own flower beds! I was in love with the place from the moment I drove up the driveway!

There was something interesting too that happened to me last week that I’ve been wanting to share with you. Here goes….

Can you see them?
Can you see them?

I was driving on a road just minutes away from my own home, engrossed in thinking about my business. (I’ve been doing that a lot lately!) So catching myself, I took a minute for a gratitude prayer and then asked God for assistance with my new venture. In the next minute, the car in front of me slowed down. I glanced up to see what was going on and there was the source. A gaggle of small turkeys, slowly making their way across the road, completely stopping traffic. As they reached the other side, the lead turkey decided she really didn’t want that side, she wanted the other side.

So they all turned around and went back across the road.

I pulled my car over to the berm, so excited about the turkeys that I grabbed my cell phone. Not wanting to scare them, I kept back and was able to snap a picture or two. Other cars sped on as soon as the turkeys were off the road. I stood a moment or two until they disappeared into the brush.

What does this beautiful nature sighting mean? To me it was an instant affirmation that God is with me. S(he) is watching over me and hears my prayers. All I need to do is believe and things will work out as they should, not by my plan but by a divine plan. To see my favorite creatures in such multiples, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sight. To me, it is a sign of future abundance as long as I am willing to keep a grateful heart.

What’s your favorite creature of nature? I’d love to know!

Join me on my graceful journey.

Serenity on the Clarion River


Jim and I spent this past weekend in one of our favorite places in the world- Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania. We meet up twice yearly with a group of friends and this time we occupied three cabins side by side with a grand total of sixteen people.

We ate all of our meals together and spent most of our time gathered around a perfect campfire. There were lots of good stories, marshmallows and too much food. Believe it or not, there was no alcohol on this weekend and yes, we had a very good time.

Before we left, Jim and I made the decision to head up a bit early on Friday and go for a canoe ride down the Clarion River. We did this once before but took the much longer ride. This time, we opted for a shorter river journey which took about ninety minutes.

Clarion RiverWe had a very nice canoe. I rode in front and Jim took the back seat so he could do the steering. It was one of our shining moments working as a team. Paddling around rocks, shallow water and little rapids, we never once got hung up anywhere. Jim threw his fishing pole in along the way, just for good measure, but the fish must have been somewhere else, probably taking a long nap.

I can’t fully describe for you what the ride was like but I will try. The river was tree lined on each side; great big tall trees, still green but with the promise of autumn in their leaves. A clear, sparkly river with the sun glistening off the surface so much so that it appeared as though diamonds were scattered about. The sound of a red tailed hawk overhead; the sound of my paddle as it glazed the tip of the water.

A couple of times, the sun was warm enough on my shoulders and I angled my hand over the side of the canoe, into the chilly waters of the river. I left it there for a few moments and felt the cool wetness, the temperature of the water being just perfect for the beginning of fall.

There is truly serenity in being among the tall trees, in unspoiled beauty, with clean air and only the scent of pine or a good, smoky fire. My cell phone does not work well in Cook so it’s a good excuse to go unplugged for the entire weekend. The better to enjoy the beauty with.

Sometimes we have to stop and break away. Life is just too busy these days and more and more is expected of us. Making time, pushing ourselves to be in touch with nature should be mandatory, just to clear our heads and refresh our minds. I know it really works for me.

Where’s your favorite place on earth to wind down?

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Grace at the Source

Farmer's Table 1

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” -Brillat-Savarin

The picture above is not out of a story book- it is for real. If you look closely, you’ll see tables of people at the V of the stone wall. It is right there that my friend Cathy and I had our first Farm to Table dinner.

We were at Manchester Farms and Left Bower Farm in beautiful Avella, Pennsylvania. The farmhouse is from the early 1800’s and is a real stunner.

I read about Jacob Mains and his Farm to Table dinners recently in our local newspaper. I was immediately smitten and am actually trying to figure out a way for us to work together (more about that on another post!) given my background in events planning. After reading about the dinner, I recruited my organic loving friend Cathy to go with me to our first ever farm sourced food event.

Farmer's Table 2What unfolded was an amazing evening under a blue summer sky. Vegetables that had only been picked out of the ground earlier that day were served beautifully on a white plate, exhibiting all their natural qualities. Diced beets, roasted turnips, kale, cabbage and fresh lettuce greens were featured, as was a delicious dairy cheese. There were yummy meatballs made with beef right from the farm. And to top it all off, a dessert of vanilla creme, topped with fresh berries from the farm next door. And did I mention the cookie? A delicious butter cookie made with butter from the farm was nestled into the dessert. Yes, I broke up the cookie in little pieces and dipped it into the vanilla creme and strawberries!

Cathy and I had to pinch ourselves several times as we met some amazing people. From Jacob and his parents, to Margie and Dave the farm owners, to the talkative radio station owner we sat next to, we were just in awe of the entire evening and the karma of the whole night.

Jacob and his Grandfather
Jacob and his Grandfather

There is something magical about eating outside, among beautiful surroundings, with happy people and enjoying food that is minimally handled and served in its natural grace. When bounty is pulled from the ground and nourishes us heart and soul, there is something very fulfilling and joyful about that experience.

I hope you live in an area where you have access to a farm or farmer’s markets. Please make an effort to support CSA- Community Supported Agriculture– when available. This dinner was an amazing event, one that I hope I will experience again and again!

Thank you to Drew Nicholas for sharing these photos with me!

What’s your favorite farmer’s market or place to buy locally sourced food?

Join me on my graceful journey.

The Key to Happiness

Photo by Michelene Cain

I walked Jordan, my yellow lab, outside for her morning stroll. The sun was just coming up over the horizon. Soft gray streaks of cloud streamed between glimpses of sunlight, a promise of the day to come.

There was an autumn chill in the air. Fall colored leaves were on the grass, the trees, everywhere. Our chickens were already up, walking about as if they too were ready for the new day.

I had a sudden appreciation for where I live. My home is at the end of a closed lane, surrounded by a natural woods, but with an acre or so of real back yard.

There is much grass to mow in the summer here and many leaves to gather in the fall. The driveway is long and currently needs some patch work. The trees are large and sometimes, we have to figure out how to chop them down when they get too old.

But, I love where I live. There was a time, years ago, when I did not. I wanted a bigger house, more rooms, more opportunities for livable space, a showplace of sorts where I could entertain and decorate.

What I have is a small ranch. We added a dining room and mudroom a few years ago so it’s a bit bigger now. But as I get older, I realize this is a great house for Jim and I to grow old in. Everything we need is on the first floor. Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living and dining rooms. Only the laundry room is downstairs and someday, we can bring the washer and dryer upstairs to the mudroom. And I certainly can decorate, and do, in the country style that has come naturally to me after all these  years.

What I really thank God for is my natural surroundings. As I get older, I more and more appreciate that I have a view of trees and great sky everyday. When I was a young girl, I loved nature, loved riding my bike, loved pretending I was a campfire girl. Maybe this yard is one of the things that drew me to my husband….the thought of marrying into this yard.

The Hill- A Great Place for Bonfires!

There is a pavilion on top of the hill from my house. Jim’s grandfather and uncles built it ages ago but it still stands. The brothers all got together a few years ago and fixed up the roof, made the poles alittle sturdier. When we once bought the property adjacent to ours (now belonging to my sister in law), the surveyors knocked on my door. They said, Is it possible that the pavilion straddles two separate pieces of property? I said, with a smile, Yes. No one in the family cared about divisions of property back then. It still doesn’t matter.

Because, we are all family around here. We live, surrounded by kin, and that is ok with us. If you want to be alone, you will be left alone. If you need help, the cavalry will show up at your door, probably bearing soup and whatever else you may need.

The point of this is to be happy where you are, with what you have. This doesn’t mean not to dream, not to create goals. But sometimes, in chasing the dream, you realize it is right in your own back yard.

The key to happiness is to appreciate what you have. What are you grateful for today?

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Back Yard Beauty

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.  ~John Muir

What is it about Nature that is just so good? Even in all of our own beautiful woman (or man) made masterpieces, there is still something special about what the earth can create.

I’m lucky that I live in a place where I have lots of privacy. Sometimes in the early morning, I take my bowl of cereal outside and just sit. The sun is still coming up and the day is just getting started. If I am very still, I can hear birds singing and other quieting, natural sounds. It reminds me to take things slow and savor the moments.

I’ve been around for 54 years now and I still cannot seem to get enough of Mother Earth. If I’m feeling abit stressed, all I have to do is go outside and look around.  My own back yard is one of my favorite places on this earth.

Though the grass is a bit brown these days, there are plenty of other beautiful things to keep me happy right in my yard. Jim and Michelene planted a beautiful garden along with some flowers and through minimal watering, they are flourishing. There are butterflies galore and Jim’s honeybees are busy everywhere, just pollinating to their heart’s desire.

Bunnies are in on the act too. They can’t get enough of our sweet clover. My dog, Jordan, keeps a watchful eye on them and she loves to give them a good chase down the yard.

The summer is hot and it’s just moseying along. It won’t be long now till it’s the dog days of August. That’s when I really want things to slow down so I can enjoy the last moments of the season.

If I just take a moment, I can remember there is great beauty right outside my door. I don’t need to go very far. May you see the great beauty in your own back yard today.

Photo Credits: Michelene Cain

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After the Storm….Grace

Some of my closest friends and I get together at a lake house in Deep Creek, Maryland every year for a long weekend. We are blessed because one of our friends happens to own a beautiful lake house in Deep Creek and really, we can hardly believe our own good fortune.

So we all gathered at the house, beginning on Friday afternoon. We hung out down by the lake, soaked up the sun, caught up on each others lives. Some of my friends I had not seen since December so I was joyous and happy to be with them.

Usually on the first night we take it easy with dinner. Someone brings a frozen lasagna (yep, we’re real gourmets here), someone brings salad, and so on, including rolls, drinks and the requisite desserts. In this case, dessert was a delicious blueberry pie. You just can’t be without sweets during this lake weekend.

So we heated the lasagna, got dinner on the table and the sky became darker and darker. We moved inside in just enough time and then the storm hit. Thunder, lighting, wind, lots of rain. We kept talking, barely aware of all the nature goings on, until of course, the lights went out a few times. Then, the lights went OUT.

My friend Susan quickly gathered all her candles and lit them. We figured this would be a short inconvenience and heck the candles were so cozy we just laid back, kept talking and waited for the lights to come back on.

Here’s the thing. They never came back on.

Saturday morning we all woke up and still no lights. So we heated water on the stove (thank God it was gas), drank instant Chai and had coffee cake, banana bread and fruit. Some of the girlfriends had signed up for a garden tour so they prepared themselves as best they could (there were numerous jokes about a bad hair day) and off they went.

When they left, I hung out with my buddy, Samantha. We changed into bathing suits, sat on the dock and chatted. Later, I took a short nap, just because I could. I had planned to do dinner on the gas grill that night, so there was no stress about warming anything else up in the oven. It was a luxurious afternoon.

When the garden tour group returned, we were all treated to a long boat ride around the lake. The sky was a real stunner- gorgeous baby blue with fluffy marshmallow clouds. As the sun went down, the rays streamed through the clouds and touched the lake. I looked at my friends on the boat. I looked at the sky. It felt like a spiritual experience.

Here’s the Grace. Despite our lack of electricity, we laughed and had the best time. We lit candles when it got dark. We ran down to the lake with watering cans and empty gallon jugs to fill up with lake water, just so we could flush the toilets. Through all this, there was no complaining, no talk of leaving. We just made the best of it. We used dry shampoo, called ourselves Pioneer Women and slept with flashlights.

By Sunday afternoon, we reluctantly packed up our bags. It is never easy to leave the lake house and I think that each time we get together, it almost becomes harder to say good bye. We so enjoy each others company, love and accept each other so completely, and we know that our friendship is a true gift.

Truly…..Grace from God.

Join me on my graceful journey.

Sky Watcher

Photo by Michelene Cain

It’s been a rough week.

Some things happened this past week that were so beyond my control. I badly wanted to take charge of the unmanageable situations, line them up like obedient soldiers, solve each issue one by one. When it was all over I could feed everyone chicken soup and chunky homemade chocolate chip cookies. I just wanted to make it all better.

Instead, I’ve eaten a few too many Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies and prayed for help. Please God, keep me from interfering where I shouldn’t. I can so justify my reasons for intruding, but at this stage of the game I know better.

Assisting others can be one of my star attributes. It can also be one of my biggest character flaws. When I do for others what they can do for themselves, I am robbing them of their own opportunities to grow or feel their own emotions.

For me, the fine line of distinction with regards to assisting others is my motive. Do I want to ride in on my white horse and save the day? Is my offer to help motivated by my own ego? Or is someone in genuine dire need or danger? Sometimes I need a good friend to help me figure things out.

When I am troubled by events beyond my control, I become a sky watcher. God speaks to me through the sky.  And so the past few days, I have taken every advantage to stare at the morning sunrise, the afternoon sun or clouds, and the deep dark sky filled with the stars and full moon of last week. I can be alone for a few minutes and ground myself again to my sense of purpose. That is, I am here to be of service, not to force my will on anyone. And I know deep inside that when I allow my loved ones the opportunity to solve their own problems, I give them (and myself) a great gift.

Photo by Michelene Cain
Join me on my graceful journey.