Spring ~ The Season For Strawberries

As I’ve written in earlier posts this spring, I love this season and all that it brings.  Trees with new leaves, grass greening up and flowers popping out of the ground are all part of what makes me feel “twitterpated” for sure.

One of my favorite things about spring is that the Strawberry fields begin to bloom and by late April and May beautiful red berries are ready to be picked.  Throughout the years my children were growing up, I took them strawberry picking every year that I could.  Dressed in our grungiest clothes and shoes (besides strawberry stains being a hassle, the fields are notoriously muddy) we would make an outing to pick strawberries.  Once home I would make jam from much of what we picked and of course, we’d eat them for days popping them into our mouths, mixed with other fruits for breakfast or as the crowning glory for dessert.

Heading to the fields

Heading to the fields

Something comes over me when I arrive at a farm to pick strawberries.  I’m giddy, excited and oddly nervous – clearly full of mixed emotions.  I’m giddy with knowing the sheer fun I’ll have, but the excitement about getting to pick mixes with worry that too many people will show up and “crowd” my space in this wonderful task.  You see, I like to imagine myself in the fields as if I’m Laura Ingalls on the prairie; picking berries so that Ma can make dessert for dinner.  Or that Mary and I (Laura’s sister) can take some of our own delicious strawberries in our baskets and go sit under the tree by the banks of Plum Creek and just laze the day away eating till our tummies and hearts are full.  (By the way, somehow Melissa Gilbert’s exposed Tattoos on DWTS just ruin my Laura image!)  I’m much this same way at Christmas Tree Farms, Pumpkin Patches and other “Pick your own Farms”.  So what I have to do is chatter inside my head to myself to remember to just enjoy the moment and not worry about how many strawberries I can take home.  After all, I can always go again!

At work picking strawberries

At work

This year I’ve already been strawberry picking and I have to say, it’s the best time amongst the strawberry plants I’ve ever had.  Why?  This year I got to go with my granddaughter, Ansley (God’s Littlest Angel).  Oh and we did let her mom, Sammi go, too by the way.  I happened to be in Charlotte working and so we set aside this particular morning for the simple pleasure of picking strawberries.  Now Ansley’s only seventeen months old so, we had no idea what to expect of her in the fields – especially since we opted NOT to take the stroller. But Good Golly Miss Molly, the child is a reincarnation of Laura Ingalls.  She knew Just. What. To. Do.  Totally serious about the work, she picked and picked – OK, she also ate and ate.  Sammi figured she ate at least 30 juicy strawberries.  But, she was precious to watch.  Ever so gently she would pick the berry and then plop it into the basket.  Each berry she put in the basket brought a smile to her face as if she was saying, “Ta Da, I did it just right.”   So, this wonderful excursion to the strawberry fields this year got me to thinking…

The time is Ripe

Having had such a wonderful time with both Sammi and God’s Littlest Angel, I knew it was a moment in the big picture of my life that I would always treasure.  I was reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The time is always ripe to do the right thing.”

Sure, the strawberries were ripe, but what was really ripe was the moment.  It was the right time to take the time to do the right thing – which was to spend time with my loved ones and especially not worry or obsess over who else drove up to the parking lot of the farm to pick strawberries, too.

And then it hit me.  The time really is always ripe to do the right thing.  We don’t have to wait.  For me, this means making the most of every single moment of every single day to do what is right in that moment.  Powerful words by a powerful man that I need to live by.  Think about it yourself and really digest the truth of this statement.  Yep, the time is always ripe to do the right thing.  We just have to do it.  Oh, and while writing this post I happened upon another wonderful quote, so perfect for this message about spending time with my granddaughter,

“Children are God’s Apostles, sent forth, day by day, to preach of love, hope and peace.“
James Russell Lowell

It’s true.  No matter what’s going on in the great big world, to a child it becomes condensed very simply to the moment and they are guided by a desire to love and yep, live in perfect harmony with those around them.  Hmmmmm…

Ansley eating a strawberry

Yum!

To grandchildren, the best dessert in life…

Using Visual Cues In Home Décor

Everywhere we turn there are visual cues for us.  Driving along the interstate there are billboards after billboards – especially if you are nearing “South of the Border” in Dillon, South Carolina.  Anyone traveling to the beaches in this area knows what I mean- billboards advertising the retail establishments of “South of the Border” are one after the other, literally. I’ve heard there are about 175 billboards advertising for it.  Then there’s the visual cues on the screen at the movie theatres showing people eating yummy treats from the concession stands to wet your appetites and thirsts and compel you to purchase these things before the movie starts.  Drive-in movies were the big thing when I was growing up and somewhere I heard that within the movies there were even visual cues that were so quick they were seen only on the subliminal level, meant to get us to the concession stand for popcorn and treats without even knowing it.  My family – we brought our own. My mom would pop up a huge grocery bag of popcorn and load the cooler for all of us to enjoy while we sat in the station wagon watching two back-to-back flicks.

Anyway, back to visual cues.  Visual cues are a type of sensory cue that work on both the conscious mind as well as the sub-conscious mind to affect us in some way.  Some visual cues (such as the ones at the movies) are meant to entice on a short-term basis.  Others such as the arrows on elevators are meant to instruct.  (They still don’t properly instruct me!)  Regardless of what the visual cue is for, it’s clear that they affect us.

I’m sure most of you over the years have created visual cues in your homes.  If you have children you have at some point most likely posted “Potty Charts” or “Good Behavior Charts”. I had a doorframe in my house where we kept a penciled measuring chart of each of the kid’s growth progress as they grew.  Each line marked the new height and date.  It was wonderful to look at over the years and reminisce and then really, really hard to leave when we moved on to another space!

But, what I’m talking about is a much subtler form of visual cues and is actually part of your decor.  Meant to be part of the décor, these types of visual cues affect the subconscious level of the mind and make you feel good in ways you don’t realize.  Here are some great ways to decorate with visual cues to bring good vibes into your space:

  • Have an area such as a decorative chalkboard to write daily inspirational messages to yourself, your family and guests.  My daughter-in-law, Kathleen painted the entire wall of her mudroom in chalkboard paint.  She writes her grocery list there, her “to do,” list, Ben’s “honey-do list” and friends can write fun comments on it when they visit.  This wall is like a living history wall of the goings on in the Aliff abode and continuously creates happiness.
  • Display a collection that gives you instantaneous feel good vibes such as a wall of crosses.  Several of my nieces do this in their homes, a tradition passed down from their mother, Patty.  This “wall of crosses” has even spilled over into other family members homes such as my niece, Marli’s home.  What a lovely way to constantly observe one’s faith, reflect on it and feel the calmness wash over you!
  • Find a decorative plaque of a positive quote that speaks personally to you and hang it somewhere in your space that you regularly see.  Or hang a piece of decorative art such as a clock I saw at a lake home recently.  The clock was stuck on 5:00.  Talk about instant smiles and instant relaxation.  (And thirst maybe?!?)
  • Accessorize with decorative pillows that have special meaning to you.  Pillows with whimsical quotes are examples that bring on the smiles.

One of the most heartwarming visual cues I have seen in a long time is in the home of a family friend, Jennifer.  Jennifer lost her sister a few years ago and has memorialized her love for her with a frame that includes a quote about sisters.  It reads,

“Sisters…

           from childhood memories to grown up dreams”

Cameron Triggs Photography

Cameron Triggs Photography

This visual cue speaks volumes of love and every time I see it I smile and feel gentle chill bumps erupt all over my body – a sure sign from the heavens above if you ask me!

Marli’s wall of crosses

Marli’s wall of crosses

The sky’s the limit on ways to infuse affirming visual cues in your home décor.  After all, each and every one of us can use more positive in our lives.  Our homes are our sanctuaries, meant to vitalize and revitalize us for living in the outside world.  Take every opportunity to create feel good vibes in your space, subtle decorative visual cues being one of them. Your heart, mind, body and soul will thank you and your entire being will blossom from the wonderful surroundings.  I guarantee it!

To loving life…

Best Ever Homemade Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

I really do believe that everything begins in the home.  What we like, what we don’t like, how we act and how we live outside our homes first get shaped in how we live in our own space.

Take Chocolate – or the love thereof…

My love affair with it began at a very early age.  My dad was a candyholic.  Weekend Saturday and Sunday nights were the best.  He would take us six kids to the store, buy himself and our mom their favorite candy bars (Clark Bar and Almond Joy) and then he would buy $1.00 worth of penny candy for the six of us.  Back home we would each get our own separate sandwich bag full of candy that we had anxiously watched him divide into six equal piles.  Then as a family we would watch TV – black and white of course!

Before long my dad began to fill the crystal bowl in our living room with Peanut M&M’s.  Well, besides Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Peanut M&M’s are my absolute fave.  Saturday mornings week after week and year after year I awoke first in my household, crept to the candy dish and removed a handful of these scrumptious treats.  Then I would go to the kitchen, pour myself a glass of milk, rush back to bed and blissfully read in silent heaven.  Nothing could be finer than chocolate, a warm, cozy bed and a good book to read!

As an adult in my own space I put in my head that part of making a comfy, cozy home was to have fresh baked goodies on hand.  (Must have been that June Cleaver thing.)  Now I have to admit, I’ve never been able to bake a cake- each and every one falls flat upon leaving the oven.  But, I can make a mean cookie – especially ones with chocolate chips.

So, I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to recently hear on the news how good chocolate is for us.  Too bad all those years ago no one asked me, as I would’ve been able to tell the experts. Chocolate makes me smile and makes my heart full and happy.  To this very day, my morning begins with 2 or 3 pieces of chocolate.  Let me tell you – the feel good vibes come rushing in!  Nirvana for sure!  So, now that it’s a health food, I feel it’s apropos for me to share my recipe for the best Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies ever.  And, as an added health benefit, I recommend all organic ingredients!

Without further adieu, here’s my recipe tweaked over the years to create heaven on earth:

Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

Cookies ready for baking

Ready for baking

2 c. butter
2 c. sugar
2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. flour
2 c. oatmeal
2 c. oat bran
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
24 oz. chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Next add the eggs and vanilla, mixing well.  Add all the dry ingredients and again, mix well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Make into golf ball size shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 in. apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Cookies ready for eating

Ready to enjoy

Helpful Hints:

  • Use all organic ingredients.
  • Remove cookies from the oven while slightly brown, as they will continue cooking on the cookie sheet while cooling.  (I like a slightly soft middle to my cookies.)
  • These cookies freeze well and you can also freeze the cookie dough for future use.

For an extra treat:

Summertime Barbeques are a fun time to make your own homemade ice cream sandwiches.  Simply take two of these cookies, spread the top of one will softened ice cream and top it off with the other cookie.  Freeze until ready to serve.

To enjoying the chocolate part of life…

Using The Color Green In Home Decor

It’s springtime so open your front door or simply gaze out the window and what color do you see?  Unless you look up, chances are you’re seeing the color Green – Nature’s very own!  Yep, springtime is the perfect season to witness Nature’s predominant color in its entire splendor.  And with all the feel good vibes that come with the green of spring, it’s no wonder that the color Green itself has positive emotional impact.

Green:

A secondary color on the color spectrum, Green is a blend of the primary colors of Yellow and Blue.  Green symbolizes Health, Well-being, Prosperity and Life.  Green is the color most favored by people in the helping and healing fields.

The psychology of Green

As I wrote in my post, The Power Of Color, the use of color is a form of non-verbal communication.  The color choices you make in your space greatly impact it and as I discussed in the post, colors not only symbolize certain feelings, they have the power to evoke certain feelings as well.

Studies have shown that Green has its own effects on us.  For example, using green creates a calming and soothing atmosphere.  Here are some other effects Green has on us:

  • Helps to alleviate Depression
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Reduces Fear
  • Nurtures us
  • Fills us with a sense of balance and harmony

It’s no wonder that many hospitals and medical establishments use Green as the color of choice for walls and fabrics!

Several people I know infuse shades of green in their own homespaces.  Oddly enough they are all in the medical field!  My childhood friend, Julie has soft sage walls in her dining room and splashes of green throughout her entire homespace.  A dedicated nurse and a person full of compassion for others, I’m not the least bit surprised that she loves Green.  Then there’s my dear friend Jolie.  She uses the color Green in her homespace and her office is furnished with beautiful green sofas and club chairs.  Immediately upon walking into her office you feel a sense of peace and calm – important for anyone that seeks out her medical expertise.  Last but not less, one of my niece’s, Jackie uses green in her home décor as well.  And yep, she’s also in the medical field- she’s a speech pathologist and in her personal life she’s always smiling, always upbeat and one that couldn’t hurt a fly!

So knowing that these three wonderfully caring individuals are drawn to the color Green gives me pause to consider the question of the chicken and the egg – you know, which came first?  Did a childhood love of green subconsciously draw each of them into career paths of helping and healing or vice versa?  Now, stay on the path of connecting the color Green with how we act and react and that flat brings out the wanna be psychologist in me and makes me say…

Go green in your space

Infuse the color Green in your homespace.  After all, if green can have positive effects on us, for heavens sake, we all should consciously incorporate it into our decor.  There are a myriad of ways you can do this without going over the top or ignoring the color palette that truly speaks to you such as incorporating it into throw pillows and accessories, but the easiest and for me the absolute best way to add the color Green to your space is with living plants.  Bringing green into your homespace in such a natural way by far changes the energy of your space – not to mention the health of your space (as discussed in a post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The Air).

Live green in your space

In recent years it has become the politically correct thing to go green by physically caring more for our environment in ways such as reducing water usage, reducing electrical usage, reducing gas consumption and of course, by recycling all that we can.  Our planet and humanity just cannot keep handling all our excesses, uses and abuses.  Every day the news gives us more ideas of how to physically care more for our environment.  But as a decorator and a homespace coach, what I call a “psychologist of the home”, I cannot stress enough the importance of psychologically caring more for our environment, what I call “living green”.  By going green in our home décor, we live green by reducing anxiety, feeling calmer, more peaceful and relaxed.  By going green we live green and can more easily live in perfect harmony within ourselves as well as with greater mankind.

Living green connects us to Nature

Richard Louv, author of the book, Last Child in the Woods and his most recent book, The Nature Principle, has some very compelling thoughts on the importance of nature in our lives.  He calls Nature the best tonic we can find and says,

“The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

I emphatically agree with Mr. Louv and have learned this for myself.  There’s no better medicine for me than to get outdoors and connect with Nature.  That’s why I also know firsthand the importance of bringing nature indoors as much as possible and so I highly recommend that everyone do this.  By infusing shades of green in our décor theme, we subconsciously connect to Nature.  It’s just that simple.

Early this morning I walked five miles at the park.  I was overwhelmed with the panoramic view of green around me.  With many of the trees in varying degrees of sprouting new leaves, the shades of green seemed endless.  I felt like Julie Andrew’s character, Maria in The Sound of Music as I realized my arms began stretching out to encompass the beauty surrounding me.  No, I can’t sing, but I sure come alive surrounded in green!

To living green…

Hope Springs Eternal

As I mentioned in my recent post, Spring: A Season For New Beginnings, springtime is a season that fills us with a sense of renewal.  I believe it also fills us with a sense of hope – for some there’s hope for glorious weather, productive gardening and the end of the school year.  I love all these hopeful possibilities that come with the feeling of spring as well.  However, my biggest hope this year is that the season will spring forth in me the eternal desire to spread peace.

Peace Pilgrim, Hawaii 1980

Peace Pilgrim. Photo credit Benick at en.wikipedia.

In my blog post, Love In Your HOME, I discussed how I was using the word “Love” as a verb for the month of February and so I was actively participating in the giving of affection to others.  As part of the exercise I put a “Love Quote” on LIPH’s Facebook Fanpage each day to visually cue others to actively participate in spreading love.  While researching enough Love Quotes to last me the 29 days of February, I happened upon a woman that called herself “Peace Pilgrim”.  Intrigued with her, I began to research everything I could about her that was available on the web.  Over a month later, I still think of her every day – she was that inspiring.  This woman, Mildred Lisette Norman began a walk for peace on January 1, 1953.  She walked for 28 years throughout the United States.  One of her quotes that really hit home with me was,

“In order for the world to become peaceful, people must first become peaceful.” 

I get that loud and clear.  In order for peace to reign we must first have peace within ourselves.  And Hallelujah, I know absolutely, positively I have it after my own long and arduous walk down the road to reclaiming my essence after a chance encounter in 2006.  Now like never before, I’m ready to spread the word and the hope for Peace.

With that said, I can’t even begin to commit to the life she chose in 1953.  I couldn’t leave my David.  I would have to beg him to travel with me in a Gypsy Wagon of goods that are on my “must have” list like my Ipod, my Ipad, my scented candles, my lotions and potions, my blow dryer, my dental floss, my tweezers and most importantly, my Maybelline mascara.  Then there’s my Chocolate Lab, Moe, my kids and grandkids and of course, God’s Littlest Angel – Ansley.  Gosh, I’d need an entire caravan!  Peace Pilgrim carried nothing, needed nothing and wanted nothing.  Nothing at all.  All she had and all she needed was what she was wearing.  She walked until someone offered her food and/or shelter speaking to whoever would listen about peace.  Wow is all I can say whenever I think of her quest, her commitment and her hope for peace that continued until her untimely death in 1981.

Although I don’t have the gumption to do what she did, her message of hope for peace has resonated with me in a way that stays with me every single day.  I even find myself constantly listening to a song by The Rascals popular in the late 1960’s called, A Ray of Hope.  Working out every day at the gym I listen to it over and over and over allowing the words to fill my body, my heart and my soul to the point that my body pulses with the desire to shout out the words I’m listening to.  Doesn’t everyone need to hear them?!?

“I know a lot of people who think like me

That this world can be a place that’s filled with harmony

First there’s a lot of things we’ve got to rearrange

Put an end to hate and lies

So peace can come and truth shall reign”  A Ray of Hope

Adding to all this, several weeks ago I had a “religion” discussion with my daughter-in-law, Kathleen.  Besides working fulltime she has gone back to school at night.  (You go girl!)  One of the courses she’s taking is a World Religion class taught by a Methodist Minister.  One of her assignments was to take an online test (Belief-O-Matic on beliefnet.com).  She took the test and scored exactly where she thought she would.  Her husband, (my son) Ben also took the test.  He scored in a “religion” I had never heard of that once I researched did accurately fit his belief system.  So  – curiosity got the better of me and I took the test.  Good golly Miss Molly- I scored totally differently that I though I would.  What the heck’s Jainism I wondered?  I had to look it up…

After looking it up and reflecting on it and discussing it with Kathleen, I realized it did fit me well as I really do love all creatures great and small and I abhor violence.  Then my stepson, Danny and his wife visited a couple of weeks later.  Both Orthodox Jews, I told them about the test and so they took it themselves.  They both scored just where they expected to. Interestingly enough, all of us that have taken the test have scored differently and this just proves my point about living in perfect harmony.  We can all choose to live peacefully.  And, regardless of our religious persuasions, we can all do our part in making the world a better place where people can live in peace and harmony as a collective humanity.  That’s why for me I strive for inclusivity rather than exclusivity – I believe there’s room for all of us so long as we agree to get along.

“We’ll pray for a day when all men are free

And people can live like they’re meant to be

Meanwhile it’s up to you and me

Start working together towards this dream”  A Ray of Hope

My mission, my calling and my hope might be tiny compared to what others like Peace Pilgrim have done.  But, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I understand the need to live peacefully – within myself and with each and every person I encounter.  After all, just like the song, “Let there be Peace on Earth” it just flat needs to begin with me…

To Peace and the hope that it springs eternal…

Please take the time to check out Peace Pilgrim by going to www.peacepilgrim.org.  Give peace a chance ~ within you and to all those you encounter.