Getting Garden Ready

It seems that Mother Nature just cannot make up her mind!  We have had some perfectly lovely days, but suddenly the rains came through and once again it is cold and damp.
Every time I think Spring is here to stay, another cold blast of winter comes barreling through.  I know that I have no reason to complain as there are places that are still getting snow!  ( I’m so very sorry. )

Whether it’s cold and grey where you are or if your fortunate and the sun is shining bright, we are all thinking about the same thing…..warm, sunny days and flowers in the garden.   So, today I thought I would share some photos of springs past. 

Last May, I attended the beautiful garden wedding of my niece.
As always, I was captivated by the beauty of the garden ( and the beauty of the bride) and captured a few photos to store away for savoring on grey days like today.  


It was a small garden with lots of potted plants and fountains creating the perfect ambiance for a beautiful Spring wedding.

The bride and groom exchanged their vows before this wall of potted ivory, and you can just image how perfect it was. ( I guess I’m a bit of a romantic at heart.)

I’ve always loved a garden wedding.  They seem so cheery and bright.  

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”

Have faith, in no time at all, we will all be singing in the sun.  Blessings – Gerri 

What’s Up in the Garden

A change of season always brings excitement!  After weeks of grey, cloudy skies the slightly warmer weather definitely has me yearning for Spring!

This past week, in between the scattered raindrops, RH and I have been observing the damage to our garden from the hard freeze.  In southeast Texas, we usually have fairly mild winters.  This year was different.  Temperatures dropped below freezing and stayed there for a couple of days.  Our somewhat tropical garden took quite a beating.  Although all potted plants were stored safely in the garage and we covered the plants that we knew would struggle in a freeze, the cold weather really took a toll on our previously lovely garden.  ( I do realize there are places in the world that would delight in our mild winters and are probably chuckling at our gardening woes.  We are a bit spoiled in this region! )

While I did enjoy the cooler temperatures, it was so nice to see highs peeking into the seventies this week, although we are still being inundated with lots of rain and grey skies.  My husband is truly the passionate gardener, and he has begun trimming away and hauling off branches filled with ugly, dead leaves.  After surveying the bleakness of our garden, we ran out and purchased a few Daylilies and Lavender in an attempt to bring some life back into the space.  I know that the Daylilies will thrive as they love our hot and humid climate.  However after purchasing the Lavender I learned that they prefer a less humid climate.  Well, I do love Lavender so I want to at least make an attempt. We shall have to wait and see.

Everyday day, with sweet Bear close on my heals, I walk around the garden searching for bits of green sprouting through.  The tulips I planted last Fall are slowly pushing through the ground and I can see bits of green around our Mexican Heather. However, I’m afraid it’s going to be a long, slow process though.

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow.

– Audrey Hepburn

The garden is my place of delight, peace and contentment.  I look to my garden to be a retreat from the busyness of the day.  A special place to relax, enjoy and simply breathe.  However, as with most things worthwhile, gardening is a process.  So for now, I will simply wait, nurture and believe in tomorrow.  

Wishing you blessings as we await Spring. – Gerri

**The photos shown in this post are from last summer’s garden. Hopefully, I will have new photo’s for you soon.


One Word – Simplify

Simplify ……this has been my goal in life for oh, so many  years.  I crave simplicity …. in my home, in my mind, in all that I do.

I have an inherent belief that if I can simplify all aspects of my life.  I’m not sure that this is truly possible as we live in an extremely complex world.  However, it has been my goal for quite awhile now, so I will continue to strive for this.  I believe that if I can truly simplify my life then I will find the peace and serenity that I truly desire.  I believe that I’m not alone in this pursuit.

With my goal being to create a simple life, each day I begin with a vision of what this simple life will look like.  For me,  the first step is to start with my home.  I want my home to be as clean, simple and clutter free as possible.  I am currently going through every nook and cranny to eliminate any items that I no longer need or desire.   I don’t want possessions to create complexity in my life.  Clutter makes me anxious.  So, I am striving to eliminate anything that restricts my idea of freedom and joy. 

Another step in the process is how I spend my time.  It’s important to me that my time is spent doing what brings me joy and satisfaction.  As I go through this process, I have found that I am now eliminating  activities that are not as meaningful to insure I have time for the activities that I most enjoy.  Life is full of choices.  It’s important to me to choose activities that bring joy. Sometimes, I have to really stop and consider my goals and what brings me the most joy in making decisions.  I am not as quick or impulsive in agreeing to do some things as I once was.  Often times, I prefer staying home to read a good book or spend time in a creative pursuit rather than filling my time with an activity that has less meaning for me.  The added bonus is that I’m not spending money on something I don’t really want or need.  This allows me to save for those things or activities that are most important!

Several years ago, I heard of the concept of choosing a “word of the year.”  The idea is to choose one word that will guide your life choices for the year.  It’s similar to making a new year’s resolution, but more……simplified!  At the time I thought it was a great idea, but there wasn’t one word that seemed significant to me.  This past year, I ran across the idea in several blogs that I follow.  Again, the idea really appealed to me, but what word to choose!

Well, I suppose this idea has been rolling around in my head for a while now, but I have finally decided to choose simplify as my word for the year. I know that it is already February and that I am behind in this process, but I am not one to make a commitment lightly, even if it just involves choosing a word.

Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.

                                                                                   – Henry David Thoreau

I am looking forward to my year of simplicity and eager to learn of the influence it may have on my lifestyle.  I will definitely be sharing along the way.  

If you have a “word of the year,” I would love to hear your word and your thoughts on how your word is effecting your life.  

Sending you blessings for a simplified day!  –  Gerri

 

 

Magnolia Market at the Silos

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If you are a fan of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, chances are you’re already familiar with the Magnolia Market at the Silos.  It seems that everything that Chip and Joanna Gaines touch turns to gold, and the market is no exception.  If you happen to be traveling anywhere near central Texas, and you are a fan of shiplap and farmhouse style, the Magnolia Market is quickly becoming a definite must-see in the heart of Texas.

For our visit, we arrived around 11:00am on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and there were already crowds buzzing around the grounds.  However, there is so much more to see than just the market, the crowds really didn’t bother us.  

The first place we headed was the large grassy field with artificial turf that is perfect for tossing a soccer or football, ( which are provided with a few other games.)  Since, we were traveling with a two year old, it was a great place to allow her to run a little energy off!  It’s also the perfect spot to drop off Dad or Granddad with the kids while Mom shops at the market.

Surrounding the play area are plenty of food trucks providing everything from crepes to pizza and hot dogs.  There are plenty of picnic tables, lounge chairs and over-sized swings for a picnic lunch or just relaxing while the kids play.  Of course, the decor is in Joanna’s sweet style filled with hanging baskets of flowers and plenty of reclaimed wood.

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The market itself is a shoppers paradise filled with everything farmhouse that you could possibly want for your own home.  There are lots of Joanna style vignettes displaying the goods which makes the store itself a bit unique.  Although the store was extremely crowded, the line to purchase moved very quickly which was a present surprise.  

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I have to admit, my favorite part of the Silo’s was the Magnolia Feed and Supply filled with live plants, seed packets, garden style decor and even a section for your own personal fairy garden!  The garden area is truly an inspiration even to the most novice of gardeners.  The raised bed are filled with Snapdragons and Sweet Alyssum.  The gardens were so sweet and charming that I was eager to get home and add some more flowers to our own garden!

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Most importantly, Magnolia Market is more than just a place to shop.  With the large grounds, seed shop and bakery, it truly is meant to be a fun stop for the whole family!

If You Go …..

Waco, Texas is located in Central Texas about a 90 minute drive from either Dallas or Austin.  About twice that if you’re coming from Houston.  It’s best to get there early when they open or after 3:00.  The lines for the bakery were quite long the day that we visited.  We opted not  to wait.  There is free parking in the back by the food trucks.  You will see signs to pay for parking, but check the back first.  There are usually spots available.  Check the Magnolia Market website for store hours for they may vary seasonally.  They are always closed on Sundays.  There are lots of cute vignettes for photo ops so make sure your phone is charged! 

Hope you enjoy your visit!  xxoo Gerri 

 

The Spirit of Holiday Entertaining

With the holiday season upon us, many are planning special celebrations with family and friends.  Opening your home to share with others is one of the great joys of the season.  However, with so much to do this time of year, sometimes big celebrations can create stress. 

When planning your holiday party, it’s important to minimize the stress so that you can truly enjoy your guest.  You don’t want to run yourself ragged and feel frantic rather than fantastic!  When hosting a holiday celebrations, your spirit will set the mood for a successful celebration.

With these thoughts in mind, today I am sharing ideas that I like to keep in mind when I open my home to share with my family and friends. My hope is that these thoughts will allow you to approach your holiday entertaining with joy and avoid some of the stress that can be overwhelming this time of year. 

  1.  Let Go of Perfection  –   Setting yourself up for perfection will do nothing but create anxiety and stress.  Instead of worrying about creating the “perfect party”, concentrate on the comfort of your guest.  When you put the focus on doing for others, you think less about yourself.  Nothing is more welcoming than a hostess who really cares about the comfort of her guest. 
  2. Set Your Priorities  – Remember often less is more.  Plan for what you know you can handle with grace and ease.  Stick with what you know and are comfortable with.  No need to have a multi-course meal.  Plan a few amazing appetizers instead.  Serving buffet style is simpler than a sit down affair.  Keep it casual and fun!
  3.  Make a list and check it twice!  –  Planning is a key ingredient to successful entertaining.  Begin planning your party preparations as soon as possible.  Try making a manageable daily schedule assigning yourself a small task for each day.  Begin with decorations and nonperishable items that are easy to stock and purchase in advance.  Order items on-line whenever possible to save time.  Shop for grocery items a few days in advance and plan to prepare a few items the night before.  Even better, prepare a few dished you can freeze in advance.   
  4. Delegate Whenever Possible  –  Don’t feel like you have to do every little thing on your own.  Enlist a good friend or your spouse to help.  Consider ordering desserts from a bakery or appetizers from your grocer.  Do not feel like you have to prepare all food items from scratch!
  5. Plan a Beverage Station  –  Consider serving a premixed beverage for your guest like a Sangria or Champagne Punch.  Have these drinks in containers in the frig and ready to go.  Set out glasses and and ice bucket in a convenient location and have guest serve themselves.
  6. Be Ready!  –  Prepare the table and all the decorations the night before.  You can even do fresh flower arrangements a day or two in advance.  Nothing says “Welcome to my home” like having simple fresh flowers and candles burning filling your home with delightful aromas.
  7. Make a time schedule  –  The day of the party, make a time schedule for whatever tasks need to be completed.  Make sure in your schedule you allow yourself some time to relax and refresh!
  8. Relax and Enjoy!  –  Greet your guest with a smile and a hug!  Remember to put the focus on their comfort and enjoy!

True hospitality consists of giving the best of

yourself to your guest.  

–    Eleanor Roosevelt

Wishing you all great joy this holiday season!   –  xxoo Gerri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countdown to Cozy

While many places in the world are bracing for winter’s chill, in Texas we are just beginning to see subtle changes that some might call fall!  With the recent time change,  darkness descends upon us by six o’clock.  The recent cool front as encouraged my sweet husband to light a fire to take the chill off the house.  With soft, jazz playing in the background the atmosphere is definitely cozy.  The cooler temperatures have inspired me to make some homemade vegetable soup.  It has been simmering on the stove all day and the smells wafting from the kitchen are delightful.  As evening approaches I plan to light some scented candles to complete the cozy setting.  

Gray skies and cooler temperatures definitely inspire cozier times at home.  It’s the time of year to enjoy a crackling fire, grab some comfy pillows, a warm blanket and curl up with a great book. Or perhaps you prefer to spend your evenings snuggled up to someone special and watch a favorite movie together.

I’ve always found the cooler, winter season an excellent time to slow down the busy pace of life and recharge my battery.  The darker days encourage me to “just stay home”  and enjoy a cozy atmosphere, and even crawl in bed a little earlier than usual to catch up on some much needed rest and relaxation.

I’m sure that come spring I will be anxious to leave the cooler days behind and enjoy soaking up the warmer rays of the summer sun, but for now,  I am content to light candles and curl up in blankets and enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with this time of year.

So Surround Yourself with Pillows and Blankets and Enjoy the Cozy Days Ahead!

Stay Warm and Cozy – xxoo Gerri

 

Chacchoben Ruins, Costa Maya

If you are a lover of nature and history, the Chacchoben Ruins are surely not to be missed!  Located about 100 miles from the Costa Maya port, south of Cozamel,  these three excavated pyramids are surrounded by a lush, tropical jungle filled with an amazing variety of trees and plants.

You can follow a well maintained circular path that leads you to these ancient structures, while a guide gives you a wealth of information about the Mayans ancient religion and customs.  You cannot climb the pyramids, but there are stairs to climb to a raised area with a very impressive view of the area below.

Truly, I was as fascinated by the beauty of the massive trees and lush jungle as I was by the ancient pyramids.  The Spanish moss and Palm trees not only offer inviting shade, but also enhance the majesty of the pyramids.  The combination of nature and history creates an awe inspiring harmony that leads you to imagine what life would have been like for the Mayan civilization of so long ago.  

I think I would have been content to just wonder the path and relish in the magnificence of this amazing, tropical, jungle.  I am not aware of the age of some of these trees, but by the size of the trunks, I would think they had been there quite awhile.

If you choose to visit these amazing ruins, remember you are in a jungle and you might want some bug repellent for the mosquitoes.  There is some walking involved, and I think it would be rather warm and humid in the heat of summer.   Our visit was in October, and while there were a few mosquitoes, I found the weather to be fairly comfortable.  

Being an avid nature lover, history buff and photography fan, this magnificent archeological site turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  

“Wherever you go, Go with all your heart.”   –   Confucius

Hope you all have the opportunity to satisfy an adventurous spirit.  –  xxoo Gerri

 

Impromptu Game Day Fun

Between baseball playoffs and football season, October offers the perfect time to bring family and friends together for some easy entertaining.  Even if you are not a huge sports fan, it’s fun to get together with friends and share in the excitement to support your home team.  

Of course the main event will be “the game”, so you will want to keep the menu simple and easy.  Choose food and snacks that can be prepared without too much effort.  To keep it super easy, you can rely on some no cook items such as chicken wings with chips and salsa.  These favorite snacks can be purchased ready made from the store and you are simply “plating” the items.  It can’t get much simpler than that!  

 

If you would like to add a little more pizzazz to the menu, stick with some favorite recipes that are tried and true.  I usually rely on baked beans that can be prepared early and kept warm in the slow cooker.  I also have an easy coleslaw recipe that I have refined over time and can practically prepare in my sleep.    

 

Always try to do as much preparation as you can before your guest arrive.  Once your friends begin to arrive, you want to be free to visit, relax and even watch the game.   

No fancy china is needed for this casual gathering.  I use some colorful  melamine plates, bright colored napkins, and plastic cutlery all stored in a tray caddy for easy serving.  

Remember. the idea is to bring together friends and family for an enjoyable fun-filled, easy and relaxed day.  Save the all day cooking for another time.  

“Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.”

–  Leonardo de Vinci

 

 

Anticipating Fall

The time has come to say goodbye to the long, lazy days of summer as we welcome in the coming of fall.  With this change there is definitely an air of excitement and anticipation.   You would think there might be some sadness as the lingering days of summer disappear into fall.  After all, summer is often a time of frolic and play.  But mostly I’ve observed eager anticipation for the change of seasons.

With the coming of fall we say so long to shorts and flip flops as we eagerly don jeans, boots, and sweaters.  Stores are filling their shelves with new fall decor and coffee shops are calling us to come try a pumpkin spice latte.  The beauty of the season is magnificent as the leaves transform from vibrant greens to the cozy red, orange and golds of fall.  As the days grow shorter and the air becomes chillier we anticipate quiet evenings by the fire with a warm blanket and hot cocoa. 

Autumn comes late to Texas, especially here in Cypress. It stays pretty green here until about mid November when a few of the leaves show a glimmer of color for a brief moment before falling from the trees. But even here, the subtle change of fall is in the air as the heat of summer gradually melts into the cooler days.  There is a noticeable difference in the coolness of the  morning and the evenings feel fresh and alive.  With the cooling temperatures, people have emerged from the comfort of air conditioned homes to take in the beauty of the season and enjoy walking, bike riding, and visiting with neighbors.    

Fall in Texas is like no other season.  Along with slightly cooler temperatures, festival season is right around the corner and soon each church will be filled with their own welcoming pumpkin patch.  A favorite fall activity is to attend one of the many festivals occurring either in the city or in one of the many small towns close to Cypress.  If you are a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV television show Fixer Upper, you may have heard Joanna mention the Round Top Antiques Fair that will be open for the next two weeks.  Literally miles of shopping with everything from fine antiques to flea market finds.  

Other popular festivals include Scarecrow Festival in Chapel Hill which benefits the preservation of history and historic buildings in the area.  This event takes place Oct. 14-15 and features gardening, artists, craftsmen, delicious food, live entertainment and activities for the children.  There is no charge for this event other than $5 for parking and is just a short drive outside of Houston.

On that same weekend and one of my personal favorites is the Bayou City Art Festival featuring a wealth of artists from around the country and benefits numerous nonprofit partners.  This event takes place right in the heart of downtown Houston surrounding City Hall and Herman Square.  Tickets are $15 and $5 for children ( children under 5 are free).  

Whatever your plans are for the coming month, I hope you take the opportunity get outside and enjoy some beautiful fall weather.   xxoo Gerri

 

 

From Farm to Market Fresh

Is there anything more exhilarating than visiting a farmers market to start off your day!

 

 This may be a bit of an overstatement, but I do enjoy waking up and hitting the farmers market early in the day.  I love the bright colors of the delicious produce, the aroma of the spices, and the enchantment of visiting a fresh produce market as if we were far from the hustle and bustle of city life.

 

My favorite farmers market to visit is Canino Produce, a family owned business operating in near downtown Houston since 1958.  Canino Produce is a favorite spot for local chefs to purchase the freshest of produce.  Behind Canino’s is a wealth of open air produce stalls selling their wares flea market style.  Along with fresh produce, you can purchase nuts, beans, spices, herbs, plants, Mexican pottery, cooking utensils, and more.  Visiting the open air part of the market feels a bit like stepping into little Mexico.  It makes shopping feel like more of an event than an errand.  

 

It’s a bit of a trek into the city from Cypress to visit this market, but it is so worth the journey!  The produce that’s sold at the farmers market taste so much better than our local chain grocery store.  It’s so much fresher and I quickly found that it stays fresher longer than our grocery store produce.  Since most of the food is grown from local farms across Texas, not only are we getting fresher, better tasting produce, we are supporting local farmers, and cutting back on energy costs to ship food from all parts of the country!

There is word on the street there are changes to come.  Some investors are planning on expanding the market bringing in more food services, fresh coffee vendors, a flower market, possibly cheeses…..I believe the idea is to make it something like the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle.  I look forward to these changes with eager anticipation mixed with apprehension.  Perhaps it’s time for a change.  It will certainly bring more people to the market, along with more traffic, more tourist….  However, there is another part of me that feels like I will miss the quaintness of this market if these changes occur.  

I had the opportunity to visit Pike Place Market a few years ago and it was fabulous!  It was exciting to stroll through the many vendor sites, enjoy the tasty treats, and of course visit the amazing Pike Place Fish Market.  The fishmongers throw the fish around that have been recently purchased and a crowd gathers quickly to see!  It is definitely a place not to miss if visiting Seattle!

Where ever you live, if you are not in the habit of shopping your local farmers market I encourage you to try.  Along with the obvious reasons of fresher produce, better taste and a greater variety, you’re supporting your local farmer who is struggling in today’s global economy.  

Why buy produce from a chain grocery store that’s traveled an average of 1500 miles to get to your plate, when your local farmer has fresh produce that is fresher, better tasty and more nutritious.  Not only is the food better for you, it’s fun to shop your local farmer’s market, visit with the vendors, and connect with your community.

Oh, and by the way,  I visited Canino’s Produce last Thursday and I’m pleased to report it is doing well and thriving after the rains of Hurricane Harvey!  Unfortunately, many in southeast Texas continue to struggle to get their lives back to normal after flooding and my heart is with them.  Today, I’m also praying for the state of Florida as Irma is barreling down on that the beautiful sunshine state. 

Thank you so much to all of you for your tremendously kind comments and prayers for Texas.  I hope wherever you are today, you are safe and the sun is shining down on you.  xxoo – Gerri