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

 

 

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This Crazy Texas Weather!

There is an old saying in Texas that goes….

“If you don’t like the weather, just wait about fifteen minutes!!”

Our crazy Texas weather has definitely been all over the map this year.  We have come from the torrential and devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey, to a Fall season of anticipating cooler weather that just didn’t happen.  Then, suddenly temperatures dropped and low and behold we had a surprising early December snow! 

Now that it’s January, we have had an unbelievable second snow!  This time the temperatures dropped into the teens and we did not reach above freezing for three days!  This is quite unusual for Cypress!  I guess my secret wish came true! 

A typical January day in Cypress would be much like today, a sky of blue,  full of bright sunshine and hardly a cloud to be found.  We’re expecting a high in the mid sixties which is quite normal for this time of year.

However, last week we were huddled around the fireplace as the temperatures dropped below freezing and the city virtual came to a stop as schools closed and people were encouraged by the mayor to stay off the roads.  I know you might laugh at this if you live in the north, but this is really exceptional for south Texas.  Our city is not prepared to handle ice and those crazy drivers need to stay off the roads!

Although I have to say, I’m enjoying the return to normal temperatures, I did love the splash of cold and snow.  It was lovely to look at and wasn’t too bad for a winter walk if you bundled up!

I was surprised to find this bit of green palm frond among all the cold and snow!

Well, for now temperatures have returned to normal for us.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous day and I won’t have to bundle up for my walk later!  However, come August when temperature are soaring into the nineties, I will be treasuring remember these memories of snow days and hoping they will come again.  

Wishing you many blessings today – 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 

 

A Magical Morning

It’s a rarity to have snow in Cypress, and when it happens it’s beautiful and amazing no matter how quickly it passes. 

It was around midnight when I peered out my front window on the night of the great snow.  I was mesmerized by the beauty of the falling flakes.  When I realized the snow was actually sticking to the ground, I grabbed my jacket and boots to step outside my home to capture a few images while I could.  I knew the magical white covering wouldn’t last for long, and wasn’t sure if it would still be there when I awoke in the morning.

 

 

All night long I awoke every couple of hours to see if the snow was still there.  The next morning I was thrilled to see the snow still on the ground.  Again, I donned my boots and jacket and immediately headed to the pond to be amazed by the beauty.  No coffee needed this morning, as I was so excited to see the snow.  

The brief walk to the pond was amazing as the snow clung to the trees, bushes and rooftops.  Perhaps a half an inch of snow left a beautiful white blanket on the lawns. 

 

 

When I arrived at the pond, the beauty did not disappoint.  Although there was not much snow on the ground, the trees were resplendent with white.  The mix of fall colors with the new fallen snow made the scene all the more glorious. 

 However, even as I walked around trying to capture every bit of the sublime beauty, the snow was dropping from the branches of the trees.  I knew it would not last for long.

 

 

By the end of the day, there were only sparse lingering patches of snow on a few rooftop corners that hadn’t gotten much sun on this heavenly day.  As quickly as it appeared, the snow faded away leaving only a hope that perhaps if conditions are just right it will come again sometime.

In a year of catastrophic hurricanes, devastating fires, and destructive earthquakes God has graced us with a brief moment of wondrous beauty of nature.  It’s fleeting passing reminds us to savor each precious moment of it’s glory.  

As the resplendent colors of fall fade into the often dreariness of winter days, there is still beauty to be found in a bright, clear day filled with sunlight, or the beads of ice on shrubs and branches that glimmer like crystal.

If you truly love Nature, you’ll find beauty everywhere.

 – Vincent Van Gogh

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

 

The Importance of Gratitude

Do you ever like to wander back in time and think about how your life has changed over the past year?  Hopefully, when you do this, you discover that you’ve grown as a person and gained some wisdom from lessons learned.  This morning as I was reflecting on the changes in the past year, I was reminded of this post from a year ago.  I believe the words continue to ring true. 

A year ago I struggled as I knew I would soon be saying good bye to the person who had the greatest influence on my life, my sweet mother.  As I came to terms with letting her go,  I turned to my faith and remembered to be grateful for all of our wonderful times together.  I was reminded to never let go of the lessons she taught me and to hold close to the values that she carved…

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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

 

Cruising to Roatan, Honduras

I am so excited to share with you the events of last week.  I had the opportunity to cruise the Western Caribbean with my husband and other family members and I have to say what a wonderful trip it was!

We took Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas  leaving from Galveston and cruising to Roatan , Costa Maya and Cozamel. The ship itself was amazing with an incredible shopping mall, ice skating rink and magnificent shows and entertainment.  For the younger crowd there were some fantastic looking slides, a zip line and even a Flowrider which is a surf simulator.  I cannot imagine anyone being bored on this astonishing ship!

Personally, I spent most of my time relaxing and reading in the adult area pool and spa.  However, if I had been traveling with children or teens to cheer me on, I think I would have ventured out and at least tried one of the slides. I am really just a child at heart!  

Our first port was Roatan, an island off Honduras, known for it's beautiful, pristine beaches and magnificent snorkeling, coral reef and dive sights.  The morning we pulled in to port, I awoke to the most breathtaking sunrise!  

I am rarely one to leap from my bed at sunrise, but that's exactly what I did as we were pulling into port, with camera in hand ready to capture every moment.  Perhaps if I awoke to this kind of beauty every morning it would be easier for me to hop out of bed!

Our plan had been to zipline though the jungles of Roatan, but as we departed the ship the skies opened and the rains poured down, and our excursion was cancelled.  I have to admit I was a bit relieved as I was feeling squeamish about the prospect of ziplining.  I have a definite concern for heights! 


We regrouped, grabbed a taxi, and headed to the northwestern end of the island to West End Village.  West End has something of a bohemian vibe and is filled with restaurants, bars and scuba shops.  This area is where a majority of the scuba diving, fishing and water-based outfitters are located.  It is a fun area to visit and wander around, however the better beaches are up the road in West Bay.  

Our next stop was West Bay Beach, a dream location filled with beautiful, white sandy beaches.  West Bay is surrounded by the second largest reef barrier in the world and is considered to be one of the best beaches for snorkeling.  My husband and I visited this spot a few years back and it definitely features some amazing turquoise, blue water and excellent snorkeling full of marine life. However, since it was a cloudy day and we had planned to zipline, we opted not to snorkel and just enjoy the laid back beach vibe.

I really wish we had a bit more time to explore West End and West Beach.  It's my second trip to Roatan, and if you are a beach lover and especially if you're interested in the incredible marine life it is a spot not to miss!

I will return soon with more on our cruise.  Up next the Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya!

Until then, happy cruising!  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