Bring On Spring!

Bring On Spring!

While I usually love living where I’m lucky enough to experience all four seasons…after what has seemed like an exceptionally long, cold, dreary winter–I’m more than ready to have Mother Nature…

I love the special excitement and the fresh perspective that a new season brings to my little corner of the world–so go ahead spring and…

Bring on all things floral…

It might still be a little too cool to plant flowers in our yards where I live, but we can certainly bring on spring and all things florals in so many other ways.

A vase of colorful, fresh flowers is always a good way to bring a happy spring mood inside—even if it is still cold and snowy outside!

Even if there’s still a little nip in the air, by March I’m ready to pull out a few floral tops.  I found this cute Lucky Brand top at Dillard’s!

Pretty floral pillows set the mood for spring and these flowers don’t mind the chilly spring evenings.  I love this one from Pottery Barn.

Help ease your friends out of winter hibernation by sending a fun, floral note, or better yet—you could host a “Bring on Spring” luncheon!

Bring on spring cleaning… 

No word seems more synonymous with spring than cleaning!  And while you may not want to tackle the whole Marie Kondo way of “tidying up”

…I think we can all agree that there’s nothing better than opening up the windows, letting in some fresh air and getting rid of some of the winter grime and clutter!

There are always new lists of spring cleaning shortcuts that debut in the housekeeping magazines each year…but here’s a few tried and true tips that my grandma and mom taught me that I love:

Distilled vinegar, borax or baking soda, alcohol and ammonia were the mainstays of my mom’s cleaning arsenal.  By being resourceful, you can save a lot of money by making your own inexpensive “natural” cleaning supplies.

Homemade Window Cleaner: 2 cups warm water, 2 cups rubbing alcohol and 1/2 cup ammonia mixed in a 32 oz. spray bottle.  Clean with a lint-free microfiber towel.

Distilled vinegar is a mild, natural acid and my personal go-to for cleaning just about everything from toilets and tub soap scum to rust stains and wax build-up.  I also like to pour in a cup or two in my washing machine and run it through a rinse cycle to freshen it up–this works for your dishwasher too.  

Baking soda is a soft abrasive and great for scouring tough stains…and it’s a natural deodorizer too.  My grandma and mom use to cut lemon or orange slices and then sprinkle them with baking soda to scrub anything from sinks and tubs to counter tops.  The citrus and baking soda work together for a sparkling shine everywhere.  The good thing about doing this is you just throw the slices away after using, so no wet sponges left to sit and get musty with your other cleaning supplies. 

Bring on the great outdoors…  

There’s just something about getting outside after a long, cold winter that strengthens both body and soul!  Getting out to do yard work or taking a brisk evening walk after work are probably two of the things I look forward to the most come springtime!

 

It’s nice to be able to put away the heavy parka’s worn during the winter months and throw on a light-weight, spring jacket as you head outside.

I recently discovered the Barbour line of outdoor wear–their jackets are well-made and come in so many great spring colors!  

I’m a huge advocate of the saying, “Since all great journeys start with a single step…you should probably wear a cute pair of shoes.”  What is it about putting on a bright pair of workout/walking shoes that makes you feel a little giddy!

I am such a fan of Asics athletic shoes…and their new neon line takes me back to the good times of my glory days in high school!

Check here for spring gardening tips to help you get a head start on your spring plant and lawn care.

Bring on the fresh eats…

After enjoying all the warm casseroles and comfort foods we love during the winter months, it’s nice to finally have a better variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from come spring!  In an attempt to make healthy eating a little more fun, my husband and I purchased a vegetable spiralizer tool to jazz up our salads.  Here’s an easy recipe we put together the other night that was really good!

Parmesan Zucchini Carrot Salad

Spiralize a medium zucchini and carrot

Add 1/2 cup chopped purple cabbage

Stir in 1 shredded baked chicken breast

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and slivered almonds

Toss above ingredients w/ Newman’s Own Honey Mustard Dressing

Top with coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

(You can buy pre-made spiral veggies too.) 

And how about this fun spring/Easter twist on chocolate dipped strawberries!  You just add a drop or two of orange food coloring to melted white chocolate to make them look like carrots.  Love this so much!

I have seen where they put these dipped strawberries in a cup of crushed Oreo’s to represent carrots growing in dirt.  So creative!

More fresh eats and healthy snack suggestions here.

As I write this, another snow storm is in the forecast…making me more ready than ever to bring on all things spring!!

My husband told me that we might see the dawning of a new season this year… “Sprinter” -winter in spring!  Let’s pray he’s wrong!

What do you look forward to most when spring finally decides to make its debut?

All the best spring wishes to you!  ♥ Mary

The Art Of The Small Gesture!

The Art Of The Small Gesture!

Recently, I watched an interview being conducted with entrepreneur, Ken Langone, founder of Home Depot.  I was impressed with his unlikely rise to fame and fortune from a hard-working teenager digging ditches and collecting used cardboard, to becoming a highly regarded and upstanding businessman that often doesn’t fit the mold, so to speak, of conventional Wall Street executives.  I believe, however, that it’s his philosophy of life that ultimately set him on a course of true greatness…

While Mr. Langone has decidedly dedicated his life to grand scale gestures of philanthropy, which include awarding college scholarships to many dedicated store employees, overseeing afterschool programs for underprivileged youth in Harlem, New York and pledging funding to New York University for medical research and free tuition for medical students, he is just as diligent at pursuing smaller gestures of kindness, in fact, he attributes the many lessons learned in his youth for helping this simple notion become the main emphasis of his life.

Mastering The Art Of The Small Gesture!

I figured that the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day was a good time to work on the art of the small gesture–hopefully we’re already focused on wanting to show some thoughtful kindness to those we love, as well as those we meet that might need a little positive boost!  I certainly prefer heartfelt acts of kindness to chocolate and flowers…okay, I’ll take a little chocolate too!

It’s the little, everyday gestures that really matter! ♥  

After a particularly hectic shift at the hospital a few weeks ago, I walked into our home to see low flames burning in our fireplace, the carpet vacuumed and a simple, but lovely dinner prepared by my sweet hubby–obviously he’d heard the strain in my voice when we had talked briefly earlier in the day.  I couldn’t help but step back a moment and take in the scene before me and feel my stress ease.  Getting in the habit of learning to think outside our own needs to do some of the little things that we know will make others feel special is one of the best ways to make sure that small loving gestures are an everyday occurrence!  And if we’re on the receiving end of a small gesture…showing genuine appreciation is a small gesture that will not go unnoticed!

♥ Small gestures help us stay connected! ♥

As the world gets busier and more digital, small gestures become increasingly more important…the emails we don’t respond to, the texts we forget, the “likes” we don’t give, the comments we choose not to write.  We have no idea how much these would mean for those on the receiving end.  Small, thoughtful gestures help us stay connected in a world where we all long for acceptance and a sense of community.  So let’s send those thank you notes, look someone in the eye, give support and encouragement, and offer a helping hand when given the opportunity!

The small gesture of touch is powerful! ♥

Who doesn’t love the small gesture of touch?  Did you know that according to neurologist, Shekar Ramon, MD, human touch stimulates receptors under the skin which increase oxytocin levels in the brain and results in lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, which effectively reduces stress…and over time, lower blood pressure reduces a person’s risk of heart disease.  The power of a compassionate touch of a hand or a reassuring hug or pat on the back can literally take away our fears, soothe our anxieties and fill the emptiness of being lonely…ultimately leading to more happiness and joy!

  “I love the kind of hugs where you physically feel sadness leaving your body!” Charlie Brown, Peanuts” comic strip

Small, kind gestures give us strength!♥

There may be times when acquaintances, friends or loved ones have problems that we can’t help them with, but this is when I’ve found that thoughtful gestures seem to have the most impact.  We can’t necessarily make their problems go away, but our kindness can help give them the strength they need to get through whatever they’re facing.  By doing small things for others, we are more likely to create the kind of relationships that help us better weather the storms life can throw at us.

Lastly, I feel another important component in offering small gestures is to give them freely without expecting anything in return.  People may not take notice, much less return the kindnesses, but we can take heart in the fact that we are doing our part to create the kind of world we want to live in.

“Amid the chaos of everyday life, we need to be reassured that goodness exists; we should let it fill our souls, then do our part to pass it on.”  Tribute Journal 

I’d love to hear about any small gestures you’ve received that have made a big impact on your life!

–With love, Mary

Social Media Savvy And Safety For All Generations!

Social Media Savvy And Safety!

Like it or not, our society is heavily impacted by social media.  While those of my generation may long to see our younger counterparts build the mainstay of their relationships from friendships formed at work, school or church…like we did back in the day…there’s a lot to be said for the positive aspects of the ever mounting popularity of cyberspace–as long as we continually educate ourselves on using it wisely, that is, and protecting ourselves against the negative effects it can have on our lives–no matter our age!

Social media balance.

“Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master!”  Christian Lange

I don’t think it is news to anyone that the world wide web is a place where a lot of information, chances for social interaction, and entertainment are easily found.  Technology has also revolutionized the workplace–where often showing up for work simply means grabbing your laptop off your bedside table and working from the comforts of your home.  Virtual entertainment has quickly become the “go-to” for anyone wanting to play games or watch videos.  Online instructions have also become a fairly reputable resource for a wide range of lessons from simple household DIY’s to classes in cross-fit training.  But all this aside…it still takes a certain amount of savvy to navigate the internet safely and balance it properly in our lives so we don’t let it waste valuable time.  Certainly, nothing should ever replace the meaningful impact of reaching out personally to sustain valuable relationships with those who make life so fulfilling and worthwhile!

Maxine computer cartoon.

Bridging The Computer Literacy Gap!

While it may be true that tech developers tend to mostly target the younger population with their campaign ads, current research from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is quick to point out that the older generation isn’t as apathetic or fearful of current computer trends as once believed.  In fact, they report that since 2009 there has been a steady rise in the number of people 65 years of age and older who regularly use email and Skype to communicate with family members, and nearly 70% now use social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to stay informed about job news and health information.  Many seniors are finding that they feel less isolated by being able to connect with the outside world via the internet.  Computer games have also been found to be very beneficial in improving the memories and sequencing abilities of elderly people.  I guess if you can’t beat ’em–you might as well join ’em…right?!
CS Lewis quote.

Insights From An Expert!

For further, more in-depth insight on this subject, I’ve turned to someone I consider an expert in the field of computers…in fact, my friend, Leslie, actually holds the title of School Technology Specialist in our local school district–not only is she a computer wizard extraordinaire, she currently oversees the internet use and safety of over 100 staff members and 1,500 students…so obviously she is very qualified to address this topic.  Leslie is quick to point out that despite your age and level of computer competency, there are certain internet rules and behaviors that apply across the board.

While Leslie admits that it may seem a bit intimidating to keep pace with the ever accelerating pace of all the innovative technology tools available to us, she maintains that social media is a force to be reckoned with and has become an integral part of our daily habits and the preferred means to communicate and share our lives with others.  “Used correctly, social media can be a great resource to uplift, inspire and improve someone’s day .”  

The Far Reaching Effect Of Social Media!   

In discussing the topic of social media, Leslie reminded me of the far reaching effect and positive influence that an online presence can afford each of us.

the-power-of-social-media-1-638

♦  Social media helps us engage with one another.  Sharing highlights of our lives can enhance and deepen our relationships with those who live far away.  Besides Facebook and Instagram, the more popular online forums for keeping in touch with family and friends, people also have the ability to set up a variety of private social media groups on every possible topic imaginable;  ie. virtual book clubs, current event discussion groups, neighborhood and school information boards, to name a few.

♦  Our internet participation has the power to educate and empower!  When using social media we might want to ask ourselves these questions:  “How can we use time spent on our devices to become more productive citizens?  How can we use social media to improve ourselves and our communities?   In contemplating these questions, we can’t help but come to realize that social media helps us better understand that we are global citizens, and we can learn to work together to solve world problems.

  Our online interactions give us a chance to encourage and uplift!  Social media tools give us the chance to stand for truth and goodness.  We can voice approval for causes and movements that uplift and edify.  Setting a positive example via the internet can help move the dialogue more towards decency and civility–which is so crucial in this day and age of seemingly endless negative online sparring.

♦  Social media has the power to amplify our voice on issues that affect our lives.  If we’re looking to expand and encourage the positive impact  of online interactions, we need to understand that the accounts that rise to the top and get the most exposure are the ones that get the most likes and shares.  We can help encourage goodness by supporting people who are using their social media outlets to encourage and inspire.
Have a voice online.

“Example, good or bad, has a powerful influence.”  George Washington

Social Media–A Cautionary Tale!

Leslie also admonishes that an important responsibility for each of us, as far as our online usage is concerned, is to continually educate ourselves and keep updated on the social, ethical and legal ramifications at stake as they relate to the ever evolving digital culture.

♦  Play it safe!  Remember that social media is a public domain, so as we maneuver our way along the internet information superhighway, protecting our personal information on the sites we use has become more important than ever before.  Most online platforms give you the option to share a great deal about yourself, however it doesn’t mean you need to fill them out.  Consider a general version of the information requested, for example…list only your state of residency rather than both city and state to make it harder for others to figure out exactly where you live.  Create strong passwords using a combination of words and numbers, upper and lowercase letters and specific characters that are easy for you to remember.  You might even want to keep a log of these passwords in a special journal that is not located by the devices you frequently use.  Another important factor to consider is the privacy settings on any social media outlet.  Take the time to explore these privacy guidelines and create a custom list of people who are allowed to view specific posts.

Being safe on the internet information freeway.

“Caution is the parent of safety.”   Proverb

Be aware that there are folks out there who are using social media for nefarious reasons, so be vigilant!  There are pieces of personal information that you should never, ever post.  These include your Social Security number, driver’s license, bank account information and your specific whereabouts.  Don’t make it easier for ill-meaning people to take advantage of you.

A few other cautionary safety points to take into consideration for all ages: block inappropriate websites, never talk to strangers, and beware of “free” offers…they can infect your computer with an online virus.  The best protection for online safety is having a decent internet security site that blocks unsafe links and checks every download for signs of malware.  (The computer specialist my husband employs suggests using a product like, Kaspersky Total Security or Spybot since they allow you the ability to monitor your whole network from your PC and adjust the security settings of each computer individually.)          

And finally, always log out from any device when you are finished using it–especially if it’s a public computer.  Log out of your private devices from time to time, as well, to ensure that other people can’t access your social profile to change personal settings or information, attack friends, or make slanderous comments to embarrass or harass you.  Sadly, this is more common than we’d like to realize in today’s society.

♦  Keep It Real!  No doubt about it, we live in a world that tends to tap into our competitive natures, which can lend itself to people wanting to embellish facts about themselves. When I was growing up, my parents often took the opportunity to say, “Remember who you are…and conduct yourself accordingly!”  This doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and grow as individuals in real life–and project that online, but conducting ourselves one way in person and another way on the internet just seems disingenuous.  Besides, people are smart and eventually they catch on…then like the popular Aesop’s fable about the boy that cried wolf, eventually no one will believe anything you say!  This doesn’t mean you have to share all your warts, (however, it can be somewhat cathartic on occasion if done in good taste) but like the old adage goes, honesty is always the best policy!  And while we’re at it, let’s be each other’s cyber cheerleaders, sharing the love, so to speak, when others achieve a goal or work hard to jump one of life’s hard hurdles…in my opinion, that is when the online community is at its best!
Be real quote.As social media consumers, we also need to be engaged and check sources of information we read online, identifying falsehoods and misinformation.  In a recent interview, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said, “Some social media tools are unwisely used to divide people and manipulate them–to get fake news out to people in broad numbers, wrongly influencing their thinking based on nothing but made-up conjectures.” 

Social Meial Savvy and Safety For All Generations!

♦  Follow the “Golden Rule” of cyberspace.  Good behavior should be taught in our homes, and this applies to computer use too.  Decide as a family what rules you want applied to computer and social media use.  As adults we should emulate the kind of online behavior we want our children to have.  Here is a good rule of thumb for everyone to incorporate in their everyday internet conduct:
The golden rules of cyberspace. (Check out more do’s and don’t to a positive social media experience here.)

My husband, who is not a social media kind of guy, always cautioned our kids with this advice:
Be careful what you say online quote.Obviously, there are times and places that are appropriate for being online…we show our level of maturity and consideration by knowing when it’s time to unplug and be “present” in our daily lives!  My dad lived by the motto “moderation in all things” and perhaps in these modern times, there’s no area where we should apply this mindset more than in our daily internet habits!

Internet savvy cartoon..

“A computer screen limits your real life experiences!   John le Carre

I like the wisdom Leslie shared as she concluded her email to me on the role social media should play in our lives…

“We are more than capable of giving our internet use the proper priority it should take in our lives to avoid the easy distraction it can become from family, relationships and obligations.  It is important to keep a realistic perspective about social media.  Why let it have the power to have a negative impact on the way we feel about ourselves and the wonderful lives we lead.  Yes, we see friends posting pictures of great trips, lovely families, and beautiful lifestyles, and it makes it look like they have amazing lives every minute of every day.  We often forget that they are posting their highlight reels!”  

Perfectly said, Leslie.  Thanks so much for sharing your expertise on this important subject with us!

What are some ways you’ve found that help you strike a good balance with social media use in your lives? 

–Love, Mary