Five Things …

If you are on any form of social media these days, you know exactly how negative and discouraging our world has become, especially with this upcoming election.  You also know that it’s not going to end after the election, so to help combat negative attitudes (or at least my own),  I have decided to focus more on the positive!   At least twice a month I plan to kick off the weekend with five positive and simple things to look forward to.

What better month than to begin than November; a month where we should already be focusing on thankfulness?!

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Here are five things I’m looking forward to this weekend:

1. Enjoying a drive into the North Carolina Mountains to enjoy the last of the autumn leaves and slightly cooler temperatures.

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Blueridge Parkway near Boone, NC

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Do you see whay they are called the Blueridge Mountains?

2. Hearing my beautiful friend, Christina, share her testomony of faith her family experienced from the night (and days following) her teenage son suffering a brain aneurysm.

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3. Savoring the first Starbucks Peppermint mocha of the season … accompanied by a good read of course!

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4. Spending time in the kitchen with a little autumn baking.

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Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan pie, anyone?

5.  Taking a romantic walk on a lovely trail with my sweet husband allowing us to reconnect after his week on the road for work.

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So tell me my sweet friends, What are you looking forward to this weekend?

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48 Hours in Arizona

It is outage season in the world of boiler businesses which means Audley is on the road nearly every day each week.  Now that the kiddos are so much older and require less of my time, he really encourages me to take off at least once a year for a girlfriend’s getaway and a little down time to help maintain my sanity.  Last weekend I was able to take off and enjoy a little Momma vacay  in Arizona with my friend, Yvonne.  She is quite familiar with the area as she owns a condo in Flagstaff, so I knew it would an exciting, jam packed weekend. We were quite limited on time with just over 48 hours to enjoy ourselves so Yvonne wanted to make sure  wanted to make sure I enjoyed a real taste of Arizona.

So, what can you do with such a short amount of time in an amazing area?

Let me share some of our fun with you!

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1. Dine at Black Bart’s Steakhouse, Saloon and Musical Review in Flagstaff.  Dinner out at Black Barts was so much fun!  This eclectic restaurant is staffed with a lot of talent who might drop what they are doing without notice and jump on stage to sing for you.  With performances of show tunes from old Broadway to recent Disney favorites you might even find yourself singing along!

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The food was good (my Prime Rib was cooked perfectly), but the atmosphere is what makes Black Barts worth the stop!

A couple of other great restaurant suggestions would include the fabulous Horseman Lodge Steakhouse in Flagstaff (features local fare, including some amazing Elk Chops) and El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano in Sedona.

2. Wake up before dawn and watch the sunrise as you travel through the desert to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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Skip the initial first view of the canyon (you’re charged to see it) and travel to Navajo Point for a truly gorgeous sight!

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Check out the shops (especially the Kolb Studio… the home and photography studio of historic Canyon photographers and film makers, Emery and Ellsworth Kolb ) and then hike the Angel Light Trail.

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Just remember while it’s a fairly easy hike down, plan to double your time on the hike back up, and be sure to pack light!

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Whew!

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Utilize the free shuttle around the southern rim and visit different viewing points around the canyon. Also chat up the NP rangers for a bit of history and to answer your questions about the park.

3. Take a ride down Route 66 for a few unique shops and sights.

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4. Soak up the many views of Arizona’s ever-changing landscape.  From Prairies to mountain tops the scenery  around Flagstaff is amazing!

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We drove up to the Arizona Snow Bowl skiing area to see these gorgeous views!arizona-weekend-2-oh-fiddledeedee-com

And I do believe Arizona has enjoyed a much prettier autumn than we have in the Carolinas.

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5. Visit the unique Indian cliff dwellings built into rock at Montezuma’s Castle.

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Why build in the rocks?

 Protection from flooding, predators and MOSQUITOS!  Those pesky little insects like to stay low, so living high in the cliffs protected the native Americans from their annoying bites!

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6. Head off to the Sedona desert for a hike at Bell Rock and marvel at the breathtaking formations surrounding you!

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And on your way out, stop for some fun shopping with local artisans in Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village.  Sylvie & Bruno is a wonderful stop for locally designed jewelry (I picked up a couple of gorgeous turquoise pieces) and if you love photography you must visit the Eclectic Image Gallery.  Owned by the husband and wife team of Elaine and Duane Morgan, you will be enthralled (and a wee bit jealous) by their photographic eye for local beauty.

7. Take an evening horseback ride at the historic Hitchin’ Post Stables in Flagstaff.

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Dale was an awesome trail guide, and Sally was a fun horse to ride!

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8.  Leave a little early (and even drive off of your designated path) as you head to Phoenix to catch your flight out, and marvel at the swirly cactus on the way.

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Superstition Mountain in black and white …

While a long trips out west would be so much more fun, it is so easy to take in this fabulous destination and feel like you really got a taste of Arizona, even in 48 hours.

 FYI… If you plan to visit Arizona and especially its parks, purchase a National Park pass.  It’s good for a year and will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Also, If you fly into Phoenix and decide to take the Arizona Shuttle to Flagstaff… Don’t.

Just pay to rent a car.  It’ll save you so much trouble and your sanity as well.

Happy Weekend Y’all!

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A Blue Willow Autumn Tablescape

Happy Fall Y’all!  Are you all decorated and ready to kick off the flurry of holidays?  I think we are all set in our home, so next comes the fun of opening our home to friends and planning company dinners.

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I’ve always loved to set a pretty and often over-the-top table for our family at random times, so when company is coming it’s just natural to do a little more!  Setting a pretty table is my way of creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.  Our guests are very special to us, and I try to show that feeling by the little things that can make dinner intimate and unique.

Nature and traditional color associated with autumn was my inspiration for the table.  For this particular setting I decided that a little nontraditional blue was the perfect combination for those traditional and vivid fall colors.

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I love to use real pumpkins in my decorating because they fit any fall theme, but I can also cook with some of them as needed for Pumpkin pies and the like, so they are useful as well!

This centerpiece was so easy to put together!  Using a variety of pumpkins, I arranged them on top of the table around an old tobacco jar that was picked up at Scott’s Antique market in Atlanta filled with $5 grocery store flowers and cut greenery from the yard.

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The Dutch blue and white candle sticks were from a local thrift store.  Final touches of a leafy garland and deer antlers add more layers of natural elements to pull it all together.

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When I put together a large centerpiece on the table as I did here, it is generally because I am also setting up a buffet to serve from.  It allows the table to be pretty, and people can spend more time enjoying their meal instead of constantly passing food around!

The Blue Willow china was handed down from my mom, while the blue transfer-ware plates are from a local antique/thrift store.

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The crystal has been our favorite for many a dinner party for 21 years now. We didn’t want folks spending a lot of money on something that could be considered frivolous when we married, so Audley and I picked out this Longchamp Crystal that is beautiful and definitely affordable!

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I love using thrift store finds in my decorating as it goes to show that you do have to have expensive dinnerware to create a warm and inviting table.

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Well, our first autumn themed table of the season is set and ready!

How are you decorating your table this year?

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Reasons We Practice Hospitality

“Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

~Romans 12:13~

Recently I was doing my Bible study and several scriptures on hospitality popped up.  They were like a slap to my face as hospitality is something I have neglected greatly in the  nearly four years since we moved here to South Carolina.

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”

~I Peter 4:9~

It wasn’t intentional, but began with the attitude that we didn’t know anyone.  Next it was because our house isn’t as put together as I would like. I’ve even used the excuse that no one else is having us over, so why should we open our home…. And now it’s just because we are so out of practice the desire to entertain has just slipped away.

It’s not that we haven’t had friends over in the time we’ve been here, but what was once several times a month has dwindled to maybe once every other month.  The truth of it all is, I truly miss opening our home to friends for a hot meal, great conversation, or a good game of cards.

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No matter how old-fashioned or taboo it has become, opening your home for guests is such a wonderful way to share love and show others how much you truly care for them.  Audley and I have talked a lot about our lack of having people over and decided there was no better time than now to change this aspect of our lives.

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There are so many reasons why we should entertain (beginning with the words God himself spoke to inspired writers), but here are some of the reasons we entertain and why you should practice hospitality as well:

1. Opening your home to guest creates a casual environment that is so much more conducive for communication and getting to know one another on a deeper, more personal level.   You have experienced it over and over, the chaos of restaurants.  They are loud, full of interruptions, and a far cry from an intimate environment of your home.  Dining out also gets very expensive, especially if you have kids that are accompanying you.  Opening your home takes away much of the chaos we have in public settings and creates a casual, welcoming atmosphere we all desire.

2. My kids can entertain your kids.  We all live in a super busy world that for many of us are controlled by our kids.  Basketball on Monday, lacrosse on Thursday, wrestling on Saturday, youth group on Wednesday…. It goes on and on.  Not only do adults need a break from the kids, they also need a break from us!  When you open you home to others it creates a perfect atmosphere for kids, no matter their age, to let their guard down, be themselves and learn to socialize outside of school and sports.

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3. Opening your home helps foster relationships you might not have made  otherwise.  It’s easy to have the same circle of friends over, but when you broaden you invitations you will make associations you would have never imagined.  Audley and I have recently agreed to host a small group on Sunday evenings as a part of our Church’s Life Group program.  By doing this we have met several fabulous couples and families of ALL ages that otherwise we still would not have met in our large congregation.  It has been such a blessing for us as we share and study together each week.

4. You are setting an example for your children.  Our children need to see the joy and fun that comes with being hospitable.  They need to know not everything will be picture perfect, but you can still open the doors to others and share a wonderful evening laughing, talking, sometimes crying and leaving the world outside.

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5. You set the tone for the evening.  Hospitality doesn’t always have to be a five-course supper.  It can be simple quiches from the freezer with other finger foods or even pizza from the local pizzeria.  Sit a table if you desire or use paper plates for your munchies while you tackle a friendly game of cards.  Opening your home can be something you planned weeks in advance or a spontaneous action because you got off work early on Friday night.  Believe me, no one will remember how fancy or how casual the time spent in your home was, but they will remember how you made them feel!

6. Showing hospitality is a wonderful way to create community.  We live in a culture where taking care of self is more important than looking out for those around us.  Opening our homes lets us show compassion, love, service, and genuine interest in those who surround us and take the focus off of ourselves!  And let’s be honest, doesn’t the world need more of this?!

Last weekend Audley and I hosted four couples for a movie and dinner “date night”.  These four couples were a part of the marriage class we just finished teaching at church and we felt this would be a great way to end our time as teachers.  Of course not everyone from the class was able to attend, but with the small number who did we chose to go all out to set the mood for our “date night”.  We truly were blessed by the evening as it gave us the opportunity to get to know these four couples to a greater depth with our fun and laid back conversations as we are all in different stages of our marriages and lives.

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This wonderful evening was a great reminder to what we have been missing and we are already planning our next dinner party!

When was the last time you opened your home “just because” and not out of obligation?  I would love to hear your input.

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