Puppy Love

I’ve fallen in love again–I’m totally smitten, head-over-heels, crazy-punch-drunk in love with this little fellow: Zippy, our twelve week old Boston Terrier.

Sleeping Zippy. I love this picture.

For the last year, Dennis and I talked about another dog, and Snuggles (our first Boston we loved for many years) had paved a perfect path for another little short-haired darling.

With the shuttering of schools and many businesses, I am now working from home. I suddenly have the appropriate time to properly train and socialize a dog, and we starting looking. With the help of friends, we located a breeder, and now this rambunctious rascal is helping me survive the sadness of social distancing.

According to health experts, pets provide us many health benefits. I have visited many credible online resources and the psychological and physical benefit claims are pretty amazing.

On every site, increased activity is stated as a health benefit. Hmmmm. So far, I can’t say this is true for me. Yes, as soon as he starts sniffing, I am whisking him to the backyard for prompt pottying, but I find I spend much of my morning in pure-puppy-bliss just sitting on my couch with my little fellow tucked next to me. If I had a rocking chair, I swear I would be rocking him like a baby. I know that sounds crazy, but the serotonin release that comes from holding this little guy is similar to how I felt when rocking our babies. (AND the good news is that I am much more rested!)

This is our favorite activity

Stated again and again in the research is how pets bring joy and help to lessen loneliness. Yes, how lonely I have been during this time apart from my family, my friends, my co-workers, my students, and my community. I do feel better since Zippy entered my life. Definitely. He follows me around the house. He helps me pull weeds in the garden. He sleeps at my feet as I work and write. And he sniffs the flowers and watches the birds at the feeders, reminding me of the beauty around me.

(Here’s an odd claim that makes me laugh from the AKC website: having a dog makes you more attractive. Whaaat? Now that’s a stretch, a huge stretch, especially since I haven’t had an appointment with my hair dresser since early March.)

I think we are both lucky to have found each other, and I predict a great future for this relationship.

When Donny sang in 1972 “And they call it Puppy Love. ” I thought he was singing to me about my 7th grade crush. But, when I change the lyrics in the next section, he is crooning to sixty-something me about this love affair with Zippy.

“Oh I guess they’ll never know, how this old heart really feels, and why I love him so.”

Puppy Love.

It’s a Fine Life.

By Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe © May 18, 2020

Zippy is bringing me so much joy during this time of isolation and social distancing.

A Recommended Training Book

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Some of Zippy’s Favorite Chews

Hope for the Future

Checking my Fitbit, I circle the track near our elementary school a few more times; the Little League Fields are still, the concession stand boarded, the dugouts empty. One baseball-capped woman throws a Frisbee over and over to her golden lab, who races again and again, back and forth, back and forth. The playground is childless, swing set seats hang on idle chains, the wind rippling the soccer field.

My friend Leeanne and I walk down the center of Main Street; town is eerily quiet. In the silence we notice the paint peeling around a storefront window and a squirrel’s high wire act. We hear a woodpecker, his persistence admirable,  drilling high in an oak.

I feel this emptiness, grieve the loss of the togetherness and community we have always enjoyed in my hometown. I am off-balance, out-of-sync, persistently fragile.

Then three weeks ago, my husband spotted a bald eagle soaring above the neighborhood and lake. High in the sky, the signature white head came into view each time he circled our direction.

Photo by Frank Cone from Pexels
During the 1960s and 70s, the Bald Eagle joined the endangered species list, its numbers dropping dangerously low from loss of habitat and use of DDT.

What an inspiring, powerful symbol of resilience and survival–just what I need to think about during this time of isolation and struggle.

As we sat around our dinner table sharing lunch and dinner during the summer months of our childhood, my dad reported regularly about the wildlife he saw while planting corn, cultivating the fields, raking hay, or completing one of the many jobs he and my uncle were responsible for.

Dad loved the woods, the wildlife, the fawns he would gently move to the side of the fields he was working. He respected the barn snakes, teaching us to never hurt them, that they controlled the rodents and other pests. He cherished the rare sightings of the many birds we now regularly see: Sand Hill Cranes, Blue Herons, Canadian Geese all were unusual, and he made continual note of them. But he never spotted an eagle; how pleased and encouraged he would be by the solitary figure perched in the tree across the lake.

Photo by Frank Cone from Pexels
Through careful protection and conservation, the species is again thriving.

We too will survive this time of endangerment, and someday soon we will tell of the challenges and of our recovery.

And of our continued hope for the future.

It’s a Fine Life.

By Kathleen Oswalt-Forsythe © May 8, 2020

Some Stories of Survival and Overcoming Hardship

 As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

The amazing story of the US Rowing Team and the 1936 Olympic Race. It is one of my son’s favorite books.

I just finished reading this fictional story of homesteading in Alaska during the 1970s. The main character’s resilience and survival of not only the wilderness but an abusive situation is inspiring.

Another amazing survival story. I respect the author’s passion for becoming educated against all kinds of odds.

Now’s the Time! Boredom Busters and Mood Boosters

Yes, this new staying home and social distancing is an adjustment for all of us. Some of us life with a houseful of people; some of us live alone. Some of us live in tiny apartments; some of us live in spacious homes.

But, however, wherever, and with whomever we live, we find ourselves at times irritated, bored, and often opening the refrigerator door or reaching for the remote.

Here are a few ideas to help maintain even emotions during this difficult time.

  1. Put on a playlist and dance. (It is so enjoyable to listen to songs of our youth, tunes we listened to over and over on the local AM stations.) There are many streaming options and it always seems to life my spirit. (plus it’s good for a cardiovascular health.)
  2. Call a friend. (make a list of people you’ve been meaning to call, especially older relatives and friends.) When you find yourself becoming restless, work your way down the to-call-list.
  3. Make a commitment to learn something new. Foster your curiosity. Think about something you’ve always wanted to learn and check out instructional videos on YouTube. It could be a card game or a language. Maybe a craft or computer program. (Most of us have a box of craft projects to finish stashed in the back of a closet. This is a great opportunity to complete them.)
  4. Get moving and get outside: Walk. Social distance properly and walk with a friend. Notice the bird songs. Smell some flowers. Look up at the clouds or the night sky.
  5. If you live with others, schedule a daily time to play games. (Many of my friends are finding this the most enjoyable part of their day.)
  6. Read a good book. (I know our libraries are closed right now, so search your shelves for something new or re-read an old favorite.)
  7. Plan a future event. Look ahead a begin planning something to do when we are free of these restrictions: a vacation, a weekend with the grandchildren, a dinner party or barbecue with neighbors, even visiting an older relative. Start a list. Be specific. Plan the menu, and so on. This helps us feel hopeful and optimistic.
  8. Conduct a 15 minute decluttering or deep cleaning of an area. (maybe the junk drawer, spice shelf, under the sink, bathroom vanity) Take a trash bag, set a timer, and GO!
  9. Set a daily schedule. (I find this especially helpful and productive.)
  10. Practice gratitude. Find three things to be thankful for each day. The research is clear on the positive benefits of establishing this mindset.

It’s a Fine Life.

By Kathleen Oswalt-Forsythe © April 16, 2020

A few Boredom Buster Ideas

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Some friends and I are currently reading this book. There are so many good books to choose from.

This is the current family favorite: all the kids and grandkids like playing this. (I am still in the novice stage, but I enjoy it.)

Grandpa Gordon’s Favorite Cake

So this cake isn’t going to win any awards from professional judges. They would say things like “it didn’t get a good rise” or “it’s a bit doughy in the middle, isn’t it.” And I would have to nod and annoyingly say, “Yes, but that’s how my family likes it.”

This is the hands down, most requested dessert at family gatherings. It was my dad’s favorite dessert, so on Easter I remembered his sweet face as I frosted the cake. My niece even requested it for her wedding dessert table.

It is super easy: no special ingredients; you don’t even need to use a mixer. And chances are, you might have everything you need right now in your refrigerator and pantry.

Preheat oven to 350

spray a 9×13 pan

In a large mixing bowl combine

2 Cups flour

2 Cups sugar

2 t baking soda

Add

2 eggs

One 20oz can of crushed pineapple (undrained)

Mix well and pour into pan. Bake for 30 minutes (until set)

For frosting:

1/2 Cup butter (softened)

8 oz Cream Cheese (room temperature)

Blend together well, then add 3 Cups powdered sugar

Frost while warm.

It isn’t the prettiest, but it is delicious.

It’s a Fine Life.

Well Wishes

A few weeks ago, when the late winter temperature climbed to a breezy sixty, a post appeared on my Facebook feed. Traffic had stopped for a pair of beavers who were casually crossing a major street, heading towards the mill pond, just a block from our little downtown. This makes me smile.

A few years ago, I scoffed at a news story about a kayaker being attacked by a beaver. Seriously? Couldn’t the guy just slap his paddle on the water to frighten it? We often see them on the river up north, and their industry and hard work is evidenced by the sticks and logs felled by their gnawing. But I gained some new respect for their size last summer as we watched one swim past the pontoon, glide towards the shore, and climb from the water. It was huge—like a good-sized Labrador Retriever. It glared at us and began snacking on the reeds in the sand. Suddenly, I was glad I wasn’t in a kayak near this incredible hulk!

According to the National Geographic’s website, beaver colonies are present in nearly all areas of the country, mate for life, and can weigh sixty pounds. Beaver parents produce two to four kits annually and nurture them for two years. And my favorite fun fact: the early Native Americans described them as “playful and affable.” How lovely: good natured beavers.

The Wonderful World of Disney, appearing every Sunday night of our childhood, occasionally featured engaging documentaries of animal life: black bears, racoons, and wolves entertained and educated us. We watched a fascinating hour about beavers, complete with underwater shots of the tunnels into their lodge, the sounds of their communication, and the images of their family life within the twiggy mound

I have never seen one around the village, but perhaps I’ve never really looked. Is this current couple leaving the damp and darkness of their winter lodge to begin early construction on their summer place? More likely they are newlyweds, fresh from honeymooning in their parents’ adjoining apartment, ready to setup housekeeping.  Are they eager to greet their first brood of young? Do they study chapters of their parenting books? How to sooth a fussy kit. How to encourage bark sharing. How to introduce fibrous food. And I can just imagine the young pair sending their first brood off to their neighborhood school to attend classes so important for their survival. With only two years to adulthood and independence, their coursework would be intense: alarm sounding and the proper slap of the tail; establishing life-long tooth care and sharpening; lodge and dam design and maintenance.  

I’ve been watching for the duo on my many drives around the village and lake. I suspect they have settled comfortably in the wetlands near the mill project. Perhaps they are enjoying some fresh air and early spring sun as their young splash and dive around their new home place. 

I wish them well. 

It’s a Fine Life

by Kathleen Oswalt-Forsythe ©March 20, 2020

Creating Special Moments With Our Grandchildren

My dad loved to show the grandchildren newborn lambs and calves in the barn. He died several years ago, but this experience (and the photo my sister-in-law took capturing the joy on all three faces) is now part of their life story.

Can you remember the smell of your grandmother’s kitchen? The touch of your grandfather’s gentle hand on top of your head? Their smiles? These memories last a lifetime and can become an important building block in a child’s self-esteem.

I was very fortunate to spent time with both of my grandmothers, and our conversations and activities were amazingly different, yet equally important. In my primary years, my maternal grandmother taught me to add bacon grease to gingerbread cookies, to play a mean game of dominoes, to recycle and reuse. In my early adult years, my paternal grandmother taught me like dry white wine, to savor the moment, to appreciate a good pair of shoes.

I think about their love and their lessons daily as we build and nurture our relationships with our own grandchildren.

Five ideas and activities

  1. When the grandchildren are visiting, we attempt to quiet what we are doing and focus on them. (be present, ask their ideas and opinions, and listen.)
  2. We play age-appropriate family games regularly when they are here. We model the fun we can have in friendly competition. We put away our phones and technology and enjoy the time together.
  3. Sometimes we teach them a special skill or create something together.
  4. We often plan and fix a special meal with input and help from our grandchildren. (What they request is amazingly easy: hot dogs and beans, spaghetti and noodles, oatmeal)
  5. We try to include them in doing something nice for someone else. We share our feelings about how good it feels to help others.

Remember that simple is okay, activities and time together doesn’t have to be expensive.

And be sure to take some pictures!!

It’s a Fine Life.

There are all kinds of themed Monopoly Games, but we have the classic.

Here is a themed Monopoly Game. If you click it, you will go to Amazon and see other options.

 As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Garden Wedding Reception in Michigan

Two summers ago, we hosted a garden wedding and reception for our daughter and son-in-law. We were thrilled with their engagement but had trouble securing a venue that allowed the decorating our daughter wanted. She knew the colors and look she desired, but we found nothing available that suited her needs. So, by limiting the number of guests to around 100, we suddenly had a venue which we could use and decorate on our terms: our lawn and gardens.

A note on home weddings and receptions: they are a lot of work. If friends and family offer to help, let them! You will need the extra hands the week before, but on the day of the event, you will absolutely need to take advantage of any offers of assistance. Be organized and able to be specific in ways your loved ones can help.

Our backyard is surrounded by a picket fence which provided a beautiful backdrop to the plantings and lovely gold and floral decorations. (The flowers were arranged by my friend Krista and fellow designer Jenn. What they created was stunning.)

You can see the plantings and picket fence in the background. It gave a feeling of a separate place, a garden room. We have worked to develop the various gardens for many years. We repainted the wooden fence right before the wedding.

Using the colors our daughter loves, Krista selected bright, bold flowers for the arrangements and bridal bouquets.

The strong colors of the flowers are enhanced by the gold mercury glass and sequin table runners. Krista and I collected the mercury glass from online sources and the local TJMaxx throughout the previous year. It was affordable AND it has been shared and used for her family and friends’ weddings. This makes us both happy.

Krista and Jenn used some of the mercury glass votive holders to hold one beautiful rose. It added depth and an additional levels to the table. This was quick, added more color, and was affordable.

How to Recreate the Look:

 Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Rent through a Reputable Company

We have used the same local company for nearly twenty years. Look at reviews and ask around before you commit. Besides the tent, tables, chairs, and tablecloths, We rented the glassware, water carafes, gold-rimmed dinner plates, and gold flatware. Be sure to secure these things well in advance of your celebration: even a year in advance, the supply of the gold chairs was running out. While there are other chairs, the gold-backed chairs added some elegance.

Purchasing Decorative Items

The most affordable source for the picture frames is TJMaxx. I started stopping in weekly and between Krista’s supply and my shopping, we had enough for 12 guest tables. I have not found an affordable online source. We found scrapbook paper to use for inside the frames, and used a Cricket to make the sequinned numbers.

I ordered the sequined table runners on Amazon. I was satisfied with the price and quality. (This company has good reviews.)

The gold paper chargers added additional richness to the table-scape. (This company also has good reviews.)

Gold Mercury glass is getting harder to find in stores. Again, we found many of ours at TJMax, especially around Christmas, but there are many online sources if you have trouble locating it. Here are some sources with good reviews.

It’s a Fine Life

Colorful Arbor for Garden Wedding in Michigan

“All hands on deck!” was our distress call the day of our daughter’s garden wedding and reception held at our home in Southwest Michigan. Family, neighbors, and friends responded, coming to assist that hot day before the 5:00 June wedding.

The effect of the bright colored flowers and free-flowing ribbons was stunning. A perfect backdrop to the dark gray house and green shrubs.

The previous day, my dear friend Krista and her friend Jenn had cleaned the flowers, assembled the bouquets and boutonnieres, sketched and determined the table arrangements. (The beautiful table decor is another Pinterest Post) But their biggest challenge awaited: the rustic garden arbor which was to become the backdrop for the wedding ceremony at the front of the house.

The two designers assembled most of the decorations on site: tying 8 to 12′ lengths of multi-colored ribbons together and attaching them at the top. They also used floral cages for the fresh flowers which they zip-tied to the top and corners.

The ribbons

Krista and Jenn tied buds and blossoms to many of the ribbons. This added additional color and some weight to the ribbons which rippled in the breeze that day.

The ribbons.

A close-up of one of the beautiful bouquets attached at the top and upper corners of the arbor. The designers built the floral arrangements in oasis cages.

The arbor was gorgeous and provided a feeling of formality in the outdoor space. It worked beautifully for photographs. Here, our daughter and twin grandchildren pose after the wedding.

Materials We Used:  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Clicking the images will take you to Amazon.

Various Ribbons: Krista selected satin, grosgrain, and organza ribbons in the wedding colors–yards and yards of the stuff! There are many colors and widths to choose at craft stores or online sources. This will take you to Amazon where the colors and selection are incredible.

Oasis Foam Cages. There are also other sizes to choose from.

Arbor Ideas

We found our arbor at a shop in our area. They had several rather ornate styles in stock. If you are lucky enough to have a store in your area, you can select in person. If not, there are many, many choices online. Here are several examples from Amazon.

This metal arbor is affordable and anchors in the ground like the one we have. While it is metal colored, it could be painted white or antique white.

White vinyl options. This company seems to have good reviews. I would want something that is quick and easy to assemble. The customer comments indicate the assembly is manageable.

It’s a Fine Life

Revamped Thrift Store Find to Cupcake Cupboard for Backyard Garden Wedding

Space under the tent (as well as our budget) was limited for our daughter’s wedding reception in our backyard several summers ago. She decided on cupcakes for the dessert which led to discussions and brainstorming about ways to display the cupcakes to save space. The extra challenge? We wanted it to be pleasing to look at.

Scouring our local resale shop, Home Again Consignments, here in Vicksburg, Michigan, I found this sweet French Provincial Dresser with a shelf top. (https://www.homeagainvicksburg.com/)

The $59 find at my favorite resale shop. Here it is waiting for attention in our garage.

I scrubbed it down, removed the hinges, and applied bright-colored wrapping paper to the drawer fronts.

In this process, I cut the wallpaper to fit and applied several layers of Mod Podge. This worked as glue to attach the paper and then the extra layers of Mod Podge provide a protective finish. (The work took probably 2 hours, without the drying time required)

We decorated the shelves with bright Boho small banners, fresh flowers, and a homemade cupcake sign–a shower gift from a friend.

Cupcakes were affordably purchased from Sam’s Club ($8 for six over-sized cupcakes).

We were pleased the affordability, the convenience, and the space-saving aspect of this upright display. The pedestal Angel Food Cake was a gluten-free option, baked that morning by the Matron of Honor.
The cupboard, tucked carefully in a corner of the tent, was sweet and easy to access. The drawers also provided storage for additional cupcakes and paper products.

There is a happy ending for the little revamped cupboard. It now has a home in our granddaughter Chloe’s room where her Calico Critter houses happily perch, awaiting playtime.

The little cupboard has a new coat of paint and new knobs, but the wall paper fronts are holding up!

It’s a Fine Life

“An Apple a Day” Cocktail

If you like bourbon, this apple enhanced cocktail is sure to please. Our friend J.D. introduced us to this simple drink several years ago at our favorite local pub, the Village Hideaway. It is delicious. While we can’t consider it a cure-all, it will definitely help chase away the quarantine blues.

Recipe:

2 oz Crown Royal

2 oz Apple Pucker

Splash of Cranberry

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake for one minute, pour into glass. (I used a simple glass, but a martini glass would be beautiful.

Or, pour into ice-filled highball glass.

Then, enjoy!

It’s a Fine Life