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

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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.

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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:

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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

The Staycation

My friend Leeanne named this delightful concoction “the Staycation” six years ago. We have resurrected it during this time of staying home and social distancing. It is sweet and delicious and the varieties are endless.

The featured drink contains Outshine Lemon Bars, Svedka Vodka, and Stewart’s Key Lime Soda. Photo by seavercreative.com

The Recipe: The Staycation

Popsicle

2 oz Vodka or spirit of choice

Top with 7up or flavored soda

While some of us had other plans for Spring Break, the view of Sunset Lake, early spring in Vicksburg, Michigan, is peaceful and lovely. photo by seavercreative.com

Directions

Use a good quality juice Popsicle. (We like Outshine juice bars)

Place the Popsicle in a glass of your choice. (I love using vintage glassware. The glasses in the picture were my grandmother’s water glasses, but a highball glass, martini glass, or even a vintage sherbet glass will work.)

Add the spirits. (I suggest vodka, gin, rum, or tequila as this is a sweet drink.)

Let it sit for five minutes.

Top with the soda pop.

Swish and enjoy.

It’s a Fine Life

Some ideas on Amazon to add to your bar tools.

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(Please note: a small portion of any sale helps defray the cost of this blog.)

Oxo Jigger

While this Mikasa glassware isn’t vintage, it is lovely.

Still my favorite cocktail book of all time. Fun to read and excellent recipes.

Nesting

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” possibly the most fitting first lines ever written for the situation we are currently living in. Certainly, in the 1800s, Charles Dickens and his community faced uncertainty and eventually realized how to appreciate life. But these are concepts I am still learning: to be thankful for the moment, to live each day, to intentionally love the people around me.

I love this peaceful image my friend Leeanne Seaver shared. I find the subject calming in its beautiful simplicity. (seavercreative.com)

As I gaze from our windows, the neighborhood is aflutter. The birds are noisily courting, searching frantically for the nesting locations and materials. That Mr. Cardinal is a smooth one, gently feeding his mate various nuts and fruits at our feeder. The house finches inspect the wreath near our front door, scattering whenever I leave the house. A bluebird pair scrutinizes a box atop our picket fence, but the old dwelling doesn’t quite meet muster.

Across the road, swans glide on Sunset Lake, their necks arched and regal. The sandhill cranes circle the sky in pairs, their distinctive calls ruffling the quiet of my morning. Soon, all these various couples will calm a bit and settle into their abodes and routines.

Caring for my youngest brother David in 1969. I did have daily responsibilities which often included helping with my youngest brothers. This was good for me and gave me a sense of purpose and importance.

During this time of sheltering in place, I also find myself in the process of nesting. And I’ve been practicing for this present period of intensity my whole life. I had years of warming up: taking care of my dollies as a little girl, helping Barbie select her outfit for a date with Ken, babysitting my brothers or neighborhood children.

I was stretching out for decades: establishing our home nearly forty years ago, raising our children to adulthood, planning for and attending to my high school students.

And now, here I am: it has taken me nearly three weeks to reach any sense of peace in this time of isolation. I hope I am moving from a mindset of “the worst of times” to something resembling, maybe not “the best of times,” but to recognizing this as a tender period of feathering my nest.

I hope you can do the same.

It’s a Fine Life

By Kathleen Oswalt-Forsythe © April 5, 2020

Below are a few product ideas that I find help during this time of separation. (If you click on the image, it will take you to the shopping information)

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Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven

I have used this Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven nearly every day since I ordered it two weeks ago. Yes, it is heavy, but I love the color, just wash it when finished, and keep it on my stove. It is oven safe to 500 degrees, and I simply don’t know how I survived without it.

Each one of her friends is represented by a different colored leaf on her gratitude tree. I love this.

Gratitude Journal

My friend Liann is utilizing this journal, and I love how intentional the activities are. I use a different gratitude journal, but have just ordered this one. When she sent our group a picture of the activity with our names listed, we all felt the power of her thoughts and prayers.