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:

 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. (

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

Our Fledgling Summer

Our grandchildren, eight-year-old twins, made these pictures for me: they know so many ways to my heart.

Our three kids started teasing me a decade ago. “What is this, Mom? You turn fifty and some bird-watching-switch flips?”

Well, yes, the joy of bird-watching seems to increase with age, but I’ve always enjoyed birds. I guess they have forgotten that while they sat completing their homework around the kitchen table, I washed dishes and watched the birds at the feeder from the window above the sink.

We have enjoyed our backyard so much this summer.

But what I think truly happens with age, is that we slow down to notice the world around us–we are no longer in such a race to get from one activity to another.

We pause. We listen. We appreciate the moments.

This summer has been a summer of fledglings at our feeders. Perhaps they were always visible at our feeder or in our backyard, but this is the first summer we have noticed them.

Nuthatches coaxing their young down the bark of the birch.

Young cardinal males, with their little spike-hats, perching hesitantly on a shepherd’s hook.

Oriole young fluttering their wings as they slurp the grape jelly.

Even Blue Jay fledglings have attitude!

Pudgy blue jays smirking from the backs of lawn chairs.

Tiny wrens hopping the pickets, escaping the confines of their tiny house.

Life and beauty is all around. I’m so glad that we quieted our pace to appreciate it.

My heart is full.

It’s a Fine Life.

Playing Favorites

I love this shot of my parents’ garden with the farmhouse in the background. Photo by

“What is the favorite flower in your garden?” an acquaintance asked last fall. Our beds are filled with many perennials, ornamental bushes, and foundational plants. I am not a master gardener, but I do love to garden and the challenge to find just the right place for each plant. I don’t remember why this question was raised; perhaps he was wondering why anyone would want the trouble of tending a flower garden. And when I think about it, that’s probably logical. Flower gardens don’t produce greens or vegetables for the table, and they need continual weeding and trimming. To many people they must seem like senseless, impractical work.

As I scrolled through the lovely flower images in my summer memories, my immediate answer to his query was day lilies. I have probably twenty different kinds of lilies. They naturalize quickly, making division and replanting (or gifting) possible. Within five years, a lily can be divided several times. I seemed confident with my answer. “I think it would have to be a day lily.”

Cheerful daisies. Photo provided by

Then I thought about the cheerful daisies. They also take root quickly and can fill a space with light and bloom. I started with two little pots from the garden club plant sale five years ago, and we now have over twenty square feet of daisies in all areas of the yard. They are hardy and disease resistant.  So, maybe I need to change my answer…

But then, how about our coral bells? Oh, they are so lovely with their little rounded base and fragrant, delicate blossoms so coveted by the hummingbirds and the bees. And each year there are new hybrids with different-colored or different-shaped leaves which call sweetly to me when shopping at the local greenhouses. There are varieties which flourish in full sun as well as many varieties I have tucked throughout the shady areas of our beds.

And how could I forget about all our easy-going hosta plants?

Wait a minute. Do the ornamental grasses count? They are hardy and add a different kind of interest…

And how I love my different varieties of hydrangeas…

Our three flowers. How could there be a favorite?

I looked at my acquaintance and realized he is obviously not a gardener. He isn’t attached to a garden and its unexpected moods and whims. He’s never scrambled to help plants survive in a summer drought or discussed “the new weed in town” with a gardening friend over a cup of tea.

Asking a gardener to pick a favorite flower is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child.


It’s a Fine Life.

If you want to attract orioles to your yard, there is nothing easier than these grape jelly feeders. The orange color seems to attract them, and the cups are easy to fill and clean up.

Thankful Thursday: The Gifts of Spring

The magnolias are blossoming, the orioles are feeding, and the goslings are tagging along behind their parents. It appears that Spring is really here to stay.

An ornamental pear is flowering in our front yard.

Spring’s gifts are everywhere.

Hosta plants are reaching upward. This variety’s leaves are opening.

I love how the Brunnera plants naturalize and become a lovely spring ground cover.

A rose breasted gross beak made its appearance before I left for work this morning and tiny bunnies play around the woodpile, diving for cover when our calico cat begins her sneaky approach.

The days are finally longer.

Sweet Springs reminds me of all I have to be thankful for.

It’s a Fine Life.

Monday Musings: The Gardening Blues

Brunnera and fragrant hyacinths from tonight’s garden. The blue is so vivid that I can see the flowers from the window above my kitchen sink.

I love this plant–Brunnera–which I introduced to my garden probably ten years ago. The foliage is a lovely green (some varieties have a variegated green) and if I water a bit during a dry spell, the green lasts through the summer. Besides the daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips, the Brunnera blossoms are one of the first in the spring garden.

They began blossoming this weekend–somewhat like a forget-me-not, but the blue is even more vivid. The flowers will last for about two weeks and then fade.

Brunnera is a excellent choice for a shade garden.

They naturalize beautifully, and their offspring have moved to other shady areas of my garden. They are not aggressive and make a beautiful ground cover. They are so quiet and polite that I often forget about them until they bloom.

I am not bothered by deer as we live in the middle of a small subdivision, but several horticulture websites indicate they are deer resistant. If you have some shade in your garden, I recommend them.

They can be purchased at most local nurseries and are even available on Amazon.

It’s a Fine Life.

Monday Musings: Spring is here!

We made it! Spring has arrived!

As I walk the yard this Monday evening, the grass is suddenly greener and a few of my spring bulbs are blossoming.


The birds are “twitter-pating” and collecting nesting materials, I hear the spring peepers in the marsh on my way to the grocery, and we will sleep with our windows slightly open tonight.

No, we can’t put away the sweaters and wool socks yet, as by Wednesday they predict a high of forty-five here in Southwest Michigan, but it feels like we survived winter, that we’ve come out the other side of the darkness.

My northern Michigan family and friends are still waiting for a day like this. Know it is coming, dear ones!

It’s a Fine Life

Vintage Sisters

Here we are on a Spring Break outing. We went adventuring in Kalamazoo that day.

We are vintage gals. Sisters of the heart. Friends who love the hunt for vintage treasures. Several times a year we have an adventure. We hit the resale and antique shops, visit a micro-brewery or two, and enjoy our friendship. On these days, I don’t think there are three happier women anywhere on the planet.

How these adventures began:

Annette and I began our junking tours ten years ago by paying for a day-long bus trip. We paid nearly $200: this fee included a bagged lunch and breakfast, coffee and on-board cocktails, dinner at a nice restaurant, and arranged visits at antique malls and shops. We loved the time together, and we were treated like queens. It was awesome! The following year, we again handed over our $200 and went along for the all-included jaunt. But when the third summer approached, we decided the two of us could manage this without the bus service. And we did–less the cocktail sipping during drive time. And by the fifth year, Krista joined us.

How we plan our day:

I often do the planning and drive. I guess I like doing that (perhaps it’s the bossy big sister in me) and my friends don’t seem to mind. While we enjoy our traveling conversation, road time is not where we want to spend the majority of our day. Southwest Michigan has many wonderful antique malls and shops–so we can create a 2 1/2 to 3 hour loop, and within that route we can visit multiple villages or outlying antique stores. If we take the adventure in the late summer, farm stands (and pies) wait at roadside.

Enjoying a day together several years ago at a regional brewery.

Wonderful micro-breweries and distilleries which serve a delicious meals are also plentiful in our area. No Vintage Sister adventure is complete without brew sampling and sharing delicious foods together.

Also, many small towns feature unique little cafes and restaurants (which feel rather upscale without an upscale price). Their menus feature local produce, meats, breads, desserts, and wines. All three of us are foodies, and we love trying some new flavors and combinations.

What it costs:

Granola bars, nuts, and water. ($5)

Lunch at a brewery ($20-30)

Supper at a brewery or local restaurant ($20-40)

Gas $25

Vintage and Antique Treasures: We might spend whatever is in our budget that day, but we have saved probably $125 from the cost of the bus trips Annette and I began with ten years ago.

But by far, the best deal is the time spent together.

What we look for and find:

We each collect and admire different things, which is part of what makes these times together so much fun. Krista is a true artist and art teacher. She sees color and possibility in items I often overlook. Annette is a master gardener and also very artistic–her tastes run towards rusty metals and unique architectural pieces, which I have never considered before.

I love the ease of decorating the holiday tables with these vintage vanity trays. There are several styles and shapes. I prefer the oval.

I have started collecting, using, and gifting these vintage vanity trays. I first realized their potential at a niece’s wedding where each table was decorated with these lovely old trays, filled with tiny clear vases, small blossoms, and sparking votive holders. The effect was stunning. I can usually find them for $10-15 at resale or antique shops. They are imperfect–dinged and worn–but who isn’t? These imperfections add character.

If you want to try decorating with a tray and don’t have time to vintage shop, there are beautiful new vanity trays available on Amazon.

The Benefits:

My dear Lake Effect Writers Guild friends at our retreat last summer. We have been meeting monthly for five years. It is something we all make a priority, and we look forward sharing an evening together.

The research is clear: supportive relationships contribute positively to our longevity and overall sense well-being. We are simply happier when we have “people” and times with our people to put on our calendars. We all need activities to look forward to. This can be created in many ways: service groups, hobby groups, clubs, or sports groups are a few ideas.

Looking Ahead:

Summer is nearly here, and I have a new route in mind for our next adventure. (I do welcome a suggestion from you, dear reader, if you frequent a vintage or antique shop!)

We haven’t yet set the next date, but I will have the tank filled, cooler packed, and a heart full of happiness.

It’s a Fine Life.

A Resource: Clicking the image will take you to Amazon.

Here is a book I’ve read about longevity and happiness. It was quick and easy to read, helping me appreciate the value and importance of relationships. I recommend it.