Tuesday, July 9, 2019

S'mores Dip

It's summertime and one of America's favorite desserts this time of year is S'mores! Nothing will ever really take the place of the "old fashioned" way - toasting marshmallows on a clothes hanger over a cozy firepit. But this way is super fast and will feed in a crowd in just a few minutes. Definitely worth trying when in a hurry, you're without a fire pit, or you just want a pretty, yet tasty summertime treat!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chipssemi-sweet, milk chocolate, or a combo
  • 15 jumbo marshmallowshalved
  • Graham cracker squares


INSTRUCTIONS:

Adjust oven rack to center position and place a cast iron skillet onto it. Preheat oven to 450 degrees with the skillet inside. Once oven is preheated, use a pot holder to remove it from the oven. Put one tablespoon of butter in the skillet and swirl the skillet until the melted butter coats the bottom and sides. 

Pour chocolate chips (or really any kind of baking chips you'd like; I like to mix chocolate with caramel:) in an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Arrange marshmallow halves over the surface of the baking chips, until they are touching sides and completely cover the chocolate. 

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until marshmallows are toasted. Pay attention to them - they can go from white to crisp in no time! Carefully remove skillet from oven and allow to sit on counter (but not hot stovetop) for about 5 minutes.

Serve hot with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or even apple slices!

Enjoy!

- Staci

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Rotisserie Chicken, 4 ways!

Rotisserie chickens have become popular for the home cook, like me! 

Probably first made a "star" by restaurants such as Boston Market, this "gourmet" whole chicken has not only spawned other fast-food, but good-for-you food, restaurants, as well as making it super easy for the at-home cook get a quick and delicious meal on the table for the family!


One $6.99 grocery store rotisserie chicken can provide the base for a whole week's worth of mealtime recipes! And all without feeling like you're eating the same thing for 4 nights in a row!


Monday: Take your whole chicken and carve off one breast, slicing it into serving sizes. Serve it with seasoned roasted veggies and maybe brown rice (or - if you're like me - riced cauliflower!) and a simple salad.


Tuesday: Separate the leg and thigh meat and shred for amazingly delicious chicken tacos. Add seasoning and/or a marinade to the shredded chicken and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before dinnertime. (All day is good too:) Serve hot with all the taco trimmings: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole. I would eat it Mexican salad-style, but Taco Tuesday for most homes usually means warm tortillas and/or crunchy shells!


**Alternate Tuesday meal choice***: Warm the whole thighs in a non-stick pan with a splash of olive oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a touch of sugar or sugar substitute. Add some fresh minced garlic and green onions. Sautee all until the onions are opaque. Serve with steamed rice (or riced cauliflower!) and broccoli.


Wednesday: Remove the 2nd chicken breast and shred it over crispy oven-baked sweet potatoes "chips." Thinly slice sweet potatoes using a mandolin. Toss with a bit of olive oil, garlic pepper, and sea salt. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until desired crispiness. Top the chips with the chicken and whatever topping you desire! 


Thursday: Take leftover shredded chicken breast and serve it over a huge homemade salad! Drizzle with desired dressing, salt and pepper. (I am loving a good homemade ranch and avocado dressing at the moment!)



Monday, June 17, 2019

I am not a personification of my social media feed.

Let's talk social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram because they are the only two I can seem to keep my arms around. I confess, for a very long time I had a love-hate relationship with social media feeds. I was torn between wanting to share and also with feeling that posts had more to do with ego than actual sharing.

I finally realized that my feelings were spawned by others' views of media feeds. There seems to be two MAIN camps: those that poke holes at all positivity posts and those that feel some entire feeds are made up of negativity. There is a small segment of us in the middle - in the gray, if you will - that just enjoy viewing everyone's pictures of their families and pets and vacations, and tend to just overlook the more negative posts or the folks who are forever sick or being hurt or feel ignored by others.

While I hope people are "following" us - meaning the B&B - I can honestly say I have no idea how many followers we have on Insta OR Facebook. On the other hand, I spend several hours of research a week on how to use social media to promote our business. The reality is that social media is THE way to advertise today...and it's FREE!! We'd be nuts to NOT utilize this resource that will only continue to change and deepen and grow as the years go by.

Some days, I feel like the more I learn, the more I don't know. I finally switched my personal Insta to primarily business; meaning, I changed it from MY personal name to Wildernest Bed & Breakfast. Yes, I'll still post pics of the grands, the doggies, the food...but those things are WHO we are, so it makes sense to me that our potential guests would like to see what we view as important.

We spend ENORMOUS amounts of hours on our front porch, so front porch pics are important to me. Pictures of our cabins, the food we serve, and views of the property are paramount to - not only promoting our business - but also giving small glimpses into who we are as business owners. We're family people, first and foremost, so there will always, always, ALWAYS be crazy amounts of pictures and stories of our grands, our kiddos, and our pets.

The one area that I question the most is: am I being real? Authentic?

Because THIS I can promise you. For every delicious food picture I post, there are at least THREE that are HORRIBLE! My sweet husband is very vocal and descriptive during our meals together. When it's good, there is NO doubt. His vocabulary and adjectives (some appropriate and some not so much:) leave no doubt that it's a dish worth repeating. But when he is silent; eating but with no commentary, I know it's bad. Very, very bad, usually! Ha!

For every "positivity" post, I promise I could post three things that AREN'T going well in life. Sometimes I think our family could have their own reality show. We have SO. MUCH. GOING. ON. right now! Most good, but some sad, some scary, some uncertain...So, sure, I make the decision each and every day what I want to share with others. The truth is that I WANT to be a voice of positivity. I WANT to point others to what gets me through: JESUS.

At the same time, even though I don't post about it on a regular basis, we have our own set of difficulties that we deal with on the daily. We've given up a regular, dependable salary to take a chance on "us" and this dream of a B&B. We celebrate with our kids who have kids and who are expecting another! (Hopefully we'll have a gender reveal later this week!!!) We also have kids who are going through infertility treatments, including surgery, medications, injections...We celebrate and we console, and many times both on the same day. We have parents with new medical issues, and our place in the "sandwich" of the family is that of the meat that holds both ends together. That's just where we are.

I could post all this, and I would never, ever discourage others from posting whatever they like. For me, I encourage myself with prayer, positivity quotes, and focusing on the good things in life. This naturally segues into my social media posts. It does as much, if not MORE, good for me than it could ever do for others.

Maybe most importantly of all is the growing of our family business - the B&B. We want that to be "the face" of our social media posts. We share certain pictures of family, pets, the grounds, the cabins, etc. because we want our potential guests to have a sense of who we are and what we value. We are two normal people: a couple who are deeply in forever love, who have grown children who are growing their own families, who have parents who are facing new challenges in life, who have meals that flop, ideas that fail, who laugh, cry, hurt, and rejoice.

We are normal.

We are not the personification of our social media feed.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Boho House

The Boho House has been a popular rental here lately. It's easy for ME to see why...after all, it is my Happy Place! Fun, flirty, and all things girly, this one-story log cabin welcomes, inspires, and encourages one to kick off their shoes and stay a while.

Formerly known as The Bunkhouse before its "makeover," this gem served as both my office and our brick and mortar boutique last summer before I ultimately decided to close out the retail and concentrate on what we do best...the B&B.

At the time, Ali and Peyton were both still working for me and - together - we were all "feeling" the Boho vibe. It's more than just a look; it's a message. Everyone woman and girl is beautiful. Be yourself. BeYOUtiful! We had such fun finding great deals at dollar stores on inspirational signs, pillows, and wall decor that so perfectly conveyed our message. Ali spent hours painting  - a bookshelf, a dresser, and wooden crates. Together, these sisters brought my vision to life.

In the Boho house, I can do all kinds of things that I can't in my own home. Or - I won't anyway! We mixed color in the most fun ways - bright yellows, corals, blues and greens. I spent hours deciding on bedding and even now - a year later - I am literally OBSESSED with my decision. The truth is this adorable cabin is STILL my hideaway when it is not rented. Sometimes I stop in just to sink into a comfy chair, kick off my shoes, and enjoy the quiet and the beauty of the space.

It's a joyful place. There is simply no way one can spend time here and leave feeling anything other than happy and at peace!








We're so happy to have recently updated our B&B website to take online reservations and payments! If you are interested in The Boho - whether it be for a personal retreat just for yourself, a girls night in, a full-blown girls' weekend, or a slumber party for your daughter, please give us a call or check out wildernestbedandbreakfast.com.

I can't wait to share this special space with you!

photo creds: Nichelle Martin

Friday, June 7, 2019

Spicy Meat Lovers Breakfast Casserole for (1) x 2

Happy summer, y'all!

I've been behind in blogging due to a cRaZy end of year in the classroom, plus a frenzied effort to pour every ounce of leftover energy into organizing things around my house to help ease the transition into working/officing from home.  (More about all THAT in a future post:)

We have cabin guests here at the B&B who are staying for 3 nights. Whenever we have guests who stay multiple nights, I always try to alternate savory and sweet "main dishes" for breakfast. This morning it was all about the savory!

It actually started last night since this dish is soooo much better after spending the night in the refrigerator. This gives all of these powerful flavors to mingle and marry nicely, all the while absorbing into the cubed French bread that lines the dish.

Ingredients:

6 oz of pork sausage ( I used hot, but you can use regular or even Italian sausage)
4 slices of bacon
1 cup of seasoned cubed potatoes (You can either boil your own and then saute with a little onion and green or red pepper, garlic pepper, and salt OR you can use Ore-Ida Potatoes O'Brien)
2 medium eggs
3/4 cup of milk (I used half and half for a bit more richness)
salt, pepper and/or garlic pepper to taste
2 cups of French bread, cubed (you can also use day old brioche or English muffins)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (any kind you prefer)

Instructions:

  • In a medium-skillet, cook the sausage, drain, and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate
  • In same skillet, cook the bacon, drain, and crumble or chop into desired size pieces
  • Prepare potatoes 
  • In a small bowl, beat the eggs.
  • Whisk in the milk, salt, and pepper.
  • Spray (2) individual oven-safe dishes with cooking spray. Line the dishes with the cube bread
  • Layer the sausage, potatoes, bacon, and cheese.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the entire dish. 
  • Cover securely with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight.
  • The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Keep dishes covered with foil and place both on a cookie sheet. Bake covered for 30 minutes, until eggs are set.
  • Remove foil, sprinkle with a bit more cheese - if desired - and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.
  • Garnish with parsley or thinly sliced green onions, salsa, and/or sour cream.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Changing of the seasons.

What a year of transition!  Transplantation. When I first named this blog many years ago, it was
because it seemed I was being transplanted - both literally and figuratively. Little did I know that was Just. The. Beginning.

Since that first Transplanted Gal blog post:

  • My parents sold their home and moved onto our land
  • We built our dream home and moved out of our little beloved cabin
  • Both sons married, one of them having the first EVER wedding on the property
  • Wildernest Ranch Bed & Breakfast, LLC became a reality
  • Our 3rd grandchild was born
  • We opened the B&B
  • Mike retired
  • Expansions to the business included an event venue and two precious tinies
  • After years of teaching English II, I switched to Culinary
  • Mike received a call and was offered his old position with Donaldson, except with less travel
  • We've witnessed 18 weddings at our property and venue, and countless parties & reunions
  • I turned in my final letter of resignation and made the decision to "come home" to run the business full-time
Friday was my last day with students as we finished final exams. I've taken all of my personal belongings home, cleaned out the culinary kitchen, have all of my student computers and other technology ready to turn back into Tech. I've finalized grades and printed out my last grade verification sheets, cleaned out my desk, and have begun saying my "see ya laters." 

Tomorrow at 1pm I will drive out of the faculty parking lot for the last time as a TEACHER.

If I've learned anything in my 50+ years of living and loving, it's that nothing stays the same. Changes are inevitable; some are grand and exciting - others leave you heartbroken and desolate. With each new season comes new challenges, new adventures, new discoveries, new realizations.

The past year has probably been one of the most challenging for me up to this point. I think I may have cried more in the past 12 months than I have my entire adult life. My heart has been ripped apart again and again as I've tried to support my brother (who I love SO very much) through the most difficult chapter of his personal life; but we've grown closer as a result.

Together we've witnessed our parents' new health issues, and are continually learning new ways to support and care for them has been heartbreaking at times; but our love for family and our intense desire for them to know we're here for them has only deepened and solidified.

We've celebrated with one set of kids as they announced a new pregnancy, and we're over the moon excited to become grandparents to the fourth grand buddy OR grand doll. Yet - at the very same time - we've mourned with another set of kids who are facing infertility issues, and - as a family - we've come closer to each other and to God as we trust Him to make them parents.

We've lost friends to death this year - more than I ever thought possible in one year. It's been almost surreal. From motorcycle accidents to cancer to heart attacks, so many lives we've been invested in have come to an end, claiming people who are so very special to our lives. Yet each time has driven us to our knees and only served to make us more aware of how precious every single moment of this life really is.

Time is fleeting, and each day must count.

But I know it must also be a balanced life.

I've learned what it means to work weeks on end without a "day off," between my role as a teacher and a B&B owner. I'm also learning that a power nap on the couch or an occasional marathon of a favorite show doesn't mean I'm letting things "slip."

I've experienced what it's like to drop so many balls in so many roles this past year that I've very often wondered if I was fit to do ANY job, let alone try to keep my arms around the ones I've had. Yet each of these roles have blessed our family, our home, our marriage, and my spirit. I've learned to go to bed early on those hard days and trust that tomorrow is a brand new day, with brand new chances to do better.

We've missed countless ball games, special events, and birthday parties of our grands because it has literally taken all of our time, energy, and resources to get the business where it is today. We can't get those time back nor can we make up for them, but we CAN now begin to make new memories. Like Friday night lights in Richardson come fall, trips to Austin for the new birth, being present for karate tournaments, birthday parties, and impromptu quick Dallas "turn-arounds" for dinner dates with our grown kids.

I've cried over the students I am saying good-bye to, over aspects of teaching that I will miss so very much, and even over the fact that I will no longer be classified as a TEACHER - a role I have been so proud and honored to carry.

Oddly enough, there were no tears today. There may be tomorrow; don't hold me to this statement:)! I recognize this next season and anticipate it. I know it will be full of moments that I expect, and maybe even more that I don't. I know there will much laughter, more tears, gains and losses.

I promise my family that I will smile more, hug tighter, laugh often, play with childlike abandon. I will work hard to continue to grow our business, but I'll put the business of family first. More living room picnics with my love, more Legos and coloring with George, more girls' trips with my mom and daughters-in-love, more cheering at games as Carter plays and Kendall cheers. More front porch conversations with my brother, and also with my sis-in-law, friends and neighbors. 

More church. More prayer. More Jesus than ever before.

Once more...

I'm a transplanted gal.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

To the Class of 2019

There are always students who make a year in the classroom memorable. But every once in a while you are privileged enough to have an entire class (okay, maybe minus a few:) that is truly remarkable. Those years are your golden ones, and make up for the long and endless ones! This class - the graduating Pewitt 2019 seniors are THAT class for me.

When you work for a small district, very often you have the opportunity to teach all kiddos in a grade level. I first taught these seniors when they were sophomores in my English classes. I taught every single sophomore, and what an amazing year it was! This post is dedicated to them. Never in my teaching career have I laughed more, cried more (for happy:) or grew more as an educator. The teacher got taught - in all the best possible ways.

I quickly realized this class was unique. They didn't really feel the normal pressure to "fit in" or to be just like their friends. Instead, they were (and still are) a group of individuals that support one another but set their own sail, confident in charting their own path. If you teach, you know this is rare, particularly in 10th graders.

This is the class that stretched me, challenged me, and inspired me. It was the year all of the hashtags began to impact us. (More on #hashtags in future post.) It was the year I put away my own agenda and began to teach in a brand new way. The outward manifestation of this was flexible seating, Socratic Circles, and student-led lessons. The inward though is where the real manifested change occurred. It was the year I discovered that some of these 15 and 16 year olds possessed more self-confidence than I did as an adult. Whereas I held very definite opinions, I was much more likely to keep them close to my chest rather than be judged or critiqued. These kids were fearless, but in a completely respectful, mannerly - humorous -  way.

My 2nd period Honors English class is where the bulk of my metamorphosis as a teacher began. I vividly remember the day I sat on my stool behind my podium, totally ready to lead a discussion over a section of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children that they had been reading independently. I threw out the first couple of questions and when the answers began to flow, I realized this was a group of free-thinkers. I decided to press to see how far they were willing to go. #thinkoutsidethebox was born, and from that day on, this class made themselves vulnerable, sharing even when the topics became personal, not ashamed or embarrassed of the tears that sometimes were shed. I had always loved sharing novels with students, peeling back the many layers of symbolism like an onion, but this particular group of students carried us to another level, and found ways to connect the text to the real world in ways I had not even thought of.

It was the "Year of the Projects," where Bailey made a doll (Pretty Portman) who became our class mascot early on. Armed with her own Instagram page, Pretty took turns traveling with the students, even making an appearance at an UIL competition. Another time, Hannah created a beautiful bouquet of silk flowers, with a single black rose included to tie into the symbolism of the story. I've had that bouquet on each of my desks since then, and will take it home where it will continue to sit on my home office desk. I look at it often and am reminded of that special year.

It was also a year of mischievousness and procrastination gone good:) By that I mean David and Madison. David was (and continues to be) the consummate class clown. More than once, he had me convinced that he'd not done his assigned project, going so far one time to create a title page and one slide in a PowerPoint presentation, only to have the 3rd slide say, "THE END." I remember glancing up from the rubric, chewing on the end of my pen, studying him, trying like mad to determine if this was yet another practical joke. It always was. And EVERY presentation was first-rate, top-notch, off the chart, presentation!

Madison was my procrastinator - especially when it came to essays. A self-proclaimed struggling writer, Madison was (and is) actually an amazing writer. She has a unique way of stringing words, combining thoughts, facts, and analogies in a way that make her papers a fascinating read from the first word all the way to the last one. That is, once they WERE. TURNED. IN! :) Often frustrated by the tardiness of her essays, I would TRY MY HARDEST to find something - anything - wrong with it. I never could. Madison is just one of those who gets work done. Even if it's at the very last possible second. What can you say to a system that works for her?!?

This was the year that I really got to know Chelsy, Shelby, Bradley, Ethan, Leslie, Sydney, and Presley. I learned about Chelsy's obsession with all things Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, and Leslie's with Canelo Alvarez:) I learned that Ethan had THE BEST sopapilla cheesecake recipe, that Syd was creative and artistic, and that Presley was quiet but hysterically funny.

It was the year of the "Cultural Quilt" and the cultural presentations, where we explored our backgrounds, upbringings, the case of nature vs nurture. Once each student completed their square, complete with things that were unique to them as well as things they knew to be true, we put them all together to form our class quilt. We proudly hung it on the wall of our classroom and there it stayed until I - very reluctantly - took it down the very last day of that school year. We wrote the very revealing essay: "This I Believe," and then began our presentations. It was during these presentations that CeCe blew me away with a whole demonstration of cultural hair by bringing in a doll shoulder/head with an elaborate 'do to represent her combined heritage, and that David demonstrated his by sharing a heavy, iron tortilla maker that had been passed down through several generations in his family.

We "circled up" often, and eagerly, because we had learned that 2nd period was a time of excitement, sharing, and learning to feel safe within our circle. We read so much, discussed even more, and wrote more than any of them probably wanted to. Yet they were always seeking to up the bar on their written word, and the results were awe-inspiring and life-changing.

At least they were for me.

Here it is, two years later, and - as they prepare to graduate in a few days and take a last walk across the auditorium stage - this teacher is all caught up in the memories of that year they were sophomores.

So...

To you - I say "thank you." Thank you for allowing me to share that time with you. Thank you for trusting me with your thoughts, your ideas, and your hopes and dreams for the future. Now, that future is right here, and I have so, so, SO much confidence in the paths each of you will choose. No pathway is easy or free of thorns or roadblocks or bumps in the road, but always remember that there is joy in the journey, and beauty all along the road to where you want to be.

Smile often. Dream big. Love hard. Be kind always.

Class of 2019 - I love you, and I will always be here, quietly cheering you on!




Saturday, May 18, 2019

Teaching Deconstructed.

I am down to one week left with students. One week from today I will give last hugs as kiddos rush for the hallway, anxious to get their summer on. The year will end in much the same way it has ended for me for the past many years.

Except I won't be returning in August.

This fact is both exciting and terrifying to me. I, too, am ready to begin summer but maybe even more anxious for fall and for this new opportunity to focus entirely on our growing B&B and on our growing family. I'm looking forward to more road trips to see our kids and grands, to having a bit more energy to devote to the upkeep and tending that a bed and breakfast needs to be truly successful, and to being present for my parents in a way that I haven't really been able to for the last several years.

This is an exciting time!

Yet any new venture (or risk) can be terrifying as well and I wouldn't be honest if I didn't confess I've spent many a sleepless nights since making the decision to "come home." It's not that I don't trust the decision. In fact, everything has aligned so perfectly that it leaves no doubt that God is truly directing our footsteps. Spiritually and mentally, I am so ready. Emotionally - not so much.

Teaching is something that is so hard to define. It is more who you are and much less of what you actually do. When you have a heart for teaching, it's about the relationships first and all that comes with the job second. And these relationships...

Y'all.

These relationships are so strong and they tug at your heartstrings and - each year - you are left changed. See, it's not just the students who do the learning; teachers learn just as much, maybe more. We learn that compassion, encouragement, and a little grace does more for a student's overall success than academics itself. We learn that behind every face that looks to us is a story that needs to be told and - sometimes - we are THE safe place for that story to be heard. We learn that we don't, in fact, know everything and on certain days we feel we don't know anything.

Teaching is not about the exhilarating moments; it's about those exhilarating moments that happen once in a blue moon that tide you over until the next one, when and if it should come. It's about a student sending you a Facebook message of appreciation after he receives his Masters and you both recall that first six weeks that he sat in your class during his sophomore year...and the battles you had. It's about a student that is one of the very first to text you on Mother's Day, even though she is graduated and a mother herself now, to tell YOU Happy Mother's Day. It's about the daily conversations where you listen, laugh, worry, sometimes shake your head in confusion, but more often nod in understanding, and always end your Friday classes with, "Have a great weekend. BE SAFE."

It's about that "beginning of the year tired" and "end of the year tired" that just can't be explained, only to magically be replaced by renewed inspiration and excitement for a brand new year after roughly 8 weeks of rest and recuperation with your "normals."

It's about keeping peanut butter crackers and popcorn in your desk drawer for hungry students. Occasionally overlooking a sleeping student because you know they are working a full-time job that includes late nights, WHILE maintaining a near perfect GPA and - can I just say - showing up! Loving on the surly and the ones with stinky attitudes because it's not YOU they are angry with; they're just angry. For a variety of reasons. It's about knowing their names, but also saying them out loud and often. Discovering their hobbies and initiating conversations about them. Finding out what they do in their spare time and making sure to go through their drive-thru window at work occasionally, asking about a mom recuperating from surgery, quietly giving a hug to a student who is (even more quietly) observing the anniversary of the death of a sibling, and slipping a few bucks to yet another student so they can attend a school event and not be the only one in class not able to go.

It's about realizing that grades are NOT the great equalizer and they should not be what makes or breaks a student's record - or their heart. It's about the loud classrooms where interactive learning is taking place, according to the state TEKS, sure, but even more so according to what students need the most of that particular day. Even if that means scrapping your well thought out lesson plans and taking off on another trajectory. It's about saying, "I don't know" when you don't know something, but following it up with, "but I'll find out and get back to you." It's about seeking out a student whose feelings you accidentally hurt and saying, "I'm so sorry. I was wrong."

Teaching is indescribable.

This post could go on and on because my heart is full to overflowing today. With excitement. With terror. With aaaalllllll the emotions that fall on the spectrum between these two. So I'll stop here and save some for later.

I just attended the Top 10 Breakfast (it will get a post all its own) and survived with a minimal amount of tears. But then I walked back into my classroom and dissolved into a puddle.

I'm a teacher.

Puddles happen.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Farmhouse Movement.

It seems that, for the past several years, there's been a movement back "to the farmhouse." I was first pulled in by the phenomenon that was "Fixer Upper," where JoJo & Chip Gaines flipped homes and turned ALL kinds of homes into a modern day farmhouse - whether or not the house was founded on literal farmland. 

The movement, though, is about something so much bigger than an actual house. Or the layout and decor of it. It's much more about the concepts, beauty, simplicity, and personality of a well-loved place from days long gone by. Something held snugly in between tales of times gone by and the expectations of all the future offers. A spot that is less about the farm, and more about the house. 

For a lot of us - me included - it's a "back-to-our-roots" movement where families simultaneously move toward more sustainable options and sustainable, healthy connections to one another. Whether we reside in urban city blocks, suburban neighborhoods, or wide open spaces we like to call "the country," we are more mindful of who we love and how we are choosing to live this one life we've been given. We love and lead more intentionally. We prioritize according to what is best for those we love most, instead of what is most "urgent." 

Toward the end of 2018, I realized I'd spent the better part of the year living my life according to the urgent, and not necessarily what (or rather who) is most important. Our family - children, grands, my parents, and friends. I was spending the least amount of time with the ones I love the most. This wasn't intentional...which is my point, I guess. 

I wasn't living intentionally.

I was catering to the to-do lists and the busyness of this season of life. Instead of savoring each morsel of this extraordinary life, I was prisoner to schedules and the clock and the calendar. It wasn't that these things and activities weren't important; they were and ARE. My issue lay with how I organized my time and my abilities. It had to do with taking better control of my schedule and learned to say "no" to the things that weren't necessary, and yet robbed me of time with my loves. 

There weren't any New Year's resolutions for me this year, but there was an intentional pivot. I chose PRESENT as my word of the year. Not as in gift, but as in being present. In the moment. Aware. Present for the important events. The important occasions. The important people. 

I'm trying to stay the course, and stay true to this pivot. Be at all the grands' special events. Cultivate an even deeper relationship with each of our kids. Communicate more. Laugh often. Call friends. Celebrate the everyday as well as the big stuff. 

It's a matter of coming full-circle. Living an authentic lifestyle, where family values come first, ingredients are pure and simple; where we not only know our neighbors, but call them friends, and where spending our time well trumps to-do lists. 

I appreciate the ability to work hard and run a business. I'm proud of my career as a teacher. I'm beyond thankful that I've been blessed to do both over the past several years, and that the business, which is my passion, is doing so well, and that teaching - which is my calling - still fulfills me. Even though it's time to choose - and, of course, I've chosen the B&B, I know that teaching and my students will always be a part of who and what I am. I appreciate all of this...the figurative move toward the simple things.

I also cherish the move toward the literal simple things: mason jars, shiplap, big front porches, open windows, and a good quilt on the bed. I love homemaking and decorating, finding ways to make our home reflect the things we care most about. I love beautiful sunrises and gorgeous sunsets, and love them most from my own front porch. 

I like this farmhouse movement.

This is a movement toward happier homes and healthier families, both literally and figuratively. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Finish line in sight, y'all. But I'm walking it, not racing.

This is Wednesday of Spring Break. I almost typed Tuesday, because - truly - I'm not keeping track other than to make sure I keep up with the B&B reservations. For everything else, we're on teacher on SB time.

That means, if an activity requires normal clothes, chances are good you might not do it.

It means, no ALARMS. Okay, that's not true for me because...duh...guests still expect a delicious, hot breakfast at 9am, but my 5:15 alarm has been replaced with a 7:45 one. That means an extra TWO AND A HALF HOURS, y'all!!

As much as I am relishing SB 2K19, it hasn't escaped me that this will be my last one. This time next year, it will just be another work week. No more of that escalating excitement as The Day We Get Out draws closer and closer. But also no more of the hyper students, silly drama, and rotten attitudes that increase as That Day approaches.

And yet...I know I will miss a lot of aspects of classroom teaching. (I specify "classroom," because - if you've been reading here long at all - you know that I believe a teacher will always be a teacher.)


Haters gonna hate, and teachers gonna teach.
As this final school year begins to wrap up for me I am finding that I wax nostalgic one moment, only to be quickly followed sheer laughter at some of the memories that flood my mind these days. I've always been fortunate to teach with amazing teachers, but it wasn't until my 3rd year of teaching that I became a part of a TRUE team. One who laughs together, gripes together, and occasionally cry together. 

Then I began my 4th year of teaching and met my fellow teacher spirit animal - Amy. Over the next three years, we became as ONE when it came to the classroom. There was 100% trust and honesty between us, and we LOVED collaborating over vertically aligned lesson plans, crying over essays that quite literally rent our hearts in two, and laughing hysterically when our bodies crossed over that "you're too tired" line and we found ourselves having to remove ourselves from our own classroom and take refuge in the other's - just to collect ourselves. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and the friendship is STILL growing, even though we haven't taught together for a few years now.

When I changed districts a couple of years ago, the thing I feared the most was that I would lose the close camaraderie that I by now so desperately needed. I shouldn't have feared. For it was here that I met Haylie and Betsy and Telly. 

The Grammar Gals. 

I'm fairly certain we drove a certain segment of the school nutty with our crazy ways, inside jokes, and fierce loyalty. But we were a team, and a formidable one at that! I love these ladies more than life and - even though I taught there just a year before coming back to my hometown school - it was the Single. Best. Teaching. Experience OF MY LIFE!!!

I've found myself reflecting on so many classroom experiences these past few weeks. Tajawin Smith has been on my mind. My very first year of teaching and - already skittish, insecure, and nervous, his presence in my 5th period class was a source of total and complete misery for a good 6 weeks. 

Six weeks where I would barely escape the door of the school and scramble into my car before the floodgate of tears spilled over. I would then drive through the tears and wait for my brother's phone call, which almost always came about the same time each afternoon on that drive. He would "talk me down," remind me that my value was not based on what students thought of me, and that I was on my way home to those who loved me. 

I can laugh at this now, and do...but I also smile each and every time I hear Tajawin's name or glimpse his graduation announcement (both his high school AND his college one) on the bulletin board in my current classroom. Ty (as I called him) forged what would become one of the strongest and most trust-worthy teacher-student relationships of my career. Day after day after day, I would see him in the hallway and call out, "Hey, Ty! How're you doing?" I did this many days when I in no way whatsoever felt it. 

The magic of teaching is this, though. All students want, and all we teachers want, is respect. Once you have that as a foundation, all other things positive can take root and grow. Kids aren't interested in what you know until they know you care. So much truth in this! 

A couple of years after I left the district where I taught Ty, I received a letter at my present school - from...you guessed it! He acknowledged the rocky start we had, but then referenced how he looked forward to walking past my doorway every day when I would call out his name and see how he was doing. The glory was I came to love Ty fiercely and I've rejoiced over every accomplishment he has made. THAT is why we teach, to all the folks out there who just don't get it.

I have so many students I could write about. I'm still in contact with so, so many. No matter where I run into them or see them, or no matter when and how they reach out to me, it does something magical to my heart to hear their voice, share their struggles and their victories, and get to know them as the great adults they grew into. 

But, for now, I'm just going to wrap up with a bit of reality:

The day of a teacher most days goes something like this: It's almost two pm; you had a meeting during your conference period that you forgot about, so ran into late and out of breath. You've already helped a student through a bloody nose and another one through a panic attack. Your 20 minute lunch turned out to be a non-lunch because a lone student shows up and wants to talk about his or her grade. You REALLY have no patience for this, but it's not in you to ask them not to bother you during those precious twenty minutes. In your first after-lunch class, you slip a package of cheese crackers to a student who is hungry because they had no lunch, and no money to buy it. You listen patiently to a loooooong story another tells because it's obvious school is their safe place, and they place they know their stories have a home. It's 2 pm when you see your principal about to walk into your classroom and realize you never did finish writing your "We will, I will" statements on the whiteboard...primarily because your last whiteboard marker ran dry and you never did find the time to hunt down another. Your principal sees kids talking, working on different things and you worry that it looks like one hot mess. 

You may be the only one (besides the students, that is) that knows it's anything BUT a hot mess. It's a learning classroom, an environment where students not only thrive, but flourish. They are safe, they are heard, they are fed, and they are getting the "we will" and the "I will" done. Mainly because they listen to you. They respect you.

Because you know their name. You use their name, and often. You give side hugs and big smiles. When you feel it and especially when you don't. 

It's a teacher's life.

And I will miss it.






Truly, Madly, Deeply

I've been thinking about love relationships a lot lately. A lot of the reason why, I'm sure, is because of my own love. My marriage to my guy. I think about what our love looked like back in the beginning, the way it looked in the middle of raising teenagers, how it looked as we embraced an empty nest, and - especially - the way it looks today.

In every stage we've loved. Truly. Madly. Deeply. Around the time we married the band Savage Garden came out with the song by this name. For a long while, it was our song; so reflective of the acknowledgment of both our pasts, and appreciation of having found one another. I looked the original music video up a few days ago and let my mind review the past twenty years.

Truly, Madly, Deeply

As a teacher of high school, sometimes I am so saddened by what this age bracket views as 'love.' I guess when I was their age my friends and I weren't much different. Love is beautiful in all its stages: the wildly exhilarating beginning, the team-building middle years, the ups and downs, highs and lows, the sick times and the healthy ones.

Love, though, isn't always about romance. And it's not confined to intimate relationships.

We all receive and give love in so many different ways to so many different people in our lives. And I think we can all agree we all need love. It's absolutely necessary to having a happy life. We need our significant other, yes, but we also need friends. Family. Our kiddos. Our grands. I certainly would never call myself an expert on love, but being one half of a healthy, flourishing marriage has helped me to realize a few major point over the years. 
First, you have to love yourself.
We all come from different backgrounds. Some of us grew up in a loving and encouraging family, and some of us didn't. We've probably all had some kind of relationship in our lives that has left us feeling hurt. You can't control your outside circumstances. I wish we could. What you can control is your own choices. It can be hard to love when you feel broken. If you don't come to any relationship (romantic, friendship, family) whole, you end up (1) asking others to fill in the broken pieces or (2) shutting them out completely. You first have to love yourself. Someone very wise once pointed out to me that God instructs us to "love others as ourselves." Way too often, if we're honest, we'd love others in a totally lousy way if we truly abided by this scripture. And yet, it's what we should do. Then, and only then, can any of us offer relationships our strengths rather than looking to them to fix our weaknesses. We all have the power to make this decision no matter what hand life has dealt us.

Be someone you would love.
It is always easier to blame others. Always. Always, always, always - no matter your age or your stature in life. What's hard is looking inward to ourselves and realizing that maybe it's us who needs to change. Before you have amazing relationships you have to be someone you would love. Be the mother you would want. Be the friend you want. Be the spouse you want. This is a lifelong process the important people in your life will help you with if you are open to it. Stop focusing on others' shortcomings so much and instead work on yourself.

 Love deeply.
Don't hold back. Don't hold grudges. Go all in. We've probably all been hurt before, and I'm not saying we should ignore those situations. We need to learn from the unhealthy ones and seek to avoid repeat mistakes. But. Don't let past hurts prevent you from making new relationships or falling in love. This almost happened to me. I was hurt and felt justified in my unwillingness to forgive even though my circumstances had changed. And this attitude nearly prevented me from being ready for my future husband...my now husband. My partner, my love, my guy. Don't be afraid to love deeply.  Be open. Be brave.
4. Choose your important relationships.
I truly believe that we should love everyone. An attitude of love to your fellow citizens is a great way to live your life. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this? However, this does not mean that you should open yourself up to being hurt over and over again. Choose the people who you cultivate important relationships with. If someone has continually been a negative influence in your life, or doesn't treat you the way you deserve, then they should not receive the privilege of being one of your close relationships. Focus on the positive influences in your life. Love them deeply (see point 3).You don't need to be anyone's second choice.
5. Love is work.
Every important relationship in your life requires attention in order for it to grow. I am so guilty of being that friend who doesn't call back. It is SO easy to get busy with your life, with work or school or whatever you are passionate about and not focus on cultivating the love in your life. I should get dinner with my parents more often. I should get coffee with friends more. I should plan more dates away from the B&B with Mike. If you neglect any relationship it will decline over time. I've had many friends over the years that I've sort of drifted apart from simply because I didn't make time for them. Being a giving and loving person takes a lot of intentional effort. And that's something that I'm working on this year.
But good people are worth the time. All the time. Every time. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Savor: My Next 90 Days

Anyone who knows me well at all, knows I love a good planner/calendar! So much so that I may go a tad bit overboard. I currently carry THREE around with me on the daily!

There is a method to my madness though, I promise! The first is our business planner, which I use solely for just that...business. It contains all the reservations for each of the cabins, as well as the venue, plus it holds contact info for all of our brides and their important people. Updated financials are catalogued there on a monthly basis just so I can quickly flip to it at a moment's notice. Yes, this is all on our computer and much of it in our phones, but - call me stuck in yesteryear - I can't help the love I have for hard copy! I've used the same design for the past three years, and have purchased them all from an online boutique through Jane, called So Kali. I'm not posting a picture of it here right now because I'm being just too lazy to snap the pic and upload, but if you're like me and love a great planner plus a little personalization on the front cover, this one's for you! The planners aren't generally listed for sale until around Fall, but she has bill trackers, prayer journals, and much more! Definitely worth a look around! Then bookmark her for your next year's planner!

The planner that stays in my purse full-time is my personal one, and also one that contains all of my classroom and lesson plans. I used to do a full-on teacher planner, but finally gave that one up this year and - instead - consolidated it with my smaller, personal one. It's a good one, though, by Agenda 52! I'm pretty sure I picked this one up at Hobby Lobby, and it was either insanely on sale or I used my 40% off coupon! I'm obsessed with this one because you can customize the inserts; that's really the only reason it works so well for my lesson plans, and also for meal planning and shopping lists, too! LOVE it.
 
I so did NOT intend for this to be a full post dedicated to my planner/calendar addiction; I meant to gush on and on about my newest one only - the My Next 90 Days by Savor Life. It helps to organize your life 90 days at a time, and truly, TRULY promotes a more intentional way of approaching your busy days. Of course, it helps tons that it's full of inspirational quotes and has very deliberate 4-pillar  method: your 'savor life' list which helps keep you focused on what's most important, a 90 day vision, a weekly and daily ritual list, and - finally - a place to organize what they call your "gorgeous chaos." It takes the "nourish to flourish" approach and has room for literally everything you need to remind you to stop, think, rest, drink your water, plan your day intentionally, get in your prayer time, and you simply do it 90 days at a time!

Everytime I glimpse it on my desk, or laying open on the coffee table, or on a stack of books where I'm working in my home office, I smile. Every. Single. Time.

The reason?

At the end of THIS 90 days, I will be walking out of my role as a classroom teacher and into my new one as FULL-TIME B&B owner/operator!!! My heart, of course, is alllll over the place. I'm going to miss SO much about the teaching life, primarily my students, awesome coworkers, and - yes - a dependable monthly income! But if I've ever in my life known something for certain, it's that this is the right time, the right decision. I am ready.

What I don't want the next few months to be is a race to the finish. I want so badly to finish the school year out at the top of my game, which isn't always an easy task when my time, energy, and attention is pulled in such opposite directions. I want to live each day intentionally, knowing that there is purpose and pleasure in each and every one of them. And hard work. Always more hard work, right? Every morning, I glance at the list for the day, where I begin with what is Number One for every day: prayer first. This is the time of day that settles me, and helps me prepare in a calm and logical manner whatever the next 15 hours might hold.

So...this super long post in essence is really all about the last two paragraphs only.

In 90 days my life will once again change. I'll go through yet another "transplantation." My daily prayer is that each and every day lived between this one and that last one will be chock full of only the important, the essentials that fuel my spirit, nourish my body, and keep me in a place where I can be my best for my husband, our family, my role as a teacher and tender of young hearts, and my responsibilities in our business.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Traditional B&Bs or AirBnB.


7 Major Differences

Clearly I am biased towards traditional bed & breakfasts/inns, especially our very own Wildernest Bed & Breakfast  :) Most of us have met the strict guidelines and inspection of B&B Registries, plus regional and local guidelines.

However, because Mike and I have had several great experiences in AirBnB properties on some of our travels, plus the fact that we're listed on AirBnB, I feel I can provide a rather accurate portrayal of the major differences between the two that are most likely to affect guests.

Pricing

AirBnB quotes a price per night, and then the guest pays an additional 10% directly to AirBnB. There are a wide range of prices. Many times a cleaning fee is attached as well, as might be a refundable security deposit if everything is left in good condition. 

At Wildernest, we quote per night as well, and - because our four cabins are distinctly different sizes and types, there is also a rather wide range of prices. We do not attach a separate cleaning fee; and we don't require a security deposit on anything other than our event venue. There is, obviously, our Texas .06% hotel tax. 

Hospitality

When reserving through AirBnB, it is only after the booking that the guest is provided with the exact location of the property. Most times, this is not an issue; however, we have had a couple of experiences where we would have opted to stay closer if we had known. Communication occurs directly between the owner and guest, just as in traditional B&Bs, but the guest is generally on their own to find the apartment, house, or cabin and let themselves in. 

In this regard, we are not all that different. The main exception is that our exact location can - and is - given at the time of reservation. It is actually pinned on several spots on our B&B website, as well. We communicate directly with the guests and - while they all receive their door codes before arrival and usually let themselves in - we are on-site and available should anyone have difficulty and - also - so that we can personally meet as many of our guests as possible.

Food

Many AirBnB locations do not offer breakfast. They'll often leave a welcome little snack and some bottled water, but that is usually all. Some have coffee or K-cups, but some will let you know ahead of time that you'll need to bring all food items with you. 

After much thought, and trying it both ways, we at Wildernest have opted to serve breakfast to our AirBnB guests as well as the guests who book traditionally. We found that many times we have some of each staying in our cabins at the same time; it was just as easy to deliver crates to all four of the front porches as it was to do so to just one or two. Plus, it's one of our favorite parts of inn keeping and we enjoy spoiling all of our guests while they're at Wildernest.

Space

This next part all depends on whether the AirBnB house is a home to the owners or if it is a guest house and/or a second home. If people opt to AirBnB their main house while they are away, very often drawers and closets will have clothes and personal items in them. This doesn't bother some; to others, it is awkward. Personally, I would never stay in one that was anything more than a true guest house. 

While our B&B does not have closets, per se, we offer hooks for hang-ups and places to lay your luggage. We also offer luxurious spa robes for the guests' comfort during their stay. This is for our traditional B&B guests as well as though that stay with us via AirBnB.

Cleanliness

This, too, can be widely diverse in both categories. The biggest difference is that room maintenance is up to the guest while in AirBnB and even most B&Bs. We, for one, do not enter the cabins to do anything, including cleaning, unless asked or invited by our guests. We prefer for our guests - both traditional and AirBnB - to feel as though the space is theirs during the duration of their stay. If there is a maintenance issue or something that requires our attention, we are happy to show up promptly and take care of the matter.

Guests who prefer daily housekeeping service are probably better candidates for hotels.

Maintenance and Safety Issues

These issues can honestly turn up any place. It's how the issue is handled that separates the properties.

Mike and I haven't had any REAL problems in the AirBnB properties we've stayed in. As far as neatness, and even cleanliness, they've varied, but there's not been anything that has caused us to call the owner. Oh wait, yes...once we did call because the coffee pot was not working. Within ten minutes the owner's daughter was at our door with a brand new coffee pot, though! And one other time we did leave the night before we were to check out. The place wasn't really "us," plus we were just ready to get home. AirBnB doesn't require (at least they don't verify) that each property has a fire extinguisher.

We - as inn keepers - have jumped through hoops to make a few guests happy. It's one of those times where "the customer is always right," even when they may not be. We've refunded partial and full refunds when we really didn't have to, but a good, solid review means more to us than taking a hard stance, particularly when most folks are nice about addressing the issues they are having. Now...having said that...we HAVE had our share of crazies. I'll just leave it at that for now. We have some stories, I assure you! LOL! We also have a fire extinguisher in each cabin.

Reviews

AirBnB encourages feedback and reviews on their site. If you are a guest, you begin to receive emails and app notifications from the company almost immediately after you leave the property. It takes less than 5 minutes to go through their online review process. We try to do it promptly because we know, as B&B owners and operators ourselves, feedback is your number 1 resource going forward.  On the flip side, the owner also receives email and app notifications to remind us to leave a review of our guests. It offers you a place to leave the public feedback, but also a spot to leave a message that only your guest will see.

In each of our cabins, we have a traditional guestbook that is signed by ALL of our guests, whether they be AirBnB or traditional. We look forward to reading these and are always so very disappointed when someone either forgets or neglects to leave their thoughts and impressions of your place. Again, it's our main resource moving forward. These reviews are used to either continue doing things as we have or look for ways to shore up things.

In the end, staying at a B&B OR at an AirBnB property is our personal choice. We will opt for this route 85% of the time. There are those occasions, however, when a really nice hotel room is what we want, what we need. If you are wanting privacy and just to be another "face in the crowd," then a hotel is the way to go.

B&Bs - traditional AND AirBnB - cater more to the individuals and the couples and families. While privacy can certainly be sought and found in them, trust me, your host and/or hostess is always close by to ensure that your stay is as comfortable and relaxing as it possibly can be!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Life hacks for REAL women!


Sister, you are not alone!

Life is crazy, frantic at times, and always, always changing. Morphing into something that we've either worked ever so hard for, or something completely unexpected - that we are not prepared for.

Either way, the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (aka women as a whole) need to be supportive of one another. BE that woman that is willing to fix another's crown without broadcasting to the world that it was crooked in the first place! Part of that is to encourage one another's feats in this life. A way to make way enough for all of our anticipated feats is to have a few "hacks" under our belts so that we don't get tripped up over day-to-day stuff.

Real life hacks for real life women.

I am in no way whatsoever an expert on this subject. Or maybe I am. Because I am just a real life woman. Not a celebrity. Not a celebrity wannabe. Not young and hip. Not yet old and wise. I'm just a woman somewhere in the middle who is embracing the realization of long worked-for dreams and - at the same time - still scrambling to leave my imprint on the hearts and lives around me.

So the following list will not be your usual beauty hack list. It will not be your normal "guide for the busy career mom" list. Instead, I'm merely a fellow sister who is interested in ways to simplify my life and still take care of my body, my health, my family, and my home. If you are in the same boat as me, then I hope the following list is helpful!

Time Saving Life Hacks

Learn to say no. Far too many of us struggle with saying "no" to people. As a result, we're too often saddled with time and energy-draining tasks and responsibilities we really didn't need to add to our already stretched schedules. Learning how to say "no" - politely, but firmly - is the single most important life skill to help preserve precious time and be able to prioritize what's truly important.

Flip your mattress every three months. Unless you're currently sleeping on a one-sided mattress, such as ours. A delicious, luxurious pillow-top that is exquisite and - very definitely the most impressive mattress we've ever indulged in. Yet, because of the amazing pillow-top, there is now a distinctive sag along the middle of the bed. BUT...if this isn't YOU...flipping your mattress every few months will even it out and prevent that sagging, which in turn, will save you a WORLD of pain in the form of poor posture and lousy, lousy backaches. Flipping a mattress really isn't a one-woman job, particularly a queen or king, but it's definitely worth doing; a hurting back will take a whole lot longer to deal with than finding someone to help flip that mattress!

Keep snacking. One of the first things we women tend to cut out during a busy, hectic day is our food intake. Believe me, preaching to the choir here. But don't wait until you're practically starving to put food in your body. Taking long breaks between meals tends to make your body tire more quickly due to lack of glucose. This leads to a dip in our productivity level. Snacking every couple of hours on something nutritious and delicious is not only good for our metabolism, but also helps to keep our energy levels higher, enabling us to work at our optimum. PLUS...it prevents us from binging on unhealthy choices due to extreme hunger.

Keep salt, pepper, etc in your drawer at work. Speaking of eating...despite our best intentions, many of us end up eating a lot of our meals at the desk. I'm not the only one who does this, am I??? Because of this, I've learned it's so helpful to keep a few essentials like plastic ware, little packets of salt, pepper, ketchup, herbs, etc. in my drawer at work. (I also stash a few packets of low-salt peanuts and single serving JIF peanut butter.) You never know when you might need them and nothing is worse in the middle of a stressful, hectic day than to open your lunch only to discover it is going to be bland just because you didn't have time to run to the cafeteria or on-site cafe for some basic things that add life to our food.

Do not incessantly check emails. This one is tough for many of us. I get my email via my computer, but also by way of my phone AND my fitbit. It's really touch to ignore emails and - I'm not necessarily saying to do that. But I AM promoting the thought that email should be checked two - maybe - three times a day at max. Stopping what we're doing every time we receive a new, incoming email distracts us and leads to loss of focus on the current task, which - in turn - means less productivity.

Unsubscribe from useless lists. I finally took time a couple of weeks ago to go through my "spam" mail and unsubscribe from the countless email traps I had fallen into over the past several years. No, they don't "share" your information; they merely email you 7,246 times a week. Am I right, or am I right? I also went into my Facebook settings and withdrew from "groups" that no longer had meaning to me.

Fashion/Beauty Hacks

Utilize shower time. In a perfect world...wait...actually this really DID use to be my life...I would spend much-needed time pampering my skin and my body. After all, we DO only get one in this lifetime. But when life is busy - which is pretty often for a lot of us - every single second counts, which is why it is important that we make sure to utilize our shower time! :) Keep a body scrubbie in the shower and regularly exfoliate from tip to toe, clean AND cleanse your face, don't be afraid to use shampoo or conditioner in exchange for shave gel. It really does work Just. As. Well. It's also okay to apply moisturizer that you would normally do later in front of the sink - while IN the shower. Maybe most importantly, before you emerge from the shower, stand for a few seconds, if not a few minutes, and let the water flow over your body. Close your eyes, and relish the hot water, the feeling of having cared for your body.

Use two-in-one UV products.  When it comes to making your beauty regime easier, using two-in-one products is a must. Pick a cream that moisturizes AND offers UV protection, or opt for a tinted moisturizer that, both, cares for your skin while covering minor blemishes and redness. When life is at its busiest, it's the little things like these that can make all the difference.

Your hairdryer. I've learned a trick or two in my 50 years on this earth and one of those is that your hairdryer is for waaayyyy more than merely drying your hair. Hmmmm....For one, it can be used to help break in new shoes. Especially heels, y'all!!! Just pull on a thick pair of socks, slip into the shoes, and apply the heat from the hair dryer to the tightest corners or spots in your shoes. Keep repeating until the shoes fit comfortably.

Ice Cube Organizer. Okay, admittedly the Container Store, Target, and - of course - Amazon, sells all manner of things organizational-wise. But if you're interested in saving pennies (like I am!) and it's NOT all about "looks", then consider an inexpensive ice cube tray. You can buy two for .99 cents at Dollar General, ladies! These hold rings, trinkets, hair ties, etc... They fit nicely into ANY drawer and can help make reaching for what you need SO much easier!

Coconut Oil is life! Coconut oil can be used for a myriad of things, from health, food, all the way to beauty, and the healing of the body. WHERE has it been all of our lives, ladies??? I have personally used coconut oil to cook with, bathe my feet in, DRINK, AND use it for cuticle softener for both my fingers and my toes. Gargling with coconut oil every night does WONDERS for the body; just trust me on this and give it a try! It also is so much superior to manicure and pedicure lotions. It is absorbed by the body quickly and gently, and does not leave an oily residue. When applying at bedtime, it provides the perfect overnight moisturizer for the cuticles, the heels of your feet, and your lips. KEEP coconut oil on hand! (I buy the solid.)

I hope this list of life hacks helps in some way. If you have another, PLEASE comment below! We ae in this together, and ALL suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Navigating social media.


A couple of years ago Mike and I jokingly (but also seriously; does that make sense?) said that our brains simply could not handle any more new technology when it comes to social media. I flourished in all that was Facebook, while he held out many years before finally throwing in the towel and creating an account. But the others...Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snap Chat, and - now - even Marco Polo, were just too much to keep up with. Never mind the fact that I truly do not think I have the right brain cells to navigate Snap Chat.

It's hysterical watching my students snap all day and work those phones like a boss with one hand, while I deliberate over each and every FB post and carefully and thoughtfully choose each photo for Instagram. I joined Twitter a number of years ago, broke up with it, got back together with it...a few times, but then ended that relationship for good. To quote Taylor Swift, "We are never, ever getting back together!"

A while back when we decided that I would most likely be running the business full time after this school year, and that - if that was going to be the case - then I needed to try to grow it even further, I knew I needed to really throw myself into Instagram and Pinterest. I researched like a doctoral candidate, learning why the heck a hashtag was so almighty important, and how to attract the "right" people to my pins. I have to say, I thought I had come. So. Far.

Until I took an online social media workshop for businesses and realized that I. KNOW. NOTHING.

I learned about Tailwind, which helps you coordinate, schedule and then pin to your boards, and Insta pre-sets so that you're Insta feed looks "uniform and inviting." Now, I realize that some of you probably are laughing at this point and saying, "Oh, she's so funny; she didn't know about TAILWIND?"

Um, no.

In addition to not knowing about it, I quickly realized that learning about all of the available technology that is so handily at your fingertips to help you gel your blog and your business website with your Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, is like going down a rabbit hole. A very deep rabbit hole! The last week or so I've found that I'm alternately fascinated and elated with the possibilities, but also bewildered and frustrated. LOL!

However...I feel like I've been "hooked." Now it's not only a challenge to figure it all out, but I'm looking forward to seeing if this can really help a business...and a blog...and a website... 

                                                            G R O W.
Please! All of you that have any tips for me at all, feel free to drop a comment!!