A Climb With A View!


Last week I received an inspirational email from a dear 15-year-old very close to my heart. She lives in Africa. We became her USA family when she was 9 years old and I had just turned 50. Every time we receive a precious letter from her, we are inspired. In a recent email she shares a quote from Nelson Mandela, writing ,“once you climb one mountain there are also other mountains to climb”. Here is Mandela’s quote in its entirety.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

We are to always be moving forward, to be the difference for change, not hoarding experiences because with freedom comes responsibility. What caught my attention reading this quote is that Mandela chooses to use the word “climb”. He could have chosen words such as  “walk” or “hike” a hill but he chose not. Climbs are challenging and require perseverance to give of our best, applying giftedness, skills and talents, as well as patience in all circumstances, especially challenging ones. Sometimes our climb brings us through tragedies and difficult times that we simply cannot avoid, appearing without warning, independent of any action on our part. It’s like a thief in the night who comes and suddenly turns our world upside down. This year I have heard too many unfortunate events take place in the lives of those we know, like that thief in the night, turning almost perfect worlds into sheer chaos. This is when the hill becomes a steep mountain and the scariest is fearing the length of this climb and wondering where you will land. When you are able to rest, will the view be that same glorious vista that surrounded Nelson Mandela?

Recently I read a book titled, Embrace the Moment by Bonnie Lee Mahler. The author knows about climbing personal hills. And, like Mandela, she too has climbed many but a mountain came with a steepness of terrain that could have been paralyzing. And, with only a brief reprieve, another similar climb followed. The author shares her journey traveling through a dark time experiencing tragedies, losing both young teenage sons within a 2-year period from unexpected accidents. Ultimately, she finds peace and joy and she reveals the secret in her book. We are each responsible for choosing whether to have dark times shape us in a positive light or pull us into darkness, a pit of bitterness. In this tar pit, bitterness flourishes and there is no freedom. The author’s struggle included doubt, insecurities and fear, but she eventually discovered how to break free from the heaviness of her loss. The help of positive and loving people to encourage her also contributed to that forward movement in life, when it could have been so easy to slip into the abyss. “I honor the past in every way. I’ve loved, I’ve Lost, I’ve trusted, I’ve hurt, I’ve missed, I’ve made mistakes, but above all, I’ve learned!” WOW! Sharing her story to inspire others is continuing the climb. As Mandela so well articulates, “I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” It takes great strength and courage to revisit horrific loss in order to write so others can benefit. She is using her life experiences and giftedness to continue, share, inspire, make a difference as the Mandela quote models for all of us to do, and of which our dear 15-year-old young lady in Africa is so inspired to do, too!!

The past 5 years have been challenging for me, dealing with circumstances beyond my control, facing fear, discouragement and hurt. Often I’ve said to my husband, “When can I dance again?” Well, I realize now I never had to stop dancing unless I choose to allow difficult circumstances and the negative actions of others control the measure of my joy. The same applies to you.

Mahler quotes in her book, “Looking back, I realize more than ever how everything has purpose; life flows with people and experiences.” We all deserve glorious vistas and it’s already ours on this long journey, living our life purpose to make a difference! All we have to do…choose to feel deserving of this awesome rest and give ourselves permission to experience the surrounding beauty!!


  • Children of Grace  Sponsor a child and be the difference for that child’s future! 
  • Embrace the Moment by Bonnie Lee Mahler, Live life fully..”Honor the Past, Release It, Live the Present, Embrace It, Create the Future, Ignite It.”
  • The Land Between, Finding God in Difficult Transitions by Jeff Manion, “The Land Between provides fresh biblical insight for people traveling through undesired and difficult transitions such as foreclosure, unemployment, uncertainty, and failure.”

Bargain Boutique

Best NATURAL Clean!!

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Lately, when using store bought cleaning products, I feel the effect of chemicals. My nose becomes itchy and my throat, sore. Also, I notice an annoying film buildup on my counters and floors. This past February I decided to make my own natural cleaning product. It feels good to have the assurance that the product is truly chemical free and the ingredients won’t leave a residue. Discovered one solution can work for granite countertops, stainless steel, ceramic, porcelain, and wood!

Online research and experimenting with a few test products, I created an all-purpose cleaning solution. After using this product since February of 2017, I am ready to share it. The total cost for a 16 oz bottle is about $.70 not including the spray bottle container. AMAZING!

I call this product…Natural Clean. My stainless steel SHINES like no other product ever used! Glass (including car windows – the ultimate test) comes out STREAK-FREE. Granite countertops SPARKLE, as does porcelain and ceramic. Wood furniture and floors look INCREDIBLE and I find my floors no longer pick up dust on every pair of shoes that walk through the door. When products leave a residue, everything sticks either from the bottom of shoes to fingerprints on stainless steel appliances.

What You Should Know

  • Essential oils are natural but they can be toxic to children, adults and pets. So, even though this cleaning product is “natural” please keep it and the individual ingredients used to make the solution AWAY from children and pets. Click this LINK about the safety of using essential oils.
  • Citrus-based oils (sweet orange, blood orange, bitter orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime, lemongrass, bergamot, tangerine) and white vinegar are acidic. Ultimately, using these ingredients could affect the top coating of furniture, floors, ceramic, marble and granite, dulling the surface. BEST to keep the product acid free, even through you are using a minimal amount for each 16 oz bottle. For this reason, I don’t use citrus based oils or vinegar in the product.
  • Witch hazel and essential oils used provide a naturally mild antibacterial disinfectant. However, if I accidently spill raw chicken or meat juices on my counter or sink, I will use Clorox wipes or 1 part bleach and 10 parts water to fully disinfect the surface. 
  • ALWAYS test in a small area for comparison to see if there is an undesirable result. Only you know about the floors, appliances, furniture, and counter-tops in your home. Find a small test area and use the product over 4 weeks to be sure the only result is a desirable one!!
  • If you already have build-up, especially on your counters and stainless steel, you will notice residue when you first use this cleaning product. It will take a few cleanings to no longer see that awful film. Get ready for some work!
  • A funnel works great to get Distilled water and Witch Hazel through narrow bottle openings. 
  • Best to always use a clean cotton cloth. These cloths from, Galaxy Glass Cleaning Towels, 18-Pack GT18,  are the ones I use.

Natural Clean Recipe

  • 16 oz spray bottle
  • Distilled Water – 14 oz
  • ¼ cup (2 oz) Witch Hazel
  • 20 Drops of Essential Oil – Lavender
  • 15 Drops of Essential Oil – Cloves
  • Always shake well before using. 

Essential Oil Combinations

Experiment and come up with your own favorites or Internet search and find combinations to try.

  • 20 drops of Peppermint, 15 drops of Eucalyptus
  • 20 drops Lavender, 15 drops Eucalyptus
  • 20 drops Lavender, 15 drops cloves
  • 15 drops Cinnamon, 15 drops Cloves, 5 drops Lavender


Can I use tap water? You can. I find distilled water is best. Tap water can leave residue. Where I live the water is HARD and it does streak and leave build-up over time. Distilled water is typically .99 cents/gallon jug at the grocery store.

What is Witch Hazel and where can it be purchased? Witch Hazel is a plant-based topical ingredient processed through steam distillation from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant. It can be found in the pharmacy section of most grocery stores, Walmart and Target. Click HERE to see it at Walmart online.

Where can I find essential oils? Local grocery stores carry essential oils in the pharmacy section. You can also purchase online. There are many levels of quality and organic oils are also available. This blog ONLY covers its use in cleaning products and therefore the oils do not need to be high quality or pricey.

Where can I find spray containers? Local grocery stores carry empty spray containers with soft spray nozzle heads and those that can easily adjust to a sharp spray for large area cleaning. Otherwise, take your favorite spray bottle, clean it well and use it. Remember to adjust the recipe to the size bottle you are using.

Should the container be glass to avoid plastic bottle deterioration? Since this blog only covers essential oil use in cleaning products and it is significantly diluted with distilled water and witch hazel, plastic and specifically PET bottles are fine. Essential oils are potent and typically when storing undiluted oils, glass or aluminum is recommended.

Can you use rubbing alcohol in place of Witch Hazel? To me, rubbing alcohol is toxic, so I don’t.

This product cleans well, has an awesome aroma, and I use it to clean my jewelry, too! Love the incredible feeling, knowing, I am protecting my home from unnecessary chemicals and the cleaning solution result is far better than any other cleaning product I have previously used!! Give it a try and enjoy a clean home with an aroma that will make you feel “naturally” good and leave your home NATURAL CLEAN!







Life Lesson

A Renter’s Tug-of-War, Protecting Yourself


tug of war 185556989Whether you are renting a summer vacation home, looking to rent an apartment/home, or a college student excited about dorm life, this blog provides wise suggestions to protect yourself.

It wasn’t that long ago our son was excited about heading off to college with his two good friends. The three young men were accepted to the same university and shared a large dorm room that first year. Of course, being excited parents, all met to help the boys move in. We noticed the room by far was not perfect. Existing carpet damage, stains, tile issues in the bathroom, damaged desk drawer, some marked walls – were all visible. Overall, it was dorm room standard. Although the boys went through the check- in process with the Resident Assistant (RA), only two broken data ports were noted. Fast forward to the end of the year, and after a good walk-through with the RA, we received a bill totaling $258 for dorm room damages that were pre-existing. Fortunately we had a copy of the signed Room Condition Form (RCF), but it took 17 emails to get the unwarranted charges removed.

Throughout college living and apartment renting, the concern over pre-existing damages and security deposit reimbursement continues to be a struggle regardless of location. The following is a suggested checklist before moving in and out of any rental. It is quite easy today to take precautions when cell phones are camera ready and mobile phone journal apps (I use Day One) easily voice record and date summaries and lists. Being diligent and taking these extra steps to verify pertinent information can save you money, time, and frustration.

  1. CREATE an email folder labeled RENT (or whatever you want to call it).
  2. ALWAYS request a walk-through before moving into any rental, including dorm rooms.
  3. ASK before renting, what is expected at the time of move out (carpet cleaning, professional cleaners, etc), in writing, and ask about the walk- through process at that time. You don’t want to discover before moving out that you are expected to paint the space, clean the carpets and have professional cleaners.
  4. BE DILIGENT to note any existing damage or imperfections throughout, including bathrooms and kitchens.
  5. REVIEW the document to be sure any and all pre-existing issues are noted and take photos of all flaws and damages. Email these photos to yourself and save in your email designated folder. FYI…emails are dated which validates about the time photos were taken. Cell cameras do not date photos, that I am aware of, other than organized and stored by date in iPhoto.
  6. SAVE a paper copy of the signed document, in a place you will remember, that verifies the existing condition of the space.
  7. PHOTO the document with your cell phone, email it to yourself, and save in email RENT folder.
  8. REPORT immediately by email (so you have written record) any other flaws or damage you notice after moving in. Save in RENT folder.
  9. ALWAYS before moving out, request a walk-through. (We, and others we know, have experienced being declined by designated managers saying it wasn’t necessary. Then, surprise, we don’t get the security deposit refunded.)
  10. REQUEST the walk-through document, signed, before handing over the keys.
  11. TAKE PHOTOS of the living space BEFORE you leave. This is important!! Even through you have a clear walk- through report; you could still get hit with charges. Then it’s your word against theirs. Photos are also a great way to cover yourself if, because of timing, you are out of the living space and the walk-through never happens.

A quick Internet search brings up many possible reasons why college students are assessed extra dorm fees and people feel security deposits are not returned, which seems to happen most often in large apartment complexes managed by corporate property management firms. Knowing about the walk-through process before moving in and out, having signed documentation about the living space condition with photos all filed for easy access, can be a proactive way to protect yourself. Enjoy your summer vacation away, apartment/home rental or dorm room experience with peace of mind. A tug of war between renters’ word and theirs might be someone else’s struggle, but it won’t be yours!









home spaces

Stack It!

When our house was being built, we were BLESSED with a HUGE closet. And, I have had no problem filling it! About a year ago I took a weekend to share clothing no longer needed, filling bags for Goodwill Thrift Stores. While closet organizing I became frustrated with folded clothes continuously falling over on the shelf. Neat piles (especially with workout clothes) would topple over, blending in a pile. I am one of those who says; “What do I have on hand that could solve this problem?” rather than “Where is the closest organizing store to pick up shelf dividers?”

Remember the metal bookends that were probably more popular years ago than they are now? When we moved here, so did a box of those old metal bookends. I knew exactly where they were stored. Excited, I retrieved them with great hope and enthusiasm. They proved to be the BEST closet solution and are now successful shelf dividers for workout clothes, leggings, t-shirts and skinny jeans. After one year these bookends have “stacked it” well, embracing their new calling as shelf dividers. Job well done! Cost to me? $0

The blog photo shows various types and styles of bookends available today as well as how they are being used in my closet. They are typically sold in pairs and come in a variety of colors. If your shelf can accommodate the height, I would go with taller bookends. Measure first before ordering. has a great selection. I like metal because they are strong, solid (not clear plastic) and sturdy. Closets that are décor pretty, decorative bookends are also available online. There are some very cute ones that can be bought for children’s rooms.

Although bookends from the name alone suggest use with books, they can be repurposed to accommodate stacking closet shelf clothes, drawer items such as PJ’s and underclothes (smaller bookends) and even pantry food boxes and bagged items. Whether you already have metal bookends or if you need to purchase, give it a try and STACK IT for your organizational needs!


Life Lesson

Hidden Danger!!

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This past Saturday at 7AM, going through the garage to retrieve the morning paper, the activity of bears in our neighborhood was the only need for caution on my mind. A few minutes later I became aware of a far more serious hidden danger that took me by surprise.

The door leading to the mudroom didn’t even have a chance to close when my garage door DROPPED and the lift system bracket arm was sliding towards the operation box!! Our home just turned 3 years old so I couldn’t imagine that the lift system already had issues. Thankfully, instead of calling the garage door company (contact info label on the door), I called the authorized dealer for LiftMaster, One Clear Choice Garage Doors. They were awesome and had someone to our home by 9AM.

This is the problem and the hidden danger that was explained to me. A number of garage door companies (contracting with new homebuilders) are installing a less expensive bracket arm that cannot adequately accommodate the weight of 2 car garage doors. And, instead of firmly installed lift arms, using a steel bracket securely bolted down the center of the door, the lightweight arms are directly bolted to pressed wood. To make matters worse, our previous bracket arm had 4 bolt slots but only 2 shallow bolts were used. Every time our garage door opened and closed the vibration loosened the bolts until Saturday, when the arm popped off and the door gave way.

Almost always, I drive my car into garage while the door is still going up. And, often times I scoot into the garage while the door is opening or closing. Imagine, how this situation may not have ended well if the door fell while I (on anyone else) was driving into the garage or walking in or out in the direct path of a lift arm fail!!

Whether you have a fairly new home or an older one, check to be sure the bracket arm is adequate for the weight of your garage door and securely fastened. The photo on this blog shows before and after pictures. You can clearly see there are only two shallow and loose bolt holes when the incident took place. We contacted our builder and received an immediate response with assurance they would contact the garage door company who installed our door.

I’m sharing this story because of the hidden danger that could impact your life, forever. A failed bracket arm could be fatal to you, your children, pets and guests visiting your home. If you are not sure about the safety of your door, call your local garage door service company. After reliving what could have been, and although fixed, I’ll schedule garage door maintenance every few years and I’ll wait until the door is completely up or down before walking or driving in/out of the garage. You might consider doing the same. This hidden danger is completely avoidable now that I know, what I know, and you do as well. Be safe!!


Food & Drink

Summer Sizzle – Refreshing Drinks and Quick Appetizers!


A HOT summer, like the one we are having, is a perfect opportunity for an impromptu get-together! We live in a community without fences. The backyards are all open. Late afternoons we look forward to relaxing outdoors, my husband smoking his cigar while I appreciate a refreshing glass of chilled Sauv Blanc. We love when neighbors walk by and join us because a connected community is a thriving community! What is the best way to prepare for unexpected but welcomed guests?

There are a few simple food and drink staples we always have on hand. Fortunately, we have a Sam’s Club that recently opened close to our home. Like Costco, there is an abundance of refreshing beverages to choose from, nice wines, as well as prepared dips (Raspberry Chipotle Dip is incredible!!) and appetizer trays, making life summer simple!! Most local grocery stores also carry prepared foods to go. When I don’t have time to shop, I can count on basic drinks and a few ready-to-prepare food items stocked in my fridge and pantry.

Below is my inventory listing for drinks as well as simple prep and serve appetizers. Serving a variety of 2-3 work well. So far, no one has ever complained about the same drink or appetizer menu served at our home. Click Quick Summer Appetizers for some of our favorite recipes.

Drinks – Something for everyone!

  • Ice-tea or Sweet-tea
  • Bottled water and coconut water
  • 12-pack of light beer
  • Wines – Light wines are available in white, rose and reds. Here is a LINK found online listing 2017 summer wines to pair with your summer appetizers.
  • 12-pack of diet soda


  • HummusBush’s Hummus packets, cans of garbanzo beans and black beans. Love this! No longer am I throwing out hummus that has gone bad. We make it, as we need it!! So simple!!
  • Smoked Salmon Dip – lemon juice, cream cheese, mayo, dried Italian herb seasoning. You can serve with capers, diced red onions and mini bagels. Big hit whenever I serve this.
  • Skewers – cucumber, cherry tomatoes, fresh plain or marinated mozzarella balls, sliced prosciutto (or sliced Genoa Italian salami). Quick to pull together. Option – Put the mozzarella balls in a bowl, ditto with cherry tomatoes and roll lunch meat on a plate. Put out toothpicks and let guests help themselves!
  • Crackers with sliced cheese – I always have a few boxes of Gluten- Free crackers in the pantry and an assortment of cheeses in the fridge.
  • Tortilla Chips and jar salsa
  • Cans of artichoke hearts
  • Peanuts, cashews or pistachios
  • Brazi Bites & Tostitos Cheese Sauce

When serving and consuming alcohol, always have snacks to slow absorption. Hot weather can compound the effects of alcohol on an empty stomach causing dizziness, weakness, and mood change. The best way to keep guests safe (as well as yourself) is for snacks to be protein rich. This article found online provides an informative and wise listing anytime you are hosting a gathering. HINTS FOR SENSIBLE, MODERATE, AND RESPONSIBLE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND PARTY HOSTING, Adapted from Engs, R.C. Alcohol and Other Drugs: Self Responsibility. Tichenor Publishing Company, Bloomington, IN, 1987

The best get-togethers at our home have been impromptu, when the focus is on guests and not menu or gourmet dining perfection. This means, stress, is not a barrier to a joy-filled experience. Be prepared for welcomed yet unexpected guests and stock your fridge and pantry with drinks and appetizer staples that all can enjoy. Make summer sizzle and be ready to celebrate this hot season with your friends, family and neighbors!









Breaking Free

Breaking Free

Celebrating independence these past few days, I have reflected on the word “freedom”. Realized, perhaps we all might be cheating ourselves from the FULL benefit of what it means to be free. What are we doing with our “personal” freedom? And, what should personal freedom look like? It should begin, from within.

This week I thought of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my favorite historical figures. She is a true role model reflecting the “freedom” I am referring to in this writing. Not knowing her past one would think she lived a perfect, flawless, challenge free life. This is not the case. Both her parents and one of her brothers passed away when she was still a child. Her marriage to Franklin Roosevelt, serving two Presidential terms,  was difficult including common knowledge of his infidelity. She also had to contend relationally with his controlling family. Her success, however, is the result of living personal freedom. She did not allow herself to be defined by early life circumstances, past failures, or judgments and opinions of others. If Eleanor accepted the tragedies and challenges in her life to define her, she never would have been the confident and influential voice for equality (women, race, refugees, youth) during her tenor as First Lady, 1933-1945. One of my favorite Eleanor quotes, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, is spoken from the harsh realities she had to endure, rising above negative interferences. She didn’t allow others to influence the trajectory of her life. When she passed away in 1962, she was renown as one of the most powerful and admired women of her time. Acknowledged again in 1999, she ranked 9th in Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

The message from Eleanor’s life is about accepting and embracing personal freedoms. When we choose to be defined by circumstances and the condeming judgment of others, we actually forfeit our freedom while residing in a country that’s all about “let freedom reign.” Ironic, isn’t it! It’s like living in a country that is founded on freedom but we say, “no thanks!” and voluntarily we give it up.

How do we make this change, from within?

  • Know and act on what is important to you. Guard your beliefs and respect the beliefs of others. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton, First Us Secretary Of The Treasury, 1780–1804
  • Determine your own dreams and the plan to get you there. Don’t be swayed by the passions and dreams of others in exchange of your own. Frances Chan in his book Crazy Love notes; “Oswald Chambers writes, ‘Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.’ To that I would add, ‘Be careful not to turn others’ lives into the mold for your own.’ Allow God to be as creative with you as he is with each of us.”
  • Don’t judge or label others and don’t accept judgement and labels on yourself. Be the change! “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962
  • Personal freedom is for everyone. Be this champion to yourself and others. Freedom is tolerance, which means being able to co-exist peacefully and with respect when beliefs and opinions differ NOT when they are the same. “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962
  • Use past tragedies, failures, and tough circumstances (beyond our control) as a bend, not end, in life. With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962

Personal freedom is not up for vote. It is our God given right. Faith gives me the confidence to know that my life, my beliefs, my choices are truly between me and God, the only one of whom I choose to give reverence. Breaking free is enjoying the benefits of personal freedom, which takes practice. Don’t cheat yourself from experiencing the full spectrum of YOU and don’t cheat others, either! Live personal freedom, and, let others live this freedom, too.