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Streamline and Simplify

Streamline & Simplify

I feel like I have always been an organized, prepared and punctual individual.  A few books I have been pouring over these last couple months have let me indulge in uncovering the “why” and helped explain the sense of calm I feel by being this way.  It’s not for everyone, that’s certain, but my delight in the ease of routine and preparation has benefitted me greatly and I wanted to share a few ways how.

Laying out clothes the night before

I started doing this for my children when they were in preschool.  I’d check the weather at their bedtime and get their outfit out and in easy reach for the next day so I could feed them, change diapers, clothe them and go.  The habit migrated to my evening routine as well when I found myself spending more time than necessary on pairing a tank and sparkly headband in the morning.  So I make my choices after I brush my teeth and lay the items in a folded pile on the vanity bench in the bathroom.  It saves me time and gets me ready quickly so I can move on to other things that genuinely require effort and thought.

Food and coffee prep

Much like eliminating the time needed for clothing choices in the morning, I prep my morning meal at night also.   This is quite simple and takes less than a couple of minutes as I pick a coffee mug to place in position on our coffee maker and lay out one packet of sweetener (I switched to packets so I could monitor my sweetener intake), I lay a spoon near the Keurig, then choose oatmeal, yogurt or one of my pre-made breakfast burritos.  If it’s oatmeal I’ll grab my favorite ground cinnamon and another mug to heat the oatmeal in, if yogurt I’ll grab a pre-portioned pack of almonds to add, and if I choose burrito then I simply move one from the freezer to the fridge for overnight thawing.  The quick action of getting myself ready for the morning leaves one less thing to fuss with when it’s GO time and the husband & kids are waking up for school and I’m trying to hustle us all out the door at the same time.

Black Underwear

I am a colorful person.  In home decor, clothing choices, and life in general.  My yoga pants and a few cocktail dresses are black and that’s about it.  But I have spent too many moments in front of the mirror doing the “can you see my underwear pattern/color through these yoga pants” exercise.  Ladies – you know what I’m talking about.  Every day it was a chore to decide, “well, maybe these purple-y ones are dark enough” or “hopefully these polka dots and pineapples won’t show too much.”  As I was reading one of Gretchen Rubin’s fun books about happiness, organization and simplifying I had a brilliantly obvious thought.  Go get some black underwear!  DUH, right?  In the five years that black yoga pants have been my main form of pants it had never occurred to me to have a supply of black underwear.  So I popped over to the Hanes Brands Outlet nearby because they sell my favorite microfiber bikini cut and purchased a pile of black ones in my size knowing that I love the fit, the fabric and I’d never have to make any special effort to choose my undies on the days I wear my regular uniform.  All my crazy colors and patterns are still there and get used with pajamas, jeans, sundresses, etc. but a noticeable portion of nearly every single morning has been made easier by not having to choose that one thing.

Keep a gym bag ready

I began keeping a small gym bag ready in the car stocked with several pairs of barre socks, deodorant, body wipes, lotion, ear buds and a phone case that straps to my arm.  I never have to worry about not being prepared as I always have these things with me should it be an odd day and my workout doesn’t happen as usual.  I can grab the phone case and go walk while I’m waiting to pick the kids up.  Or if I took my socks in the house to wash, I have spare pairs so I don’t need to purchase another set in order to take class.

Online grocery ordering

I avoided this for ages, to my husband’s dismay and confusion.  Mainly because I like going to the grocery store.  I like walking the aisles and looking and touching and smelling.  Generally I made it through fine whether the kids were with me or not.  If we went as a family of four on a Sunday morning, it somehow ended up being a different story and that’s all my husband saw – the obnoxious chaos of going grocery shopping together.  But at Christmas 2015, it was a choice I made out of panic.  It was a crazy time of year, the kids were out for their break and we needed a very large amount of items for several large meals.  I wasn’t as confident this time that the boys could control themselves long enough for me to get every last herb on my list and the grocery store was running a one month free trial of their pick-up services.  So we tried it from mid-December through mid-January.  I didn’t want to love it as much as I do.  My orders are saved as orders, the individual items kept in a list for 6 months for easy reorder.  It mostly eliminates the buying of random crap and I can get what I know we need and what I’m using for that week’s meal prep.  Such a time saver!  I generally choose the time slot that falls immediately after school pick up since our store is on our direct path home.  It is absolute perfection to cultivate my list throughout the week, plan my meals on the weekend, place an order Sunday night with a Monday afternoon grocery grab and go.  Mom heaven, y’all.

What are some things you do to make life easier for yourself?  What are some things you could do (if you wanted to)?

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Crock Pot Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Crock Pot Pasta e Fagioli Soup

I found this recipe on www.therecipecritic.com and gave it a test run last night.  I’d call it a delicious success and wanted to share it with y’all!

I feel like it would be easy to make vegetarian and you could add more veggies or a different pasta shape, or a gluten free pasta to accommodate various dietary needs.  My Crock Pot was full and we ate heartily.  I have enough leftover to freeze, which will last a couple meals and I left one serving in the fridge for me to heat up tonight.

This filling soup would be great as a make-to-share dish and make-to-freeze dish.  My only notation on that is that the longer mine cooled before I refrigerated it, the more water the pasta soaked up and the soup got thick.  So I’d revive it with additional beef broth to reheat or after freezing.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon EVOO

1 pound ground lean beef (I subbed lean ground turkey)

2 whole carrots diced

4 celery stalks diced

1 medium onion diced

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 (14.5 ounce) cans beef broth

2 whole bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans drained and rinsed

1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans drained and rinsed

1 cup ditallini pasta uncooked

Instructions

1. Add olive oil to large skillet and add in ground meat.  Cook until no longer pink.

2.  Place meat in slow cooker with other ingredients except the beans and pasta.

3.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.  30 minutes before serving stir in beans and pasta.

4.  Serve immediately while hot.

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Shitty Mom Award

Shitty Mom Award…

A decent (albeit rainy) day has drawn to a close on a negative note with my youngest son.  Here is where I will launch into the backstory:

Backstory – I’ve been jonesing for some lasagna roll-ups for dinner lately and was interested in making a batch that all four of us could enjoy.  I prefer spinach and cottage cheese, hubby prefers regular meat sauce and kids just want buttered noodles and cheese basically.  So we discussed the idea of dinner prepping together the batch of turkey meat sauce roll-ups for daddy and I and leaving everything plain for the boys with JUST CHEESE.  Everyone was ok with this plan, everyone agreed to eat it.  I’m fine varying the ingredients slightly if it can all be cooked in the same dang pan.  I am always a short order cook (my mistake to begin with), so on the rare occasion that we find something we will all eat some variance of – I’m thrilled!  Grocery pick up and prep was yesterday and we baked it for dinner tonight after taekwondo.

Big little was not super enthused with them, but after cutting them up and reheating them and allowing a pinch of salt to be sprinkled on top and letting him use his fingers to eat like a pirate, he munched his way through most of his serving and finished his milk and fruit.

Little little was leary from the start as they did not look like his traditionally preferred spaghetti noodles.  He whined a bit.  We cut them up.  He ate a few strawberries.  We reheated.  He still had not actually put one bite in his mouth.  We discussed that allllll the pasta dough we buy is the SAME dough recipe, but the noodle makers squish it into different shapes to make different things with.  The key – it all tastes like a spaghetti noodle.  Still no bite would pass his lips.  He said he never wanted this.  He said he never told me he would eat plain cheese and noodle rolls.  He swore he hated melted cheese, except (of course) on pizza and macaroni, which he loves.  He decreed he didn’t like his roll-ups and that they were disgusting even though he has NEVER had any before.  We told him he wasn’t able to say he didn’t like something until he had officially sampled it.

He asked if he could drink his milk and we told him after he tried a bite he could have a sip.  That was a NOPE on his end.  And that’s where we got serious.  No bite of dinner would mean no more fruit, no milk, no alternative dinner being served and no stories before bed.  Yep.  He took that route.

He sat in his room until bedtime after he cried piteously for a while.  I assisted with the jammies and teeth brushing.  Then he let me hold him in his rocking chair as I spoke with him about being rude and wasteful.  He listened but I don’t think he heard me.  So I bid him a good evening and left his room.

I feel like a mean person.  I did get myself into the routine of making the kids something different that what we eat – hell, I eat differently than my husband most of the time because I have particular nutritional needs I want to meet.  But because this one meal was discussed well in advance and the time was put in early to make it happen for an easy Monday night meal, I’m extremely irritated by the entire thing.  It was cheese and noodles for crying out loud.  He eats that same crap on our normal spaghetti evenings but the noodles are long and skinny and the cheese is sprinkled on top not baked inside.  What. The. Hell.

So I’m feeling rotten letting him go to bed without supper.  I’m probably going to go watch a depressing movie and drink hot tea and hope I can sleep.  Shitty mom award recipient right here.  Oh joy.

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Is it Spring Break Yet???

Is it spring break yet???

The boys’ spring break is still a whole week away and we are more than ready.  The school usually lines it up with Easter as one of the bookend weekends, which is lovely…usually.  Unless Easter is in mid-April.  The stretch of time between Christmas break and Spring break has been nearly excruciatingly long and the kids’ behavior is morphing into the butthead zone, their patience and general kindness towards one another is waning and the oldests’ temperament towards homework is shifting.  They are tired and run down and I can tell.  Please tell me mine aren’t the only ones who get irritable and asshole-y around this point in the school year?

My other concern with spring break falling so late on the calendar, is that by the time they go back they only have 5 weeks of school left before summer.  My fear is that they’ll mentally checkout after their week off and I won’t be able to get them back on track.  I vote for spring break to always be in March no matter when Easter is, and give a 3-day weekend to observe Easter if it doesn’t line up.

I’m quite excited this year that we aren’t scheduled to do anything. We don’t have a trip planned, I didn’t sign the boys up for a gymnastics day camp, and we are free of obligations for a week!  I ideally would love to have a stay-in-our-pajamas-all-day day (preferably on a yucky weather day).  And I would love to take the boys on special adventures out of our normal routine.  Picnics, favorite parks or hiking areas, painting some pottery, visiting the zoo, a lunch date with daddy downtown, a friend date in Charlotte…We shall check the weather and see where the wind blows us.  I have a couple of ideas but want to ask the kids what they want to do.  I’m ready to make some happy and inexpensive memories!

I look forward to sharing what we get ourselves into.

What do y’all like to do for family memory adventures?

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Memory Lane

Memory Lane

Yesterday we road tripped to my childhood summer camp  to take advantage of their open house.  My husband has been wanting to visit since he didn’t go there and we wanted to give the kids a visual feast that would amp up their excitement levels about future attendance.  It was a beautiful day for it – sunny, low 60’s, chilly in the shade and definitely the first time I’ve been there wearing a jacket.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the open house layout and itinerary.  There wasn’t a strict schedule for anyone, more like pairing a couple families together with a guide and taking a leisurely walking tour.

I loved seeing what’s been upgraded, what’s the same.  I had a few hardcore dejavu moments and the memory floodgates opened wide.  It made me wish I had attended longer – I stopped going when I started babysitting during the summer.  It made me wish I had been a counselor.  Can they have a grown-up camp session?  Please?  I call top bunk!

We were touring with a family that lived much closer to camp and our guide was a former camper/counselor and has now been working there for 11 years.  The other family’s 10-year old son was interested in the day camp, but his parents wanted him to see all the cool bonuses to living there for two weeks.  His mom was thrilled with me and my stories and memories of being a camper.  My two boys really enjoyed seeing the cabins, riflery range, ropes course and water activity area.  The camp is parked on 100(ish) acres with over a mile of lakefront shoreline.  The wide range of land AND water sports is a huge draw and my oldest definitely got the twinkle in his eye while we explored and asked questions.

I need to look at our summer schedule and see what weeks we would be free for him to attend and see if we can make it happen.  I think the freedom from parents, the access to the sports and activities the camp offers, and being able to learn about social cues from peers and mentor counselors is a huge plus for kids both on the social and educational scale.  Plus, if he loves it he can probably talk little brother into it next summer and continue attending until he is eligible counselor age.

We parlayed our road trip into an afternoon play date and dinner with some dear friends who live in that area.  It was a perfect family Sunday, and I’m so happy the weather cooperated!

Happy First Day of Spring, y’all!

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Daylight Savings Smackdown

Daylight Savings Smackdown

Oh my heavens, y’all.  The twice yearly time shift has never been much of an issue for me or for our kiddos in their brief history on the planet.  But something about this year perhaps – the spring shift forward and loss of an hour has us all kinds of jacked up but in opposite times of day.  We never make a big deal about the shift, we keep the kids’ same bedtime & wakeup routine, and tough they might yawn a lot that first morning we carry on as normal.

But Sunday evening…ohhhhh Sunday evening was a battle.  We had dinner at our regular 6:00 time frame and happened to finish quickly, which gave us plenty of wind down playroom minutes before bedtime (that routine starts at 7:00 and we wrap up stories at 8:00).  Our free time was up and we began to usher the boys towards their bathrooms for toothbrushing, but they both seemed shocked and insisted it was too early for bed.  The sun is still out, it’s too early, we aren’t tired yet.   As their daddy and I attempted to explain “Daylight Savings” they argued about the concept and then changed to “whyyyy did you make us eat dinner so early?”

Oh.My.Lord.

We resorted to kid friendly YouTube videos to help us out and try to show them that we aren’t lying and making it all up as a scam to get them in bed earlier than normal.  And after 20 minutes of various videos we had eaten up a large chunk of story time and it was getting dark as we left their rooms and there was no further struggle.  But geeeeeeez.

On the flip side, I am normally able to pop out of bed at my first 5:00am alarm and get my booty down on the treadmill for my daily date.  It’s not fun, I don’t enjoy it but it’s not difficult to do.  I have been dragging so bad the last few mornings.  My sis-in-law calls it a “life hangover”.  I have hit SNOOZE 36 times and gotten up in time to get the kids up and get everyone out the door on time and found my stride around 9:00am in the middle of my barre class.  And yes, I have made up my missing mileage later in the morning but then it takes time from my “get sh*t done while the kids are at school” time.  So I need to quit griping tomorrow and just GET UP.  I’m a grown woman and I can doooooo eeeeet!

Has anyone else been smacked in the face with this time change more than usual?What are some things you do to get back on track quickly?

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I haven’t been a kind person recently

I Haven’t Been a Kind Person Recently.

I have been increasingly disgruntled with one tiny, fairly insignificant thing in my life and I started hardcore yapping about it to anyone who would listen in a rather bitchy gossip-y way instead of immediately taking it to the appropriate persons to look into.

I generally try to be a spreader of cheer and positivity and I have utterly failed in my resolution regarding this item.  It has made me feel like a yucky person inside and I am working to correct my actions.  I hate that several people’s view of me may have been affected by my smack talk and I’m learning a grown up lesson right now.  Once the words are out, they can’t be put back.

While I’m less than proud of myself, I’m also glad to share this part of me with y’all so you can learn from it as well.  It’s going to take much longer to recover from this blunder than it did to actually commit it and darn sure I’ll think twice and act differently if I ever find myself in a similar situation.

I don’t want to lend negative thoughts to the universe, I don’t want to impose them on other people and I don’t want to waste space in my mind or my heart with them either.  Life is too short to be anything less than happy, and that includes being happy within myself and with how I treat others.

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Well, hello again!

Hello my darlings!

It has been way too long and I have no excuses.  Two and a half years gone by.  My sons are six and eight now *holy cow* and I’m…well, two and a half years older than I was at my last post.

Since the beginning of 2017 I have been involved in a project with a childhood friend – details will be discussed more in a coming post.  However, this project has reinvigorated my desire to be creative on canvas, on my blog, with my kids, and in my sketchbook to name a few mediums.  It has also reinvigorated my desire to be purposefully joyful, compassionate and loving to fellow humans.  My blog brings me joy, the written word makes me happy as a method of correspondence and story sharing so here I sit.  I’m at my boys’ Taekwondo studio listening to them count in Korean after it took me 20+ minutes to decode my login user name and password.  Y’all, I’m getting ollllld and my remaining brain cells are tired!  I’m shocked it didn’t take me longer to log in considering my rather lengthy siesta.

I won’t promise a regular schedule yet, though my starting goal is twice a week.  And I hope to make this more interactive.  If you have questions for me or topics you want to read my take on, please ask me and it can be a “Dear Dotty” type of segment.  I will not discuss religion or politics – my blog is my happy place and I’d dearly like to keep it that way.

But, hello again friends!  Some old friends might forgive me and come back to read and I hope new friends will join us as we laugh our way through life, friendship, parenthood and gallons of coffee.

Thanks for having me back, interweb family.  I missed y’all.

Photo by Mark Perry

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September 5th…remembering a lifetime of laughter.

September 5th…remembering a lifetime of laughter.


With my mama at a beautiful beach outside Melbourne, Australia.  July 2006

I always knew I’d laugh about the times I cried, but never knew I’d cry about the times I laughed.  ~ Anonymous

It is softly drizzling outside, gradually soaking our parched lawn and I’m sitting in the kitchen with my two sons.  My oldest is a replica of his daddy, my youngest more closely resembles my daddy.  Tomorrow, September 5th, is my dad’s birthday.  He would have been 62 tomorrow.  I suppose you never “get over” the death of a parent or loved one, but I am learning (for me, anyway) that it has gotten easier to be at peace with.  I still tear up (or full out sob) from time to time, but not as regularly as I did during his illness and immediately after his death.  I am reminded of him very often, but it brings back happy memories…snippets of love and laughter nestled in every fiber of my body.

I want to share a few things with you about him.  Things we laughed about then and things I laugh about now.

He had what my siblings and I dubbed a “dad chuckle” that you would only hear when he was trying not to laugh at something that my mom did not find as amusing as her children did…inappropriate jokes, asinine tv shows and the like.  He was watching a South Park episode with me late one night when I was in high school.  We weren’t snuggled on the couch together or anything, but we were both in the kitchen at the same time and there was a small tv in there.  I was at the table close to the television, while he was playing solitaire at the built in computer desk area about 10 feet behind me.  It was the episode when they tried to say the “shit” word as much as possible in the allotted run time and there was a counter/ticker thing in one of the lower corners of the screen (come on y’all….you 90’s teenagers know which one I’m referring to).  The higher the number on the ticker got, the more he “dad chuckled”.  I could tell he was trying to pretend not to be paying attention to the show as my mom was meandering in and out of the kitchen.  She was not fond of my then infatuation with South Park.  I finally looked over my shoulder near the end of the show and daddy was laughing so hard he wasn’t making any noise (sounds weird, but it’s a thing I swear).

He did the same thing when I made him watch the first Ace Venture movie with me.  We guffawed through the whole thing, but in the scenes where Jim Carrey is dressed in the Hawaiian shirt, combat boots and pink tutu trying to scope out the mental institution we were crying rivers of tears and leaning on each other for support as our laughter worked our abs to the max.

He used to laugh with us at restaurants when we would blow our straw wrappers off the straws like paper missiles…until one of them would cross the border into another patron’s booth and land in their salad plate…then we would get “the look” and he would say either:

“Daggummit, (insert appropriate child’s name here)!”  or “Bless a Cow!”

We started most road trips with an annoying round of “the song that never ends” a la Sherry Lewis and Lambchop.  Or we would wait till we were about thirty minutes down the road to start asking if we “were there yet” or begging sarcastically for a bathroom break.

I have 28 years of fantastical memories of my dad and I am so lucky to have those.  These cover one small  lily-pad in the whole pond…

He loved the Eagles and Derek and the Dominoes (original version of Layla all the way, none of that slow, mopey crap!!!)

He loved Blazing Saddles & True Lies & James Bond

He loved Saturday morning breakfasts with his crew at Cloverdale Kitchen.

He loved trips to Disney World

Pecan pie a la mode

Being at the beach with my mom

His cowboy boots

The Cowboys

and the Tarheels for anyone who was wondering

His Subaru

His business

His community

His church

His family

I have one more quote for you from the book The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.

Integrity is not what you appear to be when all eyes are on you.  It’s who you are when no one is looking.  It’s a level of morality below which you never fall, no matter what’s happening around you.  It’s a high standard of honesty, truthfulness, decency, and honor that is never breached.  It’s doing for others the way you would want them to do for you.

He certainly treated me with love and respect.  Teamed up with my mom, he was a gentle and logical guide through adolescence and into adulthood and mom mom was and continues to be my creative inspiration and maternal role model.

Sharing a few things about him keeps the memories of him alive.  They shine out of my heart and I love sharing him with my boys.

Zeb, my four year old, asked me about my wrist tattoo yesterday morning.  I read it to him as he softly touched the words and told him my daddy died before he was born, but that part of my daddy was inside him.  Zeb replied, “Mama, I’ll put the pieces of your daddy back together for you and it would make you so happy.”  Oh how my heart wept and sang at the same time.  A little man of integrity, just like his granddaddy.

The closing sentiment from a letter my dad wrote me just after I told him I was getting married.  In his own script.

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Sweet memories…

Sweet Memories…

My mother’s mother went by “Gran”.  I didn’t have as much time with her as I would have liked…she passed away in spring of 1994 after a battle with cancer.  That is not part of this story.  I want to tell you about a happy memory of her.

We grew up a couple states away from my mom’s folks and time with them was much anticipated and highly coveted.  No matter what time of day or night we arrived at their front door, Gran would be ready for us.  She would have homemade macaroni and cheese made for me, a special sprite/jell-o concoction in the fridge that my brother adored and some of those southern style green beans that have spent two days on the stove that were a favorite of my mom and dad.  It was a home away from home.  She let us make blanket forts underneath the pool table in their playroom.  She organized and helped us follow through with birthday parties for our stuffed animals (complete with balloons, cake and streamers).  She let us run amok in their multi-acre back yard.  She took us to the park and the post office and the drug store and the pool.  She took me to the fabric store and let me pick a pattern and the fabric and I’d have a new outfit waiting for me the next morning.  She took my brother to visit her fireman friends at all the different fire stations around town.  She took me to her jazzercize class and let me borrow one of her leotards and set of leg warmers…

And she took me to visit her friend, Frances Stone.  An interior decorator with a beautiful showroom, which to me seemed like a life-sized doll house.  Every time I visited the rooms were different and I was allowed to wander freely (carefully) through each scene.  It was during one of our decorative adventures that Gran was going to buy me a bottle of room spray that I had smelled throughout the building and admired.  Frances was sweet enough to gift the bottle of fragrance to my grandmother to give to me.  I had many of these bottles given to me in the years I visited my Gran.  I treasured them, used them, loved them and loved the feelings the smell evoked.  I was almost 14 when she died and somehow, even after using this room spray for years, I lost track of that kind it was…what the name of the scent or company was…and I never had another bottle of it after I used the last of it up.

In late 2002/early 2003 when I was newly employed at a precious little boutique and I was un-boxing a spring shipment…I remember stopping cold as I lifted the cardboard flaps and the smell I associated with my Gran wafted over me.  I nearly cried as I pawed through the packaging to get my hands on the source…and I rediscovered what has become (again) one of my favorite smells of home.  It is the Aromatique “Smell of Spring” potpourri.  I prefer the potpourri now and buy a couple bags every spring that I divvy up into several crystal bowls throughout the house.  It is soft and sweet and makes me happy every single time I walk by.  I just bought my two bags today from the same boutique, though I no longer work there.  I also love Aromatique’s fall fragrance, “Cinnamon Cider” and use that from October-February (ish).

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