Tuesday, December 1, 2015


A busy weekend ended in the most pleasant way after family gatherings, excessive eating, days off, shopping, visitors from out of town, traveling to and from. Even fun can be exhausting and now the week is starting again.  We all needed a respite moment, a time to leave the cares of the world behind, which is exactly what we did on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. after the Thanksgiving holiday.  I especially wanted to use this tablecloth today as it was embroidered as a wedding gift to me by my aunt, and today is her birthday.

Here is a rose napkin, demonstrated by one of the guests.  Its just perfect!  Thank you, Jan.

Though not yet December, and since I will not visit with many of these guests again before Christmas, I wanted to share a little of my teatime Christmas decorations with them.  Here's what I chose to set out especially in honor of the afternoon tea.

This three-foot high white tree is entirely decorated with tea party, teapot, teacup and Victorian ornaments, some of which I received as gifts and many that I picked out myself.  Along with the ornaments are two little tea sets that my youngest granddaughters simply love to touch and hold and carry around.

If you've read any of the other posts on my blog, you've learned that I love every aspect of planning a tea - from choosing the guests to the tableware, linens and of course, the menu. Always have a "B" list, if there are any cancellations.  Today I am sorry for illness that prevented one guest from attending, but happy that Deb was able to change her plans and join us for tea. There are so many sources of menu options, that there are almost too many. (not really.)

First Course:   Welsh Rarebit
                        Orange Olive Salad  Recipe - Christmas Cottage

Second Course:  Scones - Pumpkin
                                          Fig Orange  Recipe - Tea Time Magazine
                                          Mock Devonshire Cream

Third Course: Brandy Cream Tarts     Recipe - Christmas Cottage
                       Mini Cheesecakes

Tea:  Copper Country Connection, a black tea with elderberry flowers
         Chai Latte     Recipe - Christmas Cottage

I've collected many hats for my guests to choose from.  This afternoon I was delighted that every guest wore a hat, some bringing their own, and one choosing a "fascinator" which I recently made.  I guess it was only me that didn't wear a hat!

Lisa, Sharon, Kay, Jan, Kris, Deb and Nancy, your hat choices were divine.  And as promised, if the pictures I take aren't flattering, they aren't posted.

So what was so special about this afternoon tea in November?  It may have been the excitement of making....taking time for oneself after a busy holiday weekend.  Perhaps it was the wonderment of what a tea at Sue's was all about that made it special.  It may have been these things, but I believe what made this afternoon tea so special was the candied almonds.

There are three ingredients in making the candied almonds, each of which are wonderful in themselves.  Sugar. Butter. Almonds.  The marrying of these three ingredients together for a few minutes form a delectable, delightful topping.  And had I not already had a plan for the candied almonds, they wouldn't have lasted long in my kitchen!

The candied almonds reminded me of my hopes for any tea party.  Like the sugar, butter and almonds, each guest is individually unique and different.  A cup of tea and a moment alone can do wonders for a busy life.  But the combination of special linens, delectable foods and friends, new and old, blend us to create something very special - an afternoon of enjoyment in a new light.

Because we left the tragedies and world problems outside of the door, hung our wraps in the cloakroom (this dates us, but with a pleasurable memory), and entered into an afternoon of enjoyable conversation and friendship, we became like the almonds, butter and sugar, uniquely different, yet wonderfully new together. This is the  joy of tea with friends.

Make sure to find time in your life for a few respite moments to collect your thoughts and count your blessings.  And share yourself with others, considering the joy that candied almonds can bring.

Thanks for stopping by.  Until we meet again, may you be blessed today! SB

Sunday, November 22, 2015


After 14 months of working with a personal trainer, participating in a group workout class, and eating healthy, I reached my weight loss goal.   On that very day, August 18, I weighed in with a 41 pound,  32 inch loss.  Why 41?  Why not 40 or 45?  The answer was simple for me.  My goal weight was the amount I weighed when I got married in 1988.

Setting a goal weight was easy and hard for me.  As I've mentioned in previous posts on my journey at Motions Fitness, my initial goal was not about weight loss, but for pain relief.  I knew I was overweight, and I didn't have much confidence at that time that I would ever weigh much less.  So why not choose a weight I was sure I'd never see?!  That part was easy.  When my personal trainer, Lisa, asked me to set a goal on the very first day, June 20, I threw out that number - 41 pounds!

The hardest part of this journey wasn't what you might think.  The hardest part wasn't about stopping my sugar intake or adding more protein, though they were big changes for me. The hardest part was developing the kind of thoughts and beliefs, the mindset, the personal confidence that I could really get there.  After all, if I thought I could do it by myself, why would I need Motions Fitness and a personal trainer? If I thought I could do it, that would mean I would believe in myself.  That was the hard part, for I haven't had much self confidence throughout my life.  I was taught that you didn't brag about yourself, for if you did, you should be ready to suffer the consequences somewhere down the line.  And being chubby as a child, led to shyness and disbelief that I could accomplish any physical fun. Because of being a fat kid, I was also bullied, which in turn led to more feelings of inadequacy.

I have faith in Jesus Christ, my Saviour, too.  I believe that God loves me no matter what decisions I make in my life.  But could it be that God was leading me here? Did He want me to realize that I could be so much more - stronger, healthier, full of the Spirit?  I never considered that God had a hand in my choice to go to Motions, until I went there.

There have been two other accomplishments in my life that I would consider reaching the top - raising three children to adults, mostly as a single mother; and graduating from college after a brain injury. All accomplishments have many factors. Mine were financial, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.

All the while I was working towards this physical goal, I started letting go of the fears from childhood, and the feelings of inadequacy that I had learned to accept in myself as an adult. I started seeing God's will for my life, a newer healthier life. One of my favorite scriptures, Isaiah 40:31 which is also a song, kept going around and around in my head during this time:


by Michael Joncas
1. You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in his shadow for life, say to the Lord: "My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!"
REFRAIN: And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.
2. The snare of the fowler will never capture you, and famine will bring you no fear: under his wings your refuge, his faithfulness your shield. (REFRAIN)
3. For to his angels he's given a command to guard you in all of your ways; upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. (REFRAIN)

Life is about joys and successes, but also about detours and bumps in the road to success, ones that knock you down and possibly hurt you to the core. There were times I thought I would never reach the top, and although I had set a safety net of allowing myself to quit, it wasn't long before I realized quitting was no longer an option.  And once I started to see progress in my abilities, along with pain relief and weight loss, I knew that I was on a new road to the top.

I did lose the 41 pounds.  I did strengthen my core to relieve the hip pain, and learn to keep it away by daily exercise.  I learned to make healthy food choices to eat healthier .... for the rest of my life.  But I also learned to let go of the childhood fears and love myself.  Yes, loving yourself is as much of an accomplishment as loosing 41 pounds and choosing to live healthy.  We've all heard of the idea that you can't love others until you love yourself.  I finally understand that.  I love who I was meant to be.  And that, I can tell you, is such a freeing thing!

So on August 18, I reached the top. But I'm here to tell you that being on the top does not have quite the view that I imagined.  Before I got to my goals, I thought I could sit back and relax, and do anything I wanted, when I reached the top, when I reached my goal of pain relief and a healthy lifestyle. That is a false assumption.  I've realized that working hard to get to the top (reaching my goal) doesn't stop there.  I must continue to make the same wise and healthy choices I've made during my struggle to stay here, because I have a new lifestyle, a new way of life.  I can live healthier because I am healthier.  I never once thought that by reaching the top, I would find some new goals and accomplishments to strive for, but that is what happened to me.  With the accomplishments I have, now I can move on to bigger and better things that I would have never, never even thought of, with the mindset of failure and fear I had.

At three months out, after reaching my goal, I still have challenges.  That is life.  I have moved on from group exercise and working with a personal trainer. I do outdoor fitness as much as the weather allows, carry out my personal stretches and exercises based on my own needs, and am considering what other healthy exercise choices are available for me. I still encounter situations and people that could let me enforce my safety net of quitting.  But I am stronger inside and out, and having reached the top, I know that I have to rely on what has kept me strong all this time - my faith and exercise and healthy eating choices.

Feeling free from the burdens of fear, failure and inadequacy, and a new-found love for myself, I have discovered that I can care about others without personally involved because my own needs are being met.  And because my own needs are being met, I have noticed that I no longer strive to make others happy as my number one goal - it just seems to come naturally out of my love for myself and the activities I engage in.

Finishing a project, successfully carrying out an activity, or participating in a fundraiser and reaching the goal were the only kinds of activities that had goal setting in mind for me.  So how has reaching the top changed the way I think about these types of things?  All of them are valid goals, but by having the ability to reach the top as I now have, I also have learned that I have what it takes to take these activities to a higher level.  I've found myself thinking, "now that we've done this, how about if we take it one step farther?" I can apply this famous quote, "To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

By reaching the top, I can say "the sky is the limit" and now have higher goals to set, with no fear holding me back.  A song I learned as a teen says what I have felt and am feeling when I think about my accomplishment and moving forward:

I'd like to climb to the top of a mountain so high
and lift my head to the sky
and say, "How happy am I"
that I'm working and giving and helping the land I hold dear.
Yes, I like it, I like it, I like it here! 

This song was originally posted at:

My next goal?  Perhaps going back to college and taking classes for the meer enjoyment of it!

It is my hope and prayer for you that if you are feeling down, that you are able to find within you a strength that can help you strive for a higher goal.  You can do it!  You can reach the top!

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday, October 10, 2015


As soon as the leaves start to change to fall hues (which could happen as early as August here in the U.P. of Michigan), a great deal of excitement starts.  Its not that we want summer to end, but all that the autumn season brings is so enjoyable.

We are so blessed to live in an area where the changing of the leaves from green to golden yellow, orange and red is a welcome sight, especially because we know the season to follow can be so long and dreary.  Every year is different, and it seems that there are other sights that make the colored leaves really stand out even more:   the blue sky above, the white birch within the trees of color, the bright sunshine, and the dark pine that proudly stand along side the maples.  The oak tree leaves are not as colorful, and hang on till there is often a lot of snow on the ground, but their brown leathery shades are part of the fall colors, too.

Fall also is the beginning of hosting tea parties for me.  The weather has changed, the days are cooler and shorter, and though we're all trying to enjoy every day outdoors, we're also spending more time indoors.   My list of expected guests is ever growing, so here is the first tea of the fifth season of having tea parties.    When asked why I continue to invite friends and strangers for tea, here are the answers.

  • I like to share my creativity with others - handmade invitations, themed tablescapes, creative take home favors   
  • I enjoy trying new recipes especially from Tea Time Magazine and other places around the web such as my Pinterest boards   
  • I love to serve others

  • #1 reason: I love to create a time when every one can leave the cares of the world behind, meet new people, participate in delightful conversation, and enjoy a respite afternoon while drinking tea and eating delectable foods.
Today's tea was all these reasons, and one more.  Having guests in for tea brings me such a blessing as well - that the people I meet out and about are asking to come to tea, which tells me that I have succeeded in offering an event that ladies want and need.

Once I set the date, I review the notes of people who weren't able to attend last month's tea, the one's that have spoken to and asked to come to tea, others I've met along the way, and always, one or two that have come to tea before. 

Here's the menu I chose:

The recipes for the salad (South by Southwest, with my own variations)
pumpkin scones, 

chocolate oranges

and pumpkin pound cake can be found in my Pinterest Boards: Tea Party and Healthy, and the cloth pumpkins are in the Fall board.  

The Apple Brie scones recipe is in the September issue of Tea Time Magazine.

The tea I served, Peach Rhubarb, and the take home teas are from Tea Forte, one of my favorite tea sources.  

From the moment the first guest arrived, excitement and conversation filled the house.
The "tea time attire" requested was evident with each of the guests - so much beauty.  They found their places around the table, and in no time a buzz of conversation, networking, sharing, laughing and enjoying one another began.

Looking back, I can smile with contentment, knowing I've been able to meet my goals, and again have found blessings in a cup.

Thank you ladies for a delightful afternoon - you have been a blessing to me: Janice, JoAnn, Bonnie, Rosie and Kathy.   

If you or someone you know, would like to come to tea, just leave a comment.  I'd love to meet you and welcome you to my home.  If you are joining me from far away, keep coming back and sharing in my afternoon teas.

Thanks for stopping by, and until we meet again, may you find a small blessing in every day! SB

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


My 94 year old aunt was a witty, wonderful woman.  When you asked her how she was, she would reply with this quip, "Consider the alternative."  In other words, she meant that she is alive, she is upright, she is breathing. Considering the alternative to that would be death.

I wouldn't say that the alternative I'm thinking of is death.  I'd say that the alternative for me, at this stage of my life is back to living a life of pain and muscle aches; pain and weakness; pain and frustration; pain and giving up.

I have been blogging my journey to healthy living which started out a year ago.  It started with a curiosity about a place called Motions Fitness, and my quest for finding answers to living without so pain which I hoped would help me to get back to participating in life.

I have written many posts about my feelings of fear and the changes in my life when I said yes to becoming a client with a personal trainer at Motions Fitness.  Now I am celebrating one year there.  The one year anniversary to me is the "first year of the rest of my life."  But now that I am past the first year, it doesn't really get easy.

A taste of the alternative came to mind as the temptations of relaxed living and eating for fun could have been my choices on an 11-day vacation to meet my new granddaughter.  The alternative could have gotten me right back to where I started, not just a year ago, but years and years ago.  The alternative for me is to turn my back on all the hard work and efforts I have invested in myself, in choosing a healthier lifestyle.

Though I wasn't completely innocent on vacation, having spent some time relaxing and eating foods I no longer eat or the kinds of foods that will lead to bad habits again, I was conscious every moment of the alternative.   I knew this was a big test for me - was I mentally, emotionally, physically strong enough to face my weaknesses and rise above them, now while out of town, away from my support system at Motions.  A little voice kept testing me, and asking me if I could do this, and pushing me to ignore my healthy choices.  But when I looked at myself in the mirror every day, and saw the new person I had become, I knew my strength was more than muscle.

A taste of the alternative was like seeing myself - a person with pain, and many inabilities - walking along side of myself in the airport; lifting luggage; playing on the floor with my 2 1/2 year old grandson.  A taste of the alternative was reminding me of the special accommodations needed to help me sleep comfortably while away.   I realized that I did not want to taste the alternative.  I had indeed what it takes to be strong to face my weaknesses and rise above them.

There will always be challenges, some more complex than others.  There will always be the need to keep on the right path.  There will never be a time when letting my guard down and living a carefree life will work, if I want to stay healthy.  I still have pain, but I understand it now.  And with the pain I also have perseverance, but that will not last unless I am in it for life.

I ended up losing 2 1/2 pounds on vacation.  And looking back I had to ask myself if there was any time I felt that I was missing out on all the fun times and special moments this vacation was about.  I don't think so.  Its taken a year to set the footings in place, to help me realize that celebrating is more than food.

I am celebrating this week with all the others that have been choosing healthy living, working out along side of me in class every week; those that I've never met, never spoken to, but I have seen them putting in the effort and keep coming back.   I have learned that you can't be an inspiration until you are ready to leave your pride behind and let your passion show through.  So, to my personal trainer, Lisa Mills, and all the trainers and clients at Motions Fitness: Let's Do It!  Let's keep being an inspiration to each other and the world!  Thanks for inspiring me!  


I have been inspired by my 2 1/2 year old grandson.  I had an amazing opportunity to spend 11 days with him, and his parents and his new baby sister.  He hadn't seen me in person (versus a face on a computer screen) for about a year, so I wasn't surprised that it took awhile for him to realize who Gramma really was.  When he finally figured it out, he was stuck to me like glue.  And even though I had about five of the 11 days stay left, I made every effort to play, talk, and spend time with him.

Evan is a smart little guy.  He's actually closer to 3 years old (August 27) than to 2 1/2 years old, but when you describe his age to any other adult, saying "he is a 2 1/2 year old" it is clearly a definite description of a rambunctious, curious, strong willed child.

If any one of us had to deal with the changes in Evan's life since his sister was born, we probably would have had to lean on some of our vices to make it through the day.   You see, it wasn't just that Evan was now a big brother to a baby sister.   That in itself is an adjustment for any child, especially a child that has had Mom and Dad's attention all to himself.  But now his mom is home every day.  She is a 12-month teacher in a private school, and is on family leave for the summer.  Until now, Evan has been cared for by two pre-school teachers.  That was his every day, Monday - Friday, with Mom and Dad and sometimes other family on the weekends.  Adjustments for Evan have also been to learn the rules of being a big brother, nap time at home, eating snacks and meals at home, and having Mom every day of the week.

During the time I visited them, Evan's dad was also on vacation.  So we'll add having dad around all day, every day for 10 days, too.   Is it any wonder that when Evan saw Gramma at his house for 11 days, sleeping in his bed, with her suitcase in his room, sitting at the table eating with them, and riding in the car when they went places, that he was a bit confused overwhelmed?

Yes, I was inspired by Evan.  Had I had that many changes in a matter of days in my life, I would have been out of sorts to say the least.  Of course, we know as adults that we have developed our own coping systems when the changes and stresses of life catch us off guard.  But what does a 2 1/2 or 3 year old child do when everything as he knows it, changes?   He sings.  Evan sings all the time.  In my opinion, Evan has nearly perfect pitch for a child.  Singing is part of our family heritage and history.  It is what has been done at family gatherings for generations, so hearing Evan sing and sing so well, really warms my heart.

As you might imagine during these 11 days that I was visiting Evan and his family, there were a few occasions of frustration that were just too overwhelming for Evan. But Evan wasn't the only one that was affected by all the changes in their household.  And on one day in particular when emotions were just a bit more evident than usual, it was Evan who set the tone for recovering from a mishap.

About the time in our car ride when tension was high and all were stressed out, when nothing could be said to settle the situation, Evan began to sing.  "We are family.....we a happy family......."  Evan's voice was the gentleness we needed at the moment.  Evan was the saving grace.  Evan was the blessing we all needed to snap us out of frustration and into the joy of why we were together - for the love of our children.

I haven't stopped thinking about Evan's gentle voice that afternoon.   There have been some tense moments in my own life, now back at home and participating in small town life. Evan's song has inspired me to stop my own frustrations and remember that little child's voice singing "we are family.....we a happy family"  Even if my rough moments aren't about family conflict, I recall the easing up I felt with his voice, which reminds me to let go and stop trying so hard to make things work out.

Evan.....you are an inspiration to your grandmother....even at nearly 3 years old.  And I thank God for you, for your innocent singing that day, and your sweet self!

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Though I enjoy hosting tea at my home, I took March off, and as much as I enjoyed a break, I really miss all that's involved - choosing the guests, the invitations, the date, the food, the linens, the cups and dishes.  I love it all, and I missed it.  I wasn't ready to end the season.

In April, spring shows its face and though it is slow to come, spring does arrive. Maybe I could host another tea, maybe. Then a lady asked me about the teas I host in my home.  She told me of how she went to England and enjoyed a cream tea.  The look on her face, her smile, just the way she looked when she shared her memory of tea in England, made me realize that she would like to come to tea.  Her comments helped me decide to hold a spring tea. This is for you, Ruth, for new friendships.

Six for tea, minus one meant I could set a place at the table for myself.  I usually eat my lunch before everyone arrives, so that I can focus on welcoming the guests, getting them seated, and pouring the tea as they become acquainted.  My personal trainer has encouraged me to incorporate more healthier choices in my tea party menus, which I have found challenging.

  But since I am now eating entirely different than ever before, not just dieting, I knew it was time to do so.  Besides, one of my guests was a new friend from Motions Fitness, where I spend quality time every week.

My color choice was yellow and blue, and though that represents my Scandinavian heritage, I chose the two because  it was April - sunshine and blue sky - and what we all want so much in the spring.

The recipes I chose come from Tea Time Magazine or from Pinterest, two of my favorite places to search for the latest delectable pairings, both of tea and food.  The salad is the combination of two I found on Pinterest, which incorporated vegetables, fruits, avocado and a marinated chicken.  (Good carbs, healthy fat and protein)

The scones are two of my favorites: Cranberry Orange and Whole Wheat Chocolate Chunk.  I've gotten used to making them in advance, freezing them and baking them fresh the morning of the tea.  Mmmmm! Fresh scones!

One of the guests and I had recently talked about how much we loved minced meat.  So I served my homemade mincemeat in phyllo tarts; teapot sugar cookies, and mascerated strawberries with plain Greek yogurt.  

I've accumulated a variety of lady's hats for my guests to wear at tea.   Wendy is wearing a Fascinator, which she found in her many travels.

Deb has a talent for coordinating her wardrobe with many unique pieces, including hats.

 Marilyn chose a hat that we felt resembled royalty.

 Gloria found a hat that brought out the vibrant purple of her suit.

Bringing together two women who had been to tea at my house previously, and three others who may have never met, was a delightful group!   It seems there is never an end to the need we all have for getting a little dressed up, leaving our worries behind, and visiting with others in a peaceful setting. From the latest good reads, and where we've traveled, to sharing tea time recipes and resources, to voicing our concerns for the disasters of the world, our conversations brought us together, now new friends.

It is always such a pleasure to welcome, serve and share an afternoon with every lady who comes to tea at my home.  Thank you!  

Thursday, April 30, 2015


Ladies Night Out at Michigan Made in Harvey, Michigan, was a delightful evening.  Women coming together to have fun and sip wine, a great combination.  Tonight's Ladies Night Out was a fundraiser to send a local cancer survivor to the Walk for Cancer in New York City in the fall.

My new friend Cindy of "Fancy That Vintage" invited me to join her for an evening of painting with a local artist, while enjoying the wine and wearing a Kentucky Derby hat.  I've wanted to paint on canvas for some time, and I already had one of her upcycled vintage hats.

I didn't know till I got there that I already knew the cancer survivor, Tina.  It was great to see her again.

We were fortunate to have Elizabeth Yelland, artist, as our instructor.

 Tina and Liz (Elizabeth)

At first, the ladies were reluctant to try on the beautiful hats, though Cindy and I were wearing ours.

Here I am, modeling one of the many lovely hats, first with a smile and then with a sparkle.

Cindy, of "Fancy That Vintage"

  "Its a Derby party," Cindy said. "Pick out a hat to wear and have fun with it."  One by one, the ladies tried on the hats.  First the pink one, then the yellow one, and it wasn't long and each lady found a hat she liked.  It seemed as though there was a change in their expressions, beyond the smile when they saw themselves in the mirror.  It appeared, to me at least, that once they saw themselves in a hat, their eyes had a sparkle. Cindy explained that she witnesses this all the time.  She noted that people start out by just looking at the hats, then they start sharing their memories of their grandmothers, aunts, or mothers.  It isn't long, she recalled, that ladies start trying them on, and next the smiling and sparkling begins.   

Here are some "sparklers" from tonight's Ladies Night Out.

We each had a blank canvas, two paint brushes, a palette of paint and water.  Very few of the two dozen ladies had painted before, so we started out intently listening to our artist, hoping for step by step guidance on how to make a masterpiece.  It wasn't long and we discovered the artist in ourselves, and learned how awesome it was to create a one of kind original.

It was a wonderfully, fun evening.  An abundance of creativity in one space!  I look forward to painting again soon, perhaps we could paint while sipping tea!  Best wishes to Tina, and thank you Cindy and Elizabeth, and Michigan Made!