Slice of Life Challenge – March 13 – Epsom Salt Bath Review Part 2 of 3

My Epsom Salt variety review continues and includes several more of Dr. Teal’s Soaking Solutions in today’s blog post.

One of my librarian friends recently purchased a gorgeous wooden bath tray that stretches from one side of the tub to the other. She can rest her book or her Kindle on the shelf and even set her glass of wine on it as she stretches out to read and soak.

I’d been considering making a similar purchase as a way to inspire myself to relax in the tub with epsom salts more often, but when I showed up for toddler time at the library, my friend suggested that I might have to lead the dancing to Tootie Ta that day. Turns out, she’d dropped her heavy wooden bathtub tray on the top of her foot and was concerned she’d broken some bones and couldn’t dance.

I’d broken my own ankle last September, and it suddenly flared up at the thought of dancing. I couldn’t lead Tootie Ta, either ( I missed out, big time). I also concluded I didn’t need the risks of a wooden bath tray. I manage to find my own injuries without help.

I continue to look for ways to relax in a bath, since I’m more of a shower gal, so I’m using epsom salts as a measure of good self-care and experimenting with the variety I like best as I re-condition myself to pause and enjoy more moments and give my muscles the TLC they deserve.

In yesterday’s post, I compared Black Elderberry and Calm Your Mind, and I liked Calm Your Mind best for its citrusy-berry fragrance that left me and the bathroom smelling great! Today, I’m adding more varieties to the mix.

Melatonin Sleep Soak – a relaxing fragrance, and the benefits of this kind of aromatherapy are for real. I did feel far more relaxed as I soaked and smelled the calming bouquet of this mixture. I felt the tide turning a bit on my bathtub outlook when I stepped out of the soak, dried off, put on a soft, clean nightgown and headed bedward to drift off into a peaceful night’s sleep – maybe I could grow to enjoy a bath from time to time, I thought, diehard shower girl that I am.

Relax & Relief with Spearmint and Eucalyptus – in addition to the relaxing component, its fragrance wasn’t overwhelming but was fresh and clean and stayed with me through lunchtime the next day. I kept catching wafts of the scent and thinking that somehow, the soaks stayed with me longer than my soap from the typical morning shower.

Calm & Serenity – this one has rose essential oil and is made with milk protein to help soften and nourish skin. The rose scent is not overpowering but is pleasant and more subtle than some of the other fragrances of the bath salts. For bedtime, this fragrance welcomes relaxation and peaceful sleep. As a child, I used to have a white cotton nightgown with little pink roses embroidered on it, and this reminded me of that nightgown that was my very favorite in the summertime heat.

Glow and Radiance – one of my favorite fragrances in the entire world is fresh orange. It reminds me of winter and summer sunshine all at once. This variety has Vitamin C and Citrus Essential oils and is designed to uplift the mood. As much as I love this bath salt variety, I would recommend this to morning bathtime soakers, which won’t be an option for me until retirement at the earliest. It does tend to awaken, and not to relax.

Cannabis Sativa Hemp Seed Oil with Essential Oil Blend – this one is made from Hemp Seed Oil for intense moisture and white thyme and bergamot “to quiet the mind.” Let me tell you – – the aromatherapy benefit from this blend of scents alone was over the moon stress relieving. It’s completely legal, and while it may carry a Kerouacian connotation, I can assure you that I endorse it only for soaking – – not for smoking! It doesn’t contain any ingredients that would compromise the body or mind or call one’s character into question. What it does do is loosen the worries and stresses; it washes them down the drain, leaving only pleasant scents and a relaxed mind, ready to sleep.

Clarify & Smooth with Witch Hazel, Aloe Vera, & Essential Oils – this one contains aloe vera and Vitamin E to nourish skin. It has a fresh, light scent – – much lighter than many of the other varieties. Since smell is the sense most closely associated with memory, I understand why I like the scent so much. If you’ve ever been five or six years old and opened a new doll with shoes and clothes sewn onto the card in the container and smelled the new plastic, really just inhaled it and inhaled it to smell all the new freshness and excitement of a new toy in the back seat all the way home from the store, this may take you back to that time once you have stepped out of the tub and dried off. That’s the scent that lingers. It brings back great memories of the plastic that wrapped the toys of my childhood.

Today’s favorite in these reviews is the Cannabis Sativa Hemp Seed Oil variety. Maybe it’s because I feel a twinge of preacher’s kid rulebreaking reputation when I soak in it, but it truly did relax me in a way that none of the others did.

Tune in tomorrow for my final 2 reviews and overall favorite epsom salt aromatherapy variety of all the ones I have reviewed, and please share your own epsom salt preferences as well. I’m learning new things about the benefits of epsom salts and welcome all the knowledge and expertise that you care to share!

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for giving writers space and voice

Slice of Life Challenge – March 12 – Epsom Salt Bath Review: Calm Your Mind vs. Black Elderberry

I set out in February planning my daily Slice of Life ideas for March thinking that some odd and offbeat product reviews would be fun – kind of like the kind you read on Amazon, but more comparative in nature and far more honest and down-home authentic. None of this questionable stuff from a “certified buyer” who has been labeled as such in an attempt to disguise the “paid reviewers.” As I was cleaning out the guest bathroom upstairs, I noticed that one of our family guests had left behind a bag of epsom salts, and that’s where the idea was seasoned.

That’s it, I thought. I’ll review bath salts.

I already had a half-full starter bag of Dr. Teal’s Calm Your Mind Soaking Solution, full of Ashwagandha and essential oils to comfort and destress my mind and help me relax my body, easing any aches and pains I might have. All I had to do was buy a few other varieties and begin taking baths….and taking notes. One of my goals this year is slowing my pace and relaxing – savoring moments – and so this seemed to be a logical action step toward that end.

Trouble is, I don’t like baths. I’ve never liked them. I run and hide faster than my dog when I hear bath water running, unless I have a muscle ache and need to soak- like the time I visited San Antonio last February and walked all day straight into soreness. I’d stopped at the mercantile on the way back to my VRBO and picked up a bag of straight epsom salts with no pampering aromatherapy additives.

Nevertheless, I placed the order for some additional bath salt varieties and began my quest to discover my favorite bath salt through sensory experiences. I decided to limit my product line to Dr. Teal’s for fair comparison.

Dr. Teal’s Calm Your Mind is a combination of pure epsom salt, Ahwagandha Indian Cherry, and orange and ylang ylang essential oils. I followed the directions – I ran a bath and poured two cups of salts under the running water. Soaking for 20 minutes was out of the question, though. I struggle to sit still for that long – which is part of what I’m working on as part of my self-improvement goal (I still have a little bit of the H in my Attention Deficit Disorder). I might have made it ten minutes at the most – I was bored out of my mind and got out while the water still had steam rising.

My next bath salt experiment was the Black Elderberry with Vitamin D and lemon and sage essential oils along with a superfruit complex. Again, I added two cups of salts and lasted ten minutes in the tub. I’m still working on pausing and enjoying a slower pace, but I honestly don’t know what to do in that tub that could possibly stretch out for 20 minutes.

Between these two varieties, my clear winner was Calm Your Mind. It relaxed me as much as anything possibly can, and it left both me and the bathroom smelling wonderful! It wasn’t too floral-y, but had more of the orange berry fruit scent and was refreshing and mind-clearing. I think the meditation logo on the cover of the bag influenced my favoring that variety. Black Elderberry smelled scrumptious, too, but I couldn’t overcome the desire to pop two pieces of bread into the toaster, slather them with butter and elderberry jelly, and dive straight into a late evening snack once I breathed in the delicious fragrance of elderberry.

I’ll add a few more salt varieties to the mix for more fragrant splashes of cleaned-up living this week. I’m interested in hearing about the varieties of bath additives that you enjoy as I work toward enjoying the health benefits of baths more often!

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for giving writers space and voice.

Slice of Life Challenge – March 11 – What’s in a Name?

I was shopping in Senoia, Georgia (home of The Walking Dead) when I noticed all of the plants in one of the stores had names. I took photographs of the name tags and noticed a pattern – – they were all named for famous black women. I struck up a conversation with the owner behind the counter and learned that this shop was a local black-owned business. I enjoyed an added dimension of discovery as I thought of all the women who were being celebrated. It’s reassuring to see how far we have come as women over the past century, and I cheer minority women who have overcome obstacles and stayed the course all the way to success and smiles behind the counters of the businesses that they own today.

I’m taking this innovative idea of naming my fairy garden succulents, which will be the last picture in the lineup – with a fascinating history of the names that were selected for these tiny front porch gardens. First, here are 6 of the 17 pictures I took in the Greenhouse Mercantile, with links underneath to the women for whom each plant is named:

Harriet Tubman

Oprah Winfrey

Madam C.J. Walker

Condoleezza Rice

Coretta Scott King

Cicely Tyson

Earlier in the week, I shared my succulent garden and asked for help naming my new fairy gardens. Fellow blogger Fran Haley responded:

I would give one of these fairies a name from a baby’s gravestone I first saw when I was a child visiting my grandmother deep in the country (along the old dirt road, you know-). The name: Leafy Jean. I might name the other fairy Lacey Jane. 

I loved the unique sounds of these sweet names with matching long vowels. I named the fairies Leafy Jean and Lacey Jane.

I wondered if I could find out a little bit of information about Leafy Jean, and so I looked on the Findagrave website and found the photo of this headstone for this baby girl “Gone Home”:

I’m betting this is the grave that Fran saw when she was with her grandmother. It’s located in Beaufort County, North Carolina in the Mixon Cemetery. Leafy Jean Wilson was born on a Sunday – Christmas Eve in 1916, two years after the Christmas Truce called between German and British Soldiers during World War II, when they set aside their differences and came together to play a game of soccer, wish each other Merry Christmas in their native tongues, and sing Christmas carols. The Christmas Truce came five months after the war began……and little Leafy Jean was five months old when she died on a Friday – June 22. I wondered at first if Leafy referenced an olive branch, a symbol of peace and goodwill, but looked it up and found that Leafy means “Relief.” In Hebrew baby names, the meaning of Jean is “Gift from God.” It’s a name of French origin, meaning “God is Gracious.” Leafy Jean had a brother named Leon Russell Wilson, who died when he was 1, one day shy of a full month after his sister, and less than a year prior to the outbreak of the Spanish Flu that started in February 1918.

My heart ached for these parents and these precious children.

I knew what I had to do.

I ran upstairs to the toy chest and fished out a few miniature figures. I explained to Lacey Jane that she would be moving to a different container, so we packed her fairy wands, her wishing well, and her other belongings for a journey to a new magical land.

We had to make room for Leon Russell to remain near Leafy Jean.

Thank you, Fran, for the creative names for these gardens. I will think of you as I water them and care for them! I’ll give an update on how they’re thriving on a Slice of Life Tuesday sometime this summer! Perhaps by then I will learn more history about these babies who now have a special place in my heart – and on my porch.

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for giving writers voice and space

Slice of Life Challenge – March 10 – Our Chicks Have Hatched!

A couple of years ago, we had a full-fledged farm – goats, hens, roosters, dogs, cat, pig. Our pig ran off one day, and we sold our goats when I took a different position that would require more of my evenings for a time. When a developer broke ground about a mile down the road and began a dreaded subdivision waaaaaay out here in the country, we experienced an influx of displaced animals – food-freeloading foxes, cunning coyotes, and hungry hawks. One by one, our chickens started disappearing.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a hawk will not go into an enclosed space. That’s a myth. Even with chicken wire across the top of the coop, a determined hawk got in our coop and killed some of our birds. We ended up giving the last few away as an act of mercy until the wildlife on the move finished their great migration through here.

Now that the dust has settled, we aren’t seeing nearly as many predators as we did before. We do have two Great Horned Owls who have taken up residence in our trees and hoot back and forth at each other in the early mornings, but those are the only threats we have observed lately, other than the red-tailed hawks who swoop through to check in from time to time.

“Do you think we could spruce up the coop and try again?” I asked my husband a few weekends ago.

We got attached to our chickens in a way that didn’t happen with our goats or our pig, and we’d found ourselves sitting outside just watching the entertainment unfold every afternoon when we got home from work and would let them out for a few hours. Chickens are funny, and they have definite personalities. Pecking order is no joke.

My husband is a man who loves farm-fresh eggs, Smithfield original bacon, rustic potato bread toasted with butter and elderberry jam, and Eight O’Clock coffee two or three nights a week for supper. So when I’d asked about getting more chickens, I wasn’t surprised by his answer.

“Absolutely,” he replied, without hesitation.

“I’ll call my friend Laura with the Zoom-famous rooster and see if she has any chicks. We can build back from scratch.”

I wanted highly socialized chickens, and I was hoping she’d have some young chicks or some eggs ready to hatch soon. One of Laura’s extra-friendly roosters likes to come into the house and sit on the back of her chair as she is having Zoom meetings, and he is greeted just like he’s a voting executive who has read all of his minutes from the previous meeting and is ready to entertain a motion.

Turns out, Laura had eleven eggs in a brooder, ready to hatch within the week when I called her. She and her husband were going to be candling that weekend to see which eggs would produce. Nine of them hatched on my late mother’s birthday, February 19th. The other two never did.

There are seven hens and two roosters in this group of nine, and Laura texts me weekly updates on them. We can’t wait to bring them home later this month to introduce them to their new coop. For now, they are staying on Laura’s farm while they get a little size on them and we move into warmer days.

Meet our new babies! We can’t wait to bring them home to the Johnson Funny Farm! Get ready for picture overload and naming them once they come home to roost.

The first day I met the chicks at Laura’s house
Laura sends me updates on the chicks from time to time, with pictures to show how much they are growing.

We’ll post plenty of pictures on homecoming day in about a week and a half, so stay tuned!

Slice of Life Challenge – March 9 – A Mini Fairy Garden

Sometimes on weekends, I like to travel one county west to the Pike Nursery in Peachtree City, Georgia just to see their lovely displays and let my mind feast on the presentation ideas. They don’t just toss merchandise on shelves and keep it organized and neat; they arrange it so folks can see the limitless possibilities in the artistry of design. They have stations where everything you need for a project is right there, ready to jump in your buggy if you’re not careful enough to deflect it.

That’s what almost happened to me when I saw these mesmerizing miniature glass terrarium containers suspended from a garden arbor. I wanted all of them and the arbor, too, plus the chains to hang them, and I wanted to move the whole setup into my kitchen and set it up to hang over the table so I could sit there eating a plate of grapes, admiring it.

Instead, I took a step back and reminded myself that I am a killer of plants. Succulents have a slightly better chance than others, and I have managed to keep a peace lily and a philodendron from perishing because my husband notices when it needs watering. But no one from Pike Nursery would be coming home with me to ensure these glass-encased ornamental plants thrived……which meant certain death for the plants.

I took a picture of the terrarium directions and wondered if these same instructions might work for two small succulent gardens to go on my front porch tables. It was worth a shot, so I decided to modify the idea to fit the need instead of installing a glass jungle over my table.

I toyed with the idea of building a couple of Mason jar terrariums again, but I’d tried these before, too, and failed. I couldn’t give up on trying to succeed ~ I just needed to find a foolproof beginner level container garden project.

A garden of succulents had the best shot of living. And I wanted to add some fairies to the mix. I followed the directions on the poster and collected the supplies I needed to create two plant pots for the two coffee tables on the front porch. I selected two containers and an assortment of plants. I also got some pebbles and some potting soil, along with a few fairy garden pieces.

I chose a mixture of colors in the plants – one little pop of color in a cactus, two vibrant green succulents, and two muted gray/green succulents.

I filled each of the containers about an inch full with pebbles from a rock bed in our front yard for drainage.

Then, I added potting soil and loosened the roots as I placed each plant in the container and covered it with soil. I also added a couple of plant food sticks to give them a wish and a hope.

I added some fairies and accessories, including more rocks, to each container.

Then I lightly watered the plants.

With any luck or magic fairy dust sprinkles, they will make it through summer. And I’m already thinking of names for them. I’m thinking Belle or Bella for the vibrant green Bellum Altair, since it sounds Tinkerbell – ish. What other magical fairy-sounding names would you suggest? I’ll share where I got the idea to name the plants and the names of the fairy garden plants in the next few days.

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for giving writers voice and space.

Slice of Life Challenge – March 8 – Mother Nature’s Healing Powers: The Benefits of Ecotherapy

Throughout February, I worked on a plan to involve others in my blogging experiences this month. Today, my sister-in-law, Dr. Bethany Johnson, is my guest blogger on the benefits of Ecotherapy.

Dr. Bethany Johnson

Dr. Bethany Johnson is a professor of Sociology and Cultural Anthropology. She is a writing contributor for several online magazines, including Prime Women and Honey Good. Last summer , when working with @beginningisnow with actress Brooke Shields, she was selected as one of the 40 Most Influential Women Over 40. Currently, she is in the beginning stages of writing a book about losing unnecessary social expectations and rediscovering oneself. Please welcome Bethany today!

Mother Nature’s Healing Ability – The Benefits of Ecotherapy

Have you ever been feeling down, stressed, or just overall not feeling good and then gone outside for a bit only to begin to feel better? It isn’t a coincidence that being outside made you feel better. The answer to many of our physical, emotional, and mental lows can be found right beyond your door.

Ecotherapy is known as the practice of therapy that focuses on being outdoors and in nature. It is also known as nature therapy or green therapy. The term ecotherapy arose in 1992 when Professor Theodor Roszark used it in his book The Voice of the Earth. Many doctors (mostly functional physicians) are now using the connection with nature as part of protocol for getting healthier. Multiple studies have shown the benefits of being in nature. Many may say there is not enough research to validate this theory, however, there are enough examples of it working to make a reasonable connection.

A Dose of Nature a Day:
 Helps lower blood pressure
 Helps control diabetes
 Lowers stress and anxiety
 Rises energy levels, fights fatigue, and increases the quality of sleep
 Reduces depression
 Reduces the levels of ADD and ADHD
 Increases mental focus

Since I began studying the practice of ecotherapy, my experiences outside are so different. Each trip outside brings something different – even when I am in the same place. I now am very purposeful in slowing down and connecting with what is around me. Today, for example, on my walk I saw the bright white dogwood trees, I felt the sun warm my skin, especially my toes (which must have been cold from being inside and I hadn’t noticed until my walk), and off in the distance I heard a woodpecker. While walking, I first smelled something burning … wood. However, the wind shifted and then I smelled fresh cut grass. This is one of my favorite smells in the world and immediately took me back to my childhood living on the farm in Illinois! My walk tomorrow will be a whole new experience, and I can’t wait!

Gaining the benefits from ecotherapy is not difficult. You simply need to make time to get outside! The important aspect of ecotherapy is simply being outdoors and connecting to the natural elements. No matter what you are doing outside, be conscious of the fresh air you are breathing in, the wind or breeze blowing across your skin, the sounds that surround you (this is better if it is sounds of nature and not of human life). Make certain to acknowledge the colors that surround you. Look at the greens of the trees and grass, the vibrant colors of the flowers, the different textures such as the roughness of tree bark but the smoothness of a flower petal. Make certain to engage all four senses: touch, taste, smell and hearing. So, get up and get out!! Enjoy nature and heal your tired body, mind, and soul. Love to all of you!

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for giving writers space and voice!

Slice of Life Challenge – March 7 – All the Magic of Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, Georgia

There is always a (fast-moving) line at this iconic ice cream shop in Savannah, Georgia! It’s worth the wait!

If you’ve ever been to Savannah, Georgia and looked at a list of the top 10 things to do in the historic Georgia city with Spanish Moss draping the Live Oak trees and horse-carriage tours going on from morning until night, then you know that visiting Leopold’s Ice Cream is at the top of the list! Or perhaps you have walked past not already knowing its fame and magic and noticed the perpetual line stretching down East Broughton Street across from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Leopold’s has a unique history, dating back to 1919, when 3 brothers from Greece opened the shop. The place is still an iconic ice cream parlor today, the kind with the classic round tables that make you want to share a banana split or an ice cream float with your sweetheart. The kind of place that brings back memories to every generation alive today and promises continuing traditions for the youngest children.

Saylor holds onto her hat, thinking of what flavor she wants to try!

Every time we travel to Savannah, we make a visit to Leopold’s a priority. When I was recently in Savannah for a Literacy conference, I had the privilege of introducing four of my five grandchildren to all the delights of Leopold’s!

So many choices! Just ordering the ice cream is a unique experience!

When you first enter the shop, you see the servers in their white caps and burgundy aprons, ready to serve you what you probably already know you want – or, to give you a taste of what you think you might like to try before deciding for sure. When I saw the Rose Petal flavor, I decided to be adventurous and check its bloom factor. It tasted exactly like a rose smells, so I ordered a kids’ cup and savored the flavor of this refreshing treat made from actual edible roses.

River enjoys his honey and almond ice cream!

There’s a working old-time Jukebox over in the corner (see it behind River’s head in the picture?) that still plays songs for a mere quarter, and we listened to Chantilly Lace and The Bunny Hop as we ate our ice cream. The songs were made famous by locals or people who visited Georgia (the Johnny Mercer orchestra popularized The Bunny Hop, and the Johnny Mercer Theater is in downtown Savannah at the Civic Center).

Beckham shares his ice cream with his dad
My daughter-in-law Selena chose Strawberry Sorbet
Saylor waits on her peppermint crunch ice cream at the counter
I chose Rose Petal, and it was a unique taste explosion – – made from the essence of rose, it tasted exactly like a rose smells but oddly did not smell like a rose.
Wearing our Leopold’s shirts

Since I always bring home a surprise for my husband when he isn’t able to travel with me, I brought home matching Leopold’s t-shirts to help us remember one of our favorite places to sit and share one creamy confection with two spoons!

And we couldn’t leave out our grandchild who wasn’t able to go to Savannah for ice cream. We celebrated Aidan’s 13th birthday (belated by a week), and he chose Dairy Queen – – another classic ice cream joint!

Cheers for living life to the fullest ~ my hope is that no matter where you eat ice cream or drink coffee or amble along the path, you experience the magic in the moments!

Aidan enjoys a Hot Fudge Blizzard as a birthday dessert! He’s a teenager now!
From Left: Selena, Sawyer, Saylor, River, me, Marshall, and Beckham by the Shrimp Factory on Savannah’s River Street, February 27, 2023

Slice of Life Challenge – March 6 – Seeking Your Suggestions

When Mom died in December 2015, we were blessed that she had shared her final wishes so that her arrangements were smooth for my father, my brother, and me, right down to her favorite hymn at the funeral service – How Firm a Foundation – which, when seeing the movie Emma with one of my daughters a couple of years later, prompted full tears when it started playing. Mom may not have liked that version, but it did the trick to trigger my tender heart.

Her forward planning was a gift of love. Though we were grieved, we didn’t feel frustrated or stressed on top of the sadness. I felt tremendously blessed, because I’ve both seen and experienced the other side of that story, and it often results in severing of family ties and sometimes even behaving in ways that do all but honor the legacy of the dearly departed family member. We didn’t want that.

When my brother, our dad, and I sat down to discuss what would be important to our mother, the first truths were clear: remain a strong family and get along. Spend time together making new memories. Live each day to the fullest. Keeping Mom at the forefront of all of the discussions – as if she were sitting at the table with us, listening in – kept us from focusing on anything other than her wishes. She’d taught my brother and me how to crab and fish at the pier, how to swim at the Sea Island pool, and how to ride our bikes right there on Martin Street back when the world was a safer place. She’d been an active preacher’s wife and had volunteered in our classes at school. The time she spent outdoors enjoying nature on St. Simons Island, Georgia was important to her.

As we talked further, we concluded that for her future generations to continue to experience the places that were so dear to her, perhaps we should consider investing in a condominium that would enable family and friends to stay on the island and visit Dad without his having to prepare for family to stay in his home. All signs seemed to point to acquiring a short-term vacation rental.

We found one that met our criteria: no stairs, good proximity to the village area and beach, a ground floor unit, and maintenance and upkeep handled by an association so that its management doesn’t become a burden.

As we moved into the decorating phase, my brother and his girlfriend called me. “Can you look at the paint samples and tell me which one you like? There’s Swiss Coffee, Snowbound, and Vibrant White.”

Snowbound, Swiss Coffee, Vibrant White

I liked Snowbound. So did they.

He called again. “We’ve stayed in some rentals and so have you. So what are your non-negotiables in how you pick where you stay?”

I thought for a moment, focusing on the simple pleasures of what I enjoy most – which, let’s face it – mostly has to do with eating.

“A Keurig is important. Heavy white dinnerware and quality flatware is important, too. So is a corkscrew. But calming colors, ambient lighting, and sparse furnishings in a place free of clutter are my heart’s desire,” I told him. I love a space that proclaims minimalism and cleanliness and lets me focus on something I don’t feel the need to get up and dust or clean. I also like a list of some restaurant and activity recommendations, and a book that others have signed sharing what they enjoyed while staying there. Fast WiFi is at the top of the list, too, in case I have to do some work while I’m away.

I thought another moment.

“Tell you what,” I suggested. “It’s Slice of Life month, and writers are the best at sharing opinions and helping us see things we may not see on our own. How about if I ask the group what they like when they stay in hotels or rental units and let’s see what they love in a place when they are on vacation – or any ideas they’ve seen along the way?”

“That would be fantastic,” he said.

So today, my family and I are seeking your suggestions: what are your top desired features in a vacation rental?

Slice of Life Challenge – March 5 – A Godiva Chocolate Review

In February, I started thinking about all the interesting ways I might involve others in my blog posts in March for the Slice of Life Challenge. Product reviews were one of the ideas I had, and so I sent products to several of my friends and family members asking them to dive into a fun experience and to share some feedback.

My brother came to mind right away, and since it was Valentine’s Day, I sent him a text:

I considered several brands of chocolate, but landed squarely on the one with a little bit of spicy history in its name. I ordered two boxes of Godiva – one for my brother and one for the woman he loves – and had them shipped to his front door.

No one ever says no to reviewing chocolate.

In February, I introduced my brother and his girlfriend on the blog when he shared a great strategy for deepening their relationship through a game called Let’s Get Deep. I promised in that post that they’d be back in March with a big announcement about their tastes. So here is the announcement: they love Godiva chocolate, and there is a clear winner on the exact piece that they both think is the best.

Their overall winner is the Dark Chocolate Lava Cake Truffle.

They shared their review: “The lava cake’s consistency is good, with a dual filling of a fusion of molten chocolate and decadent dark chocolate, which is representative of our love. It’s our favorite flavor, but also a metaphor of how filled we are with love for each other. Although the name of the candy is over-complicated, it’s a lot like our relationship – an easy, simple, and flavorful experience.”

Long live love…..and chocolate!

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers

Slice of Life Challenge – March 4 – Savoring Saturdays – Coffee with Family in Kentucky

A small-town local coffee shop in Kentucky

During winter break in February, I enjoyed a quick getaway to visit some of my family in Kentucky, where I added a few more coffee shop savorings to my treasured memory bank. Saturday Savorings are really not about the coffee – – they’re about the undivided attention to conversation and togetherness; the coffee state of mind and the coffee shop ambiance are just there to provide the perfect backdrop to enrich the experiences as life steeps and brews. Generally, the savorings take place on Saturdays, but I was blessed with the gift of time that allowed coffee through the week.

A Starbucks in Kentucky

A Starbucks was our first stop (Thursday), where I bought a state mug to “remember when” each time I pour a cup at home. There’s something magical about different coffee mugs that take me back to those times that I cherish with family. Having spent the first years of my life in Kentucky while Dad finished seminary in Louisville, this mug is extra-special! On those non-coffee nights, I like to fill my mug with light vanilla almond milk, pop it in the microwave to heat up, and add a splash of mocha syrup (Jordan’s Skinny Syrups with no calories).

There’s nothing as special as time with family.

A Kentucky state mug to bring me back to the moments spent with family
A family member snapped this photo as I sipped my coffee

Our second savoring was on Friday, where we visited a local small-town specialty shop for brunch and a collaborative word search game. We ordered egg and cheese frittatas, street waffles with brown sugar cinnamon and syrup, and blueberry-almond coffee. The plants in the window, the small-paned windows and old bricks, and the books that support a children’s ministry were among the charming things we admired about the place.

This coffee shop offered an assortment of games and puzzles
Coffee and books…..what could be better??
A street waffle with brown sugar cinnamon and syrup
We had fun finding words together as we chatted
Small-paned windows with plants are the most welcoming kinds of windows!

Saturday Savorings may be one of the best new things of 2023 because they are planned, anticipated, and protected time together – whether I’m with extended family, close family, or alone, whether I’m in a frequently-visited coffee shop at home or one with new unfamiliar charm in another state.

Cheers to all the magic of Saturday morning coffee!

Special thanks to co-authors at for the Slice of Life Challenge this month.