Show off your Patriotic Style – Easy Last Minute Ideas


Tomorrow is the 4th of July~ I love patriotic decorations, always feel proud when I see the American flag waving in the wind and have never met an apple pie I didn’t like.

The 4th of July is the juicy center of summer, book ended by Memorial Day and Labor Day. And where we go to celebrate the 4th, you dare not come without at least a t-shirt in red – white or blue.

Now that I work outside of the home at a winery in addition to my online businesses, I thought I would put together a little last-minute round-up for anyone who wants to looks like they put a lot of  thought and energy into the day but just didn’t have a lot of extra time.

First of all my Go to picnic potluck dish is a patriotic trifle bowl dessert. I love trifle desserts because they are easy and delicious. But they also add instant seasonal ambience to the table if you do a themed one.

Patriotic Red White and Blue
Patriotic Trifle Dessert

I have adapted my recipe from the more time-consuming and higher in calorie content ones, since I am working hard at a lifestyle change.


  • Fresh Angel Food Cake (I get store-bought in the bakery)
  • Cool Whip
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries

Thaw your cool whip, wash your berries and allow them to dry and then tear the angel food cake into bit size pieces.

From there you just layer. I admit my first attempts although they tasted just as good then as they do now, did not come out picture perfect. And that’s okay. But I recommend taking your time and having clean paper towels near you. This way when you are layering in between the cool whip, when it smears you can wipe it down to make it pretty.

But remember this is supposed to be an EASY and QUICK recipe so don’t stress. I promise your family will ask for this over and over again regardless if there are some smudges.

Is your family picture ready for the 4th? Other than jeans or denim shorts, we usually forget about this part. No problem. If you have an Old Navy near you – They have you covered! These are usually very inexpensive and readily vailable because a couple of years ago we bought some on the way to the picnic. No Old Navy near you? It’s okay WallyWorld usually has very inexpensive T’s as well for your whole tribe. Grab them and change in the car…. No one will be the wiser, they will think you have been planning for weeks;)

Old Navy Patriotic T 2017

And how about some adult beverages? I think any hostess would appreciate red white and blue gift in the form of wine . I suggest, Blueberry, Strawberry or Merlot and a nice White Moscato.

Summer is about enjoying time with friends and family. I hope one of these easy little tips will help you do just that with no worry:)


How to Start your Weight Loss Winning Streak


It’s been 4 weeks since I decided to make a lifestyle change.  And each week I have weighed in, I have celebrated a weight loss.

I am not bragging. But on this weight loss journey I want to enjoy all of it because I know eventually I will hit a plateau or I might even have a gain (gasp).

Winning Weight Loss Streak


This week, I  am super happy to share that I hit my first goal, which was 10 pounds!  I had my mind-set on 10 pounds for the first month. I felt like I could do it, even though  I  “heard” not to expect it because the biggest losses happen in the first 2 weeks. But this is my journey, so I put what I “heard” aside and believed I could.

She Believed She Could – So She Did

Obviously what I have been eating or not eating and how much I have been moving is affecting my weight loss. But this week I want to give credit to the scale. Why would I want to give credit to the scale? It is  possibly the most hated inanimate objects on the planet. But I believe it helped me achieve my 4 week goal. How did the scale help me? I was able to schedule a date with it on the same day and time each week. I don’t like to get stood up, so I showed up ready to be accountable for the number:  good, bad or the same.

So if you are just beginning a new lifestyle change, before you plan a menu or join a gym, I encourage you to pick a day and time of the week that works for you to be accountable to yourself. And if you are like the majority of people, a buddy or partner that you can be accountable to. This makes everything more fun and the success rate is higher with a friend. I am lucky, I have my mom~

But whatever you do schedule your date with the scale!

weigh-in stickers Erin Condren Life Planner


Okay, so now that I have blown virtual confetti all over myself because the numbers look good. I have a confession. I don’t notice a difference in the mirror yet. And I am not sure if I can feel it either. Are my jeans easier to button of did I just not wash them yet this week?

So, as an encouragement to myself I am sharing a visual image of what 10 pounds of fat looks like! And I hope it will encourage you as well. If you are just beginning. I have a visual of my first week, 3.4 pound weight loss that will hopefully motivate you to see each pound counts:)

10 pound weight loss
10 Pounds of Fat

So in closing,  If you are already on a journey and are have a success story to share or a struggle you need some support with, or if you are just playing with the idea of starting; Join Me. I would love to hear your thoughts, feel free to share in the comment section. And have a great weekend. Be kind to yourself.

What’s on your Summer Reading List?


It’s summer!

Is reading part of your vacation, stay-cation or time relaxing on the back porch?  If it is, what is on your list and how did the  brilliant tradition of summer reading become a part of your plans?

summer reading and wine
Summer Goals

Each year since our 16-year-old son was born, we have been a part of our library’s summer reading program. I could talk for hours about how special that time was for us. Instead just know,  I believe if you are a parent to young children, it is one of the best things you can do with them and for them.

Things have changed  since our kids were small. They are now 13 and 16. Story time on a blanket with the librarian with bubbles and crafts is no longer part of summer reading, but, our kids still enjoy going and picking out books.

I have enjoyed reading since I was a child. When I was in 4th grade we lived in a town that didn’t have a library and so the “book-mobile” would come and visit. My grandma took me, She always checked out a bag of mysteries. And as for me, that was  the year  I discovered Judy Blume.

Summer Reading
Vintage Judy Blume Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret

I started college in the summer and remember buying Alice Walker’s “Possessing the Secret of Joy” and reading it in my dorm room. Reading Alice Walker, inspired me to read Toni Morrison. And that lead to me finding one of my all time favorite story tellers – Zora Neal Hurston.



So trying to lead by example and doing my best to keep our tradition going this year…  I made my own summer reading list.

And my first book was delivered to our door this week. I have already dove right in. I have read all of Amy Tan’s other books and she is like an old friend. When I opened up the book, it felt like we picked up right where we left off.

Here are some of my favorite books from the past. I think summer reading should be for pleasure, no self help, no business books, no trying to get ahead. For me it is a time to let me mind take a vacation. Any of these will fit that bill.

Favorite Vintage Books


Looking for extra incentives to get your kids reading this summer?

Barnes and Noble is giving away a free book to each kids that participates in the summer reading program.

Pizza Hut, who offer’s “book it” all school year, has some special free activities for kids this summer.

And if you love old fashioned, vintage books that you won’t find in your big box store. Here are a few.






Lifestyle Change


It’s been about 2 weeks since I decided to make a real lifestyle change. With summer temptations being all around me I started to map out a plan. And I also committed to sharing how it was going; good or bad. And so far; I think it is going well.

In my first week I was down 3.4 pounds and while that doesn’t seem like a lot compared to what contestant’s on the Biggest Loser drop in the first week. I remind myself, that this journey is not a competition with anyone else

AND 3.4 pounds is the same as 13 sticks of butter!

lifestyle change


And more butter



ALL of this PLUS 1 more stick of butter.. GONE!

Nothing to complain about.







What has my lifestyle change included so far?

  • I used my Fitbit everyday to see how much I was doing and  I joined a friendly challenge to keep me motivated
  • I ate fruit. I ate a ton of fruit. Every morning started with watermelon or bananas
  • I took my tall water bottle with me everyday to work and I finished it
  • I joined a group to keep me accountable
  • I enjoyed my glass of wine each night


My most challenging times this week have been:

  • On day 2 my husband called and offered Philly cheese steaks – I declined and had a left over chicken salad
  • My dad and my husband were trying out the new smoker with ribs!!! I didn’t avoid them, I just didn’t have the brown sugar or Coke rubbed and marinated on mine
  • The hardest moment was on our youth group Pot Luck last week – I was setting out ALL of the home baked brownies, cookies, cakes and more. I the past this is where I would cave and say, “well it’s okay I will only have 1.” This time, no. I started to several times but changed my mind. I had extra fruit and counted out the actual serving size of the tortilla chips and salsa. And I felt great after making that choice. There was as much joy in overcoming that challenge as there would have been in eating the brownie!

Somethings I have enjoyed in my new lifestyle change

  • Fresh Fruit (there is no better time of year)
  • Salads with protein – grilled chicken or taco meat –  I enjoy my salad dressing
  • Lots of chilled water
  • Sweet and Salty Granola Bars from Nature’s Valley
  • Walking our dogs more – and they like it too



Luckily,  I have not had the desire to go and buy a bunch of junk food. I believe this has more to do with my body enjoying the natural sugars in the fruits more and not craving them, rather than me having strong will power. These past 10 days I have been feeding my body what it was meant to have. I also think not being on the computer for work as many hours in the day has helped with my cravings a lot. I am not seeing all of the advertisements and dare I say… all of the tantalizing food recipes on Pinterest.

If you know you want to make a lifestyle change, or are already on your journey; Jump in!  Follow along with me and let me know in the comments how it is going for you.



Dirty Old Mirror? Make it shine


What makes an old  mirror so cool?

Vintage Mirrors
Old Mirror Collection

They come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Old vintage mirrors can be elegant, like the floor length in a ladies bedroom or the ornate ones above a beautiful buffet. When I was a wedding photographer, one of my favorite moments to capture was a bride in the mirror before the ceremony.

They can be spooky like the ones in the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. I admit this is one of our “must do’s” every time we visit. We can’t wait to see who is in the mirror with us. Creepy right?

Old Vintage Antique mirrir
Disney Haunted Mansion Mirror

It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. And I wonder if that is true, does it mean that we can look deeply within ourselves while gazing at our reflection in the mirror?  I am usually doing a quick check or trying to “fix” something specific while I am in front of the mirror. I don’t know that I have ever looked deeply into my own eyes…

I put this post together because I want to show you a trick that worked for me when I was trying to clean an old vanity mirror. It had some foggy areas and some gunky areas. I tried glass cleaner. I rubbed hard, tried saturating it more with what is supposed to be blue liquid magic. But it wasn’t working. I looked up some old “wives tricks.”

What you need:

  • a dirty old mirror
  • paper towels
  • glass cleaner
  • regular old shaving cream (the new magic ingredient)

Step 1 : Clean the mirror with regular glass cleaner. It’s safe to assume you already tried this and it didn’t work and so you have come here for help. Can you see the gunk in the corner? It is a residue of some kind. Possibly from furniture polish over the years when the previous owner was cleaning the wood vanity.

dirty old mirror
How To: Clean an old Mirror


Step 2: Squirt regular shaving cream onto the affected area. I used Men’s Nivea gel because that is what we had. I got carried away and squirted enough to do a floor length mirror I think.

Step 3: In a circular motion buff the area. If you added to much don’t worry. Have some fun rubbing it in. Add a clean paper towel as needed. The more you swirl the paper towel around, the cleaner you will see it is becoming. Make sure you remove all of the shaving cream. Please note there were some little pieces of residue that didn’t come up while I was polishing with the paper towel. I found that the shaving cream had loosened them and I was able to lift them with my fingernail.

Step 4: Spray with the blue glass cleaner and do a final shine.

Just a little PSA: I am not an expert and I cannot guarantee this will work for you. But it worked for me. If you have an expensive heirloom or high value piece, consider taking it to a professional. This is just an easy DIY Old Mirror cleaning tutorial to try in a pinch.

Summer Temptations


When was the last time you felt the urge to make a “lifestyle change?” Maybe it’s now. Or maybe you have already made a change and succeeded. Maybe you tried and fell down and it’s time to get back up again.

lifestyle change
ME doing the “mom hide” at our son’s recent NHS induction

I am a mom of 2 teens and through out the years I have been fit and unfit physically. Hiding from the camera has been a lifestyle for me. Being a photographer has made that easy. At this point in my life with our kids getting closer to graduating;  I am tired of hiding and I want to feel my best. I talked to my Dr.  and he told me something I have heard before but cast off as cliche’.

“Don’t go on a diet, make a lifestyle change.”

How do I make a lifestyle change and where do I start? What will be my motivation? I am not sure yet.

I can tell you what this lifestyle change is not:

It is not a competition with anyone else
It is not to be a tough mudder or a spartan
It’s not about trying to be the size I was in highschool
It’s not for anyone but me 🙂

I could get mad at myself for not taking care of this on New Year’s Day~

Most people worry about gaining weight over the Christmas holidays. There are so many cookie trays, appetizers, cocktails and full course meals; if you participate in all of the party’s, it’s almost impossible to not gain weight. I don’t know anyone that would choose to make a lifestyle change during the holidays. But I do know lots of people who try on New Year’s day.

Personally, I stopped trying on New Years. I learned through experience and disappointment that I wouldn’t hang in there.  And, I am not alone in failing. Did you know 80% of people quit by February?

So why now?  Summer temptations are the hardest for  me.  I love the casual dining atmosphere with friends and family. We do lots of backyard campfires and camping during summer  they always include drinks, smore’s and other goodies to snack on while we chat into the evening, staring at the glow and inhaling the smoke. It’s a magical concoction.

This is the delicious breakfast I made when we were camping last week.

Raspberry French Toast Camping Style in Foil Packet


Cook outs and BBQ’s are tied for first place with camping and fires. Unlike Christmas parties that have a relatively short window to hang out and eat.  Summer cook outs can last all day and into the evening. Going back for 2nds and even 3rds is the norm at summer get together’s. Sometimes more meat even gets thrown on the grill.

Cook Out BBQ

BUT,  summer also offers the most opportunity to be outside; walking, hiking, swimming, kayaking, shooting and geocaching.

I am looking for YOUR suggestions and experiences. Have you ever made a real lifestyle change and if you did? Were you successful? What changes did you make? Do you avoid temptations or give in to them? I would love to get a conversation going.

Things I have done so far

  • charged the Fitbit, I have the Alta ( if you use one, let’s connect for some challenges)
  • have a proper water bottle and got some essential oil drops for in it (grapefruit)
  • looked at my local YMCA class schedule (I need to write the times in my calendar)
  • made the decision to prepare 75% of what we eat (I need to make a grocery list)
  • decided 2 times per day even if it is only long walks
  • researched the term lifestyle change – “Lifestyle changes are a process that take time and require support

So at least once a week, I will be checking in here to share how it’s going. Good or bad.

I am truly looking forward to hearing your successes and struggles. What has worked and what has not.

A Union and Confederate Love Story


The Notorious Mrs. Winston. I just put it down. And when I did, I was sad that it was over. It has been a long time since a novel has swept me away so hard. Written by, Mary Mackey this really is a Union and Confederate love story. But it is so much more.


A Union and Confederate Love Story
The Notorious Mrs. Winstons

How did I get caught up in a true love story when I am turned off  by even the cover of a “romance book?” Traditional romance books plaster the walls in new book stores and the ones in the used book stores all look like they have been read a 100 times. I mean how would you even choose one, the covers are all so similar? I don’t know. And in all fairness;  I’ve never actually read one. In our town when people take them to the used book store they usually have a giant paper bag filled to the top. Millions of people love them And if you are one of them,  I found something you might need to treat yourself to this summer  for reading by the pool…

summer reading gift
Trashy Romance Chapstick BookishSerendipityCo

All that being said about romance books, I was really surprised how much I loved this one! It is action packed, sexy  and romantic. A Union and Confederate love story.

So let’s get to it. What I loved about this book:

Claire, a strong female character leads the charge of this book. She is beautiful, tough, clever and brave. Claire is also rebellious. She dressed as a male confederate soldier during a huge bloody battle. But it was all in the name of getting her man, John who was handsome, loyal and such a good love talker and maker. I was cheering for them the whole way through. There was also adultery, which I don’t usually  find myself applauding; but Claire was abandoning her husband Henry. In many ways he had abandoned her first by never even taking her to bed.  Henry is an odd and weak  little man and is a background parallel to the story. With genius writing the thorniness of  his presence still adds as much tension as the Civil War taking place between the union and confederate army.


Vintage Civil War


And about Claire being brave, how many women have  you heard of that dressed as men during the civil war to fight for the cause? I admit I needed to suspend my disbelief a wee bit. But honestly, the descriptive and beautiful writing had me so swept up, I didn’t care. And in actuality, there were women that posed as men during the civil war.
Woman Dressed as man during Union and Confederate Civil War
And here is the actual General, John Hunt Morgan depicted in the novel that Claire and John fought side by side with as Confederate Raiders in the book:
Union and Confederate Civil War General
John Hunt Morgan
Something else that intrigued me early in the book was the fact that her husband was an “art” photographer. I say, “art,” because deeper into the book it becomes obvious that his muse may not have been just pursuance of art but more a perversion. He used a large format camera and of course was shooting black and white. It’s intriguing to me because this is how I started as a photographer. Anytime there is descriptive imagery about photography, I am hooked. Below is Edward Weston , master photographer and the first of his kind with the style of still life photograph’s that he made. Some thought were made to look like more than fruit or veggies!
Black and White Master Photographer
Edward Weston
I get excited and inspired just by the mention of some of their names. Most importantly, my dear friend and mentor who has since passed, Jack Welpott. And all the names that come to mind along with his:
Imogen Cunningham, Ruth Bernhard, Edward Weston and so many more. And as I write this and have been searching for some change, I realize how much my heart is beating wildly to get my film camera out.
I am no expert on the Civil War between the Union and Confederate armies. But I can tell you Mary Mackey knows her stuff and she  will transport you with a vibrant and vivid view. And I am thrilled to find out, she has many more books I can add to my list, including The Widow’s War.

Fragrant Memories


Without thinking about, “what is your favorite smell,” What is the first one that enters your mind? Now close your eyes and what’s the first picture that come to you when you think of that scent? Is it something edible? If so, I bet it is something you love to eat. I bet it is something special. Maybe it is something your mom always made or you tasted in a special place. I think of these as fragrant memories.

Some of my favorite smells, my fragrant memories  are: freshly bathed babies, jasmine flowers, dark chocolate and coffee beans.


My Favorite Scents


Why are these my fragrant memories? Freshly bathed babies of course bring back the memory of my own baby’s. The scent brings back the softness of their skin, their round cheeks, chubby legs and moments in time where all that mattered was being present in the moment and looking into their eyes while bathing them. It also makes me remember pajamas with feet and bedtime stories with a kiss goodnight.

Jasmine flower’s bloomed outside my window when I was a child and our family lived in Indiantown, Fl. The smell reminds me of long summer days where I played hard outside with friends and then went to bed with the windows open.

Dark chocolate and coffee beans are both so rich and decadent. They invigorate me and give me a sense of energy. Dark chocolate and coffee are both things I discovered with my husband. They are something we have loved throughout our relationship. At one point we ground our own beans and we still enjoy breaking chocolate off of a brick before bed.

Kona Coffee Puna Cocoa Nibs-Dark Chocolate Bar – 100% Hawaiian Cacao

What is your favorite fragrant memory? Lots of things smell good to me. The salty air at the ocean, the fresh earth and pine in the forest, cocoa butter in sunscreen and play doh. And I could give you a reason why for each.

Why does aroma work so well to preserve memories? Scent is one of our 5 senses. Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch and Taste are all gifts from God. But the Ol Factory has been proven to produce stronger emotions with memory that sight or sound.

Intentional or not, we are creating memories. And while we have the ability to hold on a preserve precious moments through great smells, there is a downside. The same ability to recall happiness and joy through smell, is also true for sadness and trauma. I know there are a few scents from my life that I would rather not smell again. It’s not because they were gross or disgusting. These “auras’s,” just happened to be present during a bad moment.

This really does give us reason to, “Stop and Smell the Roses.”

fragrant memories - rose flowers - bleeding hearts
Shabby Chic Pink Roses Photography

What’s your fragrant memory? I would love to hear it.

Drinking and Collecting 80’s Style


One of the coolest things I remember as a kid about eating out in the 70’s and 80’s were the novelty gifts you could collect. We didn’t eat a lot of fast food when I was little, but when we did, I loved getting a Happy Meal. I remember one Happy Meal container in particular that was green, plastic and round like a space ship. It came with the decals to stick on and decorate yourself. My sister and I set it up for my hamster, Dolly Dimples to play in.

80's novelty
Vintage McDonald’s Spaceship Happy Meal

Looking back I guess we were more of a McDonald’s family when we did eat out because we also had a full set of melmac dishes with Ronald, Grimace and the rest of the gang for the 4 seasons.

Retro Happy Meal Novelty
Vintage McDonald’s Plate 1970s

As an adult I find myself being completely giddy when I find the collectible drinking glasses from the 80’s. The vibrant colors of the cartoon characters always make me smile. A few years back I found a pair of vintage Miss Piggy drinking glasses that I bought for my vintage shop. While they are cute to look at, if you were growing up in that time, they bring back happy memories. Memories of Saturday mornings and simpler  times when cartoons were made for kids!

Muppets Drinking Glass
Vintage Miss Piggy Glasses

And thankfully, some people kept these delightful retro pieces just to look at. Myself, I enjoyed and continue to enjoy using mine.

My sister was a big Care Bear fan and I am sure she would have wanted these if we would have had a Pizza Hut near us.

80's Retro Drinking Glass
Vintage Care Bear Glasses

This is one retro novelty glass that if I ever come across will be all mine. I know it sounds selfish, but IT’S PAC-MAN~

80's novelty
Pac-Man Collectible Drinking Glass

Here is a little round-up in case you are searching for something special:

Thats So 80's



Goulash or Galoshes


Goulash or Galoshes? Have you had either?  I’ve experienced both. To me, the only thing they have in common is the fun swishy sound they make when the words come off the tongue.

Goulash is something my mom cooked often for us growing up. I like it best on chilly nights. It is a comfort food that can go a long way, is affordable and is also a great dish to take to a family in need of a meal. I will share a recipe at the bottom. But this post is about the other swish – the one made with rubber and not noodles.

As a child in the 70’s, I remember one pair of galoshes. They were a kid friendly color, although I can’t remember which one. There was a fun stretchy band that hooked the front closed. We live in Pennsylvania and so I honestly can’t remember if I was wearing them in the spring for rain, or if we were keeping my shoes dry in the snow.

Recently a favorite shopping spot for me, the Nomadic Trading Company, which is actually a large warehouse with antiques, vintage items and salvaged pieces brought in hundreds of pairs of vintage, new in the box Shoes. I bought a few pair for fun to add to my vintage shop. But the pair that caught my eye were called Rubbers! I had never heard that term for shoes and had never seen shoe rubbers that were so styled.

And so, here is my little collection of these shoe covers through out the years.

1940's Galoshes



1960's Galoshes1940’s Galoshes by mollysmuses featuring black strap shoes
So now you know how you can slick up your rainy day fashion with new or vintage galoshes, over shoes, rain boots or rubbers.
And as promised… a goulash recipe. This recipe is very similar to mine, however, I do not add the canned tomatoes and I add bell pepper.
American Goulash