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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year, New Focus - One Little Word

Welcome 2018!
Well, here we are, a couple of days into the new year and I am knee-deep in getting my next box out for Dot To Dot Connections. I did most of the work just before the holidays so that I could sit back and just relax with family, but all of the last-minute details have to be taken care of before the box ships out this Friday.

This past year was one filled with grandkids, family and the beginning of my new business.
There were some difficult times, to be sure, but they were overshadowed by the good times, as is often the case.

The last holidays of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, were spent with family, which is pretty much my favorite way to spend any day. Carmelle, Chad and the kids came in for Thanksgiving and instead of squishing everyone into my tiny dining area, the weather cooperated and we had our feast outdoors in the backyard. Jordan fried a turkey for us, and I made all the trimmings.

One of the ladies from my Sunday School class joined us and it was such a nice time to remember all of our many blessings and enjoy each other's company.

For Christmas, all of Ron's kids and families were able to come to our house for the first time ever. I regret that I never got a photo of everyone, but I got a couple of so-so pictures of his kids.
This time it was too chilly to eat outdoors, so we just set up an extra table and enjoyed the meal crowded together.
There was plenty of food eaten, games played, "snowballs" thrown and new toys tested.
The day after Christmas, Ron, Dan and I headed to Georgia to meet up with Jana, Callie and their families for a few days.

We rented a wonderful Airbnb and once again enjoyed exchanging gifts, hiking, train rides and just being together.
The time together is always too short, but I am so grateful for any opportunity to be with family!
January 1st arrived quietly at our house. Along with it came a new focus for me, a new One Little Word to invite into my life this year. This year's word is "Gather". (This wonderful dough bowl was a gift from my dear friend, Debbie.)
In 2018, here are some of the areas I plan to focus on:

  • gathering with friends, especially old friends that I have been missing 
  • inviting people into my home (I have always felt a bit uncomfortable being the hostess, and it is something I really want to work on.)
  • gathering the tools I need to become more organized (even if that means getting rid of things, too)
  • gathering the materials for my business (supplies for my Connection Boxes, accounting paperwork, email addresses)
  • gathering (and keeping on hand) ingredients for healthier food choices
  • gathering flowers from a cutting bed I hope to plant this spring
  • gathering and using veggies from my tiny garden
There are so many exciting things ahead and I have a tendency to try to take on more that I can handle sometimes, but most of the things listed above are things that I am already working on or things that I feel like I am really missing and willing to add, even if it means cutting back in another area. While I LOVE photography, I have generally spend so much time editing photos that I never get around to posting them. I've decided for this year, that I will edit only my very favorites and will post photos on here regardless of whether or not they have been edited. I have also decided to discontinue creating new Instagram challenges. I love taking a photo a day and will continue that practice, but I am going to use the prompts designed by Katrina Kennedy over at Capture Your 365. I'd love it if you joined me!

Friday, December 1, 2017

How To Make an Outdoor Play Space Affordably

For months now, I’ve been pinning outdoor spaces that allow kids to be kids—spaces that spark their imagination through building, playing and even getting dirty. Little by little it is beginning to come together and I want to show you what I’ve done so far. My goals were:

*  create a fun outdoor space where our grand kids can explore and play
*  use materials that can be used in a variety of ways
*  use as many natural materials as possible
*  make it as economical as possible

My first step was creating a mud kitchen. After looking over lots of ideas, I settled upon this picture as my inspiration:
We already had one old tire that we no longer needed (although I am not sure where it even came from), so I wheeled it over to our fire pit area one afternoon and measured the middle hole. Naturally, I forgot to write down that measurement before going to the store, but I found an oil drain pan in the auto supplies at Wal Mart that ended up being a perfect fit. AND, it was less than $3. I some cinder blocks behind our storage building and a piece of wood that used to be part of a pallet wood sign.
Dollar Tree was the perfect place to find a couple of storage baskets and a package of round food containers. I glued the lids on to serve as "burners" for a stove and gathered some old serving utensils that I no longer needed. We put some nails on the fence to hang the utensils.

Once we added a little sand to the water, the real fun began! Needless to say, it hasn't been this neat since!

Next up was a place to build. Tree trimmers have been working in our neighborhood for weeks, clearing branches from power lines. After seeing this stack of sycamore logs in front of an abandoned house, I talked my husband into helping me load a few to bring home.
I liked this wood because of the smooth bark that would be less likely to harbor splinters. I stood a few up to serve as stepping blocks and have plans to get a couple of the smaller ones chopped into smaller pieces for building with.

I love the way this one is organized, but it might be a while before I have something like that in place.
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Lastly, I went on a search for some type of durable road that could be used and stored outdoors. I have some road tape that we use inside from time to time, but it wasn’t at all practical for outdoor use. . . particularly over gravel. I did find one product on the market that was made of some sort of rubber sheeting and was designed for indoor or outdoor use, but it was very expensive and out of my budget for sure.

There just didn’t seem to be anything on the market that fit my needs, so you guessed it: I made my own.

I keep it outside hanging on the fence and the kids have used it regularly for a month now without any signs of wear and tear at all, other than a little dirt on the back. I even made miniature traffic signs that can be kept in the space as well.
This road set has been such a hit with the kids (ages 18 mos. - 11 years)! They  work both indoors and outdoors and can be arranged in a variety of ways. Another great thing about them is that they are wider than your typical "road tape", allowing for vehicles of different sizes.

I will be adding some road sets to the shop in the next couple of days, just in time for Christmas. If you hop over to my business blog, Dot To Dot Connections, you can sign up for email updates that will let you know when new products are added. You can also follow me on Instagram at both @Lsperki and @DotToDotConnetions.

I still have a few things I'd like to add to the space - perhaps some musical instruments, buildings for the streets and an art station - but, for now, I am certainly enjoying laying in our hammock with the kids play!
Thursday, November 30, 2017

December Instagram Challenge 2017

It is December again and a time that is filled with picture-worthy moments. I have rounded up some prompts for the month that should be fairly easy to capture.  Be sure to use the hashtag #MTMerryAndBright2017 when you post your pictures. I am looking forward to seeing how you celebrate the season!

I think that this will be my last set prompts for a while. I still plan to take a picture-a-day, but want to take a break from creating the prompts. I am looking at a couple of different options and would like your opinion as to which you would prefer:

* Select an overall "theme" for the month and let my photos reflect that them in some way
* Participate in some of the other prompts that are out there, such as those from The Idea Room  , The Wonder Forest, or another site.
* Join Katrina Kennedy's photography prompts which are sent out each week via email
* Each person do whatever suits them

Which would you prefer??

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

StoryWorth - A REALLY Great Gift

I have lots of new posts in the works, but before I complete them, I wanted to let you know about a wonderful gift I received for my birthday. I have had a subscription to StoryWorth on my "wish list" for a while now and was so excited when Jana and Callie (and their families) gave it to me for my birthday!! Granted, I have only been a part for a couple of weeks, but I already LOVE it!

Each week for a year, question prompts are emailed to you. You can respond to the question either by simply hitting reply and typing your story, or calling a number to record your response. The questions can be chosen by the person who gifts the subscription, or StoryWorth will send random questions to you --- questions that you might never have thought to share with your loved ones. Your responses are then emailed to the giver or others that you choose. And the best part . . . at the end of the year, all of your responses are printed and bound into a keepsake book!  Isn't that awesome!!!

Here's a look at my most recent email prompt. You can write as much or as little as you like.

If you are stumped by a question, you can choose a different one, so there really is no pressure to divulge anything you are uncomfortable with. You can edit your responses at any time during the year and even add photos! What a wonderful way to share your story with your children, grandchildren or other loved ones!

I am so excited by this gift that I want to tell everyone about it! It would be such a great gift this time of year, especially for that person who is so hard to buy for. It could even be a great secret project that you work on to complete for someone special! If you are interested in getting this awesome project started, just click on this link for a little savings. I can hardly wait to see what next week's question is about!!

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