Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Head Versus Heart: Heart Wins

Weighing my decision: head or heart?
You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that says you shouldn't do what your head is telling you to do? Well, my head and my stomach have been battling it out now for months. If you are a naturalized citizen to the blogging world you may have heard of a little weekly feature entitled What I Wore Wednesday, or WIWW. It all started with Lindsey from The Pleated Poppy. She is a homeschooling mom of three kiddos, very busy with her handmade items shop, and is a blogger extraordinaire. She started WIWW to hold herself accountable to not allowing PJ's as a wardrobe choice day in and day out. Many, many people link up with Lindsey's site and participate. I'm talking A. LOT. of people! The people participating to WIWW take pictures of themselves in the clothes they wore throughout the week and post on their own blogs, again, to hold themselves accountable in actually getting out of yoga pants when not actually attending a yoga class.

Now, I will admit, I never miss a Wednesday on Lindsey's blog, but only as a casual observer, never a participant. I am a fan of WIWW and if it helps people, then all the better. Here's where my head and my heart are playing tug-of-war. Participation in WIWW would probably yield a lot more visits to my own site. That's a good thing (head talking here)! Participation in WIWW makes me uncomfortable if I had to take pictures of myself and what I was wearing (heart talking screaming here)! I don't know, maybe it's a California* versus Mid-West thing? I'm not sure. I do not feel this way in the least bit viewing everyone else's WIWW posts because I know it's all in fun and helps serve a purpose. But frankly, for me, I feel I don't have to hold myself accountable in choosing Capri's over sweats each day. And, when it is a sweats day, I don't sweat it. I love you Lindsey, I really do. And, I'll keep tuning in each Wednesday for WIWW. But, I just can't bring myself to do it on my own blog - sorry. I have to listen to my heart and be at peace to be happy. I know you'll understand and not hold it against me all you die hard WIWW contributors.

Did you think I was going to let it rest and blog off into the sunset? Nooooo!

So, here's what I've decided to do. I love the fact that people link up and share so I've decided to introduce my own version of WIWW in a way where I'd be most comfortable and, also what I would find most interesting to me. I'd like to be accountable for constant creativity. I hope you agree.

Are you ready? 

Wait for it, wait for it...

Don't you love it? I want to know what creative people out there are making every week!!! It can be a craft project, it can be a new recipe that turned out dee-lish, it can be a handmade product you sell, anything you want it to be as long as it was made with your own two hands (or your children's of course). I'll be getting a linky tool soon to make linking up really easy for everyone so hold tight, I'm working on it. I am so going to enjoy viewing every one's creativity each and every Wednesday on W.I.M. Wednesday!

So, here's my first installment. It's a recipe I made during the summer that was absolutely flavorful and portable since it accompanied us on so many picnics. I hope you enjoy it!

Roasted Tomato and Olive Salad
inspired by BH&G recipe, August 2011

What You'll Need
2 packages cherry or grape tomatoes, wash and pat dry
3 cups Italian bread torn into bite-size pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup green olives or any other olive you like - my grocery store has a great olive bar where I purchased green olives stuffed with feta cheese
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 baking sheets
1 large bowl for mixing and combining

What You'll Do
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and position one of the oven racks to upper third of oven
- Arrange tomatoes on one baking sheet in a single layer
- Place torn bread in large bowl and drizzle 3 Tbsp. olive oil over bread and toss to coat
- Place oiled bread on second baking sheet in a single layer
- Roast tomatoes on upper rack and bread sheet on lower rack for 20 to 25 minutes
- Stir once, check often as to not burn the bread
- In a large bowl whisk to combine remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper
- Add to bowl the roasted tomatoes, toasted bread, and all olives

What You'll Need to Know to Finish
Toss the combination of ingredients gently in the mixing bowl and transfer to a serving bowl or storage bowl if heading out to a picnic. If you are watching your carbs simply omit the torn pieces of bread.

I'll have a Linky Tool soon so get working on your creations to share with the world! I can't wait for more W.I.M. Wednesdays, interested?

*Two bloggers I follow like a religion are both from California: Lindsey and Lisa Leonard - both participate in WIWW and I love their posts. Like I said, love seeing others, just can't bring myself to do it. Love you guys - xoxoxox

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning from Children

One week ago today my son started 4th grade at a new school. He entered the school as a new student knowing practically no one. My son left behind buddies he's known since kindergarten to start a new journey. We're sacrificing a lot for my son to one day graduate from the same school my husband graduated from years ago. Aside from the financial sacrifice, I know I won't get pity because it is our choice every day I drive my son to school and pick him up, totaling 2 hours each day. Everyday during that drive we talk and talk and talk. I want to make sure he's handling the transition well. What I've discovered is how much my son has taught me about facing change and not being fearful of something new, even when you enter it alone. I know he's never really "alone" but since we're not glued to his hip while he's at school, we can only support him through telepathy at best during the day. 

His courage this past week is commendable and yet, completely expected if you know my son. He never shows his fear and he takes a positive perspective on the unexpected. I want to declare my admiration for his bravery and unyielding sense of adventure. I am so proud of his fearless spirit and, if I work at it, maybe I'll grow up to be more like my son someday.


My son's school had a ribbon cutting ceremony before school started for the new Early Childhood Learning Center (grades PreK to Kindergarten) that they renovated during the summer. To help introduce him to other students, I had my son participate in the choir singing the day's theme song. Although the song was written in honor of the new Early Childhood Center, I thought the song's words befitting for my own son because, as a new student at the school, this too is his new beginning. I share those words with you and hope they carry you through any new beginnings you may be experiencing.

A New Beginning
Music by Jacobson/Emerson

Dawn! A new Day! A fresh start! Together.
Light! The first light! Connections forever.

Fueled by a passionate spark;
Bound by a beacon of hope...

Led by the joy in our heart
To the start,
To the start.

A new beginning
Will start today.
A chance to change and learn and know
A better way.

A new beginning
Will start with me.
We'll find a way each day to change our destiny.
A dream that everyone can share and
See the light from everywhere.
A new beginning
Starts today!
Good luck to all the kiddos out there as they embark on a new school year! Any "new beginnings" in your life you'd like to share?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gratitude Journal Monday

Can you believe the color variation of this flower?
Join me in another declaration of gratitude, as today is Marvelous Monday! Are you wondering what Gratitude Journal Monday is all about? Click here to get the 411. Are you ready to think of your next 5 declarations? Here are mine...

36. I am grateful for time. Some times it's stolen from me, but more often than not it teaches me and blesses me with wisdom and patience.

37. I'm grateful for the line I love in the movie Shawshank Redemption that begs a choice be made: "get busy livin' or get busy dyin'?"

38. I am grateful for hope. Hope always sees the good and positive side and tirelessly gets us past the present and catapults us into a better future.

39. I am thankful for my college education degrees. I may not be practicing engineering or using my M.B.A. in the traditional sense, but the journey has shaped me into the person I am.

40. I am so appreciative of my gal pals who help me when I need them and support me when I want to do creative craft projects. Thanks for participating guys!!! (Project details coming soon in a future blog post: stay tuned!)

Comment any thoughts of thankfulness you are feeling today.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 9.

Goodbye morning mist of dew greeting us each morning.
Goodbye first day of school jitters.
Goodbye trying to figure out what to do with myself each day.
Goodbye figuring out the carpool line; it's old hat by now.
Goodbye ice cream truck treats for dessert.

Hello camping-themed birthday party that will last late into the night.
Hello date night with super-hubby at a local vineyard.
Hello figuring out my new photo tent and how it's supposed to help me take awesome pictures.
Hello slow-moving photo shoot for my jewelry in my Etsy shop
(opening soon!!!).
Hello realization that I'll always have a to-do list, no matter how many cross-offs I make in a day.

The lesson I learned this week is more like a rule of life. If anything is worth having, worth doing, worth one's time and energy to accomplish, then a sacrifice, not a compromise, must always be made. People are scared of the word "sacrifice". It sounds so painful. The word "compromise" seems so much more pleasant to both parties, now doesn't it? But if you're always compromising, it means you're only getting half of what you really deserve. Is that what you want, half? I'd rather get all of what I want some of the time than half of what I want all of the time. The gain always comes after the give. It's just the way it is; accept it. Some times the sacrifice is time, sometimes it's frustration or having to do something you don't want to do or stepping out of your comfort zone. But if you're willing to make the sacrifice for the betterment of a situation, another person, or one's self, the reward will be paid back in double measure. Double for your trouble is the prize from the hardship and that realization is the steam in my locomotive that keeps me chug, chug, chugging away to get over that big ol' mountain top.

Did you have to climb any mountains this week? Did you compromise or sacrifice to get over to the other side? The choice is in the result you want. Keep chug, chug, chugging!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Winner! of a LOVD {Giveaway}

Thank you, thank you dear, sweet readers for participating in this LOVD Dazzle gift card giveaway! Your time for entries is greatly appreciated and I'm so excited to announce the winner of the Dazzle gift card.

All entries were considered including Comments, Feed subscriptions (verified or not), Facebook "Likes" on Dazzle's page, and Google Followers. And the winner is...

Comment #8 from Pam 
Pam said..."Love your blog! It's very uplifting and a great way to start the day! Dazzle shopping sounds like fun. :)" August 24, 2011 3:09 PM

So, Pam, here's what you have to do to claim your prize. Just e-mail me your address by Friday, August 26th and I can send it out to you in a jiffy! My e-mail address is

Congratulations and happy shopping at Dazzle!

Thanks and gratitude to Dazzle of Chagrin Falls for donating the gift card for the LOVD giveaway.
LOVD jewelry is available for sale at Dazzle.
Winner was randomly chosen by the computer using a random number generator. No human manipulation occurred in any way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Boys of Summer

 I hired this remarkable, extraordinary teen to work with my son on baseball fundamentals this summer. He's on the local high school's baseball team and he completely breaks the stereotype of a "typical teenager". He showed up on his bike at our house twice per week, ready with patience and punctuality, to teach my son throwing, pitching, hitting, (and the secret baseball handshake).
Secret baseball handshake - shhh!
He's friendly, ambitious, confident but humble. When I talk with this kid I hear common sense, level-headedness, and clarity that is so refreshing to see in today's youth. He gives me hope that the next generation does have something to offer just writing that I feel like an old geezer. He dispels all the bad of typical teenage roles we so often see and squirm at on television.

He not only gave my son a better swing, throw, and catch, he became my son's new friend, mentor, and someone to look up to and say "that's the kind of teenager I want to be someday". Whether you like it or not, Mr. Teenage Athlete, you are a role model. Recognize that your actions are watched from afar by parents, friends, teachers, and yes, even little boys who know the difference between bad and good.
Thank you for the best baseball summer ever!

I believe fundamentals are the seed in helping to build a strong foundation for nurtured growth; so does an unexpected, but completely welcomed, friendship between two boys of summer.

Would you ever consider hiring a teenager to work with your child if they are particularly awesome in a specific area and you know your child would benefit from their teachings? In what areas?

You have until 11:59 pm PST tonight to enter!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A LOVD {Giveaway}: Dazzle Gift Card

I cannot contain my excitement; I am bursting to announce my first giveaway (I'm hoping the first of many). To celebrate the first day of school, I am so thrilled to offer my sweet, beautiful readers a chance to win a gift card from Dazzle in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. I wrote about this adorable little shop for girls a month ago. Click here to read all about Dazzle. Missy and Marcy, the wonderful co-owners of Dazzle, have given LOVD a $10 gift card to give away to one of you lucky ducks and winning couldn't be easier.

Not just for tweens and teens...precious baby stuff, too!

All you have to do to enter to win is do any or all of the following
(as many times as you want)
1. Leave a comment on today's post. How to leave a comment if you don't blog? No prob.
a. Click "Comment" at the end of this post
b. Type your comment in the "Leave your comment" box
c. Enter the word verification
d. Choose "Name/URL" as your identity if you don't know what the other choices are
e. Just put your name (or what you want to go by) in the Name Field
f. You don't have to put anything in the URL field - when the winner is picked, they'll have to claim the prize by e-mailing me on Thursday
g. Then click "Publish your comment"

2. You can also enter by entering your e-mail address to receive LOVD posts by e-mail
Do you see that field to the right and down a little ways? Those already subscribed are automatically entered to win!

3. You can visit Dazzle's Facebook page and "Like" them but you have to leave a comment that says "LOVD sent me!"

4. And finally, if you have a Google account you can Follow me! You'll find that in the right hand column, as well!

1. You can do any of those actions above as many times as you would like or have the time for

2. Every action counts as an entry

3. You only have until Wednesday, August 24 at 11:59 pm Pacific-time to enter; no comments or actions will be considered for entry after that time

4. Comments that are disparaging will not be considered and will be labeled as SPAM

5. The winner will be announced on Thursday, August 25th's post - YOU MUST CHECK BACK ON THAT DAY TO SEE IF YOU WON - the winner will have to then contact me via e-mail to claim their prize so I may send the gift card to a mailing address

6. Each comment and action will be assigned a number and a computer will randomly choose a number signifying a winner

7. Good luck and get busy!
Dazzle carries LOVD jewelry glass pendants

Mom may even find something for herself!
If you won the gift card would you buy something for yourself or someone else? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gratitude Journal Monday

Monday, Monday, are you down? Try starting a gratitude journal and your days will be uplifted and inspired for the rest of the week! Not familiar with a Gratitude Journal? To get the lo down, click here. Not only does it make you feel good about your life, but it also attracts even more good into your life, seriously. I don't know how, I don't know why, but it does. Attitude is everything and a positive one attracts positive things. I hope you begin your Gratitude Journal today!

When it come to gratitude nothing is off limits so thank away!

 31. I am grateful to ClassyChaos. Your comment last week on one of my posts spurred on some great conversation and in some small way, I think my words encouraged many. Thanks for the opportunity to reach out to others.

32. I am grateful for the new chapter in our lives as my son embarks on a new adventure where his knowledge and character will grow and be nurtured.

33. I am grateful for all the new families we met yesterday as we embrace them and join our new community, our home away from home.

34. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom). I know it doesn't work for everyone but, by His glory, it completely works for us. I've never been more at peace with my decision as I am right now.

35. I am grateful to all the doctors and researchers that dedicate their lives to finding cures for diseases, discovering new medicines, and studying human behaviors that make our lives better everyday by their dedication and knowledge.

Join me in an attitude of gratitude by commenting some of your thoughts of thanks. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 8.

Goodbye staying up late.
Goodbye sleeping in.
Goodbye swimming until wrinkly.
Goodbye carefree days filled with play and fun.
Goodbye simple and sweet summer break.

Hello 6:00 am alarm (with snoozing just once, I promise).
Hello new school.
Hello new friends.
Hello adventure and discovery of thy self.
Hello welcoming the giddiness and excitement of it all.


 This week I learned you don't have to spend a lot of money or go on even one vacation getaway to have the "best. summer break. ever.", as labeled by my son. Maybe he's easy to please, I don't know? The one vacation getaway we did have planned, we ended up canceling. Officially, we did not "get away" this summer, unless you call driving 2 miles to the community pool as "getting away", but the simplicity of this summer's activities made it the sweetest, easiest-going, summer break, ever! This finale of a week capped off the summer: playdates, picnics, golf, swimming, just hanging out with friends. Being able to appreciate that kind of simplicity is like capturing summer in a jar!

How are you capping off your summer?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Discovery of You

Are you who you ought to be? Have you met your "real" self? Are you getting a little nervous as to where this post may be going? Perhaps you don't want to think about it. Perhaps you feel you could be more than you are even if you currently are wonderful and awesome but situations and circumstances force you to play another role. I'll admit I've played many roles in my lifetime and I'd like to think I still have an equal amount of lifetime left if not many more years beyond to play even more roles that will ultimately, finally reveal the truest me. I think to get to the point of discovering your true, authentic self, you need to have many experiences, you need to gain wisdom through loss, and you need to nurse wounds over time and be willing to nurture your own growth.

I'll be the first to tell you that where I started from to where I am now is a complete surprise to most, but not to me. Why? Because I am growing into the person I am supposed to be. If you're not familiar with my story, click here. If you're wondering how I went from rocket scientist to domestic engineering-stay-at-home mom-jewelry-maker-blogger, then click here. Discovering truths about yourself and piecing it all together to form a cohesive you isn't easy, and sometimes, can be painful and scary. You're going through life as one person, perfectly content and not thinking too much about what makes you happy because you're enveloped in the day-to-day operations of your life. Suddenly revelation strikes and you think, who am I? Am I happy doing what I'm doing? If I decided to change, who would I be? What would I do? Well, these questions, my friend, is what I call opportunity knocking. Is yours a gentle rat-a-tat-tat or is it beating down your door screaming, "Open up you fool! Great things are waiting for you if you just turn the knob!" Some of us force it which I don't recommend and some times opportunity presents itself as easily as the sun rises. I had that opportunity almost 7 years ago to redefine who I was going to be. In that 7 years, my discovery adventure has been here, there, and everywhere. Many would probably say I don't know who I am or what I want; that I'm directionless. But, see, that's the process of discovery: trying different things and seeing what works, what doesn't. It's through all the "here, there, and everywhere" that truly begins to unmask the real you that you were meant to be. My rule: if what you're trying doesn't bear good results, leave it, move on, go another direction, try another approach. Struggling is a sign saying this may not be the path that needs to be followed. But by stepping out and doing what may feel uncomfortable is the only way to continue to discover your authentic self. Doing something afraid is not a struggle, it's just an emotion. Little by little, spend some quality time with yourself to just think, dream, and explore a new world of opportunity just waiting to be released by the real you.

Are you living a life that makes you most happy?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Bother Calling Today

Pure Summer Bliss
Today I'll be busy with my boy. There will be no laundry to put away. There will be no clothes to iron. There will be no cleaning of any surface in the house. Today I will play. I will play all day with my son: LEGO's, Wii Bowling, crafts, bike riding, games, and more. It 's his call, not mine as to where our imaginations will wander. I plan on being on the floor most of the day where are those elastic waistband capris? just playing and playing. He has my undivided attention today (as soon as I publish this post).
Maybe we'll catch a friend?

It's the last week of summer break and he's had two day-long playdates on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday belongs to me! My son will be mine, all mine. We'll be face to face building with LEGO's, talking about make-believe scenarios. I want to just melt into this moment and freeze time; never to forget the purity of play.
Maybe we'll take lots of ice cream breaks?
I know we'll be playing LEGO's.
This week we will play hard.
This week we will rest hard.
Next week the hard work begins.

Are you spending the day with someone you love to pieces?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's All Good

"Do not let your hearts be troubled." - John 14:1

This pillow in my foyer helps keep things in perspective for me.
We're living in tough times. It's difficult to stay positive in a world with so much upheaval, so much hate, and so much strife. Prices continue to rise at the pumps, at the grocery stores, and in our tax bills and our paychecks just don't follow that same increasing pattern. In fact, staying the course and not going in the other direction is a small victory.

Do not despair because all of these things have been the same for centuries. I'm sure our ancestors would attest there is never enough money to do everything you want to do or buy everything you want to buy. I'm not an economist or a financial expert, and I struggle each month to keep in-line with my own family's set budget. But the one thing I absolutely know is that worrying about it is not helping anyone and the stress of worrying only hurts the person doing the worrying. Think about a time where you worried about something that never even ended up happening. Make a decision today to be wise about the world around you and stop worrying about a bleak future that may never come to pass. Instead, make adjustments if you need to in order to take care of the present. Keep calm and carry on.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gratitude Journal Monday

It's time for Gratitude Journal Monday; a weekly declaration of thanksgiving that helps generate a positive attitude that attracts good into your life. To read more about LOVD's gratitude journal, click here. The benefits of a gratitude journal are more than you will ever realize. I hope you do yourself a favor and start counting your own blessings today by commenting what you are grateful for, right here, every Monday.

 "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."
- G.B. Stern  

When it comes to gratitude nothing is off limits so thank away!

26. I am grateful for my husband and our strong marriage.
27. I am grateful for the gentle way He guides us along our paths.
28. I am grateful for a close family friend that is more like "family" than some of my own family.
29. I am thankful for my grandmother. Her life's journey is one of hardship but her strong will is an example of grace and continuously welcoming new beginnings.
30. I am ever so grateful and endlessly thankful to you, dear readers of this blog. You willingly give me your time and attention and I hope, in turn, I give you something back in the form of inspiration, creativity, or just a good laugh.

Is there anyone you are truly grateful to have in your life? Have you told them?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Goodbye Week. Hello Weekend. Lessons Learned: Take 7.

Oops, we got off the trail (and had a blast)
Goodbye perfect weather.
Goodbye hiking adventures.
Goodbye baby tooth (1st molar).
Goodbye making new friends.
Goodbye and well wishes to "little kids" going off to college in a blink of an eye.

Hello big milestone birthday celebrations.
Hello picnic by the pond.
Hello weeding the garden and mowing the lawn.
Hello trying new recipes.
Hello sneak peaking the Avengers movie-set as they setup to film downtown.

Favorite gazebo at Holden
This week I learned being content is not the same as being complacent. It's OK to be happy where you are at in life at this very moment. Don't waste the present by always striving for something else in the future. And just because you like where you are at right now doesn't mean you are complacent. It just means you're happy and there is nothing wrong with that. I am not anti-ambition, trust me. But if you are continually striving for something more, then you are really missing being happy with what you have and who you are right now.

What are you saying goodbye and hello to this week?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer Love

 Summer is almost over and school is just around the corner. I asked my son on a recent hike we took together what he loved about summer and here's what he came up with.

1. No school
2. You get to stay up late
3. Playdates
4. Lots of pool time
5. Freedom
6. You get to eat the best fruit
7. The warm sun feels really good on your skin
8. Swim suits are the day's wardrobe
9. Burgers and hot dogs on the grill
10. Lots and lots of lemonade

I couldn't agree more!
What does your list look like?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Peachy-Keen Peach Bread

It's August and that means peach pickin' season. We purchased a lot of peaches from our Amish Country trip, see Part One and Part Two, so I tried a few peachy recipes. The first was peach ice cream and it was so yummy and smooth! Second, I tried this peach bread recipe and it was so sweet and delicious with just a delicate undertone of peach flavor. I hope you try it and enjoy!

What You'll Need
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1-1/4 cup vegetable oil (substitute applesauce for healthier version)
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups small chunky-sliced peaches (about 3 - 4 peaches)

What You'll Do
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a loaf pan.
Mix the dry ingredients (the first 5 items) together.

Mix the wet ingredients (oil and eggs) with the sugar.

Add dry mix to the wet mix and fold in the peaches.

What You'll Need to Know to Finish
Place the filled loaf pan onto a cookie sheet to catch any spill-over of the batter as it rises over the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for at least one hour before checking for doneness. I checked by inserting a butter knife into the loaf and it did not come out clean so I checked for doneness every 10 minutes to make sure the bread did not burn. I have an electric oven that's on its last-leg so it took a total of 90 minutes for my bread to finally be done. Your oven times may be shorter if you are lucky enough to have an oven not considered an antique like mine.

When done, take the loaf pan and set it on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes. Afterwards, remove the bread from the pan. Let it sit to cool if you are strong-willed but I cut into that warm bread and smothered butter all over it, grabbed a magazine and some iced tea and just sat and enjoyed!

Do you have any peach recipes you'd like to share in Comments?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Staycation Adventures: Ohio's Amish Country, Part Two

My family and I are old hats at traveling around Ohio's Amish Country so I wanted to share some of our destinations with you. I hope you take the opportunity and short drive to discover Ohio's beautiful Amish community and countryside. This post continues our recent one-day trip with my family, my son's cousin, and Gramma and Grandpa from New York. For Part One, click here.

Stop #7
The Secret Garden Shop
108 West Main Street
Sugarcreek, OH 44681 (330.852.0716)

 Only one word describes the Secret Garden shop found on Sugarcreek's main street: whimsical. I think this shop must be the world's caretaker of dragon's, fairies, and all things enchanting. The decor takes you into another dimension and you get lost in all the amazing findings from another place, hidden from the world. Get lost in the magic and mystery the Secret Garden offers.

Chug, chug, chugging up the Swiss Mountain

While still in Sugarcreek, walk a little ways up through the town and you'll see a bank at the very end of town. Not a bank as in a geographical physicality, but rather a bank as in savings and loan. If you look up above the bank's entrance you'll notice a hand-painted scene of a Swiss mountain side (did you not notice the Swiss music broadcasting through the streets of town?) and if you wait for it, you'll soon see a little train emerge from the mountain and travel up, chug, chug, chugging, out of site, back into the wall. Not so much a tourist destination, just an interesting site knowing that train does that same route 24/7.

Stop #8
Walnut Creek Cheese
2641 State Route 39
Walnut Creek, OH 44687 (877.852.2888)

Through our travels over the years we've experienced many different "grocery stores" around Amish Country and this one is at the very top of our list. Our various experiences with other stores in the area single out Walnut Creek Cheese as having the best pricing on bulk foods overall. The breads are freshly baked and the cheese is spectacular. Like I said in Part One, bring a cooler! Our favorite cheese there is the Smoked Cheese sampler. Smoked swiss, smoked provolone, smoked cheddar, etc. all packaged for your sampling enjoyment across from the ice cream line. The beef sticks are also recommended. And, if you're in love with maple syrup as my family is, you know the cost of nature's gold is more than a barrel of oil. Walnut Creek Cheese has been the best buy we've found for maple syrup.

Stop #9
Lehman Hardware & Appliance
4779 Kidron Road
Dalton, OH 44636 (330.828.8828)

If you're following the schedule in the order I'm suggesting, you'll notice it's beginning to be about 5:00 pm. The shops around Amish Country tend to close around this time on a Saturday (and a majority are NOT open on Sunday) so we'll be heading outside Amish Country and into the countryside for more simple adventures. Lehmans is the cat's-meow of hardware stores. If you're not careful, you could spend the rest of the day there, meandering through the various departments and offerings. But you'd miss the next several stops and have to make another trip down on another day and that wouldn't be too bad, now would it? But if you're determined to make it a day trip, then FOCUS people!

My boy has turned Amish due to excessive visits to Amish Country
The Amish patron Lehmans for many of their non-electric appliances like wood stoves, propane-driven refrigerators, hand-cranked washing tubs, it goes on and on. It's fascinating to see these types of appliances and allows you a glimpse into the lives of the Amish's daily chores. It also really makes you appreciate your own appliances back home did I just say that? but strangely also makes the simplicity of a daily chore without electricity somewhat beautiful.

There are too many departments to mention so I urge you to further explore your interests and make your own discoveries once there. I do recommend a little sit-down at the cafe, in the jail, for a refreshing taste of Lehmans-own bottled soda. Delicious!

Get us outta here! I heard there's a toy department!

Stop #10
J M Smucker Company Store & Cafe
333 Wadsworth Road
Orville, OH 44667 (330.684.1500)

With a name like Smuckers...get ready to have some more fun! Although not an outlet store, this Smucker's Company Store offers many lines not found at your local grocery store. When I shop here I stock-up on their Orchard's Finest brand. It's the only brand I can find where it only has 3 simple ingredients: fruit, sugar, and fruit pectin. This store is absolutely charming. You may be surprised at the numerous brands that fall under the J M Smucker name. If you're interested in the company's history, there's a great self-guided tour in the back of the store highlighting the company's growth. Don't forget the samples in the middle of the store. They always give great recipes to accompany the sample. Enjoy!

Stop #11, #12, #13, and #14
Toyrifix, The OakCupboard, Buchanan Place, The Barn Restaurant
4642 Akron Road
Smithville, OH 44677 (330.669.3737)

Think of it as a countryside shopping mall, but so much prettier. All of the places on Stop #11 are in the same vicinity. Now, you're going to have to make some decisions. Are you going to eat dinner at The Barn? They offer several different dining experiences including a buffet or something off their menu that includes their famous ham, pulled pork sandwiches, and their own Farm-raised Tilapia. If you decide dinner is the route you want to take, go put your name in and if there is a wait, go shopping!

On our trip, we were too full from the der Dutchman so we skipped The Barn and just got a pizza back home. But, if you want the full experience and have enough time to shop the stores and have dinner, then go for it!

In walking distance is Toyrifix, a great little toy store the kids can experience and feel they got something out of the day, as well.

Outside of Toyrifix
The Oakcupboard is another bulk foods store and their pricing is comparable to Walnut Creek Cheese. This is the place where we feed our passions for popcorn. We get pounds of it here and have been very happy with the various selections. The best item in this store for me is the wide variety of sprinkles. Yes, sprinkles! You know, for cupcakes. You can find little black and white cow sprinkles, little football helmets, dolphins, you name it. And not to mention, beautiful colored sugar sprinkles that seem to glisten in the container if the light catches it just right. Love it, love it, love it.

Buchanan Place is a store similar to Carlisle Gifts from Part One - a treat for the eyes: so many beautiful items to look at for your home.

Afterwards, take a walk to the pond and say hello to the ducks. Say goodbye to the spectacular, fun-filled day you enjoyed with your loved ones. The simplicity Amish Country offers is a welcomed gift to us as we dodge the busyness of our lives most of the time. In one day you can experience the fresh country air, the simple life, and uninterrupted time with family and friends while on an adventure you won't soon forget.


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