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Back to School with Seattle’s Best Coffee and a Giveaway!

Seattle's Best

My kids went back to school this week and I’m pretty sure none of us were excited about that. I know most moms were probably doing a dance in the driveway when the big yellow bus pulled away, but this mom just wasn’t feeling the joy this year.

Now that my kids spend part of their summer away in another state with their dad, our vacation time together is a bit brief. Sure, we packed a lot of fun activities in those few weeks, but it’s not quite the same. Still, they had so much fun with their dad and got to do some pretty fantastic things with him. So that’s a wonderful thing.

Besides feeling like I didn’t get a lot of time with them, I really wasn’t keen on getting back into the homework thing, the pack the lunches thing or the back to school shopping thing. I’m not even going to tell you how much I spent on back to school. Even with all my thrifty ways, I still spent much more than previous years.

That back to school supply list keeps getting longer every year my kids are in school. I remember when I was a kid needing pencils, glue sticks and paper. Now the list is about a dozen items deep and includes flash drives. My, how times have changed.

Melanie the BearAnd can I remind you that I’m not a morning person? A couple of weeks ago the kids and I were visiting the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and while Shannon was snapping this pic of me above, she told me this was me before my coffee in the morning. Yup, a pretty accurate statement.

sunroomOnce the bus came and I blew kisses to my girls who didn’t even look out the window to return the favor, I went inside to relax with a cup of coffee. I know I haven’t shared many pictures of my new home yet, so I figured I’d show you where I drink my coffee and do most of my work.

The sunroom is my happy place. This is where I chill, tap on my computer and enjoy the scenery that surrounds my home. This week I’m especially loving my coffee because the folks from Seattle’s Best Coffee sent a very lovely back to school survival kit filled with three of their coffee blends; Toasted Hazelnut, Born in Seattle House Blend and Dark Intense #5.

This week I’m drinking Dark Intense #5 because I need all the strong coffee I can get.

Seattle's BestThey also sent some fun goodies like a Moleskin notebook, a Tile fob which will help me find my keys when I lose them (happens often), and a super cute Seattle’s Best Coffee mug….

backpackOh, and a to-go tumbler and backpack. Fun, right? A nice way to get back into the swing of things for sure.

To make it even sweeter, the folks from Seattle’s Best Coffee would like one of you to have a back to school survival kit as well! One lucky reader will win all the same goodies they sent to me. A surefire way to make back to school a little easier on any parent!

To enter, comment on this post with your first name, last initial, the state you are from and your thoughts on how your back to school experience is going thus far. And if you’re not a parent, feel free to enter too. Everyone deserves a good cup of coffee! Entries must be received by Friday, September 4th 11:59pm EST.

This is not a sponsored post. Seattle’s Best Coffee did send a complimentary back to school kit to facilitate my review. All thoughts are my own.

An Announcement

The ColonelSo I’m getting married to The Colonel in October. Yes, it’s not quite been a year since my divorce. Yes, I know it seems fast to you. Yes, I know you think I might have a story beyond what I’ve shared thus far.

Yes, I know you’re craving answers to fill in the blanks. And yes, I understand that because my life has been an open journal for the past eight years, you think I owe you all the intimate details.

So yes, I know you’re assuming whatever it is people assume when people divorce and remarry quickly and nothing I can say will stop the haters from imagining the worst. So I’m not even going to try to defend my impending nuptials.

Over the past year I’ve dealt with lots of hateful comments about my divorce. Some comments I’ve let post to the blog, others I have not. Because while I welcome reasoned discussion, I’m not ok with hate. And if I were to be completely honest, I’ve considered shuttering the blog altogether because life is too short to allow other people to rain on our parade.

I’ll say that again. After eight years of blogging, I’m considering shutting the blog down because of the constant judgement I’m under for my life decisions.

It seems unfair to me to have my life on parade while people who wish me malice watch my new life unfold from the comfort of their sofas, and with just a few keystrokes, leave comments that blacken an otherwise happy time in my life.

And I’m in SUCH a beautiful place right now that I’m fiercely protective of the joy that fills my life. After two decades of instability, I now feel loved and stable. I’m not going to allow anything to disrupt the peace and joy that’s our life right now. Or forever for that matter. I’m walking side by side in unity with The Colonel and we are forging a new purposeful path together.

The Colonel

The ColonelHow about the kids? What do they think? Well, the truth of the matter is that they like him. Actually, it’s hard NOT to like him. He’s a happy guy. Always quick to smile and offer up a joke, The Colonel is a man with a can-do attitude and positive spirit. In his opinion, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And that positive attitude is downright infectious.

So, yes! The kids like him and are SO excited to be part of our wedding.

The kids are onboard, The Colonel and I are onboard. And my friends? They are ready for a party come October.

Mel and The ColonelThat’s my news. We’re getting married. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the blog. While I’d like to keep sharing my life with you all, I’m growing weary of the negativity that surrounds each personal post I share.

And I’d like to be clear. The comments do NOT decrease my joy. Nor do they cause me to doubt ANY of the decisions I’ve made as of late. It’s just that I am at peace now. Life is going better than I’ve ever imagined it could. And all my childhood dreams of finding a happily ever after are finally coming true.

And nothing is going to burst that bubble.

So I’m not sure what’s going to happen here. All I know is that I’m marrying The Colonel this October and we are getting a puppy in two weeks. The rest? To be continued….

The Old is New Again

Antique CabinetI’ve shared my love for antiques many times before, but living where I lived in New England, antiques were expensive. Certain markets can command higher prices and the dealers in my area knew it.

Now I live in Southern Maryland where farmers are my neighbors. I’m as rural as it gets. And this is a huge advantage as an antiques collector. What was once unaffordable is now a bargain and I’m having SO much fun picking up things here and there.

The cabinet above was found at a local dealer’s shop. It was made around 1900 and I knew it would be perfect for my vintage Pyrex collection. The curved glass is so lovely and it fits perfectly with the rest of the decor in that room. A total score for sure!

Antique Pink CouchThis outrageous pink couch you see above was not supposed to end up in my home. I saw it in the same shop as the cabinet and knew from the start that one of my friends would love it. So I snapped a few pictures in order to share it with her later.

But when I told The Colonel about this crazy pink couch I found, he asked to see it. And when he saw it, he speculated on how lovely it would look in the then empty living room which has purple drapes left by the prior owner.

My poor friend never had a chance and the living room is no longer empty.

Antique ChairThe dealer also had a couple chairs that came from the same estate and were most likely paired with the pink couch. The fabric has shades of pink and purple, so they pair well with the couch. And the wood is mahogany. Such pretty pieces.

I bet you’re wondering how much the chairs and couch went for? $450. Can you believe it? Craziness.

My sons are not fond of these pieces. They call it ghost furniture as they are certain the prior owner died which is entirely plausible. Especially when you factor in that the pieces were built between 1890 and 1900. Odds are good. So that’s one way of keeping them off my fancy furniture. Ha!

Now I just have to figure out how to clean this stuff. If you have any thoughts on that, please comment on this post. I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience in cleaning antique upholstery!

Antique TVWhile the antique shops in my area offer very fair prices, the auction house is an outright steal. We visited last Friday night with kids in tow. That was an experience. I thought the kids would find it fascinating. They did not. So we didn’t get to stay for very long, which was better for my bank account, but we did find a few gems.

See that tv? How much fun is that? No, we didn’t bid on it, but I thought it was so cool! We left before it went up for auction which is a shame as I would’ve loved to have seen how much it went for.

Carnival GlassI was the high bidder on the pieces you see above. I was thrilled to find purple carnival glass for my purple living room. There were six pieces of carnival glass in the lot and the high bidder could choose which pieces they wanted. My high bid of $25 snagged me the two pieces you see above. Aren’t they fantastic?

The table was what drew me to the auction on the website preview. A mahogany base with a solid marble top. So perfect for a formal living room. I had a feeling this would go high and there was a ton of bidding action when the auction started. But after a few minutes the bidding calmed down and I was the high bidder at $80. I still can’t believe it.

The lamp? I wasn’t quite as lucky with that one. Bidding was fierce and I was pretty committed because of the purple flowers in the lamp. Not to mention, the lamp was being displayed on my table, so I figured it was only right to keep them together. $150 later it was mine. Ouch.

Still a good price when you compare it to retail, so I shouldn’t complain.

So the living room is coming along nicely. All I need now is a rug and we are good to go!

How about you? Do you love antiques? Are you an auction lover too? Let’s talk antiques!

6 Reasons to Visit Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston Salem TavernIn all my travels I’ve never visited North Carolina. Sure, I’ve driven through the state many a time, but I’ve never actually explored it until recently. Last month my girlfriend Susan and I went on an epic six day action packed tour of the state which included Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Pittsboro.

It was a trip filled with history, gorgeous scenery and a tremendous amount of delicious bites. Each town different than the last and filled with activities for all. Today I’m going to share with you my finds in Winston-Salem. A town I found captivating. So much so that I’m actually planning a family trip back there in the very near future.

Here are 6 not to miss experiences in Winston-Salem…

1. Old Salem Museum & Gardens

WinstonSalemOld Salem Museum and Gardens is located in the historic town of Old Salem. It’s a fully restored Moravian congregation town dating back to 1766. It consists of historically accurate buildings, gardens and reenactors who educate visitors by giving them a glimpse into the past.

This is the perfect place to bring a family as there are activities for both kids and adults alike.

Adults will delight in learning all about heirloom plant varieties in the historically accurate gardens where you can watch planting, harvesting and even cooking in the kitchen of a period home.

Architecture buffs will marvel at how the homes and businesses were preserved and renovated. Be sure to visit the Single Brothers’ house to see good examples of Moravian half timber construction. It’s no wonder the buildings stood the test of time. They were solidly built. The expression they don’t make it like that anymore is highly applicable here.

All ages will find God’s Acre fascinating. A Moravian graveyard, God’s Acre is a beautiful but simple resting place of the Moravian people that inhabited Old Salem. What’s fascinating about the Moravian burial tradition is that all graves are exactly the same.

From the highest stature Moravian down to the poorest, all Moravians are memorialized with a simple white slab stone marker flush with the earth. Be sure to visit God’s Acre while you’re in Old Salem as it’s a visually stunning and moving experience which reflects the Moravian peoples’ humility and devotion to their faith.

Winston Salem VillageAll ages will thoroughly enjoy the Winkler Bakery which was established in 1800. This still working bakery is a must visit as it’s not only educational, but delicious. Guests can watch the famous Moravian Sugar Cake being made amongst other breads, cookies and treats. Be sure to head to the collocated bakery store where you can purchase all the baked goods which are baked in their wood fired domed oven just one room over. The smell of fresh baked goods is completely irresistible.

Make sure to budget at least one full day to touring Old Salem. Honestly, my next trip I’m blocking off two full days of touring as I feel like you need that much time to fully see all this historic town has to offer. There were all kinds of shops lining the streets that I would’ve loved to visit.

And if you’re looking for a family friendly place to dine, The Tavern in Old Salem is the perfect spot. The food sticks with a historical focus and offers hearty but family friendly fare. Susan ordered a chicken pot pie which was one of the very best pot pies I’ve ever tasted. The food is substantial and reasonably priced.

For more information on visiting Old Salem, visit their website which is a treasure trove of information. Some of the attractions and events require tickets, so be sure to look at hours, pricing and upcoming events.

2. Reynolda House

ReynoldaWhen I first heard that we were to visit R.J. Reynold’s family estate, Reynolda House, I thought perhaps this was going to be an in depth look into the tobacco industry. Because let’s face it, when you hear the name R.J. Reynolds, we all think tobacco. At least that was my case.

And while that is true, Reynolda house is so very much more than that. The family estate is an exquisite glimpse into a life that most can only dream of. The house itself is beautifully furnished with antiques and art. Every room holds a new treasure.

You can quite literally lose yourself in the past here. Don’t miss the lower level that holds a bowling alley, arcade, indoor swimming pool and even a bar where some fabulous parties were surely held.

Also watch for the American artwork which is prominently displayed throughout the home. American art was very important to the Reynolds family and their collection is vast. Exhibitions are held throughout the year which will delight the art lovers who visit.

The sprawling gardens are another must see and a lovely way to relax. You will see people lounging on blankets and munching on picnics as the gardens are a local favorite place to unwind.

For more information on hours and admission, check out the Reynolda House website. Children under 18, students with valid ID, and military with ID enjoy free admission.

3. Graylyn

Graylyn EstatesOur accommodations in Winston-Salem was the opulent Graylyn Estates. As we approached the property up the winding drive, we were bowled over by the majestic main house. The brick and stone structure is sure to impress anyone who makes their way through Graylyn’s gates.

Built in 1932 by Bowman and Nathalie Gray, Graylyn consists of 86 one of a kind guest rooms on 55 scenic acres. The rooms are appointed with fine furnishings, antiques and fine artwork which was clearly a love of the Grays.

Graylyn EstatesArchitectural details are sure to delight as the house is full of intricate iron work, imported Italian marble and other materials imported from around the world.

Susan and I each stayed in a suite located in The Mews which used to be the stables. Both rooms were breathtaking and lush. High thread count linens which felt like butter to the touch were fitted over mattresses that felt like they were made for royalty. If you’re looking for a romantic place to visit in Winston-Salem, Graylyn is the clear choice.

Graylyn EstatesWe also appreciated the little things Graylyn offered that made our stay there all the more memorable. Twenty-four hour access to complimentary ice cream treats made Susan and I feel a little giddy. Ice cream at 3am? Yes please!

The mini bar in our room was stocked with complimentary beverages and when I was craving a glass of prosecco, the neighboring twenty-four hour guest shop came to the rescue with my favorite La Marca prosecco available for purchase, all chilled and ready to be popped open.

It’s all about the little things, don’t you think?

Graylyn also offers an outdoor pool with tennis court, fitness facility, walking trails and dining options as well. For more information on this property, be sure to visit the Graylyn website.

4. Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies

Mrs.HanesCookiesOne of the highlights of our trip was a visit to Mrs. Hane’s Moravian Cookie Factory. This is a stop you don’t want to miss if you are a cookie lover.

Seventy-five years ago Bertha Crouch Foltz baked the Moravian cookies to help supplement the family farm income. She hand rolled and cut the delicate shapes and sold them to locals.

Her cookies were so well received the business blossomed and today they produce ten million cookies per year, by hand. Let that sink in for a moment. No fancy cutting machines for Mrs. Hanes’ cookies. Every single cookie is hand rolled, cut and packaged. Incredible!

If you take the tour of the factory, you are greeted at each educational station with one of their cookie varieties for tasting. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies come in six delicious flavors including ginger, sugar, chocolate, butterscotch, lemon and black walnut. I tried every single one and they were all delicious. Luckily they offer gift packs of the different varieties. I’d suggest trying them all!

For more information on Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies, you can visit their website.

5. Mozelle’s
mozellesAfter a long day of touring, we were so looking forward to dinner at a restaurant that’s rather popular with the locals, Mozelle’s. Known as a Southern bistro, Mozelle’s focuses on fresh seasonal foods with a decidedly Southern flare.

Trying to keep things light, I ordered a flavorful roasted beet salad with gorgonzola cheese. My dining partner Susan chose the fried chicken. While my salad was exactly what I had hoped it would be, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t want to swipe Susan’s dinner away from her. It looked that good.

And all hopes of keeping it light went out the window when I heard they had a bourbon pecan bread pudding. The diet could wait another day or so. Oh, and yes. It was worth every single calorie.

6. Mary’s Gourmet Diner

Mary's Gourmet DinerOn our last morning in Winston-Salem, we went to breakfast at Mary’s Gourmet Diner. Known for their breakfast and lunch menu, Mary’s Gourmet Diner dishes out hearty portions of Southern classics like biscuits and gravy, grits served up several different ways and tons of other breakfast and lunch fare including pancakes, French toast, sandwiches, soups and salads. All made with locally sourced foods and all cooked from scratch. Southern comfort food for sure.

Mary's Gorumet DinerI chose to forgo calorie counting for this meal when I saw they offered biscuits and gravy. I have a hard time finding good biscuits and gravy where I live and as they say, when in Rome you eat the biscuits and gravy. The Romans didn’t say that? They should’ve.

I give two thumbs up and a dozen forks to Mary’s Gourmet Diner. It was a winner. For hours and directions, be sure to visit Mary’s website.

Our time in Winston-Salem was all too brief. My next visit will be for an entire week because there’s just so much to do. I especially think this is a fine place to bring a family because not only is Winston-Salem historically rich, it’s got a lot to offer the kiddos too. Museums, family friendly dining and lots of green space to explore, Winston-Salem is a family travel destination in its own right.

If you’re looking for a  fun family getaway, Winston-Salem is a good contender. Also, for people looking for a romantic spot for a long weekend, this is a fine place to explore hand in hand. You’ll be charmed.

Disclaimer:

VisitNC.com hosted Susan and I on our trip. Thank you to all the businesses we visited, we thoroughly enjoyed your products and services. While this visit was complimentary, it was not compensated and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Beautiful Day

Samoyed PuppiesThis past weekend was spectacular for a couple of reasons. First, all my kids came home. It was a long five weeks apart, but we are finally back together. I am SO very happy they had a great time with their Dad and I’m thankful that we have a month left before school vacation ends to spend time and have fun together. Life is so very very good.

And the other reason it was a fabulous weekend was because we got to spend time with our puppy! We are completely in love with him and are so looking forward to bringing him home next month.

Samoyed Puppy

Samoyed PuppySo much cute going on here. Right now Chili is only four weeks old. He needs four more weeks with his mama so he can grow a bit more. And while he’s busy doing that, we are busy getting ready for him.

It’s sort of like preparing for a baby. A fuzzy baby, but a baby nonetheless. We’re busy looking for a crate, preparing to baby proof the house, stocking up on treats and toys and also stocking up on lint rollers. Hello white fur everywhere!

Adult SamoyedSee this guy above? This is one of Chili’s relatives. His name is Earl. Isn’t he fabulous? Lots of fur in our future. I need to add white clothing to my shopping list because my black pants days might be over.

Samoyed Puppy

ChiliNow that the kids are home, it’s time to get back into a regular posting routine. And with Chili’s arrival on the rather near horizon, our travel is going to be completely limited to trips to the grocery store and Petco, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Our New Addition!

puppiesWeeks ago I shared with you that a puppy was in our future. Well, I am beyond excited to announce that our puppy has been born! Two weeks ago our breeder contacted us to let us know that the mama went into labor. Luckily for us, our breeder had a live cam going and we got to watch the whole thing.

What a beautiful evening that was. Everything went swimmingly for both mama and the pups. And six weeks from now our sweet little puppy will be coming home with us.

PuppiesWe’ve been waiting a long time for this and the kids are gleeful. After a time of upheaval and change, a puppy is exactly what this family needs and we can’t wait to share two million pictures with you.

In case you’re wondering which one is ours, it’s the white one. Can you spot it? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. They all look like carbon copies to me. Only the breeder knows which one is our new fur baby.

Samoyed PuppiesThe picture above gives you an idea of what our pup will look like when it’s a little bigger. Fluffy. There are many lint rollers in our future.

Even though the puppy is six weeks away from coming home, it hasn’t stopped us from buying toys for our new addition. We already have a toy basket well on its way to being filled in the family room.

I bet you’re curious what we named him. Boy was there a lot of debate over that topic. Lots and lots of debate. At first I wanted Cobra, after The Colonel’s aircraft, but the little ones would have none of that business.

One girl liked Butter while the other thought Cookie was the best name of all time. Clearly my baking influences their thinking.

The boys were pretty open to anything, but Michael liked Chewy after his favorite Star Wars character, Chewbacca. Aidan thought Michael said Chili, not Chewy, and once we heard that mistake, we fell in love with it.

So now we have a puppy coming named Chili and I can’t wait for you to meet him!

Urban Southern Winner!

Congrats to Pam L. from Indiana! You are the winner of the Urban Southern Market Tote. Please email me at melanieinthemiddle@gmail.com with your mailing address. Thanks to all for entering!

Friends and Fun

KimThe last few weeks have been rather hectic which explains my lack of posting regularly. My kids now spend a good portion of the summer with their father as that was part of our divorce agreement. Preparing them for that many weeks away took some time. And packing for that kind of trip at the end of the school year made a chaotic time of year even crazier.

I could take an entire blog post to tell you how I feel about not seeing my kids for that long, but it would be depressing. Of course I miss them, but at the same time I’m happy for the time they have with their dad. They are going to have so much fun this summer and I made sure I was going to have some fun too!

We started off by having our dear friends Kim and Anthony down for a visit. I haven’t seen them in such a very long time, so I was beyond excited to spend some time with them.

Harris Crab HouseAfter sharing pictures on Facebook last month of our dinner at Harris Crab House, Kim requested we go there for an authentic Maryland crab dinner. You don’t have to ask me twice to eat crab. I’m always up for that.

Kim and MelanieThis isn’t the best picture of us, but you get the gist. We were very happy to see each other. Kim is like a sister to me. I couldn’t love her more even if we were blood related. I feel the same way for her husband. He’s been a very good friend to me. Anthony helped make my house handicap accessible after my accident four years ago. Can you believe it’s been that long? Four years ago as of yesterday.

Susan and MelanieAnd if all that wasn’t enough excitement, then I got to spend time with another dear friend the very next weekend. Like I said, its been a whirlwind of activity here.

The Colonel and I drove down to Virginia right before the 4th of July to visit yet another dear friend Susan and her very wonderful husband Jon. We spent two nights at their mountain cabin which was so completely relaxing.

Even though the rain poured down incessantly the first two days, it was warm and cozy in the cabin. We spent our time binge watching movies and catching up after months of not seeing each other. It was perfect.

lunch with susanSusan is also a food blogger which meant we did not go hungry while we visited. That’s one of the advantages of having food blogger friends. They’re rather good at entertaining!

Susan's HouseAfter a couple of days at Susan and Jon’s cabin, we transferred over to their house for the holiday. It was a beautiful sunny day which was a nice change after days of rain. We celebrated with Susan’s family and enjoyed a delicious meal which was made by her extended family. A gracious bunch who really know how to cook. Now I know where Susan gets her cooking skills from.

The Colonel and the DucksA very nice way to spend the holiday. It’s not often that we get the chance to hang out in the mountains, so the fresh air and beautiful scenery did us some good. We even had the chance to walk Susan’s ducks. That certainly isn’t something we do daily or ever now that I think about it.

So that was the last two weeks which brings us to this one. Currently Susan and I are on a girl’s trip to North Carolina. I have SO much more to share on that topic in the coming days.

I’ve never been to North Carolina if you don’t count the airport and I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this state is that they take food very seriously here. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen evidence of this.

Much more to come in the days that follow, but for now this sort of gets you up to speed and explains a bit why I’ve been so quiet.

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday and that you spent it with people you cherish! Chat with you soon!

Urban Southern Review and Giveaway!

Urban Southern

Urban Southern Market ToteBeautiful bags are a weakness of mine. I especially adore bags that are pretty and functional. As a mom of four very busy kiddos, I need bags that stand up well to the constant on the go lifestyle I lead. Pretty things are nice and all, but delicate fabrics and colors don’t stand up well between trips to the stables and farms we visit.

So when the folks from Urban Southern reached out to see if I would review one of their artisan leather bags crafted in a simple but classic style, I was so excited to work with them.

Leather is sumptuous, isn’t it? I just love the smell of it and I especially appreciate how it feels to the touch. A bit of luxury that stands up to everyday life.

Urban Southern handcrafts each and every product they offer. Leather masters hand tool the leather and buff the edges with wax to create a superior product. You can see the workmanship in everything they create.

I received the Market Tote which is an especially roomy bag. It’s a full 20″ high and 14″ wide.Perfect for shopping outings. It’s fitted with two wide straps which allows it to sit comfortably on your shoulder or you can carry it by the handles. Super versatile.

Let’s check it out in action…

Michael Charlotte HallSay hi to Michael! My son was my date on this beautifully sunny day in Southern Maryland. Corn is just now coming to market here, so we set out to the Charlotte Hall Amish Market to pick up some ears along with some other fresh produce. A fine time to try out the Urban Southern Market Tote. Just the right size for a farmers market outing!

Charlotte Hall Farmers Market

Charlotte Hall Amish MarketI probably could’ve fit a couple dozen ears of corn into the Market Tote. It’s really that roomy. I was sorely tempted as it looked so good. Instead, I grabbed a half dozen ears and saved room for other produce treasures sure to come.

Charlotte Hall Green BeansThe green beans are looking good right now and I’ve been thinking about pickling a few pounds for winter eating. Into the bag they went!

Amish Baked GoodsOk, this didn’t make it into the bag because hello calories! But I have to tell you that I was so very close to blowing my diet on the Amish homemade Twinkies. So very very close.

Urban Southern Market ToteFresh herbs always make their way into my purchases at the market and this day was no different. Look at how lush that basil looks. Pesto is on the menu this week at Casa Melanie!

Charlotte Hall Market

In the end I picked up everything you see above (minus the Twinkies) and I added a few jars of various jams, jellies and pickles. It all fit easily into my tote and the straps distributed the weight on my shoulder which made it so much easier to carry around.

Urban Southern Market ToteAnd while it worked perfectly for a trip to the market, it also was a nice choice for a day outing into the city. The Colonel and I took a day trip to Alexandria, VA where we did some sightseeing and shopping.

I found that the bag was the perfect choice to carry all kinds of things like sunscreen, camera, guide books and other bulky things that don’t fit in the smaller purse I usually carry.

So if you’re looking for a fine crafted leather bag that’s not only beautiful but practical, this is a very good choice.

Urban Southern offers many different bag styles and also leather accessories that would make fine gifts. Be sure to check out their website to learn more about their products and how they’re crafted. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Win It! 

Urban Southern has offered up a very lovely giveaway for my readers. One of you will win your own Urban Southern Market Tote (ARV $275). All you have to do to enter is comment on this post by leaving your first name, last initial and the state you are from. That’s it! Open to US residents ages 18+. Entries must be received by Friday, July 10th, 11:59pm EST. Good luck!

This is not a sponsored post. I was given a complimentary sample to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.

National Geographic the Home Version

Storm MessThe past few weeks we’ve had some wicked storms, but this past weekend was a doozy. Downed limbs all over the yard, potted plants flipped over and our birdhouses clean wiped off their perch. What a mess. And while it was just an inconvenience for us humans, I think it’s gotten the local wildlife a little off kilter.

The Colonel and the TurtleThe Colonel was clearing some downed limbs when I heard a booming “Melanie, come see this!”. And usually this should be interpreted as “Melanie, you’re going to totally regret seeing this.” I’ve learned this the hard way being a mom of two boys.

I’ll never forget the time Michael, who was three at the time, shouted for me to come into his room because “you’ve got to see this!”. In his hand he had a big fur ball. Definitely not surprising as we had two Persian cats at the time. Dear Lord was there fur.

“It hops!” he said. The kid was convinced it was a frog. I was convinced I needed to clean the house better. I told him he had a great imagination and went on my way back to my bedroom where I was folding laundry on the bed.

Not one to be dismissed or doubted, Michael followed me into my bedroom and placed the fur ball on my bed. And when I reached out to pick it up so I could throw it away, the ball hopped straight into the air. I nearly had a heart attack. A bullfrog was stuck in the fur ball and I had the joy of harvesting him from the center of his fiber prison.

Michael was gleeful.

Big SnakeSo last week when Michael asked me if I saw what was on the front lawn, I knew to stay in the house. While I adore living in our new home in the middle of the woods, I’ve learned that nature grows big here. Like really big. I saw a gopher on the driveway yesterday and I’m pretty sure he’s been munching on plants that have been treated with MiracleGro.

And the thing that Michael wanted me to see on the front yard? Yeah, well I didn’t want to see it but he took a picture anyway. A very large snake, like five feet long. Who needs the zoo when you live in Maryland? Mother Nature delivers here.

Lord Sith TurtleSo what did The Colonel want me to see? This Eastern Box Turtle which I named Lord Sith. The Dark Side in turtle form. Can you believe the colors? Often times creatures who are wildly colorful can be poisonous, but this guy is harmless and perhaps a bit thankful that The Colonel freed him from the downed limb.

I sort of envisioned my life here mirroring scenes from Bambi. What I ended up with is more like Jungle Book. Minus the bears. If I see one of those, I’m out of here.