Handmade Rustic Wedding Inspiration

Photo credit: BigStockPhoto/ChamilleWhite

Photo credit: BigStockPhoto/ChamilleWhite

About this time last year, I was going through Pinterest to find inpsiration for rustic themed wedding decorations. My middle son’s wedding was coming up, and the bride’s family had asked me to help with a few surprises for the bride – which included decorating the outdoor pavilion where the vows would be exchanged and the reception would be held.

DIY Rustic Wedding Decor: Wooden Decoupage Photo Box

DIY Rustic Wedding Decor: Wooden Decoupage Photo Box

Click on these two inset photos on the right for the instructions to create these two DIY projects that I created for my son’s wedding — the Wooden Decoupage Photo Box and the Lighted Paper Flower Garland.

It was during these weeks of research that I fell in love with many of the country rustic accents and décor pieces that I discovered along the way — many of which could be easily turned into DIY projects with enough time and the creative means to do so.

For those who are scouting for sources to purchase ready-made decorations, there are many wonderful Etsy shops located within the U.S. who specialize in handmade rustic wedding decorations. I’ve done some of the research for you by creating this collection of country rustic themed wedding décor pieces. All are handmade in the U.S., and each of the shops represented have a 5-star customer rating. I’ve also looked for affordable items to fit within any budget. All of the items can be coordinated and incorporated into most rustic décor themes.

DIY Lighted Paper Flower Garland

DIY Lighted Paper Flower Garland

Here are a few things to consider while you’re planning a rustic wedding or party event:

  • The best part about a rustic event is that you have flexible options as to where the event can be held. Think barns, parks, outdoor pavilions, tents, orchards, lodges, cabins, backyard, lawn, etc.
  • Choose a color scheme. Most rustic events include burlap, lace and wood tone colors. Be sure to add bright colors through the use of flowers and accents according to the chosen color scheme.
  • Hay bales and wood benches are great alternatives to metal folding chairs when it comes to seating arrangements – or they can be used as decorative elements in different areas of the venue.
  • An old wooden painter’s ladder can be set-up in one corner of the venue and decorated with potted flowers, vintage style photos of the bride and groom or even food items such as cupcakes or buckets of popcorn and peanuts.
  • Wooden barrels can be used for decorative purposes as well as serving as accent tables for holding the guest book, card box or a bucket filled with dried flowers.
  • Remember to consider lighting needs especially if it is an outdoor, night-time event. Incorporating hanging lanterns or lighted Mason jars is a great touch – so is string lighting such as white Christmas tree lights.
  • Provide a table of favors to entertain children. If it is an outdoor event, consider providing bottles of bubbles, sparklers, pinwheels or anything else that would allow the children to take part in the celebration — and let out some pent up energy!
  • If the wedding is months away, consider organizing two or three crafting parties to invite bridesmaids, family and friends to help with some of the DIY projects for the event. This is also a great time for bonding between families.
  • Assign bridesmaids, family and friends different tasks and to-do lists, according to ability, to help pull the event together more easily. Be sure to include a deadline for when the tasks need to be completed.
Disclosure: The following links are Etsy affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of these links, The Laughing Cabin receives a commission for the sale. You do not pay extra because of this, and the artists benefit from the exposure. The Laughing Cabin is not affiliated with or endorsed by Etsy or the independent Etsy shops represented here.


Looking for more rustic wedding decor inspiration? Check out my Rustic Wedding Decor board on Pinterest.

Until next time! ~ Susan

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Celebrating 6500+ Friends… With a GiveAway!

DSCF0585The Laughing Cabin has reached a big milestone in the past week by hitting the 6,500 mark in terms of numbers of Facebook friends. I am very humbled and supremely happy that you’re here, and that you are enjoying the community of people that are connected through The Laughing Cabin’s blog, Facebook page and e-newsletter.

I sincerely want you to know that you TOTALLY make my day, each and every day, by stopping by to share your comments and likes and allowing me to share something about my life here at The Laughing Cabin. You are a blessing to me!

Thank you, especially, to those of you who pray for me. I enjoy praying for you, too!

I am celebrating this milestone with a GiveAway contest. The prize is this set of two (2) dish towels, shown above and below, that each measure 28″ x 20″. They are made of 100% cotton and feature embroidered camping scenes with humorous sayings. One dish towel is khaki in color; the other is dark brown. The prize value is $16.95 USD and includes free shipping within the U.S. See the entry form below for the contest rules and more information.

You’re the best! ~ Susan

The entry deadline is midnight, July 4, 2016, Eastern standard time.

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Fun with a Moultrie Game Camera

A trail cam photo on Christmas Day in 2014 showing a squirrel running across our driveway with an acorn in its mouth. Copyright 2016, S.R. Williams.

A trail cam photo on Christmas Day in 2014 showing a squirrel running across our driveway with an acorn in its mouth. Copyright 2016, S.R. Williams.

My husband enjoys nature and wildlife, so I keep this in mind whenever I’m looking for an interesting gift to give to him for the holidays or on his birthday. This is why, a few years ago, I did some research on trail cameras and picked one out as a Christmas gift for him.

Living out here in the woods, as we do, and within 1/4 mile of a national forest, our property is visited frequently by a variety of wildlife. I thought it would be fun if we could set up the trail camera around our property to discover what types of creatures are visiting during the day and night. The camera is operated by a motion sensor and can take pictures during the the nighttime as well as during the day.

This post is purely for kicks and giggles and to share with you some of the animals — and animal antics — we’ve discovered over the past two years of setting up our trail cam. I’ve left the date and time stamp on the photos so that you can get a better idea of the where and when of each individual photo.

I don’t know why, but the photo of that squirrel, above, running down our driveway completely tickled my funny bone. That’s why I’m sharing it here.

Another funny scenario was caught on camera. The trail cam photos revealed two deer munching on the unripened plums growing on our plum tree. We had a bumper crop of them this year — so much so that the branches are hanging down, very heavy with dozens upon dozens of green plums. Though still hard and unripened, that apparently doesn’t seem to stop the deer from eating them.

The slideshow below was taken in the dark around 7:00 am one Monday morning. You can see how well the camera photographs in the pre-dawn darkness. This is the time of day when hubby is getting dressed for work, and our two dogs take their morning romp. If you look at the deer’s reaction, you will see the moment when it realizes that the dogs are loose, and that it’s time to leave…. FAST! Too funny!

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As you can tell, we’ve been having a lot of fun with the trail cam. With it, we have recorded photos of ‘possums, squirrels, deer, a fox and several uninvited neighborhood dogs and cats that visit during the night.

If you have an avid outdoors man or nature lover in the family, this is a really great gift to consider giving. You can pick up a good quality trail camera for less than $200. Below is an updated version of the one that I bought for hubby in 2013. The updated version, shown below, is a 2014 model for around $160.00 USD. Click on the image below to view the details of the Moultrie trail cam.

We’ve had ours for 3 years, and we still use it regularly and are very pleased with the photo quality — which you can see for yourself in the photos appearing on this post. We’re hoping to capture a photo of a bear and other interesting creatures, over the course of time.

Until next time! ~ Susan

Disclosure: The following link is an Amazon affiliate link. If you make a purchase from Amazon using this link, The Laughing Cabin receives a commission for the sale. You do not pay extra because of this. This product is one that S.R. Williams of The Laughing Cabin has purchased and can personally recommend. The Laughing Cabin is not affiliated with or endorsed by Amazon or Moultrie.

 

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A Trip to the North Georgia Zoo

Petting zoo at North Georgia Zoo in Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Petting zoo at North Georgia Zoo in Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Tucked away in the woods in northern White county is a gem of a tourist attraction that more and more people are beginning to discover and enjoy. This treasure of which I am speaking is the North Georgia Zoo and Wildlife Wonders. It is located off Paradise Valley Road in Cleveland, Georgia, and is situated on several dozen acres.

I noticed the zoo many years ago when I would drive past, but assumed it was nothing more than a quaint little petting zoo because of the few goats, sheep and an occasional donkey that would be visible in pens that could be seen from the roadway.

It wasn’t until my grandchildren grew older that I decided it was time to investigate. I thought that I would simply be taking them to see a few goats. Little did I know that there was so much more to this zoo and that we were in for a wonderful surprise.

A beaver. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Beaver. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

When we first arrived, I noticed a little hut and a friendly woman standing behind the counter. This is where the tickets were purchased, and where I learned that we had arrived just in time for the walking tour. Because no other animals were visible, I wasn’t sure what the “walking tour” would involve, but curiosity got the best of me, so I purchased the tickets and away we went.

Our tour guide was a friendly young woman who clearly knew her stuff. We passed through a gate and found ourselves standing in front of a pen that contained a very large and adorable porcupine. Our guide told us anything we cared to know about porcupines and also explained that the zoo sells handmade jewelry made from the porcupine’s quills – the proceeds of which benefit the animals at the zoo. I later took a look at the porcupine quill jewelry on their website, and it was truly lovely.

Red kangaroo. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Red kangaroo. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Our tour continued on. We saw wolves, red kangaroos, an albino kangaroo, wallabies, American turkeys, New Guinea singing dogs, Fennec foxes, alpacas, camels, pigs, ponies, sheep, goats, porcupines, beaver, lemurs and many more that I cannot remember. They have since added zebras, yaks and water buffalo – for a total of more than 80 species of animals, reptiles and birds.

My favorite was the female mountain lion whose coat was the most beautiful color. The tour guide reached through the fencing to scratch the lion’s back with a stick, and it was easy to see the trust and love between this big cat and the tour guide – who we later learned was also one of the zookeepers.

Tour guide giving a mountain lion a belly scratch.

Tour guide “petting” a mountain lion. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

The tour itself was the best that I had ever experienced. The reason was because the tour guide was so informative and very personable. She told us things about the animals that are not commonly known, and I found myself entirely absorbed in everything she was saying. What impressed me even more was how healthy the animals were and how clean their enclosures were kept. It was clear that the animals were comfortable with their human caretakers and did not show aggression of any kind.

At the end of the tour, we joined several other visitors who were gathered under a small hut which had rows of benches. We were invited to take a seat. Within just a few minutes, our tour guide returned with the help of an assistant, and they began bringing out different animals for a show-and-tell session. We saw a hedgehog, a corn snake, an iguana, a chinchilla – and my favorite – an African bull frog. We were allowed to hold, touch, ask questions and take pictures. It was as up-close and personal as I have ever gotten with these kinds of animals – and fascinating!

We ended our visit with a tour of the petting zoo where we purchased cups of pellets to feed to the dozens of goats, sheep and pigs.

African bull frog. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

African bull frog. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

One visit wasn’t enough, so a few weeks later, I gathered up more grandchildren and went back for another visit. This time, we arrived too late for the walking tour, but we were invited to take a hayride that would take us to see the alpacas and camels. We were loaded into a wagon-like trailer that had hay bales for seats – very comfortable – and were pulled along by a tractor. The tractor took us across the road to another section of the zoo that I had not visited during my first visit. There, the dirt road made a big loop around several fenced fields of cows, camels and alpacas. We were given baggies full of alpaca fur as souvenirs. The highlight of the hayride was a stop at the camel enclosure where we got out of the wagon and were invited to feed the camels.

The camels were a big hit with my grandchildren because they were very comical and responded to our tour guide’s commands with frisky jumps and clumsy gallops that made them so memorable and endearing.

After the hayride, we went back toward the petting zoo and discovered that there was also a pony ride which my grandchildren enjoyed. I kicked back on a bench with a camera in hand and enjoyed taking pictures.

Corn snake. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Corn snake. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

After all was said and done, it occurred to me that those two separate visits to the zoo within just a few weeks provided two very different experiences. There was something new to see and discover each time, and there was no shortage of fun and adventure.

Other information about the North Georgia Zoo and Wildlife Wonders is that they provide services to schools, businesses and private individuals where they literally bring the zoo to you. They have packages available according to what types of animals are being requested, and they will load the animals onto a trailer and bring them to your home or business for educational talks, parties and festivals.

Several of their animals have appeared on TV shows and commercials — such as the African raven which appeared on “Vampire Diaries.” The zoo itself has been featured on “Dirty Jobs.”

Other tours include Behind the Scenes, Wolf Encounter and the ever popular Camel Encounter. They also offer summer zoo camps for kids and teens.

Things to know before you go:

  • Plan to spend 2-3 hours at the zoo
  • Restrooms are outdoor portable toilets located in the parking lot; there are no diaper changing facilities. It’s a good idea to bring your own toilet paper or personal wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • Bring bottled water and lunch or snacks. Drinks and snacks can be purchased at the zoo, but there is a limited variety, and they are priced a little high because the profits benefit the zoo. There is no on-site restaurant; however, there is a shaded picnic area available with tables
  • Bring bug repellent and sunscreen and apply liberally. You will be around animals whose presence will attract biting insects.
  • Visors, hats and sunglasses are recommended in the summer
  • Wear pants and tennis shoes – be prepared to walk on dirt paths which can be muddy or dusty at certain times of the year.
  • You will be walking through the woods during the guided tours, so plan accordingly for mosquitoes, etc.
  • Strollers and wheelchairs — the dirt paths will accommodate a stroller or wheelchair, but it can get bumpy due to tree roots and rocks.
  • The zoo is best experienced by children who are at least 2 years of age
  • Bring your camera. Lots of great photo opportunities!
  • Plan to spend a minimum of $50 per person. There are extras that you will want to buy that are not included in the basic ticket price – such as food for the petting zoo, pony rides, hayride, reptile encounter, etc.

Have you ever visited the North Georgia Zoo? Tell me about your experiences in the comment box. I’d love to hear!

Until next time! ~ Susan

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The Mountains Are Calling

Our recent trip to Vogel State Park inspired me to create this mountain-themed gallery of items that are made in the USA by various artists and crafters. Each item speaks something special to my heart and brings back a memory of something that I enjoyed while we were vacationing. Click on any of the images to visit the individual shops.

Disclosure: The following links are Etsy affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of these links, The Laughing Cabin receives a commission for the sale. You do not pay extra because of this, and the artists benefit from the exposure. The Laughing Cabin is not affiliated with or endorsed by Etsy or the independent Etsy shops represented here.


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A Walk in the Woods: Vogel State Park, Georgia

Vogel State Park Visitor's Center Summer 2016. Photo by S.R. Williams.

Vogel State Park Visitor’s Center Summer 2016. Photo by S.R. Williams.

I just came back from a glorious three-day weekend in the mountains — Vogel State Park in northeast Georgia, to be exact. My family has a 24 year history with Vogel beginning with our first unintentional tent camping trip there in 1992.

We were living in south Florida, at the time, and had planned a tent camping trip with another family. Our original goal was to drive straight through to North Carolina to stay in the Nantahala forest, but our drive took longer than expected, so we took a detour to Vogel State Park once we reached Blairsville, Georgia, in order to have our tents up and ready before nightfall.

Small creek with mountain laurels. Photo by S.R. Williams.

Small creek with mountain laurels. Photo by S.R. Williams.

Looking back, I’m REALLY glad we didn’t make it to Nantahala. There was a weather system hovering over the region during that week which brought misty rains and colder-than-normal temperatures that made our tent, clothing and sleeping bags damp — which caused us to be cold and miserable. If not for the laundromat at Vogel, our sleeping bags would never have dried.

At Nantahala, we would have been “roughing it” in the truest sense of the word — no bath houses, toilets or laundromat along with added exposure to the elements and greater distances from civilization. The weather was hard enough on us at Vogel that year even with basic conveniences, and it became immediately clear that had we proceeded on toward Nantahala, we would have been woefully unprepared.

Though 1992 was our first visit, we returned two more times over the next few years as our family prepared to make a permanent move from south Florida to north Georgia — which we did in 1996. Later, we bought a pop-up camper, and Vogel became our family summer vacation go-to place with our children for the next several years.

As much as I enjoyed going to Vogel all those years ago, it has been about 13 years since I’ve been back. I was delighted to discover that Vogel State Park had lost none of its charm — if anything, there were new things to discover and enjoy. It was wonderful to bring two of my grandchildren there for the first time — in the hopes that it would become a beloved memory of their childhood, and a place they would one day bring their own children.

The view from a patio at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center at Neel Gap on Blood Mountain in north Georgia. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

The view from a patio at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center at Neel Gap on Blood Mountain in north Georgia. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Since we now live in Cleveland, Georgia — which is 15 miles to the south of the park — we came by way of Highway 129 which allows us to make a stop at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center located at Neel Gap which is atop Blood Mountain.

The Appalachian Trail crosses Blood Mountain — which is the tallest mountain on the Georgia section of the Trail with an elevation of 4,458 feet — and passes through a breezeway at Walasi-Yi which is the only place on the Trail that passes through a man-made structure.

Walasi-Yi is a popular tourist stop because it boasts a souvenir store and outfitters — Mountain Crossings — and spectacular scenic views as well as providing a hostel for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. If you are interested in hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail, you can drive about a mile further north to the Byron Herbert Reece Trail which is an access trail that allows you to connect with the Appalachian Trail where it crosses Blood Mountain. It is an approximately 1.5 mile round trip hike from the parking lot and back.  It makes for a nice, medium-intensity hike — perfect for families — and the view at the top is breathtaking. Bring your camera!

A nature trail leading off the patio at Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

A nature trail leading off the patio at Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

While I was visiting the Mountain Crossings store at Walasi-Yi, I overheard the clerk telling a customer that they receive several hundred pairs of hiking boots each year from hikers who have walked all 2,000 miles of the Trail. Mailing the boots is a hiker’s way of commemorating the feat. That was a fun piece of trivia to learn!

The Walasi-Yi Center and Byron Herbert Reece Trail are only minutes south of Vogel State Park and are worth the time to visit and explore while you are in the area.

At Vogel State Park itself, you have your choice of camping by tent, RV, camper or pop-up — or you can make use of one of their on-site cottages (also known as cabins). This year, we chose to stay in the cabins. They have 35 cabins available that sleep anywhere from 2 to 10 people — minimum stay is two nights; maximum stay is 14 nights. The cabins have central A/C and are equipped with kitchens that include a microwave, stove/oven, refrigerator, pots and pans, toaster — plus plates, utensils, cups, bowls, dish towels and dish liquid. AND most cabins have a dishwasher, too. All you have to do is bring the food!

Two-person cabin at Vogel State Park. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Two-person cabin at Vogel State Park. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

The bathrooms at the cabins are stocked with a 7 day supply of towels including hand towels and wash rags. They also provide small bars of soap and extra trash bags. There are electrical outlets for your blow dryer, etc. I will tell you that the towels are SUPER soft and absorbent. I could not get over how wonderful they felt to the touch.

If you rent one of the cabins, all of the bedding and pillows are provided. All beds are double sized and can comfortably accommodate two people in one bed. There are chairs and tables inside each cabin as well as an 8-person picnic table, grill, campfire pit and two Adirondack chairs located in the patio area.

Logs, charcoal and kindling are available for purchase at the Visitor’s Center to use for your outdoor cooking and marshmallow roasting, but you can also bring your own. You can also purchase a Georgia State fishing permit at the Visitor’s Center if you care to do any fishing while you’re in the area.

Lake Trahlyta pavilion and boathouse. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Lake Trahlyta pavilion and boathouse. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Vogel State Park boasts more than 230 acres of natural beauty. It includes a one-mile long lake known as Lake Trahlyta. There is a nature trail that follows the eastern side of the lake where it ends at a beautiful waterfall. There is a beach area for swimming along with paddle boat, canoe and kayak rentals. There is an outdoor pavilion situated on the western shore of the lake where groups can gather for parties and events — and where musical events are hosted by the Park on Saturday nights throughout the summer.

There are two designated playground areas at Vogel which are kept neat and clean for children to play. You will also find a horseshoe pit and volleyball net in one of the playground areas — horseshoes and balls are available at the Visitor’s Center — and plenty of space for throwing frisbees, footballs, and enjoying other outdoor sports.

Playground at Vogel State Park. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Playground at Vogel State Park. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

The playground areas are surrounded by asphalt roadways which are used for vehicles to gain access to the camp sites; however, the roadways are also used by visiting families for bike riding, walking, scooters and golf carts. Speed bumps and 5 mph signs keep the roadways safe for children.

There is plenty of wildlife at Vogel State Park which is located in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest. You are most likely to see deer, squirrels, Canada geese and songbirds — but don’t rule out the possibility of also seeing bears, raccoons, coyotes or bobcats.

Be sure to bring plenty of bug repellent and sunscreen — as well as your bathing suits, walking shoes and/or hiking equipment.  An umbrella doesn’t hurt, either, because there are days during the summer when you can expect a passing shower or even days of misty rain.

Reservations for the cabins should be made at least six months in advance. Tent and camper sites are usually available throughout the year — though they are usually booked on holiday weeks and weekends.

Vogel State Park is located within a 30-45 minute drive of the following towns: Blairsville, Dahlonega, Cleveland, Helen, Hiawassee, Young Harris, Suches. Area attractions include: the Alpine Village of Helen; Cabbage Patch Kids and Babyland General; North Georgia Zoo; Downtown Dahlonega and Consolidated Gold Mine Tour; Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s tallest mountain which has an observation tower).

If you are planning an educational vacation to enjoy with your older children or grandchildren, you might be interested to learn the history of Blood Mountain, Vogel State Park, Civilian Conservation Corp and Cherokee Indian lore about a race of beings known as the  Nunnehi who they claimed once lived in the region.

You will also be interested to know that Blood Mountain was so named because of a famous battle between the Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes that occurred nearby. It was said the creeks and streams ran red with the blood of the fallen warriors. Fascinating stuff!

Below is a slideshow of photos that were taken during our June 2016 trip to Vogel State Park. All photos appearing in the slideshow were taken by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

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Until next time! ~ Susan

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The Proposal

Wedding

On the day when our youngest son came over to visit and announced that he was planning to propose to his girlfriend, we had the usual questions and concerns as parents. Were they mature enough? Did they know the seriousness of their commitment? Were they truly in love? Would they make it?

Our son was nervous and excited, and he told us that he wanted the proposal to be perfect. He asked us for ideas, and we offered our best suggestions. What became clear to us through these discussions was that he valued his chosen bride-to-be and wanted her to know how precious she was to him. He was literally prepared to lay down his heart and his life for this woman.

We approved of his choice. It was easy to see that they were a perfect match even from the beginning. He surprised us with the level of determination, planning and thought he had put into the proposal — rare to see in many young men these days. Though he has always been a caring person, it wasn’t until this day that we realized that he was also a romantic and wanted not only to express his feelings in words, but in actions.

His plan was made, and our son chose the occasion. His girlfriend, her parents, grandparents and other family members were vacationing at the beach, and he had decided to take the 300 mile drive there to join them. On the way, he stopped at a jewelry store to pick out the engagement ring. He called us shortly after the purchase to share the details and sent us an e-mail photo of the ring. We were deeply touched by the care he gave in his choice of a ring and his desire that she would be pleased with it.

Our son had purposed that during his time with her family, he would first seek out his girlfriend’s father and ask his permission to marry. More phone calls came as our son relayed to us his extreme nervousness about finding the right time and place to approach the father. What if he said, “No”? As intimidated and nervous as he felt, love caused him to press on.

Finally, the moment was right, and our son found himself alone with the father. “Sir, I would like to ask your permission to marry your daughter.” We waited for the phone call to tell us how it went, and we were sitting on pins and needles until that phone call came — feeling our son’s nervousness and emotions from some 300 miles away and giddy with our own sense of anticipation and excitement.

The father gave his blessing, and our son reported that it was one of the most difficult experiences of his life. It was the first time he had openly acknowledged the depths of his feelings and love for a woman, and his profession of love and intentions before her father included a few choked back tears.

Our son chose to wait until the last day of the vacation to propose. He decided to ask his girlfriend to meet him on the beach before sunrise, and his plan was to get down on bended knee in the sand just as the sun was rising, offer the ring, and ask her hand in marriage. Again, we were sitting by the phone waiting to hear — would she say, “Yes”?

Our faces that morning, as we waited, could barely contain our smiles. We were already picturing the scene and imagining their joy-filled emotions.

On the chosen morning, the girlfriend’s family was also walking on the beach — clueless to the fact that our son was about to propose with the exception of the father and two younger family members whom our son had included in his plan so that they would be ready with cameras to capture the moment.

Grow OldOur son led his girlfriend down the beach away from the others and waited for the sun to peek over the horizon. Of course, a few clouds decided to appear and blocked the rising sun. so he waited with nervous impatience for what seemed an eternity until the clouds passed. And finally there it was — the rising sun — and the open door to his destiny.

He knelt in the sand and asked her hand in marriage — holding out the ring in one hand and holding her hand in his other. He did this with an audience of not only her family — who finally saw what was happening and began to clap and cheer — but with a host of early morning beach goers looking on. It was a beautiful moment, they later shared, just as we had imagined.

We rejoiced to receive the long-awaited phone call — “She said yes!” — and listened to the story of how everything  unfolded. What a beautiful feeling it created in our hearts. It is one I will not soon forget, if ever.

At the wedding reception, a few months later, the bride’s father gave a speech that expressed every parent’s fears and concerns when a child is about to marry. He said that, like us, he was facing some doubts about their maturity and preparedness for married life as the wedding day approached, and then something happened that put his doubts to rest. It was the day their daughter called them to tell them about a problem she was having. During that conversation, she asked her parents to pray with her about a solution. The father said that her willingness to seek God for answers is what convinced him that she was prepared for marriage. And indeed, knowing that they both can and will turn to God together in their marriage, we were all able to celebrate this marriage with great hope, joy and peace.

I am grateful for a son who was willing to lay down his heart and his life for his bride, and in doing so, became a model of Christ’s love for His Bride — whether he realized it or not. I am grateful that he understood the importance of wooing the heart of his chosen and that he did so in a way that brought dignity and respect to their future relationship and to her value and worth as his future wife. I am grateful for a son who understands honor and the importance of seeking the blessing of a father. I am most grateful for the blessing of a new daughter. I look forward to the unfolding of their lives and for the evidences of God’s continuing goodness towards them.

These are the times mothers live for. These are the moments that confirm to our hearts that the sacrifices and struggles of raising our children were worth every minute. In these moments come the fulfillment of joy which is our reward, and it is only God who can weave our lives and destinies in such a way that brings greater meaning and deeper levels of appreciation over the course of time. This is what it means to be blessed.

Until next time! ~ Susan

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Word Art

DSCF0238

Copyright 2016 by S.R. Williams

As long as I can remember — even before I could actually read — I have always had a fascination with words. This probably makes sense considering that I am a writer, but my love for words took an entirely humorous direction when I discovered how fun it is to make hand painted signs.

I love to take a well-known saying and embellish it with my own unique interpretation. What I generally find is that a saying that means one thing to me will usually mean something entirely different to someone else.

For instance, I had once created a sign that said, “Fish Whisperer.” I thought that it might be a cute saying that would appeal to a fisherman, but the woman who bought it had an entirely different purpose in my mind and a story to go with it. She had a giant koi pond in her back yard, and every time the fish saw her coming, they would swim over to greet her. Her family and friends were so astonished by the fish’s reaction that they nicknamed the woman, “Fish Whisperer.” Naturally, when she saw the sign with that saying, she had to have it.

Copyright 2016 by S.R. Williams

Copyright 2016 by S.R. Williams

This year, I have come up with some new designs for my hand painted signs. Instead of being fitted with wire handles, they will now have 1/2″ wood backboards. There are metal saw tooth hanging grips on the back that will allow them to be mounted on a wall, but they can just as easily lean back on a shelf or be placed in a display easel such as one used to display framed pictures (not included).

All of the hand painted signs can be requested as a custom order so that you can choose colors that will coordinate with your home decor — and you can choose your favorite saying.

These folk art style signs are hand lettered in black and are coated with polyurethane sealant. In addition to the metal hanging grips, the backs of each sign have felt pads for cushioning and to offer protection for your walls.

Every sign has a story and a reason as to why I chose a particular saying. If a sign “speaks” to me, I know it will hold a special meaning for someone else. This is what puts a smile on my face when I am in the process of painting each one.

Until next time! ~ Susan

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Blackberry Winter

Cardinal's nest. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Cardinal’s nest. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Each spring, in our region, one final cold front makes its way from the northwest. It usually arrives after we have enjoyed temperatures in the 70s and 80s for several weeks and after trees have put forth their green leaves and flowers are in full bloom.

The temperatures will drop to nearly freezing during the night and will barely make their way into the 50s for the next couple of days. This final kiss of winter is known as blackberry winter in these parts.  “They” say that this sudden drop in temperature does something to “set” the blooms in newly pollinated wild berries and causes them to taste sweeter when they ripen over the next few weeks.  Hence the name, “blackberry winter.”

Though I cannot attest to the accuracy of the lore as to whether or not the berries taste sweeter, for me, a blackberry winter represents the high point of spring. It usually arrives when all of the flowers and trees are putting forth a colorful display and when our property here at The Laughing Cabin is its most beautiful.

Flame Azalea. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Flame Azalea. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

In one corner of our property stands a lone flame azalea tree. The reason that I call it a “tree” instead of a “bush” is because it stands at least 20 feet tall. Each spring, it puts forth a burst of brilliant orange blooms and is a spectacular sight to behold.

Pink Lady Slipper Orchard. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Pink Lady Slipper Orchard. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

In the more shady areas of our forested property, there are wild orchids growing. They are known as Pink Lady Slipper orchids and are a protected species. They bloom only once during the spring, so we start looking for them toward the end of April — they are usually bloomed out by mid-May. I was able to capture photos of one that had sprung up in a new location — it’s leaves still not fully unfurled. (See photo above.) We find more of these each year, and it’s exciting to see them popping up in new places.

The unexpected beauty of weeds. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

The unexpected beauty of weeds. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

There are even a few weeds that have staked a claim to certain areas of the yard, and they re-emerge every spring in exactly the same places and lend their own unique beauty to the landscape.

Mountain laurel beginning to bloom. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

Mountain laurel beginning to bloom. Photo by S.R. Williams. Copyright 2016.

My favorite are the mountain laurels — several of which are growing in our front yard. Their white and pink blooms look like snow. They are usually one of the last to bloom, so I consider their appearance to be like the grand finale at a 4th of July fireworks show — a final burst of splendor to welcome summer and bid adieu to spring.

Until next time! ~ Susan

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Handmade Father’s Day Gift Picks

These handmade gift picks for Father’s Day include a few from some of my Etsy friends — other picks are from shops whose workmanship I truly admire. Each of these artists and crafters make their art and products by hand and do not outsource or commercially produce their designs or products. Many of the items available in these shops are one-of-a-kind pieces.

Dad will love these! Click on any of the images to access the links for each individual shop and enjoy browsing!

CaptureFATHER’S DAY GIFT PICKS

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