Ben’s Happy Trails

Made some New friends – Willow, Holiday, Doc, and Ladybug (aka Old Diablo) at Ben’s Happy Trails Riding Stable and Campground in Otway, Ohio.

We had perfect weather to take a ride through the forest on horseback.


Enjoyed some porch sittin’ with Flash before we went out riding on the trails.

It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden a horse… I forgot how much fun it is! ūüėä


This place is definitely off the beaten track, but if you are passing through you might want to check out Ben’s Happy Trails¬†.



10 Gift Ideas For Happy Glampers

Fall is here at last!

Summer has been fun, fun, fun, but we are ready for fall.  Among other activities, the cooler weather is a great time here in Ohio to do a little glamping.

We used to be campers, but now we have learned the fine art of glamping ūüôā .

Roughing It In Style!


Let me show you what our little roadtrip to Brookville, Indiana glamping at Whitewater Memorial Park Campground looked like while I give you 10 Gift Ideas For Happy Glampers.

The first three things every glamper should have are a cast iron skillet, warm pajamas, and a pocket knife.


The need for the cast iron skillet is obvious.  It goes on the handy dandy grate so glampers can cook themselves up some chow.  One of the secrets to a Happy Glamper is a full stomach. A cast iron skillet is made for the job Рfry up some bacon, sausage, coffee cake Рwhatever their little hearts desire (except Pop-Tarts, you can just eat those right out of the box). РRealizing all that is chock full of fat, salt, and sugar.  What can I say? Sometimes I fall off the wagon.

Wait! Did someone just say coffee? Thought so.

Every true American Glamper likes a swig of coffee to wake them up in the morning, right?  A coffee cup is another super gift idea for a Happy Glamper.

Anyways, back to the picture.

A pocket knife is handy for obvious reasons – like whittling the tip of a stick to put a hot dog or marshmallow on.¬† It also comes it handy to open things or maybe even … cut things :D?

Soft, Warm pajamas provide comfort on cool nights snuggled by the campfire or in the tent.  Cold toes make sad glampers РAnd nobody wants that!

Another idea for a Happy Glamper is a folding camp chair.  No matter how great a camp chair is, eventually they wear out.  I think any Happy Glamper would appreciate receiving a camp chair.

So far we’ve covered cast iron skillet, coffee cup, pocket knife, warm pajamas, and a camp chair.¬† We are halfway through our 10 Gift Ideas for Happy Glampers. If any of those sound like a good fit – what are you waiting for? Go get that shopping done!

If you still need more, think about these.


What are you going to put the soft, warm pajamas in?

A duffel bag! Personalization is always nice touch.  Happy Glampers like to keep their things neat (pretty) and organized. Enough said.

One thing about being out in the wilderness.  It gets dark at night.

That means sitting around the fire telling РGhost Stories!  A book of short ghost stories is sure to be a hit gift for the Happy Glamper on your list.

I wish I had a picture of us roasting marshmallows on roaster sticks and reading ghost stories, but I didn’t have a flashlight, camping string lights, or a¬†camp light with a nice sturdy shepherd’s hook to hang it on.

You’ll just have to use your imagination – or Google ūüėÄ !

That’s 10 Gift Ideas for Happy Glampers (plus a few bonus ideas if you were paying attention):

10. Nice, Sturdy Shepherd’s Hook

9. Camp Light

8. Campfire Roasting Sticks

7. Book of Short Ghost Stories

6. Duffel Bag

5. Folding Camp Chair

4. Pocket Knife

3. Soft, Warm, Pajamas

2. Coffee Cup

1.Cast Iron Skillet

Are you a glamper? We’d love to hear from you.

What item makes you a Happy Glamper?

Road Trip to Columbus

The first day of our road trip to Columbus, Ohio for the Buckeye Elite Showcase Tournament was pretty soggy.  Most of the baseball games were canceled as there was an incredible amount of rainfall.  Fields and highways were standing in high water.  I-70 was shut down for an extended period in two different places.  It looked like some of the boys on teams that played should have been wearing swim suits instead of ball uniforms.

We stayed in the Embassy Suites on Corporate Exchange Drive at Cleveland Avenue exit of I-270.  It has lovely, clean, accommodations with efficient service.  Since our games were canceled for the first day we used the Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang button in our cars and ventured out to Roosters for some stress reduction and lunch.

stress reduction

Our team did not play until late in the day on Friday. ¬†This was my son’s team’s last baseball tournament of the year and our second out-of-towner of the season. Our first out-of-town tournament was in Indianapolis and my daughter and I went to the conservatory there, so this time in lieu of ball games, we decided to check out the conservatory in Columbus, Ohio on this road trip for Plan B (as Suzy Toronto would say).

Flamingo topiaries

We were lucky to see “Topiaries at the Conservatory, Wild Wonders” as well as “Blooms and Butterflies” plus all the other exhibits for our admission price of only $14 each adult. The topiaries were so fun and playful – I especially liked the expression on the lion and panda.

Lion Topiary

The Pacific Island Water Garden was loaded with over 2,000 beautiful, colorful, butterflies. In the Rainforest we tried to get the macaws, Mic and Max, to talk us but they weren’t feeling chatty. ¬†Outside the John E. Wolfe Palm House guests were arriving for a ceremony and they were setting up tables inside.

Elephant topiaries

I don’t want to spoil the exhibit by showing all 13 of the topiaries. ¬†If you want to see them all you won’t find them here until I update in November when the show is over. The butterfly exhibit runs through September 17, 2017 and the topiaries will be displayed until October 29, 2017. ¬†We took about an hour and a half to buzz through the conservatory, but I could easily have spent another hour or so.

Leave it to us to find time for a gift shop! On the way out we stopped in the Botanica Gift Shop & Greenhouse and bought some little pots and a hoe for our fairy garden and a 2″ succulent and a little ceramic pot for it. So far we haven’t killed the succulents we planted in our terrarium earlier this year so we thought we could handle another one.


We attempted to go to The Thurman Cafe in The German Village on Friday night, but it was packed and we were already running on empty so we decided not to wait.  If you are on a road trip to Columbus I recommend this cafe for a tasty burger.


We found it once by accident years ago when we were visiting COSI which, by the way, is an excellent place to visit if you are ever on a road trip to Columbus, Ohio.  Give yourself at least 4-6 hours to explore this science and industry museum.

Cincinnati Stix 15U team won all three of our pool play games ranking us fourteen out of over 80 teams so we got a bye and enjoyed a late Saturday lunch at The Winking Lizard.

Unfortunately, we fell hard and fast this morning at 8am losing by too many runs to report ūüė¶ .

So that is the end of the tournament for us, the end of our 2017 baseball season, and the end of our road trip to Columbus, Ohio.

Have you ever been to Columbus? What’s one of your favorite places to eat or visit in Columbus, Ohio?

What do County Fairs, Outdoor Movies, & Road Trips All Have in Common?

What do county fairs, outdoor movies, and road trips all have in common?



A pig named Charlotte

We took a trip to the county fair yesterday and had a great time watching all the aggies show their animals.  We saw a pig named Charlotte and learned that some pigs like marshmallows.

Horse Grooming – No Soap!

We watched part of a horse grooming contest where the participants had 30 minutes to groom their horse without using soap.  It looked like the horse was getting an all over mud mask.

Of course we had to ride the ferris wheel – it’s a fair classic. ¬†We saw a walking horse show, the pee-wee showmanship show, and a turkey show.

Pee-Wee Showmanship

It was fun to watch tikes as young as two years old try to stay focused on keeping their pig in front of the judge.

Turkey Show

Have you ever seen a girl turn a turkey half her size upside down?

There is always something going on at the fair. A naturalist was showing a snake.

Green Mobile

The Green Mobile was busy educating on ways to recycle.

Mr. Chevy

Down the hill the tractors and trucks were showing off their power.

For the weekend we’ll be setting up the outdoor movie screen again for a double feature. We might have to draw straws to see which movies we will watch for our double feature.

Choices for our double feature

Today we are getting ready to take a road trip to Columbus, Ohio for a baseball tournament.  I love taking the time on short little road trips to visit new places along the way. Our next road trip will be a little longer to Cable, Wisconsin by way of the little Swiss village of New Glarus.

Road trips, outdoor movies, and the county fair – which one do you like best?

Any road trips in your summer plans?


Where Are the Monarchs?

Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge Maysville to Aberdeen

Last night I took a little venture to Maysville, Kentucky to attend the 8th Annual Farm & Family Night at Maysville Community and Technical College.  While I was there, I attended the session Saving the Monarch Butterfly.

According to what I learned, the monarchs that live east of the Rocky Mountains are now in Texas. They are on their yearly journey north from Mexico.  Those that live west of the Rocky Mountains winter in California and spend their summers in the Northwest states.

Part of what makes monarch migration so wondrous is the fact that monarchs are the only insect to migrate a distance of 2,500 miles.  During migration monarch butterflies can fly up to 300-500 miles a day.  During their migration north monarchs will go through about 4 generations.  Those monarchs that fly south in the fall, however, can journey the whole distance living up to 9 months.

The purpose of the session was to discuss why monarchs are at risk and what can be done to help them.

Currently the monarch population is 4% of what it was in the 1970’s. ¬†The biggest factor leading to their decline is loss of milkweed. ¬†Other contributing factors to the decline of monarch populations are weather, use of insecticides & herbicides, and habitat loss.


Some things we can do in Ohio to help the butterflies as we await their arrival this year is to learn about their habitat.  We can plant milkweed and other pollinator plants that monarchs need.  In addition we can learn about plants that are native to our yard that butterflies enjoy and keep them in place when possible, rather than removing them.

Being that it is almost spring (12 more days, but who’s counting?), now is a great time to think about monarch butterflies that are migrating our way. ¬†When planning your garden try to include some nectar plants. ¬†These can be annuals, biennials, and/or perennials. ¬†Here are just a few examples: Shasta Daisy, Cosmos, French Marigolds, Lantana, Verbena, Zinnia, ¬†Black Eyed Susan, Hollyhock, Phlox, New England Aster, and Purple Coneflower. Milkweed, Goldenrod, and Ironweed are often plants that we might consider undesirable, but butterflies like them.

If possible, know your plant source.  When purchasing plants ask what type of greenhouse they came from.  Ideally, buy plants raised in a chemical free greenhouse.  Often times you can find someone who has perennials who is willing to split off part of their plant that you could start in your yard.

Choose a sunny location for your plants and consider including windbreaks such as a fence or shrub.  If you have limited space many of these plants do well in pots or containers. Bird baths or water containers should be shallow with some object which will allow for butterflies to perch.  Items such as floating corks can be placed in deeper water to provide a perch.

Do you plant flowers in your gardens for butterflies?  What are your favorites?

Learn more about Protecting Monarchs and Monach Watch .

Feature photo by Chris Bending

18 More Days and Counting

I am hesitant to get excited about spring just yet. Although it will officially be here in 18 days.  I am doubtful that our unseasonably warm weather is here to stay.  I am waiting for old man winter to give us a final blast or two.

wp-1488669102488.jpgWhile I’m waiting I have been planning out my gardens. ¬†I love planting annuals¬†. ¬† I always plant pansies. ¬†I have one from last spring that has managed to survive and is blooming already. ¬†I also love petunias and marigolds.

I had almost no perennials at my old house, but our current home came with lots of perennials. ¬†I am learning to appreciate them. ¬†I used to think perennials were high maintenance and got out of control easily. ¬†Now I have seen the light. ¬†I fell in love with coneflowers last summer. ¬†Although they do require maintenance they are easy because they just come back year after year like magic. ¬†With regular tending hopefully they won’t go wild.

My daughter and I have been playing with some new concrete molds that she received for Christmas along with some of our older molds that we bought last summer.

Soon to be Painted

We’ve been doing a little painting with our sculptures. ¬†We still have lots more to paint. ¬†We are considering having an event where people can choose a piece and paint it for their own garden.

This year we are planning a fairy garden.  We thought about it last year, but never made progress other than to read some articles.  There is no doubt in my mind that this year we have a sweet little fairy garden.  We have been dreaming of the idea in our minds for almost a year so it should all come together pretty quickly.

If not now, When?  Tweet: If not now, When?

The only thing that concerns me is it is in a high traffic area and right next to the garden hose. ¬†Hopefully it won’t get trampled or squashed.

We also have a tree in our woods that came with some gnomes in it.


The gnomes we painted to add aren’t to scale with the old ones. ¬†I’m not sure how it will turn out. ¬†Even if it doesn’t exactly match, I think it will be a fun spot to visit on our walks.

Comment below to share your favorite annuals and perennials.   Are you planning anything new in your garden this year?

Read our blog to find inspiration for gifts and life.

Shop online or check us out at an upcoming event.

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Prompt: Doubt

Feature photo by Katherine McCormack

Magic of Love, Part 1


Some slippery ideas are running through my mind. ¬†Forgive me if they don’t make sense. ¬†I want to try to capture them before I lose them.

According to polling, our readers’ favorite thing to give for Valentine’s Day are dinner and/or candy. ¬†My husband falls right in there with you because he gave me a lovely box of Godiva chocolate. ¬†My daughter sent me a little book of inspiration which I love.

This morning as my younger daughter was padding around getting ready for school her Ursula socks made me smile. ¬†She got them from her grandmother for her birthday recently. ¬†The cool part is that her grandmother didn’t know my daughter had spent the last several months drawing Disney villains.

For Valentine’s Day I gave my daughter a collection of romantic rock-n-roll songs performed by the Vitamin String Quartet. ¬†“I love the Vitamin String Quartet!” she texted me when she received it. ¬†She told me she listened to their music regularly on Pandora. ¬†Hmm. ¬†I didn’t know that.

One of the books I’m reading now is ¬†Big Magic¬†by Elizabeth Gilbert. ¬†My son gave it to me for Christmas. ¬†In it, Gilbert reveals her notion that ideas move among us until they find a person or people who will work with them. ¬†Although it sounds unlikely, I totally agree with her. ¬†I’m perfectly content to accept it as a mystery of life.

I think love moves between us like that as well. ¬†When we love others it allows us to learn the song in their heart. ¬†That is how we hear, “How did you know?” when someone we love opens a gift we’ve picked out for them. ¬†Truth is, I didn’t know for sure, but loving someone helps us make a pretty good choice. ¬†It is a choice to love those who we share our world with isn’t it? ¬†My notion is that love is alive and moves among us. ¬†It is available to all of us if we want to work with it.

My question is does the magic of ideas and love simply happen to us or do we make it happen?

I’ve got to run now, but I’ll try to finish my thoughts in Part 2.





5 Incredible Gifts Your Valentine Will Absolutely Love

It’s no secret that I love Valentine’s Day.

Happiness is having someone to share your ups and downs  with.  Tweet: Happiness is having someone to share your ups and downs  with.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate all the special people who bring love and happiness into your life.

I’ve got 5 incredible gifts your Valentines will absolutely love. ¬†(Plus, I’ve got a little bonus material to share with you.)

1. Usually you can’t go wrong with classics like candy or flowers. ¬†I’m a sucker for chocolate and roses never fail to delight me. ¬†If you want to change it up a little bit surprise your valentine with a balloon bouquet instead. ¬† If roses and balloons aren’t your style consider a cookie or fruit bouquet instead.

Balloon Bouquet

2. Another idea is bubble bath, bath bomb, soaps, perfume, or cologne. ¬†This can be a little more expensive and a little harder to choose for someone else. ¬†I recommend sticking with something you already know your valentine likes. ¬†If it’s for a child the risk is a lot less. ¬†My kids are grown now, but they used to love to get some bubble bath or colored soap.

3. Write your valentine a love letter or give them a handmade card.  Maybe you could share all the secret reasons why you adore them.

4. Pajamas or slippers are a fun gift that my valentines love to receive.  You are sure to be in their dreams when they are nestled in bed all snug in the gift from you.

5. Give them a music CD:  A romantic collection of love songs.  Something fun to sing along with in the car.  Or maybe you are the type that likes to make a mix yourself and burn it to a CD.

Bonus Material: ¬†On a personal note, this year I am ahead of the game with a gift for my husband. ¬†No last minute shopping for me! ¬†(This happens to be because I planned to give this to him for Christmas, but didn’t quite have my act together to get it done in time. ¬† That’s another thing I love about Valentine’s Day – Any left over Christmas gift ideas that I couldn’t afford or didn’t have time to get can be given in February.) ¬† My husband has a gold necklace that needed a new end cap so I took it to the jeweler and had it replaced. ¬†I know he’ll be happy to have it wearable again. ¬†It is kind of an interesting story how he got the necklace. ¬† He is a golf pro and used to give lessons. ¬†The wife of one of his clients gave her husband this beautiful gold chain as a gift on a special occasion. ¬†The client then turned around and traded the necklace to my husband for a golf club! Boy did that client have some explaining to do when his wife found out. ¬†That is my bonus material- A little free advice: ¬†If your valentine gives you a gift please don’t trade it for a golf club. ¬†It’s likely that wouldn’t go over well.

Have you ever received a Valentine’s Day gift that made your heart burst? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Read our blog to find inspiration for gifts and life.

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Header photo by Laura Ockel.


My Sweetie

It was love at first sight. ¬†Ahh… ¬†This story of romance reminds that shinier is not always better. ¬†

It is up to me to choose to be grateful for what I have even if it is not perfect.  Tweet: It is up to me to choose to be grateful for what I have even if it is not perfect.

This is a memory of one of my first loves. ¬†I’ll share it here so that its memory will live on. I ¬†first wrote it for a class assignment years ago.¬† Out of respect for that time in my life I’ll leave it unchanged.

A Sweet Camaro

When a light film of dirt settles on the dashboard I think, “Where did that dust come from? I just wiped the entire interior the day before yesterday.”¬† But as I grab a rag and the Armor All bottle, I feel a sense of warm pride inside as I gently wipe away the dust.¬† As my rag caresses the panel of buttons and knobs, I take a deep breath and feel the sweet, crisp, clean, scent tickle my nostrils.

Meanwhile, the headliner droops brushing my hair and face.  Somewhere deep inside I know this car is slightly beat.  I know the paint has chips and rust, and I know the sagging headliner is not the only flaw inside.  I hear the squeaks and groans of the door and seat springs.  I see the cracks in the dashboard and the holes in the apholstery.

But I see beyond that.

The dark navy paint shows you your reflection after a thorough wash and wax. As I place my rag aside, the black dashboard gleams.  The wire rim hubcaps shine, and the light blue pinstripes down the sides outline the sleek body.

When I walk toward my car in a parking lot, I do not turn my head to look after quieter, shinier, newer cars.¬† Instead I scan the lot and focus on the sweet¬†Camaro that I bought with my own money, lock my eyes on it, and I think, “Oh baby, You’re mine.”

I can’t wait to slide into my own private sanctuary where everything feels good.

By the way that bucket seat cradles my body, it seems to be made for me alone.  The fresh polish leaves the vinyl slightly slippery, but in no way greasy, so that I can easily move around to make myself comfortable.  I can reach the glove compartment without difficulty to remove the vanilla air freshener which lightly mists the air leaving an almost sickeningly sweet perfume.

The radio plays familiar upbeat music with lyrics I know by heart.¬† The seatbelt fits in place perfectly, and even the shoulder strap refuses to annoy me.¬† As I drive along knowing exactly when to let up on the clutch as I deftly maneuver the stick shift into gear controlling the transmission which my father refers to as “a bear,” I smile.

I watch the sunlight sparkling off the new glass buildings I pass and glisten on the hood in front of me.

I listen to the engine running and feel it working through the slight vibrations under me.

I know that I am aware of how grateful I am to be here in this car, at this moment, content in my own solitude.


Since then I haven’t been romanced quite so beautifully by a car. ¬†In fairness, as my life gets busier, I probably don’t romance my cars in the same way that I did my Camaro either.

But it goes to show that there can be romance in unpredictable places.  You just have to choose to look at life with a grateful spirit.

Do you have a Valentine in your life who is grateful for their car?  You could get them revved up with a simple gift for their car.