Everyday Heroes

Everyday Heroes.

They really are among us.

And I have to brag on one of them (maybe two).

For those of you that have been hanging around here at TheCreativeLifeinBetween for any length of time know about our amazing McHendy family.

Well – our youngest Jake (who we affectionately refer to as Baby Jake, but who is far from a baby these days!)  is now a distinguished Naval officer on a ship that was being commissioned this past weekend.  An Everyday Hero he is!

But behind the story of this great hero is another hero.  This everyday hero shuns the spotlight, but she does magical, amazing, generous acts of kindness behind the scenes.

She also just so happens to be my BFF.  Her name is Jill, and she is astonishingly extraordinary.  (Remember the Pay it Forward Christmas Gift Challenge?)

Well – much like any Mom of a military service person would do – Jill sends “care packages.”

But Jill doesn’t send care packages just to her son (our Jake), she sends them to the ENTIRE crew of the ship he is on – EVERY month!

She does it behind the scenes, all on her own, while also working full time and then some in an executive position, being a mom to four grown children and grandma to one (and a half!), and being an amazing friend and philanthropist.

When we recently celebrated Jill’s birthday, Jill insisted on paying the bill for lunch.  When paying, she told our server to “keep the change.”  The server questioned her to assure she meant what she said, because, you see, Jill tipped our server over double the amount of the cost of our lunch.  It was her “gift” to the server – on HER birthday!

That’s the kind of person she is…  Someone I can only aspire to be like!

When she was recently called up among dignitaries and military personnel and political celebrities to be honored at the commissioning of the naval ship our Jake is an officer on, she humbly accepted, but raised her arm in respect to doing it “all for the crew!”

I am so stinking proud of her, I had to share!  She will likely not be pleased, but hopefully she will forgive me, because she knows I am doing it out of love and respect for the amazing person she is.

Everyday heroes are among us!  And I am so honored to call one of them my BFF!

Love you Jill!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

 

 

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Charlie and Kitty

Hi Friends!  Charlie here.

I was really anxious to introduce you to one of my new BFFs, so Mom let me guest post again today.   Yippee!!!

“Kitty” is one of my friends I look forward to seeing on my walks with Mom.

We met about two weeks ago, and now we look forward to seeing each other almost every day.

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We live about a mile or so apart, but I know when I am getting close to Kitty’s house.  I start pulling Mom looking to the other side of the street where Kitty lives, and Kitty comes running out from the porch to the edge of the yard to see me.

Oh how fun it is to sniff and cuddle and visit my friend!

I’ve heard some people say silly things like “fighting like cats and dogs,” and I just don’t get it….

Who wants to fight when we can be friends?!

Cat/Dog… Black/White… Male/Female…Republican/Democrat… Christian/Jew… Rich/Poor… Young/Old… Tall/Short… Thick/Thin…

Why can’t we all just be friends?!

Woofs & Wags,
Charlie

(For more blog posts from Charlie, go to https://lifeinbetween.me/ and enter “Charlie” into the SEARCH bar.)

OPTIMISTIC

 

The Giving Plate Gift

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My BFF Jill is one of the most generous and amazing gifters I know, so I could not let this week of gift sharing pass without sharing her gift to me (and many) that is also a gift I can give.

What is better than receiving a gift you can give?

The #givingplate is a plate meant to be given away.  The recipient is asked to sign the back with a gold paint marker that is included,

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fill the plate with goodies or a meal or any kind of gift,

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and give it away.

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The person receiving it is asked to do the same,

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allowing the #givingplate to “tell the story.”

The story of its travels and those that gave and received it.

Jill spent several weeks going to a ceramic shop hand painting, glazing, and getting 20 or so of these plates made to share with friends and family.

The funniest thing about this gift is that it is one I almost did myself.

One day in early December, Jill and I were browsing at Home Goods, and I was looking at plates and started telling her an idea I had for a Christmas gift that is made by painting a message on a plate for people to give away and share.  I asked her what she thought of the idea.

She said, “Don’t do it.”

At first startled, I looked at her smiling, and I knew!

She was already doing it.

Quite the sign of “soul sistas” I say, when out of all the gifts we could think to create, we both think of this!

Mine would never have been done so lovely, so I am super happy she did it, and I got it, and I get to give it away!

Who knows – it may end up in one of your hands/homes one day!

#payitforward

Cheers & Hugs,

Jodi

Comfort Food & Best Friends: Homemade Potato Soup & Crusty Bread

My BFF was coming for dinner one night this week, and I wanted to make one of her favorites.  Jill loves creamy potato soup, especially on these cold winter evenings, so I was excited to make it for her to enjoy for dinner with Marty and I since her hubby is out of town.  How lucky for me to get to have extra time with her!!!

HoI found a recipe for Crockpot Potato Soup and thought that would be perfect – I could prep it in the morning, let it cook while I work, then finish it up after work and enjoy the evening with Jill.

So I started peeling and dicing the potatoes.  The recipe called for 3 to 3 1/2 lbs, but I decided to double it to assure there would be plenty leftover for Jill to have for the rest of the week to take for lunch or have for dinner at home.

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And as a side note:  Marty would be so proud that I actually used the vegetable peeler tool to peel all 7 lbs. of potatoes!  What a hassle!  I usually just use a paring knife to be quicker, but I do waste an awful lot that way…   I had a bag of red potatoes and several loose russet and Yukon Golds.  I used every single one of them.

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Then I chopped two wonderfully large sweet Vidalia onions.   I’m not the best chopper/dicer.  I just don’t have the patience to “finely” chop or dice.  Marty and Jake are so much more precise.  I like to refer to my style of chopping as “rustic.”  Doesn’t that sound so much more artistic and purposeful than “too lazy to bother?”  🙂

Next the recipe called for chicken broth.  I didn’t have any canned or boxed, but I did have chicken base, which makes a wonderful and much less expensive broth.

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Since I was doubling the recipe, I needed 10 cups of chicken broth.

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Well – I have a pretty large crockpot, but wasn’t thinking straight (Disclaimer:  it was like 7:30 am, and I was only on my first cup of coffee), so 7 lbs. of diced potatoes and 10 cups of chicken broth…. well – not happening in the crock pot…. And there was more to add….

The recipe didn’t call for garlic, but c’mon – what savory dish doesn’t taste better with some freshly minced garlic in it?  Again – note the “rustic” mincing job I do with my garlic…

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And just because I had it – – and because it is yummy – – – I wanted to throw in some fresh “rustically” chopped rosemary and sage.  Oh the wonderful aroma!!!!

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So before I had a huge mess, I dumped it all in a LARGE pot – way too large – but whatever – it fit – and too big is better than too small (for soup pots)!

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Next – the recipe called for a cup of evaporated milk.   I had one can.  I needed 2 cups (doubling – remember?)  One can does NOT equal two cups….

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… so I just filled the remaining half cup with Half and Half.  I dumped poured it in the pot, then added a dash of salt and pepper.

According to the crockpot recipe, this is all to simmer on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours…. I put a lid on the pot, set the burner to simmer, and it only took about an hour of simmering for the potatoes to be fully cooked and soft.  So it just sat there (and the flavors melded) for the day once done.

After work, when I was ready to finish the soup, I melted 2/3 cup butter in a medium saucepan.  Once melted, I whisked in 2/3 cup flour and cooked for a couple minutes.  I then whisked in 4 cups of the potato soup broth.

potato soup 9This was then added to the big pot and cooked for about 10 minutes.  While that was cooking, I fried up a pound of sliced bacon, chopped a handlful of green onions, and grated some cheddar cheese.

potato soup 10I stirred half the bacon, onion and cheese into the pot, along with a cup of sour cream…

potato soup 11I reserved the rest of the bacon, green onions and cheese for garnishing on top of the soup.

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And because nothing goes better with warm, creamy soup than rustic crusty homemade bread, I made a loaf for dunkin’.  (You can find the recipe for this super-easy, no-knead, three ingredient crusty bread here from a previous post.)

potato soup 12We filled and warmed our bellies, and then……  the best part….. my favorite holiday show was on!  RUDOLPH the Red-Nosed Reindeer!  And I got to watch it with my bestie!

And Jill got to take a big container home to enjoy for the rest of the week.  It was a pretty great Tuesday! 🙂

Here is the recipe (the SINGLE recipe that FITS in the crockpot!) as posted by www.CookingClassy.com.

Make it however you like, add whatever spices you like, substitute whatever you need…. That’s the beauty and fun of cooking!

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 to 3 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 medium potatoes, 8 – 9 cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (1 cup)
  • 3 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz)
  • 9 oz bacon, cooked and diced or crumbled
  • 4 green onions, diced

Directions

  • To a 6 or 7-quart slow cooker, add potatoes, onion, chicken broth, evaporated milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with lid and cook on HIGH heat for 4 hours or LOW heat for 8 hours (poke potatoes with a fork to check make sure they’re soft).
  • Ladle out 2 cups liquid from soup mixture in crock pot into a liquid measuring cup, set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour 2 cups liquid in measuring cup into butter mixture (it will thicken quickly). Pour butter mixture into slow cooker and stir to blend. If desired, mash potatoes with a potato masher to break down into smaller pieces or use an emulsion blender to puree. Cover and cook on HIGH heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Turn heat off (or to warm), stir in sour cream. Serve warm topped with cheddar, bacon and green onions (you can just mix in those three remaining ingredients into slow cooker or top individual servings).

Ho

Cheers & Warm Hugs,

Jodi

I am submitting this post as part of my #Writing201 Assignment: A How-To How-To – We all have something we can teach others. This week, dig into your bucket of expertise to pen an instructional post.

Pay it Forward Christmas Gift & Challenge

If you are looking for the ABSOLUTE MOST AMAZING Holiday Gift, look no further.  I am SO excited to share this idea!  This is a gift that is suitable for ANY and EVERYone on your Holiday / Christmas List!

My BFF, Jill, nailed it this year!  She is the most creative, generous, kind, caring, loving person ever, and I am so lucky to have her in my life.

So here is what arrived on our doorstep Friday afternoon…

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a box filled with a variety of Pay it Forward Random Acts of Christmas Kindness activities – – complete with an “instruction booklet,” story about why Jill and Todd wanted to do this, and even every little gift card and item needed to fulfill each act of kindness!

Let me walk you through it page by page.  It started out with an introduction…

RACK Pay it Forward 2014 2and short story (which included us! 🙂  YAY!  Our families have been BFFs since our first babies, and our kids have grown up together like one big batch of brothers and sisters.  We LOVE it!  And we love all of them.

“Happy Holidays,  In the spirit of the holidays, Todd and I decided to try to engage you in a “Pay it Forward Challenge” this year.  Years ago, our best friends, the McKinney’s, asked their elf Sammy to send us our own elf for the holidays.  Sammy sent Jingle so we could share in the tradition.  Jingle spent years making sure Jackie, Jayme, Julie and Jake were behaving.  But now Jingle has a new plan…”

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“We are hoping that you will join Jingle in the movement and take the opportunity to participate in a few of the Pay it Forward challenges.  If possible, we would like you to document the activities with pictures, posts and hashtags.  Send pictures to [Jill’s email], upload on Instagram or post to your Facebook page and tag me.”

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“Every Act of Kindness Grows the Spirit and Strengthens the Soul”

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For the first challenge, Jill included a $2 bill, chalk, glitter, and even an itty bitty dispenser of tape!  Directions:  Tape the $2 bill to the sidewalk, sprinkle some glitter, and add a note for the unsuspecting recipient.

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Next was a bright yellow tennis ball with the word “Fetch” written on it.  Directions:  Locate a dog that appears to be missing the element of fun in their life.  Throw them the fetch ball and capture the sheer joy.”

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Next was a bottle of Coke with a tag saying, “You are So-Da Bomb!”  Directions:  Let someone in your life know they are “DA BOMB” and important part of your life.  Cheers!”

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Next was a box of M&M’s with a note on it for our mail carrier saying, “Thanks for driving Miles & Miles to bring us our mail.”  Directions:  Place this package in your mailbox to let your mail carrier know that you appreciate their dedication in the rain, snow, sleet and hail!”

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This was followed by one that I was extremely touched by.  Jill hand addressed an envelope to her “adopted soldier,” put a stamp on it, and included a blank note card.  Directions:  Take a few moments to write Christian Granada a personal note.  He is the soldier I have adopted as my Home Front Hugs Hero.  Christian is part of Operation Enduring Freedom and involved in some dangerous work clearing roads of bombs, so support is critical.  Just mention me in your note.  This is one I’d like to ask all of my readers to participate in with us if you could.  Would you send a note or card to Christian Granada, Homefront Hugs Hero, 43d CEC / 3 CR, 00 Fenty, APO AE  09354?  Just let him know you are sending it from Jill’s Pay it Forward Challenge.”  We’d be so grateful!

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The next one included a sparkly bottle of bright red nail polish.  Directions:  Find a friend or relative to pamper and pain your ‘mistle toes’ together.

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Next came a bag of Mistletoe labeled, “Christmas Kiss.”  Directions:  Can you get anyone to partake in the traditional kiss under the mistletoe?”

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And how sweet is this idea?  A quarter tapes to a star saying, “Have a Great Day!”  Directions:  Tape a quarter to a bubblegum machine to brighten a child’s day!

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This was followed by a bag of microwave popcorn with a note saying, “Movies shouldn’t be watched without popcorn.  Enjoy this treat with your movie.”  Directions:  Find a Red Box in your neighborhood to place the popcorn on and see if anyone is brave enough to take it. 

RACK Pay it Forward 2014 14

Another great activity included a $5 Little Caesar’s gift certificate.  Directions:  Think about providing a homeless person with a pizza or take a few moments to share a pizza with a friend.

RACK Pay it Forward 2014 15

The next one included a $5 McDonald’s gift card.  Directions:  Visit a McDonald’s drive thru and tape the Arch Card to the ordering speaker to provide a surprise to one of the next cars in line.RACK Pay it Forward 2014 16

The last one contained a box of candy canes, streamers, and a sign that says, “You’ve been RACKed!”  Directions:  Pick a random location and let the candy cane bomb explode and bring minty happiness.

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Now is this not the BEST gift idea ever?!!

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I have Jill’s permission and blessing to share this idea with you.

She actually made and shipped 25 of these to her family and friends.  Did I not tell you she is quite amazing?!!!

Our hope and desire is that you may want to try this or create one yourself.  Let’s #PayItForward and spread some #RACK – Random Acts of Christmas Kindness!  Please feel free to reblog, tweet, post on your Facebook page, and spread the love!  🙂

Cheers & Kind Hugs,

Jodi

P.S.   Be watching for some future posts where I will be sharing some of our experiences with this Pay it Forward Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Challenge.  I hope you will share yours also!

Blessings Jar – Thankful for one of the Best Gifts Ever

blessings

So it’s the Day After #GFC2014 Weekend, and I’m still feeling so thankful and so blessed!  Relaxing with Marty on this Sunday evening, and a teensy glass of red wine :).

For some reason, I was reminded of one of the best (birthday) gifts I’ve ever received.   And it made me realize what a great Wedding Gift this could be during wedding season, so I wanted to share.

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My BFF, Jill, gave me this gift on my birthday a year ago, which just so happens to fall on New Year’s Eve, so coincides beautifully with New Year’s resolutions and new habits to create for the new year.

You see, “best gifts ever” don’t have to be expensive or elaborate.  The best gifts ever are from the heart and those that create memories for a lifetime.

My gift was a jar filled with blank colored  index card sized pieces of paper.  In explaining the gift, Jill encouraged me to write down blessings throughout the year and things I am thankful for.  She said we could then reopen it the following year, and revel in the wonderful experiences of the past year.

I still have the jar, and I review the notes occasionally.  Sometimes when I’m feeling blessed and happy, and sometimes when I need a lift.

In my happiness and afterglow of the blessings of this past weekend, I decided to revisit the jar and read some of the blessings from 2013.  It doesn’t need to be New Year’s or Christmas or a Birthday or Thanksgiving to be thankful.

Let me share just a small sampling of some of the little notes I scribbled throughout the year.  Some of them are BIG – like my oldest son, Jake’s wedding, my youngest son, Nick, getting a new job….    Some are very small – like planting tomatoes or a phone call from a friend.  But ALL of them bring a smile to my face and heart, bring me joy, and make me realize how fortunate, thankful, and blessed I am.

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January 1, 2013:  “Celebrated the first moments of 2013 with some of the people I am closest to – Marty, Jill, and Todd. This was our FIRST year when all the kids did their own thing – be we savored the moments, the friendship, the blessings, AND we texted with the kids!”

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January 7, 2013:  “Received a beautiful card from Joyce and Rob thanking and celebrating our recent reunion.  A reminder to consider perception becomes reality until clarified, and can result in boundless blessings.”

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May 4, 2013:  “Jake ran and finished the Pittsburgh Marathon!  26.2 miles in 4 hours, 53 minutes.  Such a amazing accomplishment!  So proud!  Jill and Todd were there with us to cheer him on!”

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May 8, 2013:  “Pam called today.  Had such a nice talk.  Good friends are such a blessing.”

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May 13, 2013:  “Nick got a new job.  Starts 6/10/13.  So proud and so happy for him.  I know he will be a great SUCCESS!”

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May 25, 2013:  Planted tomatoes.  Can’t wait to watch them grow and enjoy the bounty!”

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May 28, 2013:  Girl’s Day Out with Janet – manicures and pedicures and bridal shower shopping!

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June 1, 2013:  Today was Colleen’s Bridal Shower!  It was a great day to celebrate a very special young lady we love!”

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June 1, 2013:  Jake brought flowers to the shower for Colleen, Teri, and me.  So proud of him and love him dearly!”

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June 13, 2013:  “Marty got a ride in the autonomous car!”

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July 12, 2013:  “So thankful for best friends ever helping with Jake and Colleen’s Wedding Rehearsal Dinner – Janet, Jill, Dawn, Tracy, even Todd and ” Baby” Jake – LOVE them all!”

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July 13, 2013:  “WEDDING DAY for Jake and Colleen!  AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL DAY!”

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August 15, 2013:  “Matt and Judy came to visit and stay for the weekend.  GREAT time catching up and reminiscing.  Love them!”

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September 1, 2013:  “First invitation to dinner at Jake and Colleen’s.  So good to be with them in their new home.”

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September 17, 2013:  “Card-making class with Colleen.”

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October 12, 2013:  Wonderful GFC Weekend with Pam, Jill, Janet and Joan!”

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November 16, 2013:  “Marty’s 55th Birthday!  Fun time with family and Hendy’s – lots of love!”

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November 22, 2013:  “Jackie and Matt ENGAGED!  YAY!!!”

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November 28, 2013:  “WONDERFUL Thanksgiving – Johnny came to visit – SURPRISE! with Nancy – and it was GREAT to hug him!  Then a lovely dinner with Dad and Carole.”

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November 29, 2013:  “So Thankful for my Marty.  His heart and mind are my ROCK!”

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December 22, 2013:  “Christmas with the Hendy’s at Jake and Colleen’s House!”

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December 31, 2013:  “My birthday lunch with my Dad.”

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You see – there are so many things to be thankful for!  BIG and small!

Wouldn’t a Blessings Jar or a Thankful Jar be a great wedding or birthday gift to give a friend or loved one?  Hardly any money, but it will create a lifetime of memories.

Appreciate the moments at Life in Between…

Cheers & Hugs,

Jodi