Smoky Mountain Soaps, LLC

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Many of you know me as a homeschool mom and blogger. Some of you may have also read my books or my newspaper columns. Today I would like to introduce you to my business, Smoky Mountain Soaps, LLC. Don’t we all have a side hustle? What is yours? Please let me know in the comments.

I have always loved the idea of natural soap, cosmetics, and candles. A few years ago, I went from the idea to the making of it.

Smoky Mountain Soaps, LLC products

Some of our products: lavender soap, bath salts, and oatmeal soap

You see, my grandmother used to make lye soap in the 60s and 70s. I grew up knowing that soap making is not just something that happens in a factory. We used grandma’s soap when I was growing up.

Then I got to be in my 40s and experienced all sorts of allergies, including on my skin. I changed my diet and looked for handcrafted soap. At some point, I felt impressed to learn how to make my own soap. After all, how hard can it be, right? Continue reading »


Valentine’s Day Harp Concert

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Our daughter has taken harp lessons for a year and a half. Every year, her teacher invites several of his students to the Blount County Public Library around Valentine’s Day, to perform in front of about 200 people.

A girl and a harp

Our daughter played on a Wurlitzer harp from the 1930s, on loan from her teacher.

This yearly concert started almost twenty years ago as the brainchild of Bill Robinson, a violinist and retired orchestra director from Maryville. Continue reading »


Rise and Grind

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Recently, I visited a business in Sevierville and saw a cute sign next to their coffee machine. It read, “Rise and Grind.” Witty, right?

Rise and Grind

Just do it. Rise and grind and homeschool. Rinse. Repeat.

This is the time of the year when homeschooling feels like a grind. We are still hibernating, so energy levels are low. Motivation to grind daily in math is low, too. The beautiful thing about homeschooling? We have the flexibility to let the children follow their interests. Continue reading »


New Semester

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The beginning of another calendar year only means one thing for a homeschool mom: the beginning of the second semester. The weather has kept us inside and so we have been working on our books, but we also made it out once for a hike.

Teenager at Panther Creek State Park

My son at Panther Creek State Park

With so many events canceled, we simply took this new schedule and made the best of it. The kids must learn flexibility at some point or other. Continue reading »


Book 50 of 50 – How to Grill Everything

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Marc Bittman and I go back about two decades. As a newly engaged young lady, I was walking through Michaels with my fiance, looking for wedding favor ideas and other fun things. In a $5 bin, I found Marc Bittman’s classic How to Cook Everything (affiliate link) and bought it. It served me well because I was learning how to cook with eggs and cheese. Previously, I only knew how to cook everything vegan.

How To Grill Everything by Marc Bittman

Great for anybody who wants to master the grill

As I learned who Bittman was – the food editor of the New York Times – and how he wrote an entire series on “how to cook everything” – I grew very impressed with his cooking methods and presentation style. Come to find out, he supports vegetarianism and wrote “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” (affiliate link) as part of his series. Of course, I bought that title, too. Continue reading »


Book 49 of 50 – Baking with Mary Berry

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The Princess of Wales lead me to Mary Berry because I saw a clip of the both of them baking together. As I researched who Mary Berry was, I learned they call her the Queen of British Baking.

Baking with Mary Berry

My copy, purchased from McKay’s, a used bookstore in Knoxville, for $8

Next thing I knew, in one of my visits to a bookstore, I spotted a cookbook by Mary Berry. When you open yourself up to a certain concept, the road veers  and steers you in the right direction for the next step. You just have to take the first step. Providence will supply the next and the next. Continue reading »


Book 48 of 50 – Thrive

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Arianna Huffington wrote Thrive to advocate for the third metric of success: a life of well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. In this world, there are two metrics of success: money and power. But if in the pursuit of your first (or hundredth) million you drive your health into the ground, go through divorce, and get estranged from your family, what have you really accomplished?

Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Redefining success

Huffington preaches the gospel of sleep, meditation, and self-care. Her audience is made up of Type A personalities who brag about how little sleep they got at night. She tells them to go take a nap. Their conversation would be even more interesting if they had gotten more sleep. Continue reading »


Book 47 of 50 – Bless Yourself

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Joel Osteen has written many encouraging books and Bless Yourself (affiliate link to the devotional journal, not the book reviewed here) is just one of them.

Bless Yourself

Bless Yourself

Short, sweet, and to the point, Bless Yourself will lead you on a journey to discover your own limiting beliefs about what God can do in your life. It is one of the books Osteen offers at times on his website and I just cannot find it right now. They only make it available certain times of the year. Any book by Osteen will bless you though. Here’s Think Better, Live Better (affiliate link).

Continue reading »


Book 46 of 50 – Coffee and Cake

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Rick Rodgers has published many cookbooks over the years. Coffee and Cake is just the kind of cookbook that we all need as an indulgence.

Coffee and Cake

Reading a cookbook from cover to cover will transform the way you look at cooking.

The first half covers the history of coffee and different types of coffee, plus the equipment needed to produce them. He also gives many tips for the home baker – invaluable.

I learned that coffee comes from Ethiopia originally, that Brazil produces more coffee than the next three countries on the list combined, and that 120 million people make a living in the coffee industry all over the world. That’s a lot of people. Continue reading »


Book 45 of 50 – The Screwtape Letters

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We knew C.S. Lewis was brilliant and The Screwtape Letters (affiliate link) only confirms it. How did Lewis even come up with this book? God only knows.

The Screwtape Letters

If you do not read anything else by Lewis, read this one.

Screwtape is a devil who is teaching his nephew, Wormwood, how to tempt a young man (a British man named The Patient in the book). The book educates you and shocks you about the way demons look at us humans. Very insightful indeed.

Every letter becomes a chapter which advances the story of the young man. This is a small book and the chapters (or letters) are short. As such, The Screwtape Letters is very easy to read.

The ending will give you chills. Throughout the book though, depending on how much you already understand about the battle between Jesus and Satan, you will have goosebumps.

Teenagers should read this book for themselves, in my opinion. It would help them gain an understanding of the forces at play in their lives as they make decisions.