Review: ThermaLeaf Fire Retardant Silk Plants

I was recently contacted by a representative from ThermaLeaf®, a company that makes fire retardant artificial foliage, to see if I would be interested in reviewing their products.  I admit, I was skeptical at first because I have never been in love with silk flowers or plants.  I always think of unnaturally colored, gaudy alien flowers with thread-bare petals and green plastic nubby stems. But after looking through their online catalog and seeing the variety of plants and flowers to choose from, I quickly changed my tune.  Plus this season's pollen counts have made it nearly impossible for me to even step outside let alone even think about tending my garden.  My front porch was in need of some spring color.

I opted for the Bourgainvillea Topiary.  Online, the picture is gorgeous.  The size (34" x 22" x 22") seemed perfect for our front porch next to the entryway. Again, the skeptic in me was leery about how it would look when it arrived at my house.  And again, that skeptic was crushed!  When the topiary arrived, it came in a very large roomy box.  Very little fluffing of the branches was needed in order to make the flowering tree look natural and pretty.  This particular product comes in a sturdy wooden planter with realistic ivy creeping up the stem.  The color is so natural even hummingbirds think it's real!  

It's not specified on the website whether or not this topiary should be placed outdoors, but I have had it on my covered front porch a week and it has held up very nicely through five days of straight rain and wind.  It is just gorgeous.  What do you think?




Check out ThermaLeaf® online at :

And as an added bonus, if you'd like to buy at, use code "BLOGGER10" for 10% off on products (except custom).

Hopefully not an exercise in futility

Flower (2)

OK.  Over the past few months I've been really into twenty one pilots.  Not only is their music great for the ears, it's been great for my soul as well.  As a mom, I am happy my daughter and son have their positive message to hear on a regular basis.  I am glad everyone has the ability to hear it, because it's truly a good one.  If you haven't listened - like, really listened- the message I get is that we all have terrible thoughts, but we can beat them.  From paying attention to their fans (the Clique) I have also noticed that there are a lot of people out there who may need that message as well.  Like, an overwhelming amount of people.

One thing I always tell my kids is that they need to have someone to talk to.  Ideally, I'd love that person to be me.  I am their mom after all.  But I understand that sometimes I might not be the one they need.  I get that sometimes Mom isn't the answer.  I just want them to know that there is SOMEone who is, no matter what.  Find that person and talk with them.  Build a trust with that person and never let go.  It's important.  

This person should not be someone who will just wallow and commiserate with you.  It should be someone who can help you.  That help may be in the form of just simply listening to you vent sometimes.  That help may come in the form of advice.  It might even just be sitting next to that someone quietly.  Whatever it is, just find it.

I guess the reason I'm writing this is to let you know that if you don't have a person to talk to, I would gladly be that person.  I'm not going to judge you or tell you you are wrong for feeling the way you do.  I will listen and do my best to help. I am not perfect and I am not strong all the time either, so sometimes I may not be able to give you all you need...but I will try and I will help you as much as I can.  

Just wanted to put that out there. 



It's odd when you're a writer and you're home all day with your thoughts.  Especially when thought provoking music comes on.  You know that kind that doesn't have words, but vibrates strange feelings from your heart strings and pulls trains from your cerebellum or whatever part of your brain carries your whirlwinds of emotions. 

I have a deep connection to music and the arts.  Every piece is an expression that someone needed to get out.  It makes me cry.  Sometimes sad tears, sometimes happy. It's all so beautiful...the pain, the feeling, the release, the rawness.  It takes a lot for someone to put that piece of themselves into the world.  Sometimes, that's the only way to express themselves.  

I personally do not speak well.  I always trip on my words.  Writing is easier.  I need the safety of a backspace key to really get my point across.  

So what's the point of this particular piece?  I'm not quite sure.  But I know I don't like writing open-endedly. So I need to figure it out before I'm finished.

I write better when it's gloomy outside.  When the sun is hidden away and I don't feel guilty for not basking in it. The clouds let sadness and feelings seep out.  Maybe it's because they are basically the same. All liquid and permeating. The sun dries them up and brings happiness.  Removes my desire to bathe in the liquid.  Allows me to once again smile. I started this piece on a dismal day.  I plan to finish it today when the sun shines through my window.

I used to leave the house every day to work as a cafeteria aide at my son's school.  It was hard.  I loved the children and loved being able to see them smile or learn something new.  I would tell them my thoughts on last night's game or tell them I loved hearing about their stint as Student of the Month.  It was fulfilling.  But it was hard.

Staying home means I have more time to theoretically put pen to paper, and I do.  I work all the time.  I don't really have a minute that my brain isn't trying to figure out what next to submit.  But it also means I have more time to figure myself out.  That's good.  It's also bad.

So now I sit here at my keyboard waiting and waiting for the moment to come when this piece can wrap up into a nice happy bow.  What's the point? Why write at all?  This piece was started in March of this year.  I've revisited it several times and added a bit here and there.  It is now mid-November and I just now have figured out that point. it is:

I'm writing it to get it all out.  To take the trapped mess of steam that builds up and release it out into the air so it can evaporate. I feel better when I tap tap tap out letters and words even if they don't make sense at the time.  I do it to feel relevant to myself. I know by reading my writing that I have DONE something with myself. Everyone can tell me the same thing, but I only truly believe it if I can see myself for myself. I do it to feel creative in a world that sometimes feels stuffy and political and pale.  I like to add color and spice.  I like to sit and listen to music that inspires me and write about any and everything that comes to mind.  I like it.  That's why I do it.  

 I'm sharing another twenty one pilots song here - Holding On To You - because it's the soundtrack to my brain lately.  It's about hope, as most of their songs tend to be, but it can be listened to when you're both happy or sad.  From both sides.  I sometimes feel weak and will hold onto someone's arm for support.  Other times I may be strong, holding onto someone else's arm to keep them from falling.  This song represents that for me.  And it represents this post pretty well, too. 



I'm not here for me

I drive by myself only once a week.  My drive is to the farm where I find the most peace of any place I've ever been on this earth, but the drive itself is usually reflective and quite fulfilling. 

The drive there is usually filled with thoughts of despair and loneliness and how I'm not good enough for the role I'm playing in life.  The drive is quiet and sad and I usually cry.  There, I said it.  I cry.  Pretty much the whole 17 or so minutes it takes to get to my happy place.  Once I'm there, I wander the fields snipping zinnias and herbs.  Marveling at the growth of the sunflowers from the week before.  Watching the bees do what they do.  Sneaking cherry tomatoes into my mouth while I fill my container. My brain settles into the idea that everything is ok.  Everything is more than ok, in fact.  It's actually pretty great.


As I see the colors on the flowers and smell the leaves of the tomato plants as I brush by, I think I catch a glimpse of an idea that might make sense.  It comes with the breeze and sort of whirls into my head.  I can't quite get it into focus.  So I wait and pick my weekly share from the farmhouse and load it into my car.

As I pull out of the lot like I do each week, that thought becomes clearer.  Today all the sadness is pushed out of focus long enough to squeeze out the meaning of it all.  Today I realize that maybe we are not here on this earth for ourselves.  We are here strictly for each other.  

When we're sad, the first thing we do is shut down.  What if we were to instead just give ourselves and all our pain freely away to those who want to help us?  What if that's what we are supposed to do?  Instead of feeling all the pain and worry, what if we are supposed to trust in one another to fix that pain?  What if instead of looking inward, we look out and help others? What if we focus less on our own pain and focus fully on the pain of our friends? If everyone were to do that, maybe we would all be ok.  

I know the feeling I get from helping others.  It's tremendous.  It has a way of taking all the pain I may be feeling and replacing it with hope.  We are here for each other.  I believe it.



Post whatever you want


Hey friends, I know you don't need me to tell you this but I just want to say it: When you are sharing via social media, please post what you want.  I keep seeing all these articles about How to Be the Most Annoying Person Online or What Everyone Needs to Stop Posting About and I just don't get it.  Trust me, I don't like everything I see online.  There are so many posts that I think are ridiculous that I get tired of seeing day in and day out.  There are many people I've blocked from my newsfeeds because we do not see eye to eye on topics.  But trying to get them to stop posting their ideas...? Nope.  It's their space to do whatever they like in.  Just because I may not agree does not mean they should stop.  It's up to ME to filter out the things I don't want to see.  It's not up to them to change for ME.  I'm the one in charge of my own happiness.  I can filter.  I can block.  

The reason I bring this up is because just this morning I was motivated by one of those posts I've heard people complain about.  One of those get-off-your-ass-and-do-something posts that make a lot of people roll their eyes.  But guess what.  It motivated ME.  I'm glad to have read it.  Because of that post, I got off my ass and did something in the form of a 2 1/2 mile run.  It felt good.  I feel like I'm a better person today because of it.

I can tell you from my own experience that I KNOW not everyone likes all the posts I make.  I know that I'm blocked from more than a few people's newsfeeds.  That's totally fine with me!  I post for many different reasons.  

1) I post for myself.  Yep, that's right.  I post most times to make sure I'm relevant in this world.  I post to make myself feel good.  I'm not trying to be needy, but sometimes I AM needy and those few likes or comments make me feel good.  Sometimes if I'm in a funk, I throw myself out there into the social media abyss in hopes to grab onto the arm of another drifting soul.  It usually works, too.

2) I post to help others.  When I find something that I think may help someone, I'll throw it out there. Hey, 98% of the people who read it may scoff at it, but that post might be useful to that 2%.  I'm cool with that. 

3) I think I'm funny.  I laugh at a lot of things that maybe I shouldn't.  I can't help it.  If someone falls down, but first instinct is to laugh.  I like to post funny stuff.

I do NOT post for anyone's approval.  I do NOT post without acknowledging the fact that what I post will not be received well by everyone.  There are always consequences for every action whether it be in real life or online.  

I won't stop anyone from posting what they want.  It's not fair for me to try to change people to make MY life better.  I can only change myself. 

So post away, my friends! Know that someone somewhere loves what you're doing. :-) 

Letter to my kids. Today.


My hearts, my loves,

We check in with each other every day, but how much do we really know? How are you really?  How am I really? Sometimes the days fly by so fast that our inquiries about each other seem so monotonous and unfeeling.  We start to just tell each other we're fine before we even know we've said it. It forces me to ask again...are you ok? And then I worry when you give the same "I'm fine" answer.  You notice my brows curl inward a little and add a "..really" to the end to give me reassurance.  But I'm never reassured.

What am I looking for?  I don't know because I don't really WANT there to be more.  More in this case could actually mean worse.  I want to be content with you being content.  I want your answer to sit well with me every day and not lead me to get trapped in my own unsettled thoughts.  I want you to be exactly what you say you are...FINE.

Maybe I put too much stock in my own childhood and the person I was then.  I shouldn't do that, I know.  I should know that you are both also a product of your daddy who is calm and rational and loving and transparent and everything everything. And you are your own, too. You are not me.  

But that small part that IS like me is what causes my head to spin with every fine answer. What makes my parental spidey senses go into overdrive.  Maybe there's some essential oil or something I could diffuse to mute that a bit. 

But until then, I'll keep asking.  Probably to the point of annoyance. Probably until you're old and grey. 

How are you?

I love you.


My Reserve, Our Coasts: Save Our Local Resource - the JCNERR

I don't get political too often and there is good reason for it.  I don't follow politics.  I am not well versed in them.  With the way the world is now, I don't WANT to know them either, quite frankly.  What I DO know is that when something that is good for my family, the community, my friends, and the world is threatened, I will fight  for it.  

Right now, the funding for our coastal reserves is in danger due to budget cuts within several federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Our local reserve the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JCNERR) - where our children learn about our area - could be shut down.  In fact, without our help, it could be gone as early as 2018. That means research will stop.  Jobs will be lost.  Our children will lose the most convenient environmental resource available to them.


You probably don't realize how much you have used the JCNERR.  If you'e ever visited the Tuckerton Seaport's third floor, you should know that all that great hands-on equipment is there because of the JCNERR.  If you've ever taken a class at the Field Station, that's run by the JCNERR.  

I asked around to see how many of my local friends have utilized the resources at the JCNERR  and was so pleased to learn that SO many have taken their classes with rave reviews:

 "They have great programs there, all three of my kids have been involved over the years. What a unique opportunity to learn about our local environment! Losing funding and those programs would cheat the coming generations." - Vicki Falkinburg 
"I took my boys when they were little. Loved it. Austin dissected a squid when he was 7. The "build a water robot class" was amazing. We also made a birdhouse that we still use.  We went seining one day too." -Kate Janney 
Austin and Ryan Janney with their underwater robot
"I took the boys there twice. We had a great time! The staff was super informative and so nice! The boys loved it. They did the underwater robot and the penguin visit."- Samantha Colandrea
"We went one summer and it was great. I was hoping to do one this summer for Hope. She wants to be a scientist when she grows up and loves these types programs."- Jessica Shertenlieb
"The kids really enjoyed all of the hands on experiences."- Maureen Tyhanic
"Stephen (grandson) attended the summer classes since he was in first grade until he was too old to attend. Big classes full of children learned a lot each summer."- Joan Neuroth
Leanora Earle after a great class at the JCNERR

 If you have a great experience with the JCNERR. please tell everyone about it! You can comment on this post, or share it on social media using hashtag #MyReserveOurCoast.  

PLEASE read the article in the Sandpaper for more information. 

I know I'm not doing much justice to how important saving this program is for our future.

Find out what else you can do to save your local reserve by checking out .  Use the hashtag #myreserveourcoasts whenever you're taking pics at the beach or visiting your local reserve!

The best thing is to get the word out that WE LOVE OUR RESERVE, OUR COASTS!  Share this article, share your experience, call your local representatives, do whatever you can.  

Thank you. 


Save every time you shop with Groupon Coupons

If you've been following along for a while, you know that my blog is mostly about feelings.  I'm a feelings person.  Everything I do has some sort of feeling attached.  I try my best to make most of those feelings good ones.  And I don't particularly like writing about things I don't like.  When I get the opportunity to work with a brand, I will NOT write about it if I don't like it regardless of compensation.  If you see it on here, you can be sure it's because I like the product. In this case, this is a sponsored post, but I look at it as a bonus for writing about a product I truly adore. 


With that in mind, I'm glad to be posting once again about Groupon.  

Back in November of 2015, I had the pleasure of introducing Groupon Coupons to you here on my blog.  Since then I'm happy to report they are still going strong and still saving me plenty of money both online and off. 

A quick story for you...

My son recently got a hand-me-down drum set from a friend.  He took to it pretty quickly and loves banging out tunes for us, which made us want to fix up the set for him.  Our quest lead us to Guitar Center to find out how much the replacement parts would cost.  While there, we found that buying a new-to-us (AKA: used) set would be more cost effective, so we did.  

Now the only thing our little Josh Dun/Neil Peart wannabe wants to do is drum and visit Guitar Center.  I love watching his eyes light up when he sees the newest arrivals on the sales floor.  It gives me great ideas for gifts.  I like to take pics with my phone for reference so I can come home and sneakily purchase that new set of sticks or the cowbell he was eyeing up at the store.  But before I purchase anything, I check Groupon first!  Right now, Guitar Center has over 50 coupons listed - most for online purchases, but with some In Store printables.  

Look for yourself: 

Of course Guitar Center isn't the only store Groupon has coupons for.  There are over 11,700 stores using Groupon's services with over 79,700 FREE coupons.  

Oh, did I mention using Groupon is also FREE?

So next time (and every time after that) you want to buy ANYthing, check Groupon first. You may be surprised at the savings you can get by simply taking one tiny extra step. 

 Some more examples of Groupon Coupon deals: 

 Check their site for even more! 

...of my whole life


Sometimes I hear young people say so-and-so was the best whatever of my whole life.  I've said it, too.  When I was younger, I didn't realize that life hadn't even started yet.  Even now, I know that telling younger people that life really doesn't start until you are well into your 20s or 30s sounds ridiculous.  Unbelievable.  Absolute garbage.  But it's true, and I wish that there was a way I could tell every young person.  But young people don't find stats as cool as I do.  They don't want to listen to an old happy person talk about the pleasure of watching their small children do homework at the kitchen table or how fulfilling it is to grow an avocado tree from a seed.  They need info quick and now and to their liking.  I often wonder if there is a way to get the point across without sounding like an old codger stumbling over "when I was your age..."

I worry.

I think kids are the same as we were when we were kids, but with different surroundings.  They know so much more about so many different things than we did.  They have access to anything they want to know within milliseconds of typing in a word.  They don't even have to finish typing that word and the world responds with information.  It's that fast.  Processing all that information can sometimes be scary and intimidating.  Their brains can sometimes be overloaded with information about things they know exist, but haven't actually participated in themselves, giving them false senses of experience. They think they are worldly.  But they are just kids.

 I try my best to step back into my own kids' shoes and remember what it was like when everything I did was the best thing of my whole life.  I remember that that statement was actually true at the time.  When I was 12 I entered a cooking contest and thought winning 2nd place was the best thing in my whole life.  Then in high school when the guy I liked called me, that was the best thing in my whole life.  

Then I think about now and how I still have the ability to say that about experiences.  What does that mean?  It means that when I was young, those experiences that were the best ones of my whole life have gotten even better.  Now I can cook for my family.  Now I am married to the man of my dreams.  These are the best things of my whole life.  

The point is, the best things keep getting better and better with age.  They don't stop once you say it once.  You can continue to have the best every single day and that best will always be better than the one before.  It's important for kids to know that.  

Bad days happen, but so do good days.  So do the BEST days.

Open letter of thanks to Kelly Joseph and Laura Dun

Where to start...

I obviously don't know either of you personally.  I hope I don't overstep at all with this post.  I have just been feeling this overwhelming urge to write it.


This has always been one of my favorites by @bridge.art_

A post shared by Cindy Dudas (@wthbonbon) on

We share a bond as moms.  Whether we know each other or not, we still know the same love and yearning for our respective children's health, happiness, and success. We may be at different stages of their lives as parents, but I am certain the feelings remain regardless of their ages or ours. I just want to point out something that you probably already know and don't need to hear from a stranger, but regardless... here it is... your sons are wonderful.  They have changed my daughter's life with their music.  

I want - no, NEED to thank you for that.

I know all parents think their kids are rock stars.  In your case, that's obviously 100% accurate. While mine aren't in the global spotlight, they are still rock stars within our own realm.  My son is still very young and is thriving in 3rd grade.  My daughter just started middle school.  Her report card just came home with straight As for the second marking period in a row in her accelerated academic program. She kills it on the basketball court and is becoming such a great artist, it amazes me.

Pure. Rock. Star.

But there are plenty of times when she doesn't think so.  Like a lot of teenagers, she can not see what I see on more than a few occasions.  She can not feel the happiness I feel.  She does not think she should.  I know this because I had the same feelings when I was her age.  Maybe you did, too?  I don't know.


A post shared by Art🎨 (@bridge.art_) on

I'm not going to pretend to know what your sons were like before their fame or even before their desire to make music took over.  But from the lyrics I've heard and the hearts they display so boldly on their sleeves (well, arm in Josh's case considering I don't think I've really seen him with many sleeves) I can tell they are true to their Few/Proud/Emotional stance.  I can tell they have been through some thoughts that may not have been easy for you to take comfort in as their moms.    

I just want to thank you for being there.  For raising these boys (and of course all your other children as well) to be kind and share their gifts with the world.  I truly believe they were put here for the purpose of hope. 

When my daughter started listening, like really listening to twenty one pilots, I secretly started listening too.  I wanted to know what could possibly be taking up so much of her time?  Why was she suddenly immersed in red and black clothes and drawing little skeletons and aliens?  So I listened.  And I got it. 

I love how every song not only acknowledges pain, but then takes it further to explain that it's ok.  It's ok to feel the way we feel sometimes.  Sadness isn't the end.  Sadness can be overcome.  I love that every song gives that hope to my daughter.  By making it all so upbeat and light, it just makes it all seem much more acceptable.  Not as scary.  

There are so many times when I just don't know.  I don't know if "I'm fine, Mom" is accurate.  I am grateful that she has your sons' music to turn to when she doesn't know either.  

 So thanks.  For being their moms.  For supporting them so they can support so many. 



A post shared by Cindy Dudas (@wthbonbon) on