30 June 2011

Jewelry Peek

Here's a quick peek at the necklaces I made yesterday. It was a lot of fun to make until I got to the last necklace and dropped it THREE times while I was trying to close up the ends. Beads all over the table, floor, my clothes, not once but three times --was so annoyed. By the end I just had to push through and get it done, which was a test in patience and endurance. But I love how they look together, definitely feels summery and fresh.

Realized today that I haven't posted any new photos of my holiday mantle decor for the 4th of July holiday. Better get those taken today so I can post tomorrow. Heading out for weekend tomorrow morning and find myself completely unprepared. Laundry to do, projects to wrap up, shopping, packages to ship, packing...agh. Not happy that I let that happen. Scrambling to get things done today. I guess I should be happy that early in the week I popped in and bought a couple of new summer tops. At least I'll look good once I get there, haa-haa.

Hope you're having a great Thursday. Thanks as always for coming by.

Let It Be & Jewelry

Last night I was thinking about how often we get bent out of shape or feel the need to show our displeasure about something to our nearests and dearests. How important, really, are things like how the fridge is arranged,  garbage is placed in trash cans, what is put down the disposal, coming home later than expected and all those little daily irritations? (Let me interject here that these are just examples, not all things I would get bent out of shape about.) If you knew you would lose that loved one tomorrow, would you be so nit-picky today?

Although I am pretty laid back most of the time, I thought about this and came to the conclusion that I could really just let things go more often. Why get worked up about things that really aren't that important. The first person who pays the price for those feelings is the person who gets annoyed - giving away their peace and calm -- and likely it fans out from there spreading more unpleasantness. Sure things need to be discussed at times, but when you start looking at how many of those things are really and truly important we'd could probably all cut back those conversations by half at least.

 Do you catch yourself making a big deal about things that no one else really cares about? What do you to keep from sounding like a nag? Please share great ideas!

Also, yesterday I pulled out the jewelry beads for the first time in a long time and whipped up a sweet little necklace grouping for an online gift swap partner. Can't wait to send it off to New Zealand tomorrow. I will share it with you later this morning and tomorrow I'll share with you what got from NZ. I had totally forgotten it was coming so when I got it, it was an extra fun surprise -- and even better it was something I had been looking for and needed.

28 June 2011

Make Plans To Go Camping

photo via Moab Area Travel Council

When I was little, our family vacations consisted of camping in the beautiful mountains of Utah. From where we lived we could be in the big mountains in about 15 minutes and there was a large, beautiful lake as the view from our front yard backed by more beautiful mountains.

We took camping trips through Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and other western states. We went fishing every summer, ate delicious camping food, slept in tents, in the back of my dad's truck on the floor in his pickup sleeper with our family of four, and on special occasions we got to borrow my grandparent's camper for trips - that was living the high life! Most of my vivid childhood memories are those from our summer camping trips with our small family, extended family and groups of friends. Every summer I still crave a camping trip to the mountains of Utah or anywhere for that matter.

There are so many amazing foods you can whip up like gourmet tin foil dinners and upstyled S'mores, sausages for roasting with an amazing selection of toppings. And then there's dutch oven cooking: breads, cakes, pies, cobblers -- and I suppose you could cook a meal or two in them as well, haa-haa. Did you know you can control the baking temperature of a dutch oven by the number of hot briquettes you put on top and beneath it? Pretty cool and works every time.

Then there is all the sitting around the fire, talking, telling stories, laughing and best of all singing. It's a fun time to bond because you're cozy, warm and bathed in beautiful firelight and everything seems more personal and more magical. And if you set yourself up with some good gear, there's no better sleep than the sleep of a tired camper.

The very best part of camping is waking up in the chilly morning, getting a fire going before you've even tamed your sleepy, crazy hair. Once a hot griddle is going there's pancakes, bacon, sausages and more to enjoy. Camping breakfasts are the best breakfasts ever and a great way to start out a new camping day.

It's the perfect time to plan a summer camping trip and it's never been easier to plan on. You can do all your research online including: maps, campground reservations, state-by-state visitor's bureau web sites and even get feedback from other travelers to the area you are interested in.

Local outdoor retailers are a great resource to get all the gear you need as well are detailed maps and guidebooks. You can even rent tents, backpacks and a lot of basic camping equipment from them for very reasonable fees.

 I'm setting a goal to spend at least a weekend camping this year, if I'm lucky it will be in Utah. It's the perfect time to get together with friends and make a plan to go camping while there's still plenty of summer time to go. And if you go, I'd love to hear all about it.

What Would You Do? Updating Old Art

Asking for your advice on this one. I bought this old painting, which I still quite love, many years ago. It came with the frame, which at first I hated. But then I hung it above a fireplace or two and it worked as is. I often disguised the stains along the bottom behind some other mantle decor. I knew that the linen around the painting was so old that it would completely disintegrate if I tried to spot clean it.

But now that I've moved it away from the dark brick fireplace to an off-white wall it looks really hideous in that frame and I really feel like updating this piece. It could handle something more modern. I've thought about just taking it out of the frame and hanging the canvas or putting it in a new, much simpler frame.

Here are my important wants on this:

1) I don't really feel like paying professional framing costs - I hate their constant calls for 50% off framing which it still obviously more expensive than it should be, even at that. 

2) I want something clean & modern.

3) My home is mix of  beachy and Asian-inspired. Thought about going with something kind of beach-cottage inspired for the frame, I'd love to do white, but with the ugly off white walls in the apt, it just wouldn't work.

4) It's now hanging in my bedroom. Here are a couple of links to photos: bed area and workspace.

Okay, all you creative people. I'd appreciate so much any ideas you may have. Could definitely use a fresh perspective or two!

27 June 2011

Guest Blogging in Deutschland

I'm guest blogging at Menschenkind today. Melanie, a lovely blogger in Germany and Blogging Your Way alumna, just had her second son and is featuring a great list of international guest bloggers this summer as she focuses on her growing family. The translation process from English to German and back to English is a little rough, but it's amazing you can read blogs from all over the world translated immediately. Fun fact, German was the first foreign language I studied.

Check out Menschenkind, get to know Melanie and enjoy a little post by me about thrift shopping for kids.

Happy Monday! Hope yours is going well.

images by kalanicut

Take Time For Some Total Bliss

It's fireworks season in the United States. Our city put on it's patriotic fireworks show on Saturday and we had a fantastic time picnicking, playing and then bundling up with our "California Family" for all the fun. Community summer celebrations like these are the perfect time to be outside, spend time with family and friends and really and truly RELAX!

I realized Saturday night that for the brief moments of a fireworks show, you just don't think about anything else but ooh-ing and aww-ing. There is something I love about being surrounded by tens of thousands of peopel (at a comfortable distance of course!) listening to us all as we gasp with glee at the big bangs and the colorful explosions. "Whoa! Wow! I love those heart shaped one! Those corkscrews are so loud! Ooooh!" Everyone in the crowd is solely focused on one thing and enjoying every moment of it.

It's wonderful to be so caught up in the moment, to live for those short moments completely in the present. Living in the moment is something that seems to be incredibly hard for people to do these days. With all of life's stresses and distractions it's hard to have even a short uninterrupted conversation with another person. We often miss wonderful experiences right before our eyes thinking about what happened yesterday, what will come tomorrow or just obsessing over what we're afraid might come someday.

If you get a chance in the next few weeks to celebrate and spend time with family and loved ones, be there - be in the moment, enjoy it, make the most of it. If you have the chance to watch fireworks with them, even better! We deserve those little blissful moments life provides, they are the sweetness meant to temper the harder days. They are the gift that gives us peace and restorative rest to carry on. Feast on these moments this season and let it fill your heart and satisfy your soul.

photo by Tom Smart, Deseret News, July 2010

23 June 2011

Independence Day Decorating

I have been itching to rearrange my living room for a few weeks now. Just needed to get the energy to do it and the vibe for what I wanted to do. Today I cleaned the mantle area and realized I have a lot of red in that area. I've been wanting to make a little bunting for the mantle, because it's just not that pretty and it's hard to do much with it, since it's an ugly gas fireplace and mantle is only six inches deep -- can't fit anything very substantial on there.

So I did a little rearranging and got the idea to whip up a little blue bunting to go with all the red. I was happy to find the ribbon in my supply and I took one piece of blue paper and cut the little flags and then using the same blue paper, which happened to be white on the back side, I freehanded a pile of rustic stars with scissors and glued it all together. It probably took about 20 minutes to whip up.

That got me motivated and I took down the big poppies painting that has been hanging over my mantels for six or seven years and took a big rectangle blackboard I made a few years ago and switched the screws so that I could hang it horizontally. It's over the fireplace now. But I haven't yet decided what I'm going to scrawl on it. It needs to be something a little meaningful but not trying too hard -- you know what I mean. I have some ideas rumbling around in my head.

Now I have to go back and clean up the rest of my mess. I've rearranged the bookshelf, removed all the baskets & little things arranged on top. It was curated at one point but it's just too much. I went super simple, a sculpture of three wood fish. Ahh, I can breathe better already!

The Bug's playspace has been edited -- I swear that toybox is a living, growing entity. No sooner to I clean it out than it's overflowing again. I emptied out two storage ottomans filled with saved magazines to put kid stuff in, hopefully that will keep that area a little cleaner.

I also washed the curtains and sheers this afternoon. I hand washed the white sheers and the water was black. So disgusting. Living in the armpit of two major freeways makes keeping things clean nearly impossible. There is black soot around the windows all the time. Now I also need to redo the curtains rods which need to be adjusted. I had a really hard time getting them up by myself the first time and could be better.

More to come! Photos soon.

Stylish Summer Clothes For The Boys

Jackets & Shoes Make the Man

The Man has a fantastic wardrobe, better than mine, I have to admit. I can attribute that to some phenomenal sale days at The Gap and Banana Republic, that good men's classics last - and that men's fashion is so much less complicated and they are often so much easier to please.

In the past couple of years we've picked up some great pairs of shorts, sweater vests and accessories for him at Ross and Marshalls for under $20 and often bought pants at The Gap for less than $25. When stores have sales on basics like layering tees he'll buy a few in different colors. The one store we're really missing is Martin and Osa, which during it's brief existence offered a fantastic selection of basics that rose above the usual fare in design, color and quality.

Over time it has been easy to plan with him a nice grouping of all the major wardrobe necessities: various styles and weights of pants, shorts, shirts, tees, sweaters and jackets. These days it's just a matter of small updates now and again and when he asks, helping him remember what he has available and what options pair up nicely.

photo via Shoe Buy

This week he picked up these great Skechers Ascoli Piceno sneakers, thinking they would go really well with shorts or lightweight pants for the summer and I agreed completely. I've come to realize that good jackets and shoes really tie his looks together. A good jacket or pair of shoes can take a basic top and bottom pairing to a whole new level of handsome and cool. A blah jacket or sadly outdated pair of shoes can quickly dissolve a look into invisible and boring. Shoes and jackets are a great way for a man to express his personal style.

Do you have a current favorite shoe or jacket for men? Does your man let you help him shop? Is he willing to try new things or is it difficult for you to get him get out of a comfort zone? It can be a tricky business but so worth it when he feels he looks great and you can't stop smiling at how cute he is. With a nice collection of basics with a stylish twist it's easy to put together a great wardrobe for men.

Hope you're having a great day! Happy Weekend Eve - it's almost here!

22 June 2011

Say Hi, Hello, Good Morning - Say Something!

As I have taken many walks through my neighborhood over the past nine years, it has always struck me that people under 50 always look down at the ground and say nothing when you walk by and people over 50 look you in the eye and say "Hello" or "Good Morning" and really acknowledge you as existing and with some sense to wish you well.

I hate that my generation and those younger have lost this bit of graciousness and common decency. I read a book a few years ago that strongly pushed the idea of looking people in the eye and smiling or saying hello. I still remember what an affect that had when I tried it at the grocery store and other places as I went about my day. It has changed the way I relate to the world around me and how I interact with people in every way. For the record, when passing someone on the sidewalk I always look to their face to see if they will look up or say hello. I share a kind greeting with them if they have the courage to look up & if not I smile and wish them well in my heart.

I always remember Oprah Winfrey saying on her show, I believe she was quoting Maya Angelou - I paraphrase -- That all people want is for your eyes to light up when they walk into a room. -- People just want to feel that you see them, that they exist and have some value.

I recently had an experience where I could really feel that someone needed my eyes to light up when she came over to talk. It was a very interesting experience and I continue to be surprised to see that person show such an exuberant energy when she sees me now, because of those few minutes we spent together weeks ago. I have also felt the appreciation of feeling seen, appreciated and recognized in small moments with other people and it is incredibly nourishing.

I'm throwing out a challenge to you to let your eyes light up when you cross the paths of others. Let them know you see them and help them to feel they are worthy of notice and valuable as brothers and sisters here upon the earth. You will be repaid many times over for your kindness and you never know when you might meet a kindred spirit who will bless and touch your own life. Say Hello. Say Good Morning. Say something generous and sweet. You will surely make someone's day and definitely bring a smile to your own heart. 

21 June 2011

A Big Drink First Thing in the Morning

I'm currently doing the Supreme 90-day Workout. I'm impressed so far and can definitely see an increase in my muscle tone, strength, agility and cardio endurance. Along with the workouts is a food plan by Tosca Reno, author of The Eat-Clean Diet: Fast Fat-Loss that lasts Forever! In the workout plan, she suggests drinking 32-ounces of water each morning before you eat anything.

Sounds like a lot doesn't it. But when you consider that your body probably hasn't had any water for 8-10 hours, it seems like it could use it. Part of being healthy also seems to be the ability for your body to remove unneeded material: waste, toxins, etc. and water helps to keep all that happening.

I've been trying to do this every day. Some days I forget. But I have noticed that the days I do I feel better and don't ever feel really hunger during the day. It's like I start the day with a feeling of fullness and it carries through. I also tend to drink more water throughout the day which helps maintain that feeling. There is also something I like about starting the day with this consciousness and how it helps me be more conscious about what I put in my mouth throughout the day.

I'm a long time believer that a good meal & hydration in the morning keeps the body from wanting to overeat or eat junk throughout the day. If I start my day healthy I have a much better chance of keeping it that way all day. I also like the idea of eating your biggest meals early in the day rather than before bedtime so you have lots of time to burn up the energy from those meals and keep it from sticking to the hips.

So, what do you think? Could you drink 32 ounces of water right off the bat each day? If you try it, let me know. I'd love to hear your experiences!

photo via XP Wallpaper

20 June 2011

Accesorize Your Life - Switch It Up Every Day

Can you believe the year is almost half over? That is so crazy. So I'm thinking a lot about my goals and what I hoped for this year. Reminding myself of my priorities and little things I want to keep at the forefront of my mind, my life, my desk and my closet.

I've been looking at myself in the mirror, my clothing in my closet and the jewelry in my drawers. Reminding myself to keep it fresh and take advantage of all the great accessories I have. It's easy to get in a rut and start wearing the same jewelry and clothing combos over and over and over again. It's also easy to just throw something on, when with a few minutes extra thought and effort you can go from so-so to SO memorable.

It's amazing what you can do when you start switching things up: belting blouses you usually wear loose, pairing tops and bottoms together in new ways, changing the shoes you always wear with certain pants, skirts and dresses, switching purses, grouping necklaces and jewelry in new combinations, adding a scarf or a new hair accessory.

It's such an easy, happy thing to do with such phenomenal results and it's the best way to speak your own personal style to the world. There's nothing better than feeling totally authentically you, inside and out. Happy mixing and matching! Hope you find a way to feel sassy and look  fresh this week! Happy Monday!

This post is linked to A Beach Cottage - Good Life Wednesdays

17 June 2011

Weekend Inspirations

Here are a few little inspirations for your weekend. Hope it's been a lovely week for you. Mine has been lovely and at times a little up and down. Had a wonderful night last night with The Bug and The Man. We went to the Movie "Fee-a-tur" as The Bug calls it. The Man holds my hand in movies. I have loved that since our first date, the first day he took my hand in his. Makes me smile like a shy teenager for some reason. Haa-haa.

Then we wandered and walked around one of our favorite local haunts and had a lovely dinner at our favorite restaurant where we're always greeted warmly. How can you not be happy with bacon wrapped chicken medallions and a plate full of Brazilian beans and rice, pasta, salad, potatoes and zuccini. Delicious. Eating dinner there under the twilight sky, surrounded by skyscrapers is always romantic and lovely. A great way to celebrate Weekend Eve, as I have called Thursdays night since the early 90s. "The weekend party starts at 5 pm Thursday night, but you just have to stop in to work for a "little bit" on Fridays."

Here are a few posts that might inspire your weekend:

Love Letters
Play Day
Recommended Daily Amounts of Sanity
Opening Our Arms to Life

Hope it's a wonderful weekend for you and yours. Sending you BIG love. --K

16 June 2011

A Week To Celebrate

I'm ready to share some good news. For readers who were with me in January of this year, you will remember I had a life-threatening infection in the bones in my neck and head. If you are new to this blog, here are two links where you catch up on my January illness and subsequent hearing loss.

At that time I also damaged my vocal chords and was unable to sing which is one of my very favorite things to do and a big part of my life. After about eight weeks of recovery time I regained my voice. A few weeks later, although I couldn't hear well, I could begin to carry a tune again and could tell, even though it sounded very muffled. Now that my singing sounds normal to me, it's something I will never take for granted. Over time, little by little my ear and hearing began to improve too. It's been a long six months of recuperating and I was nervous to consider the several possible outcomes of my tests and exams which might include permanent loss, surgery, medical devices and more.

So here's the great news that's had me all smiles since last Thursday. I went in for my second follow up check up and first hearing test. Pulling into the parking lot of the hospital and walking through the halls brought back a wave of nervous anxiety from six months ago. Things got much better quickly after that. Hearing is something we really take for granted and even more we take for granted the unheralded audiologist. She was wonderful, reassuring, peaceful and with a great sense of humor. My hearing in my left ear, although not as good as my right ear, was all in the normal range with just a little lost at the lowest and highest tones.

After that I met briefly with the nurse and doctor. The doctor did a little procedure on me and when he was done, he told me how surprised he was that I had not flinched in the least way and that most people are through the roof when he does what he did to me. Glad he didn't tell me that before. I was amazed to hear the doctor say that my hearing could continue to improve, that's something to be excited about and hope for. Even though my hearing is now in the normal range I still have a little trouble and disorientation at times and very much favor my right ear. Basically if I put on headphones the right side is louder than the left side, which is a little wonky.

 Once I got the good news I felt a burden lifted from me. It was okay to just be me again, to get back to my old self, to move on with my life now. Yes, I will still have to be very careful if I get a sinus or ear infection, but at least now I know the symptoms and what action to take. It's time to move forward with life. I'm excited, ready and feel so very blessed. Ahhhh. This is my moment to thank you for the great support you offered during my illness. I so appreciated it!

photo by Suzie B.

15 June 2011

The Vitality of Our Food

I read a very inspired passage last night about the quality of the food we eat that really had me thinking. It reminded me of these tomatoes, the ones I'm growing on my patio. Aren't they gorgeous. You just never see tomatoes from the grocery store that smell so good and fresh. They are dark red and juicy all the way through. When people put these in their mouths they begin to purr with delight! They just exude a great life force energy. Here's what I read last night:

We can change to a lighter, fresher, more varied diet that contains direct life force. Energy from the sun is stored in plant cells together with elements of the earth that create vitamins and minerals we need to create our own complex organism. If we eat fresh, raw or lightly cooked food, we take in the liveliest source of energy. We need less food as all we eat contains vitality.

The tendency in the Western diet is to overeat, especially dairy products and refined carbohydrates. It is a misinterpretation of the body's calling for more energy. It is not a calling for more food but simply more energy. So a smaller quantity of higher vitality food will satisfy the body, keep the structure strong, produce less waste and stagnation and reflect on the mental and emotional well-being also. Processed food, refined carbohydrates, sugars, pre-cooked, frozen or microwaved foods all contain depleted life force.

Kirlian photography of refined, processed food shows very little life force at all, so you can see why the body craves so much of it....A living energetic system must be fed with fresh living energy, otherwise entropy and inertia move it.

---from Teach Yourself Reiki, by Sandi Leir Shuffrey, p. 90

Inspiring isn't it. Of all seasons of the year, the summer is the easiest time to enjoy food with high vitality. Tonight we ate our favorite spinach salad, homemade chicken noodle soup and hot rolls for dinner. Everything was fresh and everyone was so happy. This week we have also enjoyed fresh green beans, broccoli, corn on the cob, strawberries and raspberries.

It's amazing how happy we feel about eating when we are eating the fruits of the field rather than something from a box or drive-up window. We feel more satisfied and content with our meal. I have always believed that the more variety of tastes and colors in a meal the more visually satisfied the mind is and the stomach then becomes. I'm inspired to take every opportunity to grow anything we can eat or shop fresh at farmer's markets and high quality grocery stores.

Hope you enjoy a wonderful meal today full of life force vitality! Have a great day and be kind to yourself. xoxo

14 June 2011

Courtney Cox's New Malibu Home in Elle Decor

The July/August 2011 issue of Elle Decor features Courtney Cox's new home in Malibu. High on a hillside it provides views of the ocean from many angles. It's not just a home, but includes a tennis house, screening space and guest cottages.

The interiors are lovely and there are many glass large windows and glass doors to maximize the amazing views. As beautiful as the inside it, I'm really taken with the multiple outdoor spaces.

This space was just made for after dinner chatting, laughing, singing or relaxing with friends. Wouldn't be a bad spot to whip up some S'mores either. I can just imagine a peaceful, fun Sunday night with friends and family. 

There are so many little nooks for conversations, tea, book reading or naps. You can read the entire Elle Decor article here. See the slideshow here. You can also see a in-process slide show here.

So what do you see that inspires you? Which rooms do you love best? It's easy to look at celebrity homes and just feel jealous. But even better is looking and seeing what you could bring to your own home or your own future home. There are always things that you could adapt and enjoy. I want lots of great outdoor spaces. I'm good with a family simple home, but some great space to be out of doors sounds heavenly to me.

Have a fantastic day. Do something today that makes you proud of you! Cheers!

photos by Simon Upton for Elle Decor

13 June 2011

It's Bare Arms Season - Time To Tone Up

Happy Monday. Hope your day has gone well. I'm late getting posted today, but amazed it got done at all. It's been a crazy few days with so many extra-curricular activities going on that my head is still swirling a bit.

Hey, it's bare arm season and there no better time to tone up the arms. Legs usually maintain at least some muscle tone by the sheer effort to walk. And often times people only see from your calf down. I always think if there's one thing you can do to really improve your looks in the summer months it's tone up the arms.

Grab a pair whatever size weights you can handle and start pumping a little iron while watching TV, for short breaks at your desk or any time you have a little down time. It's amazing how quickly they can start getting a pretty little shape going. You can even use cans of food if you don't have weights. Keep pushing yourself as you build muscle to do more and more reps and increase the weight you are using. Beautiful arms are very, very sexy. Waving at friends with your tricep giggling is not so sexy.

Here are a some great online arm workouts:

Ultimate Arms by Women's Health Magazine
Toned Arms In Record Time by Shape Magazine
How To Sculpt Sexy Arms... by US Magazine

My favorite exercises are tricep dips, bicep and tricep curls and push ups. Push ups are amazing for toning the entire upper body. Are you ready for bare arm season? What do you like to do to buff up the arms? I'm always looking for new ideas.

*this post is linked to Good Life Wednesdays at A Beach Cottage blog.

photo via Two Week Body Tone

10 June 2011

Staycations You Can Take In A Day

I have lived in SoCal for 12 years now. It's hard to believe that. Wow. But you know what, there is so much I haven't seen or done here. Some cool places are an hour or two away and some are just down the street. I've been particularly conscious this year of trying to get to know this home of mine and find new things to do. I am trying to avoid the same old-same old haunts I've been hanging out in for all these years.

So far we've adventured through the UCLA Botanical Gardens which are in our very own neighborhood, even though you'd never know it unless you go searching for it. We have taken random drives up or down the coast stopping at our leisure, checked out up and coming neighborhoods in our area and visited cool shops I've driven past for years. Last week as I was scrambling to come up with a last minute mid-week adventure I remembered that I had these City Walks: Los Angeles: 50 Adventures on Foot cards.

Hello, just found more things to do! I went through and organized them into day or afternoon trips, depending on distance. For our trip last week I grabbed three cards out that were all near each other going south. There are so many things to do that are within 15-30 minutes from home.

These cards are also great if you are traveling and want to get off the touristy path. My favorite thing to do when traveling is just walk and wander. City Walk cards are available for many larger cities in the U.S. and around the world. They might be something fun for you to check out this weekend or grab before your summer vacay!

All righty, have a fantastic weekend. I have a very busy one planned. I decided to get involved in some activities in my congregation community and it kind of worked out to be a little too much all at one time. Whoosh! A wee bit of regret going on. I was in a great mood, requests were made, I was feeling friendly and supportive...ayee-yie-yie! It will be okay as long as I take it slow and steady and enjoy the ride.

Thanks for coming by. Thanks for your comments, always love your thoughts on things. Sending you my best! -K

The Basic Baking Ingredients Box

ultimate basic baking box

I come from a family of people who really love to be efficient. If you ride in the car with anyone in my family you will watch them calculate the most efficient, direct routes anywhere you want to go. Being efficient, not wasting time, seems to be a family trait. Looking back I can definitely see that in the way my paternal grandparents lived. I think their mantra might have been "quit screwing around the get the work done." They were farmers and you can imagine how this agenda might've been helping in getting chores twice every day, harvesting crops, dealing with broken machinery and motivating children (aka farm hands).

I find myself constantly calculating in my mind more efficient ways to cook, do laundry, make the bed, clean the house, drive around town, organize a closet and on it goes. A couple of years ago, tired of walking back and forth from my kitchen counter workspace to the pantry shelves for baking ingredients I decided to put together a baking basics box with all the ingredients one would need for - you guessed it! - basic baking.

  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • vanilla
  • brown sugar
  • granulated sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • oil
  • tapioca (for thickening fruit juices)
  • baking cocoa
This way when I decide to bake I only need the two large flour & white sugar bags and this box and I am good to go - ONE trip. If I need any of a variety of chocolate chips, coconut or nuts, they are organized together in another box. It makes prepping and cleaning up so much easier and really cuts down on trips across the kitchen for the next ingredient.

This is efficiency and organization that really works for me. It you try it, let me know. I'll be back here later this morning with a quick, fun post. Hope your weekend is already off to a good start. Thanks for being here!

-this post is linked to Weekend Bloggy Party at Serenity Now

09 June 2011

The Harvest of Daily Efforts

A few nights ago at a lovely dinner under the stars with The Man at one of our favorite restaurants, we began talking about little things we'd done or invested our time in that are now paying off great rewards. Things that seemed like good ideas, daily tasks that don't require much. But now looking back we can see how cumulatively they become monumental achievements due to consistency. None of these things could be accomplished in a day. They can't be faked or pulled together at the last second.

Then as I was working in the little garden the next day I thought again about how this harvest we'll enjoy all summer is another result of small, consistent efforts. Putting seeds or starts into the soil, watering, fertilizing, protecting from bugs, removing dead leaves and regularly trimming - nothing big, nothing that takes more than five to ten minutes a day. It is not possible to plant a seed and harvest fruit the next day. But over time small, cumulative efforts provide a bounty of results.

Isn't that a great lesson to remember in life? The little steps you are taking every day are your BIG results and rewards later. Our greatest successes are not gargantuan, painful efforts. They are built on the foundations of meeting someone new, being kind, taking time to read with a child, give a hug to someone in need, sending an email query, sending a thank you, making a call, writing a page or a chapter, reading a book, doing research, or making some notes. Take a few baby steps today and in a year or two or three  you'll be far ahead of where you are now. Love it! Do you have similar experiences?

08 June 2011

Household Tasks Small Children Can Do

Hope you're having a beautiful day! This week is flying by quickly, isn't it? I'm thinking chores today. Taking care of home and hearth is a duty of everyone who lives in the home. It's important to teach children at an early age that they should have respect for their home (and other's homes) and some sense of ownership about keeping it clean, organized and pleasant to be in. This will save years of misery later on.

Small children will love anything, any activity IF it means getting to have your complete attention. Show them how, let them help, explain what you are doing. I was blessed to have the idea to get The Little Bug involved very young in helping care for the home. Now she thanks ME when I let her do things. I know this won't always last so I'm reveling it in momentarily.

Here are a few ideas that will allow your children to be more involved in helping around the house:

1. Buy pretty but indestructible plates, bowls and cups -- This allows children to be of more help without worrying about broken dishes and glasses. No this is not as glamorous as beautiful china and stylish glasses, but I think it's up to you to decide which is the greater priority.

2. Rearrange your kitchen cupboards --Put everyday plates, drinking glasses, napkins, salt and pepper, etc.on lower shelves so little kids can easily grab them: e If you ask them if they want to "play restaurant" they will find setting the table the greatest game ever and will soon have it mastered! Moving these things to lower levels also makes it possible for little kids to take these things out of the dishwasher and put them away.

3. Let them help you cook -- This takes a little longer and requires some patience but when you're kids can make their own meals or help cook for the family by the time they are eight or nine years old, you'll be glad you did. Buy them a cool apron, teach them how to measure ingredients and let them wash the insides of big pans in the sink (they love soapy suds). Thanks to working next to my mother and grandmother I was able to do a great deal in the kitchen at a very young age.

4. Make organizing their belongings very easy -- Organized boxes and bins for toys allows kids to clean up after themselves. The Bug does a phenomenal job quickly picking up toys and art supplies because there  is a very simple system to put them away. She's awesome at clean up, much better than I was even when I was older. I still love this post by Stephmodo on toy room organization.

5. Let them help you clean and wash the car -- They are very familiar with the inside of the car and most of the junk that collects in there. They can help pull out junk that has fallen under the seats and help wash lower parts of the car. They will enjoy seeing the car bright and shiny with their help

6. Let them help you make the bed. They can stand on one side and pull up sheets & blankets, gather up pillows etc.

7. Let them help with laundry. You will be amazed what they can do. Taking things from dirty to clean is something frequently dirty, messy little kids can really relate to! I'll break this down more in another post.

8. Grow things and garden with them -- I have no outdoor space except a four foot by ten foot balcony. But now The Bug helps me with two huge tomato plants, basil, rosemary, cilantro, gardenias, sweet peas, two sprouted avocado seeds, a lemon tree and a small sequoia tree. She also is willing to try new foods because she's been exposed to the growing process, farmer's markets and enthusiasm from her dad and I about trying new things.

9. Be consistent and hold your ground - Developing their sense of duty to the home and family requires work on your part. But it will definitely pay off in the end. There is much less complaining and feet dragging when this is established early. They learn it's expected. There are many privileges (favorite stuffed animal, doll or blanket, TV time, friends time, games, bikes, cell phones for older kids, etc.) that can be leveraged with children that make it very worth it for them to quickly act on requests. Anything other than a food, shelter or bed to sleep in are privileges that kids can earn. All I have to say it, "Well I need to get some help or we might not be reading Laura Ingalls tonight" and it's amazing how fast action happens.

So that's my list for today. I'm going to follow up this post with a short list of chores I have found work for three, four and five-year-olds. It's amazing what they can do and how willing they are to help.

07 June 2011

Garden Delights In Small Spaces

Thought I'd give you a little break from all my long-winded philosophizing and share a little extra post today. For a farm girl living in the city there is a great joy in growing some crops. Love some crops. Here's a little peek at what's happening in the little balcony garden. Looking forward to a fresh batch of The Man's homemade salsa this afternoon.

There is an ongoing little dispute here at home about what happened to the large batch of salsa he made last week before he left town. It seems to have disappeared. I did pack of a good portion of it for him to take with him. I keep playing it down, but it was the best salsa he has ever made by a long shot. Perfection. Of course homemade salsa is full of good anti-oxidants, so I feel it's the right thing to do to eat as much as possible, right? Plus it's fat free -- until you add in the chips to scoop it up in...haa-haa. But there are plenty of other good ways to eat a good salsa. Mouth watering now.

Hope this encourages you to make use of a little piece of soil somewhere. Even if you don't have any outdoor space, most cities have little community gardens you can get involved with. I have to tell you our homegrown tomatoes are deep, deep red and meaty all the way through. No hollow seed canals, no pink. I have never seen such gorgeous tomaotoes. When the man tasted the first one of the season he melted and was talking about it for days. Buying tomatoes is just depressing after a tomato like that! I don't eat tomatoes unless in salsa or cooked so I enjoy the appearance and the joy these bring to others.

Have a fantastic day and from my heart, thanks for being here. It is such a joy to connect with you. Sometimes you shock and surprise me when you mention something you've read here. I think "wait, how did you know that?" or "people really read this stuff?" Besides it pushing me to learn and grow, my greatest joy since creating this blog is connecting and communicating with you, my friends.

The Living With Less Evolution

Since my recent post about living with less I have found myself making a shift in thinking. For a couple of years now I've tried not to go to stores for entertainment purposes. Even still it can be difficult. It's still a necessity to head to a store for legitimate reasons and once there it can SO easy to load up a cart with $100 worth of $4-$5 items. It has been interesting since writing the recent post that I have stopped myself regularly to ask myself questions like these:
  • Is this something that will help us get outdoors and spend time together - live a happier, healthier lifestyle?
  • Is this a genuine need for basic every day living?
  • Do we already have several of these?
  • Where am I going to store this?
  • How long will we get use from this or can I expect it will last?
  • Do I want this more than I want the money?
It's been a great experience to have this same conversation with The Man when we are shopping together. We are happily generally in agreement in these conversations and working together on spending makes our relationship a little stronger and we feel more like a team. I think we're both passionate about the idea that we'd rather spend money having great experiences than on things we don't need.

I have been selling a few things on eBay or Craigslist that I no longer need. I have a lot of pretty high heels I no longer wear. I'm keeping a basic supply but several have gone to new homes. I also donated the box of mediocre handbags yesterday.

I can see now that this is going to be an evolution in some ways and an ongoing process. The interesting thing is that while acting on my decisions to live with less, I'm actually living with more. My life is less focused on stuff and more focused on spending time doing things I love with people I love. I'm outside more, I'm more active, participating in  a greater variety of activities and going to a wider range of interesting places. As the spending decreases, the benefits and rewards only seem to increase.

Have you made spending changes recently? What are you doing differently? What have you cleansed from your life this week? Are you feeling lighter? This has been a great conversation so far and I really appreciate your contributions to it. Thanks!

06 June 2011

10 Things That Make Life Great

As I was cleaning the house Saturday afternoon, I realized that my life feels different. I feel a deep happiness with life, even though it is not all roses and there are increasingly difficult challenges to face as one gets older. I'm not sweatin' the little things. I could not often say this over the past half decade of so. My life had become a series of devotions to things that did not inspire me, did not feed my soul and did not give me time to live a healthy life.

As I thought about why my life if better than ever I began to think of the little things I've been doing in my life that help me enjoy every day and to feel like I am making the most of it. Here's a quick list you might relate to.

1) Fresh flowers in the house - I only spend $3-$8 every 10 days of so. It makes standing at the sink or looking across the room at my dresser so much more sweet and beautiful to see a bloom or two in a bud vase. The Bug loves having a bloom next to her bed. More on that here.

2) Working out - For a million reasons we all know, this is good for body, mind and soul. I'm currently doing Supreme 90 Day.

3) Spending time outside - See God's glorious creations, feel the cool breeze on your face. Forget indoor duties and difficulties. Even 15 minutes a day changes how I feel.

4) Play - If you haven't done this for a while you are missing out! More on that here and here.

5) Creative projects - If I don't make something frequently I begin to feel like a trapped animal in a cage. You can see some things I've made here. I just started a new project two days ago and am looking forward to finishing it up. Lots more ideas percolating. Definitely keeps my mind fresh to be looking for inspiration and making things with my hands.

6) Time with friends and family - Both our families are far away. So we cherish time with them and we're so grateful for our "California Family" and friends here that make life fun and help us remember our blessings.

7) Long, inspiring chats - I have had the chance to have some great meet ups with inspiring women lately. I sat outside Starbucks and chatted with a friend for three hours the other day. It flew by! Best of all when I walked away I felt lighter of soul - inspired and having let go of some fear and burden I was carrying. I was so grateful for the exchange of ideas, emotions and experiences that help me make sense of my world, feel gratitude for my wonderful life, strive to be better and understand that so much of what I experience is universal.

8) Avoiding ruts in routine - I'm constantly trying to find new adventures in our own town. There is so much to see and do here that I have yet to experience. It's so easy to just go to the same restaurants, parks, amusements, museums and beaches. A great way to expand horizons is to ask friends for recommendations.

9) Inspiring reading - I try to surround myself with wise words that will inspire me to be great in big and small ways. Whenever I'm feeling uninspired it's lovely to be able to grab a book & read a favorite chapter or have a daily reading to bring me back to my inspired center.

10) Living in the moment - I have noticed that when I stop and give gratitude or look for the beauty in little tasks each day I feel so much more blessed. Even cleaning the house can be a moment of joy if you think about the blessings of organization and cleanliness that you enjoy. You are in the process of creating and maintaining beauty. It's even easier to feel gratitude cozied up with a loved one, in a beautiful park under a clear blue sky, in a moment of uncontrolled laughter, or when being witness to a beautiful act of love and kindness. It's easy to let these things roll right past you unnoticed if one it too focused on To Do lists, angry in traffic, or stressed out. Slowing down is rarely counterproductive.

What makes you feel rich in your life? What is inspiring your world today?

03 June 2011

New Addition To The Cycling Family

Okay we've turned into the Super Sport Family. I am so happy we're making the most of the beautiful place we live in and spending lots of time outside. We realized a few weeks ago that we'd hit a fork in the road with family cycling. The Bug can really whip around on her bike with training wheels and is probably just a couple of weeks away from losing the training wheels. But she doesn't have the strength to ride for more than a couple of miles. She has also outgrown the kid seat on the back of Dad's bike. So for this summer that means we would have no mobility to ride to many favorite nearby locations or any real distance.

Last weekend we bought the REI Novara Afterburner trailer bike. We started doing research on these last year but thought it might not be necessary.It worked out to buy it new with 25% off, plus with REI co-op rebates we both had. These trailer bikes can easily be found used online for $70-$100, although some of them look a little beat up. They hold their value well too so even if we only use this for a year and then sell it in the end it would only cost us about $50. The great part about this is that customer reviews report that kids can manage rides up to 15 miles on this trailer bike, no problem. They can sit and coast if they get tired. 

So last night we took our first ride. We expected she'd hook up on her dad's bike but then we realized with the kid's seat on the back of his bike, she would not be able to see very well. So I tried it on my bike. I have to say it was MUCH easier than I expected. We took several turns in the garage practicing then headed out on the streets. We rode all around our neighborhood. It was really fun. Here we come world.

Happy Friday! Have a fantastic weekend!

image by REI

02 June 2011

Kick & Glide - Xootr Scooters for Grownups

I am happy to see that The Man and I have finally gotten into a habit of relaxing a bit and making clan time important. We've definitely started a good routine for a nice, balanced life this summer. It's amazing how much happier everyone is with some time outside. When we are in the same city, we have been enjoying some kind of nice outdoors activity almost every day.

If you're interested in investing in things that get you and your family outside, get you moving and will burn some calories, have you considered a grown up kick scooter? Now that The Bug is scoot-scoot-scootin' around all over the place, including the living room, I am revisiting the idea of getting a grown-up scooter. They fold up easily (would be great for the car sports bag), could easily be taken on a trip in a suitcase or to make getting around a town on a day trip a little faster.

This beautiful scooter from Xootr is the Ultra Cruz. How much fun would it be to buzz down the bike path or around the park with your kids on this? It definitely brings out the kid in me and it's a nice alternative to the bicycle. I think I'd look much better on this that the tiny pink Hello Kitty Razor Scooter I ride in the living room. Haa-haa. The Ultra Cruz has a handsome, retro appearance, will last a good long while and it's completely unisex in style so dad or mom can easily take the handlebars and feel stylish and grown up and just a speedy at the kiddos.

Would you scooter with your kids or grandkids? Would you use it to get around town on your own? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have a fantastic Thursday! This week flew by, didn't it? Cannot believe it's June. Sending you big love!

01 June 2011

Stupid Standards We Set For Ourselves

Trying to live a balanced life, that was the goal for this year. Yesterday for fun we rode our bikes to the library, went for a sandwich for dinner and on the way home we rode around and around the empty city adminstration parking lot for a good while. It was great fun and we even captured a bit of it on video. It was a beautiful way to enjoy the summer night.

Now for a less beautiful moment. Haa-haa. This thought crossed my mind a few days ago while I was glamorously (wink) getting out of the car to go to Subway to get  lunch. Do all women have the expectation that they'll look okay when they look like a model? I realized I have somewhat silly, ridiculous expectations, not quite model expectations, but not far off, for myself sometimes. When will I be satisfied?

Why do we set ourselves up for failure by applying perfection as the standard by which we'll be satisfied. We're only happy if our home is spotless and looks like a showroom, if we keep up with the Joneses, if we're the same size we were in high school, if we have three closets full of designer clothes, if our hair goes perfectly, we have no breakouts, and the lashes look curled just so. How do we break out of this? I suppose for some, totally giving up is an equally intense challenge. Making no effort to beautify one's world is probably equally "sinful".

This is probably a follow up thought process to my post from last. It' seems such a challenge to find a happy balance in life. What is too much? What is enough? What is not enough? It seems we so often either over indulge ourselves (in food, shopping, sleep, goofing off) or deny ourselves too much (not enough sleep, fun, laughter, quiet time, etc.) How do we find the balance. It can't be made and put into effect in one thoughtful day. It must need to be a minute-by-minute, day-by-day set of small actions consistently applied.

Do you find yourself having these silly, and potentially damaging thoughts? Have you overcome them? Are they causing you angst? How do we overcome these? I am sure gratitude has a role, maybe it's the answer? What do you think?

photo via The Fashion Spot
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