31 October 2012

A Mood Board for BYW Boot Camp

Our BYW Boot Camp teacher Holly Becker, founder of Decor8, gave us an assignment a couple of weeks ago to create a mood board. I was so swamped getting ready to go out of town, being out of town and then coming home to complete busy-ness that I didn't get a chance to work on it until yesterday. The day it was due.

Creating the mood board was a delight but the four or five hours I spend dealing with technical difficulties with computers, printers, cameras, hard drives and then Flikr were just beyond frustrating. Big sigh. So I couldn't post it properly to complete the assignment. There was another option to blog about it and post a link to the class homework board, so I am going to go with that and you all get to see my mood board.

You may have noticed that since starting the BYW class I have updated my About in an attempt to better define my blog and my brand. Here is my new About statement, if you haven't seen it on the home page.

Hi, I'm Kalani and this blog is where I share creative inspiration for peaceful, happy, stylish living. I write about designing a welcoming home, developing personal style and fashioning a beautiful soul.

While creating the mood board, it struck me that what I want most of all is for my blog to reflect my authentic voice, to capture who I am and the things I love. I think this new About statement captures it, captures me. And I think my mood board does the same, it highlights my three main goals: to create a welcoming, lovely home, to develop my own unique personal style sense and most importantly to fashion a beautiful soul.

I appreciate that BYW Boot Camp has given me an opportunity to look back at where I started, how far I've come and to get excited about making small but impactful changes to kalanicut. Creating a mood board was a great exercise to help me refine my brand, focus my efforts and be happy about how my blog is reflecting who I am and what I love.

Things I'll Do Differently Next Year - Trunk-or-Treat

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As I mentioned on Monday, I've been thinking a lot about how I want to do a few things differently in the future regarding a few annual activities with my family. Monday I shared things I want to do differently for our annual Hawaii trip. Today I'm sharing my quick list for all I want to remember and change for future Trunk-or-Treat adventures.

1) Get costumes and candy organized well in advance. I was a kid who went to our dress up box and whipped something up a couple of hours before the party growing up. That doesn't work when you have little ones with very specific costume requests. Coming home from Hawaii & trying to pull everything together the same day was a little too much to handle.

2) Don't start costume shopping at a party store. You will spend five times more than you will if you start at a discount store. I ended up getting our entire pirate costume for $30 with a little creativity. One hat at the party store started at $20. I could've easily spent $100 for and all the accessories needed.

3) Mandatory two hour, day of naps for everyone - kids and grown ups.

4) Feed kids before going to the Trunk-or-Treat, even if dinner is served there. I learned our little one had no patience or interest in real food with all the sweets and promise of large sums of candy everywhere. Nightmare. If I'd fed her before we left and said we don't go until you eat dinner, I would've had much more success.

5) Kids like glow-in-the-dark bracelets & necklaces more than the candy. I had a few glow-in-the-dark items in our trunk just for light and all the kids wanted those for their treat rather than candy. - And they don't  take no for an answer.

6) Do not make any plans the day after the Trunk-or-Treat and keep meals super simple. Assume the kids will be tired all day and asleep early. Parents will be slightly more exhausted. Everyone will be suffering from a sugar slump.

Hopefully with Daddy with us and these few tips for doing it differently next year we'll have an even better time with a little less crying and tiredness on everyone's part. Yes we both cried at the Trunk-or-Treat although no one knew I cried. I had to just shed a few tears watching The Bug run around having such a great time and wishing so much her Dad had been with us, watching her joyful glee with me. Next year it sounds like we are going to be The Pirate Family. I may try to buy costume parts this week on clearance. Seems like a good idea. Hope you survive your Halloween night and day after.

30 October 2012

Fix It Day

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Yesterday was my first real day back to regular, every day life after a bit of travel, and wow, it was a busy one. Sunday night my bathtub filled up to the top with the upstairs neighbor's used bath water. Couldn't be more disgusting, right? And it didn't drain. So at midnight I headed to the store to buy some Liquid Plumber and it took over an hour for the water to drain. My big fear was that if someone showered in the morning my bathroom would be flooded.

First thing this morning I was in touch with the building manager and for a good bit of the afternoon I had handymen here working on the bathroom. It was not an easy fix apparently, but everything looks good now. They also fixed my gas fireplace while they were here.

My gas fireplace has been turned off for at least five years or so, first because the regulator was malfunctioning. Then I decided to just leave it off because I had learned that with indulgent fireplace enjoyment I could bounce my gas bill up by five times the usual small bill amount. I have had suspicions for some weeks now that it is going to be a cold, long winter. I don't have anything specific or scientific information to prove that, but I've just had a hunch. So I wanted to get the fireplace in good operational order before the fall ended. Was happy to get that done today. A pleasant surprise!

I also unpacked bags from the trip and weekend visit to my parents, made beds, cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms. I'm took myself out to a nice, early dinner tonight since there really isn't much food in the house. From my trip, I brought home a bag of driftwood collected on a rocky beach last week. I'm starting to think about what I can make with it. I am definitely going to plug in my drill so it's ready to go when I am. More good creativity fun coming soon. Hope your week is going great!

29 October 2012

Next Time I'll Do It Differently - Hawaii Trip

image by kalanicut

It seems the past couple of weeks I have been on a "next time I'm gonna do this differently" bender. Every year on our annual family vacation I make a mental list of things I'm going to do differently next year. Unfortunately I seem to forget them by the time I get home and then the next year I remember half of that list and add more to it. Saturday we went to our annual Trunk-or-Treat Halloween Party and again I made a mental list of things I must do differently next year. I'll share my Hawaii Trip list here today and Wednesday I'll share my list for Trunk-or-Treat.

Here are a few of the things on my list for the Hawaii Trips:

1) Come early and have a couple of days of peace and quiet before the big family meet-up. This would also give me the quiet time I crave at the pool and beach that I never seem to get close to enough of and give me some genuine rest before all the go-go-go starts..

2) Buy the boogie board the dayyou arrive or you may not ever get into the ocean. I did spend a lot of time in the beachside pool, but no ocean time, except for a quick wade & some beach walks is a little lame really.

3) Go for more than seven days. It is too short of a trip. Ten days is much better, two weeks may be ideal. It takes two to three days just to get settled in, especially if you are in a condo/timeshare. You'll often spend part of the first day or two at Costco, WalMart and the grocery store. Factor in more lost time for anyone having flight delays or whose luggage doesn't arrive.

4) Only bring one set of workout clothes. There's a washer and dryer in the villa and in last seven years I've hit the gym one time.I can still use the workout clothes for other activities, but I definitely don't need multiple sets when I can quickly wash things.

5) Always check ALL the drawers before you check out. I never use the dresser because we usually have two or three people in a big room together. This year I had my own room and put my stuff in the drawers. So when I packed up my stuff  and we checked out, guess who forgot to check the drawers and left a bunch of her clothes at the hotel and is now paying to have them shipped to her. I checked every other inch of the room, but totally blew it on the dresser. I knew something didn't seem right but in a rush to wrap things up messed up big time..

So those are the things I'm trying to remember for next year while I wait for my belongings from this year to arrive in the mail. How do keep track of things you want to do differently next time?

26 October 2012

10 Ways To Have A Day Of Silly, Relaxing Fun

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The weekend is a great time to let loose and have some silly fun. Sometimes running away from home and acting like a kid can refresh the soul in the most fantastic ways. Here are 10 silly, relaxing things you might try doing this weekend to shake off adulthood and all its responsibilities for a while.

1. Go fly a kite.
2. Go to an amusement park.
3. Build a sandcastle at a park or beach.
4. Visit a quirky museum in your town.
5. Go to a nature center.
6. Find a swing and pump and kick your way high into the sky.
7. Play tag, kickball, or with soaker water guns.
8. Rollerskate or iceskate.
9. Have a slumber party in the living room.
10. Plan a play date with friends and do any of the above.

Taking a real break from our every day stresses is so healthy for the mind, body and soul. The days we have run away from home and something totally unexpected have been some of the most fun memories I've had with The Man and The Bug in the past few years. They are the days that stay with us, revive us and bond us together. So run away this weekend and do something amazing that will surprise you, make you laugh and revive you. Then I want to hear all about it! Leave a comment.

25 October 2012

We Really Are What We Eat

There is just no getting around the fact that if you don't eat well, exercise or get enough sleep you are never going to feel really good. It's just not possible. It's like putting the wrong kind of fuel into your car regularly and then complaining that your car doesn't run well.

I am surprised at how often I hear people complain about health issues that are very often tied to lifestyle and then talk about getting no sleep, no seriously regular exercise, eating entire bags of candy, consuming large amounts of alcohol or caffeine, and indulging in a diet of mostly processed foods with very few if any fresh fruits and vegetables.

I have been trying to eat a very clean, simple diet, mostly fruits, vegetables and a small amount of meat. It's amazing how good I feel on a small diet of these healthy fuels. Even more stunning is how horrible I feel when I cheat and sneak a bit of fast food, high-sugar "treats", breads or foods high in unhealthy fats. I feel it almost immediately and I feel gross. Now that my body has gotten used to good fuel it is really letting me know that it does not like bad fuel.

I have heard many health advocates say that the bad American diet has people walking around in a fog, feeling tired, lacking energy and growing more obese with every decade. When you look at the ingredient lists on foods you find in the grocery store you find artificial sweeteners in things that don't need them, long lists of scientific names of things that are completely unrecognizable as human food. We are truly killing ourselves with high sugar diets and highly processed foods. I was stunned to read this article in the New York Times asking if Alzheimer's is really Type 3 Diabetes and brought on by diet. We are in a health crisis in every way, due mostly to bad diet and lack of exercise.

I have a long way to go. But I have to ask myself what I am doing? Why am I not more vigilant about what I intake. I have learned that no unhealthy treats make me feel good. I do not want to suffer from stress and lifestyle related health issues. More sleep, more healthy fruits, vegetables and meats and less junk are vital. You may question my mention of meats. Let me say that I do not really enjoy eating meat very often and I did eat as a vegetarian mainly for about a decade. What I realized is that a lot of people turn to a mostly carb diet when they turn to vegetarianism. That's not healthier. So if one does vegetarian, it takes work and dedication - a lackluster effort is potentially much unhealthier than one with some meat.

It would be good to get really honest about what we're eating and how we're feeling. If you feel poorly, the first four questions to ask yourself before you panic and run off to a specialist are: 1) What am I eating? 2) Am I getting enough sleep & reducing my stress, 3) Am I exercising and 4) What do I need to change?   Try these things when you first recognize you don't feel great and see how much better you can feel using basic, practical healthy steps to improve your well-being. It's amazing how our bodies react to good care. I'm still learning and trying to be more honest with myself. I like the results.

24 October 2012

Make Networking Easier

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We all need to network in some way in our lives. Networking is something that can seem unnatural and can be very uncomfortable whether it be at school (or our kids' school), at work, church, our neighborhood or community.

While forcing ourselves into uncomfortable situations can be awful, I've found two easy ways to network without feeling like a despised door-to-door salesman. These two approaches have resulted in some of the best social and working relationships I've had and take away a lot of the stress about meeting people with common interests and goals.These approaches can be especially helpful if you have just moved to a new area, started a new job or had a major life change like getting married, having kids, going through a divorce or retiring.

1. Take A Class - Here are a few of the classes I've taken in the past few years: blogging, social media, swimming, crafts, dreaming, mom and kid art, skiing, and personal style. When you attend a class everyone is usually new and you are all working towards learning the same things. It makes getting to know each other easier because no one is trying to sell anyone anything. You are all trying to learn together so there is an instant desire to help each other.

2. Volunteer And Serve Others - Here are a few volunteer opportunities I have had over the past years: teaching knitting, crafts, personal development and religious classes, helping plan and execute events, organizing several girls' summer camps, mentoring college students, taking meals in to community families and being a ski resort mountain host. In all these activities everyone I worked with was working together for a common goal, the successful  serving of others. This creates an immediate ease between people and makes it very simple to get to know people without feeling on the spot.

 Both of these approaches help me to feel like the spotlight isn't on me and give me something else to focus on that my own shyness. I have made some of my dearest friends from taking classes and volunteering. By putting myself out there in small ways I have also had great opportunities to connect with people who can help me make my dreams come true - and who I can also help. This can happen in small, inspiring conversations or result in big things like job offers. Networking doesn't need to be painful or traumatizing. There are little things you can do to make connections without fear or embarrassment.

23 October 2012

A Pin Test #8: Simple Embossing Technique

It's definitely time for another A Pin Test feature. Today I attempted Arounna of Boukhou At Home's Simple Embossing Technique. This was a quick and easy project and I was impressed with the success.

Arounna's directions are clear and easy. Here's what I did differently. Instead of tracing & cutting out an image, I used my star paper punch. I used thick watercolor paper and to get a good, bold image I cut out three stars, discarded the stars and used the outline left in the three sheets of paper. I glued the three star outlines together one on top of each other, very precisely. This gave me a nice, deep outline to template onto the paper.

I did everything else just as Arounna described. This project took me only about ten minutes by the time I took out paper, created my embossing template and embossed the paper. My cleanup should take less than a minute. I created a bookmark with a strip of silver washi tape, a gift tag with a strip of green ribbon and a holiday card by tracing three stars and using washi tape with the greeting Wishing You A Holly Jolly Christmas.

I love this option for making unique, simple, handmade cards. I could easily emboss an initial on a card for a birthday gift, hearts for Valentine's Day, a small teddy bear or duck on a baby shower gift tag. These stars would be great for Fourth of July paper crafts too. As Arounna said in her post, you could paint or gliftter these embossed images too...so many options.

So this A Pin Test project was a success and I'm so glad I learned how quick and easy it is. I will definitely be trying this again to make unique cards and gift tags going forward. Thanks Arounna!

You can see more A Pin Test successes and failures here.

22 October 2012

Discount Boots or The Boots I Really Want?

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I had another of my "get what really makes you happy" revelations again recently. I was at big retail store and saw their cute rain boots that retail for about $30. I thought I should break down and just buy a pair because every year in the fall I think I should buy a pair of rain boots. Then I don't buy them and the rain comes in the winter and I end up ruining a pair of perfectly great shoes and complaining about how I have nothing proper to wear in inclement weather. I know I do this every year because on this blog every fall or winter I talk about it. If you want proof, you can look here, here or here. Crazy.

So when I didn't seen any in my size that I liked, I began to think about going to their online store and settling for something I didn't really like that would be serviceable. Then I caught myself. Why would I buy something that works, when I could buy something I would really like that would be better quality and make me happy to wear.

Then I remembered that I really wanted a pair of quality British wellies. Yes they cost significantly more money but the soles are significantly more stable and sturdy. These boots are just better all around. And rather than lasting for a winter or two, boots like these will last for much longer than that.

I have a sneaky suspicion that this year is going to be a big rainy winter for us. There is something about the super hot summer we've had that is making me think it's going to be a big, wet, rainy winter. I want to be prepared -- and happy and well taken care of. I'm worth it, right? Have you caught yourself scrimping out on yourself over something you really wanted that is of fine quality for something you didn't really want that is less expensive? What did you decide to do?

19 October 2012

Now Is A Time To Wish

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I listened to a podcast interview with Noelle Oxenhandler several times this week while I spent a lot of hours in the car. I was reminded about her book The Wishing Year: A House, A Man, My Soul - A Memoir of Fulfilled Desire. Hearing her talk about the act and beauty of wishing got me inspired to make a new wish list.

As I drove the busy freeways I began to get excited about having a few minutes to sit down and wish, to write down any wishes I have in my heart right now and see them on paper. Oxenhandler's approach is not just to wish, but to then take actions to move towards those wishes. Just being clear about what our wishes are goes a long way to directing our thoughts and actions. Writing them down makes them clear and is something we can look at again and again.

Sometimes our lives have to be driven by many outside influences: a job may dictate where we live, our spouse may travel a lot for work, we may have a sick child or be ill ourselves. When we feel our lives are particularly shaped by these external demands it can be a particularly lovely time to wish.

I am in such a situation now. Things I want to move forward on can't be moved at the moment. People I want to spend my time with aren't available. I am living in a home I don't want to be in and I am very ready for a change. It had grown too small and it is in a noisy, chaotic and expensive neighborhood. So while I am awaiting fresh change that will be able to happen next year, wishing can be a lovely way to keep hope alive, help me stay inspired about what I'm doing each day to enjoy life now and to guide myself closer to those wishes.

With fresh, bright, clean, white paper in hand, a favorite pen and a few minutes of peace I am ready to pour out all the wishes from my heart and put them on paper for review. I have to say I am excited to see what's going on with me right now. I am certain I don't realize everything that is percolating inside..

Are you wishing? Is it something you do regularly or is now a great time to take a few minutes? Do you have a wish you would share? I'll share some of mine in a few days.

18 October 2012

Layering Faux Fur Trimmed Vests For Winter

image 1 via Banana Republic
image 2 via Gap

Here's a look I'm liking for fall, faux fur trimmed vests. Vests are so perfect for the season because they are so easy to layer over a long-sleeve tee shirt, button down, sweater or lightweight jacket.The faux fur give them a little extra sass. They are the perfect accessory for a Saturday afternoon football game or a trip to the pumpkin patch.

Vest 1 is from Banana Republic. I love the fur along the neck and armholes. The belt definitely gives it more shape and the pocket details give it a bit of adventurer styling. I always like a vest with both zip and snap closure options. I tried this vest on a few weeks ago and liked everything about it.

Vest 2 is from Gap. The fur collar on this slim fit, wool blend vest is detachable, which is always a great option. Who doesn't love options. 
With the excellent discounts offered regularly by both these retailers you could enjoy either of these at a great price. How about you? Do you like to rock a vest in the fall? Do you have a favorite this season?

17 October 2012

Favorite New Etsy Store - Wood Expressions

image via Etsy Shop Wood Expressions

If you've been coming here for a while you probably know that I have a thing for wood bowls. So you can imagine how excited I was to find Etsy Shop Wood Expressions. I learned about this shop through a wood cake plates post by Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day. Her post is filled with some absolutely gorgeous pieces.

Wood Expressions has a wide variety of bowls, cake and cupcake stands, platters, candle holders and vases in lots of different colors and styles. Of course, their bowls painted orange on the outside immediately caught my eye. Other bowls are perfect in their simple natural state and some are yet more rustic with bark edges still intact. Even better their prices are very reasonable. My mouth waters, I tell ya.

Looking through this shop just makes my head spin. I love the texture and shading of the natural wood. It is so beautiful. Each type of wood has it's own unique characteristics which makes each piece a one-of-a-kind work of art. Amazing. Wood bowls are such a beautiful way to serve salads, side dishes, breads or chips. They are a fantastic statement piece for any table.

Reginald, the maker of these gorgeous wood beauties looks like a lot of fun. Learn about him and his wife Shiela here. Love your work Reginald!

If you take a look around in the shop, please leave a comment and tell me which are your favorites. I would have to list about half of the items they are selling. So happy to have found this gorgeous shop.

Here are links to other posts about wood serving ware:

My Dream Bread Bowl
Thrift Store Wood Tray Fix Up
A Visit To ABC Carpet & Home
Great Thrift Store Saturday
Shopping At The Ferry Building

I have a little pineapple shaped bowl that I am going to refurbish soon. Couldn't say no to it when I found it a few weeks ago. I'll post the details soon. Have a great day!

16 October 2012

Five Quick Ways To Clear Your Mind

image via MCI

It's so easy to get your wings flapping so fast when we live in a world where we are so often trying to do three or four things at the same time. We're at our desks checking email, reading blogs, shopping and paying bills all at the same time, maybe even while watching TV. Or we are driving home at the end of the work day, while trying to make a few phone calls, decide what we'll cook for dinner and safely maneuver through a maze of tired, grumpy, careless drivers.

Sometimes we just need a way to turn things off and focus. A few days ago I had plans to spend the day going to San Diego. When I woke up it was raining, which meant I would cancel my day because I wouldn't be able to do what I had planned. Then I got a phone call that changed my plans yet again and immediately brought on several hours of work I wasn't planning on. I was on the phone, getting different stories from every person I talked to and trying to make sense of it all. Then I had to return calls and whip up written documents that would clarify the situation for everyone. At the same time I was trying to get a few things crossed off my own To Do list.

A few hours into that and my head was spinning and I couldn't focus on anything. I knew I needed to get back to my To Do list but couldn't even focus for a full minute. That got me thinking about things I can do to clear my head, slow myself down and get back to productivity. Here they are.

1) Meditate - I have quite a few great meditations on my iPod. Many of them are three to ten minutes so they don't take long. A few minutes of quietude relaxes the tension in my shoulders, allows me to breath easier, and for me to peel away a few layers of thought.

2) Get Outside - There's nothing better than taking a walk. It can be a quick jaunt around the block or a nice, long wander down a strand of beach. Slowing things down, getting some fresh air and looking at the world around me helps distract me from all the chatter in my head and wash away the unimportant stuff. A good walk will also increase oxygen flow and increase circulation in the body.

3) Read A Fun Book Or Magazine - Reading an engrossing story is a great way to turn off the noisy thoughts in my head. A good book gives my body and mind a break and gives me time to relax. Some days a magazine with lots of short articles of wide range of inspiring topics is my best distraction.

4) Interact With Others - Sometimes just taking a few minutes out to chat with a friend or family member will  clear out the clutter and let us hear something else from someone else. It's amazing what you can learn when you take time to listen. So often they say just the things we needed to hear when they are sharing things about their own lives. Connecting with others is a great way to wind down for a few minutes and hopefully get in a few laughs too. And we know how good laughter is for us!

5) Journal - This is one of my favorite ways to clear my mind. I find if I journal first thing in the morning it gets my day off to a good start with a clear focus. Journaling allows me to pour out all the jumble of thoughts bouncing around in my head. Then on paper I can order them, sift them, analyze them and get a better idea of what is going on with me each day. It allows me to stay more focused, remember what's really important to me and to get to know myself better.

What would you add to this list? I'd love to learn what you do to wind yourself down.

15 October 2012

Splurge On What You Love

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On a late night recently I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and a little toast. I pulled out and filled the electric kettle, put the bread in the toaster and then reached for a mug and tea bag. I thought about my favorite tea and how much it costs and said to myself, Maybe you shouldn't spend so much on that expensive tea.

Then I had a revolutionary thought. Yes, you should buy your favorite tea and you should enjoy every minute of it! Spend less on things that don't matter to you so that you can afford to splurge on things that make you really happy. You deserve to enjoy your life.

It was a moment where all the noise in my head, all the questions I'd been mulling were answered. It was such a simple idea. Maybe it originated weeks ago when I started listening to Dave Ramsey cds my sister gave me. Maybe it was spawned from my deep cleaning efforts of the past two weeks and how many times I've found things that I honestly didn't even know I owned: shoes, books and other things. This has disturbed me a bit. Or perhaps it came from my wonderings about what we really need in life and what I could get rid of. I have learned to be pretty frugal, but still I could be smarter with my spending.

But it clicked for me in a whole new way when I got the fact that if I don't spend on things that don't matter, I will have plenty of money for the things I really, really want to have in my life. That's pretty powerful and opens up windows and doors to things that I don't always freely allow myself.

I think we all can come up with a list of things we throw money at that we would be willing to give up for what we really want. I guess it's the same with habits, what we eat and how we spend out time. What "so-so" things are we willing to give up so we can have the "I'm living my dreams" life?

I am sure this is not a one time conversation I will have with myself. Thanks goodness I have a great, delicious, favorite cup of tea that I love to accompany me on my journey while I learn just what I CAN splurge on and what I'm willing to GIVE UP to have them.

Want to see my favorite tea?

12 October 2012

A Love Story About Marrakesh

I had to share another little love story with you. Apparently these are quite popular on the blog because last time I posted a little love story it became the biggest deal this blog has seen. So here we go.

Being alone and up late into the night recently, I was looking at Maryam Montague's book Marrakesh By Design. Maryam is the author of the beautiful blog My Marrakesh and she and her husband own and run the boutique hotel Peacock Pavilions. I started thinking about how much I would enjoy looking at this gorgeous book with The Man.

He is such a great guy for me because he is an outdoorsy guy but he also has this whole artistic, creative side too. He can sculpt amazing things out of bits of children's clay, has created some amazing art and will blow your mind with his shadow hand puppet skills -- he can do breeds of dogs! Seriously, it's crazy. The Man has decorated several homes and has good taste. Based on design books he owns, I knew he would like the Morrocan inspiration of Marrakesh By Design.

Since he's away, it isn't possible for us to look at it together for a while so I did the next best thing. I emailed the link to him and told him how I much thought he would like it and how much I wished we could sit together and look at it.

Then next morning not long after I woke up, he surprised me with a Skype call. After we'd been chatting for a few minutes he just casually mentioned, "Hey I bought your book. It's on it's way to you." What? Having just woken up, I had no idea what he was talking about. Just as I asked him what he was talking about I remembered the email I'd sent before bed just a few hours ago about Marrakesh by Design.

Seriously, I went to bed, woke up a few hours later and he'd already ordered it. I couldn't believe it. Men are nothing if not surprising. I mentioned his lovely gift to Maryam on Twitter and this was her response: What? That's so sweet! He sounds like a keeper!

A couple of days later two copies of the book came in the mail. And while he's away, it was lovely to be able to sit and enjoy his gift and look forward to looking at it with him one day. The best part is that I'll never look at Marrakesh By Design without my heart going pitter-patter for The Man. Hopefully someday we'll make a trip there and then somewhere design something fun that brings all the colors and spirit of Marrakesh to life that we can enjoy every day. Love you, sir!

11 October 2012

Christmas Gift Giving Simplicity

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I got an email from The Man last week about a book he would be interested in getting for Christmas. In the past few weeks, The Bug has been putting up some pretty committed requests for a 3-foot-tall doll. like these. We already have the smaller version, but I can see how cool having a bigger one would be.

So a few days ago I started putting together my Christmas Gift Giving List. In an era of my life where I am wanting to give nearly everything we aren't using away and just live a clean, simple life, taking control of the holidays feels imperative to me. I've learned my lesson already about overdoing it for birthdays and holidays. And I can honestly say I think I'm STILL overdoing it. We still have gifts and toys from birthdays and holidays past that we barely have time to play with.

So I wanted to go back and visit a few posts about holiday gift giving as I began to put together my holiday plan. I remembered this post and some helpful links from the past. Parental Wisdoms About Gift Giving is a post I wrote about keeping the crazy out of Christmas. In this post there is a link to a great idea from Gabby, aka Design Mom about giving three gifts. I went back to her fantastic post and reread it and all the comments. I got some great gift and traditions ideas from all the other readers too. MagnaTiles are on my list now.

The Bug is in a big fort building phase right now. As much as I love the creativity of gathering every blanket and pillow from throughout the house into one space for fort building, the clean-up is does not interested the builder nor the Mama that ends up having to corral her and all the constructions materials when it's time to clean up. So I'm thinking about a simple kids tent. In my dreams I'd make something wonderful but I think store bought is okay --- as long as there are NO cartoon characters on it anywhere. I'm adding that to my list.

Another thing I should think about is a keyboard. It's time for some piano lessons, based on what I'm hearing from the harmonica around the house lately. And there goes my list getting longer and longer already. Whoa, Bessie!

For The Man this year things will be very simple. His gifts will be heartfelt and comforting. Things to keep him warm and feeling loved while far away. I am going to do my very best to keep it to three or four gifts and a few little stocking stuffers for everyone.

I'm glad to be thinking ahead. Now I need to think smart and keep things simple. Only time will tell how well I do at this. Fingers crossed, lists made. How about you, what is your approach to gift giving and holiday spending? I'd love to hear your comments below. I enjoy hearing about others traditions and philosophies about something so personal to each individual family.

10 October 2012

"Don't You Want To Be Happy?" An Eery Question

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Holy smokes, it must be October because I have another eery story for you. Last week I had a conversation with my sister about something a dear friend of hers had said to her. Dear friend asked my sister why she was not running anymore. Then she followed that up with - You love to run. Why don't you run. It makes you so happy! That perked my sister up and then the next question was a loving punch to the gut. "Don't you want to be happy?"

Wow, what a super powerful question. My sister knew immediately she wanted to be happy. She began to remember what a happy part of running was to her life. And I think she found a new mantra by which to gauge how she spends her time and energy. "Don't you want to be happy?"

We talked about what a powerful lesson this was and how excited my sister was to turn back to running. We continued to talk about work outs and the cool workout plan she was making for herself. I loved her ideas and was inspired myself.

Then over the weekend I by chance found this paragraph on my blog and it sounded shockingly familiar to the point the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. From March 2010:

 A few months ago, my mom and I were talking about working out and she said, "You should start swimming again. You love swimming. It would make you happy." I was surprised by this insight because my mother lives 600 miles away and never saw me during my regular swimming days. But she was RIGHT! Call it mother's intuition or maybe just years of vacations together in Hawaii. I was invigorated to know that someone knew this about me, that I knew this about me. And I started dreaming about swimming again.

If you read the rest of that post, you learn that I went swimming that day and loved every minute of it. The sad confession that follows is that I haven't been back to the city pool since. I bought a brand new training suit last year that has not been used. Gosh, I need to get back to the pool. How much encouragement do I need?

Okay, how about you? Do you have a love that you have turned your back on? Are you doing things that make you deeply happy? I'm challenging you to ask yourself, "Why aren't you doing _____ ??? Don't you want to be happy?" Hope the results propel you to new levels of happiness!

09 October 2012

Quick Tip: Cleaning Up When I Don't Want To

image via MSI

I had a feeling it was too good to be true and we've hit a point where I think I've found out I was right. Since she was tiny, The Bug has been a super good cleaner. She would pick up all her own toys and put things away really quickly and with no whining or complaining.

Well that seems to have come to a halt. Darn, darn, double darn. In recent weeks it's been slump on the floor and complain and when desperate, get whiny and teary-eyed. All I can say to that is, "Ah, she's human". I don't know any grown ups who really love to clean. I think we all love a freshly cleaned house, but actually getting there is not that much fun. I still have a lot to learn about enjoying cleaning itself.

I remember when I was six and seven years old and even though my sister and I shared a tiny room, only big enough for two beds, a tiny walkway between them and a closet, it still would overwhelm me when we had to clean up toys that we had gotten out. Maybe because the room was so small it was easy for it to look like a tornado had hit with just a few things out of place. I would feel completely overpowered by the mess and sit on my bed or the floor not knowing how to .

Thankfully as I've gotten older, although I still don't love to clean I've come up with some strategies that make it less overwhelming. So here's a little Tuesday Quick Tip that helps me get through those cleaning up days when I really just want to flop on the floor, whine and moan instead of cleaning. This is also a great tip to teach your kids so you get more clean and less whine. Sometimes we all just need to focus in on a small space to accomplish something that feels too big.

1. Put on some energetic, happy music. Music has a way of picking you up even when you're doing things you don't want to do.

2. Then instead of looking at the space that needs to be cleaned as a whole, I try to break down my cleaning project into tiny, bite size pieces and then approach the room in a circular motion. I pick one starting point, if it's a chair, counter space or appliance. It should be small maybe a 2 feet by 2 feet space at the biggest. If I am really struggling to get going I pick the easier spot first. Some days I just want to dive in and I pick the worst spot and get that over with right off the bat. Just focus on that one place, it should take not more than one or two minutes usually and you should be able to make quick decisions about where things should be put away and quickly clear the space.

3.Then I just continue around the room in a circular motion cleaning in small 2' x 2' increments. It's easy to see one's way through cleaning up spaces that small. If you have to stop, it's easy to see where you can pick up right where you left off and continue working your way around the room.

Pretty soon you've cleaned up a bunch of tiny spaces and that adds up to one big, nice, clean space. This plan makes it easy to see your progress and gives you a sense of accomplishment very quickly as you see the wave of tidiness building up behind you.

4. The final step is a big pat on the back. You did it! You deserve a nice cold drink and to put your feet up for a few minutes. Take half an hour or so and just do something you love. If you make this a regular reward for your efforts you'll always have something to look forward to.

Happy cleaning -- or even better happy rewarding when you are done, enjoying your beautiful space and time for yourself.

08 October 2012

BYW Boot Camp Brings A Wave of Excitement

One of the goals I set for myself while The Man is away was to take some classes where I could build my skill set and make some new friends. Some ideas were self-defense, fitness, Reiki, sewing, knitting, writing, personal development and blogging.

It took me a little longer than expected to get my legs under me with this separation, especially because I wasn't sleeping well and we had some stressful family events happen during the summer. So now that fall is here and my energies on the rise, I jumped at the chance to sign up for Blogging Your Way: Boot Camp which started on Friday.

Looking back at the evolution of my blog over the years, I can contribute the great majority of the improvements I have made and skills I have learned in both blogging and photography to  my participation in Blogging Your Way during Fall 2010. Even better I made some amazing friends with students from the class. Some I now know in person, some I look forward to meeting and others I may never meet in the flesh. These dear friends have been a great addition to my life and have been so supportive and cheerful.

One of the best things to come out of my participation in the previous class was that it was a fresh start for me. In the few months leading up to the class I lost a dearest friend who died suddenly and had two other very stressful upheavals come to my life. Being surrounded by Holly Becker's uplifting teachings and life philosophies, Leslie Schewring's cheerful, colorful photography lessons, and the enthusiastic spirits of students from all over the world, was like a fresh, warm wave washing over me. It was time to do, look at, think about and create pretty things. Nothing could have been better for my soul at that moment.

Now I stand again on the threshold of what I know will be a great experience with a new group of BYW students at just the perfect time for another refreshing wave to dive into. I welcome the opportunity with a peaceful, joyful, excited spirit - guaranteed that in a month I will have learned lots of new things, improved myself on many levels and made new friends around the world.

How about you? Are you thinking of taking any classes or learning a new skill this fall? Have you taken any great courses you would recommend? I would love to add some ideas to my list.

05 October 2012

10 Little Things I Can't Blame On Anyone Else

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This post is pure comedy. Now that I am mostly at my apartment alone, I have come to realize there's just no one to blame any messes on. It's one thing when The Man and The Bug are here on a regular basis and messes happen quickly. But now that they aren't here much due to The Man's work assignment, there are a few messes that I wish I could blame on someone else. Unfortunately, I'm the only guilty party.

1. Toothpaste splashes on the bathroom mirror and faucet. Guilty.
2. The dirty kitchen floor. Guilty.
3. The overflowing trash or recycling cans. Guilty
4. The sticky microwave handle. Guilty.
5. The pile of laundry. Guilty.
6. The disorganized papers on my coffee table. Guilty.
7. Messy looking couch. Guilty.
8. Disorganized dresser top. Guilty. (As if this was ever anyone else's fault. Ha.)
9. A few things that have piled up on the front entry table. Guilty.
10. Dishes in the sink. Guilty.

All the messes are mine and no they aren't constant or all happening at the same time - and yes I do spend a significant amount of time cleaning. But I am amazed at the messes that happen when there is only one person here on a regular basis. It's life I guess. I have to say though, that I'll take more messes and my Bug and Man here more anytime.

Now that I can look at things from a different perspective I realize that the messes are going to happen anyway. I think I'm accustomed to my previous life where I worked in an office and was away from home for 12+ hours a day. That meant I maybe made one meal at home, not that I cooked much, and spent maybe three to five hours awake and at home on a daily basis. My home was spotless.

Working from home is a whole different ball game. Things are going to get messy. I just wish someone would come and clean up after me once in a while. Ha. Gotta go, the kitchen floor needs moping.

04 October 2012

Deep Cleaning Find - Pretty Suede Shoes

Last week when I was cleaning my closet I went through a bunch of large bags I had stored in there. Inside were lanterns that I had purchased for the wedding tables. As I was pulling out bags I was totally caught by surprise to find a shoe box in the closet. I wondered who put it there.

I opened the box, saw the shoes and still no bells were ringing. I looked at the receipt and then when I saw the location of the store and the price (the amazing deal) of the shoes it finally clicked in. I bought these shoes last winter. I have no idea how they ended up in the closet, but it's a little sad that I never, in all these months, wondered where they were or remembered that I'd purchased them. That's embarrassing.

On the bright side, it's the perfect time to find these, just as fall begins and a good time to transition into something that isn't a total sandal. They are so perfect for skirts or pants, cute even with tights on chillier days. A great find, even if it was in my closet. (Insert embarrassed smile here.) They look nice in my closet now living next to their siblings, these very similar clogs I bought a few weeks ago. And they look very similar to these clogs I was drooling about a few months ago. Hilariously here is yet another post on more similarly styled clogs. I guess at least I can say I know my style.

I found something else in there too, a pair of metal bookends that I picked up for the man last spring, shaped as the letter B. Perfect. They are from Ikea and I think they cost less than five dollars, but they will do a good work! So while the cost of my total finds is less than $18, the value is good. Deep cleaning is always a good way to see what you really have. There will always be a few surprises and I often find things I haven't been using that I can repurpose instead of buying something new I thought I needed.

Have you ever experienced the embarrassment of finding things you'd purchased that you totally forgot about? What did you find and how much time had passed? Somebody please tell me I'm not the only one.

03 October 2012

What Makes Us Hate Certain Patterns?

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Before you dive into this post I have to say one thing. I really strongly dislike the word h-a-t-e. I try never to say it. But this post is about fabric so I hope it's okay and doesn't offend. It just seemed that no other word quite captured the emotions necessary.

A couple of weeks ago while hanging out with Sister #2, the gorgeous and talented photographer (be warned there is auto music if you take this link), she admitted to something that still has me curious. We were shopping, just wandering around with no real purpose, looking at home goods and she had to get it off her chest that she hates ikat.

If you don't know what ikat is, don't feel bad. Quickly take this link over to a hilarious post by my friend Margot of Margot Madison design. You can also see some beautiful designs she created in the ikat theme.

I have to admit that I found this confession from my sister far more intriguing than it probably needed to be, and certainly more than it was intended by her! But it got me so interested in trying to understand what makes her tick. This is not because I am a particularly passionate fan of ikat. I do like it and all things (sorry to use this horrible phrase) BoHo Chic. I think it has something to do with plentiful applications of pinks and oranges, my favorite color combination.

I wanted to administer a full psych eval to my sister to mine into her hate for ikat and learn how it could possibly create such a reaction in her. Was is the angle-y lines? The inconsistent depth of the hues? Too repetitive? Too much going on? I still really want to know.

What is is about patterns that we have such a visceral reaction to? It got me thinking, do I really hate any patterns? I know I do. Sometimes they go in and out of fashion with me or are completely dependent on the color combinations. Even after some thought I still don't know why my sister hates ikat and I'm not sure she does either. When I think about why I don't like certain patterns I don't have many concrete answers other than "it bores me" or "makes my skin crawl." But those are still only descriptors of how they make me feel, not anything specific to the pattern itself.

Okay, here's what I hate. I hate Chintz and it's weird glaze. I really hate Satin. Satin sheets make me want to scream and they look like garbage after a few washings. I'm pretty bored with Toile at this point thanks the overdose in the first decade of our new millennium. Not a fan of Art Deco. Gingham Check - meh. Tiny florals don't ring my bell either. I'll say "Oh, no" to Calico. I'm not saying there is necessarily anything bad about the use of these patterns. -- And no I'm not saying I hate your kitchen curtains. I am merely saying these patterns aren't my favorite. They all have their place - and in fact mixing patterns is the best thing to do to give a room a well-rounded look, so sneaking some of these patterns in can be a great idea.

On the yes side, I'll always be a sucker in fall for chunky neutral knits and a good gray wool houndstooth. In summer I always love a good bold colorful stripe for home or outdoor interiors. I like block printing, the measured use of ikat and bright patterns.

If you want to go deep into the study of patterns, here is a very thorough glossary. It's pretty awesome. So how about you? Do you have patterns that are like fingernails on a chalkboard for you? Tell me, what do you hate? And what do you love?

02 October 2012

A Pin Test #7: Williams-Sonoma Store Scent

It's time for another A Pin Test post. Test #7, from this pin, is a do-it-yourself version of the scent you might find in the air when you wander a Williams-Sonoma store. I visit Williams-Sonoma often but off the top of my head I couldn't remember what the store smells like.

I am always happen to experiment with easy, home scents that you can quickly throw on your stove. Food smells are great while you're cooking but hours later, not so enjoyable. It's also great to have a quick solution when you get home from a trip and realize you forgot to take out the trash before you left. Pop it on the stove before guests come over and you are sure to welcome your guests to a pleasant home. Here is a family favorite of mine.

I always have lemons and vanilla on hand and I have a big rosemary plant thriving out in my balcony garden. So this is something I can easily pull together any time with no additional supplies needed. Here's the link to the original post. The author of One More Moore, Morgan Moore used to work at Williams-Sonoma so she's definitely in the know. Thanks for sharing this little behind the scenes tip Morgan.

Just washing the rosemary in the sink, rubbing the stalks together gave the kitchen the most amazing fresh scent. I cut up two small lemons and cut the rosemary stalks into smaller pieces that would fit and move easily around in my pot. Then I added the vanilla extract. I misread the recipe and added a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon but it wasn't overboard at all.

Already I knew this was going to be a successful Pin Test. The three ingredients combine to create something really delicious smelling. It's not too foody, too strong or too anything. It's a gentle, relaxing, earthy scent with just a touch of sweetness. I love that.

Before I wrap this up let me share one quick tip learned purely from previous bad experience. It's easy to put this on the stove and forget it - especially if your stove isn't in a high traffic area or your kitchen isn't a place you pass through often on your way out the door. It's really bad to leave the house with it still on. So I set a timer for about 30 minutes as a reminder to turn it off. It's a good amount of time to let the scent waft throughout your home and make sure you don't forget about it. Another option is to set a reminder on your phone for a few minutes before you know you'll be leaving the house.

I wish you could smell my home while I am writing this. I definitely give a big thumbs up to the Williams-Sonoma Scent pin. If you try it, let me know what you think.

01 October 2012

A Spooky Harvest Tale: Thinking Too Small

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It's October, the perfect time for a scary story! The other day I was working on a marketing project. I set some parameters for myself and started working. Then I realized I should be thinking a little bigger. Then I realized that I could still think a little bigger.

It struck me that I was still thinking way too small. Way too small! I laughed at myself and at the same time felt a little twinge of fear. Not fear of thinking too big, but fear of how often I think too small. Yikes.

It was like a scene from a movie where I realized I was lost in the middle of a corn patch. The corn patch was all my too small, too narrow, too wimpy, too unimaginative thoughts holding me back from doing more and being more than I ever imagined. Like a blonde, college coed running from a horror movie ax-wielding psychopath, I wanted out of that restricting, limiting cornfield immediately. And in my mind I saw myself thrashing through the cornstalks, running at top speed to get out of that field and back into the light, fresh air, and vision of all that is possible in my life.

I actually have a little experience in cornfields. I remember trying to scare myself by getting lost in the cornfields on our farm when I was younger. Even though you could get yourself so turned around that you had no idea which direction you were facing, you could always find your way out - because cornfields are planted in rows. Follow one row and you know you are going in a straight line to the edge. You can't guarantee where you'll end up when you get out, but once you're out, you'll have a whole new perspective on where you need to go from there.

By thinking a little bigger and a then a little bigger still I am following the steps I need to take down one of those rows. I don't know where exactly it will take me, but I do know one thing, it will get me out of the cornfield of small thinking. And no matter where I end up, I know I'll have a much bigger view, perspective and opportunity to experience more, see more, do more and be more.

Have you ever found yourself in the cornfield of small thinking? How did you get yourself out? Where did it take you?
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