29 March 2013

Placemats Can Make Great Stencils and Stamps

via Bed Bath & Beyond - image 1, image 2, image 3, image 4

The other day I was at Bed, Bath and Beyond picking up a few things and ran across a bunch of placemats that looked like they would make fantastic stamps or stencils for pillows, curtains, duvet covers, dish towels, tee shirts or other fun craft projects.

Just seeing them got my mind percolating with all sorts of fun projects you could do with these. There was a little part of me that wanted to buy them all and experiment but that's not how we're doing things around here. Haha. They did have some fun summer plumeria flowers in a bunch of colors in store along with some versions of the palm leaves.

In the store clearance section I saw several more fun placemats that would work and online there are quite a good holiday specific ones as well that are at serious clearance prices. I might pick up a few of the palm leaves and try to do some pillows and a curtain project I have been thinking about for a while.

Just had to pass this idea along to you so you can take advantage of the good deals and have some fun with these if you're interested. If you do a project with these, please share a link in the comments. I would LOVE to see what you come up with! 

28 March 2013

Brightening Up Home With Inexpensive Plants

After writing posts about the ability of houseplants to clean and filter the air in your home and about rooting Devil's Ivy (aka Pothos) I thought I would share with you how I have used my cuttings and little tiny plants I bought around the house as they have grown.

Since I have been spending very little on actually buying plants and have been very thrifty about pot purchases I have a lot of plants in my home now and continue to be able to just buy a couple larger pots now and then and the reuse all my smaller and mid-size pots as things outgrow them. I have a little potting table on my patio where I can keep a large bag of potting soil (only about $8) and to keep recyclable pots and some tools.

I have quite a few plants that I cut from my original Devil's Ivy plant. I regularly give my bigger plants a "haircut" so that the main body of the plant grows robustly and fills in thickly, rather than letting individual strands grow too long which drain energy and nutrients from the base of the plant. Anytime I have a strand that has grown more than about a foot long, I trim it, cut it up into multiple cuttings and then just drop it in a pretty clear glass vase to root. Super easy, doesn't cost a thing. There is no care needed for the cuttings other than making sure they have water in the vase. All the info is here.
The plants in the green pots are ones that I bought for maybe two dollars at IKEA a couple of years ago. They were tiny. I have continued to transplant them and they have really grown. I found two of these fun, sassy green, purple and blue ceramic pots at TJMaxx for $9.99 each just a few weeks ago that I transplanted two of these little plants into. They are such a fun, spunky color pop for my living room which tends to be quite dark due to lack of light and and darker furniture.

I search for great deals for pots. I have found the best pots lately for $9-14 at TJMaxx, Marshalls and Ross. I have also added a couple of these white pots from IKEA (in a much larger size) which look really great with a big, beautiful Devil's Ivy in them. The green and white is such a Springy combination. There is no reason to be paying $30-40 for a pot unless it's one that you really are in love with and are willing to invest it. 

With cool pots and healthy green plants I've been able to add a lot of personality and depth to the decor of my home for very little money.  It's a win, win, win: free or very inexpensive plants, great bargains on beautiful, personality-filled pots and cleaner air.

27 March 2013

Travel Inspires Simple Living

image from Elle Decor by William Waldron

It's nearing the end of March. Spring is blossoming and with it so many dreams for the coming summer. We dream of trips, picnics, barbecues, sitting outside talking with friends, late sunsets, summer holiday festivities. There is so much promise when one looks ahead to summer. Around this time of the year I usually get a big itch to travel somewhere relaxing, quiet and away from the daily buzz. This year is no different.

I've been thinking about two trips I have taken to Mexico. One of the things I loved best about these trips is that every day was our own, without any big plans. The thing I remember best about these two trips was how much I loved the large, simple closets in the places I stayed and what I had in those closets.

The contents of my travel closets were exactly what I would wish for in every day living. There were a couple of dresses, skirts, shorts, crisp white linen or cotton tops and several swimsuits, board shorts and tanks and tees. A few things hung on hangers, mostly just so they would dry out and the rest folded on large open shelves. On the floor were a couple of pairs of sandals, snorkeling fins and mask.

Meals were simple, often salads, days were quiet with smatterings of reading and good conversation. Showers were cool and without any rush, hair could air dry. Sunkissed faces required only a dash of lip gloss and a couple of swipes of mascara for evenings to look fabulous, happy and relaxed.

It was a simple life and I loved it. Makes a person realize that it doesn't take much to make a person happy. How did our world get to a place of such busy craziness? Doesn't it make you want to chuck it all out the window, all the stuff that owns you and move to an island?

It really makes me think twice about how hard we sometimes make life by our consumerism, perfectionism, competitiveness and misguided sense of needs and priority. Yes, life requires work, money and a certain sense of stability but how much simpler could life be? Does it make you think about simplifying your life?

26 March 2013

Tuesday Quick Tip: Lash Lengthening Mascara

image via Maybelline

Thought I would pass on a little quick tip I got from a very young, sassy military girlfriend a couple of weeks ago, now that I have tried it. She was saying how people always ask her if she has false lashes because her lashes look so long. She said it's all thanks to Maybelline Falsies Volume Express Mascara.

Well, since both my sisters give me a bad time about having "short" lashes, merely because my lashes are not as long and lush as their's are. This has had me thinking about what I can do for my lashes for a while. So I was definitely interested in this tip from sassy military girlfriend.

I picked up a tube of Black/Brown at Target and tried to follow Sassy's instructions. She said she applies it to both the top side and under side of her top lashes. I have yet to master that tip. When I try to apply it to the top of my upper lashes it seems to just straighten every bit of curl I've just put into my lashes. Curling them after doesn't seem to work since it breaks down the lengthening fibers to crimp them in the curler. Will continue to experiment on that.

But so far I have really liked this mascara and it definitely makes my lashes look longer. I wish I could get it in a straight brown because I feel like even black/brown looks too heavy and dark on me sometimes. I definitely want to try it in the waterproof version because my eyes water a lot and I have just always done better with waterproof mascara. Of course taking it off can be very hard on the lashes. So there's a trade off there.

But if you're looking to add to the length of your lashes this is a nice way to do it for a great price. Prices vary by two or three dollars from different retailers. The lowest price I saw was at WalMart. So if you try it let me know what you think.

25 March 2013

30-Day Home Reorganization Project:Week Five

I am guest blogging today over at Creative Soul In Motion. It's all about learning to understand my body's call for me to slow down. Lessons I've been too slow to learn. But now I see the light. You can read my post here.

I have been pretty mum the past week about this project. I have completed a few tasks, but in the end my reorganization of my bedroom space took over in the very few minutes of "free time" I had. It was a big week with family stuff again.

After I removed several pieces of furniture, the entire bedroom looked bare and bizarre. Rearranging decor is a must as well as making sure the more streamlined room actually works for me. So I have been going through files & bookcases, which is in fact a part of my 30-day project. I've gotten rid of things I was saving that didn't hold any meaning for me anymore. I let go of some magazines, organized some books and tidied up one of two nightstands.

Going through things around my bed helped me to find a place for all my microwave heating pads, massagers, etc. Now I know where they all are and where they can all go when not in use. These things have been wandering the house with no real home for a long time. Going through things in my nightstand also reminded me of some nice nighttime rituals I had forgotten about that always help me get ready for sleep. I found three books of Sudoku and word searches that I used to do quite often. I found they kept my eyes and brain quite sharp. I am going to start doing those things again because I am really bad about going to bed. I am trying to change my ways, get more sleep and actually put myself to bed at night.

So again my cleaning project has brought up some helpful reminders and lessons. Never fails that with ever project I've done, I have learned something about myself and how I live my life -- and sometimes how I could better live my life. This week I have car repairs to get done and then a carload of things to get to storage. Most of what will go to storage is home furnishings we are not using right now that I will want again when we get into a bigger place. Then there are the things I have purchased for the long awaited wedding celebration. I don't need that stuff in the bedroom closet right now and it will actually be very close to our hoped for on-base venue if I put it in storage. Goodbye 33 lanterns, picnic napkins, cake stand, etc. Whew!

This week I theoretically have a little extra time on my hands, so I'm going to try to chop down a bunch of these projects on my list. There are some super easy ones like cleaning the plates & dishes cupboard. Pull it all out, wipe it down and put it all back. Easy breezy. The Spice Rack on the other hand sounds a little daunting if only for the fact that once I clean out all the old stuff I will have a very empty spice shelf to replenish.

Are you into Spring Cleaning this year? Have you learned any interesting lessons about yourself, your home or how you live? I'd love to hear about your journey to more organization.

22 March 2013

The Need To Anticipate Spring Will Always Be Busy

A few days ago as I was writing the post about celebrating The Bug's birthday I realized for the first time that I had just better always expect that Spring will be a little bit, let's find a positive word for it, how about energetic, around our home.

Here's how things go from Valentine's Day to Memorial Day.

February: Valentine's Day & President's Weekend
March: Bug's Birthday, five 1/2 school days for Parent Teacher Conferences, St. Patrick's Day, one to two weeks of Spring Break & sometimes Easter
April: The Man's birthday, My Dad's birthday & sometimes Easter
May: Mother's Day, My Birthday & Memorial Day Weekend

It doesn't look like much on paper but when you have a holiday or birthday every other week it gets a little crazy in the scheduling and planning department. And my official title in these parts might as well be Executive Vice President of Scheduling and Planning because planned celebrations & fun are mostly all my calendaring and actualizing. Daddy is full of fun too, but his plans are usually last minute with little planning in advance - which is often quite lovely. So we get a good balance of life planned and life impromptu.

Another challenge to having all our birthdays within nine weeks of each other is that come late May when I put the candles & other birthday supplies away we don't need them for TEN more months. Good luck trying to remember where you put everything. I was a little panicked five minutes before cake and candles time when the box of candles wasn't where I expected and I couldn't find it anywhere. Eventually I found it tucked underneath a bowl. Why I don't know... We are still using birthday plates and hats from packs we bought 4 years ago since our parties are only for three people each year. This year I'm going to do a little better remembering to put everything together in one place so it's all easier to find.

So from now on, I am going to be sure not to take on too much additional activity during the first six months of the year. It seems The Man is also usually traveling a bit during this time for work so that's another wrinkle in the schedule and more weight on the bearings. But I'm glad I'm learning this lesson about Spring now. I hope recognizing now the need for simplicity every Spring will keep me a little more rested in years to come. I am also going to remember to look forward to and enjoy Spring more because there are a lot of special family days in this season each year.

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21 March 2013

Five Fast Fixes To Make Home More Livable

Some days you just need a little home refresh to pick up the spirits and help you feel more encouraged about life. Here are five fast things you can do to improve the look and the way you feel about your home. These are great tips if you find out you are suddenly having visitors, just wake up feeling "blah" about life or need motivation and quick accomplishment.

1) Make your bed. Make it look clean, inviting and cared for. It's one of the major places you spend your time. It should be welcoming, not an eyesore.

2) Straighten up your living room furniture. Shake and straighten cushions and pillows. Arrange them nicely. This is a fast task, but has an amazing effect on the feel of the living room.

3) Dust. With a handheld dusting tool ( I like Swiffer) you can desk your entire house very quickly.

4) Sweep, vacuum or mop. Clean floors and carpets make a huge difference to the overall feel of cleanliness in a home.

5) Add a few blooms. Buy a handful of inexpensive fresh flowers. I always like Gerber Daisies because the big blooms last a good week usually. In bud vases, put one near your kitchen sink, on the bathroom vanity or your dresser, near the front entryway and on your kitchen table or counter. This will instantly cheer you and your home up.

Five simple things you can do in just a few minutes to spruce things us and make home feel happy and welcoming. Some days you just need a little tweak to perk things up around the place.

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20 March 2013

Breathing Space - Winter Beach

I had to make a quick, last minute trip to San Diego on Saturday. I got up and out pretty early and then by noon I didn't really know what to do with myself. I could just head for home after two hours or I could stay for a while. I was having a total stupor of thought about it and then just asked myself, what would be most appropriate in terms of self-care. So I took myself to the movies. I sat in a theater with three noisy old people who wouldn't stop talking loudly. But it was a movie I'd been wanting to see for a few months so that was great. 

I was tired of the car after spending hours in the car Friday evening and then again Saturday morning. So I decided a nice long walk on the beach would probably do wonders for that scenario. Can you see downtown San Diego peeking over the tops of the trees on the golf course? I love that view. This Coronado beach is just one of the places on earth closest to my heart. Such beautiful views in every direction.

So I enjoyed a couple of hours of Mother Nature's wonders, big and small. The weather report had promised sunny skies, but it was mostly overcast. But it was fine weather for a barefoot walk in rolled up jeans and a sweater. The weather reminded me a bit of my beach walks in Virginia last year. I can't believe it's already been more than a year since that trip already. Life is going by too, too fast.

This is a pretty long stretch of beach so a walk across it to the water and then up the beach, down the beach and back takes a while. It's the perfect walk. It's impossible to complete it without having allowed the rhythms and pace of the ocean to over take you, clear your thoughts and bring you to the present moment. Ahhh.

18 March 2013

30-day Home Reorganization Project: Week Four

image via

It's week four already. Can't believe it. Technically I should be done! I've done so much and guess what, my list is still nowhere near finished. With all the birthday celebrating & other busy-ness last week I think I only accomplished a couple of projects the entire week. And the house managed to get more messy while we were dashing in and out to events and obligations all week.

One thing I have learned about my helter-skelter way of choosing my projects is that it is not so good. I've basically taken the place apart bit by bit in every room. But now every room is a bit of a disaster and I have a big stack of stuff in my dining room that needs a new home. I think I need to take on a new approach this week and go wall by wall, room by room and get some areas in tip top shape. I already started a bit with this approach over the weekend.

I will feel a lot better about this project if I can actually see and enjoy some progress. I cannot see the insides of drawers and cupboards when I am lying in bed or sitting on the couch. (I'm laughing pretending I have a lot of free time and sit in either of these places for very long, looking around the house - what a laugh). What I am seeing is all the other stuff. Ah, I was just looking over my list right now and saw that I have neglected to cross off several things in my bedroom. My bedroom was feeling ridiculously crowded with too much furniture. WAY too much. Then I saw this home tour posted on DesignMom and I immediately went in and removed three pieces of furniture from my room.

I also moved a bookcase from the back corner of my room to the side wall. I realized as I was arranging the bookshelf again that I could hide my air purifier now on one of the lower shelves since the bookcase is in such an open area of the room instead of tucked next to my bed. This means the purifier has enough space to process and circulate air properly. Perfection! As much as I love the purified air, that is one big ugly piece of equipment. It's hardly noticeable now, tucked in next to other more eye-grabbing, colorful, cool design elements.It almost looks stylish tucked in with such lovely neighbors.

I learned another big lesson in the bedroom. I have been way too lazy at times piling clothes on my sewing table and chair. It was in the perfect spot for gathering clothes, closer to my bed than my closet is. I had already planned to put it away for a while since I have not been sewing and it was taking up a lot of space. Now that there is no flat surface nearby to plop my clothes on top of every night guess what I do with them. I hang them up. And wow, it only takes a couple of seconds! Excellent. That alone makes a huge difference in how I feel in and about my room. No flat surfaces nearer to the bed than the closet!

My room is actually looking a little sparse at the moment because I have a big corner and wall with no decor. It's the first thing you see when you walk into the room and all that white, empty space has killed the look of the room. I'm working on a fix for that area. But I do like how much more spacious and restful my room looks already. I have a few boxes to go through and then once I redecorate I think it's going to look quite amazing and peaceful in here.

So those are my big reorganization lessons for this past week. Hopefully I'll have some major progress to tell you about next week.Fingers crossed.

Seven Years Old. Seven Days of Fun.

image via

It's been a fun full week celebrating The Bug's birthday. Since her Dad isn't here I decided we would celebrate turning seven for a full week, doing a few small things to celebrate. I'm not big on throwing large birthday parties for a kid's entire school class which is pretty standard here in L.A. I have found that my birthday is happiest for me when it is filled doing things that bring me joy -- with people I love. So we have aimed each year to provide special experiences and give the birthday boy or girl (big or small) the chance to do things they especially love doing on their birthday.

So I talked with The Bug about things she would like to do and then tried to throw in a couple of surprise outings and events. First we went put-put golfing. Since we went on an early out school day we had the place to ourselves. It was fun to see how well she gets put-put golf remembering the first time we took her and how she didn't get what we were doing at all. Now she has a bit of a golf stance and gets the whole idea.

Last Friday night we had double feature movie night in my bed with homemade pizza, cookie dough and cotton candy to snack on and pudding in a cloud for dessert. We watched the Shirley Temple movie Heidi and then The Karate Kid. A couple days later I found her standing on a low wall pretending to do the Crane Kick.

Saturday we went to Kid's Space in Pasadena. It was my first time at Kid's Space but her Dad has taken her a few times and she loves that place. My trip to Pasadena also reminded me of what a super cool city that place is and I am scheming now a date with The Man when he gets back. There are so many beautiful shops and restaurants that I'm sure we could stay entertained for hours.

Sunday night I let her open a special surprise. A handmade photo quilt made for her with pictures of her and her Daddy. This came to us from Operation Kid Comfort a program of Armed Services YMCA San Diego. These quilts are made for children of deployed military members by the San Diego Chapter of the American Sewing Guild. She was so excited to see it and has said again and again how special it is and how it is her very favorite most special present.

Wednesday she opened a present from my very dear aunt. A special handmade pillowcase covered in grizzly bears. She loves animals so she thought this was quite a fantastic gift. We decided we need to buy her a pretty new pillow to put it on.

There have been a few other indulgences throughout the week. Thursday night was the highlight. We spent the afternoon buying her a few new clothes and she got to choose where we went for dinner. At the mall she asked if she could ride the kid's train. I said yes and gave her some money. She paid and rode alone on the train and it was a little bit melancholy for me as I realized how grown up she's gotten and how she's very suddenly not a little kiddo anymore. She got off the train and even though she enjoyed it she said she thought she was getting a little too big for that stuff now. I think it just wasn't as exciting to her as it was when she was younger. If this doesn't illustrate what it means to turn seven I don't know what does. Here we stand at the crossroads of letting go of the things of small childhood and we both feel it. I'm sad to see small childhood go. Next we went and bought our big girl new pants, shoes and a shirt and sweater.

The very best part of our birthday celebration was an across the world Skype birthday party with her Dad on Thursday night. It was so fantastic that he could be with us to open presents, sing happy birthday, blow out candles. Unfortunately there was no way to share the cake, ice cream and hugs with him. But I did take a picture of her with her Dad together via computer. This will be a birthday she will remember so I'm glad we have that special photo.

Along with having the kids at school celebrate her birthday with her, she got a great surprise at karate class. Her teacher for the yellow belt and she passed. She was so excited because she was not expecting to get her yellow belt for a while. She did a great job on her test and it was fun to see her really concentrate and excel when she put her mind to it. Because you know there are those "parent moments" when she's staring at the ceiling, not paying attention at all when I wonder why we're paying money for her to daydream. Anybody with me on that? Haha.

It's been a fun week. I will say I was worn out by the end. Now it's time to start working on Easter and the April birthday care package for The Man. Tomorrow it's another 30-day Home Reorganization Project update. It's Update Four already. Things are looking  much altered in my bedroom now. New lessons learned this week that I will share with you. Have a fantastic day. I am sending you good wishes.

15 March 2013

Class Birthday Treats - Chocolate Pretzels

Over the past weeks I've put some thought into what we could take to our The Bug's school class for her birthday. I wanted to find something that didn't involve me making a special trip to the school, interrupting the class time or food that needed to be served. I wanted something that could be very quickly handed out at the end of the day. So I came up with the idea of putting something in small packages with a cute handmade tag similar to what we did for our Valentine's Day school treats. Again all inspired by Gabby Blair at Design Mom

I didn't feel like baking and wanted to come up with something simple that was somewhat sturdy. So I decided to try to make chocolate covered pretzels. I worked in a chocolate factory in college so I figured it wouldn't be too hard to  figure it all out. The entire process took me about 4 hours but it was late, I was tired and was doing a lot of experimentation. I am sure I could cut my time down to less than 2 hours for the entire project now that I've done these once. Using the fridge to quickly cool the chocolate made a major difference in how fast I could get these done.

I bought four bags of Bavarian pretzels in hopes that out of all those bags I would be able to get 52 unbroken pretzels. You'll be entertained to hear that is exactly how many I got out of those four bags.  But I still have a ton of broken pretzels which I'm not thrilled about. If I were to do this again I would use the thick sticks. But for this project I just wanted to keep the bags small and square and the Bavarian pretzel shape seemed perfect for that. My budget for this project was about $22 but I probably could've saved a bundle going to Costco to buy one giant box of pretzels instead of four bags of trendy brand pretzels at the grocery store. My only costs were the pretzels, chocolate and small bags. I already have everything else I needed.

Here is the supply list:  Bavarian pretzels, chocolate candy-making wafers, plastic treat bags, paper and glue for tags and a stapler. I used two bags of white chocolate wafers and one bag of pink.

Here are the steps:

Step One: Sift through the pretzels to find the whole ones. I I figured two per treat bag and needed 26 bags.

Step Two: Put wax paper on cookie sheets to set dipped pretzels on to set up.

Step Three: Melt chocolate according to directions on the back of the bag. I used the microwave and it was great. I used a 2-cup glass liquid measuring cup to melt and dip the pretzels.

Step Four:  Dip pretzels in the melted chocolate and tap the flat bottom gently on the edge of the measuring cup to even out the chocolate and shake off excess. This tapping process really helps the chocolate settle and look much more uniform and pretty.

Step Five: Lay pretzels on the waxed paper and allow chocolate to firm up. Speed things up a lot by putting the cookie sheets in the fridge for 15 minutes or so. On the counter they will take considerable longer to firm up.

Step Six: While letting the chocolate on the pretzels firm up, start making the card tags. I used scrap cardstock I had so I had a nice bright array of colors and patterns. I used the paper cutter to keep my sizes all similar and sharp looking. I folded them all in half and made a very nice crease at the top with my bone folder.

Step Seven: Cut up small tags of light colored cardstock to write the message on. I knew that with the array of dark and patterned papers I was using for the card it would be very hard to write anything legible on them.

Step Eight: Stamped a pink flower in the corner of my little tags, wrote Happy Birthday and my daughter's name and used glue dots to attach them to the folded cards. I put the tags a little higher than middle on the cards so that I would have enough space to staple the tags onto the bag at the bottom of the card.

Step Nine: Melt pink chocolate to drizzle over the top of the white chocolate  I had to add about a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the chocolate to thin it a bit. Allow drizzled chocolate to firm up. Again use the fridge to speed things up. Apparently I am not that good of a drizzler. It took me until the very last couple of pretzels to really get it looking decent. But I'm just going to be okay with that because these are for six year old kids and they just want to gobble them up.

Step Ten: Put two pretzels in each bag, facing forward then staple the tag onto the top of the bag. And you're done.

I put them all in a pretty paper bag for her to take to school. I hope they will be enjoyed. I won't hesitate to make these again, but I will do things a little differently next time now that I've learned a few things. If you have any tips or decide to try these I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

14 March 2013

A Marathon Week

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If an image does indeed speak a thousand words, this picture has been the story of my life this week - only better dressed, haha. With nothing much on my calendar I thought this was going to be the good catch up week from a busy week last week. Not the case. I was trying to finish up this post last night and kept falling asleep at the computer. So it's a little late this morning.

The best thing I've done all week? I got to babysit a newborn and her sister who is not quite two years old. I had a blast. I wondered if I was up for it because it's been a long time since our little one was that age. But I was amazed how much fun I had and how relatively easy a newborn can be (for three hours that is.) They really just need to be fed, burped, bounced at appropriate speeds and intervals, changed and put down to sleep in ideal circumstances. Toddlers need lots of loves and tickles, food cut in appropriate bite size pieces, diaper changes and to be kept from losing their balance and falling over on top of their baby siblings.

It's amazing how light these kiddos were to pick up when I have an almost seven-year-old who knows her days of being carried are very, very limited at this point. She is determined to milk everything she can out of her last days of being able to be picked up. She's too heavy to pick up now, so she's learned to take one giant jump up when you start to lift her.

I've been wondering how I feel about the idea of little kids around our house for a while now. I wondered if my babysitting adventure would put an end to that idea. But it didn't. If anything it reminded me how fun little ones are at that age and how much easier they are than school age kids in some ways. Of course later that night when I could talk to The Bug and get very clear and informative communication back from her, I remembered how nice it is to have a child who talks and can explain things without getting frustrated. 

Beyond this fun I decided to make big chocolate covered pretzels for The Bug's class birthday treat. I wanted to bring something that didn't need to be served but could just be handed out at the end of the day. I had to buy four bags of Bavarian pretzels with the hope that I will be able to find fifty that aren't broken. Fingers crossed, I'm a little nervous. And I don't know what I am going to do with all the broken pieces...unless I cover those in chocolate too which means then we'll eat them. Not good.

My idea is to cover them in white chocolate and then drizzle pink chocolate across the tops. Then I'll put two in each candy bag and make a cute label like these we used for Valentine's Day. Then I'll put them all in a bag she can take to school and then The Bug can just pass them out at the end of the day and kids can take them with them. I think I have everything I need. I hope I have everything I need. I need this to go quick and easy. It sounded easier than baking anything.

Tonight The Bug and I will go out for her birthday. We're going to one of her favorite places to wander and we'll chose a nice restaurant for dinner there. Should be fun, but it will be another late night - and by late I mean we'll probably be out past the usual 8 p.m. bedtime, maybe 8:30 even! Haha. Hopefully I can catch some rest this afternoon. I've missed a couple of days of 30-day Home Reorganization Project, so I'll definitely be catching up on that this weekend. Hope this finds you well. Sending best wishes.

12 March 2013

Easy DIY Beach-inspired Art Project

In the spirit of super easy, inexpensive art this has to be a favorite of mine. Inspired by all the fun shell art projects on Pinterest I remembered that I have a few IKEA shadow box frames tucked away somewhere that I hadn't done anything with. I grabbed two of the black frames, lined the back with charcoal construction paper (which I snagged from The Bug's art supplies) and attached two shells using foam adhesive squares.

Literally took less than 30 minutes to track down all the supplies and pull these together. The best part is that they solved a small design dilemma I've been trying to resolve for a couple of weeks. I have been looking for something simple I could put in the deep windowsill in my bedroom. I went to a bunch of stores looking for something and after a lot of frustration didn't find anything that worked.

Guess what look amazing in my all white-walled bathroom windowsill. These two pieces. Perfection, no additional expense and perfectly in harmony with our beach inspired home style. Matched up with a rectangle jar filled with bright green pothos cuttings it's perfection. And didn't cost me a dime to pull it all together. 

Here are a few more beach-inspired DIYs you might enjoy:

Beach Inspired DIY Headboard
Upcycled Wicker Cutlery Basket
Driftwood Garland DIY
Found Ocean Wood DIY Sign
Photo Frame Project

11 March 2013

30-day Reorganization Project Update #3

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This past week was all about the kitchen. Since The Bug had a full week of only half-days at school, I knew she'd be here every afternoon and could maybe help me with some bigger projects. So I looked for the biggest projects on my list and decided that with The Bug's help I would tackle these four spots:

Broom Closet
Food Pantry

I knew The Bug would be a big help emptying out all those spaces to get us started and that was for sure her favorite part. Each project took about 45 minutes or so, by the time we emptied them out, washed them down, sifted through what we could keep and what needed to be thrown out and organized and put things back. They certainly took a little longer at times due to my need to wrangle my assistant, but she was a great help and enjoyed herself. That always makes me hopeful that she will grow up knowing how to clean and to contribute around the house without complaining.

I also took the last three days of the week to clean out dresser drawers in my room. It's amazing how much more space I have, I had an entire empty drawer by the end and none of the drawers is even close to tightly packed. I didn't get rid of that much, but just organizing it more effectively gave me a lot of open space which I love.

My big lesson this week is that this organization project, while highly effective for seasonal cleaning is really a much bigger lesson for me in learning how to plan, organize and pace myself. The day I did the fridge I had been very busy all day and by 4:30 I was starting to feel grouchy. I did not enjoy the fridge cleaning, although I am loving looking at it and opening it to see beautiful clean shelves & drawers every day since.

I learned in the hospital a couple of years ago that I have a very high threshold for pain. So the way I learned to recognize it was time for my next dose of pain meds was that I would start feeling really edgy, fussy and cranky. I don't get that way very much so it's a feeling unusual enough that it became a marker for me to recognize my pain levels were escalating.

Well, guess what I've learned about my every day life. I start getting edgy, fussy and cranky when I have overdone it and when I need a dose of rest. This recognition has been very profound over the past week and I have pondered often how I need to do a better job of self-care. I need to learn to pace myself better. If I start feeling grouchy, I've gone to far and need to slow down, relax and stop pushing so hard in whatever it is I am doing or the day brings.

This whole project is turning out to be a lot less about spring cleaning and a lot more about self-discovery. I am learning what works for me and what doesn't. I am learning to listen to my body and soul in a much more intuitive, honest way. I guess it's spring cleaning for the body and the home. I am so glad I planned this and have been able to execute it well. The progress is definitely spurring me on to continue. I won't get it all done in 30 days but I will keep pushing on. If it takes 45 or 60 days instead, there is no harm done.

10 March 2013

A Pin Test #11: Homemade Eye Cream

For a while now I have been wanting to experiment with homemade body care products. The Man is very in the know about harmful chemicals in food and bodycare products. I love that except for the fact that now most of my favorite bodycare products aren't products I want to use anymore due to the ingredients. Rats!

I decided to start small and try this all natural, homemade eye cream I found here on Pinterest. The original post came from Pam at the blog Ramblings of A Happy Homemaker. Thanks Pam for posting this.

After going through many brands of face and eye creams with The Man over the holidays and checking out ingredients & prices, I'm a little astounded at how hard it is to find even expensive creams with good, healthy ingredients. One can easily lay down a cool $50-70 for a tiny jar of department store eye cream and it goes way up from there.

The two ingredients I needed were Vitamin E Oil and Coconut Oil. Both vary widely in price and can get quite expensive in health food stores. I frequently buy Vitamin E Oil from Traders Joes for about $5-6. I was a little worried about finding Coconut Oil because I've seen very expensive jars of it at that big, national all-natural food chain with the big prices. Buying a $30 or $40 bottle of Coconut Oil would really defeat any costs savings to this project. So I was thrilled to find Coconut Oil on the shelves at Trader Joes as well for about $5-6 dollars. I can make boatloads of eye cream with these two bottles of oil.

I went through my stash of travel size bottles, found a nice glass jar that once housed eye cream. I cleaned it well with alcohol and took the sticker off the top. Then I got to making the eye cream. See  Pam's super easy instructions.

Here's how it worked for me. I spooned in coconut oil to the top of the jar. Then I popped it in the microwave for about 7 seconds which got it melted enough that I could stir it up. Then I added drops of Vitamin E Oil. In Pam's project she used three Vitamin E capsules. Since I was using oil straight from a bottle I just eye-balled about 1/4-1/8 of a teaspoon as a guesstimate.

Then I used a toothpick to stir it all up nicely. Once it was well-mixed I put the lid on and popped it in the fridge. It would be really easy to make a little sticker for the top of the jar on the computer and then create a sticker using my Xyron Make-a-Sticker machine. I will definitely experiment with that as I start giving this out for a fun little gift. It's the perfect idea for a little treat for friends  and family birthdays or just a fun surprise gift.

08 March 2013

Follow Up: When You Can Do No More

This is a follow up to this post I wrote a couple of weeks ago talking about how sometimes you do all you can for your loved ones and then you just have to step back because your help ceases to be helpful anymore. Then you have to trust that God will send help, that others will have the words necessary and their actions that can carry forth the work you started.

I had to write a quick follow up to say that I took my own advice, followed the inspiration of my heart. And the results were just as I'd hoped. Everything turned around, peace was found. Others did feel the call to step in, provide care and support. Prayers of many were answered. Progress was made even when I took a back seat.

That's a tough thing to do when we see someone we love suffering. But sometimes, especially when our heart keeps telling us that we should, stepping back with a hopeful prayer in our heart is exactly the right thing to do. So when you get the sense that this is what you should do and it comes again and again, trust it, follow it and then let things unfold just as they are meant to. The surprising results will bring you peace too and help you keep trusting that beautiful, strong, guiding voice inside.

Military (Navy) Inspired Wrap Bracelet DIY

The weather is getting warmer and I'm not wearing long sleeves and layers as much anymore. It's got me thinking about layered bracelets and wrap bracelets for summer 2013. I'm wondering if stacked will be in again this year. I have a feeling it will with a few updates.

As part of my 30-day Reorganization Project I'm cleaning up my jewelry drawers and realized I have a few favorite pieces that have been needing repair for a while now. I needed some jewelry glue to seal up a few jump rings, so I headed to our neighborhood bead store.

I couldn't help looking around a bit and was wanting to make a little something and was wanting a little treasure to remind me of The Man. So I decided to do a little military inspired wrap bracelet. I liked the idea of an anchor and a heart. I toyed with doing a third charm but didn't find anything that seemed to flow with these two pieces: the right size, coloration, style, dimensions. Plus I thought these two charms said it all. I debated about the leather color. I loved the look of red, thought about pink and then settled on camo green because it was a nice, fairly neutral color and really nothing says military like camo green. The leather strand and two charms cost less than six dollars and I had the clasp and jump rings already in my supplies.

I knotted the leather multiple times in square knots around the jump rings to connect it all together and other than measuring carefully and making sure the jump rings were tightly closed this was a super simple project. I measured the length to wrap around my wrist three times.

You can see some of my other DIY bracelets and some of my stacking ideas here:

Are you up for another summer of stacking bracelets? I clearly am. Creative juices are flowing. The same night I whipped up this bracelet I also cranked out three very simple art projects that I totally love. I'll show you those next week. Be well friends. So happy you came by!

07 March 2013

Merging Households: What To Say Goodbye To

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Note: Found this post unpublished from a few weeks ago. Before you read it, know that I got rid of the TV. :)

While I've had a tad more time by myself the last little while I've been taking a hard look at the realities of merging households. The Man has a houseful of stuff and I have an apartment's worth of stuff. We can't possibly keep everything. As far as furniture goes, we just do not need one more darn thing unless we were to somehow live in multiple homes.

The Man's home decor consists of a lot of beautiful pieces that belonged to his mother, lovely things he's gathered and a few more man friendly things like black leather couches. Would I love to reupholster and paint a lot of it, yes, but I'm not going to even broach that subject....yet. Would I like to say goodbye to some of it, why yes. How do I find me in all of it?

Just like The Man, my furniture has been collected and gathered throughout my adult life. Mine is an eclectic mix of old and new with a Pacific Asian influence. I have to admit I feel quite sentimental about it all. But it makes no sense for me to keep all of it. I imagine we'll merge things and try to reinvent "us" out of our two separate furniture universes. So I'm asking myself some hard questions.

Just last week I began selling off a few pieces. It took me a year to let go of the things on my list, some chairs that were just taking up space. I have another set of chairs that I think I will sell. Then I have a few odds and ends things, art, tables, bookcases, etc. that I really need to evaluate.

One thing I need to let go of is an old 13" TV with VCR. It is gigantic and being analog it's pretty useless except for watching VHS tapes which is a little embarrassing in the "I'm watching TV on my phone" era. But I am having a hard time letting go because my parents gave it to me eons ago. It's sitting by the front door, just waiting for me to go to the thrift store -- and I keep walking by it.

I am realizing that my emotions are in a duel with my practicality at the moment. I know I'm allowed to feel sentimental and to treasure things. But sometimes I look at things and think I don't have any enthusiasm for that piece, I just have a sense of loving obligation to it because it's gone from home to home to home with me for 15 years. It's different to merge two lives when you are a little older because you've created a history of yourself and it involves experiences and possessions you've accumulated along your glorious life journey.

As I look around my home, while writing this, I see treasures from Thailand, England, Tahiti, Scandinavia and from all over the United States. I see pretty things I've purchased to celebrate special occasions and amazing thrift store finds that made me sing with glee. I see crafts and art that I have made. As I retrace my steps around the globe, my soul begins to remember my journeys and these small reminders take on greater meaning.

It's a gentle, sweet reminder to treasure where I've been. Even better it's a beautiful reminder of all the sweet things that are to come, the new adventures, the new people and new places -- new homes-- that will come. So I don't have to hold onto everything.

06 March 2013

Organization Project: Wrangling Stuffed Animals

Our Friends Riley & Mariah

I was looking around the internet at all the smart and creative uses for shoe organizers. I was trying to find ways to use more vertical storage and free up more space around the apartment. I already had two shoe organizers on the bathroom doors in both bedrooms and got ideas for two more.

At the same time I was struggling with the fact that we've picked up a few dozen stuffed animals over the past few years and trying to find places for them was getting exhausting. Clearing half of them off the bed every night before bedtime was too much and I couldn't take them all over the floor and furniture either. So I bought a nice linen-look shoe organizer and hanging it on nails, did this.

In a perfect world The Bug's bedroom would have a lot more space and we could find some pretty shelves or a cabinet to put them all in. Or better yet, we would have a playroom. But for our place, our space and our needs this is a great solution for now. All the stuffed animals have a home, they are off the floor, off the bed and out of the way.

The best part is that now The Bug interacts with them all more because they are not all piled on top of each other, or accidentally kicked under the bed or other furniture. It's cute to see her come home at the end of the day, walk into her room and say, "Well hello everyone," to her much loved friends. She enjoys them all more now that she can see them face-to-face. They are all reachable for her and she can put them away herself. It's a short-term solution I am pretty happy with and when we're ready for a change the shoe organizer will have plenty more practical uses around the house. The best $12 I have spent in a while.

05 March 2013

The Blessings Of Routine

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Sometimes routine can be the most smothering, claustrophic thing in the world and at other times routine is our saving grace, a comfort beyond comforts. I am in the throes of loving the comforts of a very simple routine these days, it feels good.

Month two of full-time parenting has now passed and my life looks vastly different than it has ever looked before. But I am focused on enjoying it, rather than thinking about the challenges. Sure it's a challenge to have to get up early and get things hopping and the little one off to school, especially when I've been up late working. It's tough to not be able to run a quick errand after her 8 pm bedtime.

But I know it won't always be possible to have such simple days and I want to enjoy them. Right now mornings are broken up into 15 minute increments: get dressed, make lunch, breakfast, tie shoes and brush teeth and hair, walk to school. After school we usually run some small errand, then I try to give her an hour of play and relaxation. By 5:00 it's home work time, while I make dinner. By 6:30 dinner is eaten and the kitchen is well-cleaned. The 7 o'clock hour is bedtime preparation and reading time. And hopefully by 8:00 she's in bed and fast asleep. Some days it's 9:00, but it works if we hit somewhere in between the both depending on what's happening in our life.

I finally have found my best bets for preparing three meals a day in this new schedule and boy, have I simplified things significantly. Somehow this new schedule is helping me keep up with cleaning projects better which makes me really happy. It's nice to not feel so busy that I can't put attention on the house as much as it constantly needs. And I think I'm getting more sleep too. It's an interesting journey.

On a recent morning I was walking through the kitchen cleaning up The Bug's breakfast dishes and I thought, "Wow I never would've imagined 10 years ago that this would be my life today." Pretty amazing what life brings to us, that we had absolutely no way of imagining. I'm happy life has brought me this pretty little routine. I already know it will all change in just a few months, so while things are simple and sweet, I will enjoy every moment of our current, very reliable routine.

04 March 2013

30 Day Reorganization Project Update #2

Well the first thing I have learned about my 30-day home reorganization project is that I'm not going to get it all done in thirty days. But I am trying to stay on that schedule and do two projects every day that I can. I don't mind if it will take a little longer because I started the project a few months before The Man comes home, so I have plenty of time.

Reality is that on days where I am out of the house all day working on projects and other commitments it's just not going to be a day to do the organization project too. But that's okay. When I have time I try to do three projects instead of the assigned two projects. So I'm making progress anyway.

Here are a few lessons I have learned this week.

1) The Worst Part -- The worst part of the reorganization of any space is dealing with all the small things and the things that aren't going back into that space. It's easy to tear everything out, wipe it down and put the big stuff back in. That takes almost no thought and is super quick. It's dealing with all the little tiny things that have to be put somewhere else, recycled, thrown away, etc. And there are decisions that have to be made with every one of those little items. This is where it can get overwhelming.

2) The "Just Pick Two" Survival Plan -- When I have everything back into my newly cleaned space and  I want to be done but realize I have a bunch of little junk to get rid of or move to a better spot I want to run away. Instead I made a plan to just pick two things and deal with them. Then pick two more. That way I'm just choosing two things out of the pile to deal with instead of looking at the whole pile at once. Pretty soon the little pile is gone and done with.

3) The "One At A Time" Daily List -- I have learned to pick one project, then do it, then pick my second project then do it and if I have time pick a third and do it. One day last week I picked three things right off the bat and I started looking at all three of them and then felt the world start to spin and all I wanted to do is run away.

It seems the emotion of running away from home and deep cleaning/reorganization are very powerfully connected to one another. It is easy to get overwhelmed and hate this project. I have learned that happens if I try to do too much. If I stick to two or three per day, I stay perfectly sane about it all. But if I spend too much time, thought or energy on it one day, I start getting grumpy very quickly. Pacing is very important!

4) It's Easy -- Doing a little bit each day or each week really is so easy. It's amazing how much I have gotten done and except for in brief moments of panic it has not been at all overwhelming. When I'm done with my projects I am mentally/emotionally ready to be done and move onto something else. Any little by little the house is looking better and better.

There is an amazing amount of satisfaction in checking items off a list. It's nice to see my list starting to have more and more things crossed off, X-ed out and highlighted as done. This week I have checked off the bathroom medicine cabinet, all three lower bathroom cabinets, two nightstands, and jewelry drawers. Things are looking good and it's definitely easier to keep things clean when they are well organized. I continue to find I am creating a lot of empty space everywhere I go. That is the greatest success of all.

Are you getting the Spring Cleaning bug? What is the worst project you dread in your house? Is there something you've been avoiding for years? What's your plan to get it done this spring or summer?

01 March 2013

My Favorite Healthy Lunch: Burger In A Bowl

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I mentioned my new favorite lunch recently and someone asked what a Burger In A Bowl was. So I thought I'd do a quick post on how I whip mine up. Burger In A Bowl is a pretty simple deal, it's a delish hamburger on top of a bed of greens.

Burger:  I mix the first three ingredient well in a bowl, form a patty then add the pepper to both sides before cooking. I add the salt just before serving.

Lowfat ground beef
Minced onion
Minced garlic
Freshly groud pepper

Greens: Fill up a bowl with the good stuff. I use romaine or spinach, but any green or mixed greens work.

Extras: I like to chop up the burger and add a tablespoon of barbecue sauce or throw some cranberries in with the greens to top it off.

I usually cook up two or three burgers then warm them up for lunch or dinner a few times a week. It's a quick fix when all you need to do is heat up the burger and throw some washed greens in a bowl.
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