31 December 2013

Pin Test #18: DIY Word Pillows

It's Pin Test #18 and finally I can share with you what I made for my mom and sisters for Christmas. They finally got the box in the mail yesterday, although apparently it took a good beating getting there. Looking back I should have packed the box more tightly. I'm usually so good about that.

After getting some great inspiration from Pinterest (here and here) I decided to make funky bed pillows for my mom and sisters. I was going to make the pillow covers then remembered that I could save a LOT of money and time if I could find a pillow cover and insert I already liked at IKEA. This seemed like a great idea since I was under a major time crunch and had a ton on my plate.

I have had two pillows with the blue and green striped cover, like above, on my sofa for a year while now and they inspired me for this project. The striped cases come in three different colors and it just so happened that each coordinated with a bedroom or color scheme that each of my girls liked.

The one challenge was that the pillows were much bigger than I wanted. I knew I wanted something short and long so I looked around the IKEA pillow bins and found pillows that were the same length but four inches shorter. So the covers were 16" x 30" and the inserts I found were "12" high by 30" wide. I liked that size much better for this specific project and purpose. So I bought the covers, brought them home and chopped 3.5" off the tops and put in a half inch seam and I had myself three 12" high covers, ready to roll.

I printed the words onto paper and then used the paper as a pattern on the felt. I used Wonder Under to adhere them to the pillows. Getting the felt to adhere was much easier than I had expected it to be. Originally I had thought about stitching around the edges, but it took away from the way I wanted to look, so I was happy to find it unnecessary. The key is to use the best quality felt by-the-yard you can. You only need to buy about 1/4 yard. The heavier, better quality felt will last a lot longer and won't pill up as easily.

So while the original idea certainly isn't mine, I was happy with the way these turned out and feel like they have their own unique spunk about them with the brightly striped pillow covers. I already have several more Pin Tests in the works to share with you. Next Tuesday I'll post the next one.

We have a beach day planned today and I have a little New Year's Party up my sleeve for tonight. I have no guarantees though that my two party attendees will hold up until midnight. Neither of them can be trusted to stay awake once they tire. I may have to start the celebrations early and end them early. No doubt this night owl will be awake for the dropping of the ball, the banging of the pots and the fireworks. Sending you very best wishes for the year to come!

30 December 2013

The Holiday Lull

This photo rather depicts how it feels around the house today. Sort of beautiful and lovely and a bit disheveled and disorganized. It's definitely the holiday lull. It feels like a weird dead spot between the holidays and for some reason it feels more pronounced than other years. That may be because we stayed home this holiday. If we had gone to visit family we would be busy packing every day with activities and making the most of every moment. Plus we'd be surrounded by family who would keep us distracted and entertained.

We are in the midst of making a lot of big decisions so life feels a little less relaxed and holiday-lazy than usual. Being at home, you see the chores that need to be done, the reorganization projects staring you in the face and the messes of toys and gifts that need to find new homes seems to be never ending. Two new packs of Legos blocks means we have many more to have sprinkled all over the floor to step on and partially completed projects all over the tables.

Everyone feels a little restless today. It feels a little like right before feeding time at the zoo. I'm scrambling to get the house somewhat straightened out, with some recruited help, so that we can have some time to do something enjoyable and happy today. The new year and new responsibilities will be here soon enough, so I want to enjoy these days.

We are planning a beach day tomorrow. We should also get in a little golfing and some museum time this week too. It's been in the mid 70s for the past two weeks here. That is some nice Christmas weather for sure. There have been years where it has been down in the low 30s at Christmas time here so this lovely weather is not always a guarantee. Every day we check the temperatures where our loved ones live. They are having particularly cold winters this year and we thank our stars for our lovely coastal climate.

Right now in the living room I can hear a dinosaur fight going on with The Man and The Bug. Lots of laughter, roars and strategizing going on between Stegosaurus and T-Rex. It's good to have a Daddy that likes to play those kinds of games. The Bug thinks he is the most awesome playmate around.

Tomorrow will be New Year's Eve and time to celebrate again. I am praying and hoping for a 2014 full of joy, fun and happy adventures. We are ready for just such a year. 2013 while full of some fantastic blessings was a toughy! We will definitely ring out the year with a sigh of relief and welcome 2014 with great hopes for more good things, more happy time together and fewer rough spots.

I am planning a little New Year's Eve party for three for tomorrow night. I'll share more about it tomorrow. Hope you are enjoying your holiday. We're headed off to the gym now to work off our holidays treats and cabin fever. Can't hurt, right?

25 December 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

From our family to yours, my dear friends, we wish you the happiest of Christmases. We hope your celebrations were safe and joyful and happy. We had a very lovely Christmas. Just the sort of calm, peaceful day you dream of and with 75 degree weather. Can't complain about that....except for the lack of snow, haha.

We woke up early but lounged in bed. Our Little Bug is not with us this week so we will be celebrating most of our traditional Christmas events on Saturday when she returns. Christmas Eve Dinner was always a BIG tradition in my family, so last night I made The Man and me a beautiful dinner. It was so nice to have the time to just enjoy the process without any pressure or stress. We turned on the fireplace, all the lights, put on holiday music and I enjoyed my time prepping each dish and timing everything out perfectly so that it would all be ready at just the right time. I made filet mignon (maybe my best steak cooking I've ever done --yay!), roasted garlic mushrooms (a new recipe we loved!), baked potatoes with sour cream and scallions, glazed carrots and garlic green beans. It was so yummy. 

When we sat down I said "Let's try to stretch this out and enjoy every taste" and yet after about 25 minutes we were done eating. All the preparation for those few delicious minutes. But that's how it usually goes with special meals, isn't it?

For dessert we had pumpkin pie that I made on Monday. I tried something new and just pressed the crust into the pan with my hands instead of rolling it out. For the most part that seems to be a very good way to go because the dough recipe I use (found on The Pioneer Woman blog) makes such flaky, soft crust that getting dough from the rolled out spot into the pan is very difficult. Pressing it into the pan with my hands was not as easy as I'd hoped but it seemed to work out in the end quite well. I also learned that pumpkin pie tastes better after it sits a while. This pie tasted much better than the slices we had almost straight from the oven on Monday.

Today I made peanut butter bars like we used to have weekly in our school lunches when I grew up. Since I was a little kid I have always wanted to make those so it was a big day that this little dream finally happened. It's a silly thing, really, but the 4th grader inside of me was quite excited and proud. I did put a little too much peanut butter in, which made them a little too soft, but I am glad I will have another chance to perfect the recipe another time soon. I like the base of my peanut butter bars a little more dry and crunchy.

One funny thing I was missing today is an outdoor fridge - and by outdoor fridge I really mean living somewhere that is cold enough you can refrigerate extra food outside on your snow covered patio or in your freezing cold garage. At my parents' house we often put extra food, in well sealed containers in the garage or on the patio to keep cool. With a fridge and freezer overflowing with food and leftovers right now I was really wishing for an outdoor fridge today when I decided to make peanut butter bars that needed to be refrigerated.

We have been watching movies and relaxing. It is a much needed blessing to slow down for a day or so, right? Today we spent the evening with a group of lovely people for Christmas Dinner. It was fun to get to know new people, be around noisy, excited children and enjoy a very delicious meal. Thankfully I was able to take half my pan of peanut butter bars along with drinks and rolls so that we don't have that whole pan of deliciousness here calling to us.

The Man and I each opened one gift tonight. After a year in a war zone, I thought he deserved "2014: A Year of Fun and Adventure!" So my main gift to him was things to help him have a fun and adventurous year to come. He definitely deserves it. Each month I am going to make sure he does some fun things that inspire him and are just plain fun. We are starting out early by going on a little adventure tomorrow afternoon. Should be fun. I'll tell you about it soon. Until then, continued best wishes for the continuing holiday season.

24 December 2013

A Simple, Sweet Christmas Tree This Year

I learned a good Christmas lesson this year when I realized we weren't going to have most of our Christmas decorations that are in storage far away. I knew we would be going simple without our big garlands, wreaths and most of the ornaments for our tree. But we did have one shoe box of a few things and our big wood star and two felt trees.

When I taught the gift wrapping class in early November I wrapped lots of little empty boxes to use as a display, so I though they would be great decoration for our mantle with the big star and two felt trees. Took about two seconds to put together. Then I made a LOT of paper chains this year. One is draped across the mantle with the driftwood garland that lives there permanently.Others are draped over art and furniture around the house. For our tree I made a very small paper chain, which ended up being very labor intensive but it really pulled out tree decorations together.

So I had a tree to decorate and about eight ornaments to work with. Not the greatest. Thankfully our tree is small, about four feet and sits on top of an old wood dresser with dark red doors and drawers. We added our few ornaments and then added the paper chain and it didn't look so bad after all. Then I found a bag of pine cones and tucked them in around the tree strategically. Over the holiday season we've been given a few ornaments and The Bug has made several which really added to our tree. I realized the other day that is looks quite perfect. There are plenty of decorations and some of them are new treasures.

It's been fun to shake things up a big with the decorating or lack of decorating this year. It feels fresh. There was nothing to be disappointed about this year, we had exactly what we needed and in the end what we have loved. Sometimes it's okay to forego the regular holiday traditions and do something different. I am realizing now that this is precisely the situation that helps us see things in new ways, find new things we like and find out what we are or aren't really attached to after all. I like that a lot.

23 December 2013

Great Gifts For Under $10: Week Seven

Oh I have a few favorites today for the last Great Gifts For Under $10 for 2013. This week is it all about staying warm. We've been having schizophrenic weather here in LA, cold some days and then almost hot other days. One day you need a jacket and scarf the next day it's unbearable to wear a sweater at mid-day. But on the cold days we are always on the search for something to keep us warm, like a hot cup of tea or a heating pad. Here are some favorite gifts to keep the people you love warm.

1) Microwave Heating Pad: I learned something new from the post I'm linking to here from A Gentle Strength, which includes directions on how to easily make these. Brown rice holds heat longer than white rice. Who knew?! One year I made a ton of these. We left several at my parents' house for when we visit. You can make these in all sorts of shapes and they are super easy to make with a good durable fabric, some simple sewing and a bag of rice.

We have been using these a lot around our house the past few weeks to warm up our beds before sleep, for The Man's sore back and a myriad of other cozy moments. I like to make them with a nylon or cotton band to make loop handles on each end. These are a great gift for athlete friends and anyone who lives in cold weather.

For a good laugh, check out this hilarious microwave heating pad available on Etsy, The Angry Uterus microwave heating pad. I think we girls can all relate to this face.

2) Pocket Hand Warmers: Hello mini-microwave heating pads for your pockets. Just think how long these will stay warm if you use brown rice?! (I'm saying this with a great big, silly smile on my face.) Here's a great little tutorial from Jen Kline at New Green Mama.

3) Felt Coffee Cozy: There are so many great DIYs for coffee cozies on Pinterest. You can knit them, use old sweater sleeves or sew them out of all sorts of fabrics and I am sure you can make no-sew versions using fabric glue or thick felt like these from Artchoo. Great for drinks in the morning and you can totally personalize them for each special person.

4) Felted Wool Mittens: All those sad, shrunken sweaters in the thrift stores. It's time we save them and make something cute. These are so easy and would be so warm. A great quick and easy gift to keep the tootsies warm on cold days from Dollar Store Crafts.

So that is my last Gifts Under $10 post for this year. How can Christmas be here already? Thankfully I got most everything done on Friday night and am just waiting for a few more packages to roll in. I made some pies last night and am going to keep the menu very simple this week. We are going to try to get to some museums and have made plans with a few friends and for movie nights here at home. I am looking forward to making it a sweet week. Hoping it will be a week of peace and joy for you and yours too. Happy holidays!

See the entire Great Gifts For Under $10 Series Here:
Week Six

Image 1: A Gentle Strength
Image 2: New Green Mama
Image 3: Artchoo
Image 4: Dollar Store Crafts

18 December 2013

We Need To Teach Children Basic Living Skills

In an era where parents get so excited their children have black belts, are learning Mandarin, score numerous goals on the soccer field and have the lead in the school play I have some concerns that we might be missing the boat. Are we teaching children basic survival, life skills? When I was growing up we had chores, helped around the house, worked in the garden, helped can and preserve food, and helped in the kitchen. We earned and managed our own money. We cleaned our own rooms. Did we do a great job? No. Was it always fun for our parents? I'm sure NOT. Did we sometimes just make more work for the adults? Yes, I'm sure we were terribly annoying sometimes!

I am the oldest in my family and from a very, very early age I was able to cook a meal that would keep us alive. It might not be pretty but I could do it. I learned very early to make pancakes, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese from a box, Ramen noodles...okay not always that healthy, but we ate straight from the land most of the time when my mother cooked so I doubt very much that a little processed food hurt us too much every once in a while.

But my point is long before I was ten I could put a meal on the table for my sister and I and my dad if my mom was away. And I dare say both my sisters were possibly younger than me when they could do the same. I was baking about the same time and was making pies from scratch when I was twelve. To me this did not seem very unusual. When I was a very tiny girl I was measuring flour and helping my grandmother in the kitchen. My parents and grandparents involved me in the daily work of life from birth. Before I was twelve I had taken several childcare/babysitting, safety and cooking classes taught in the community and sometimes through 4-H classes taught by friends' mothers.

When I got into my late teens I was stunned to see girls in college who did not know how to do dishes or cook or grocery shop and who were incapable of doing their own laundry or tidying up their bedrooms. I watched other children reach adulthood having never once helped their mother put a meal on the table or cleaned their house or had chores. From my background this was stunning and put these children behind the eight ball when it came to surviving basic living skills in adulthood. I watched them stumble and sometimes fall hard. Some of these kids have had several failed marriages, have been emotionally unable to manage adult life, unable to hold down jobs, been in trouble with the law and have failed at much of what they have attempted as adults. It's great to be the best dressed kid at school with the coolest car or a genius foreign language speaker or star athlete but if you can't do the basics you will struggle. If you don't know how to keep food in your house, do your laundry or get yourself out of bed in the morning and be on time to where you need to be without a parent doing it for you, you're going to have a very hard time in life. We need to prepare children for life in a better way than this.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I'm thinking about what I can do to help our little lady be more self sufficient. Lately we've been working on cleaning up one's own dishes and rinsing them and putting them in the dishwasher. I see that she is very able, but it doesn't get done unless I remind. Now it's getting easier and it is starting to get a little more automatic.

If there are two things that I think require an annoyingly constant effort when it comes to adults teaching children and preparing them for adulthood they are 1) teaching them daily living skills and discipline and 2) teaching them to eat healthily. Both will have such a major, major impact on their health, well-being and success as they grow and when they are adults. But the daily need to consistently reinforce these two things every day has driven more than one parent to just give up. And the kiddos suffer.

We can all see it absolutely reflected in our communities that when children are not taught to eat healthily and are allowed to only eat whatever they want they suffer, especially from processed, nutrition-less foods. There were no obese kids when I was growing up. None. And now it is a major life concern a generation into parents taking the easy way out when feeding their kids. I've mentioned this before, but we went through hell for a few months when The Bug was about three to teach her to try everything twice before she refused to eat it. And she will try anything now and likes just about everything. She is very conscious about eating healthy foods. It wasn't fun, we paid the price but the rewards are life-long and our lives are SO much easier now for having suffered for a brief time to help instill the right lessons. Everywhere we go people comment on what a good, well-rounded eater she is. We paid the price for a short time and are reaping the benefits and more importantly, she will for life.

The same goes for basic living skills. We are trying to work on these things but still have a long way to go. Two of our small triumphs have been having her help fold and put away laundry and helping in the kitchen. When she was just three she has the assignments to fold all the small towels and wash clothes and put them away and after we took anything sharp out of the dishwasher silverware tray she put away and organized all the forks, butter knives and spoons. Household chores is one area I strongly believe in getting started young. They get more and more grumpy about it every year, so creating a pattern where they are expected to help at a very early age relieves some of the grief of trying to get them to help as they get older. Good luck trying to start a kid on helping around the house at 8, 10, or 15.

There are still too many nights when I do the dishes by myself because she's busy doing homework and days when The Man and I pick up more than we should of her stuff, but seeing little bits of continued progress keeps me going. We are trying to instill the instinct that if you see an adult working around the house, you stop what you are doing, come and ask "What can I do to help?" with the understanding that some times there will be nothing she can do to help, but she should always check.

We want her to be aware of the work that is being done around her and to always be willing to chip in if there is something she can do. It's amazing how quickly her attitude and self-image climb when she's been able to help us out with something, even if she doesn't want to at the beginning. That is another lesson I am trying to teach, that helping and working make us happy and make us feel good inside. I try to point that out every time I see it happen in her so that she learns to recognize it on her own.

I am thinking a lot about pulling back on activities outside the house to make sure that all the important things from inside the house, inside our family and inside our girl are well-developed, healthy and able. Because really what I want for her is a happy, healthy life (emotionally, physically and mentally), with good relationships, and the ability to thrive and live well. There are many things that children can only learn in their own homes and most often best by their parents and grandparents and other influential adults in their lives. Let us not forget those things as we encourage our kiddos to excel out in the world. Their best life lessons still come from home!

image via mca

16 December 2013

Great Gifts For Under $10 Dollars: Week Six

It's week six of Great Gifts For Under $10 and let's jump right on in. This week is full of color and a lot of sentimentality for me.

1) Martha Stewart Tissue Case: Tissues in a woman's purse holds a lot of sentimentality for me. I have my tissue friends, the ones you can depend on to pass you a tissue from their purse when life gets a little teary. I love the ladies at church who in seconds can whip out a tissue and hand it over to someone in need. I remember a woman in my life having a little handmade embroidered tissue case in her purse when I was a little girl. I have a pretty little fabric tissue case in my purse and I have stacks of little purse-size tissue packs in my bathroom cupboards. I don't try to keep a stack but when I see them I throw a pack into my shopping cart and then find more when I get home in the cupboards. So I am never without.

I think every woman's purse can be blessed with a pretty case always ready with a soft facial tissue ready to be passed along to a friend, loved one or even a stranger when tears of joy or tears of sadness flow. These are super easy to make, here's the link.

2) Photo Shadow Box: It's easy to pick up small shadow boxes at places like IKEA. With a little scrapbook paper or fabric you can create a beautiful background to frame one or more black and white photos of your loved ones. Add a few shells or other little details in the bottom of the box and you have a special keepsake. Very inexpensive to make for a very sweet treasure. I made this a couple of years ago and it is still one of our most treasured possessions.

3) E-reader/Tablet Case: I whipped a bunch of these up a while back. They are easy to make with two-sided quilted fabric. They don't take much time, can be easily personalized and they do a great work protecting the electronics.

4) Citrus: I remember when I was a little girl that every once in a while we would get a box of oranges from someone at the holidays. In the middle of the cold, harsh winter, seeing a whole box of bright orange fruit was beyond delicious and refreshing not only to the palate but to the soul too. A pretty bag or box of lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruits or clementines brings so much cheer and deliciousness at the holidays. You can package them up in all sorts of absolutely charming ways and with a pretty tag, citrus is a gift of the sun's own rays at holiday time.

See the entire series here:

image 1: martha stewart
image 4: mca

13 December 2013

Goal Setting For The New Year

image via mca

I just finished up the 21-Day Meditation Experience and after spending all that time calmly breathing, thinking, pondering and exploring I am very much looking forward to the new year. 2013 has been a power-packed year for us and I've got my fingers crossed that 2014 will be more of the peaceful, calm type of year.

Putting my mind, heart and soul in order has been a great start. Our thoughts and feelings are so powerful and we have so much more influence over them than we realize. It's easy for us to create our own stumbling blocks and walls to hinder our progression.

Our little clan has had quite a few conclusions to long-standing challenges in the past few weeks. "Cleaning house" of those challenges feels good and yet it's interesting how hard it is the lay the worries of them down, even when there isn't anything to worry about right now. It's like being sick and one day you just have to be well again but you aren't quite sure what well was like before. So you create a new normal of sorts. We're in the process of creating a new normal on several fronts and for our life overall. It's a very interesting journey and a little trickier than I anticipated.

After several years of focus on the little one and custody issues and then The Man's deployment last year it came to me that 2014 is my year. My mantra for the coming year is "This is my time." I am looking forward to making my dreams more of a priority, enjoying better health than I have this year and balancing out the focus of my time more this coming year. I have projects to focus on.  I'm excited about that. And I'm very calm about that. I like both those feelings and I like them a lot paired together.

So I'm delighting in wrapping up this year and looking forward to a simple, pleasant year to come. I'm not setting a ton of goals. I'm just opening up my world to me and the things I need for my well-being. What are you hoping for in the new year? Do you have big dreams to execute or are you searching for a simpler life?

11 December 2013

Christmas Tree Bases Need Style Too

A beautifully decorated Christmas tree deserves an equally beautifully decorated base to look complete. We've all see a pretty tree with a glaringly ugly tree stand at the bottom or a poorly sized and graceless tree skirt. It sort of ruins the whole thing, doesn't it? It's like putting on a gorgeous evening gown with combat boots. Pretty trees deserve to have pretty footwear too. This sent me on an internet hunt for stylish Christmas tree bases which I thought I would share with you.

Boules rouges !

This wood box makes a pretty statement and a very earthly natural feel to this rustic, fully decorated tree.

Such a smart idea, simple burlap wrapped around a bucket. The tiny tree below looks great in a metal urn. Adaptable on some level to a full-size tree with some thought and proper weight balance. Very charming on a table top tree for sure.

A pretty basket is a nice way to round out the base of a Christmas tree. I like this one and quite a few others. This room has Scandinavian style written all over it.

from Mokkasin

cottage living december cover

A metal bucket can be quite nice as well. Here are several examples. I like the basic silver galvanized look but a bright metallic color isn't bad either. It would be easy to customize a bucket for one's own home with a little magic spray paint.

Small live tree in a galvanized bucket   |   Dreamy Whites: French Farmhouse

from Dusty Lu

from Fjeldborg

And of course I can't leave out the tree skirt all together. There are so many ways to stylishly skirt a tree. When I have a full-size tree I use an old vintage gray-black-brown block quilt I bought a few years ago. It's a perfect way to swaddle the tree. Here are some other pretty options.

Snowflake Christmas Tree Skirt

I love the simplicity of this gray and white DIYed crochet skirt. There's a complete tutorial at the link above.

There is also a tutorial for this bright and cheery skirt at Sew 4 Home. I love all the vibrant citrus hues.

This is another DIY skirt, it's a no-sew made from felt. Very simple but gracious, the white and gray are set off beautifully by the dark green tree boughs. Such a pretty combination.

So I think we've proven today that no tree need go through the embarrassment of an ugly bottom. There are so many ways to complete the dressing of the tree in eye-catching style. I think the key is proportion and balance and simplicity. It's got me thinking about how I can style up our medium size table top tree this year. Without space for a large tree we have a lovely little tree on top of an old buffet in our living room. It puts the tree right in window view off our balcony which is festive and it's the focal point when one enters our home. 

We kept it quite simple this year since many of our decorations are locked up in storage still. I spent a few hours making paper chains to wrap our little tree in and then we prettied it up with the few decorations we were able to get from storage and thankfully the tree was pre-lit. It's perfect for our holiday celebrating this year. I'll try to share some photos soon.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season. We went to our friends' bell choir concert on Sunday which is always our first big holiday event each year. With the short Christmas season this year and quite a bit going on in our family that is completely not holiday related I feel like I need to make sure this year doesn't get glossed over. I'm trying to make sure there is time in front of the fireplace, with the Christmas tree sparking,  holiday music playing and hot cocoa drinking as often as possible. During our few truly cold days here each December I am focused on soul-warming meals, carol singing and bundling up to see the Christmas lights in our area. If I haven't said it yet, Happy Holidays to you my friends.

04 December 2013

Our Well-being Tool Boxes

A few nights ago I watched Super Soul Sunday, Oprah's interview with Sandy Hook parents David and Francine Wheeler, whose son Ben was killed in the attack last December. They talked about having a tool box they can turn to on the hard days or the days where they can't quite see their way forward.

I loved that description, our own personal tool box, filled with things we've learned and that have inspired us that can once again help us forward. I have again and again seen that things I've studied and skills I've worked to gain, places in my life where I've tried to grow, are often just what's needed when new life challenges come.

Here are a few of my favorite tools in my tool box:

1) A Prayer Jar or A Wish Jar: Sending out positive hopes.
2) A To Do List: Some days a good list gets me going and accomplishing things
3) A List of Things That Energize Me: Good reminders of things that will perk up my spirits!
4) A List Of Things That Make Life Great: A simple list of lovely things I can choose from each day.
5) 11 Touches A Day and Vitamin D: We all need more hugs and a little sun on our cheeks.
6) Time With Wise And Inspiring People: Great in book form, from blogs or even better in person.
7) Wonderful Friends: They know us better than anyone.
8) Quiet Time: It's always good to stop and listen for a bit.
9) Morning Rituals: A great start makes for a great day.
10) Journaling: Saved me tens of thousands in therapy bills, I joke but it's true.
11) A Warm Bath: I love Sarah Ban Breathnach's thoughts on this.
12) Simple Pleasures: Doing kind things for self delight the soul.
13) Pretty Distractions and Inspirations: Sometimes a good escape is just what's needed.
14) A Vision Board: Seeing the life you want on paper helps.
15) An Inspiring Class: Joining a group or class brings new energy
16) Gratitude List: Every day is better when we see the good in it.

There are so many more but these are a few of my favorites. They are always there when I need them and having a good long lists means there is always something that will fit the bill when I need a little inspiration, pick me up or cool down. Do you have any favorite tools to add to the list? Are there any here that are particularly special for you in your life?

03 December 2013

Updating The Holiday Calendar

image via mca

It's a great time to look for lists of community events and find fun things to do with friends and family this holiday season. I just went through and updated our holiday calendar with concerts in our local area for us to attend this month and it's nice to have things to look forward to each week.

To find events you can search for holiday event calendars on community, church or temple, city government, shopping center, your local newspaper and other websites. I would love to attend a Christmas lights boat parade this year and maybe try a Messiah Sing-a-long. I'm also planning in a few holiday movies for the family. We just bought Family Man and The Sound of Music at the thrift store last week.

I might even host a little something this year. Maybe a pancake breakfast, baked potato or soup or taco bar with a few friends. Each year I hope we can hit our favorite traditions and then try to add one or two new traditions into the mix.

One of the new traditions I wanted to incorporate this year is celebrating The Advent. Sunday was the first Sunday of of Advent and despite a few wild interruptions by a certain little person who could not sit still and needed to belt out Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs, I'd say it went well. I introduced The Advent concept and some of it's history and then we talked about Hope. We read a few scriptures and then sang O Come, O Come Emmanuel -- and of course, most importantly we lit our candle to welcome in the Light of Christ.

Since I was the only person who knew the song we practiced it a few times and by the end it was sounding pretty good once everyone got the tune down. Then we sang a few other favorites. I think our all time favorite is Angels We Have Heard On High, based on the wild enjoyment of everyone as they sang "Gloooo-o-o-o-o-ria" at the top of their lungs. Hopefully this year we'll have many nights of singing in the living room for a few minutes before bedtime. That is a favorite tradition in this home and does bring a calm and fresh spirit of Christmas into the house.

Over the weekend we decorated the mantle and I am still trying to figure out where we will put a small tree this year. My parents gave us their tree when the moved away last summer, so we just need to find a place where it will fit in the very compact living room. We are missing a good number of our ornaments & all our garlands and wreaths this year for the mantle, windows and front door. They didn't make it from storage. So, I spent part of the weekend making paper chains and hopefully we will make do with what we have this year. I'm all for keeping it simple anyway.

It's so nice to have The Man here this year. Last night I was trying to remember why I don't remember singing carols together last year and then remembered it was because he was not here but somewhere very far away. So we will especially enjoy this holiday season having him here with us. Hope your holiday plannings and celebrating are already in full force.

02 December 2013

Great Gifts For Under $10: Week Five

It's Week Five of Great Gifts For Under $10. Today is a bit of a random selection but all easily doable for much under ten dollars. Three of these you can easily make for less than $5.

1) Driftwood Garland: These babies sell for quite a lot of money in catalogs and home decor shops. They are free to make if you have a location where you can get a lot of free driftwood. I have made a couple of these for only the cost of the twine to thread the garlands on. That's a few pennies really.

2) Burt's Bees Hand Salve: During the dry winter season this stuff is a godsend! I found it online for $7-9. Even living near the ocean I find that my skin has really been drying up lately. My cuticles need constant attention. Burt's Bees time. With a soothing scent and nice texture this is a great salve for dry skin. A great gift anyone will enjoy.

3) Handmade Paper Butterflies: These are so gorgeous for a mobile, to hang in front of a large window or near a bedroom wall. I think these are prettiest when you choose magazine pages with really bold contrasts to them. They are really easy, so pretty and cost nothing but string and old magazine pages you probably already have on hand. If you want to make a mobile, add the cost of a small dowel.

4) Wire Wrapped Necklace: With a few collected free treasures this necklace can be made for just a few dollars. All you need is jewelry wire and leather or cord or chain. This is a piece of sea glass I picked up on an East Coast beach.

So there are four more great ideas for your holiday giving this year. I think all total for the series we should be at about 15-17 gift ideas now. Hope you are finding inspiration that is just right for your needs this year. Some years it's all about making fun things and some years it's about finding great things you can easily give without a lot of extra work. Hopefully I'm giving you a mix of both. Hope your holiday preparations are going well and you are having time to take in the sights and sounds of the season too. Happy day!

See all the series here:
Week One
Week Two

Week Three

Images 1, 3, 4 by kalanicut
Image 2 via Burt's Bees

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