29 June 2016

A Backyard Swimming Pool: A Blessing in Disguise

There's nothing likd the Summer Solstice and Fourth of July weekend to get you amped up about summer and wanting to make plans. It's crazy to realize we are already a full month into school summer vacation. Scary. When I think about the whole idea of 18 summers, the number of summers one has with a child from birth to high school graduation, the desire to make the most of every summer really increases! We're down to only 8 more summers after this one. Time is going by quickly!

So despite the fact that we have lots of work to do on the house and it's easy to let summer days slip away, I am feeling very passionate that we enjoy our summer. For this one reason, I am so happy about our backyard and grateful we have a pool, even though we didn't want a pool and it is a lot of work and cost.

Saturday after many hours of work on the house, I broke out banana splits and put my swimsuit on and led the family to the pool. We played and played and played in the pool for a good two hours, including a good aqua workout using foam noodles. I was reminded that there is something very stress-relieving about water and it is truly therapeutic to both body and mind.

Hopping into the pool disconnects us from other parts of our relationships with the backyard, like weeding flower beds, watering plants, pool upkeep and sweeping the flagstone patio and paths. There is nothing that feels better after a few hours of sweaty, hot work than jumping into the pool and really cooling off. There is no heater in the pool so you get what you get on the temperature.

I had to pinch myself for a moment that this sweet backyard and perfectly lovely pool are ours. Where I grew up, people didn't have pools in their backyard. There were only about three pools in town. But when you live in the southwest United States, where temperatures are mild, most days are sunny and summers are hot and dry, many houses have pools and it's not unusual at all to have one.

Despite the fact we never wanted a pool and the upkeep is both expensive and time-consuming, I realize it's a big reason that the luxury of our sweet little backyard keeps us at home a lot, we don't spend a lot of time and money going out looking for entertainment. The Kiddo and pup spend hours out there chasing lizards and all sort of bugs...and thankfully usually only outside "The Rim" (the wall around the landscaped part of our yard) there are frequently bunnies, field mice and sometimes snakes and tarantulas.

Saturday night after we got out of the pool we spent a good ten minutes watching a pack of deer go from out front yard down the side of our property outside The Rim, grazing in the trees. They were watching us just as intently as we watched them. There were two males who had stubby little velvety antlers. So cute!

It's amazing how many hours we can entertain ourselves out there, enjoying the stunning nightly sunsets and lovely dinners on the patio. I can't wait to get some of our new friends here for dinner and conversation on the patio.

To make the most of our summer, we still need to make some plans to visit family this summer and take a few weekend getaways to get to know our new home state better. There are so many stunningly beautiful places to see in NM. If you want to get a glimpse of this amazing state, here's a great place to learn about New Mexico and see all the beautiful places you could visit.

We'll be out and about, but most of all we'll keep adding to our pool toys and backyard seating this summer. And we'll take every opportunity to enjoy our own little space to make the most of Kiddo's 10th summer and our first full summer in our new home, city and state.

27 June 2016

Creating A Frosted Glass Window For Privacy

As much as we like the large vertical window next to our front, from a privacy standpoint it fails miserably. A few months ago, out of desperation, The Man cut a piece of fabric and taped it up in the window. While hobbling around in a cast and then on a healing foot for so long, I was fine with that.

But once Memorial Day came and I was significantly more mobile I was just itching to finally get this house in order and decorated. Feeling overwhelmed by the fact we've been living here for six months in a state of survival mode, and like we were living in a construction zone, I thought maybe my best bet would be to just start at the front door and work my way through the house.

Our front entryway, which feels very spacious when you are standing in it, really is not very spacious at all when you try to decorate it. I think the fact that there is a big stairway landing at the end of it and high ceilings gives it a nice, open feeling, but there is absolutely no room for even a small console table or any furniture. So I keep trying to work with it - someday it will feel just right I hope.

The window was one thing I felt I could make better. I definitely knew I didn't want the taped fabric up there. Our two options really were a lightweight curtain hung inside the window frame or some sort of opague glass treatment.

Because our goal was to keep this house very simple, modern and clean, a curtain seems like an added distraction that I didn't want. I also couldn't shake the feeling of a granny lace curtain feeling in the window, which I definitely didn't want. So I talked to The Man about doing a privacy window frost instead.

Because we have a few windows that are very high up in our main hallway that let in beautiful light but have a very unfortunate view of metal ducting on the rooftop, I'd already done some research on vinyl window coverings and found some very cool ones that I thought would work great in this house.

The previous owner had installed two stained glass window panels inside the window pane into two of the five window panels. They didn't match, one was on the far left window and another on the far right window - two spots where there was a particularly ugly view. Then on another of the windows there were minibinds installed. We had to guess that for some reason that window created some sort of lighting issues in one of the rooms in the house, although we still haven't figured out where.

When I went back and looked at modern, hip window vinyls I had saved for future reference, I realized that all the cool patterned styles I'd looked at would not work with our very intricately patterned and beautiful wood front door. After some looking, I realized something very simple and frosted glass was definitely the option I liked best.

I didn't want anything with a lot of glue-y goo on it that would be a nightmare to remove later on if we at some point wanted to do something differently. A static cling option seemed like a great way to go. So I started researching yet again and found this product with good reviews on Amazon. It promised easy application, to be easily removable and provide some UV protection and heat insulation.

It comes in two sizes and since our window was very narrow I was able to buy the smaller size that left me with very little waste. The roll I bought cost $17 which was likely a cost savings to hvae to make a custom drape and buy two rods for the top and bottom of the window.

Application is done with a spray bottle with soapy water. Kiddo helped me with the application. We got the thumbs up from The Man the next day when it had dried and set for a while. We're happy with our new frosted window, it's simplicity and privacy are just what we were looking for.

You might notice the wonderful vintage rug in the hallway. I love it's colors and that it's a bit tattered. It belonged to The Man before we met. He has some amazing rugs he's collected over the years. I'm happy we get to enjoy them. They are all quire unique and with the most lovely color combinations.

I'm on fire to get things done around the house so I'll be sharing a few new house posts in the next couple of weeks.

24 June 2016

Don't Take Counsel From Your Fears

Many years ago I heard a college graduation speech that has really stuck with me. The speaker said, "Don't take counsel from your fears." That line has never left me. It has come to my mind many times over the years and it came to my mind yesterday while having lunch with a friend.

We were talking about how much we humans want to control the outcome of everything in life. But them the conversation turned to how much that limits us because we miss out on so much when we hold on to such a tiny pebble as our own expectations. Meanwihle God has an entire mountain he wants to give us but we're so adamant that we don't want anything to upset our expectations that we settle for something small we think we have control of (when we don't and never really do) in favor of anything unexpected and likely super fabulous and a million times better than what our little minds had in store.

Then my friend asked me if I'd written about this on my blog. I didn't know if I'd actually written the title of this blog post, but I did know that I've certainly talked about fear before. When I got home, I started looking back and found this post titled, Fighting Fear. It's a good reminder not to worry about tomorrow. There's a great quote there from author Joe Tye's book Never Quit, Never Fear.

I've been thinking a lot about not taking counsel from my fears, because when you make decisions out of fear they are limited decisions and not the best decisions. Letting go of fear allows us to breathe easier, see more clearly and think more rationally. Who doesn't want to be operating from their clearest, purest self?! I'm trying to remember that as I enter a season of big decisions and I'm grateful I have friends who I can talk about things like this with, who inspire me to live big and dream and aim for the stars!

You can read more about "Don't take counsel from your fears" here.

15 June 2016

Hot Summer Weekend Projects

Lavender and weathered wood made good company together. The New Mexico sunshine has a way of baking and weathering wood in such a gorgeous way. These are old railroad ties that are used as stairs in our backyard. The natural beauty here in New Mexico really is like nowhere else.

image by kalanicut

One of the things that I have not dealt with for a decade or so is working outside on hot summer days.
Saturday I was out in the yard and my eyes were just filled with sweat continually and that was pretty unpleasant! I need to learn to take a towel out with me and just keep it around my neck.

When we lived in LA, weekends were for getting out and doing something. There was nothing interesting about staying cooped up in a small apartment all weekend. It's interesting that now there is nothing we'd rather do than stay home all day on Saturday and enjoy our home. I still feel some pressure that we should be going out and doing things but week after week there is nowhere we'd rather be - and happily we've been able to both relax and get some major projects done around the house.

We were up early Saturday morning and had lounged around for a good while and then made pancakes, bacon and eggs and had done the dishes by 9:30. A kitchen deep clean started after that. Then I watered all the new herb and vegetable plants. So far we have cucumbers, tomatoes, thyme, basil and rosemary growing on pots on the back patio.

Next Kiddo and I harvested a big pile of beautiful lavender from the beds in our backyard. It was very easy but very sticky. I had no idea lavender was so sticky when you cut it. We are now drying the lavender and hope to enjoy some nice sachets of lavender in the next few months.

We also deadheaded a large rose bush which was not quite so enjoyable since it was in full sun and it got hot pretty early. We got all the dead flowers off, then raked them up and put everything in a trash bag to dump in the compost bin. Then we swept up the patio around the rose bush. There may have been some kid grousing and a parent who got a little upset during this chore, but it ended well with thank yous and a little self-exploration on both sides. It was great to get it over with and when we were done we grabbed giant glasses of ice water and then played with the hula hoop and blew gigantic soap bubbles.

After our yard time was over, I started working on a new project. I have some fun opportunities coming together but need online resources for them. I spend a couple of hours studying which URLs to buy and the accompanying accessories I would need. By the time I ran my purchase, my head was spinning from too much decision-making. I took a break, made the gang a late lunch and then felt like I really needed to regroup.

I spent a few minutes outside then came in and made a few notes. I know I still have a lot of research to do on setting up a website. I have a lengthy to do list in the next few weeks. I ran out to take care of a couple of errands and brought a sack of tacos and burritos home to the family for dinner. I just didn't have it in my to make another meal that day.

Spending a few minutes working on a jewelry project was a frustration after dinner. It looks so easy when you watch other people do it on YouTube! I got one of about five attempts to at least not be a total throwaway. Still have some things to learn and so little patience for it. Haha. I gave up once I got the one "non-throwaway". Will try again another day. I have a few creative projects that I feel spread a little thin doing, but I'm excited about all of them.

I am happy to see our yard starting to look good. We've been getting a lot of monsoon rains in the evenings and early mornings. This has has been making things grow without the aid of sprinklers (hooray for water savings!) but also making a mess on the pool cover. Saturday The Man cleaned the pool cover and I think we'll be up and running on the pool in the next few days. As hot as it's been, that sounds pretty fantastic to even just sit down and soak the feet. The grass has been cut, the weeds have been whacked. Looking forward to getting our big table set up again and having some friends over for dinner and enjoying the very pleasant nights.

We've been very industrious the past few weeks. Looking forward to having some time in coming weeks to relax a bit, see family and enjoy being at home and spending time with the many wonderful friends we've made in our new hometown.

13 June 2016

Free Art Downloads Framed

I wanted to share a little more about the art prints I framed and shared last Friday. About the same time I purchased the art prints for my birthday I also got looking at free downloadable art on Pinterest. I found two that I particularly liked and at the same time I printed the Family print I printed them as well.

image via Teepee Girl

I chose this print for the family living areas. Not totally sure where I will put it, but I got a frame similar to the other two prints I framed so they can go near each other or something else in the house. This beautiful work is from teepeegirl.com, artist Chrissy.  If you visit her site, be sure to read her "About Me" story. She has an amazing background. I love the art, I love the quote. Perfect to keep our family encouraged.

Little Retreats.Be Brave.SET
image via little retreats

The second print I found, Be Brave, the pink version was destined for The Bug's room. It's by Brook Meyenberg, of littleretreats.com. So perfect in it's simplicity. I found the ideal, beautiful gold frame to frame it in and it's already been hung on the wall in her room.

These two prints are so beautiful that I feel a little guilty for getting such great art for free, granted I did invest a decent sum in frame and mat, but none of that went to the artists themselves. I hope Brook and Chrissy both know how amazing their work is and how gracious it is to give out a special treat now again for free. Very cool. I definitely want to give them a shout out here and I very much encourage you to follow them on social media! Thanks Brook and Chrissy!!!

10 June 2016

DIY: Framed Art Prints & Spray Painted Mirror

I have been on fire about creative projects lately, from planting my little herb garden, to buying beautiful birthday gifts for myself, to DIYing up some old things I have around the house. On the side I've also been doing some organizing around the house, learning to cook some new recipes (last week was tuna steak), and we're finally trying to get our big, post-move yard sale planned and executed.

Art Framing Project
Last week after multiple trips to the local craft stores I found the right frames and mats for the new prints I purchased and got those framed. Love how they look and I am really happy with the frames. I needed something clean and modern and in a sea of white washed wood and formal wood frames with gold dustings, it was a tough search.

The gold frame was a quick and easy find and the frame on this one was easy too. As for the other three frames I needed, I found silver ones that I liked and then got them home and got one of the prints completely framed before I realized they were all damaged but you couldn't see it until you took the packaging off. So I had to return them and start the search all over again. When I did find a frame I liked it looked like the store only had one and I needed two more. Luckily I kept searching around and found another stack of them in another section of the frame department.

So what I thought would be a two-hour activity from shopping to finished product ended up taking three evenings instead but in the end I am very happy with the results. I have one other home DIY project that I've been excited to work on.

Mirror Project
I purchased this mirror at a boutique around the year 2000 and have loved it for a long time. For some reason the glass in this mirror always makes a person look very pretty, so it's definitely one to hold on to! But I have been tired with the multi-colored painted flowers around the edge for a while and for a couple of years have debated painting it all one solid color. I thought about white, orange, red -- and then recently I decided to go metallic. So I bought gold spray paint and started spraying. I like it now, but I'm just not sure what I'm going to do with it. DIY comedy.

Photo Booth Project
I also need to work on creating a space where I can have more flexibility for blog photography. I'm thinking about creating an all white backdrop and a chalkboard backdrop. Now I just need a well-lit space to set these up and be able to leave them there. Being able to leave them up all the time might be a bit of a pipe dream, so creating something flexible would probably be best.

Summer Enjoyment
Summer plans, summer camps and travel still need to be finalized as well. There's a lot going on right now. My parents will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary later this summer, so visiting them and spending some time with family is definitely on the books. I'm definitely enjoying having more daylight hours at home with the late summer sunsets but I keep finding myself thinking it's about 7 p.m. when really it's about 10 p.m. Hope that whatever season you find yourself in you are enjoying the best of it!

06 June 2016

Piggy And Dirt Stained Glass Stars - Amazing!

Well as I mentioned last week I have been wanting a collection of these stars for a long, long time now. They are made by artist Kurt Knudsen in Utah and I have loved them for eons! Little did I know the "Christmas Morning" experience I would have when the arrived at my door last Friday night. The USPS box was decorated so beautifully, but I would never have imagined all the little details that would follow!

These are the three stars I chose, but let me share with you the journey to my first chance to see them all. It's a lesson in the ultimate customer experience. I was excited about the stars but I will forever remember the experience of unwrapping the stars!

They arrived in a USPS priority box, but the entire box had been decorated with stamps and paper stickers. Just seeing it got me more excited to open the box. It was obvious that the shopkeepers had put some time into the presentation!

After gently cutting the box open and removing a big pile of high quality, protective craft paper, I found this. Beautiful flowers and butterflies with perfectly matching baker's twine and MY NAME stamped all over the wrapping paper. Impressive. Beautiful washi tape in a variety of matching patterns and colors affixed the card and folded edges. I gently continued to unwrap.

 Each star was wrapped in one big continuous piece of craft papers, again stamped, even with a thank you inside with my name stamped there. The piece of craft paper wrapping the stars was probably 10-12 feet long. It was so fun to unravel, look at stamps and then find each star gently wrapped. Talk about making your customers feel special and giving them a totally unique experience. Wow!
I was just awed by the time and care put into every step of the process.

In the small envelope was a signed thank you note and some business cards to share. You can bet I'll be happy to share those business cards and tell anyone who will listen about my experience, their amazing customer service and all the attention to details.

What a happy birthday present! I am looking forward to my next chance to pick up a few more of these beauties. The only hard part about buying stars from Piggy and Dirt at Etsy is trying to decide which ones to buy.

01 June 2016

Planting An Herb Garden

Over the past couple of weeks I have finally been able to get out in the yard and do some work. I have been weeding the flower beds a lot, trimming back crazy growing vines and have filled a couple of large yard-size garbage bags with the results of my work. While The Man is constantly working on big yard projects, I have been trying to teach Kiddo the world of weeding and gardening. Not easy, but at times she does enjoy it and feel a great sense of accomplishment. Other times, it's like pulling teeth and not very pleasant. Sounds like every other gardening family on the planet, right?!  I have been itching to plant an herb garden here in New Mexico but last summer while I was traveling a lot and here alone, it seemed ridiculously unwise to add one more thing to keep up with.

Then once we were settled here it still didn't make sense with a cast on my leg. So last Thursday when I had the day off I stopped in at Home Depot to grab a few things and decided to finally get some herb plants. I went with our three staples that we had so much success with in Los Angeles: Rosemary, Basil and Thyme. I also grabbed a tomato plant because my people like home grown tomatoes so much better than store bought tomatoes.

From the previous owners and what we brought with us, we seemed to have a lot of empty pots around the yard, so I started my herb garden project by looking for pots. I found these three terra cotta pots and thought they would look nice all together against the terra cotta colored wall of our patio. The wall looks like a the backdrop of an Italian terrace with small tendrils of ivy growing up it. This is the wall that gives us fits when we think about repainting the house because when we do we'll have to tear all the ivy down to paint. Such a bummer. But for now we'll enjoy it.

Once I had gathered the three pots I started questioning myself and thinking, I didn't like the two basic pots very much and began making plans to go buy new ones. Two were bigger than the third and I wanted symmetry, and more bell shaped pots to match the Rosemary pot. It just wasn't going to look "magazine worthy". Then my "live simply" self stopped my "wants" self. I didn't need new pots, these were perfectly fine and when the plants are healthy and growing no one is going to be looking at the pots anyway. The idea of the terra cotta was that it would blend in so well in that spot.

I felt a little disappointed in my "wants" self - wanting to spend money on things that really aren't very important. The pots I have work perfectly fine, look nice, are in fine condition and we already own them and they were not being used. I reminded myself that when I have a pretty table set out there it will all look magazine worthy enough, and that is such a silly standard -- but not an unreal anxiety in the world of picture perfect, photo shoot blogs and Instagram. There's a lot of pressure out there for everything to look too perfect.

So my humbled self lugged a big bag of potting soil to the patio and started planting. Being able to carry a big bag of soil across the yard and several five gallon buckets full of water to the patio was not something I took for granted. I could not do that at all the past six months. Even last week I probably couldn't have done that. It's great to be more stable and have two feet to depend on.

It's silly, but they rosemary pot was already full of dirt and I think it was the same soil we grew out Rosemary in when we lived in California. I was a little sentimental about that and kept it to plant our new Rosemary in. I filled the other two pots with soil, planted my plants and watered them well.

I still need a little more soil to finish planting the tomato plant, but it's in a big white pot and has a pretty, bright green tomato cage to grow in. Don't you love that they make such pretty tomato cages now!? It makes me so happy that I have a choice between bright yellow, orange, green or red. Lovely.

Planting our herb garden was one of those little projects that only took an hour that makes me feel more organized, settled and happy. It was also a good reminder in living frugally and using what you already have and that every effort we make to create a prettier environment pays off. Plus we will reap the benefits of fresh, organically grown herbs all summer and probably into the fall and winter months too. Love to be able to have what I need for favorite recipes right out the kitchen door. Here's to getting settled and making a life together - and enjoying some wonderful meals on our patio made with our home grown herbs.
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