Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Motherhood now, plus adding luxe to your room.

Well hello to you, after a sweet month of absence!  I so enjoyed my time away from blogging, but I've got a little list going, of some fall posts so please stay tuned and pop back in now and again over the coming months. 

Today, my children returned to school for their sophomore and freshman years.  I sat through the parent orientation meetings, feeling like an old pro, having just been there last year, listening to the same things.  And I want to share something amazing that happened to me while I was there.  A mama next to me started chatting with me, and as we got to talking, we made common connections, as women do, and one thing led to another, with me sharing my mothering story with her.  She was in the exact same overwhelmed shoes I'd stood in, only seven or eight years ago.  I was able to share my story which at one point led us to some tears and hand holding.  (You'd have to know me) The tears were hers, but they were tears of joy and encouragement from the sharing of my story! I couldn't have imagined that moment a decade ago. Not in a million years.  Never discount that God places each of us directly on the path He wants us to walk, and that He never wastes our pain.  I believed that from the early days of standing up to my neck in the trenches of young motherhood and I believe it still, much more so, having seen it first hand. Isn't that precious?  Her story was so close to mine, I could have written it for her... and I was able to encourage her what could come after for her because of where I was...  What a treasure.
 Now, changing gears because I actually came to share a few bedroom updates that I am loving this week and they couldn't have been completed at a lovelier time with school just beginning  (This mama needs her haven to escape into!)  I want to really encourage you to make your master bedroom a haven and it's so important to me, that I've posted about it several times.  Last month, I decided that I wanted to stencil a wall in here.  I was looking to add that lovely luxe touch  when you enter a beautifully designed, high end hotel. The linens are all bleached white and crisp, the surfaces are clean and pretty and you breath deeply as you set your bags down.  That touch. 

I couldn't find something simple in my price range, so I created my own with a blank stencil and exacto knife from the craft store.  (I don't recommend this at all. Don't be cheap like me, save yourself the grief and pay the $40+ to get a nice huge one for yourself okay?)  Also, you need to fully understand the commitment here if you go with a stencil.  It's a lot like cutting bangs.  Really think it through before hand.  In my case, I couldn't find wall paper that I liked or could afford and commit to, and I wanted a really specific subtle shimmer on my walls so a stencil was a good option.  My walls are painted Revere Pewter and I love this color.  I merely wanted to highlight one wall in a unique way and I didn't want to go overboard on the feminine effect so I kept it geometric. I used a silver metallic paint and small paint brush for mine, both found at the craft store.  The paint was perfect for what I wanted and blended perfectly against the Revere Pewter.
It took me a ridiculous amount of time because I had the brilliant idea that I should trace the pattern and then paint it in.  (Again, don't do this.  I had to, because I needed things overlapping yet level with such a small stencil and it just about killed me y'all.) I guess what doesn't kill you makes you stronger however, because I couldn't love it more and it was exactly what I had in my head.  I love the way the light catches on the silver paint, in the evening.  It's cozy and beautiful and even my man loves it and told me so.  (I shared on Instagram that he isn't a guy who cares over much about how I decorate, and I love this about him because it means I get to pretty much do whatever I want and I don't have to fight his opinions. But oh man do I love it when he notices and really likes something I did!)

He did agree to bring me home roses as my treat for completing this space.  I was hanging off a ladder while he ran out to Costco and I may have hugely hinted that he should come home with pink or white roses because I really needed a reward to look forward to...  Which brings me to this.  Put flowers, candles, twinkle lights, soft blankets, fancy pillows, and inspiring artwork in your bedroom. Just do it, and you can thank me later.  Who knew Costco roses in an inexpensive grocery store vase could bring so much pretty to a room? (I knew.)  

They are on their way out, as I had to peel the outer green petals off this morning but I had to snap one more shot of their last lovely day or two in this room.  (And seriously, blush pink roses with pale green outer petals? My word. There couldn't be a prettier rose.  I normally don't like roses, but these are definitely my favorites of all time!)
I notice that the prettier and cozier I make it, the more crowded it gets in here... so do be aware of that! 

I enjoy sneaking in here to read as kids start winding down for the evening and I notice that with the soft lights, the candles and calm, I get a lot of visitors with sweet and heartfelt conversations.  I do think that is what it's all about.  This mama journey is pretty precious. (I didn't always feel that way.  Plenty of guilt for not feeling that way too, but I am so deeply thankful I get to have each day as a fresh do-over space in mothering!)   

I had to end with this shot of my two hoodlums.  Gosh I adore them to pieces and the young adults they are becoming!  Joe is a strapping sophomore this year and Ava is a sweet freshman. I love their hearts, their friend choices, and their love for each other.  I told them to laugh here... which of course leads to real laughs.  (Hang in there young mamas and choose to laugh a lot.  It's truly a KEY!)  They drove away to school together, in Joe's truck.  I almost cried. Joe bought my daddy's truck now that my dad is in an Alzheimer's home and it's been incredibly sweet to see Joe working hard to pay it off, as well as appreciating that it belonged to his grandpa.  He has been the closest grandchild to his grandpa so I love that he is bumping along down the road in daddy's truck. 

It was a morning full of sweetness to sip on.  Counting my thankfuls,  


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Delighting in Humor with teens...

 Just the other day, I was stopped by a sweet mom of littles.  She asked me what the secret to liking teenagers was, because like most of us, she had heard all kind of stories

Okay so a couple of things here. 

Firstly, wait, what? 

How did I get to be this sweet young thing's poster board mom for liking teenagers?  I think my answer was mostly confusion-driven, because I am the farthest thing there has ever been, to an expert on anything kid-wise... However, I am also the first to say, "Hey FRIENDS, gather...  this actually worked for me and if it can help you, take it and run with it."  (I'm hoping that she approached me because of the latter and not a misconception from the former.)

And also, the jury isn't out yet about how it will all turn out for my own, so mentorship moments are about the most terrifying things in the world.

And also, even though the jury isn't out about my own kids, doesn't mean I should fear any kind of mentorship moments because duh, it could go sideways for anyone at any given time.

(You can see, I'm a bit double-minded about this whole thing.)

But actually that's kind of how I answered her.
But let me back up. The thing she got right about me, was that I love, adore, and can't almost hardly get enough of teenager-type-people.

I always loved the middle school years before I became a mom.  Adrain and I did a short stint as middle school youth group leaders before we became parents.  It was a roller coaster kick in the pants and we loved every moment of it. (Babies and toddlers weren't really ever my thing but give me hormones every time. I know, right?) The sitting on a church doorstep with an angry and emotional girl, listening to her pour our her little heart over friends, boys, parents... you name it, I was all in.  Flash forward to my own kids becoming teens and realizing that if you feed them, they will ALL come.  Even if all you're feeding them is popcorn. Nothing in life thrills me more than a house full of their obnoxious sounds, smells, messes and jokes.  (And also, nothing drives me bonkers more than a house full of teenage sounds, smells, messes and jokes.  The struggle is real.)

We have a house where adoption is a real, non-real thing.  In that we "adopt" them all, and a few of them literally stay for days on end, eat all our food, sleep everywhere, do their laundry here and all but get their mail here.  For those without intact families, we adore this and it's a pay-it-forward thing for us, because my husband came from high dysfunction in early life, and several families adopted him in for years as a teen.  That said, there is really only one thing that has helped me love this season. And I use the word love very seriously.  From the depth of my toes, I love this season. 

That one thing... is humor.  Honestly, teenagers are perhaps the funniest creatures on the planet.  Sometimes they tell me stories of their days and I find myself clutching my stomach, rolling on the kitchen floor. (This is an actual story.) The way they respond is so flippity.  To each other, to situations. It is screaming hysterical. Especially when they include impersonations and movie lines to perfection.  Hanging with teenagers is equal parts; remembering how it was for you, guiding them,  boosting them full of genuine confidence, and delighting in them.  Absolute delight can't be faked, and trust me, a teenager can sniff out fake like nobody's business. I tend to believe that delighting in anything or anyone can be learned. It's mostly about me, not them.  For example, I learn it best, when I set my phone down and listen- thus giving them the gift of my time.  I learn delight when I make a choice over something they say- I can generally go two ways-  1) Get flat out annoyed or 2) Allow it to sink in, hit my funny bone and burst out as I laugh.  (I've noticed that whenever you laugh, when you could also have gotten royally annoyed, it dissolves whatever underlying tension teens almost always have, that can flip into anger and disrespect at any given moment.) 

Choosing laughter as I learn to delight in these stormy little relationships, is my go-to.  Sometimes I do get annoyed. Sometimes I have to call them on something and we have to go down that road. But mostly... I laugh.  (With them (key) or because of them (also key) but never at them.)  Because what they say is witty, intelligent, worthy of my notice and enjoyment.  It's amazing what that little choice does.  The mood and tone it creates is my favorite.  Our home regularly rocks with laughter when it's filled with teenagers. 

And that's my only secret. It doesn't fix everything but it eliminates and prevents a lot!  I'd love to hear how you have found ways to delight in the teenagers in your life! 

And speaking of teenagers... my firstborn is now licensed to drive.  I'm crazy proud.  I'm crazy panicky.  I'm both.  All.the.time.  Ha!  I had to include this photo since many of you remember this little tyke and all that he's conquered in his amazing life so far.  What a great young man he is becoming.  You young mama's in the thick of it with a journey that seems daunting... take heart.  God wastes nothing in our stories and the stories he gives us through our kids. Those challenges are all part of His plan even on the days it seems impossible and you feel all wrong for it.   

We are about to leave for the mountains for a glorious family vacation, hence the funny little sign I made for my kids, pictured above in this post.  I'm busy getting the house all ready for our missionary friends who will be staying here while we're away, as well as packing as light as possible.  I'm excited but also I don't like bears and there will definitely be bears.  Y'all can pray for us if you want!  I can't wait to come back and share the beauty of Banff, Alberta with you! 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Downsizing your wardrobe- One year later...

 As promised, (for the past year or so) I've been talking about the ten-item wardrobe concept, and how it's changed my life.  (I've probably had more private email convos with many of you about this topic than any other!)

In this post, I'm including sources where I am able, as well as a couple of not so great images of my closet so you can sort of tangibly see what I've done. At one point in my life, like many women, I had a closet stuffed with clothing I mostly didn't wear, and I've downsized it hugely!  About a year and a half ago, I got rid of about two thirds of what I once owned, re-evaluated my style and remaining items, and strategically filled holes in my wardrobe staples over the course of last year.  But let me back up... I came across Jennifer L. Scott's Daily Connoisseur books (The Madame Chic series) on the recommendation of a friend and they have become some of my very favorite books ever!!  I won't detail reasons for downsizing a wardrobe to only what you love, wear regularly, or feel great in, but DO go and read her book (20 Style secrets).  I highly recommend it.  I loved her viewpoint and it has really impacted me.  In fact, I've watched the overflow of this type of thinking change all areas of my life where purchases are made.  It seemed to take about a year to fully curate my wardrobe into what is now streamlined, which is why I am just now getting to this post.  I focused on quality, polished pieces that fit well.  The reason it took me a full year, is because I really found myself thinking it out, proceeding slowly, season by season, and also -quality clothing can be expensive.

I used to save items that I might want to someday wear if just the right occasion happened, or save certain outfits for special.  Jennifer's words about how we're special enough occasions to wear something polished and nice any time, even if we're home all day, changed my thinking.  When you look presentable (and yoga pants only count if you're working out in them), you feel good and that changes everything!  Just read her books okay? You'll thank me.

Practically speaking, here's how I started. I followed her advice and tried every item on. Yes, EVERY item. It is imperative that you do this, so that you can evaluate stains, fit, cut, color, wear and tear, ask if you're comfortable, is the item your style, is it flattering to your unique body type (whether or not it's a trendy style) and finally, do you find yourself adjusting or pulling at it to make it better? I actually wore a few things half a day to determine this, though most things only took moments to evaluate. Once you answer all of those fit questions, it's much easier to decide if it's a keeper or not. Next, evaluate what you have left.  I even begun a Pinterest board to see what I tended to like and quickly identified a style I was drawn to which helped me.  I then used that to create the bones (or core items) of my wardrobe, using what I had, and made a list of items I'd like to purchase to complete that.  (She speaks in her book about being free to delete items from your wardrobe even if you spent large amounts of money on them.  Why keep it just because it was expensive?  On the front end going forward, it's good to ask yourself all of those fit and style questions before spending money on an item and this has been really helpful to me in the dressing rooms!

I love how Jennifer talks about not getting hung up on the amount of items you have, but on what you actually wear. So, you may not be a ten-item wardrobe girl exactly, but that's okay if you wear fifteen items in regular rotation, in a season. In her books, Jennifer talks about choosing your core items (your ten-ish everyday items) your basics, your extras (things like cardigans and basic tees or tanks) and special occasion items ( like cocktail dresses etc.) Every woman is unique so I imagine every woman's take on this is also unique and I love that. I keep my off season items in labelled baskets on the shelf  in my closet, and the current season hanging and wearable. For example, I currently have all my summer items hanging in the closet, but my winter items are in a bin alongside a fall/spring bin.  (I may share what each of those seasons look like as I switch out my clothing because I've found Jennifer's videos on this to be really helpful in guiding me and I'm happy to share what I came up with if that is something you'd like to see. Let me know in comments!)

I identified my personal style which she encourages you to do in her books, and I'd say that mine is "polished classic with a preppy twist."  I love preppy button downs, and solid cashmere sweaters with blazers in the winter, denim dresses with ballet flats in the spring and fall, simple a-line dresses as well as solid tanks with quality leather sandals and easy, clean-lined shorts in the summer. This idea of streamlining to ten items, translates into outerwear, footwear and accessories as well.  Once you begin really thinking about the way you want to present yourself, you'll find yourself truly considering your purchases and how they work together.  My color palette continues to be neutrals and solids that work together and the occasional pop of fuchsia or cobalt and you can see a few of my favorite summertime go-to outfits below. 

Additionally, once you have identified your personal style, you might find yourself gravitating toward certain shops that broadcast your style well.  (I personally love Ann Taylor.  It has to be a top favorite of mine.  I also really like Talbots, Boden, and though the quality isn't as fine, I do love the deals you can often find at Marshall's.)
Navy scalloped shorts- Talbots, this season
Boyfriend Oxford stripe button down- Gap
Leather wedges- old, Sundance (women come up to me constantly about these sandals)
Large pearl studs- Kohls, a year ago? (I wear them almost daily)
Straw hat- old, not sure source. My daughter hates this hat, but I still like it.  
Navy blouse- Marshall's (I can't tell you how much I adore this top.)
Denim cuff shorts- old, not sure source.
Leather sandals- Eddie Bauer, a year ago.
Necklace- local boutique
Dark wash skinnies- Democracy brand (LOVE.  Wish I had bought a couple pairs!)
Black ruffled tank- Ann Taylor (Seriously a favorite that gets worn once a week.)
Straw hat- Marshall's
Tassel Necklace - made by me (JoAnn's tassels, cut to shorter length, clear nail polish coating the weird chalk-coated rock, and strung on a chain. Boom!)

Now for a quick closet tour. (Please excuse the poor photos- it's dark and difficult to photograph in here, but this will give you a bit of an idea.) We have moved our dresser into our bedroom (see previous posts) and I store all my underthings, socks, camisoles and pajamas in that.  In the dresser, I also keep two pairs of yoga pants, four sweatshirts of varying weights, and a few tees and tanks strictly for working out.)

I have three pairs of summer bottoms stacked in here- Denim shorts, navy shorts, and a black skirt. I have five handbags in all- four are pictured here, plus my camera bag. (A cross body, special black purse that was a gift from my sis in law from Italy, a gray bucket bag and a wonderful leather bag.) I have the two columns in this cubby to the left, and my husband has the two to the right.  I have four pairs of pants- black skinnies, denim skinnies, short bootcut, and long bootcut which I wear year-round.  I also have three light cardigans that I keep as core basics year-round.)
On the left side of my closet, I keep party dresses (I have two- one long and a cocktail dress), outerwear, and two current season career dresses, plus a blazer.  Over to the right a bit you'll see the bulk of my core wardrobe.  I keep several blousy tanks, and light tops, that coordinate with the summer bottoms, along with a few dresses, and that's it. My necklaces hang beside my clothing to the far right.
You can see the out of season bins, which I store on the shelf, each holding about ten to twelve items.  I also used some glass blocks and pre-cut shelves from Home Depot, for my shoe storage. I have three winter pairs in a bin on the shelf, that I will switch out with sandals as the weather cools.  Not pictured here are a pair of black leather flip flops and some tennis shoes. 

I have a couple of winter core basics that I plan to purchase in the fall, such as a black crew neck sweater, career suit and wedges.  Other than that, I am totally set with a year round "ten-item" core wardrobe.  I do laundry once a week, but often hand wash a top in the sink and hang it to dry at night if I want an item before laundry day.  I do still love to shop but I try to only fill holes from items that need replacing. After a year of doing this, I've found the overall approach of only owning what you love, wear and feel great in, is extremely freeing.  (Also, not going crazy amassing dozens of outfits, and caring for all of them, while neglecting over half of them, is freeing too!)

Is this something you could see yourself doing in your own closet?  Do you have any questions or thoughts about this? Please feel free to leave them in comments below and I'll do my best to respond.


Monday, July 10, 2017

My New Favorite Camera

 I worked so hard researching for about a year.  Asking people with amazing photos what they were using. I debated- Nikon or Canon?  I researched some more... plotted, saved, and finally made the plunge.  I was ecstatic and read the manual from cover to cover.  I used that Canon Rebel for a couple of years and literally wore the poor thing and it's little kit lens out, learning photography. I purchased an inexpensive 50mm for it, at the recommendation of a professional photographer and loved it because it stretched me and taught me new things about photography.  After a few years of blogging, I was finally ready to upgrade and settled (after more months of review reading and research) on a Canon 7D with a macro lens and a very nice 50mm with amazing glass. I loved it. weighed a ton and my neck and back would ache when we took it out on day trips or hikes.  Enter the age of amazing smartphone (and Samsung galaxy's) gorgeous phone cameras that took high res shots that rivaled those of my big camera.  I found that I could even achieve a nice bokeh and manipulate the settings to some degree.  It was by far lighter and easier to bring along anywhere... so my camera sat in the bag and began to come out less and less. 

I did the occasional photo shoot with my kids and friends, but that was about it.  I felt wasteful and I didn't like that. One day, I saw someone talking about "mirror-less" micro four thirds cameras, the lightweight wonders, and I started thinking about changing my gear.  For another solid year, I read review after review, watched too many videos and chewed on the idea of selling off all my Canon equipment.  I finally jumped, listing it all on Craig's list and waited.  Once it was all sold off, I used the funds to purchase an Olympus Pen-F, and NOW I shall tell you my own little review because I've heard a ton of people in my life say the exact same thing... "I hardly ever use my big camera anymore- even on vacations... it's so heavy!" 
The Olympus Pen-F camera.  (By the way this review is all me, no affiliations, just a product I love to pieces and think many of you will flip over, if you're in the market.)  Just take a moment and soak it's prettiness in with me okay? It looks like it belongs on the shelf with my vintage cameras.  But it's so much more than a pretty face! It's light, all metal and solidly made, and you can spend hours researching reviews from photographers that know gallons more than I do, including technical videos that detail it's capabilities.  But, I do street shooting and shooting for the love of it, and I can tell you what I think from that perspective.  The color.  Oh my!  I always heard that Fuji and Olympus left Nikon and Canon in the dirt when it came to color. I'm quickly seeing why. I've included a few shots from my first official weekend with this little camera, and no edits other than watermarking and resizing for this blog, were done. 
So my favorite things- there are so many, that I'll choose just a few to share.  There is a WiFi capability.  What I mean is that, I snap a photo and if I want to Instagram it or text it to someone, I tap the app on my phone, and the word "WiFi" on my camera screen, and it transfers in seconds.  It has a flip screen that allows you to take a selfie, or recordings while seeing the screen. I used this while trying to snap a photo in my last post, where I was holding the little shell ring-dish,(above) but wanted to photograph it.  It also has gorgeous movie-like recording ability- I took a video of us driving through the mountains this weekend, with music on the radio and it looked and sounded straight out of a movie. (I'm not sharing it because I deleted it on accident. Hey, I said I'd only had it a week and I'm still learning what buttons to press. Ha!) It has built in art filters (which I'll probably never use).  It has a digital viewfinder which I've never used before and that took some adjusting, but now I actually really like it.  I also like the auto feature that senses when your eye is in the viewfinder, vs. using the flip screen to take your photos.  When your eye hits the viewfinder sensor, the screen flips off, and vice-versa.  Super handy and high tech.

On a technical side, I've decided that I want the soft-shutter button that screws in just like the vintage models, and It was about $6 item, which I've ordered and am waiting excitedly for. (I know. A $6 camera button makes me giddy.)  I may also have taken my manual to Office Max and had it spiral bound.  I totally and unashamedly geeked out over this thing.
I also ordered the leather camera strap from "b.still," on Amazon.  I big time heart it. I've snapped a few portraits and they were candid but again, the color... beautiful. I zoomed way in on Joe's eyes before I resized it for you here, and I could see myself.  He has such beautiful green-gray eyes. I love how the camera seeks out eyes for it's focus points.  I'm using a lens that is the equivalent of a 35mm and I really like it.  It's a prime lens, and I'd love a little pancake lens or a big zoom eventually but they aren't inexpensive so I'll need to budget and plan!  (This image of Joe, for those who like the details; Shot in A Mode 1/50s f 2.8 500ISO)
 The colors are going to keep blowing me away.  The site we were standing at was just this beautiful and I figured there was no way it would translate, but it did.  (This image shot in A Mode 1/800s f7.1 500ISO)

 I am loving what this camera does with light.  I snapped this without even thinking about focus points and such, and it perfectly captured the morning light that was filtering across our breakfast table. (This image shot in A Mode; 1/400 f2.8 500ISO)
 I don't have a macro lens so I can't get quite as close as I'd often like with this lens, but really pleased with the camera's capabilities in spite of my lens capabilities. (This image 1/60 f4.0 500ISO)
(This image taken as the sun was sinking, 320/s f4.5 500ISO)

So.  All in all, I'm going to drive you and everyone crazy now with photos until the new wears off... and I hope it never does!! 


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Pretty, DIY shell ring dish

Over the 4th of July, my sweet husband continued a little family tradition by booking a short stay at a local-ish resort, Semiahmoo. Its always been a favorite get-away spot for us as a family, and also a weekend or date night.  I probably thanked my husband a million times for this getaway, over the past week. And, I didn't even bring my phone with me!  I challenged myself with extreme rest because I don't think I've ever needed it more, and you guys... I can't begin to tell you what that feels like.  If you've never actually left your home behind for several days, I encourage you to!  At first it feels almost scary... then you begin to relax and something crazy happens-  You become truly unplugged and engaged.  We love this resort-always have.  You can literally sit on the beach, sip a cocktail and watch the tide go out, while keeping an eye on Canada.

They set everything up for family playfulness, and there were groups of generations there playing together.  Grandparents, teens, toddlers and babies.  It was delightful.  There are long stretches of beach to walk, shells to find, rocks to skip, great blue herons fishing (they seriously take my breath away every time), nightly bonfires on the beach for s'mores, live music, croquet on the lawn alongside several other fun outdoor games, gorgeous sunsets, delicious restaurants with local offerings, and huge, cozy chairs snuggled up beside massive fireplaces where my daughter parked herself to read for hours on end.  Board games get scattered all over the place as people rest and play them and the entire resort is decorated with a relaxed, yet luxe, coastal vibe that makes you breathe deeply.  There also happens to be a great outdoor swimming pool and spa.  In case you need that sort of thing. You can bring your own bottle of wine and wander the beach in search of the perfect log to sit on while the sun dips.  There are weathered wooden rockers on a big patio so you can read an entire novel while your man sits beside you soaking up sun.  (We did that.) We honestly never want to leave when we are there.  Crisp white linens, and squishy pillows, a view of the ocean, watching the boats come in, harbor seals jumping off the dock and kayaks to rent.  It's beyond anything.  (I almost didn't want to share it with you because then you'll go and it will get too crowded for me. Ha!)

What we have loved as our kids have gotten older, is the fun freedom to roam there.  They had a blast doing their own thing and then we'd meet up for meals and beach time, etc.  One morning, Joe left and came back with some big clam shells that were softly sand-washed and beautiful as a little love-offering to his mama.  I knew I wanted to do something special with the biggest one.  I decided that a treasure like that should be used daily.  I went to the craft store and found some metallic blue paint, coated the inside and now have the most special ring dish for my dresser!
I loved this color.  It was called "ice blue." 

First, I washed the shell with a mixture of bleach and dish soap, letting it soak for about an hour before gently brushing clean.  I rinsed it well and let it air dry overnight.
Then, I coated it with paint, going all the way to the edges.  I gave it a second coat to smooth it even more, and let that dry. 
Done.  Couldn't be simpler!

It looks so perfect here on my dresser!  Looking at it, makes me smile and remember my son's precious and happy face as he brought it in to the hotel room for me.  They always say that the best things in life are free. My love language is gifts, and for me, it's about his expression as he waited to show me his little pile of shells, collected with me in mind, his excitement over his finds, and I love it, because I love him. I'll treasure it always.

I realized that it would actually be a beautiful and thoughtful (and inexpensive) little gift idea!  If you can't gather your own shells, you can always find them this time of year, at craft stores.  Wouldn't this be a sweet gift to create and combine with some pretty earrings or something, for a friend or family member?


 P.S. Soon, I'll be sharing about the new camera I'm using.  If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen it... but I'm so in love.  That post and a clothing one are coming next week if all goes well!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Feeding teenagers when you're on a budget

I have this constant problem. 

We are always buying food... but we are always out of food around this house! 

Most moms of teens can probably relate to this.  Our house (delightfully) seems to be a landing place for several hungry teenagers (only a couple of which, belong to me) who stop in for food between work, practices, lake time, and youth group events.  I couldn't love this more- and I love how certain teenage friends just basically live here about half the time, sleeping over, showering, washing clothes and helping themselves.  However, they all do the typical raiding of the pantry and fridge, and often need a snack or meal on the run.  My son's job is very active, and he burns a tremendous amount of calories, then stops in to grab a bite and often turns right around and heads out to pre-season practice, where he's running an easy ten miles. (I can't even.)

I need to be feeding him both protein and carbs, but I don't really want to waste my money on empty carbs, so I've been doing a lot of frantic searching for quick and inexpensive things I can make or throw together for a running teenager.  I'm sitting down now, after about two hours in the kitchen, where I knocked out thirty bean and cheese burritos for his grab-and-go dinners, a dozen and a half corndog muffins, chunky monkey bites, and a pan of pizza rolls.  All items have been teen-tested (one of whom is incredibly picky with what they will eat) and got rave reviews!! (Now of course, there aren't veggies and fruits in these snacks, and that's really important. We almost always have huge ziplock bags of ready to go smoothie fixin's in the freezer.  And, I serve fresh veggies with any sit-down family meal we have, or try to sneak things in, plus we serve a ton of spinach salads with fresh, cut-up veggies, all summer, etc.  I also always have a giant fruit bowl out and available for them to help themselves whenever they want.)

These burritos worked out to be a mere forty eight cents apiece!  I purchased a package of 30 burrito wraps ($5.50), 4 cans refried beans ($1 each), and shredded cheese (which I also used some of the leftover cheese for the pizza rolls), on sale 3 packages for $5.  I spread the burrito wraps over the island, put a big spoonful of refried beans, straight from the can onto each, a generous covering of shredded cheese and then wrapped them all up burrito-style. I instructed the kids to microwave them for about 30 seconds before eating.  (I put half into our deep freeze because this made so many.)
The corn dog muffins couldn't have  been easier and worked out to be a mere nineteen cents each, and were my son's very favorite.  He put a little dollop of ketchup on top and said they were amazing.  He always loved corn dogs as a little boy.  For these, I purchased two of the seventy five cent jiffy corn muffin mixes (you add one egg and a little milk) and one package of hot dogs for $2.  I mixed the muffins according to the package, and topped each with three or four pieces of cut up (uncooked) hot dogs.  I baked the muffins according to the package and froze half the batch for later.

 As for the chunky monkey bites... They were a fluke but seriously awesome, according to one hungry child, so we will be making these again for sure.  (I had purchased a ton of bananas a couple of weeks ago, that were on their way out, so I peeled, cut and froze the chunks thinking we could just make smoothies unless we came up with a better idea.)  Each chunk was about 1/3 of a banana.  I also had some flour quesadilla shells just sitting in my fridge, so I bought a can of Nutella at the store and assembled these much the same as the bean and cheese burritos.  These are a great way for me to get some potassium into my runner in the summer heat.
Finally, the snack my daughter loved - Pizza rolls.  I made these because we had evening plans, Ava had a guest, and I didn't want them eating cereal.  A store-bought pizza crust for two dollars, which I unrolled, spread some deli ham slices down the center, and topped with leftover shredded cheese from the burritos.  I rolled it all up in a long roll, sliced it and placed each one (cinnamon roll-style) into a greased baking dish and baked according to the crust instructions.  I don't think the cost breakdown on this was much since I got the deli ham on sale for $2.  Probably about thirty cents a roll.

When it comes to feeding teenagers food that fills them up when you're on a budget, I'm still learning. But one thing that I have learned for sure about them.  They will eat whatever you put out.  And they will eat it all until it's gone.  If I don't want an entire dish of something eaten, I put half into the fridge for later... and when I need to make our bulk shops stretch between paydays, I divide the contents and freeze or store portions out of the pantry, and out of sight.  Special occasion food often gets put into brown bags and labelled for a shelf in the garage until we need it for the occasion.  Trust me, this is the only way to make food last if you want to shop once a week! Ha! 

I would love to hear some of your inexpensive ideas for feeding multiple hungry, active teenagers (or crowds or family) and I'm sure I'm not alone... if you have some additional good ideas, please share them with us in comments so everyone can enjoy!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Guiding Kids in Social Media

This is a topic I have wanted to talk about for so long, and there are as many opinions on it, as there are people.  It seems like it is one of the big conversations that inevitably tends to come up when I'm with my mom-friends and seemed like a natural follow-up topic to my previous post on blogging.  We're all trying to figure it out, bouncing ideas off one another, seeing what works and what doesn't, aren't we?  We all seem to hit that wall when school is out for long breaks, or even weekends, when everyone in the room is "alone together," on their phones.  I know personally, I've walked around the room with a gallon-sized ziplock bag in hand and a grim look on my face, ordering people to power down and dump the phones into the bag.  (It tends to not be received well. Go figure.) I'm still learning.  But the truth is, we're all doing our best to navigate this age, and we're adults.  I mean, who hasn't gotten their feelings hurt by something they weren't a part of, or been fully sucked in to something entertaining or trendy?  Our kids are working through all of this with the lesser-formed coping mechanisms they have on hand, and it's up to us to lay down boundaries and guidelines and encourage them forward. I announced to my kids recently, that they will be leaving their phones at home when our family goes on vacation and I'm pretty sure they would have had the same reactions if I'd announced they would need to leave one of their arms behind.  (In all fairness, we'll be in another country with no cell service and no way to charge phones anyway, so bringing them is pointless.)  But... it's that FOMO mentality.  I didn't even know what that was until recently.  It's "Fear of missing out" because all they know is a world where everything is shared, from what someone eats to where and who they ate it with and when. 

Not long ago, I stood chatting, at an event with a mom of toddlers, and at one point in the conversation, she clutched my arm in a frantic sort of mother-panic, and demanded that I tell her exactly when she should give her children phones and Facebook accounts. I  looked at her askance and said, "Hey, I'm still figuring it all out, so don't look at me like I'm an expert on this!"  I'm a long way from having absolute answers or perfect responses, but the collective wisdom of my girlfriends who are walking the road of motherhood in this day and age have pooled into this post alongside me, and I hope that it is of some help to you! 

*Our first approach with kids and social media is (and should always be) one of compassion. As parents, we have this unique platform of seeing more of the whole picture because of our age and experience.  Because we know the pain a Facebook post can bring, PLUS the pain of adolescence in general, we can open our hearts and arms when our kids are mad as heck because they are hurt and can't pin-point why.  It's so easy to forget that they might be reacting to something they saw an hour ago on social media.  I've learned of things much later and put two and two together on why a situation went down the way it did.   

*Secondly, having too many rules can be overwhelming, so coming up with a few absolutes that can be bent when needed is really important. I know, that sounds like an oxymoron.  But what is parenting but that?  As parents, we're constantly assessing situations and making snap moves on what is needed. Kids love and need boundaries.  They feel safe with them.  But...we need to be able to see over our parentally-constructed boundaries enough to be flexible with our children, to keep them from sneaking or rebelling against what could feel like domination. (My kids never respond positively when they are feeling dominated.)  For example, in our home, we have a "phone on the chargers at seven pm" rule because bedtime is roughly around nine, and that gives enough time for decompressing.  But... often sports or work or even homework overlap that time where a phone may be needed, so we keep that a loose rule.  (Common-sense, loose "rules" tend to work really well in my experience, because if nothing else, it makes my kids feel heard, and gives them a chance to plead their case when it comes to different instances that don't work for blanket rules. When I was a teen, this was huge for me. I had thoughts and opinions on my curfew and went round and round with my father to get a case by case approach.) One child needs a reminder, the other watches the clock and doesn't need to be told to get the phone plugged in, so we work with that.  We also regularly enforce "no phones in bedrooms" with the reasoning that it's very isolating.  It's one thing to have everyone on the sofa on a phone... at least, they are together and can interact if they want to, but once in a bedroom, you could seriously not see or hear from a child for days!  Kidding.  Mostly. We willingly make exceptions when a child asks politely and respectfully (key!) to listen to music on their phone while cleaning etc.  I generally remind them that if they find themselves texting or on social media, the phone needs to come out and we haven't had much trouble with compliant attitudes.  All that to say, that there are days on end of non-stop phone-faces, and I finally say, "Okay everyone, we're phone-free this afternoon." Giving a little bit of a head's up so they have time to accept the impending isolation (wow, right?) is very helpful, as opposed to the power-down-and-dump-into-this-ziplock approach!

*Thirdly, having grace when needed.  We all make mistakes in life.  In a few short years my children will launch to college and beyond and they may use up all their data or get addicted to a game and struggle with making themselves sleep.  My hope is that I've taught them what should be done, as well as that if it's not, there are always consequences and then it's up to them. I used to imagine all kinds of bad things happening.  Some of them have, and we've done our best. Not perfectly, but we have tried to have both love and respect for our kids as they fail and learn.  My husband is awesome at starting with grace and gets all the credit here.  (I'm more strict so I rely on his kind approach to balance the hammer I tend to want to lay down.)  That said, we have at one point, removed a phone from a child (when warning after warning went unheeded along with disrespect) and went back briefly, to giving them a nice flip phone, rather than a smart phone.  The thing is, we talked it out before hand, and worked through a way for our child to stay connected socially (since this is a much bigger deal than one might think when they have littles) thus saving face with friends. (This is important to us because our goal is never to shame our child but rather pull back their boundaries temporarily for the purpose of correction.) We made sure that the child understood this was temporary and could be earned back by changing or doing certain things.  It wasn't a cake-walk for us as parents, and the child certainly wasn't happy at the time, but it achieved the result we were hoping for and some things were learned and changed in the process.  Being gracious but following through is important. And really, not being afraid to pull a plug.  As parents we're the ones paying the media bill, and can remove a device or phone, convert to a lesser phone, install passwords that need permission, put restrictions on the plan, etc. I think parents can feel so powerless when they ask for a phone to be handed to them, and a teen stands there gripping the device and angrily blurts, "No!" Here's a little truth tip-We aren't ever powerless as parents, because we are the ones who generally front the dollars to pay for it and I think it's SUPER important to remember this! A teen can defy in the moment, and honestly, it's their right to choose to act that way, but they can't get away with it in the long run if you're calmly in control.  It's a simple thing to calmly say, "Well alright, it's your choice to be defiant (a wrong choice, mind you) so there will be consequences, one of which is that I'll be turning your phone service off until your attitude turns around and you willingly hand me your phone when I ask for it. You let me know when that will be."  We do have one other really good boundary in place in our family that has been great- after 9pm, we get email notifications of any text or photos being sent or received on kid phones. I'm not saying we've ever dealt with this...(ahem) but... I would strongly recommend this boundary. I'll leave it at that.

*Timing.  There is a delicate balance on how soon a child is ready to brave these waters vs. making your child wait and being the last to be allowed technology or social media.  If you put these tools in their hands before they are ready, you may be navigating hard things earlier than you plan.  (You'll be navigating hard things as time goes by regardless, I can almost promise you that, based on about every conversation I've ever had with my friends.)  We've all got a story.  If you wait too long, however, your child might feel left out and the spotlight may be on them because they are the only ones who are still being treated "like a baby" in their friends eyes.  Each child and situation is different and you've got to know what your child is feeling and facing to make this call. Before even getting phones, a lot of my friends have printed up contracts which can be found on the internet.  Some have worked well and some haven't.  Regardless if something is signed or not, a few things to consider are- preparing your child.  Maybe instead of signing up for every form of media, they pick one, that you monitor well, like Instagram.  Beforehand, you can share examples with them, of Instagrams gone wrong. (It's not hard to find some examples that are impolite, disrespectful, inappropriate etc.)  One thing that worked well for us, was saying that we'd like to see anything that was getting posted from our child, before it went live, just for the first month or so as we helped guide our child in learning what and how people should/could post.  It was very relaxed and agreed on beforehand and it's not an issue anymore.  (Talking about being kind, not naming names, being too personal or emotional publically, keeping things set to private and making sure they know every person who wants to follow them, can all be very good talking points BEFORE your kiddo embarks on a new account).

*Help. it does take a village.  I used to be frantic about needing to be on any social media that my children were on... then I started to realize that my husband and most of my friends were out there too, having my back.  And I've got theirs since we all follow each other's children.  So important!!  Keep your kids close and keep your girlfriends' kids close too! Ha!

In closing, my only other thought is, that there are probably about a dozen more thoughts we could chat over on this!! For example, how summer is a game changer because they just want to be on a phone all the time. (We have a "rule" that if your phone battery is dead, it's time to put it away for the day, not on a strategically placed charger that buys you more sofa surfing.  This generally happens by noon in the summer so I bide my time... Ha!)

We are mostly pioneer parenting in this topic y'all so if you have anything to add to this, please share in comments so we can all benefit from your experiences and wisdom too. 

Stay diligent out there sweet things. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

REAL talk about blogging...

Over the last decade, I've gotten a lot of questions from people who were considering a blogging career or hobby, not to mention the many questions I've gotten on personal social media expansion.  I've answered those questions differently, depending on where I was personally, at the time and I thought it might be a great topic to share, since I've never actually talked about it like this before.

Just so you have some backstory, I began as a private, journaling blogger, documenting some motherhood ups and downs, which lasted for about a year, back in 2008.  I later deleted the entire year and made my blog a public site, focusing on lifestyle and faith blogging.  Another year passed and I changed my name to Lemonade Makin' Mama, purchased my own domain and monetized my blog through blogger.  Later still, I began accepting paying sponsors, became a BlogHer paid blogging affiliate, and started working with a variety of other affiliate advertisers. I was making a side income and I spent time doing a monthly project with Houzz which I was also paid for, along with some side photography for Etsy sellers who liked my style and random things that came up because of my affiliations.

I had my fingers in Facebook, was an artist, actively making a part-time income from Etsy sales, then Instagram became a thing and I found myself with about 10K followers that I mostly didn't know, all the while, still blogging regularly because of my sponsors. At some point amid all of that growth, my children became pre-teens and didn't want photos of themselves splashed anywhere. I lost my blogging mojo a little after that, unsure of who and what I should be blogging about and I spent a lot of time second guessing myself, panicking because my sponsorships counted on my blogging times.

And on a personal note, as my site and name grew, I started getting a lot of feedback about everything.  Most of it was awesome, some wasn't.  In wanting to give the big picture from my experience, here's some raw honesty about the not awesome. (And let me first say that 99% of it all has been awesome, but that darn 1% of not awesome has a loud voice.  That's on me, but it's still a truth many can relate to and if you're thinking of blogging it's good to be aware.)  I had a couple of followers that regularly said things rather critically, often reprimanding me as a mother-blogger, and I made the personal choice that I wasn't ever going to respond publicly to negativity of any kind.  That's just not my style anyway. Additionally, if I needed to put boundaries or blocks in place so I didn't drive my own mind crazy trying to handle it, I was going to do that unapologetically, quietly and as graciously as possible.  No need to call anyone out, or respond in kind.  My personal motto with this site, "This is my space and I set the tone."  I want this to be a soft place, not a drama-sink.  My husband reminded me that I could do whatever I needed to do because this is my space, and I didn't need to explain my reasons to anyone.  This is a great boundary to have in place before anything ever happens that hits you sideways. 

Anyway, it was about this time that I was getting more negative feedback in my blogging journey that I was also dealing with feeling overwhelmed by owing my sponsors regular blog posts that I wasn't feeling, and grappling with the very emotional and brand new diagnosis of my father having Alzheimer's. I was an emotional wreck that whole year (still have my moments) and the most overwhelmed that I've ever been in my life. I didn't feel the freedom to put that out there for all to see, so after assessing things, I made the choice to pull my public Instagram account, close my Etsy shop and stop blogging.  I needed a quiet space for a time.  I opened a private Instagram and hid from everyone but the friends who stayed by my side.  It wasn't very long until I knew that keeping by blog closed wasn't going to work for my creative mind but I decided that it was the perfect break away from sponsors and affiliates and I quietly reopened it just for me, pledging to blog when I wanted, how I wanted, and for whatever I wanted to say. I started making a few YouTubes and LOVE that!  It was just the change I needed.  As I've spent the past two years processing this diagnosis of my Daddy as well, I felt ready to jump back in on my own terms.  My kids are in high school now and gave their blessing to me, to reopen my Instagram account publicly if I wanted to, which I actually (surprisingly) did, after a much needed break.

So when people ask if blogging is right for them, and they want my take on it... I feel tentatively qualified to share some pros and cons from my own experiences.

I have LOVED the dear people that I've gotten connected with over the past decade and there have been MANY!  One of my best friends in the whole world was someone I "met" through blogging back in 2008 and we met via comments we both made on Beth Moore's blog, started emailing, started talking on the phone, then met in person and have seen each other at least once a year ever since.  We talk regularly and I can't imagine her not in my life.  I have also loved keeping track of recipes, milestones, parties and life and faith lessons I've learned on this blog.  I've loved sharing my kids and letting people cheer them on as they grew up.  I've loved watching a few blogger's children grow up as well.  I've loved the outlet blogging has given me for creative writing and learning photography.  I loved that I got a chance to sell my artwork for a few years.  I've loved the people I've met- I've been recognized on vacations which thrilled my family, like I was almost famous.  It was cute.  I've loved being able to think like a blogger when on a trip, documenting and enjoying it as though I was taking friends with me.  I've loved the products I've been given to try and share, the encouragements people have sent me and there have been hundreds of letters that came to my hands at the perfect times, telling me to that God used something I shared in their lives.  I've loved the way God has grown places in my heart and the opportunity to document that in this space. I loved monetizing because it helped bring in income and we really needed it. 

Things I haven't loved, and might be considerations for you 1) sharing my kids.  It comes with risks and I know it was also a thing I loved so there you go. I'm of two minds on this but I wouldn't change the past.  2) Scary moments- I've had exactly two and I won't go into them but do be diligent, careful and watchful. 3) Monetizing comes with it's own pros and cons- the thing I didn't like was the pressure it put on me to put my creativity on terms.  Creativity doesn't work like that for me.  It has it's own timeline.  4) People assuming that I'm perfect because my house is always clean and the many assumptions they've made following that because of what they see on social media.  I've actually cringed when I've shared my house, nearly every time. God wired me to be a cleany-organized girl without trying.  My mother is like that and raised me like that, and it's all I know.  Yet, I struggle in other places that probably come easy to some women- We tend to compare our weaknesses to the strengths we see in those around us and then feel bad for falling short.  Here's a raw piece of truth if you can handle it... I used to have a friend (who I truly believe didn't mean to) who often made me feel terrible for being naturally orderly in my home. After being around her, I would feel so bad about myself that I would actually mess it up on purpose before she would come over just so she would feel better.  I can see now, the skewed way this killed the relationship in the long run.  I wasn't ever free to be my true, unique self with and the relationship ended.  Here's what you can know for a fact- I'm FAR from perfect. Spend an hour with me- the real me- and you'll see it yourself because there isn't a fake bone in my body and you may not like what you get that's so doggone real about me!  I vomit out things I shouldn't, share too much with no filters, cuss like a country girl sometimes, say things that aren't politically correct and talk about naked bike rides in mixed company (true story) (It's mostly endearing... I think?).  That's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm a heart on my sleeve, emotions out my tear ducts, girly girl and I've been told by dear friends, that I would drive any man but my own, stark raving mad.  Probably.  But man, my house is effortlessly clean and my meals are pretty awesome. (I really wanted to say "kickass" there instead of awesome, but good thing I didn't, or you might think I wasn't much of a godly woman, and you might stop liking me...) (grin)

We've all got junk.  When you blog, you put out pieces of yourself and some people like that, some don't. Some people get you, some put you on a pedestal that you fall off of the minute they hear your voice in real life.  In the end, be true to yourself and let others sort out their opinions of you on their own time.  As long as you know who you are, and can be steady in that place no matter what your blog does or doesn't do for you, you'll do great.  Every single person has a story and something to offer.  We are all here for a purpose and the greatest part- God ONLY uses flawed, broken vessels for His work. 

A cracked vase is the one that gets to display the beauty of the flowers. 

So, if you're someone who wonders if blogging is right for you, I really hope that my story, my opinions, experiences and encouragements are of help to you.  You've got a story that only you can tell and I think that's awesome.  You do you, I'll do me, and let's be blog friends.


(P.S. One little perk about blogging, is being able to go back through your own archives and glean ideas for celebrating that turned out to be fun.  One year we made a rainbow cake.  There have also been cupcakes and sugar cookies that were decorated with toothpicks and coloring while the icing was still wet. One year I learned how to use my camera in the BULB setting while the kids twirled sparklers, for some very fun photos. We've had some very easy decorating ideas too- Easy chalk art, filling any container with sand and plunking flags into it, or using a little vintage truck to display baseballs.  Our very favorite July 4th to date, was one where we went to a little resort and the kids played croquet, got their faces painted and ate popcorn and cotton candy.  I love that we've chronicled all of these holidays and memories... and I thought you might enjoy seeing a collection of them too!)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Moving dressers and such

 Well here we are...on Monday again.  Le sigh.

I for one, could have used another weekend, rather than a Monday, how about you?  Last week, I shared some soothing bedroom changes I had made over the last few years (and why) and couldn't have needed that little soothing space more over the weekend.  The dearest thing, was that various children (well, teenagers, not children) all seemed to make their way in for cuddles and cozy mom time at some point.  "If you cozy it, they will come," I always say.

I hadn't planned a blog post today, as I've got some very heavy-hitting-topic posts planned this week, from my heart, (on blogging and kids on social media) but pre-posting jitters forced me to add a lighthearted one.  (I can't believe a near decade of blogging, and I still get a bit jittery wondering how my words will be received when I speak on something of the heart. The consolation is that I'm not alone in this, I know!) Anyhow, on Friday morning, I enlisted the strong arms of my favorite teen boys to move this Ikea dresser from our closet, into our bedroom.  (Our closet is attached to our master bath, in that you must walk through the master bath to get into the closet.  It's odd and normally I don't mind but I have long wanted a place for a lamp and a way to move my jewelry.)

One evening last week (post, bedroom-post, of course, because that's life with Sasha) it occurred to me that moving this dresser here would be delightful!  I was thrilled to prove my own self right, and even more thrilled to have an agreeable husband, and triply thrilled to have teen muscle at my ready disposal. 

I gathered some favorite items from around the house-a jewelry box my husband gave me, special artwork, a gray glassy baby candle holder, which was a present from my husband. (and if you don't know about glassy babies, you must go look.  They are a handmade Pacific NW thing and so beautiful! Especially when lit, as each one burns with a unique color. I collect them, and have three, all gifts from people I love.)  I am really loving the addition of a pretty surface, as well as the evening lamp in this room.  It makes reading in bed so inviting. 

I would also like to say that hanging your hats as both décor and functionality is a great way to store them.  I love both of these straw hats and they work perfectly on this little side wall.  (I used some small, clear, 3M hangers for them so when I take one off to wear, the hook blends into the wall fairly well.)
(I hope you note the bathroom products on the counters... real life aspect. Ha!)

Next up, this week, my answer to the question that I get asked quite a bit... "Is blogging right for me?" I explained more fully my history with blogging, including why I stepped away from the bulk of public social media for a time.  I hope it's helpful!  Then we will round out the week talking about kids and social media. Yikes!! 

I am preparing to start a small series on my "ten item wardrobe" thoughts, now a year after employing this wardrobe mindset!  I hope it's helpful, and I hope to begin that in July for those of you who are interested in my take on that.  (It has been the best thing ever, by the way.)


Friday, June 23, 2017

Photo organization

I've been getting some sweet feedback over a photo I recently posted on my Instagram feed (which is now public, by the way- @sashabrodeur) on how to organize your hard copy photographs.

I wanted to share this great idea here because it's something we could all benefit from taking a couple short hours out of our lives to do.  My boss from my old organizing job gave me this idea/tip and it's been one of my very favorite take-aways from that job! (Thank you, Julie!!)  I even organized all of my mom's photos for her. (We moved a lot when I was a kid so I actually organized her photos by city which was fun and worked well.)

This clear case (almost like a small suitcase) was found at Michaels (DO use your coupon on this!) and contains many small photo sized boxes within.  Each snap closed and hold far more photographs than you imagine they will hold.

I organized mine into piles that made sense to me, and then I tucked each pile into one of the small boxes, labeled each of them, and filed them into the larger case.  The entire project cost me $20 and about two hours of my time.  The best part about having all of our family photos in one spot, is that when I need something for a (last minute) kid project, (who's with me on this?)  I can simply pull their box out, flip through it and get what I need.  The kids love this system as well and I was behind (as most people are) on putting photos into albums.  Nowadays, most of the photos I take tend to get put into a Shutterfly photo book, so this solved all the back log of photographs. As I organized these, I also took the time to quickly purge the ones with closed eyes, blurry images or unflattering angles that nobody would really want, I went. 

Our larger sized images went into a thin paper box that I've had for years and I stack that under this photo box in our hall closet.

Happy Organizing!



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hobby-driven decor

I have spoken here, many times, about downsizing "stuff" and how we've been making that a practical realization in our own home, over the past few years.  I veer toward minimalism in my heart and I've spent the past three years contemplating what we really need, want and like, and then deleting, over adding.  I had wanted to create a video tour showing where we made practical cuts while editing our belongings but the truth is, that would be a very long video and I've never figured out just where to begin approaching a topic so extensive.  I guess I more or less adopted the idea that we would only keep that which we use regularly and sell or donate the rest... if you're looking to downsize too much accumulation, that's a fantastic place to start.

One thing I've noticed, with all of the deleting of accumulated décor, is what I really tend to like. I tend to decorate with things that are of personal interest to me, and because of that, they have inspired my home colors, textures and style.  I love photography, so I have a vintage camera collection that I adore and it graces our bookshelves.  We also developed a love of kayaking and spending time near the ocean because of where we live.  We kayak regularly on the lake that is only about two minutes from our home, and I've been slowly curating a small displayed collection of antique wooden oars and paddles. (Painted a creamy white shade, of course!) I haven't shared many of these changes here on the blog for a while, and thought it might be a fun addition to the posts I've been working on. (I realized the other day, it may look like a much different home in ways, to some of you who are long time readers)

Blue is my very favorite color as so many of you know.  I'm not certain I could live away from the coast and the color blue feels seasonless to me which I like in decorating, because I really don't have any desire to completely redecorate an entire home around a season.  (Been there, done that, wrote the blogs, and it's exhausting.)  I now only want things that can be out and enjoyed year-round, and if they get moved around into new places within our home, it becomes a fun shuffle of change.  Personally, I enjoy changing some of our artwork with the season and often switch out a couple of throw pillow covers for different weather- like using a couple of sweater textured, creamy covers instead of the jute trimmed ones when fall arrives, etc. 

Overall, I've settled into a signature look that works throughout our home.  Each space is calm with notes of blues, grays, white and such.  Years ago, I heard a designer speak and she said that you'd know your signature style when nothing jarred against each other.  By that, she recommended placing all your paint, fabric swatches, hardware and elements into a pile and pulling out anything that jarred the look and didn't belong, and then removing it from your space. (Obviously if you're a color lover or have an eclectic style this isn't your method.) That spoke to me and has always stayed in my mind as I've chosen various décor.  It has all fallen into place with regular sorting, purging, planning, and identifying the objects and hobbies that inspire me.  I am excited to work white or blue moon pumpkins into the existing décor in the fall and add fresh evergreens in winter, while not having a closet crammed with décor-on-hold for the next season or "just in case."

If you're trying to figure out your signature look, perhaps this encourages you... start with your hobbies and go outward from that starting point.  You may find yourself starting a collection or home colors based on something you love, and find yourself settling in to that look!

Happy Decorating friends,