Friday, November 30, 2018

Simple hosting (Becoming Minimalist)

We had a really simple Thanksgiving this year, and it was my first time in almost twenty consecutive years, not hosting one or the other side of the family.  I didn't hate that, and realized I was due for a different type of holiday this year to recharge.  Even those of us who adore hosting need breaks apparently.  

It got me thinking though... how easy it is to overcomplicate things in the hosting world.  We see table scapes now, that are piled high with so much swag... plates stacked on chargers and more plates, and no room for food anywhere on the entire table.  That feels fussy and complicated to me.  Does it to you also? I often like to purchase a cute package of printed paper napkins that apply to the occasion, and those can be all we seem to need to make the event feel festive.

When I was at Ikea recently, I purchased some yummy mulled drinks to have on hand for my kids. (I wish I had gotten a few more bottles, they love them!)  The day before Thanksgiving, I took five whole minutes maybe- could have even taken about two minutes in all honesty.  I put one of the bottles out, some glasses with cute straws that I almost always keep on hand in a variety of colors, some dried orange slices in a jar for fun garnish, and some little tarts from Trader Joes.  Amazingly simple in both expense, preparation and display, yet pretty and thoughtful.  Hosting, if it's anything, should be pretty and thoughtful. 
I've been places where I felt like an afterthought- we all probably have. But anything we open our home for, can be simple and casual, but still laid out ahead of time to let people know that they matter. That they were thought of beforehand. I love store-bought items for sake of ease and I love that you can take anything store-bought and make it pretty and festive for those you love.  The holiday season has enough pressure.  Give yourself a break and make it all as simple as you can.  Spend your energies in making things thoughtful, and you won't collapse on December 26th from holiday burn out.  

What do you think about this idea? I'd love to hear your favorite ways to keep things simple, yet pretty, if you'd care to share with us in comments!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pillow management (Becoming Minimalist)

During the Summer, I visited a few favorite shops with friends.  I noticed that I am immediately drawn to less when it comes to furniture with pillows. I paid attention to what I seemed to move toward and every time without fail, it was the textures and neutral colors.  Girls, knowing yourself is awesome but sometimes you think you know yourself and yourself surprises you by being slightly different than you thought she was! 

It took me several weeks but I finally pulled out a few of the pillows in the mix around here (this room used to have eight total) and made some changes.  I like linen or wool textures in the summer, and I like to add in some furry or velvety ones as the weather cools.  (Then again, my big furry one stayed all year round last year and it was just comfy so it may stay forever) I treated myself to the chunky throw for my birthday last September and that is plenty on this comfortable sofa without adding another pillow (or two, as the case was).  I realized that not every corner needed pillows for people to just throw on the floor when they cluster around this space. (That's what company always does anyway... and I never minded, it's just, I wondered, what was the point.  They are useless if they aren't being used! You know?) Honestly, it's been nice not having so many pillows to manage daily!  The rearranging an fluffing... it gets old when you're wired like me and tend to do it nightly, before heading to bed. (Face palm) 

In this room, we have a total of four pillows and though there are five shown in these pictures, one got the axe after these photos had been taken, because I had been eying it for some time. It was made of feathers and so deflated after one person just slightly leans against it that it was driving me bonkers.  (Ain't nobody got time for that kind of high maintenance!). I even took a pillow off this chair above a few weeks ago, because it was always being pushed down behind the chair. Again. I am all about LOW maintenance in life these days, and that just wasn't making the cut. Just a small change, but one that has made a weirdly nice difference in my daily house arranging.  

So talk to me.  Are you a person with tons of pillows? Do your guest toss them on the floor too? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Artwork (Becoming Minimalist)

A couple of years ago, I discovered the website, Unsplash.  (If you haven't ever heard about it, it's a photography site, where professional photographers donate their work and you can download and print their art, for free!) (I know, right?)

I've pared down what I hang on my walls, significantly this past year.  I have so many breathing, BARE walls now, and it feels amazing!  I highly recommend it!!  I like and enjoy changing what I do hang every so often though, so I've realized that by keeping a couple of places on my walls specifically designated for art, I can easily change things out. A 20x30 poster-sized photo print from Costco, is under $10. Just saying. It's thrifty but allows flexibility for those of us girls who enjoy changeable art.

This season, I discovered the most darling reindeer photo (we have named him Gary) and knew he was going here, above the buffet table, in a place of honor! (I'm currently on the hunt for a long-term piece above this buffet, specifically a tall, curved-top mirror in a specific price range, style and color, (duh, white.) but in the mean-time, I like having a place to use our menu chalkboard on occasion, (made this fall, which currently hangs in the hallway between my kids rooms at the moment) and other fun party items that change easily with our needs.) Note- If you're like me, you can just lean any artwork that you know will be more temporary, rather than hanging it.  I do this often, in several rooms and it works great!

I hung Gary up so we could use the buffet top when we host.  It is the perfect beverage station or self-serve snack area. For now this whole area is more or less decorative only but sometimes that is acceptable.  A quick note with the minimalism topic in the back of my mind.  This buffet is not packed to the gills. It holds two sets of cloth napkins, (a gray set and white set) some personal bread boards from Ikea, my grandmother's silver and various candles.  Just the basics for hosting, and all conveniently beside the dining table, where they make sense to be. I pared down so much hosting nonsense last year.  I know how I like to host now, and that has become casually minimalistic in the best of ways. I like having fewer choices because it takes all the guess work out.  Choosing less allows for choosing well and the better quality you own, the longer it lasts and the more likely you are to use it in the first place.  I'm proof positive that this is truth.

I have plans for this frame after the holidays are done (with a fun photo, also from Unsplash) so I didn't feel bad making the investment with my coupon in hand, at Hobby Lobby.  (Can't wait to share that with you in January!)

I removed my kiddos photos from this spot in the entryway temporarily, and hung one more fun image printed from the Unsplash site.  (Kid photos will return after the holidays) These gray ornaments are perfect here!  A simple faux tree I have had for years, plunked into a wood container that I found at Goodwill earlier this year completed the look I wanted. Simple and welcoming.
Simple and welcoming is sort of the motto I am living by these days.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on paring down your artwork areas to open up more bare, breathable walls and having just a few designated spaces for hangings.  Do you often change out your artwork or is that something you carefully choose and leave in a permanent spot year-round? (I always think I'd like to be that way... but I like to move it around too much!) 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Holiday Decor... (Becoming Minimalist)

Last year, I was looking for CALM everywhere, for my unsettled heart, and wrote an entire blog series about it.  This year, however, it seems that I'm still basking in the joyful glow of what becoming more of a minimalist is doing in my life... so I'll continue writing about that here as it pertains to holiday décor and holiday plans, etc.  Funny, but there are a lot of ways that having a calm holiday and having a more minimalistic approach to them go hand in hand. Over the last two or three years, I have worked to pare down all of our holiday décor.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, because I was already moving toward simplicity in all other facets of life so this one fell right in line with that quite easily.  I've actually gotten our stored holiday décor down to one bin and every item in it has meaning, is loved, works in our home and is ONLY what I actually want to keep!

I started with the obvious things...  broken items, old items that never got put out for various reasons, or things we didn't choose for ourselves. (Think- wedding gifts, cast offs, things that worked in the old house but don't have a good spot in this one, items that looked great at first but got cracked or chipped over time, etc.) Later, I moved toward the harder things... things I perhaps actually loved, but never had found "just the right spot for" in our home. (Why do we hang on to things like that?)  One items comes immediately to my mind... I had a little deer that I kept moving all season long, for the last two years, because it drove me crazy every place I put it... but I LOVED it so I kept it. I once had a desk that it worked perfectly, sitting on top of, but I no longer own that item so it just didn't have a home.  I felt actual relief putting it into a consignment bin this week because I don't have time or space in my life to constantly be touching and managing things that aren't working right now, today.

I realized (and kept reminding myself) that I tend to prefer fresh decorations, over just about any other types and that helped me get serious about the sort.  I pushed myself to keep only those things that came out every year, that had a special, perfect place, or a memory attached, and that really represented the look and feel that I wanted to convey for my holiday home.

I strive to be a different (and hopefully encouraging) voice here, set apart from the flashing lights of constant excess this world seems to want to offer us.  You know the one... that voice that says you can't be happy with small, or less, or simple. That voice lies and convinces women to buy and shop and acquire and stockpile and store.  (And they aren't happy most of the time, when they get it "all,"  because they often hire people like me to come in and take it all away.)  I'm just finding that any forms of excess don't resonate or work for me in all of life, and if you're in a trap that seems to be magnified with the added EVERYTHING of the holidays... perhaps I can gently encourage you with this mindset.

Last summer, I wrote about capacity and home curating, here, which was the kick off to many more posts on becoming minimalist and what that meant to me personally. I stated, that each of our homes have a capacity and it's different for every person.  When the holidays arrive, we often burst way past our capacity levels and wonder why we are longing to undecorate on December 15th.  (I know I'm not alone in ever having felt like that.)  Instagram doesn't help! I'm seeing excess in so many homes displayed there.  (The day that the follow trains or home tours come out, my eyes often want to explode.)  So few people show a real life approach to "just right" and it honestly raises my own personal stress level to look at it. Can you relate?  

The way I decorated this year, was by mostly keeping our home the way it always looks, but removing a few things if a holiday item was added into a spot. This my friends is key!!  Don't just "add to"... take away something first, if you're adding something holiday-themed to a spot.  Tuck those every day décor and wall hangings away in a bin and enjoy the simplicity of your holiday items without the added clutter. In our home, I added greenery everywhere and that will either just be severely crunchy by Dec 25 or I'll refresh it half way through the season.  It's an inexpensive way to decorate that I love and feels fresh and clean without that overdone feeling closing in on me.

Minimalism makes us pause, ask; why we want it.  If we need it.  Where we will put it.  And will we treasure it... just to name a few of the questions it gives us time to stop and think.  I've noticed that if I do happen to be out shopping and see something that wasn't on my list (a very rare thing for me in and of itself these days) I naturally stop, hold the item, and visualize where it will go in my home.  I think through it's use and how it will blend with the items around it, etc.  Nine times out of ten, it goes back on the shelf, even if I love it.  If it has no purpose, I can't see it in my space and I really don't need it... what is the point?  There is deep freedom here. Knowing your own personal capacity and your home's capacity is hugely helpful for this quick mental exercise and your checkbook will thank YOU for taking the time to know yourself and your limits. (Ha! Ya don't hear those words much around this time of the year, do you?)

I guess our take-away from all of this is to take a look around as we decorate for the holidays this year and consider.  Is it my style and taste? Do I love it? Is it too much and just in need of a little editing? (Just because you have it, doesn't mean it all has to get put out, but that begs the question, if you're not putting it out... do you need to keep it?)  Let your holiday mindset be the same as the one you practice throughout the year and see what kind of CALM that brings. So much comes from the mindset of our homes.  Peace or chaos, it often starts right in our own homes.  I'll be sharing more home pics with you soon and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic in comments! 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Wreath-Making party, kept simple.

 Oh hi friends.  I have so many holiday blog post ideas, and I'm so hoping I find the time to get them all written! Today, I wanted to share a small wreath-making party with you!  It was such a casual, creative affair, and didn't cost much to host either- just the cost of a few wreath hoops and forms, and some wire. I asked around and was able to source pinecones, evergreens, holly, eucalyptus, and laurel from friends.  I purchased a cedar wreath from Costco because I planned to use parts of it indoors and on the front porch, so there was plenty left for bits to be included in our wreaths.  I also dried a couple of oranges for decoratons that my friends were welcome to use as well. 

 I like parties that are small and include something that everyone gets to bring home with them. So really, this party was perfect. I need to add, that keeping both my home and holiday décor minimal, really helps with small events like this.  Cleanup takes about ten minutes, and nothing feels overdone when a minimal approach is the focus. (I'll share my holiday home tour soon!)
 To aid with easy cleanup, I unrolled paper on my island and table top.  (When we were finished, we simply rolled it all up inside the paper, folded it and tossed it, plus a quick floor sweep and that was it for cleanup!) I used a sharpie to designate items, and used a few galvanized buckets for containment.  I asked each friend ahead of time if they would prefer a traditional wreath form or a trendy hoop and then purchased a few extras at Hobby Lobby just in case.
 I gathered nippers, wire cutters and scissors in one bucket and invited friends to bring any extras to share, when I sent out the invitations. (And yes, I snail-mailed invites because that's a lost art that makes any gathering feel special, no matter how small the guest list is.) I added wire to another bucket, ribbon in another, as well as the dried orange slices.  I placed pinecones into a large canister and added cut greenery into a large bucket.

 In the end, each of us made two wreaths.  This was a small one I made to hang in my kitchen window.  I have had the antique bells for a few years and thought they would be perfect in this.
 I hung this large wreath over my artwork and I rather like the simple effect.  (Making wreaths in this style, is fairly easy and you can look up instructions online... we collected snipped bundles together, secured the ends with wire and then used more wire to wrap the bundles overlapping over each end, onto the wreath form.) My home smells amazing tonight after all of that evergreen snipping!
 No party is complete without some treats.  Our party was from 11-1pm and I popped a simple quiche into the oven to keep warm while we worked. (My favorite recipe is the Magnolia cookbook mushroom and swiss recipe... I delete the spinach and crust and add bacon... and I always split it into two pie pans so I can freeze one of them for later, after both have been baked.  They are always a huge hit.)
 The best parties and gatherings are those where everything is simple- especially the goodies.  I like this quick version of a low-carb, sparkling drink. Into a carafe, I poured 1/2 cup pomegranate juice, and topped with club soda.  In each glass, I placed a striped straw and sprig of fresh rosemary.  For festive and optional add-ins, I placed some pomegranate seeds, and dried orange slices on a tray.  It was yummy and I will be serving this again for sure.

 If you're looking for a really stress-free, creative gathering, this is one to bookmark!  Keeping food minimal helps with counter clutter and ease... keeping décor minimal helps the focus to remain on the gathering and keeping the whole thing simple allows you to enjoy it as the host.  Everybody wins!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Low Carb living (Becoming Minimalist)

(Not low-carb. Haha!) 

I have been super cautious about this topic, for a variety of reasons, but I keep getting gently pressed to share my keto, low carb lifestyle journey.  Snapshot- I've been doing the keto lifestyle for over a year now. As I strove to find a more minimalistic way of living, it naturally forced my focus to turn to what I put into my body, as well as what I put on my body and surrounded myself with.  What deeply prompted this specific choice, was my weight, which was out of control with my daddy's illness and the stress I was under, as well as the illness itself, Alzheimer's. I did a ton of research and decided it was right for me. It felt like a thing I could do, against that awful disease and I couldn't love that feeling of power more. I don't do well as a victim.  I am big on reading manuals and digging in for my own knowledge, so I encourage you to do that as well if you think keto could be right for you.  All I can share is my own experience, a year later. It changed my life. 

 I have found it to be the most enjoyable diet-lifestyle ever, and it has been the easiest thing to do on vacations, and through holidays, which is why I've stuck with it.  I so want to be an encouragement, but I don't have time to give all the answers I've gotten after a year of experience, so again, there are tons of great articles and health info you can google search for yourself and decide.  I do use an app and I do track pretty much everything I eat.  It's so easy and no excuse for not staying on track, as it's become a two minute a day habit.  Who doesn't have two minutes to input their food information? I use an app called "keto diet tracker" and is blue with white writing. LOVE. You can save your favorites and it makes daily planning awesome.  I did track ketones in the beginning with a urine strip but after a few weeks it isn't relevant so now I just depend on the app, and the waist of my pants if you know what I mean. I know there are blood monitors out there, and I don't plan on getting one, but you can if you think you need that. 

As for the food choices, again, research for yourself but yes, you get to eat lots of butter, heavy cream and quality cheeses, as well as other quality fats (the key, is choosing quality fats) like olive oil, avocados and such. It's yummy and satisfying- who doesn't enjoy artichoke leaves dipped in garlic butter with dinner? I used the cookbooks by Maria Emmerich and Pinterest and amassed a small, personal cookbook between experiments of my own, and those recipes.  I regularly try and type up keepers and add them to my own cookbook and I really recommend this organized way of recipe keeping if you plan to do this long-term.  I found that the only way to stay on track, was to make sure that we had grab and go things for lunches, and a few treat items always on hand.  It's true, your cravings completely go away.

People also always ask me about my family and if they do keto also. Adrain had a health complication, at the time I began, and this was a recommended treatment for it.  He loved it and he didn't track his food, just more or less ate what I gave him or told him to eat.  He lost all the weight he wanted to lose and I'm super proud of him for sticking with it.  He seems to like it just as much as I do and I never see him veering off, even when we are in a place he could.  My kids are hard. They don't really like anything I cook, just being honest.  They mainly just don't like anything healthy and with veggies, which is generally what dinner is.  As littles they were awesome eaters but I know they would prefer to live on cookies now. I make one dinner for us all, but often add a carb option for them due to sports needs, such as potatoes, rice, pasta or sourdough bread. 

I will say that both Adrain and I watched all the high numbers and levels go down-weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. We do take potassium and magnesium supplements daily because of electrolyte loss that is common with keto, drink tons of water, and we do use quality sea salt on our foods like they recommend.  I never feel deprived and I don't ever have a "cheat day "as every day feels like a legal-cheat with all this yummy food that is making us healthier. I LOVE eating low-carb and plan to do this for life. I love Lily's chocolate bars for that sweet treat sometimes and there are low carb alternatives for everything these days! You cant find potato chips but you also no longer actually crave them so there is that.  On keto, you can't really cheat or you'll kick yourself out of ketosis and then you're about a week getting your body back into it, so you don't want to start this lifestyle if you tend to cheat on the weekends. Either that, you use that as your motivation to NOT cheat on the weekends?  I did have a bit of keto flu when I began but it was two days of being tired and just hydrating with Propel and getting my electrolytes back up.  Minor and temporary downside that wasn't bad at all. 

I hope this post answers the plethora of questions I get asked again and again, (and if I didn't say it here, I've decided that it's personal.)  I wish you all well and know you can do it. You won't regret it!