Nov 21, 2014

Thankful Tree

When I saw this Thankful Tree at Simply Vintage Girl, I knew I wanted to replicate it for our home. If our tree branches would have had the opportunity to dry by now they would have made a perfect DIY, but #aintnobodygottimeforthat so I was happy that she gave a reference to where I could buy some. Any tags would work, but I loved the rustic look of these, and they can be used year-after-year.

The tags came from the sweetest Etsy shop I have had the privilege of doing business with (you can get them here). They are kind of chunky pieces of branches, painted with chalkboard paint. I love that I can use these many times over and for all sorts of different things...Christmas wishes, Valentine sentiments, Lenten reminders, summer bucket list...!

Making the tree was so easy! I already had branches (painted) in a vase. All I had to do was tie twine onto the tags (the hole is already there), and write on them! I used a chalkboard marker because I have more control over my writing that way and I think it looks a lot nicer.

Brad, Faith, I, and each of the daycare kids took turns writing (or dictating) what we're thankful for so that everyone is represented on the tree. I have a blank one or two...maybe Remi will have to have one, too. :)

Kids are funny. :) We'd been talking about My Little Ponies this morning so I'm guessing that's why Abby had them on the brain.

I can't wait to change it up for Christmas! I'm itching to decorate this year and have plans to begin this weekend. Can't wait to share Christmas decorations, a very practical poop-related (what??) organizing project, and some bathroom upgrade ideas with you in the next couple weeks!

Nov 18, 2014

Turquoise Fall Shelf Restyle & Hunting Inspired Monogram

Back when I ordered letters for my sister and sister-in-law for Christmas gifts, I included an "S" for us as well, and I finally just got it done. Almost a year later. I was inspired by some embellishments and decided to create a monogram that represented Brad and me. He just went hunting for the year, so between that and the deer-in-decor trend that's going on, I was really drawn to the deer head and arrow. And the turquoise barn wood chevron! I made some changes to my "mantle" shelf using the monogram and a lantern I got at Pick Your Plum. I love how it turned out, enough so that it stalled my plans to decorate everything but the tree early for Christmas! 

I posted the "S" on my personal Facebook page and was surprised when several people inquired about placing orders! I've been thinking about what crafty thing I could do, possibly as an Etsy shop, and maybe I finally found it! 

Nov 14, 2014

Cozy Christmas Living Room Inspiration Continued

Last week I shared this inspiration photo for a cozy Christmas living room, inspired by an idea I had for a donation for our school fundraiser. I finished up the remainder of my inspiration photos that day but haven't had a chance to share them yet! First, here's the donation "basket" I came up with...

The basket (or tray, rather) includes several decorative "starters" to create a cozy Christmas (or winter) space. Everything is from Target, except the tray, which I got at Hobby Lobby. Then I included a few inspiration photos (as pictured above) to get the creative juices flowing! The decorative items pictured are all from Target (except the Pottery Barn sofa), so if the winning bidder would like to go out and add some more accessories, they can easily find them at a nearby Target store. In addition to the tray, the donation includes a plaid throw, a pillow, a wood star, and two mugs (couldn't find the mugs online). 

I shared the white and red inspiration photo last week. Here are the other two:

Traditional red & green Christmas decor...
Christmas Cozy living room

Aqua & Red Christmas

Colored light / Glass jug / Stoneware mug / Round woven basket / Red home decor / Smith Hawken fall silk flower / Holiday decor / Accent table / Isabella Coffee Table / Live Simply / Threshold Snowflake Sparkle Pillow Aqua / Threshold Peace Oblong Pillow / Maaya Home Grayson Console Table Chrome with Gray-veined White Marble / Plaid Throw / Threshold Lattice Tray Red / Threshold Turquoise Bottle Brush Tree 15" / Threshold Wood Star / Threshold Turquoise Bottle Brush Tree 12"

I really want to bid on my own item! I may have already purchased a blanket and star for myself. ;) I'm not usually into decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I failed to do much porch-wise this year for fall, leaving me ready to move onto the next thing. And getting this together has me very excited to attempt a red, white and wood Christmas! I might have to dig out the decorations next week to see what I already have that would work, and I have some DIY pillows in mind. Stay tuned...!

Nov 12, 2014

Dry Hand Solution {Hard Lotion}

It's not my intention to do many posts that veer off of the organizing/decorating/DIY path, but I when I find something I really like, I love sharing it with you! Every year about this time, my hands (and my daughter's) begin to get very dry, red and cracked (around the knuckles on our dominant hand, particularly). I wish I had a "before" pic but I wasn't thinking about doing a post on it, so I didn't get a photo.

I read a blog post a week or two ago (that I can't seem to find now) raving about the "hard lotion" from MadeOn. She showed a photo of her daughter's hands and how with the lotion, water beaded up instead of washing the lotion away. As much hand washing and dishes as I do with daycare, I feel like I can't ever keep lotion (or coconut oil, my current moisturizer of choice) on my hands long enough to work, so I was immediately ready to give it a shot.

The products I ordered

What is hard lotion?

Hard lotion is lotion that is solid at room temperature.  It is designed to specifically protect hands and feet from cracked skin and extreme dry skin.
The hard lotion bar has three simple ingredients: shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax. That's it! Shea butter and coconut oil are known edible emollients.  They soften and soothe dry skin and are gentle enough to rub over skin cuts and cracks. The beeswax emulsifies the other two ingredients to create a beautiful combination to smooth your skin.  You'll be surprised to learn that this is all you need to get your hands back to work. 

My review:

First I think pictures speak a thousand words, so here's after two days of use.

The photo makes my knuckles look a little more pink than I actually felt they were, but the dry, wrinkled (beyond my almost-40 hand wrinkles), cracked skin was 100% improved. It takes a fair amount of rubbing to get enough on, in my opinion, because the bar needs to soften with the warmth of your hands. But it was easy to apply on the really dry spots. I tried using it as an all-over hand lotion, but it's not "slick" enough to easily rub on the insides of my hands and left sort of a waxy film (which, by the way, absorbs really quickly so that was not a deterrent at all). The beeswax is what makes it "stick", so that's a very good thing. I haven't tried it on my feet yet but I know it's going to be a great solution for those, too! I got the bar and the stick, as well as a lip balm. I'm ready to buy more so I can keep on in my purse and travel bag!

Hard lotion bar
Note: The bar is smaller than I envisioned, so just know that going in it's not going to be the size of a bar of soap. The small size makes it easy to handle and get between fingers, though, and I anticipate that it's going to last a long time. I'm sold!

Nov 11, 2014

Freezer Cooking {Our Process}

Maybe "process" is a bit of an exaggeration. But there is a slight method to our madness when my friends and I have "freezer cooking day". Of course you can freezer cook meals all by your lonesome, and in some ways it might be more time efficient...and of course all the meals are yours to keep at the end. But we started doing this together and it works for us, so I'll share our method. Things will vary slightly if you decide to do your own freezer meals.

1. Gather your peeps

First it was just The Bestie and I, and then our friend Amber joined in. We make a day of it starting out with shopping, and there are extra hands in the kitchen so we each can take a joba. We get to chit-chat while we work so it's more fun, and we always have a fun lunch or munchies throughout the day. It's a great way to multi-task social time and being productive. I would caution against having too big of a group, however. Three works well for us. Any more and I think we'd really be in each other's way. The more the merrier most times, but there can also be too many hens in the hen house. #crowdedkitchensputmeinabadmood

2. Plan your recipes

Several days before, select what recipes you want to make. There are tons of freezer meal ideas on Pinterest, as well as recipes that can be partially completed and frozen. I tend to be the troublesome one of the group because I try to find recipes without processed ingredients or a lot of sugar. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're not. With any recipe you won't know without trying, but to limit the disappointment after a long day of cooking, maybe try one or two that are more adventurous, and make the rest those recipes that you are pretty sure will turn out great. I created a shared Pinterest board here where the three of us can pin recipes as we find good ones. Then when the day nears, you have one spot to go to search for meals to make. The first time we did about 6, but this time we did 12 (the main difference being that we shopped longer and had lunch out the first time, and this time just made a Costco run first thing in the morning and then got back to start cooking). This time we included some individual size portions of soup and meatloaf as well as muffins, so that we had meals to send for school lunches or for us to eat when the hubbies are gone.

3. Print recipes and make a grocery list

We print the recipes so that everyone has a copy, and then I have been the one to create the list for the store. We divide ingredients up by what we want to get at a regular grocery store, and what we want to get at Costco (we also had a Whole Foods list the first time). We get the main groceries ahead of time, then make it a group trip to Costco the morning of cooking. We're able to maximize our time and our budget this way. Be sure to check the list twice! If you are in the middle of cooking it stinks to have to stop and run to the store! #mayormaynotknowfromexperience

4. Shop

Like I said before, we have two lists and get the main (non-bulk) groceries the day before. The morning of we run to Costco. I'm the one with the membership so this gives the girls a chance to shop there as well for their own items, and it's a fun outing (especially on sample day!). This time we brought home freezer appetizers and chocolate truffles to eat for "lunch" while we cooked. #grazedallday

5. Cook!

Once back from shopping, we organize the groceries and get started! This time we had a muffin recipe to use in the kids' lunches, so we started there so that the muffins could be baking while we went on to something else. I'm usually the "meal prep coordinator" so I just decide as we go what recipe should be next. Sometimes we had two recipes going at once, and sometimes all three were pitching in on the same one. It depends on the recipe, amount of ingredients, and available counter/oven/stove space at the time. Amber was our master chopper and did (I think) all of the chopping of veggies. *Note: I just learned you can buy frozen chopped onion and had we known that I'm pretty sure we would have gone that route. We used about 10 large onions for these recipes so that would have saved a lot of time!

6. Enjoy

Once the meals are home and in the freezer it's such a good feeling! I usually try to ration mine to about one a week, and it has been extremely helpful having even that one meal a week done ahead of time. It makes meal planning less stressful because it's one less meal to think about, and if there are nights that I didn't plan well or schedules are busier than I expect, it's nice to know there's food in the freezer. (Some have to be cooked in the crock pot so it's good to plan ahead most of the time.)

Over Christmas break I'd like to take another day at home and cut up a bunch of veggies to freeze as well as make some batches of pizza sauce, and maybe I'll do some more freezer meals myself!

Nov 10, 2014

Rockin' and Rollin'...and Paying It Forward

Awesome weekend. Absolutely awesome. It was long and busy but soooo productive and I felt like I was getting my groove back. A couple friends and I did a freezer cooking day on Saturday, so I now have 12 meals plus in the freezer! We've done this a couple times before and I'm always amazed how having even one meal a week done (at least to the point that I don't have to think about it too much) is such a huge relief with meal-planning! The last time we only made six or so, so this was even better, and some of the meals are individually portioned so they'll be great for school lunches or when someone's home alone and we don't need a full meal cooked. I'll share our "process" later this week.

I had the whole day to myself on Sunday, so I got housework done, waxed my desk that I repainted and am getting ready to sell (finally finished!), and worked on a bulletin board for Jazzercise. Groceries were bought at Costco the morning of freezer-cooking, so I didn't have a need to do that yesterday. (Yahoo!) I even had time to walk the dog, finally, and it was so nice to have some outside time, especially since our temps are turning COLD this week.

Feeling like I accomplished something on the weekend always gets my Monday started off better, but then something else happened today to make it even more fabulous. (A fabulous Monday? WHAT?) This morning on the way home from Jazzercise, I ran through the Scooter's drive-thru. I was so taken back when the barista told me that the woman in front of me had paid for my coffee! I've heard of this being done and intended to do it sometime, but I always forget! I wound up paying for the woman behind me as well. The whole thing just felt awesome and completely made my day. So if you're looking for a good deed to do with the approaching holidays, maybe consider something as simple as paying for the person behind you in line!

Nov 6, 2014

Cozy Christmas Living Room {Inspiration & a Donation}

Our school holds a formal fundraising banquet every year, and for the past couple of years I have donated an auction item from My Blissful Space. Typically I do a gift card for organizing services, but wanted to do something different this year, and I'm always worried having those gift cards floating around with my not-so-flexible schedule. I'd hate for someone to finally decide to redeem theirs and then I'm not available right away. I debated a few basket ideas...a "get organized for the new year" basket, a "DIY decor" basket...and finally settled on a "Cozy Christmas" decor basket. My idea is to include a few decorative Christmas items, and then I'll include one or more inspiration board pics for ideas of how to incorporate the items into their own space. To make things simple, I decided to gather all the inspiration for decor (and the items I'll buy) from Target (everything but the sofa). That way if they want to add any other elements that are in the photos, they'll know exactly where to go, and it's a convenient drive from here (or they can shop online). I created one inspiration photo already, largely to help me narrow down the choices for what to include in the basket. Here's what I came up with...

Cozy Christmas