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Health & Home Life

Tallying up time

January 18, 2017

It’s funny, if you ask me how I’m doing I’ll say “good…busy, but good.” And I am busy. But doing what?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how I spend my time. As mommy to a toddler, a small business owner, and work at home mom, it’s important to be able to manage my time and try to achieve some sort of balance. And yet, thinking back on this month, I had to think hard about what I’ve been so busy with.

And while I doubt you care very much how I count my minutes in my day to day life, I’m going to share because all the things I realized are accomplishments. They may not be big things, or things that anyone else would take the time to note, but I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished just in the new year. And maybe this will remind someone who needs it to be kind to themselves, and take the time to be proud of their accomplishments, no matter how small.

Momming

You know what they say, mommin’ ain’t easy. Also, mom life is the best life. I agree with both. I’ve got a stubborn, sweet, hilarious, ridiculously smart little toddler on my hands. Sometimes that means we’re laughing together. Sometimes it means I want to bang my head into the wall. But each day, her little personality comes out more and more and every moment we spend together, whether it’s working or playing or holding her while she falls asleep, is absolutely worth it.

Sawing

In early December I finally picked up a silver saw, and took my first foray into the world of cutting sheet silver. And it’s awesome. Not every piece is perfect, and I occasionally struggle with my solder, but this is a major step towards real jewelry fabrication. Considering I was told the learning curve is fairly steep, I think I’m doing really quite well. I just shared some recent pieces on the Seashore Design Studio Facebook page.

Cleaning

On a quiet weekend in early January, I reorganized the pantry and the linen closet, and tidied up the storage room. I’ve only been meaning to do this for about a year, maybe a little more. Once it warms up outside, garage, I am looking at you. In the meanwhile, the office needs some help. I get frustrated and decide I need to do a purge and make space…and then I fill it with more craft supplies. Tales of a compulsive crafter over here, it’s practically an illness. I can’t…help…myself.

Cooking. Eating. Dieting.

Starting on January 2, the man and I started the TLS 21 Day Challenge. The TLS system is a lifestyle plan that is based on the glycemic index, and teaches you how to change how you think about food, and thus, change your eating habits to make healthier choices. The initial stage is a “cleanse”, but not like what you typically think of as a cleanse. It’s a few days of eating simple, healthy foods to help you break bad habits and addictions, and give your body a chance to relax and reset. Then phase 2 offers a tailored eating plan that focuses on whole and healthy foods. The more aggressive plans are more limiting than the more passive of course, but it all depends on what your goal is.

Little Miss reviewing phase 2 food plans with me.

I’m actually very impressed. I’m spending a lot of time cooking and preparing, but we’re getting excellent results and I can see this as a very reasonable plan to follow indefinitely. It’s not a crash diet, and it doesn’t restrict you to the point of feeling oppressed. It’s simple, healthy eating, focusing not on calories but on how your body processes your food. The hardest shift, to my mind, is going from a standard “main protein dish and tiny sides” mindset, to getting used to having a smaller serving of protein and then filling up on healthy sides.

So we’ve got a toddler who (luckily) eats nearly anything, a largely vegetarian mom, and a carnivore dad who doesn’t do dairy, beans or nuts. It’s been interesting, but not impossible. I have a pretty good understanding of food to begin with, so the hardest part has been making two proteins to accommodate my own preferences.

There is a trade off here. We are spending slightly more on groceries because I’m buying even more produce, however with smaller servings of proteins, our meat purchases are going further. And rather than getting lazy and having my husband buy lunches (and often breakfast, if he eats it), I’m making and sending them for him. So when you consider buying versus bringing lunches, I think we’re saving money – and he’s losing weight at a very respectable pace! But it is taking up a lot of my time.

Of course, I make breakfast and lunch for Little Miss every day. But whereas I used to have an apple in the morning, I’m making myself something real now, which takes time. Then mid afternoon, I prepare for dinner. And breakfast and lunch for the next day for the mister. Then clean up after dinner and load the dishwasher. There are ways I could save time, but since I don’t have to, I don’t mind too much.

I joke around in the evenings that I’ve been cooking and cleaning all day. And some days it feels like it! I cook dinner, put away the leftovers, then prepare a breakfast, lunch and two snacks for the next day (the amount of tupperware my husband has to carry…)

But again, we’re getting results and it’s a sustainable plan. I’m actually delighted. If you’d like to learn more about the TLS system or 21 day challenge, I’d be happy to share some more details!

So anyway…

My January accomplishments aren’t extraordinary. They’re not really above and beyond what you could normally expect. I’m not looking to brag about my activities.

But a business coach I once worked with used to say, “celebrate all wins”.

Especially in the dead of winter, with cold winds and grey skies, I say it’s as good a time as any to celebrate all wins. I have been busy, and I have been accomplishing small, but important things. And I’m sure you have too.

So give yourself a high five and keep on keeping on. If you’d like to share whats been keeping you busy, feel free to drop it in the comments, and I’d be happy to give you a high five too!

Health & Home

Supplementing for optimal health

August 10, 2016

I’m a little bit of a weirdo in that I like doing research. Like, I get kind of excited at the thought of helping someone with a research paper. Is that odd?

Anyway, I recently signed on with Market America as an Independent Distributor and Unfranchised Business Owner. One of the facets of Market America is some exclusive products which are all high quality and natural, including cosmetics, skin care, household cleaners and vitamin supplements.

At my very first official presentation I learned a lot of interesting things about vitamins, both the Market America Isotonix brand, and conventional vitamin tablets. I’m not one to just accept things I’m told, so I’ve been doing a little bit of internet research to corroborate what I’ve learned. Can I share some of it with you?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to let you know right now that as as Independent Distributor, I can sell these supplements and the other Market America exclusive products. If you’re interested, visit isotonix.com/ilanaleah to learn more about individual supplements. The point of this post isn’t a sales pitch – research dork here is going to share what she found interesting, and you can draw your own conclusions.

Are you ready for this? Food isn’t as nutritious as it used to be. If you’re eating all organic, you’re probably doing okay, but for most of us, even “eating healthy” doesn’t cut it. 100 years ago, wheat had a pretty high percentage of protein, which balanced out everything else that makes for it’s carby goodness. Today, due to modern farming and production methods, it’s down to about 9% protein.

Fresh veggies from the supermarket, similarly, contain a small percentage of the vitamins and minerals they’re known for as compared to what they used to contain. An article from Scientific American talks about soil depletion; genetically modified high yield crops are being produced at record rates and the soil they are growing in is being completely depleted of nutrients, leading to large crops of less nutrient dense products.

I do believe very strongly that the basis for good health is healthy eating. Sadly, if you compare the amount of calories we should be consuming daily with the amount of nutrients that are in our “good foods”, we’d be consuming well over our daily allotment of calories to gain the full recommended daily amounts. Put briefly, on the modern American diet with the foods available, we’d all have significant weight problems if we ate enough to get all our vitamins and nutrients each day.

So what can you do? The easy answer is taking vitamin supplements in addition to eating a diet consisting mostly of healthy, nutrient dense foods.

Some vitamins, like vitamin C, are fairly simple to get enough of. While citrus fruits are the most famous carriers of vitamin C, other fruits like raspberries, strawberries and melons, and vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and even onions are good sources as well.

“But I feel fine!”

Do you? Do you really? I’m pretty healthy, yet I tend to run a touch anemic, I’m always tired and a handful of other minor issues that most of us take for granted. I’ve started taking a daily supplement blend that includes a multivitamin, calcium and vitamin D, activated B complex and antioxidants, and I feel SO much better. I’m sleeping better, which alone would be enough to sell me.

According to a 2009 study, nearly 75% of American teenagers and adults are vitamin D deficient. The “sunshine vitamin” is produced by the human body with exposure to the sun, however we spend less and less time outside, and we wear sunscreen when we are outside which limits absorption. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more. Vitamin D supports strong bones, regulates the immune system and has been shown to help manage the symptoms of patients diagnosed with Irritable Bowel System and other digestive disorders. But buyer beware, not all vitamins are equal! Many vitamin supplements utilize vitamin D2, which is an inexpensive alternative to D3 – it makes for cheaper vitamins but is not absorbed by the body!

You read that right, and that applies to many vitamin supplements. They are created and marketed as great inexpensive vitamin supplements, but the nutrients they contain are not actually bio-available, and are not absorbed by the body.

Speaking of not being absorbed, the majority of vitamin tablets contain yucky fillers and additives, and aren’t even reliably absorbed by your body. Vitamin tablets rely of the enzymes and acids in your body which may not be strong enough to break them down sufficiently; many vitamins pass through the body whole and you don’t even realize it!

The question of absorption is a big way that Market America’s exclusive line of Isotonix vitamins differ from many other vitamin supplements. They come powdered and are mixed with a specific amount of water to create an isotonic solution that you drink. The resulting liquids taste quite decent and best of all, the vitamins and nutrients are absorbed by your body within 10-15 minutes because they are already broken down into an easy to absorb and process form. Personally, I very much appreciate being able to drink my vitamins and not need to swallow pills. I hate swallowing pills, and hate even more getting nauseous because of a bunch of pills sitting in my stomach.

isotonix supplementsThe blend I mentioned before that I am taking is the Isotonix Daily Essentials. It’s a convenient little packet containing a multivitamin, OPC-3 (a powerful anti-oxidant), actived  vitamin B complex and calcium with vitamin D, all formulated to work together. Mix with 8oz of water to make a fruity drink and take it first thing in the morning, then carry on with your day. Many people can feel an immediate difference in energy level and overall well being when they begin taking these vitamins.

I’m also a fan of the Digestive Enzyme with Probiotics packets which are taken after eating your heaviest meal of the day and help support good digestion and  a healthy gut.

All the details, ingredient lists, frequently asked questions and scientific resources are available at isotonix.com/ilanaleah. Be sure to visit www.SHOP.com/ilanaleah before you order and create your free account to take advantage of cash back rewards on your purchase!

If you’re interested in learning more about the supplements, feel free to check out the links above, or send me a message! I find all of this “food science” fascinating and would love to hear about your own experiences with nutritional supplementation.

Interested in some samples? Send me a message! Thank you for reading and learning with me!

Health & Home

A more natural approach to nail polish

June 7, 2016

Nail polish is an everyday item for us women, isn’t it? So much so that it almost becomes a hole in our vision. It’s the cosmetic “set it and forget it” – we apply it (or have it done for us at a salon), and then we leave it there for a few days, a week, maybe two weeks, until it’s time to take it off or do it again.

Personally, I rarely do my finger nails because it just doesn’t last. In high school, I took guitar lessons and kept my nails very short and every since, a nail anywhere past the end of my fingernail makes me crazy and needs to be cut. There’s very little point to polishing these little nubs, and anyway, between cleaning, washing dishes, gardening and crafting, my polish will get demolished. But my toe nails, that’s another story. In the summertime when it’s all sandals and flip flops, I love painting my toe nails fun colors.

I’ve been aware of the ingredients in nail polish for a long time, thanks to a childhood neighbor with an allergy to one. As an adult, I’ve slowly began moving from drugstore nail polish to “big 3 free” nail polish. Why?

Read this article for the most in-depth explanation I can offer. A snippet for you: “Researchers recently tested for signs of chemical toxins in 24 women participating in their study. They found evidence of toxins in the bodies of every single woman. What was the source of these chemicals? Nail polish. The results showed that 100% of the participants showed signs of triphenyl phosphate only 10 hours after applying nail polish. This type of conclusive result is remarkable, and it’s also alarming.”

The big 3 ingredients include formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, with “big 4” and “big 5” including other compounds and versions of the same. These products are known carcinogens and neurotoxins. Put simply, nail polish stinks like chemicals because it is all chemicals.

The article referenced above goes on to discuss triphenyl phosphate, a strong hormone disruptor that was found present in many popular brands but was not disclosed in the ingredient lists. This compound can affect hormone production, reproduction and metabolism.

This isn’t something you lock away under the sink and only use when you have to. This is that fun, colorful stuff we paint onto our selves and our children, then leave on for days or weeks so it has plenty of time to absorb.

So how do you avoid it? Luckily, people have started taking note and more and more “big 3 free”, “big 4-5 free” and even water based nail polishes have become available.

Among well known brands, American Apparel, Essie, Estee Lauder, Lancome, Nicole, OPI and Wet n Wild are big 3 free. Looking at a list of big 5 free, I’ll admit the only one I see readily is L’Oreal (though names likes Chanel and Dior appear; Zoya is a great big 5 free brand).

Water based polishes are a different story. The big 3 and big 5 polishes are still based the same as traditional nail polish, so they don’t smell as bad, but they still have an odor and they act largely like traditional nail polish. I’ve found water based polishes to be virtually odorless, and they don’t act quite the same as others. The biggest difference I’ve found is that acetone nail polish remover doesn’t work well to remove, you need a non-acetone remover. I’ve heard that they crack and peel on finger nails without a top coat, but for toe nails they’re perfect. I’ve had a single coat last beautifully for over a week.

Part of my Sprout non toxic collection.

Part of my Sprout non toxic collection.

I recently discovered Sprout, which is discontinuing it’s line so that the owners can focus on their other small business ventures (sad for us, hopefully great for them!) Remaining stock is on sale, and it’s really good stuff. Some other water based brands include Suncoat, Aquarella, and Piggy Paint, the latter which is supposedly great for even little kids because it’s easy to remove. Speaking of kids, water based polishes are totally non toxic and all ingredients are inert, so even if a toddler decides to chew on fingers with polish, it’s harmless.

Doubling back, I’m not one to be convinced by a single study or article, and I’m sure you aren’t either. I can hear it now, the derisive snorts and comments like, “well, everything gives you cancer these days” that my earlier comments may have elicited. And that may be true. No matter how careful we are, we are not in control. Accidents can happen. Illnesses can develop, seemingly out of nowhere! It’s probably true that the presence of electronics everywhere and the chemicals we put on our skin and the pesticides on the foods we eat are all affecting our bodies in real ways we may not even understand.

It’s all risk management. We take the risks we’re comfortable with, and avoid or minimize the ones we’re not comfortable with. So maybe standard nail polishes are leeching neurotoxins into our bodies every minute. Maybe they’re not.

Personally, I’m comfortable with owning this little nugget of knowledge and moving away from using standard nail polishes. It may only be a drop in the ocean when it comes to the risks we take in everyday life, but I’ll take it. If the replacement products I’ve found were severely lacking, this might be a hard choice. But when safer alternatives exist with minimal difference in performance, I’ll take it, hands down.

Decor Health & Home

Sweet little succulents

March 28, 2016

succulents old fashioned modern livingI’ve found a new favorite plant, and I feel so trendy admitting this. Succulents are just so cute!

I’ve been aware of them for a while, and always felt a fondness for these chunky little plants. As it happens, my favorite flowers are the bulb flowers of early spring, the thick blooms of hyacinths and tulips and the sturdy growth of bright daffodils.

I recently looked around my home and realized that I was sorely lacking in living decor – yes, plants. I had a houseplant on my windowsill, looking a little worse for wear, and a large peace lily that has not been doing so well. It’s a bummer! It’s not like I have a black thumb. I’ve planted a reasonable successful garden for many years, and used to maintain a silly collection of bamboo arrangements in all shapes and sizes.

I like the energy of having living plants in the house, and it’s widely accepted that the presence of houseplants can improve air quality, and who wouldn’t like that? Unfortunately my only really sunny spots are the narrow windowsill of my kitchen window and the bay window in my living room, so I needed to be space conscious. So when some colorful little succulents came up on my Instagram feed, I decided to look into them. A quick search revealed that succulents are wildly popular right now!

Succulents are plants with thick, fleshy leaves and stems which retain water, allowing them to live in dry climates. Aloe plants are succulents, and cacti are sometimes classified as succulent plants as well. About 60 different plant families are considered succulents, so there is a wide variety in what is available.

I ordered a few small assorted pots of soft succulents from Mountain Crest Gardens to play with, and I chose a few specific ones from the Home Depot Garden Center. I noted to my husband that succulents are the toddlers of the plant world – they’re little, cute, and chunky.

So why are succulent plants awesome?

  1. They start small and can live in small, tidy containers.
  2. They come in a variety of interesting shapes and pretty colors, with soft succulents suited for indoors and hardy succulents suited for outside planting.
  3. Multiple varieties can be planted together to make lovely arrangements.
  4. They’re inexpensive to start.
  5. With a little care and patience, you can easily grow new succulents from cuttings or leaves of your favorite plants.
  6. There are a ton of resources available on the internet about succulent planting, care and propagation.
  7. I get to say the word “propagation” on a regular basis.

succulents old fashioned modern livingI decided to do something different for Easter this year. The women in my family tend to gift each other Easter flowers, sometimes a live plant, sometimes a bouquet of cut flowers or even a faux flower. I took 2″ terra cotta flower pots that I purchased very inexpensively and brushed some craft paint around the rim, then added a little bow of twine and planted a petite succulent from my assortment in each in a little cactus soil from Home Depot (you can mix clean sand and quick draining soil, but if you don’t need too much, buying the cactus soil is plenty cost effective). Care is simple, “indoors, plenty of sun, just a little water when the soil is dry.”

Sure, caring for them long term is a little more complex, and you need to periodically re-pot your succulents if you want them to continue growing, but that’s a good start. I’m not going to go into in-depth care, as a quick Google search will turn up all the details you need from people who know much more than I do on the subject.

If you do go to order succulents online, be sure to read the details. Are these potted plants or just cuttings? Are they available year-round? Can you expect your little plants to survive shipping in extreme hot or cold? How often does the company ship? Remember that you’re ordering living things, and certain considerations may apply.

Personally, I’m hooked. I have a lovely little arrangement for my front window in a shiny turquoise ceramic pot, a tiny plant in a tiny pot in my kitchen window, a hanging terrarium ornament I still need to fill, and a little purplish plant that is slated to go into the Bulbasaur planter I ordered for my husband from an Etsy shop. Then in a few weeks, I’ll order some hardy succulents and create an outdoor arrangement.

Do you have succulents? What are your favorite indoor plants?

Decor Health & Home Life

Cracked Popcorn Ceilings and Plaster Walls #veryoldhouseproblems

March 22, 2016

We are elbow deep in all things baby prep right now- and that includes getting baby boy’s room set up! He’ll be in our bedroom in his co-sleeper for a few months, but we don’t want to be worrying about renovating a room and making a mess with a newborn in the house, so our goal is to have everything completed soon. With about 9 weeks to go, I know that we do have time to get it done- but everything does feel urgent. We have furniture from various rooms all in the living room right now as we shuffle things around to see what new arrangements make sense now that we are eliminating the office (that will be baby’s room). We are also eager to put away all of the adorable baby gifts that we received at our showers, and hang up the art that we have been collecting for a few months now. I received a beautiful print from a friend, and the things that I have bought myself have all been on Etsy! For example this, and this. If you have never shopped on Etsy- please do! It is a fantastic company to support- you will find  nearly anything you can think of- and they treat their employees like gold.  I am super impressed that they have recently extended their Parental Leave Policy so that new parents are eligible for 26 weeks paid leave for up to two years after the birth or adoption of a child! It’s just cool to see a company that is so motivated to keep parents in the workforce without sacrificing family life.

IMG_2350

We have been hard at work for the past few weeks, first with clearing out the office and repairing some of the damaged surfaces.  Plaster walls, man. Its a messy, crumbly business. Although we do appreciate some of the charming, original characteristics in our home, plaster walls and ceilings that have not been properly cared for are a pain. When we first moved in, we tore out most of the plaster in our bedroom, but it ended up being much harder work than we anticipated, and it was months before the room was sheetrocked and ready to be lived in. Since that experience, we have worked on repairing the existing walls and ceilings in the other rooms. In this particular room, my husband took down all of the wallpaper border, while I patched cracks and holes in the plaster walls. There is something satisfying about doing home repairs yourself. I was pretty confident about the spackling because I did some in our living room over the summer. We had been taking down some crooked molding, when we discovered that it was not tacked in, but glued on- and we  accidentally took down part of the wall with it! It was up to me to spackle and sand the damaged walls and I am happy to say that you can no longer tell a piece of the wall was ever missing in that spot.

In the nursery,  my husband then sanded the walls, and together, we used joint compound and a sea sponge to cover the cosmetic cracks in the ceiling and recreate that bumpy look. I’m only allowed on the ladder when someone is standing right there. Its frustrating when you are used to being able to do things yourself, but I don’t want to put th the baby at risk, so it makes sense.  In this particular room, we were very lucky, the cracks were all minor. In the guest room that we repaired a few years ago, parts of the ceiling were actually falling down! We had to insert giant screws in several places just to make it safe before we could plaster over it. In the baby’s room, we were able to cover all cracks with one coat. Unfortunately the ceiling is old and has clearly been repaired more than once over the years, so there are certain areas where, due to the difference in elevation, it looks like it is still cracked despite the repairs. I am confident that a fresh coat or two of white paint will camouflage most of these flaws though!

That’s what we are up to now- the painting part. The tan will be an accent wall, and the white is going on the other walls. It’s a small room, so I did not want all of the walls to be dark. The other colors are being considered for the peg board diaper holder that we are building next! If you haven’t seen one before, check this out!

IMG_2346  IMG_2349

I wish I could help more, but I can’t be breathing in those fumes, so my husband has been priming on his own and will begin actually painting today. I’ve done the taping and tarping of the room, a process that always makes me feel a little bit like Dexter (if you’ve ever seen that show), and I’ve been finding other ways to help out where I can! The goal is to spend our Friday off together assembling furniture and getting our house somewhat back to normal. We are hoping to get so much done that we can spend Easter lounging around after church. How is this Sunday Easter already? And what am I going to make for brunch?

Happy Tuesday Friends!

Decor Health & Home Tutorial

DIY Decor: Dreamcatchers

March 21, 2016
diy dreamcatcher old fashioned modern living

diy dreamcatcher old fashioned modern livingSince I was a child, I’ve always been fascinated by dreamcatchers. If you’re unfamiliar, dreamcatchers are intricately woven hoops, originally made by Native Americans, which are thought to capture bad dreams in the woven web while allowing good dreams through the open center. Dreamcatchers are also important symbols within many Native American cultures, and if you’re interested, I would encourage you to look into it, as the origin and legends surrounding them are quite interesting. If you know me personally, you know I’m a sucker for historical details, myths and legends, but aside from that, I do feel like it is important to understand the origin of symbols we utilize.

The dreamcatcher design has become somewhat ubiquitous, appearing on garments and popping up at craft fairs. Dreamcatcher was the title of a Stephen King novel, and in recent episodes of season 5 of Once Upon a Time, a dreamcatcher was used as a magic charm to store memories.

I was introduced to dreamcatchers when I was 7 or 8 years old. My mother, brothers and I would spend summers upstate and we began attending a local library class where we would read a story and then do a craft to accompany it. Sometimes it was something basic like building a plaque from popsicle sticks, sometimes much more complex, like the time a local artist co-hosted and we created mosaic flower pots. I don’t recall the story we read this particular day, but I remember making my first dreamcatcher. Imagine, if you will, a white paper plate with the center cut out and holes punched around the edges. Yarn was woven through the holes with plastic pony bead accents, and then we added bright primary colored craft feathers to the bottom. It was crude, sure, but it got me hooked. That first dreamcatcher may well still be in my parents’ summer home somewhere, along with many of our childhood craft projects.

diy dreamcatcher old fashioned modern livingFast forward. While I was pregnant with my daughter (before we knew she was a she), we decided to do the nursery green, and I decided to make a dreamcatcher for the window. I started with a 9″ wood hoop which I wrapped with white suede cord, then I used white crochet cotton and an assortment of gemstone beads I had on hand to create the web. Then we moved and the dreamcatcher sat unfinished for over a year. I recently finished it, and decided to make another for my own room, and a third with a doily just to try it out. The doily is a much less traditional design, but I think it’s very quaint and attractive. I added some quartz crystals to all of my dreamcatchers, as quartz is a great protective stone and I love it.

I apologize for the quality of some of these photos, I don’t know what was wrong with my camera! This is a quick project, however I finished these two over the course of a weekend, as I had an extremely curious toddler trying to help.

Onto your DIY Decor – here’s what you’ll need. If you have materials that will work, go ahead! I had nearly everything on hand before I started. There are so many ways you can customize, please understand this is only an outline. This is one of those projects that once you see how to do it, you’ll be off running and can personalize to your heart’s content.

Materials:

  • 2-piece wood embroidery hoop, your choice of size (the small ones I used are 6″, the larger 9″)
  • Crochet cotton, embroidery floss, thin yarn or twine
  • Doily (if using)
  • Beads or feathers for embellishments, if desired
  • Strips of fabric, yarn, suede cord, ribbon
  • Paper clamp
  • Quick drying glue (anything that will adhere, I used Hypo-Cement)

Doily style hoop assembly:

diy dreamcatcher old fashioned modern livingThis style is a more modern bohemian style, so you retain the silhouette of the piece but lose the woven aspect. It’s still lovely to look at. For this project I used a 6″ wood hoop with a 1″ strip of white muslin, white crochet cotton and a white doily from the craft store.

  1. Start with your wood hoop, a doily at least a little smaller, and your crochet cotton/embroidery floss/twine. Take apart the embroidery hoop and set aside the split part, you’ll be using the solid here. If you are not covering the ring, move on to the next step. If you are covering the ring, take the ribbon or 1″ strip of fabric you’ll be using and choose a starting point. Put a dab of glue on the inside of the hoop and stick your fabric there, clamping it in place with the paper clamp. Begin winding your fabric, giving enough overlap that it covers evenly. Feel free to move the clamp as you go if it makes you feel more secure. When you get back to the start, overlap slightly, trim your fabric and glue it down, using the clamp to hold it until it dries.
  2. Cut yourself a piece of your string about 3x as long as your hoop so you have plenty of space (6″ hoop = 18″ string), and tie it on in any spot, relatively snugly with a secure double knot. Place your doily in the center and begin weaving through the outer point, around the hoop and through the next outer point. Some doily designs may have 1 central spot on each outer bump, mine had 2. Continue all the way around, keeping a relatively even tension (a smaller doily will leave more open space around the outside, mine stretched slightly to fit just so) and when you get to the end, just tie off with a double knot and trim the edges.

Woven style hoop assembly:

For this one I used some red suede cord I had on hand for the hoop, and pale yellow crochet cotton for the web. Any thin cord will work for the web, and there are plenty of similar materials you can use to wrap the hoop if you prefer.

  1. Start with your wood hoop and suede cord. Remove the outer split portion of the embroidery hoop. Dab some glue on the inside of the hoop and press the end of your cord into it, using the paper clamp to hold it. Begin winding, being careful to keep the cord from twisting and keeping it fairly even all the way around so you don’t end up with gaps. Feel free to glue every here and there, and move the clamp to hold it in place as you go. When you reach the starting point again, trim your cord so it will meet the other end, dab in some glue, press and clamp until it has set.
  2. Get yourself plenty of your web material (crochet cotton, twine, yarn, embroidery floss, etc). Choose a spot to start and tie on with a snug double knot; feel free to use the ridges between the cord to nestle it in. Visually determine 6-8 anchor points (I like to note the 4 basic points, then put one between as well for a total of 8). Bring your string to your next anchor point, go around and back through the space your string and hoop made – if you do not double back the string will not anchor (look at the photos to see what I mean). Continue around until you have your first round, then continue the pattern onto the string instead of the hoop this time, going to the center of the section, around and through. Continue until your web covers as much as you wish and tie off with a double knot, then trim. If you want beads in your web, just slip them onto the cord and let them fall in as you weave.

Adding decorations:

You can get creative here. I use mostly slipknot type knots to attach my dangling pieces; I used mostly yarn here, but you can use strips of fabric, ribbon, trim, suede cord, or whatever else you like. Try different textures, braid some pieces, and try different lengths. I added some crystals in as well, and tapered the hanging pieces towards the center. Add drilled seashells or  coins, strands of beads, or whatever strikes your fancy. I added some lovely feathers I had ordered on Etsy from a family farm that responsibly and humanely harvests feathers from their chickens (and cleans them!) to two of the three dreamcatchers, stripping the top fluffy bits to reveal some stem, then hot gluing them together and attaching them by simply using a piece of string and a series of knots – wrap to front and tie, wrap to back and tie, etc etc until the entire stem was covered and the feather cluster securely attached. Get creative!

I added some pieces and then removed them if I wasn’t happy with how it looked – that’s the beauty of the slipknot. If you’re braiding, just use something to hold the hoop in place (I used my phone, which you’ll see in the photos).

Then just add a loop of string to hang and you’re ready to go!

The white dreamcatcher is in Little Miss’ room, while the red and yellow is a subtle but attractive addition to the red and gold curtains on my double window. The doily one will likely be heading north to Kristen. I love these! The design is just so elegant and lovely, and I like the thought of them keeping away nasty dreams and only letting the sweet ones through, especially for my little girl.

Will you be trying this? What are you crafting?

Health & Home Review

Maybe Marie Kondo does know what she is talking about.

March 14, 2016

I finally got around to reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. If you have not heard of her, she is an organizing consultant in Japan who uses some unusual methods, but claims that her clients have a zero percent rebound rate. Her methods include organizing and sorting by category instead of by room, thanking your belongings for being useful to you, and releasing the items that have served their purpose and no longer bring you joy.  That’s right, one of the biggest take aways from the book are only keeping items that “spark joy” within you. My husband noted sarcastically that none of his underwear brings him joy, but you can’t go throwing out all of your underwear. While he does make a good point, I can tell you that Marie Kondo would say to throw away any underwear that you find uncomfortable or that is old with busted elastic!

Although I enjoyed the book, my first impression was that this book did not really take into account family life. It does seem to be more practically geared toward someone who lives alone. It is probably hard to fully commit to this method if it is not something that all of  your family members are interested in doing too. I also  realized that my room by room method is something that Kondo frowns upon as ineffective in the long term. This struck a chord with me, as I remembered how hard I worked on organizing each room in our home last summer, only to find things in disarray again once I returned to work. Kondo’s reasoning is that if you organize room by room, you will not realize how many belonging you actually have because they are all stored in different places around your home. Despite my skepticism, I can see Kondo’s  point there.

I decided to do a little experiment and “konmari” my beauty supplies. I love samples and trying new products, which means that I have amassed quite a stock of make up and hair products. Some have worked well for me, and others have not. As I searched my home, I found some products stored in my travel kit, some in a bin in my closet, and some on various shelves in my bathroom cabinet. I dumped everyhing out onto my bed and it hit  me how much money I’ve wasted trying new products. Because I spent money on them, I kept them because it felt like a waste to throw them away. Then I realized that I will literally never use some of these things. Ever. If a lipstick just isn’t a good color on me, it never will be, and it will continue to take up space in my house. Using this method, I ruthlessly eliminated any hair and make up supplies that did not work well for me, and only kept my favorites. Although I was tempted to put a few things aside to see if anyone wanted them, I restrained myself from doing so. If you find something that you specifically think a friend or family member might like, Kondo allows you to set it aside. However, she cautions you not to burden friends and family with things you are just trying to get rid of.  Nothing fit the category of something I knew someone could use- so away it went! I paired down my beauty supplies so that everything I actually use fits in my travel kit, which now lives in the bathroom cabinet. Hair stuff has gone from three containers to one, and I rounded up all my hair ties and bobby pins into a small bag. Everything I use now lives in one place, and I know exactly where everything is. If you’ve ever seen the tiny bedroom my husband and I share (and soon we’ll have a bassinet in there too!),  you realize how huge this accomplishment is as far as making space!

Having tried this method for one category of my belongings, I can definitely see the effectiveness of it. I  like that Marie Kondo discourages you from spending a ton of money on organizational bins and knick knacks, as she believes this will only cause you too hold on to more things that you don’t need. I’m probably not going to thank my socks and my purse for all of their hard work, but I will try to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness for what I do have, and try not to fall into the trap of buying things I don’t need. I don’t know that sorting through every category in my home is a practical choice for me right now (sorting clothes at nearly 30 weeks pregnant is probably not the best judgment call), but after having success with one category, I may try it with a few others. My husband and I own probably about 500 or more books. Perhaps we can pair this down a bit and put a few boxes aside for the church rummage sale! If you are at all interested in organizing, I recommend that you read this book. Although I am sure it is more effective if you follow it to to the letter, you can just take what advice seems practical for you. I am glad I tried this method for myself. I have definitely learned some things that I want to keep in mind for the future. I am nesting like crazy right now, so I am wondering what else I can organize next. Although its unrealistic, I want to bring baby home to a perfectly organized house. I think my lack of control over anything in this pregnancy is making me seek control of my home or something!

I hope everyone has a happy Monday and eats some pie! Did you know that its Pi Day? Were living in a construction zone with furniture and baby gear everywhere right now, so I won’t be baking. I wonder if I can tempt my husband to take me to the diner for a Pi date later? The man loves his pie, so I think I have a good chance at succeeding!

Health & Home Life

My favorite more natural health and beauty products

March 3, 2016

natural beauty products old fashioned modern livingIt’s not surprise that there are a lot of health and beauty products in my house. I’ve bought them, made them, kept them. Considering how many I would probably find if I did a round up, the number of them that I use is surprisingly small, and the number I get fired up about is even smaller.

Considering the vast variety of health and beauty products available, what does it take to be a favorite around here?

  1. Price – needs to be well within a reasonable range
  2. Effectiveness – does the job and des it well
  3. Scent/feel – doesn’t have a gross texture or consistency, or an overwhelming smell
  4. The more natural, the better – if we could tone down the chemical content, that’d be great

You may have noticed in the title that I said “more natural” – not every product I use on a daily basis is as natural as it could be. I’d love it if they were, but there are some things you just can’t replace, so I do the best I can. Ready for my review of a few of my more natural health and beauty essentials? I’ll start with the least natural, then get into the really good stuff.

Urban Decay Naked Skin Beauty Balm

I am a big fan of Urban Decay makeup, and my hands down favorite item is their Naked Skin Beauty Balm. It’s a very light BB cream formula with a very faint, pleasant minty smell. It’s great for everyday, and I use it when I don’t want to put on much makeup but just want a little something to smooth out my skin tone.

At $34 for a 1.18 fl oz bottle, this may be the most expensive product I use on a regular basis. When I finished my first bottle a couple of years ago, I tried several drugstore brands (a la Maybelline, L’Oreal, etc). Greasy, shiny, thick, heavy. Put lightly, they were gross. The Urban Decay formula is oil free with a velvety feel, and I can feel good about using a vegan product from a cruelty free company.

Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer is another really good product, making eyeshadow look brighter and last longer. Both products can be purchased at UrbanDecay.com, and retailers like Sephora.

Note: If you’re wondering why it matters that the product is vegan, know this; cochineal is crushed bugs that make a brilliant red color, and guanine is made from grinding fish scales, and many cosmetics use these and other animal-derived ingredients. Sometimes the alternatives are plant-based (yay!), sometimes they’re synthetic (meh). Regardless, I’ll take it.

Perfectly Posh Tea Tree + Neem Hair and Scalp Mask

Everyone has heard of face masks, but a hair mask? I was skeptical when I first came across this product, but I know tea tree oil works wonders, so let’s give it a shot! I was ordering anyway, and for $19, I was willing to see if this made a difference for my boring hair and kind of dry scalp.

First off, a little about Perfectly Posh. All products are made in the United States and use oils, butters, fruits and flowers and largely natural ingredients with no fillers, and they don’t test on animals. Every product listing on the website gives a list of key ingredients, and a description of each for if you’re curious – I think that’s pretty great!

Before a shower, just wet your hair and run a dollop in, focusing on scrubbing it into your scalp a bit, then let it do it’s thing for 10-15 minutes and wash it away. It’s recommended to use 1-3 times a week, and I generally fall into that range. It makes your scalp feel tingly and cool while it’s on, but not overwhelmingly. In several months, I can’t say that I’ve seen a huge difference, but when I use it I see a definite change in my hair and scalp. I’m actually just about needing to order a new bottle!

This is available only through PerfectlyPosh.com, but you rack up loyalty points when you shop, which is pretty cool. I’ve also tried their chapsticks (nice, but don’t last long), In The Clear Face Mask (love it), and The Healer skin stick (nice moisturizer/healing cream, great for on the go).

Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap

The Dr. Bronner’s Company has 5 generations and over 150 years of soapmaking experience, so they’ve got it pretty nailed down. The products are eco-friendly and fair trade with ethically sourced ingredients. On the website at DrBronner.com, you can see a breakdown of the ingredients and where they come from.

But anyway, the soap. The castille soap comes in small, medium and large size bottles and is an amazing liquid soap. The bottle is covered in the “All-One” message, essentially a message of unity inspired by the ideology of one of the original family soapmakers. It could easily be dismissed as psycho-babble, but is actually pretty interesting. My favorite is the almond scent, though there is also peppermint, eucalyptus, citrus rose, lavender, tea tree and a “baby” unscented.

The almond scent is not overwhelming, but sweet like marzipan or amaretto. This is my face washing soap, and my husband uses it instead of body wash. It’s utterly all purpose, I’ve even washed my hair with it. It’s called an 18-in-1 soap because it  can be used for face, body, hair, pets, cleaning, dishes, etc. We buy the 32 oz monster bottle, which is usually in the mid to high teens in price at Trader Joe’s, Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond, but is worth every scent. Seriously, my final review here is Best. Soap. Ever.

Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant

I hate that I wear chemical anti-perspirant; especially with a toddler always up in my grill, I’ve been really wanting something more natural. I’ve tried 4 natural deodorants previously and have left them all behind. The Traders Joe’s and Melaleuca didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. The Nourish Organics smelled like baked goods, but was very gritty and hard to use and didn’t do much – I just smelled like a sweaty baked good. And don’t get me started on the Jason all natural deodorant that you need to apply to the entire underarm area and is so sticky you need to walk around topless with your arms up in the air like an excited Kermit the Frog for 10 minutes before you get dressed.

Then I found Schmidt’s, from a Facebook ad, actually. The company is based in Oregon and is only recently hitting a national stage. The products are all natural, cruelty free and vegan. Natural oils and baking soda eliminate odor, and arrowroot powder absorbs moisture, so unlike a conventional antiperspirant that clogs up your skin so you don’t sweat, you sweat and it gets absorbed.

I’ve only used it a few times so far and not on hot days or doing heavy listing, but I am SOLD. I’m a believer people, this stuff works. I chose the Ylang-Ylang+Calendula scent in the stick form, very mildly floral and pleasant. The deodorant goes on clear and smooth; you don’t need to use much and it isn’t sticky. AND IT WORKS. I put it on yesterday morning, and it is now 24 hours later and I have not yet showered today. In addition to everything else one typically does in a day, I have cooked, lifted a 27 lb child 30,000 times, cooked with said 27 pounder in a woven wrap on my back, and used a micro torch, then slept under an impressive pile of blankets and I don’t smell even a little.

The only slight negative I can say is that oil based deodorants can get gritty. I’ve noticed a slight grit, but by holding the product against my skin for a moment before applying warms and smooths the top layer of oils so it’s not too bad.

This stuff. This stuff. I don’t have words for how delighted I am. I ordered from schmidtsdeodorant.etsy.com, and with shipping this cost me about $12. Worth every penny. There is also a website at SchmidtsDeodorant.com, and some retailers have started carrying the stick version in addition to the tub version (which you apply with fingers or an included tiny spatula). Just an FYI, I’ve read that some people get irritated by the baking soda, so if you’re one of those people, steer clear. Otherwise, go go go go!

Homemade products

Everyone buys their health and beauty products! Except when they don’t. You may well already have these things in the house. Here are my current favorites:

  • Coconut oil – coconut oil is always my favorite. I use it for moisturizer for me, for diaper rash cream for Little Miss, for cooking and baking (all separate jars!) My standard facial moisturizer is coconut oil in an upcycled glass yogurt jar microwaved until soft, then mixed with a few drops of lavender essential oil; plain coconut oil is great too, for moisturizing and minor skin irritations. It goes on greasy but absorbs right in with no residue. I also like to make sugar scrub with some white sugar and coconut oil. Wet face, rub in and rinse off, just be careful if you have sensitive skin, this stuff has grit.
  • Baking soda – a simple paste of baking soda and water is great for tightening skin and minimizing pores, and it also whitens teeth! I use it on my nose, then rinse off and clean my face well with some Dr. Bronner’s soap and my scrubby facial brush, then use the remainder of the paste on my teeth. I brush first, dry my front teeth, glop it on and wait a minute or two, then rinse and brush again. It feels a little weird if it gets back into your mouth, but way less weird than trying to keep those gross tasting white strips in place for 20 minutes. Teeth feel super clean after, and while I wouldn’t claim dramatic results, I definitely think it removes surface stains, so I do it periodically to keep things bright.

So that’s it! Do you have any favorite natural, or natural-ish products or tips?

Health & Home

Homemade Carpet Sprinkle

February 19, 2016

Anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile knows that the smell of my poor dogs is driving me nuts right now. Although pregnancy hormones are heightening my sense of smell, I am convinced other people can walk into my living room and smell Piper and Hamish too. We try to wash the dogs as often as makes sense, but unfortunately over-washing can lead to dry skin and irritation in our pets- so there is only so much we can do. I’ve tried carpet sprinkle found in the pet aisle of the grocery store, but I find that smell kind of overwhelming and sickening. Plus- have you checked out the list of ingredients? I don’t want to inadvertently poison the dogs or humans in my house! Then, I remembered that a friend of mine mentioned that she made her own carpet sprinkle from a mixture of baking soda and essential oils.

I made some to use as a carpet and upholstery sprinkle last week- and I must say- I am pretty pleased with the results! It soaked up some of that gross puppy smell and, and left a relaxing smell of lavender and lemon that lingered throughout the room. It vacuumed up easily from the carpet and couch. I’m going to be sprinkling this a few times a week to keep my living room smelling fresh during these cooped up winter months.

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Carpet Sprinkle

1/2 Cup Baking Soda

10-15 drops of your choice of essential oils (I made two batches, one with lemon, and the other with lavender and dried rosemary- be sure to research your essential oils before use! Ilana has some info about them here.)

1 Tablespoon Rosemary (optional)

Add the baking soda to a mason jar or another container with a lid. Next, add your dry herbs if you are using any and shake it all up. Remove the lid and gradually add the oil of your choice to the mixture. Its simple to make, but try not to put all of your oil drops in one area, because then you will end up with more wet clumps- which isn’t great for your vacuum. You only want to be vacuuming up dry baking soda! Put the lid on and shake up the mixture!

I let my mixtures sit covered over night, and then used them the next day. I sprinkled my couch and carpet, and let the sprinkle sit for 20 minutes before vacuuming it up. Unless the area you are vacuuming is huge- you will definitely have some mixture left over for later use! You may have to run your vacuum over certain areas a few times, but it all will come up!

Has anyone else tried making their own cleaning products? I’d love more suggestions!

Health & Home Life

My Attempt to Simplify: Tidying Up, Decluttering, and Streamlining

February 1, 2016

I’d like to begin this post with a disclaimer. These are first world problems, folks. I am blessed to have a roof over my head, clothes on my body, and food to eat. I just need to become less materialistic and discerning about the things I fill my home with. Does anyone else feel like they spend way too much time trying to catch up on cleaning? I feel like I am constantly behind and can never catch up! When I finally do sit down to relax at the end of the day, I feel a little bit guilty because there is still work to be done. Part of that is just learning to accept that in a home that is really lived in, housework never really is done. Our house is pretty well loved at almost 100 years old, and very much lived in. We’re always having guests come to stay, and the minute my stove is clean, I’m usually dirtying it again with some from scratch recipe. Once I  vacuum up the dog hair, my big girl Piper jumps up to cuddle me on the couch! Who can say “no” to that face? Well, right now I can, because  my poor dogs’ smells trigger the old gag reflex. I can’t wait until my son is born and I can hug my dogs without holding my breath!

When I was off over the summer, I spent a solid week organizing every nook and cranny of my house. It was extremely satisfying! However, the minute morning sickness reared its ugly head, and I was headed back to work, much of my work was undone. The tidiness was not something that stood the test of time, or the test of real life, which is very often busy and messy.  I think we never lost some of our messy habits, and I didn’t throw away or donate enough things. I’ve  been thinking- who wants to be cleaning all the time? Is it really worth it? Maybe its time to stop being disgusted that two grown adults can’t keep a small home clean. Maybe it is time to find out what the real clutter problems are,  so that I can solve them before our son arrives in May. I don’t want to be worrying about cleaning all the time, and I definitely don’t want my son to grow up walking on eggshells and trying not to make a mess. I want to cherish all of the time that I have with him. But deep down, in my neurotic soul, I also would like a house that doesn’t look like a house party gone wrong the minute I relax a little. However, another part of deep down me is something of a hoarder that can’t bear to throw out pictures drawn for me by former students, old christmas and birthday cards, or get rid of clothes that never fit right. It is definitely a battle as those two sides attempt to fight it out! I aspire to achieve balance in these areas. I want our home to feel comfortable, but arrange it so that tidying only takes a few minutes because everything has a place. As for deep cleaning, perhaps I can set up some kind of loose schedule for that! I’ll have more time to deep clean if I’m not constantly relocating clutter.

I’ve decided to identify a few of the messy culprits in our home.

Papers

You know how it is, every day you get a huge stack of grocery store circulars, actual bills that matter and maybe a few political ads in the mail. We are terrible at sorting our mail right away. Things that need to be kept and filed are mixed in with old catalogues. This can lead to mild panic for the sixty seconds that I think I accidentally threw out our new insurance cards. Not worth all of the drama.

Solution: I need to set up a system of sorting things right away and immediately discarding junk. I  need to firmly I ask my husband if he is ever really going to read his issues of Popular Mechanic. We recently found an old mail sorter/whiteboard thing that we are going to be hanging in the pantry. Bonus: it also has space to hang our keys. I’ve finally started hanging up some family photos, and will continue to hang up more favorites as time goes on. As for those old pictures and cards, I’m going to keep the ones that are most meaningful, and file them away, and mercilessly throw out the rest. Ugh is that hard for anyone else?

Clothes and Laundry

I have a habit of letting laundry pile up, especially after we’ve had guests and we have a bunch of linens and towels to wash. Right now, I’m still doing laundry almost every day to catch up. This is not a habit I want to be in- especially as we plan to cloth diaper our son, which will mean another load of laundry every other day. Plus, I feel like we can never fit all of our clothes in our dresser and closet. So then I let the laundry pile up because I don’t know where to put it! Part of this is the fact that my husband and I share a dresser, and part of this is that we have way too many things that we don’t wear taking up space. We also have a bad habit of coming home and plopping our coats right on the back of the kitchen chairs, and my purse goes right on the table.  This winter has been pretty fickle, so we are constantly alternating between our lighter coats and winter jackets.

Solution: I need to seriously reevaluate what I do and do not wear, and encourage my husband to do the same. No more feeling obligated to keep a stained top that I can wear only if I find a sweater to go over it, or that hand me down dress that never fit right. If it’s damaged I need to let it go, if it is in good condition, but never worn, I need to donate it. Soon, my son will be inheriting our dresser, so my husband is  planning to build us a wardrobe for our bedroom that will better suit our needs. I have also started doing complete loads of laundry before I start another one. This means less piles of clean laundry waiting around to be folded. My husband also hung up some coat hooks in the kitchen. Hopefully soon we’ll remember to hang up coats, put keys away, and sort the mail immediately! This will mean a tidier kitchen table for more family meals and a clean space for my husband to study.

Knick-knacks

I love a cute knick-knack! I have a ton of candles that I love the smell of (when I’m not pregnant), as well as pretty glassware and a collection of salt and pepper shakers. I love the little sheep that lives on the counter and my postcards of foxes on dates that line my kitchen shelf.   That’s not all, but you get the gist. However, these are all things that take up space and get dusty. After awhile, there are so many of them, that things just look dusty, messy and cluttered, and you don’t even notice how pretty that vase is, or that those salt and pepper shakers are shaped like sea shells.

Solution: I’ve decided anything that is broken and not easily fixed must go. I am keeping only my favorite candles, and some will go into the attic to be rotated out by season.  My postcards will be framed and hung up in baby boy’s room. I will keep two sets of salt and pepper shakers in the kitchen, and the rest will be cleaned and relocated into our china cabinet. I can rotate them out whenever I want a change! My goal is to clean as many flat surfaces as possible to keep things from looking cluttered, and create more space for using the kitchen.

Not having a dishwasher

This is a tough one. I just need to better keep up with dishes and not let things pile up! Sometimes this will be inevitable when I cook a big meal or have company. I have learned to buy paper plates and cups when we are having a lot of company, so that we don’t spend the entire time doing dishes.

 

A Cluttered fridge

Anyone else find  themselves plagued by a cluttered fridge? Two weeks ago I did a big fridge cleanup and wiped down the shelves and drawers. I also threw out expired condiments and emptied old containers of food that made their way toward the back of the fridge to hide- gross!

Solution: Now that I have a basically tidy fridge, I check it every time before I do dishes for old food containers that need to be washed. I also quickly  glance at each shelf before grocery shopping to see if anything needs to be thrown away. Doing this has kept things pretty clean for the past two weeks!

There are so many more areas in my home that need tidying, but these are the spaces I am trying to conquer first. My current plan of attack is to declutter room by room and try to donate or throw out what is unused.  I know that goes against the Kondo method- has anyone read The Life -Changing Magic of Tidying Up? I am waiting for my turn to borrow it from the library! For now, these methods have been working for me- we’ll see if I change my mind after reading.  I guess nesting is kicking in, but I want to simplify things as much as possible before May! I know life is only going to get crazier with a baby and two pups! Luckily my husband is a big help and will get into cleaning mode if I encourage him!

My main message of encouragement to anyone out there who has similar issues is to make your home a space that works for your own needs! My parents recently decided they needed a pantry near the kitchen more than that coat closet. My dad built custom shelves into the closet and it’s been a game changer! It frees up a lot of needed cabinet space for them. The coats were relocated and the space just works better for them. While you want your house to be a welcoming space for guests, also remember that you and your family are the ones who live there every day, and you are the one’s cleaning it! Make it a place that you love to live, rest and create in. Living in an older home means that we alway have a list of updates that we are trying to gradually fit into the budget. However, the things that need to be improved don’t bother me nearly as much as clutter and mess. I love our house, warts and all- but I do know I feel more content and creative in a tidy space. Don’t live among the chaos if it’s stressing you out.

Good luck tidying up!