12.30.2014

The Art of Decluttering


I can hardly wait for the first of the year to be here so I can start Peter Walsh's "#31Days2GetOrganized" again!  Were you wondering if I was going to do it again?  Can your Instagram or Facebook news feed handle it again?!  Don't worry, I'm going to do it differently this THIRD time.  After going through it twice now, completing 62 challenges (here's where I started exactly a year ago, here's what I learned, and here's where I did it again (see videos below)), I've come a long way and letting go of stuff isn't as hard as it used to be, tell it to your neighbor!  For me, one of the keys to letting go is bringing all the stuff (the "challenge" of the day) out to one spot.  When I'm alarmed by the quantity, I can let go.


For example when I brought all the toys from around the house into one spot and it covered the living room floor, I was alarmed and letting go was easy!


So this time I'm going to bring it all out (whatever the challenge of the day is) and do something fun and creative with the "stuff".  This will help me look forward to the challenge and not procrastinate.  I'll take one photo of the creation and post it on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtags #TheArtOfDecluttering and #31Days2GetOrganized.  Follow along by liking my Facebook page or following me on Instagram.


If you're interested in doing the challenges too, that would make me very happy!  The more friends doing this together the more motivating it is to finish.  Watch Peter's intro video (above), he's as excited as I am for this to start!  To participate, like his page and/or subscribe to his YouTube channel for the daily challenges!  It's a 10-15 minute challenge a day for 31 days in January.  If you'd like to see the progress I've made, watch the two video's below:





I can't wait, it's going to be fun!  Join me!

12.21.2014

5 Tips to Help Your Holiday

I often say to myself, "There's got to be a better way."  Then, I do my best to come up with that better way.  These next 5 tips are things I've come up with that might help your Holiday.  When things are easier, simpler and faster, there is less stress.  And we all could use a little less stress over the next couple weeks, right?!


The Amazing Gallon Ziploc!  Saran Wrap and Aluminum Foil drive me crazy, they're messy and they don't really seal.  Press'n Seal bothers me because it leaves behind a residue.  The gallon bag is my "better way".  I try to store everything in it, a pie, a plate of leftovers, a bowl of dip without a top...  Just slide it in and zip it closed, piece of cake... or pie!


Leave the ice cream top in the freezer.  Next time your serving ice cream or just eating from the pint, avoid the messy melting top and instead leave it behind in the freezer.  When you return your ice cream to the freezer, put the 'still frozen' top back on, tell it to your neighbor!


Cheeky Disposable Goods.  During the holidays it's hard to keep the house clean with young kids.  We are in and out of the house dropping stuff and going to the next thing.  This is when I break out the disposable goods for a few days.  This Cheeky brand at Target donates a meal for every item purchased!  You can read more about it, here.  Their plastic cups are recyclable!


Teach them Slapjack.  When you run out of things to do and the kids run out of patience waiting for the big meal, grab a deck of playing cards and teach them Slapjack.  I did this at Thanksgiving and I think this epic game lasted over an hour and a half!  Here's how to play: Slapjack.  I'd say this game is for 5 year olds and up but 4 year olds can play, too if there's an older kiddo to help them.


Instacart.  The grocery store is one of my least favorite places to go.  I've used Instacart a couple times when my husband has been out of town and I've been in a bind (or I just didn't want to take two tired kiddos into a pre-thanksgiving grocery store).  It's an app on your phone, it's grocery delivery for a small fee and the first time is free!  Download the app, enter your zip and see if the service is in your area.  If it's not, my prediction is it will be soon!

12.08.2014

Free Shipping: Who's got it and for how long?

What's the difference between shopping in the store and shopping online?  Shipping costs and traffic.  Well, you can avoid both with this list I've compiled of twelve sites offering free shipping, tell it to your neighbor!  I've also included the deadline for free shipping, some of the smart sites have it all the time.


#1.  Nordstrom - Free Shipping.  Free Returns.  All the time.  (Why can't all retailers follow this model!) Check out the cool stuff in their Pop-In gift shop.


#2.  Amazon - Free Shipping on orders over $35 until 12-30-14.  (Remember when Amazon was all books, ha!  The two books above, Erin Gates and Sarah Richardson, are on my wish list!)



#3.  Target - Get free standard shipping just for the holidays.  (I'm not sure when their holidays end, it's not listed on the website.)



#4.  St. Bernard Sports - Free 3 day shipping and returns on all orders.  My husband loves to shop off this site, great sales!  (We're getting these Yeti Ramblers for the adults in our family, they are TITYN amazing!  Keeps your drink warm for hours!)

#6.  YoYo - Free 2-day delivery or faster on $49+.  No end date.  I had to include YoYo even though they have a minimum because you can't beat 2-day delivery and they have saved my last-minute booty so many times!


#7.  Zappos - Free 2 business day shipping.  Free Returns.  All the time.  Zappos is so reliable and almost magical with the turnaround!  Think UGG slippers and ear muffs for gifts!



#8. Kendra Scott - Free Ground Shipping on all orders.  No minimums + free returns.  Ends 12/18. This is fantastic!  Check out her under $55 gift guide and color bar.



#9. Urban Outfitters - Free Shipping, No Minimum, Ends Today 12/8!


#10.  GlassyBaby - forever free shipping on every glassybaby everyday.  And every glassy baby gives to organizations that support people in all kinds of need.  Check out their beautiful sets.


#11. The Scholastic Store - Free standard shipping on book orders over $35.  This applies to only books and not books on sale.  Looks like you'll want to order by 12/12 for Christmas delivery.


#12.  L.L. Bean - Free Shipping. No minimum order.  No end date.  L.L. Bean has GoPros, if you know someone who has one, just get them an accessory and they'll be happy!  And you can't beat L.L. Bean's customer service, last year they sent me a $25 gift card because my delivery was late.

I hope this list helps make your Holiday shopping easy, thoughtful and fast!  And happy without traffic! :)

****************Addendum*****************

After I published this post, I got several emails offering free shipping!  Here's an additional list:

Serena and Lily - Free Shipping with code FESTIVE.  Offer ends at 11:59 (PT) on 12/9/14.
PBS Kids Shop - Free Shipping no minimum, ends today 12/8.  
West Elm - Free Shipping today only 12/8 with code OHMERRYDAY, excludes furniture, rugs and SMEG appliances.
Pottery Barn Kids - Free Shipping with code FREESHIP, excludes furniture, ends tonight 12/8.

12.01.2014

Insta-card Round Up

Some years I know the exact photo and the exact card I want to use for our Christmas cards.  Other years I have no idea because the possibilities are endless!  This is one of the years I can't decide on the picture(s) or the card.  I'm torn because I love our professional family photos we had done for the first time in 3 years and then I like the idea of using one or several of my favorite Instagram photos.


With Instagram, most of the time I'm the photographer, I've cropped and filtered the photo and the picture I share is a special moment in our lives.  So, my Instagram feed is a scrapbook of all my favorite photos.  It seems only natural to use one or several of these for our Christmas Card.  I love this idea so much that I've compiled a collection for you.  This is a collection of my favorite cards that will work with your favorite Instagram posts!  

First category is the Insta-Grid.  The Insta-grid card features a collection of photo highlights from the past year:

Polaroid Collection

Family Snapshots Christmas Photo Card - Minted - Griffenbell Paper Co.

Then there's the Selfie category.  This overused word becomes cute again when you say "Have your SELFIE a Merry Little Christmas!":

Have Yourselfie Christmas Photo Card - Minted - Kelli Hall

 I like this one (above) so much that I had to insert one of my favorite family selfies.

Selfie Holiday Photo Card - Minted - Design Market

Next is the Single Square category.  Instagram is all square photos. These cards keep that composition for you, no need to zoom or crop your favorite Instagram of the year.:

Warmest Wishes - Pink - Paperless Post - J.Crew
This card (maybe my favorite) was designed my J.Crew.  Had to try out one of my most loved instas in it!
Konfetti - Photo - Paperless Post - Kelly Wearstler

Last category is A Few Favorites.  These cards are for instagram squares but only a few favorites because the grid might take too long to customize, ha!:

Modern Candy Stripes Holiday Photo Card - Minted - Kimberly Morgan
Holiday Stripes - Paper Culture
Love, Peace and Hope - Paper Culture

Wait there is one more!  This next card is just because I love it (another one designed by J.Crew) and I used a fun selfie from our Colorado vacation:

Farewell to '14 - Pink - Paperless Post - J.Crew

Now, neighbors, don't stress about your card.  People plan weddings in less time than we have to order, address and send our cards.  Have fun finding the card you love.  This Holiday tradition is the best, December is the only month I watch for the mail carrier, ha!

Below is a little Cyber Monday information about the collection of cards in this blog post.  All the cards in this post are from Minted, Paper Culture or Paperless Post.  Here's a breakdown of what each site is offering:

Minted - 15% off + free shipping on Holiday Cards.  Use code 15CM.  Ends 12/2.  Plus, for a limited time, the Minted Envelope is free!
Paper Culture - 50% off Holiday Cards and Stationary.  Ends 12/4.
Paperless Post - 30% off sitewide + free ground shipping.  Use code WINTER30.  Ends 12/2.

Happy sending and receiving Holiday snail mail!

9.26.2014

New Finds in Round Top


We are back from another awesome early weekend at The World's Best Antiques Fair in Round Top, Texas!  Even though we've visited twice a year for about 6 years, this trip was full of wonderful firsts.  These firsts have qualified as "FINDS" worthy of sharing with your neighbor!  So before you head out to the shows this weekend or next, jot down these finds for a SWEET experience!


First up, Shivers Shaved Ice.  Forget the antiques, I will drive to Round Top tomorrow just to have another one of these bad mama jamas.  It's the Junk Sho' Jo consisting of cold brew coffee shaved ice and sweet cream topped with whip and chocolate drizzle.  I also had the Brown Cow, root beer shaved ice stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with sweet cream.  My sister said it's the best sweet treat she's ever had and I'll have to agree!


Just look for their Air Stream trailer at the top of the Round Top square.  One more thing about this, you know that shaved ice texture that everybody talks about and everybody wants?  Shiver's has it, tell it to your neighbor.


Next is a new rug source with amazing prices!!!  The vendor is called Djem and the guy we worked with is Talat, I really liked him and I was his first sale of the show!  I bought the rug pictured above, it's made of pieced together rag rugs, they look like the Swedish rugs in my Grandma's house, so it's nostalgic to me.  I love how the overall look is white but it still has a lot of color.  It's an 8' x 7' size rug.  He said $400, I said $300 and then he said, "Because you're my first sale, sold!"


Check out his patchwork Union Jack made of over-dyed antique rugs, love it.  I was impressed by the quality (the backing was black felt), price and design of his rugs.  Talat is located in between Arbors Antiques and Chelsea's Meadow and his stuff is split between two tents.  So you could park at either show and walk to him.


Jumping back to food.  My sister and I were talking on the way home about how our favorite foods in Round Top are becoming just as much of a priority as our favorite tents/shows, maybe more exciting!  This sandwich stop was suggested to us by Paige Hull, the owner of the house we stayed in, more on that below.  It's the Texas Rose Cafe located in the Texas Rose Antique Show, across the street and catty-corner from the Marburger Farm Antique Show.   It's in a temporary building where orders are taken at the window and then tables and chairs are outside, we went and ate in my car it was so hot in the sun!  Anyway, the chicken salad sandwich was soooooooo good!  And if you've ever tried to feed kids out at Round Top you'll be happy know she has a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich on the menu, served with apple sauce and veggie straws, tell it to your neighbor, this is a huge find!


Murielle with French Influence located at Old Henry Farm has become a new favorite for furniture but this time she had amazing lamps, too!  I brought these horse head lamps home, they are huge and awesome!  BTW - If you're looking for Jeffree with Lone Ranger Antiques, the Swedish fella, he's not at Old Henry anymore, you can find him nearby, across the street at McClaren's Interiors (look for red telephone booths).


Next, a natural new favorite is Recycling The Past.  They are located at Ex-cess in the back right corner tent.  He has an amazing collection of geodes, petrified wood, agate accessories, sculptural blobs of glass and sinks carved out of river rock.  The most amazing thing was a giant bathtub carved out of a giant river bolder.  I think these white geodes from Morocco were $10 a pound.  I scooped up the small matching set in the bottom of the picture, it's beautiful and sparkling!


Great news!  Blue Hills has a new restroom building, this makes two on their property!  It's located at the end of their newest building, furthest from the highway.  When I left this restroom with clean hands I thought about how nice it was to not feel disgusting like I had earlier after leaving the porta-potty.


Last BNL, where we stayed, The Vintage Round Top.  We lucked into getting to stay here and it's all because we connected with the owner on Instagram, ha!  There was a cancellation over the summer and we grabbed the spot as fast as we could!


I loved this house!  The 2400 square foot renovated home sleeps 6 and is located on the main highway driving through Round Top.  We could take a walk out the front door and cross the street to an antique show, this upped the ante for our next Round Top trip, ha!  I felt like Round Top Royalty being able to do that!  This home felt like my home, I was comfortable enough to actually sleep in!  That's not easy these days!


The care and the details the owners, Paige and Smoot Hull, have put into this house do not go unnoticed!  Take a look at all of it!  We had a great stay, made great memories and I loved drinking my coffee on a swing under a tree.  Oh! I should mention another first, for dinner on Friday night Paige hooked us up with Melissa from The Bake Shoppe in Cypress, Texas.  We were able to order family style dinner from them and she met us at 290 and Spring Cypress, loaded us up and we took our food on up to Round Top.  I wish you could have heard us devouring the Chicken Spaghetti, homemade bread, green beans and cookies, delicious!!!


As an update to those that follow on Instagram, I decided not to get the pink sofa.  I put my 'no impulse buy' rule into place.  If I'm still thinking about it in a week, I'll call the guy.  I have several projects I want to complete before tackling another one!  If you want to grab the pink for yourself, it's at Chelsea's Meadow.  He said he'd sell it to me for $300.  Go for it!

For my previous Round Top posts, click here.  You'll find a how-to on going to Round Top!

9.16.2014

More Talking = Less Shame, More Hope

Artist Peter Tunney
My sponsor in Al-Anon sent a video (below) to me this morning, I watched it while I put my make-up on and I'm sharing it with you as fast as I can.  Amber Valletta does an amazing job of explaining and educating on the disease of addiction.  I feel like watching this was like listening to a healthy version of my Mom.  I feel like I have a better understanding of this progressive disease.  Thank you Amber for sharing your story because More Talking Equals Less Shame, tell it to your neighbor.  Video:



Next, I've been wanting to share this message on Hope.  I heard it in church a couple weeks ago and I've been wanting to share it but didn't have the courage to do so for fear of how you'd receive it.  Thanks in part, to Amber, I have no fear of that this morning!  Start watching at 38 mins for the message of Hope.  Video:


9.08.2014

How To Give a Baby a Bath


This is a picture of me and my beautiful 3 week old Baby Girl almost 7 years ago!  I look a little freaked in the picture but just think of me as a 3 week old new mom.  I've been thinking about this time period because our Cousin and his Wife became new parents last week and brought home a baby girl!  Any time there is a First Time Mom in my atmosphere I can't stop thinking about her.  I can't stop thinking about her because becoming a new mom was so hard for me!  I didn't know what I was doing and I wanted instructions, ha!  I wish the law required a nurse to come home from the hospital with a new mom and stay with the new family for a week.  It would have been nice to say to a nurse at 3 am, "Is this normal?" or "Should she be crying now?  I just fed her and I got a really good burp and she just woke up from a 4 hour nap!"  And it would have been amazing to have a nurse say to us, "Dear, it looks like your baby gets overstimulated easily, why don't you think about limiting visitors." or "Sweetie, you're having postpartum symptoms, I'll take the middle of the night feeding, we'll do a bottle of formula and it will be okay, you need rest."


This was my daughter's first bath.  It was terrifying because I thought the bath was supposed to be relaxing and calming.  But, it wasn't!  I didn't know why she was upset and it took a long time to calm her down.  I felt helpless!  This was so traumatic for us that I went searching for help.  Thank goodness a co-worker had given me a book that had helped his new family, Secrets of The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau.  It was the only baby help book we had in the house and I tore through it so searching guidance.  My sleep-deprived self clung to the book!


The author of the book, was a nurse, tell it to your neighbor!!!  Secrets of The Baby Whisperer was a game changer for me, I adopted her E.A.S.Y. routine and her advice made a big difference.  The section I want to share with you so is titled, "Bathing 101: My Ten-Step Guide" because it saved me!


When you read this excerpt I'm sharing below, take only what helps you and leave the rest.  The author's style of writing makes it seem like it's this way or the highway, this could send a new sleep-deprived mom into a downward spiral.  In fact, my pediatrician had to suggest to me at the time to put down the book because, in his words, "baby parenting books can make parents feel inadequate."  So read this only as a "guide" and know that using one or all of the ideas can lead to a happier and easier bath time.  Here is Tracy Hogg's Ten-Step Guide on giving a baby a bath:

Bathing 101: My Ten-Step Guide
Below is the bathing procedure that I teach to my clients.  Each step is important.  Before you even begin, have everything on hand (see sidebar below), so that there's a minimum of fumbling when you take your slippery baby out of the water.  By the way, I know that some people say you can bathe a baby in the kitchen sink, but I prefer the bathroom - it's where bathing ought to take place.
     As you read the steps, remember that you also have to maintain a dialogue with your baby throughout.  Keep talking.  Listen and watch for his response, and continue to tell him what you're doing.
Bath Essentials
  • Flat-bottomed plastic tub (I like to prop it on a bath stand rather than the floor, because that's easier on one's back, and because that's easier on one's back, and because the stands usually have drawers and a shelf to keep everything in easy reach)
  • Pitcher of warm, clean water
  • Liquid baby wash
  • Two washcloths
  • Hooded or oversized towel
  • Clothes and fresh diaper ready on the changing table
1.  Set the mood.  Make sure the room is warm (72-75 degrees Fahrenheit).  Put on music - any kind of gentle pop music (it's to help you relax as well).
2.  Fill the tub two-thirds full.  Put a capful of baby wash directly into the water.  The temperature should be around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly warmer than body temperature.  Test the water on the inside of your wrist, never your hand; the water should feel warm, not hot, because Baby's skin is more sensitive than yours.
3.  Pick up your baby.  Place the palm of your right hand on your baby's chest, and scissor your fingers so that three fingers go under his left armpit and your thumb and index finger rest on his chest. (Reverse that if you're a lefty.) Slide your left hand behind his neck and shoulders and gently bend his body forward, transferring the weight of his body onto your right hand.  Now place your left hand under his bum and lift.  With him slumped over your right hand, he's now in a sitting position, bent forward slightly and perched on you left hand.
Never lower a baby into the tub on his or her back.  It's disorienting
to an infant, somewhat like going backward off a diving board.
4.  Put him in the tub.  Slowly lower your baby into the tub in that sitting position, his feet first and then his bum.  Then transfer your left hand to the back of his head and neck to support him.  Very slowly ease him back into the water.  Now your right hand is free.  Use it to wet a washcloth on his chest to keep him warm. 
5.  Don't use soap directly on Baby's skin.  Remember that you've put some baby wash in the water.  With your fingers, wipe his neck and groin area.  Lift his legs a bit so you can get to his bottom.  Then take a little pitcher and pour the water over his body to rinse the soapy water off.  He hasn't been playing in the sandbox, luv, so he's not really dirty.  His bath at this point is more for establishing a routine than for cleanliness.  
6.  Use a wash cloth around his head to wash his hair.  Very often babies haven't got much hair.  Even if they do, they don't need a shampoo and set.  Take the open washcloth and wipe it around his scalp.  Pour fresh water to rinse, taking care not to get water in baby's eyes.
Never leave a baby unattended in a bathtub.  If by chance you've
forgotten the baby wash, just rinse him or her with clean water
this time, and remember to have everything ready for the next bath.
7.  Don't get water in his ears.  Make sure the hand that's supporting his back doesn't dip too low in the water.
8.  Get ready to end the bath.  With your free hand, grab the hooded towel (or an oversized towel without a hood).  Put the hood (or the corner of the oversized towel) between your teeth and tuck the ends under your armpits.
9.  Take the baby out.  Carefully shift your baby into the sitting position you used at the beginning of the bath.  Most of his weight should be on your right hand, which, with fingers scissored, is supporting his chest.  Lift him up, his back toward you, and place his head in the center of your chest a little under where the hood, or where the corner of the big towel, is.  Wrap the ends of the towel under his body and flop the hood or towel corner over his head.
10.  Take him to the changing table to get dressed.  Do it the exact same way for the first three months.  There's security in repetition.  In time, depending on your baby's nature, instead of getting into his jammies straight-away, you can add a massage to this time of relaxation.
Source: Hogg, Tracy, Melinda Blau. Secrets of The Baby Whisperer. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005.


This is a picture of my Baby Boy's first bath, a happier experience because I was equipped with tools and experience.


For a new mom it's hard to see the forest for the trees.  The mind hasn't had rest to allow for clear thinking.  It helps if someone reminds you every now and then, that babies get older, you get wiser and eventually they sleep and you will, too.  New moms need a sponsor, a cheerleader that's been through it, that's not a relative.  Maybe I should start a program!

Please pass this post to a new mom, a new dad, a babysitter, a grandparent, anyone who has never known or has forgotten How To Give A Baby A Bath.