Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas at Our House

As promised in my last post, here are some photos of Christmas at our house.  Is there anything more magical than the twinkle of lights on a tree?  Oh, the glowing white and colored orbs against the dark of night...sigh.  I could keep them up forever (: 

We use the same decorations year after year.  Cherished ornaments that each have a memory attached adorn the tree. The wreaths on the mirrors were purchased from the dollar store many moons ago, but with a simple tweak of berries and ribbon they shine.  This year we were very fortunate to receive free poinsettias from our local grocery (Earthfare) and I love them on the mantel.  We have stockings, but didn't use them this season.

Garland and white lights frame the barn window in the dining area with a wreath hanging in front.  Please excuse the unpainted column on the bar...I still haven't painted that thing yet.  It's just sitting there in a mocking fashion, waiting for a coat of white (:  More garland and white lights grace the top of the kitchen cabinets along with a couple of giant Santa coffee cups, but things were not yet all in place when I took this photo.  I've decided to keep lights up there from now on because the glow is wonderful and helps to keep the cave-like kitchen illuminated (:

Apartment living makes it a little more challenging to go crazy with the lights and decor, but our little snowmen love to sit outside and greet passers by with a Happy Noel (: 

Each year we purchase rosemary trees to place in the baskets, but this year I wanted to use a no-cost alternative.  I gathered evergreen cuttings and pine cones from outside and then mixed in decorative berries and red Christmas ball ornaments to make it festive.  Simple, free and cute!

Now, what would Christmas be without an inflatable outdoor decoration??!!  When did these become so popular?  I purchased Santa a few years ago on sale for $10 and he's been a hit with the kids ever since (:  Garland with white lights frame the door and the wreath is the same berry wreath I used for the fall.  I just removed the grasses and goldenrod and substituted evergreens.

This is a view of the tree in my bedroom. Please forgive the fuzzy, dark photo (: My father gave me a couple of slim Christmas trees many years ago when I lived in a much smaller apartment.  They're called pencil trees and are perfect for cramped spaces.  Now that we have a large tree taking center stage in the living room, the pencil trees offer a touch of Christmas cheer in each bedroom.

This year decorating was much more fun thanks to my niece and nephews.  My niece assisted with the lights and garland and then each child carefully placed special ornaments of their choosing (:  Afterwards we had cocoa, lit the candles in the fireplace and watched a Veggie Tales Christmas movie.  We finished off the night with a drive through Christmas Town to see even more lights and Santa as he made his nightly walk through the village.  Such great memories that will last a lifetime (:

This holiday season has been a different one for us.  Simplicity has been at the core and it has made the celebrating so much sweeter. When we tear away the busyness and commercial emphasis, we begin to really appreciate the great gift that was given many years ago...love.  I do believe we have started a new tradition and one that we will continue for years to come.  May you have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!!



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Friday, December 10, 2010

Abundance During Tough Times


Tough times...it seems to be a common thread in many of our discussions today.  Topics of job loss, cut wages, lay-offs and downsizing can be a pattern interrupt to the concept of the daily grind.  If you've ever experienced any of these life altering events, the daily grind doesn't seem so bad, eh?  Everything in perspective (:

We all know leaner times are at hand for many of us...it happens.  When the tide rolls in, it must also roll back out to the sea.  Nothing ever stays the same, which is a good thing.  It gives us the opportunity to discover hidden treasures left behind by the constant movement of waves as they crash the shores of life over and over again.  We have just gone through this ebb and flow period ourselves and find our income reduced by 75%.  The "old me" would have panicked at the thought of such a thing, especially during Christmas, but the "wiser me" has been filled with thoughts of abundance.

Now, I have to be honest...my first response was a bit in the realm of frazzled nerves, but it soon gave way to comfort in the hands of a loving God who knows our every need.  He's taken care of us so far...why would He drop the ball now?  (:

This journey of simplicity over the last year has been a great teacher.  Being thankful for the many blessings already present, learning how to prepare a whole foods pantry, reducing debt and expenses, making things instead of rushing out to purchase new items, buying used and saving the difference, repairing instead of tossing, creating handmade treasures, cherishing time spent at home, streamlining products to make sure they pull double-duty, appreciating the art of frugality, letting go of things to honor what really matters, getting rid of clutter to make room for new ideas and possibilities...all of these things have created such an air of abundance that lack can't even enter the space (:

So if you find yourself in tough times, take heart and know that many of us are traveling right beside you on this journey.  It might seem as if your world is crashing in around you, but just put one foot in front of the other and move forward no matter how devastating it may feel.  Keep your eyes open because possibilities abound to those who think outside of the box.  Don't allow your current circumstances to overwhelm the blessings that are waiting to be discovered.  When we operate in thankfulness and have gratitude in our hearts, it opens the door to abundance.

This Christmas will be a simple one, but isn't that really the way Christmas should be celebrated?  Sad to say these days the focus tends to be on the gifts, food and fun times instead of abundant thankfulness for the greatest gift of all...Jesus.  Over the next two weeks I'll bring you into our home to show how we're choosing to celebrate this year...decorating, gift giving, organizing, etc.  Hopefully our simple, frugal Christmas will inspire and encourage others to seek out a different way of embracing the holidays...a way that allows abundance to shine forth, even in tough times (:



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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time Saving Tip - Easy Thanksgiving Meal


This year I've decided to adopt no-muss, no-fuss holiday celebrating.  The focus should be giving thanks, celebrating connections with others and just plain ol' gratitude in abundance.  So to make sure we have things in the perspective (gratitude first, eating second) our Thanksgiving meal will be pretty simple...nothing fancy, just tasty favorites from the past (: 

Here's a run down of our traditional meal...
  • turkey
  • dressing
  • gravy
  • potato salad
  • corn
  • green beans
  • cranberry sauce
  • sweet potatoes
  • deviled eggs
  • fresh fruit plate
  • fresh veggie plate
  • pumpkin pie
  • pecan pie
  • coconut cake
Let me tell ya, that's more carb in a meal than I'd like to see, but it's the holiday so we don't hold back (:  One thing that really helps to save time is making things in advance.  I've already gotten a frozen turkey and he's sitting happily in the freezer waiting for his debut.

The coconut cake and homemade cranberry sauce will be made on Monday and kept in the freezer until Thursday morning.  The dressing (heat and serve), pies (thank you Mrs. Smith) and sweet potatoes will be made Tuesday.  The potato salad, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, fruit and veggie trays are happening on Wednesday and then finally Mr. Bird, gravy, corn and green beans will be the only items actually cooked on Thanksgiving Day.

I was debating over cooking him ahead of time with a little heat 'n' serve action the day of, but decided the smell of a cooking turkey wafting through the air on Thanksgiving day was well worth the extra effort earlier in the morning.

I usually like to make things from scratch, but this year a few shortcuts are in order to make things easier.  Here are the "recipes" that I'll be using for this year's festivities...
 
Coconut Cake
  • Sour cream pound cake from the grocery bakery
  • 2 packs of fresh frozen coconut
  • 2 large containers of whip topping (not something we normally use in our house, but okay twice a year)
In a bowl mix 1 1/2 containers of cool whip with 1 1/2 packs of coconut to create the light, airy "frosting."  If you'd like a heavier weight "frosting" simply add a package of cream cheese.  (The other half of the Cool Whip will be used for the pumpkin pie and the leftover half of coconut with be used to sprinkle on top of the cake). 

Spread mixture on each layer and "put the cake back together."  Then frost the cake with the rest of the Cool Whip/coconut mixture and sprinkle on the remainder of fresh coconut.  This is such a simple recipe, but you'll be very pleased with the results.  I've been told it rivals any coconut cake made from scratch.

If you want to make this recipe even easier, simply get a big bowl, crumble the pound cake up and begin making layers.  One layer of crumbled pound cake, then a layer of "frosting," then more pound cake crumbles, more frosting mixture, etc. Top off with the fresh coconut.  During Easter we add strawberries to the mix for a lovely spring dessert.  For Christmas one year I layered in my fresh walnut cranberry sauce for a twist.  YUM!!
 
Cranberry Sauce
  • 2 packs of fresh cranberries
  • Enough orange juice to just cover the cranberries
  • The rind of one lemon and 1/2 an orange (I prefer to use a microplane)
Add cranberries, orange juice, lemon and orange rind to a pot and bring to a boil.  Keep stirring to make sure it doesn't burn.  You'll begin to hear the cranberries pop...once it becomes a little thicker, reduce the heat and cover.  Let it simmer until it reaches the preferred consistency. Some people like to add sugar but we like things a little on the tart side and simply add a touch of honey.  A cup of walnuts is awesome in this too!  Very simple, but so much better than something you'd get out of a can!
 
Dressing
  • 16 oz. package of Pepperidge Farm's Herb Seasoned Stuffing
  • 8 oz box Jiffy Cornbread mix
  • 32 oz of chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sage
SautĂ© onions and celery with a pat of butter.  Mix all ingredients, including onions and celery, in a bowl.  Grease a casserole dish and pour in mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Potato Salad
  • 8-10 large potatoes, diced
  • 6 chopped boiled eggs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1/8 cup of grain mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon of raw honey
  • 1 small jar of pimentos
  • Pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle of paprika
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (Make sure you have the right amount of salt to season the potatoes as you will not be able to add salt at any other time.)  Add diced potatoes and cook until tender but still firm...about 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl combine honey, mustard, mayonnaise and pepper to create the dressing. Then add the potatoes, eggs, onions, celery, pimentos and gently mix together.  (If you like your potato salad on the moist side, you may need to add a tad more mayo or mustard.) Top with a sprinkle of paprika. 

**Never add salt to the final mixture as it will draw out the moisture of the potatoes and create a puddle of water in the bottom of your bowl**

Deviled Eggs
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 2 Tablespoons of mustard (not dry mustard)
  • A dash paprika
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
After boiling eggs, slice those puppies open, place yolks into a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add mayonnaise, mustard, paprika, honey, celery seed, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. If the mixture is too dry for you, then add more mayo. Fill the empty egg white shells with the mixture and sprinkle lightly with paprika. 

Gravy
  • Turkey drippings
  • 1 cup cold chicken stock
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Place corn starch and 1/4 cup cold chicken stock in a large skillet and mix (I prefer to add stock and corn starch into a small jar with a lid and shake...it mixes much faster).  Pour turkey drippings from your roasting pan into the skillet along with the rest of the chicken stock, salt and pepper (as well as any other spices you love) and heat to a boil.  Immediately reduce heat and simmer to thicken.

So there we go!  An easy, breezy Thanksgiving meal plan that doesn't chain you to the kitchen for an entire day so you can enjoy the real reason for this season (:  



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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time Saving Tip - Chicken Broth


Here's a tip that I use all year long, but it's a great time saver as the holidays approach. Chicken broth is a staple used in so many of our dishes and there are a variety on the shelves today including organic options, but why buy canned when you can make your own and skip the MSG?

I'm a fan of things pulling double duty and chicken is the perfect example...it's not just the meat ingredient in your next dish, but it can make tons of broth for meals in the future!  When I bring the bird home I immediately give it a rinse, pop it into a stock pot, fill it with water until covered, add celtic salt, pepper, spices of your choice, a tad of butter and veggies (carrots, onions, garlic, celery or fennel).  Bring water to a boil then reduce heat and cover.  The length of time varies based on the size of the chicken, but a good way to judge is when the meat is falling off the bone...then it's ready!  Remove the chicken, debone and place in containers to be stored in the freezer.
  

Once the broth is cooled, remove the fat off the top and place it in a container to be stored in the freezer for later use, then scoop out any veggies (some people strain the broth but I don't) and pour broth into ice trays.  Yes, I said ice trays.  This is a great way to have stock on hand at any time and in easy portions.  Two cubes equal 1/4 cup.  The photo below was my first attempt years ago.  I forgot to scoop off the fat, so that's why you see a lovely yellow film on some of the cubes (:


It's such a time saver and adds a punch of flavor to any dish!!  During the holidays it's great to pop some of these little guys in with the turkey drippings to make an awesome gravy.  I love to add it to rice instead of using water and usually toss a few cubes in with my stir-fry veggies.  The options are endless!!


So the next time you bring that chicken home, take a few more minutes to make some stock which will save you money and tons of time (:


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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Apothecary Jars for the Holiday Table


I've been wanting to replace the fruit in our apothecary jars with beaded gourds and pumpkins to reflect the fall season but the desire for all things frugal has kept those desires at bay.  Sometimes beaded fruit can be a tad expensive and our large jars would need a good bit to fill them.


On a trip to Walmart for a few essentials I decided to peruse their sale section for any goodies that might be lurking on dusty shelves and sure enough, there they were...the very items I had in mind and they were on sale for $4 a box!  The addition of a couple of green pumpkins and a yellow gourd brought the total just under $10.  Not bad, eh?  For an added "buy me" factor the boxes came tied up in brown grosgrain ribbon and you know a frugal gal can always use ribbon (; SOLD!!
 

The first box included silk leaves and beaded pumpkins in two different sizes.  Close up they aren't that impressive, which is probably why they were only $4, but they'll be just fine buried among other items inside glass.


The second box contained pears, pomegranates, an apple, berries, pine cones and green leaves.  Of the two, this was my favorite...so many textures and warm colors, plus these items had a realistic quality, unlike the bright orange pumpkins.


I already had quite a few large pine cones left over from previous holiday decor projects and they helped to top off the tallest jar.  Right now these filled and happy guys are just hanging out on the table waiting for their next layer of love...can we say burlap?


Some branches, leaves and candles should finish things off.  I've been pondering over place setting ideas and can't wait to see everything together!  I'll make sure to post photos of the finished product once the holiday draws near (;



Thursday, November 4, 2010

White Dinnerware Entertaining for the Holidays


The holidays are fast approaching and that usually means family and friends gathering around the table.  If you're anything like me, thoughts of ways to make the meal special are already roaming about which probably includes tablescape ideas. We like to keep things simple and frugal...white dinnerware, cloth napkins, natural elements and of course candles (:
 

White dishes and bowls give the option of switching it up every year instead of being stuck with several sets of dinnerware in various hues and patterns.  Allow your natural elements and linens to be the communicators of difference. One year the colors could be blue and chocolate and the next year green and taupe with only a minimal investment.  Napkins and cute place cards only cost a few dollars, but dinnerware can be quite a bit more. Isn't this sweet little pumpkin much more interesting than turkey printed plate? These are the pumpkin gifts I made this year for our neighbors and they also make the perfect place card.



If you really have your heart set on those new dishes with just the right pattern, think of purchasing only a few pieces to add to your white collection.  Layering the different styles can make that one little plate of color really pop!


Simplicity not only means elegance at its best, but it can be a lifesaver during our busiest times.  Why clutter the schedule with worries of fancy arrangements and endless table chachkies?  Stick with a neutral palette and then add simple touches of color.  Now, just to get those wheels turning, here's an idea for Christmas...


So, as you plan your Thanksgiving celebration celebration keep it simple and enjoy the day.  Remember...cherished moments are made in the time you spend with those you love.



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cell Phones, iPhones and Texting


I went to a birthday party over the weekend and as with most birthdays, there was a flurry of activity.  Children running about, jumping inside giant bouncy houses and of course playing the ever so popular game of "catch me if you can!!"  Amongst the happy voices and screams of sheer delight I noticed a group of women sitting around one of the tables.  Normally such a thing would not catch my eye, but these women weren't chatting or even watching the children play...they were texting.  Eyes fixated on tiny screens and fingers furiously typing away...and the looks on their faces?  I call it the text glaze. 

What is so captivating about these little devices?  Why do they have such a hold on our society today...am I the only one who finds this strange? When did a chunk of plastic with wires become more important than relating to others?

Then you have the phone calls...an ever present conversation that starts in the car and continues as one rolls about doing errands with no thought given to others sharing the same space.  The clerk behind the counter or waiter in the cafe becomes an object and of course why would we communicate with an object?  Is the conversation really that important that the phone call can't wait until you're in a private space? {sigh}
 
When we fill our days with emails, chats, calls and texts, we miss out on those times of true connection.  Holding someone's hand, listening to a friend share her story as you look into her eyes and just being present relates to the soul in a way that no electrical gadget can. 
 
This journey of simplicity has opened my eyes in oh so many ways.  Clearing out the mindless minutia makes way to enjoy the abundance of grace in each moment. Little by little steps have been taken to reduce, simplify and streamline and one of the things I decided to pare down was my mobile phone.  Gone are the days of unlimited minutes, texts and web access. I have a home phone and one of those little "disposable" mobiles used only for emergencies and much to my surprise it's been a freeing experience!  If someone wants to reach me, they can call the house.  If I'm not there, they can simply leave a message. 
 
When did we become an all access society?  I remember the days when there weren't answering machines and we managed to make it through the day just fine.  Taking a break allows peace to move in and thankfulness to thrive.  We begin to see ourselves and others more clearly.  So as this Thanksgiving holiday approaches, try releasing some of those complexities that take you away from appreciating the moment.  You may be surprised at the peace you find (:



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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Great Fall Gift Idea for Neighbors

One of the things I miss about living in a house is the consistency of neighbors. Apartment living, at least in our area, can be very transitional. You may have neighbors for a couple of years, but they move out and new ones are on the way! It makes it harder to get to know those who share your walls. So as a way to connect and break down the barriers, we like to leave little seasonal "Thinking of You" gifts on our neighbors' doorsteps. For the fall season small pumpkins make an appearance. They can be used for Halloween and then flow right into Thanksgiving...frugal, and versatile all in one (:

We purchased the pumpkins this year from my church's yearly pumpkin patch (the money goes to support missions) and they only cost $.75 if I remember correctly....a frugal gift that keeps on giving. To create the cards I simply found a design online that felt like fall, added "Tis the Season..." on the front of the cards and included a little message on the inside, then printed them out on cardstock.

The cards were simply tied onto the pumpkins with coordinating ribbon and voilĂ ! Instant cute (: They also make wonderful place card holders that add tablescape interest during times of celebration and can be something for your guests to take home to remember the event.

So if you're looking for ways to reach out to neighbors and aren't quite sure what to do...leave a little "Thinking of You" gift and see what doors it will open (:



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Linking to: My Romantic Home, The Shabby Nest, Remodelaholic, Finding Fabulous, Just a Girl, Fingerprints on the Fridge, Chic on a Shoestring Decorating, Frou Frou Decor, Fun to Craft, Funky Junk Interiors, Tatertots and Jello, Craft Envy, Be Different Act Normal, 30 Handmade Days, It's a Hodgepodge Life, Pumpkin Seed Productions, Frugal and Fabulous Design, Sassy Sites, Momma's Kindacrafty

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Learning to Knit

Is there something you've always wanted to do but had no idea where to start? Knitting has been that elusive craft for me. The very idea of yarn and needles conjures images of warm cozy nights with family sitting by a crackling fire as children play games or read books...ah, the sheer delight. Neither of my Grandmothers knitted nor aunts or cousins...not even close friends or colleagues enjoyed this zen-like skill of creating, but I wanted to learn.

I hopped online to see if there might be a local group willing to educate this novice. Sure enough I found a few ladies who met once in a while to teach newbies and my first class was under way. A scarf was in the works, but soon things got busy and these new found techniques just became foggy and faded away.

I was eager to begin again, but hoping to find something closer to home that met more frequently. Sure enough...ask and ye shall find! Turns out my church has a prayer shawl ministry!! A group meets every Sunday afternoon to knit shawls for those in hospice and they were willing to teach! I was so excited...not only am I learning to do something that I've always wanted to do, but I'm also able to give back in some way. Here's my first prayer shawl in process...

Hopefully by next year I will have gained enough experience to knit gifts...I can see scarves, stuffed toys and baby blankets in the future (:

So if there's something you've always wanted to do, go for it!! No time like the present (: Look for those who know how to do what you want to learn and ask if they might be willing to teach. There are tons of videos on You Tube teaching so many things (even knitting) and it's a great resource to get you started. So jump in and enjoy the learning process (:



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Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Sausage Pasta - A Fall Delight

Pumpkin Pasta night is the most awaited night of early Fall. I came across this recipe several years ago on Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals show, made a few tweaks and it soon became a seasonal favorite to rival any comfort food. The Spinach Apple Salad is the perfect add for a well rounded meal.

Because we're a gluten-free household, brown rice penne pasta is used in place of wheat pasta and of course raw cream instead of pasteurized.

Pumpkin Sausage Pasta
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter (I prefer these healthy fats when cooking)
  • 1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (if you'd like more of a kick go spicy!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • 4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine (if you don't have wine, just replace with another cup of chicken stock)
  • 1 can of pumpkin (or 15-16 oz if you're baking a fresh pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup raw cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • Coarse salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound brown rice penne pasta (al dente)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano for grating

Directions:

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or butter to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil or butter, then garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until tender.

Add bay leaves, sage and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half (about 2 minutes). Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine. Continue stirring until sauce comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat and stir in cream. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Place drained pasta on serving dish. Remove the bay leaves from sauce and pour sauce over pasta. Garnish with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion:

  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 1 small Golden Delicious apple, quartered, cored, and sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (a couple of splashes) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon (a good drizzle) of raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • Celtic salt and black pepper to taste
  • A sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions:

Toss spinach, apples, onions, walnuts and cheese in a salad bowl.

Pour oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, fennel seeds, salt and pepper in a small jar or container with a tight lid. Shake to combine dressing for about 1 minute. Pour dressing over salad, toss and enjoy!

Yields 4 servings



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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Madsen Cycles in a Hue of Blue

Aren't these the cutest EVER?!! And now Madsen Cycles has my favorite color...blue! Bikes are great gas free transportation, but what about those days when a little basket on the handlebars won't do? The Madsen is the perfect solution. You'll be able to haul the groceries, plants, goodies from the hardware store or even a pet or two!
Right now they're having a giveaway for the 2011 model and I couldn't resist entering. It's bike love day (:



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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cupcake Love - A Thank You Gift

We've all had parties or gatherings where the beloved cupcake has made an appearance. These fun, compact bites of goodness can be decorated in oh so many ways, but the challenge comes in their transportation. There are tons of containers created specifically for this purpose, but some how, some way they never quite worked for us.

Then one day I came across a blog (can't remember which one) that suggested placing the cupcakes in clear cups and plastic wrap. Why did I not think of this before?? Genius!!! Such a cute idea, so easy to transport and makes a neat little "thinking of you" gift! You can even attach a note with a special message on the stick (which also comes in handy to get the cupcake out of the cup). Can you imagine the smile on a co-worker's face if one of these little guys showed up on her desk? What about a teacher, the mailman or even the lady behind the counter at the dry cleaners? Cupcake love is a neat way to show others you care.

Several days ago our complex had the roof shingles replaced. Notices were placed around the grounds to be cautious of falling tiles and debris as we entered our common areas. My first thought? Oh, this is going to be a mess! Ten buildings, not a lot of parking and things flying off the roof? Yikes!

One by one each roof was repaired, but I noticed something very different about this job. The workers were taking great care in what they were doing. We've had many crews come in for updates and maintenance over the years, but this group was different. Shrubs and bushes were carefully draped with canvas to protect the plants, yellow caution tape surrounded the areas that might be unsafe, plywood sheets covered windows that were near "throw zones" and any time we needed to enter our apartment we were greeted with the utmost of graciousness.

But the most amazing thing came at the end of the day...you would never have known they were there! Actually, the place looked better than before! Sidewalks were swept, mulch was arranged and I swear even the pine straw looked as if someone had fluffed the needles!

The guys were here for about a week and each day their dedication showed through. We wanted to thank them somehow to let them know the hard work they gave was much appreciated. Mom suggested making cupcakes to take during their break so we asked the foreman if that would be okay. "What? You want to give us cupcakes?" He looked as if he were in shock. "Ma'am, no one has ever done this for us before. In the 15 years I've been in construction no one has ever said thank you. Thank you so much for thinking of us!"

My heart sank. No one had EVER thanked them? This simple act of thankfulness was so rarely received that the foreman wanted to take a picture of us and the crew together...holding our cupcakes (: He said our gift was so kind that he wanted to send the photo to show his boss because he would never believe him. You never know what simple cupcake love can do (:

How often do we go about our day without even considering those around us? Have we become so consumed by our own world that we've lost touch of relating to others? It's so easy to see those in a service role as just someone doing a job...maybe that's why customer service isn't the same as it used to be.

So the next time you're out and about and notice someone that needs a lift or is doing a good job, offer encouragement, give a smile...or maybe even a cupcake (:



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Monday, October 18, 2010

Stuck in the Studio

This Pottery Barn room idea is the inspiration for my studio woes. It's a small studio with LOTS of stuff (much of it unnecessary) and over the last many months I've been purging, organizing and imaging the day when I can walk in and use it as a functioning space. Who knew it would take this long!!

Now that the busy season is well on its way, this project has been placed on the front burner. A work zone that works for me, not against me is the target (;

I love this office too with the neutral tones and touches of red...the light alone in this shot makes we want to crawl in the photo and begin working on new designs! Wouldn't it be great if we could just blink and our rooms would be ready for use? But alas...what would be the fun in that, eh?

This green is the same shade on my walls right now. Because the area is so small, it makes things quite dark. I'm adding beadboard in white to lighten it up just like they have here, plus it serves a function - a place to hang and organize items.

So, are your spaces organized and ready for the holidays? How does your work zone fare this time of year? Do you have any tips or suggestions...I'd love to hear them (;



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