Simple Things – Trim Your Cords!

After - No Dangling Cords

After - No Dangling Cords

You  might be surprised what a difference simple things can make in your home. This weekend I took a moment to shorten the cords on all our window shades. We had installed new roman shades a couple months ago to replace the hideous rental-standard mini-blinds but never got around to customizing the cord length. Now, instead of dragging on the ground, the cords fit neatly inside the window frame when the shades are up, and zip up to their inconspicuous hiding place when the shades are down.

Before - Cords Dangling

Before - Cords Dangling

This is a quick, easy, free fix. I trimmed the cords to the same length, replaced the original cord pulls, reknotted the cords, and secured the end of the cords by melting them for a second with a lighter (since they are a synthetic material). Due to the nature of our window treatments we did not shorten them to fit the window – but if you have blinds that use slats you can easily customize those to fit your window, too. Looks better, works better. I think that’s what is referred to as a “win-win”.

Excess Yardage.

Excess Yardage.

Housekeeping Tips and the Importance of Living Authentically

I ran across this link and wanted to share. I don’t make this thought explicit often enough in my blog, but the whole reason I write about things ranging from crafty projects to decorating to party planning to organization is that I believe doing small things to make your life more beautiful, aiming a little higher (like, to the stars, for instance…) will result in an exponentially improved life experience.

This blog caught my attention because its writer has the same goal I do. The first words of her blog post resonate with me:

In my endeavor to live life more fully, I’m always evaluating things I want to incorporate into my life and what things I DON’T want. I want to have a beautiful and organized home, but there are other things in life that are important to me too. I want my home to be in order so I am free to nurture relationships and enjoy living, but I don’t want to be a slave to my housekeeping routines.

So, how do I balance it all? I keep it simple.

Although the post that follows this introduction deals with housekeeping routines, the importance of balance and the concept that we should be constantly deciding how we want to live (what is allowed in, what we keep out) can be applied to all areas of life. Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living. Infusing authenticity throughout your life, your relationships, and your home will make it taste so much sweeter. For more inspiration + domestic advice, check out The Inspired Room!

Keeping Lives Separate

Computer + coffee share places in both lives, but the work in the tray checks out when I punch my (virtual) timecard.

Computer + coffee share places in both lives, but the work in the tray checks out when I punch my (virtual) timecard.

I feel strongly that it is imperative for a healthy and happy existence to enforce boundaries between work life and home life. Home should be a sanctuary, a place of repose, a place to connect with family, friends, and self, to recharge and renew. From time to time there may be some spillover – a boss’s call that you absolutely have to take, a client emergency. But if you examine the situation objectively, how often do these work “emergencies” really, truly, qualify as something urgent? Sometimes people are motivated by a desire to feel needed or a fear of encountering an empty life if they eliminate work from the equation. I try to keep these two spheres of life as separate as possible. For instance, today is my day off. Increasingly omniscient technology informs me that I have e-mails in my work inbox or forwards a voicemail from the office. I do my best to triage these incoming messages from the work world and decide if it is truly important that I interrupt my day off (singular), MY day off (I get extremely possessive about my personal time), and respond. Already though, regardless of my choice, the cloud of stress and irritation has begun to descend upon me, settling in a hazy fog around my eyeballs. This is very un-Zen.

A few of my boundary-creation methods:

1. Willpower – Don’t check that e-mail, don’t answer that phone — there is an unrealistic (and in my opinion harmful) expectation in modern society that we must be reachable every minute of every day. I choose to remove myself from the fray for my “mini-vacations” (the rest of you might know these as weekends).

2. Communication – Make it clear that you are unavailable when you are not working. Everyone has a family, social life, hobbies, etc. They will understand.

3. Organization – I keep my work items (I work two jobs, one of them in particular comes with an excess of “accessories” I need in order to perform my job) separate from my personal items. Working primarily from home means that I have a large amount of “work” stuff in my office. When I am not working, I do not want to look at these items. It is me time. I remove the tray from my desk, I place my file box on the shelf, my boxes of extra supplies are placed in the closet, and I hang my name tag up. The physical act of leaving work behind is powerful.

4. Expectation – Use time away from work to make your life fulfilling and well-rounded. Some people cling to work because their lives without it are empty. Connect with friends, exercise, cook, do something! When you have something fun or satisfying to look forward to, it becomes easier and easier to protect your “me” time from outside infringement.

A balanced life is a happier and more productive life.

Updates on My Life

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For those of you dying to know, here are a few headlines:

1.) THE COUCH CAME. I finally convinced Tyler that we needed to buy a grown-up couch that we both liked that looked good and felt good and was an investment for the future (very grownup) and ten weeks later it has finally arrived! The color looks great in the room and it’s a huge improvement over what we had before. The bad news? The couch is actually a sectional, and I ordered it facing the wrong way. Let me be clear- the couch came exactly as I ordered it and I DID measure it ahead of time. In fact, I agonized over the decision for weeks and finally my obsession with cushion size prompted my choice. Yes, cushion size. The sectional is two pieces- a sofa side and a loveseat side. The sofa side has three equally-sized cushions. The loveseat has two cushions that are larger than the corresponding sofa cushions. This means that if you are facing the loveseat, you will see a small corner cushion on the left side of two larger cushions. Because of my cushion obsession, I insisted that the three same-size cushions be the ones we sit on, i.e. the ones facing the tv. This was the wrong choice from a decorating standpoint. Oops. So now I am trying to figure out how to reconfigure side tables and chairs to make this arrangement work. Did I already say oops? Oops.

Something that made me giggle (perhaps showing that buying a couch is not the only requirement for being a grownup): The sales manager from the furniture store sent a card with the furniture delivery. Maybe it’s good customer service, maybe it’s just silly… You decide. With close to a decade of sales experience, I know that this kind of personal touch can make the difference- and maybe it will turn us into return customers -but at the same time, I feel it’s a transparently gimmicky touch, especially since I suspect he pulled my name off the receipt and not out of his memory.

(Anne, Thanks for allowing us to help you with your purchase)

(Anne, Thanks for allowing me to help you with your purchase - Tom)

2.) I made DELICIOUS banana nut oatmeal this morning. This has become one of my favorite breakfasts. If you have five minutes to prepare breakfast and like the whole “banana nut” flavor- please take my advice and make it on the stove. Mix 1/3 cup of oat bran or regular quick-cooking oats + 1 cup water or milk (less if you like it thick) and add sliced banana (I use 1/2 a banana) and a sprinkling of crushed walnuts. Cooking the banana WITH the oatmeal releases so much flavor (and sweetness!) that I swear you will never go back to the pre-packaged stuff again. I like to toss in a few pinches of spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, salt) and top with a tablespoon of brown sugar. Warm, sweet, satisfying – even more so on a morning that’s finally chilly enough to see the steam rising from your bowl!

3.) Rory continues to come out of her shell! She’s gotten TONS more playful and she’s so cute bounding across the living room with her rope. She’s even learned to play with us and we have a few games. The playfulness can cause some casualties, though. She is pretty massive, after all, and those paws are monster. Last night after our walk Tyler decided to be playful, too, and he pinned me- he tickled me while Rory licked my face. I inadvertently got a paw in the eye. It split my contact completely in half! Luckily the eye doesn’t seem too bad- there’s a little blurriness but I’ve been through this routine before and it should be fine in a day or so. Rory’s also been, as my mom says, “a naughty toddler” – testing boundaries and testing us. We’re keeping her in her place though, and I swear, she seems to be happier when she is following the rules. She still follows me from room to room although now she has some independent moments, either napping in a cushy spot or going after her bone. AND best of all – she is starting to respond to her new name. There is definite recognition of the word “Rory”. Yay!

Rory likes to lay on the floor behind my chair while I work in my office.

Rory likes to lay on the floor behind my chair while I work in my office.

Next on My List

I blogged about a night I recently spent making hair accessories with my little sister just for fun. Now I’m ready for round 2. I’ve been combing the web, looking for beautiful accessory ideas and turned my attention first toward mecca, i.e. Martha Stewart. Conveniently, the Martha Stewart website features an awesome photo gallery of handmade jewelry and accessories. Perfect. The problem is choosing just one or two projects to tackle! Here are a few of my favs. Anyone want to spend an afternoon crafting with me? There are more than enough ideas to go around!

These would also make great gifts – bridesmaids’ gifts, anyone?

1. Bracelet Belt

Image Source: Martha Stewart

Image Source: Martha Stewart

2. Necklace Bib

Image Source: Martha Stewart

Image Source: Martha Stewart

3. Beaded Jewelry

Image Source: Martha Stewart

Image Source: Martha Stewart

4. Jade Beaded Necklace with Ribbon

Image Source: Martha Stewart

Image Source: Martha Stewart

5. Brooch Bracelet

Image Source: Martha Stewart

Image Source: Martha Stewart

DIY Orchid Hair Pins

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Perfect for a tropical wedding, shower, or just feeling glamorous! I made a dozen of these orchid hair pins as favors for the ladies to wear at a recent bridal shower in lieu of the done-to-death plastic leis. You could certainly make these even more fabulous by adding additional embellishments or using higher end materials, but sometimes it’s nice to keep it simple.

Materials

  • fake flowers, at least as many as hair pins you want to make – if not more
  • hair pins or clips (I used a bobby-style pin with a large round surface for decorating)
  • hot glue gun
  • scissors

Instructions

  • remove fake flowers from stem and trim the plastic piece on the back so that the flower lies flat
  • place a drop of hot glue onto your hair pin
  • attach flower to glue, press firmly (but carefully! hot!)
  • let dry


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See? That was so easy I really didn’t need to write instructions! For more fullness you can take two flowers apart and combine them. Glue the layers separately so they are sure to be firmly affixed. Adding a layer or two of tulle underneath the flowers or accenting them with beads or crystals would make these simple accessories even more glamorous.

As usual, I bought my materials on sale (50% off at Hobby Lobby) so the whole project cost me around $3.00.

Me, modeling the hair accessory prior to the bridal shower.

Me, modeling the hair accessory prior to the bridal shower.

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Inspiring Paper

I’ve always had an affinity for paper. Writing on it, folding it, cutting it – there’s something about the texture of paper that is incredibly appealing and incredibly versatile. Although you can spend quite a bit on high end papers, it is generally an affordable material and as one that lends itself to a variety of applications and artistic treatments, paper is an excellent option for wedding decorations. Paper is a wedding staple, anchoring the heavyweight must-haves like invitations, programs, menus, and more, but increasingly it’s popping up in decorations at beautiful weddings in a variety of incarnations. Etsy seller Timeless Paper crafts beautiful paper placecards, enhancing their utility by transforming them into beautiful shapes, like lovebirds, autumn leaves, butterflies, and snowflakes.

Image Source: Timeless Paper

Image Source: Timeless Paper

Vellum is an incredible material for layering or using on its own. I incorporated vellum into our wedding to give a frosty, wintery glow as votive wraps, and as part of the programs and invitations. Many Etsy shops sell pre-punched vellum confetti. Tossing butterfly-shaped vellum confetti at the bride and groom would add an additional level of sophistication. I’ve also seen some adorable vellum envelopes holding favors.

Image Source: Martha Stewart Weddings

Image Source: Martha Stewart Weddings

Image Source: Prudence Octavia

Image Source: Prudence Octavia

Image Source: Martha Stewart

Image Source: Martha Stewart

Etsy seller Prudence Octavia listed these beautiful paper cut luminaries, utilizing paper’s varying opacity to enhance the stunning paper cuts. Martha Stewart offers a twist on the idea of cutting paper with this cute idea for a save-the-date announcement. Get creative – what shapes can you think of to cut paper into? Maybe your heart is set on a theme that’s not popular at the moment. It can be difficult to find accessories and craft supplies to coordinate with your them if you haven’t chosen butterflies, birds, or bells. Paper can be the way you carry your theme throughout your event.

Aaaand, since paper IS so versatile and inexpensive, you don’t have to save it for the biggest day of your life. I can’t wait to make some beautiful little place cards to perch on wine glasses at a future soiree and changing the look of your home decor by making paper wraps for your votive holders is easy. The only limit is your creativity!