Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Purge: A Fresh Start


I don't know what it was..but with the first few days of Spring-like weather, I snapped out of my Winter hibernation coma and felt an overwhelming urge to "clean house". I mean really clear out. I just needed all the excess gone immediately. 

I am definitely undergoing a personal transformation lately, since becoming a Mother and settling into my "grown-up" life after this past year of moving, having my husband deployed to Iraq, being pregnant/having a baby, permanently living in the same city/state and under the same roof as my husband for the first time in 6 years, and writing my thesis and graduating with a Ph.D...all at the same time.  Phew!

I've felt so at peace lately, really for the first time in my life, as I've been plagued with horrible anxiety as long as I can remember and debilitating depression the past 5+ years.  I'm finally learning how to go through my days focused on gratitude for this amazing life I've been blessed with.

So now I'm really ready to move on, get rid of the baggage from my old life, and make a fresh start.

The process has been so challenging and rewarding so far. Up to this point, I've mainly worked on growing my Faith and changing my mindset. Now that I've made some progress, I'm starting to take stock of the remaining obstacles.  And I realized something that is really holding me back is all the clutter in my life.

It was as if I woke up and could suddenly feel the full weight of it all. I didn't feel stressed about it, as I normally would. I actually felt at peace. I just don't want to go through life anymore with anything that doesn't bring me joy.

Now I only want things in my life that I truly NEED or LOVE in a clean, organized space.

Here are the main areas I want to work on:

1. Master bedroom closet and dresser
2. Linen Closet
3. Bathroom Cabinets
4. Pantry
5. Coat Closet
6. Guest Bedroom Closets
7. Nursery: closet and dresser
8. Office Area
9. Pantry, Fridge, Freezer
10. Office Area
11. Basement
12. Junk Drawers and Kitchen Cabinets
13. And finally, the dreaded Storage Area. (I'm going to have to break this down into smaller projects.)

With a busy 8 month old, I don't know how quickly I'll be able to get through the list. But I'm not going put too much pressure on myself. I'll be sharing my process and progress with you...what I'm doing and what I'm learning as I go. Hopefully, I'll provide some inspiration for you to join me!

First up this week...Master Bedroom!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Natural and Organic Deals and Coupons

**Hurry...most of these deal expire this weekend!**

I've been eliminating as many chemicals from our food and cleaning products as possible. I was ready and willing to start paying a lot more to make the change, but I've been finding a ton of great deals or coupons for Natural and Organic products that I thought I'd share.

Money Saving Mom is a great source for, well everything really, but in particular she has a number of links to some organic and natural deals. Some of my favorites:

20% or 15% Off Natural and Organic Products at is a great site for natural and organic products ranging from cleaning products, makeup, personal care products, supplements, and food...delivered right to your door! Through Sunday 2/27/11 you can get 20% all organic and natural products excluding Household Products with the code GREENUP20. I was a little bummed because I was going to stockup on their huge supply of natural cleaning and laundry products, which aren't included. BUT...if you are interested in Household products, you can use the cod SisBliss to get 15% off your first order (can also be used at  I've switched to all natural laundry products and am looking to switch out the rest of my cleaning supplies.

Seventh Generation Dish Soap $0.64 at Target: Did you know that at target you can stack manufacturer's coupons with Target coupons?? Stack this $1/1 Target Printable for Seventh Generation (under Household) with a $1/1 Seventh Generation printable to get Dish Soap for $0.64...or use towards another Seventh Generation item. I've been using their Dishwasher Detergent, so will probably stock up on some of that. There are a lot of other great deals at Target this week here!

$1/2 Happy Baby Printable Coupon. (expires 2/28/11) My daughter is obsessed with the puffs, so I stocked up! I also really like their baby cereals.

Money Saving Mom also has a link to a great list of other Organic Printables here, including some for dairy products like Organic Valley and Horizon, and Earth's best baby products.


Frugal Friday: Paper Napkins

Linen Napkins2


Last week I discussed my favorite frugal tip for replacing paper towels with re-usable dishcloths.

This is another, closely related favorite, but I found it required a slightly larger change of mindset...replacing paper napkins with Cloth Napkins.

Now, hear me out on this one please. Because I bet you were like me and thought that paper napkins were another modern life necessity. And that cloth napkins were only for special occasions once or twice a year.

Once again, I was driven not by being "green" (which it is..added bonus) but because I felt like I was throwing away money.  I'm sorry...I guess I'm a terrible person. And I do care deeply about the environment...and it was a contributing factor...and I feel great about it now...but, mainly, I was cheap frugal.
I had a ton of cloth napkins from my Grandma and from my bridal shower just sitting in the basement. So I pulled out a few and gave them a try.

At first, it felt kind of strange. Like I should be at a formal dinner party. was also kind of nice, bringing a little bit of formality to an everyday dinner.

We focus a lot on this blog about making ordinary, everyday things special. Using cloth napkins is one of those things for me now. It makes me happy every time I use them. And it helps save money and the environment.

People will may think you are crazy at first...they'll get over it.

Linen Napkins
images from pottery barn

Doesn't this look nice??
Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Secret

No one ever asks me "what my secret is", but if they did this is what I would tell them! Good clothes and good music! That's it! That is my secret for staying in shape. For me it is really that easy. There is nothing more motivating to me then a cute new workout outfit or some new great music to get the adrenaline going! When I get a new playlist I can't wait to go for a run just so I can listen to it! Some songs just really get my blood pumping.

And you wouldn't really think clothes would make much of a difference, but for me it is very hard to get motivated when I'm trying to work out in old baggy sweats. You want to look the part! Same reason men wear business suits or women where high heels. It makes you feel empowered! So next time you think "I don't need to be spending money on workout clothes when I can just as easily where my sweat pants from 10 years ago and my old ugly T-shirt with the stain on it" think again! I'm telling ya it makes all the difference in the world!

Here is my workout playlist. I know these songs are already probably old and not cool anymore. But they are young and fresh to me and get me goin! Feel free to add to it I would love some new ones!

1. MGMT - Kids
2. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream
3. MGMT - Time to Pretend
4. Rihanna - Only Girl
5. Inrique Iglesias - I like it
6. David Guetta - Sexy Chick
7. The Cult - She Sells Sanctuary
8. Daft Punk - Superhero
9. Lady Gaga - Poker Face
10. Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling
11. Daft Punk - The Game Has Changed
12. Lady Gaga - Bad Romance
13. Lady Gaga - Telephone
14. Jason Derulo - In My Head
16. Lady Gaga - Just Dance

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Chip "Un-Cookies"

I've been telling everyone about this absolutely amazing recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies for awhile now, so wanted to finally share. 

It's the strangest things, but since going through my pregnancy my body has completely changed the type of food it craves and tolerates. Before, I used to crave anything heavy in carbs, cheese, meat, and sugar. Now, those things don't appeal to me at all. Many things I used to eat actually make me sick even. I think the main difference is that I'm more in tune with my body now and what my body is actually craving..not my mind. Deep, huh?

The problem is...I don't want to and can't eat like I used to...but, I don't really know what to make myself to eat anymore.

So I started exploring some new recipes and came across a blog called Love Veggies and Yoga, filled with tons of great recipes, especially desserts! I could never understand before how some people could be vegetarians or vegans (and, truthfully, thought it was a little crazy)...but, now that I don't really enjoy eating much meat and crave veggies I've been exploring looking into some vegetarian recipes to try out. And, honestly, most of them look really great!

I'll start sharing any in particular that I try and really like.

And I LOOOVED these chocolate chip "un-cookies" as I like to think of them. They taste (almost) exactly like real chocolate chip cookie dough. And it's the strangest thing to eat a ball of "cookie dough", knowing it's actually good for you..and not feel the grossness and guilt associated with eating real cookie dough. I love that I'll be able to make so many great tasting, healthy desserts for my baby girl someday too!

Seriously, try these out and let me know what you think! Here's the recipe directly from the Veggies Yoga blog. You can check out the direct link here.

Averie’s Raw Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls
2/3 c raw cashews
1/3 c oats
2 Tbsp Agave
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup (Omit and use Agave to preserve true Raw Status if you care)

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 c Chocolate Chips (or to preserve true raw status, take 2 Tbsp Raw Cocoa Powder and add 1 Tbsp Agave, optional dash of vanilla extract, whisk and blendSpread into a thin layer on wax or parchment paper, freeze.  Take frozen chocolate off parchment and crumble the shreds into the mixture as your raw “chips”.)
Recipe Yields: Approximately 17 Cookie Dough Balls

Optional Tweaks:
Add a dusting of cocoa powder, carob powder, or powdered sugar to the finished balls
Roll in raw cocoa nibs or shredded coconut
Rather than adding in chocolate chips, add raisins instead and add a dash of cinnamon to the batter for Oatmeal-Cinnamon-Raisin Raw Cookie Dough Balls
Flatten or mold into larger cookie shapes
Dehydrate for a more “cooked tasting” version of a chocolate chip cookie.  But gawd I love the raw dough taste so this is out for me!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Frugal Friday: Paper Towels

paper towel dish towel photo

I've seen "Frugal Friday" around other blogs and have been wanting to start doing some posts here for awhile. I've learned so many frugal tips from reading blogs. They have really transformed the way I live my life now truly for the better.

Most of what I've learned has required me to change the way I view many things in my life that I once considered a necessity.

It's such an amazing feeling once you open your eyes to another way of doing things.

So I want to start this week with one of my favorites: Paper Towels

Paper towels are so ingrained as a necessity in our everyday lives now. It NEVER occurred to me on my own that I could live without them. When I first heard of people going paper-towel-less I thought they were some crazy radical hippies trying to bring me down. But I was reading the tips from blogs from women that seemed perfectly normal to me otherwise. Hmmm...

Honestly, the real catalyst for me to try to cut back/out paper towels was not because I wanted to change the world and save trees and reduce was because I was super into couponing at the time and was really cheap. They were huge chunk out of my bare bones budget! So if there was a way I could get away with not wasting money on paper towels I wanted to give it a try.

So...I started using re-usable, washable dish towels for things I used to use paper towels for.

Wiping Counters
Drying hands
Washing Windows

And, honestly, the switch was truly effortless! Plus, only then did I realize how truly wasteful paper towels are..for my bank account and the environment! 

Okay.. I will admit that there are two things I still use paper towels for...draining bacon/ground beef grease and gross dog messes on the carpet. I realize I could keep some rags around for that...but it's still about finding a balance that works for you.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

DIY: Chalkboard Frame 'Love'

How cute is this??

Inspired by my crafting success with my wreath, I decided it was time to finally do something with the chalkboard paint I bought a year or so ago and had yet to do anything with...

I first heard about chalkboard paint on other blogs and loved the look of crafts like this one. 

To me, there's just something so 'home-y' about chalk messages. Is it just me??

You should be able to find the paint at any craft store. Would be a good thing to get with those 40% off coupons that are always floating around for stores like Michael's or JoAnn's. 

You really can paint just about anything with a good writing surface. You can get creative with what you paint. Even a flat piece of wood would work for a cute message board. I realized my first chalkboard craft had been staring me in the face for the past month in this perfect black frame Steph got me for Christmas. It was a plastic base and the paint adhered to it with no problem.

Speaking of problems...

I set everything up on the floor so I could sit and watch my 7 month old while I worked. I'm not used to having a mobile, curious baby yet. The second I set everything down she came flying from across the room as fast as her little army crawl could take her.

 Luckily I hadn't started yet.

So...just work on a table if you have a mobile probably would want to anyways...I don't know why you would work on the floor..I've just always been a work/study-on-the-floor kind of person...I guess I don't have that luxury anymore. Oh well..not really that big of a loss...


Is this not the cutest thing ever??
Love my Love Frame!! Love the look of the chalk and love even more that I can change it all through the year!
(please ignore the outdoor table we are using indoors that mortifies my husband because I'm still waiting for him to build all the furniture for the family I just like it.)

Please share any other fun chalkboard crafts you do or ideas you have!

(By the way...what do you guys think of my fake Walmart flowers in the picture above?? Usually fake flowers make me kind of sad (and I know how strongly you feel about them Steph), but I saw these and they kind of made me happy because they made me think of real flowers. I guess I could get a real plant for the spot. I dunno..jury is still out).

(Wow..sorry for all the side comments today..that's just how my brain works lately after 7 months without a full night of sleep)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

DIY: Valentine's Day Fabric Wreath

I did it!! I crafted!!

Check out this beautiful wreath I made for Valentine's Day!

Yeah..I made that!

I was inspired by the Valentine's Day wreaths in this post from I loved the look and was surprised by how easy they looked to make.

Inspired by those and this...

Yeah...that's our new bed that my husband built completely from scratch, using techniques he completely taught himself. He even made the decorative wood trim pieces!! Granted...he is some sort of super-human that does things no normal person does...BUT, it made me realize that if he can teach himself to do that, and actually do 2 weekends, no less...then I have no excuse to not at least try one of the crafts I sit around talking about wanting to do and dream about doing, but never follow through and actually do it.

So I busted out some crafting things I had sitting in a box in my basement. The kind of things you pick up on a trip to Michael's while you daydream about being crafty and think, 'hmm..I could use this for something, someday'..then pack away in a box in your basement storage area for a year (ok..2+ years).

I pulled out this woven circle thing I had bought for $1 to make a Fall wreath and never followed through, my glue gun that I've used once or twice, and this piece of red fabric remnant I picked up at JoAnn's with plans for a sewing project someday.

First, you need some sort of a base. Really, anything would work as a base, since it gets completely covered. You could even cut out a piece of cardboard. A heart shape would be really cute for valentine's day.

Get some fabric and cut up into a ton of squares. No need to measure at all or make them perfect. If you buy some, about 1/2 yard of the cheapest fabric you can find would work fine.  Any type of fabric you have around would work. Even coffee filters and cupcake liners work!

This gives you some sense of the scale. I cut mine around 2 x 2 inches-ish. You can see that clearly they weren't perfect. I tried to put the bigger ones in the middle and smaller squares on the sides

So, you just fold each in half..

And then fold in half again...

Add a dab of glue on the ends

And stick on the wreath. That's it! Now repeat about a 100+ more times.
Keep filling in until you can't see the base anymore. It took me between 1-2 hours to do in between taking care of my little rugrat.

Warning....I wouldn't recommend doing this on the floor near a very curious 7 month old. My newly crawling daughter made a beeline from across the room for the small pieces of fabric!

And there you have it...a very cute Valentine's Day wreath for less than $5. I loove how it turned out!

I made the felt roses to stick on there too. I'll have to do another tutorial on those..I'm addicted to making felt flowers now!

I didn't really plan it, but I love that the red fabric is the exact color of red roses. The woven wood base I used made a perfect hook for a picture hanger. You could also add a strip of fabric to hang from.

It makes me smile every time I see it! I foresee lots of these wreaths in my future for the rest of the holidays...a burlap one for the Fall,  a silky, sparkly, or all white one for Christmas. I'm in love!

Friday, February 4, 2011

10 Simple and Affordable Ways to Surprise Your Valentine

Ahh Valentine's Day.... I love Valentines Day.... Even when I didn't have a Valentine I still loved that day. Just the idea of it... a day to celebrate love. How nice. I think it brightens up the winter "blahs" a bit and gives you something to look forward to. I always like to decorate at least a little bit for whatever holiday it is, and like Britt said, I love all the clashing colors. In any other circumstance the colors together would be terrible. Pink and red together? Ew! But for this day it totally works.

So I was thinking about what to do for Immanuel for Valentine's Day. Every year (and yes, I know we've only been together for 3 years but I hope to keep up the tradition) we surprise each other with small ways to show our love. I wanted to share some ideas we have either done in the past, or that I've thought about doing. Obviously, these are things you can do for other special occasions as well, like anniversaries or birthdays. And don't worry, I'll save you all the "sexy" ideas like "wear lingerie".... I'll keep it clean ;)

1. Heart shaped pancakes
Get up early and surprise him with heart shaped pancakes with red food coloring. Garish with strawberries and whip cream. Be sure to have the table set with red, pink, and white! You can buy heart shape molds HERE

2. Valentine Cards
Buy a box of those valentine cards you use to buy as a kid for your classmates. Write little love notes in them and/or things you love about your valentine and leave them places where you know he’ll find them. For example: next to his razor or toothbrush in the bathroom, in his shoes, in his laptop or briefcase, on his car seat, etc.

3. Paper Hearts
Cut out a ton of paper hearts - all different colors, shapes and sizes and leave them all over. Have a bunch right outside the bedroom door for when he wakes up in the morning. Immanuel did this for me one year and it was so sweet! I pictured him sitting there late at night cutting out all those hearts by hand. He is too cute!

4. Send lots of love!
The most simple and easiest way to let your Valentine know you are thinking about them is to send him loves message every way you can think of. Text, e-mail, voicemail, Facebook, Gmail chat, etc.

5. Make his favorite dinner
Instead of going out to dinner make his favorite meal. For Immanuel it's any kind of pasta. He likes the really rich, heavy, cheesy kind... the kind that you wouldn't normally make because you can feel yourself getting fatter as you eat it. But it’s Valentine’s Day so who cares!

6. Rent a movie
Rent a movie you know he’ll love, make a big bowl of popcorn, light some candles, open a chilled bottle of champagne and serve with fancy glasses, and get comfy with lots of cozy blankets!

7. Frame a Photo
As a gift, get a really great photo of the two of you framed. It’s probably something you’ve been wanting to do anyway, so Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to finally do it! I like black and white photos. I think it always makes photos look more romantic and artistic.

8. Surprise Lunch
If you can, surprise him at work and tell him you a going out to lunch. Make sure you have a place in mind ahead of time! It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. The surprise of you showing up and taking him out is enough. OR bring his favorite lunch to him and eat with him there.

9. Heart Shaped Desserts,
Make heart shaped dessert.... cupcakes, cookies, cake, brownies, etc.... one year I surprised Immanuel with heart shaped cupcakes. They were so much fun to make and decorate!

10. Message in Lipstick
Write a love note on the mirror with red lipstick and don’t forget to put the lipstick on then kiss the mirror :)
(Photo from

Have fun!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Martha-Stewart Syndrome

tWhat, I'm Not Martha Stewart? :  wedding decor diy invitations stationery Martha Stewart martha stewart

I've gotta share a part of an email from one of my best and oldest friends (the kind that aren't afraid to tell you how it is!) that was both a wake up call and a relief...

"I'm slightly relieved to hear that you're human. I had to quit reading your blog for a little while, and only look at baby pictures because, as I was feeling overwhelmed and like a failure.. you had a newborn, who never cried, and had eliminated processed food from your diet, and were spending only $20 a week on groceries, and making your own furniture, and buying 100% organic, all the while always smiling and being completely in love with your husband...You're amazing :)"

It was a wake up call because I felt terrible that by sharing some things I'm excited and passionate about, I am apparently coming across as a "one-of-those-women" and making someone else feel inadaquate. That is NEVER my intention in anything I do in my life and home or blog.

I really want to view being a stay-at-home Mom as my job and do the best I can. Some days that means making homemade bagels and a big batch of homemade baby food and washing a load of cloth diapers and having a hot meal waiting for my husband in our clean "some" I mean maybe that's happened once in the past 7 months. Probably not exhausted Mommy brain can't think back that far.

Most days though it's just me struggling to survive the day at home with the baby and not go crazy...with both of us in our pajamas all day (both covered in spit up because I just don't care enough to change either), me eating cereal and cheese and crackers all day because I don't have the energy to come up with any real food to eat. The house a toys everywhere, loads of dirty and clean unfolded laundry everywhere, dishes pouring out of the sink, and (if my "perfect" husband isn't on a trip or working a 24/48 hr shift) me and my husband snapping at each other over something involving the baby or the house.

The email was also a relief though because not one of those things my friend mentioned I do is true, and I realized that if my friend thinks I have it all together and a perfect life...then maybe all those other women I think have the perfect life don't either!

I call it the Martha-Stewart Syndrome. For some reason, I think all of us women tend to look at other women and think they have it all together and have this perfect, magical life..with a perfectly decorated, perfectly clean, perfectly organized house, and perfect kids, doing perfect crafts all day, and making perfect meals at night for their perfect husband....and that we need to measure up to and keep up with that!

I'm starting to realize that doesn't exist why do I always compare myself to this mythical woman and make myself feel inadequate on a daily basis??

....just don't think that just because I came to this realization that I'm cured of the sickness! But it's a start!! :)