Thursday, July 31, 2008

A space to create

It's important to carve out a little room in life for quiet contemplation, concentration and creation. Working from home can provide great flexibility, comfort and an opportunity to inject personal touches that wouldn't be welcome in a corporate office environment. Even if you don't work from home professionally, it can be beneficial to find a little corner in your house conducive to reading, journaling, pouring over magazines and photos, writing birthday cards or working on craft projects.

A place like this should have a positive effect on you and your life, whether it helps you to feel stimulated, relaxed, inspired or organized. The space doesn't need to be large. In fact, you could take over a little corner in a hallway, a guest room or even a closet if you don't have an extra room. Find a comfy chair, scented candle, soft throw, and a large coffee or tea cup and surround yourself with colors that make you feel good.

Design ideas:
Use a cabinet to create a contained, organized desk area or find a quiet corner to place an L-shaped desk

Use a dining room or guest room to double as an office when they're not being used

Office organization:

Fabric French memory boards

Buy similar ones online at or create your own using an easel, fabric of your choice, push pins and ribbon.

Ballard Designs
2 pocket embossed organizer; $49.00

Drop lid secretary desk and carved drop front secretary desk both from Comfort House

silver raffia desk accessories from Williams Sonoma Home

Ballard Designs cafe shelving

Diamond ring paperweight available at offers the following tips for setting up an efficient home office:

Organize Office Materials

Do you need to combine a workspace in your family or living room? Professional organizer Vicki Norris shares her tips to help you get the job done.

1. Invest in adequate furniture.
Offices need a clear work area, and that means providing adequate space for computer hardware and peripheral equipment, a spot for reference materials, file space and a location for frequently referenced supplies and paper. Make sure your office furniture provides ample space for work and storage.

2. Establish activity centers.The efficient office should be zoned into activity areas:
The Work Center, which includes a clear workspace, the computer and frequently-used office products.
The Reference Center, which includes binders, manuals, dictionary and professional books and materials.
The Supply Center, which contains office and paper supplies.

3. Properly place the hardware and peripherals.
Position your equipment by frequency of use. If the printer is used daily, it should be within easy reach. If the CPU is only accessed for troubleshooting, it can be placed under or next to the desk. If a scanner is rarely used, it can be placed outside the work area.
When setting up hardware, be conscious of access to drives, trays and cords. Don't block access to drawers or take up leg room with tangled cords.

4. Establish a paper processing area.
Create an area within your Work Center for papers that need immediate action.
Store paper associated with clients or ongoing projects in an area that is easily accessible and within your view.
Establish a permanent filing system for papers you will reference, but not on a regular basis.
Conceal Cables and Wires

A life full of laughter

"Life abounds in comedy, if you look around you" Mel Brooks

So I was thinking today how much fun it is to laugh and how we often don't take time to just be silly. We take life too seriously, going about our daily routine and crossing things off our TO DO list. But laughing can be productive! It burns calories, releases endorphins and bonds us with friends and family. I think it's the secret ingredient in any successful marriage, lasting friendship or happy home.

"You cannot be mad at somebody who makes you laugh - it's as simple as that" Jay Leno

"Fun" can come in a lot of different forms but try laughing almost anywhere, any time, with anyone and you'll realize that experiencing pure happiness is much simpler than we often make it. Laughter is contagious, addictive and freeing. You may need some inspiration but often you'll find that once you start, you won't be able to stop.

"Never be too busy to laugh or too quick to criticize" Gerry Hopman

Certain things always make me smile...

Babies smiling or babies pointing at other babies and saying, "Baby"

Any movie with Will Ferrell, especially Wedding Crashers and ELF

Looking at highschool photos of old friends and outdated fashions

Crazy dancing and air guitar

The muppets

What is it that makes you smile?

These days, everyone is searching for something that makes them chuckle. Believe it or not, you can try something called Laughter Yoga.
Just the idea of that makes me laugh.

"Through humor you can soften some of the blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it" Bill Cosby


This Wordle is captured from the feed from our blog.  Beautiful, isn't it? 

My girlfriends have helped shape me into the woman that I am today.  When I think about them, I am inspired & challenged to make myself AND my world better. 

Take time today... 

To encourage a friend, 

To remember a fun time,

To inspire someone, 

To be a good friend, 

To show someone you care, 

To love someone, 

To create, 

To celebrate, 

To share your life!    

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stylish Jewelry Storage

I made this jewelry board that now hangs in my guest room. It doubles as art work.

How I did it: Purchased a bulletin board from TJ Maxx that had a nice thick frame. ($20)
  • Found a piece of fabric that I liked from JoAnn Fabrics and purchased enough fabric to cover the board.
  • Unscrewed the back of the frame.
  • Removed the cork board.
  • Placed the fabric around the cork board, pulling the fabric snug on every side.
  • Taped the fabric to the back of the cork board.
  • Placed the covered cork board back inside the frame.
  • Screwed the back of the frame back into place.
  • Used quilting pins to hang my jewelry from.
My guests enjoy this option for displaying & storing their jewelry during their stay at my home. It is nice to feel organized even at another person's home.

Here is another picture of a Jewelry Board.  My mom and I made this one & used cloth napkins instead of traditional fabric. 

I found the following idea on Martha 
So maybe you aren't into statues...think of objects that you already have in your home that would keep your pearls, chains and costume jewelry from tangling! Get creative. Look around your home and try unconventional pieces to display all your pretty things.

It is important to have a functional home, but who says you can't have beauty & function?? Whenever I buy anything for my home, I always try to find something that is pretty as well as useful.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Go After Your Dreams

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,
and endeavors to live the life which he imagined,
he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
-Henry David Thoreau

What are your dreams?  Where do you see yourself next week, next month, a year from now or 5 years from now?  

Sometimes, the daily, crazy, mundane life gets in the way of reaching the life you always wanted.   I know as a married woman and a mom, that sometimes I lose sight of the REST of me.  I am a friend, a sister, a daughter.  I am creative, fun, spontaneous, inspired.  Unless you consciously remind yourself of your talents, abilities & accomplishments, you can forget what have done or who you are.   

I recently talked to my friend who said, "The life I always wanted is actually happening to me.  It is almost overwhelming."  So how did she get there?  She stopped waiting for good things to just come to her.  She decided that she would create the life that she always wanted.  

So, what do YOU want from your life?  Dream big.  Is it a beach house?  Is it the ability to stay home with your kids & not work?  Is it to start your own business?  Is it to have weekly dates with your husband?  Is it to run a marathon?  Is it to lose weight?  Is it to be the hostess with the most-ess?  

Write down your dreams.  Put them somewhere that you look at often.  Then start making small decisions daily that will move you in the direction of those dreams.  

Monday, July 21, 2008

Preserving memories

We all have moments we wish could last forever—whether it’s a family celebration, a beautiful scenic view, or just a really good hair day! Although it’s impossible to completely capture the moment in its entirety, we can preserve pieces of it that will remind us of how wonderful the experience was to live through. And we can help ourselves to replay the memory again and again in our minds for years ahead. Here are some of my favorite ways to document the defining moments in life:

Kodak offers an online gallery to store and share personal photos, as well as create gifts to showcase your favorites. Photos can be chosen to decorate a set of mugs, compose a special album, or crop, matte and frame.

Scrapbooking is a craze for many who enjoy being creative, yet productive. Women (and I'm sure some rare men) can spend hours poured over scissors, papers, stickers and souvenirs, personalizing pages to showcase their memories and document the big events in their lives.Over the last few years, specialty scrapbooking stores have popped up everywhere and accessories can be found at almost any major store--from Target to even the grocery store! And although you can buy some great scrapbook- specific things, I tend to think personalized cards, postcards from trips, pretty museum admission ticket stubs, favorite ribbon or unique beads, free hand sketches etc. make the best scrapbook adornments. Use these sorts of little personal touches to avoid creating a “cookie cutter” scrapbook.

Amanda Blu scrapbook albums available at; $13.99

Additional scrapbook accessories such as the travel paper book and labels also available at Joann's.

Search online for a local scrapbooking group or class to help inspire and encourage you to take time to create works of art with your memories. Visit Joann Fabrics, Michaels or Hobby Lobby for all kinds of embellishments to adorn your scrapbook.
For years I've kept journals to document the different stages in my life: hopes, goals, frustrations, amazing experiences...Each time I randomly select one and flip through the pages, the memories come back to me so vividly that I really feel as I'm re-living the experience all over again. I can reflect on how my thoughts and perspectives have changed, friendships have evolved or faded away, and certain events have impacted me forever. I admit, sometimes I've read through things, torn out pages and thrown them away just to ensure no one ever gets their hands on it--but most of the words on those pages are invaluable for me when I feel like I want to reminisce.

As Oscar Wilde once said, "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Polka dots, stripes and cowboys...oh my!

I love designers who can take a few colors and patterns, a small selection of items and create an IMAGE that makes an impression. Polka dots, stripes and cowboys added together in an array of candy-coated colors take on an entirely new look in Cath Kidston's cute boutiques.

Buying umbrellas and "wellies" for rainy London days never seemed so appealing!

For those of you who have ever thought you would have been better suited to live in a different decade, Cath Kidston, the UK designer, appeals to those who miss the traditional roles of the '50s. At her stores you will find adorable ironing board covers in sweet patterns, cowboy printed lampshades, polka dotted coffee mugs, and cotton candy colored stripes on everything from journals to table linens. And if you're looking for a cute apron to wear the next time you're baking muffins, well, look no further. Feminists, don't take it too seriously--it's all in good fun. And it's a bit ironic that now that we don't have to buy ironing board covers, the notion of doing just that doesn't sound so bad!

A US website is currently in development but until then you can check out her UK site at:

Must Have Magazine

Finding my InStyle Magazine in my mailbox is one of the highlights of my month!! The August 2008 issue showed up at my house on Friday. I seriously skipped into my house holding it in my arms.
There are many great articles this month. 

There is a spot on Issac Mizrahi, if any of you shop at Target, you know who I am talking about. He give his Best Shopping Tip--
 "No matter what you are buying, don't bring your man." 
(InStyle, August 2008, p. 241)

Also, check out the DEALS & STEALS article.  InStyle gives affordable finds that "real" people can afford from places like Target, Old Navy, Victoria's Secret, Simply Vera Vera Wang from Kohl's, Club Monaco, Chinese Laundry, etc. 

This bag can be purchase Target for $40. (in stores or online.)
It is Faux-python "Hobo" bag.  

Or you can spend $1550 and by this Prada Python "Hobo" bag.

Check out magazines.  Look for things that you like, then see if you can find a store, in your price range, that sells a similar look.  OR, better yet, go to your closet & use the items you ALREADY have to put a NEW look together.  
Looking great & trendy doesn't have to cost a lot.  
Visit stores like H&M, Charlotte Russe, Target, Kohl's, Macy's and buy "trendy" pieces for low prices.  
Only spend money on classic items that won't be out of style in a week.  

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gorgeous "Green" Grocery Bags

Shopping for groceries is either something you love or hate.  Personally, I love to grocery shop.  Especially when I find a good, organic, healthy, pretty place to do so.  Sprouts (found only in California, Arizona, Colorado & Texas) is my newest love.  It is similar to Whole Foods or (for those of you in the Northeast...) Wegmans.  
It is such a treat to walk around the produce section, choosing fresh herbs, crisp vegetables and ripe fruit.  My favorite aisle might be the dairy...milk, heavy cream, gourmet coffee creamer...yum.  I love to see what fancy cheese or pasta I can purchase.  I feel inspired to come home & try something new.  

Maybe I am crazy, but it feels good to walk out of the store with my food in reusable shopping bags, rather than a cart full of plastic bags.  Even my husband commented how nice our food seems coming out of those bags.  Silly how the small things in life can make such a difference in the quality of our homes and our life experience.  
Now, almost every grocery store that you go to offers reusable shopping bags at a low cost.  (Sprouts charges $.99 a bag.)  I have a few bags from Sprouts, but I was thinking that I need a cuter one, so I went online to check things out.  I found some great bags:  

These bags are all from   They are called Happybags and are made of durable upholstery weight cotton in the USA.  They are "available in colorful patters and prints sure to turn heads."  Order 1 for $19.95 or order 2 for $18.95/each.  

A taste for the finer things...

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde once. She drove me to drink; that's the one thing I'm indebted to her for."
-W. C. Fields in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

Some of the best things in life require 'an acquired taste' to truly enjoy and appreciate. Amongst these things I would count olives, strong cheeses, coffee and wine. I think it takes patience and persistance to learn to love these things. But once you begin to enjoy them, you can begin to feel passionate about them.

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I appreciate food and everything that combines to create a complete dining experience. Eating is not just about nourishment for me. It's about the complimentary tastes, the atmosphere, the company, the conversation...and the time to value each of these components. Wolfing down a burger and fries on the go just does not satisfy me.

The French have mastered this idea of appreciating the quality of what you are eating and drinking, savouring each bite so that you feel satisfied with smaller amounts. Yes, they eat rich foods, high in fat and calories but they are aware of what they are eating and they view it as an experience rather than an attempt to eat as much as possible, as quickly as possible, for as cheap as possible.

French Women Don't Get Fat; $7.50

Wander the picturesque streets of villages in France, hillside towns in Tuscany, or the oceanside towns in Spain and you will find people socializing at outdoor cafes, laughing and talking over a glass (or two) of wine at lunch time, and savoring each bite of the food they eat.

You don't have to leave the country to live this way--just take a cue from how other people in different parts of the world choose quality over quantity, Brie instead of Velveeta, and a simple sandwich in the park rather than a Super Size burger in the car.

Appreciate the quality and chemistry of a good wine with each sip rather than drinking "whatever's strongest" just to lose your senses. Your senses are what make life worth living! Smell, taste, sight, sound...use them all to enjoy your next wining and dining experience.

"Sparkling Muscatel. One of the finest wines of Idaho."
-Waiter in The Muppet Movie(1979)

Now, I'm not a complete wine snob but I don't think Idaho has quite mastered the art of winemaking--yet. But one state in America that has the perfect conditions for an amazing bottle of wine is California. My husband and I both enjoy visiting wine country and some of our best memories are of exploring wineries together all over the world. We are blessed to have one of the best wine-making areas right here in our own country. We recently travelled to Napa Valley and Sonoma to taste the region's varieties. It amazes me how each year's success is so unpredictable and dependent upon the weather, each bottle of wine is unique, and the slightest elements in the production and storing process effect each glass. Such a time-consuming labour of love, but so worth the efforts--if you can learn to appreciate them.

Some of our California favorites:

Bartholomew Park Winery
They only sell wine directly from their vineyard. You can't buy this in stores. It's such a great find and definitely one of our favorite stops. Their 2005 estate vineyard red zinfandel is amazing!

Cline Winery

Try their Ancient Vines wines. We especially liked the 2006 Ancient Vines Mourvedre.

Simi Winery
Simi Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend that is dark and bold but so, so good.

If you are interested in learning about wine, pairing food with wine, traveling to taste wine, etc. I recommend a subscription to Wine Spectator magazine. You don't need to be an expert or even a passionate wine drinker to enjoy reading about the process, the places, and the people involved in the art of wine making.
Subscribe at for 16 issues/1 year for $49.95 and get tips on the top 100 wines of the year, the best wines at affordable prices and lists of restaurants with exceptional wine lists.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Light & Luscious--Frozen Fruit Pops

Recipe from Cottage Living magazine issue 8/2008

Blueberry pops
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup blueberry juice
1/4 cup honey

Strawberry pops
3 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/2 cup Simple Syrup (recipe below)

Pineapple mint pops
3/4 pound pineapple chunks
4 sprigs fresh mint, stems removed
1/4 cup Simple Syrup (recipe below)

1. Process ingredients in a blender until smooth. Divide evently among 4 (5 ounce) paper or plastic drink cups and freeze. After 1 hour, insert a stick into the center of each. Freeze until completely frozen, 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

2. Remove from freezer, and let stand at room temperature 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cup, and serve immediately.

Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar

Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir constantly about 1 minute or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

It'll cost nothing to dream & everything not to

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Good Life: simple luxuries

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
- Melody Beattie

I'm a true believer that most everyone can live "the good life" whatever their circumstances or financial situation. For me, life's luxuries are in the form of simple things like an excellent cup of coffee while leisurely looking through a stack of magazines, abandoning the day's schedule and taking a long walk without time constraints or thoughts of how many calories I'm burning, writing a thoughtful note to an old friend just because you want them to know you care...

You can fill your life with culture by visiting art museums, free concerts in the park, or trying a new recipe from another country at home. When you appreciate and enjoy the simple things that make an average day feel special, you learn to live without longing for more.

"An elegant sufficiency, content, Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, Ease and alternate labour, useful life, Progressive virtue, and approving Heaven!"
James Thomson, 1700-1748, Spring

Strive to include a little bit of glamour into each day. Here are some small things I do that have a big impact on my spirit and well being:

Start each day with a deep breathe and a thankful attitude. If you begin on a positive note, it will be easier to accept the day's challenges.

Read an inspirational quote or devotional passage to reference when you feel frustrated or anxious.

Sort through old photos and pull out favorites. Frame them or place them in a basket or pretty bowl on a table to glance at whenever you feel the urge.

Save old letters, pretty cards and small mementos that remind you of vacations, fun times with friends, or those who live far away. Put them in a pretty box to pull it out once in awhile to remind you of favorite memories.

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need".- Cicero

Buy fresh flowers (or cut from your garden) and fill a vase in your living room, bathroom or kitchen for no reason at all other than to enjoy them yourself. There's nothing better than living with beautiful things found in nature.

Stay up late on a week night, make popcorn or brownies and watch a movie you've been dying to see but haven't.

Pick your favorite reality tv guilty pleasure- mine was recently the Bachelorette- and make a date each week to watch with a friend or friends who share the same obsession. (You always feel less guilty when others are watching too.) Oh, and make snacks of course.

Bake chocolate chip cookies on a rainy day just to eat the dough.

Start organizing your closet and don't stop until you're done! Give away old "treasures" to Goodwill.

"With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy."
- Lope de Vega
Create a "Style File" filled with fashion ideas, exercise tips, pictures of hair cuts and hair colors you admire in magazines, decorating ideas... Look through your findings when you need some inspiration or are stuck in a rut.

Keep a list of movies you want to watch and/or books you want to read. Reference it next time you are standing in Borders or Blockbuster and know there are things you want but can't quite remember!

Completely redecorate a room using things you already own. Move things from other rooms in the house, bring things up from the basement...don't spend a cent. Marvel at how a new perspective can bring upon an instant transformation.

Light candles, listen to music and just be still for an evening.

"The simplest things give me ideas."
- Joan Miro

It's amazing to me how lighting can afffect a mood. I always have my lamps on dim at night to envoke a cave-like atmosphere. It makes me feel relaxed and prepares me for rest.

Read a book for hours on a rainy day. Get lost in your imagination.

Skip cooking a meal for dinner and serve a lot of favorite snacks instead: olives, assorted cheeses, french bread and olive oil, hummus, caprese's easy but feels like a real treat.

Search for the "perfect gift" for friends and family all year round. It's so fun to find things for loved ones throughout the year, hide them away and then look through at Christmas, birthday or baby shower times. Your gifts for others are much more thoughtful and personable when you aren't rushed to buy them at the last minute.
"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."- Robert Brault