Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

We will be celebrating New Year's Eve at home tonight. What better place!

Have you chosen style words for how you want your home to look & feel? It's a fun idea that helps you focus your thoughts on what you are trying to create with your decor choices. I'm thinking about mine. Calm, playful, clean, warm, happy, sparkly, and stylish come to mind.

How about you??? Do you have a few words that describe your style and/or your dreams for your home in the coming year? Let me know in the comments section. :)

Happy New Year! May all your dreams come true in 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Irreverent and unintentional juxtaposition from my holiday decorating.
Christmas is over but winter is really just getting started here. The snow has been gently falling all morning. And I absolutely love the way the little flakes look as they float to the ground. Once I hit "publish" on today's post, I'll bundle up and head out with my old dog for a walk through the village. To feel snowflakes on my face and breathe fresh air into my soul. Ah!

A long, quiet walk also helps me sort things out in my mind. It's almost the new year. New Year! And all of my resolutions and plans are excitedly swirling around in my head, bumping into each other, and waiting impatiently to get started. 

What will 2013 bring? 

I am hoping that this is the year I will finally become a runner, partly because it just seems like a faster, more efficient way to exercise. Partly because I admire the discipline of the practice. Partly because running, itself, seems so free. 

New treatments for the two windows in our main living space. Drapes? Shades? Blinds? A combo??? It should be fun trying to decide. And since I got a sewing machine for Christmas, maybe I'll even attempt to make my own. 

An organized pantry, which I hope will lead to some better meal planning on my part, and then healthier cooking, and ultimately a longer life... :) 

Giving. I love the idea of 40 bags in 40 days but don't want to wait until Lent to start blessing the world with the stuff we no longer need. Donations of clothing, bottle returns for the 4th grade field trip, books and DVDs to sell. It will.all.go.

Saving for home improvement projects--like finishing our basement (which would double our square footage!). And continuing to live debt-free, but finding a way to purchase a digital SLR camera so I can more accurately capture images of this life for you all. Wouldn't sharp images make all these words come to life? I think so!

For sure, I want to be enjoying the little moments with my big & little people MORE and writing "to do" lists less. That goal is at the top of my list.  :)  

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

'Tis the Season

It is day three of Christmas at our house. Santa came early since G&B will not be here on Christmas morning. 

There is not just a Barbie mansion in our living room but a whole Barbie village. And when Griffin tried to connect his Kinect to the TV, the room with no sound was still too loud--I can only assume from all of the visual noise. 

But... this is the most wonderful time of the year. Everyone is so happy & excited! So here are my six tips to enjoying a clutter-FULL holiday:

1) Brew some Starbucks (or tea or hot chocolate) and sit down with a new gift, or watch your loved ones play with theirs.
2) Put your feet up by the fire and enjoy being idle.
3) Turn the lights down low and gaze at the twinkle lights on your tree.
4) Leave, and go to someone else's house for awhile. :)
5) Marvel at all of the packaging as you take out the fifth bag of trash.
6) Be thankful that you can make "get organized in 2013" your New Year's resolution.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Favorite Things: Holiday Edition

A few of my favorite things. Any of which might make a nice gift for those of you not yet done with your holiday shopping!

The Bella Tea Kettle from Target heats water on your counter for tea or hot chocolate. $49.95 in stores and online.

Even a humble slice of toast tastes so much better with this delicious jam from Smuckers. To make it a gift, buy a few different varieties of the jam (bonus: the cherry jam is made with Michigan cherries!) and/or add a few more gourmet items or holiday linens to create a unique gift basket. Note: the online prices seem higher than what I have found in grocery stores, even when buying in bulk. 

Pretty candles are always a welcome gift. Citrus scents are lovely any time of year, but I especially associate them with Christmas. This candle is $20 from the Caldrea website. The company also sells a range of products at Target.

Another good-smelling idea is a cute bucket filled with Mrs. Meyers cleaning products. (Did you know that Mrs. Meyers is the mother of Monica Nassif, founder of the Caldrea company???) Anyway, the Iowa Pine cleaning set includes dish soap, hand soap, and countertop cleaner, and is on sale, marked down from $11.99 to $8.99. This is a trickier gift to give. Don't give it to someone who might interpret it as a sign that they are not keeping a tidy home...

Flowers make a nice choice, and paperwhites are a gift that keeps growing. This set is $65 from White Flower Farm.

Bright red lipstick is fun. I love the richness of this new color from Mary Kay.

Today's daily deal at World Market is 50% off pillows and throws. This basket weave throw in winter white with silver lurex would make a cozy gift for $19.99. Grab a pretty ornament or tin of candy while you are there, and you are all set for gift-giving!

I hope these ideas are helpful and inspiring! Off to finish writing & addressing my (very late) Christmas cards... :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Open Space Living Tips

Lately, a lot of people have been re-pinning this image from my Dream Home board on Pinterest:

I was drawn to the space because of its openness. While this space is the sophisticated New York City loft of Christiane Lemieux, owner of Dwell Studio, it resembles the open plan we have in our own Midwestern house.

Like Lemieux I love having an open floor plan for seeing what my kids are up to. We are never far away from each other in this style house. I can be cooking up a storm in the kitchen, Griff playing a video game in the living room, and Bela making art at the dining table, and it still feels like we are all together.

Keeping it looking tidy, however, is the challenge with this style. 

To keep things looking serene with an open floor plan, here are a few tips.

1) Take a cue from Lemieux (honestly, I didn't mean for that to rhyme!). Use neutrals as much as possible. The sectional is upholstered in a linen-colored fabric. The kitchen cabinets are off-white.

2) Limit the number of items that are "out"--not much on the kitchen counters or bar; a small vignette (books & a vase of flowers) on the coffee table.

3) Use baskets, boxes, or trays to corral stuff where you use it. Magazines, catalogs, and newspapers collect where you'll sit to read them; same with remote controls. DVDs and video games should be stored near the TV/gaming system. 

4) Find ways to hide larger items that disrupt the visual flow. In our house, we use an ottoman that opens up to store our throws when we aren't cuddling under them. Art supplies get swept back into a special cabinet in the kitchen.

5)  Maintain consistency by using the same materials or colors for your accessories. We use seagrass baskets for decoration and storage above our kitchen cabinets; a look that is replicated in color on our bar stools. In Lemieux's room, the metal bar stools mimic the stainless double wall ovens; the black lampshade replicates the color of the coffee table.

I hope there are some ideas here that help you organize your space, even if you are not living in an open floor plan home.  :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why This Matters

Sweet Savannah Chalkboard Tutorial

 Why is organizing or making a home pretty important? Why bother?? 

That may be the question you are asking yourself in the wake of the horror in Connecticut. I get it. My mind was able to easily substitute Sandy Hook Elementary for my children's school. A good, safe school with wonderful, loving teachers. 


But my first reaction on Friday afternoon when I got home from work was to clean. To set right our house and create order out of chaos. 


Here is a series of video clips from earlier this month of Nate Berkus on the Dr. Oz Show. Someone who has experienced his own tragic loss. Talking about why it matters. Why we need to care for our homes. 


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Emerald Green 2013

The Pantone color of the year for 2013 is emerald green. It was chosen because of its ability to enhance our sense of well-being by inspiring insight as well as promoting balance and harmony. I feel like I could use some of that right now...

In honor of that announcement (and more just because I love it), I bought the print above from Laura Trevey's shop on Etsy. It was my first Etsy purchase, and I know that makes me far, far behind the times...


I also entered this fun giveaway from Emily A. Clark to win a rug from Provence Rugs. I chose printemps green (which is close to emerald). The winner will be announced Wednesday, December 19 on her blog. Provence Rugs is also offering free shipping until Christmas Eve using the code FREESHIP.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Two Houses: Holiday Edition

It occurred to me after yesterday's post that my week may have seemed just a wee bit indulgent. At least to "little miss recently debt-free", it did. 


But there is a good reason. And it hastens from a tip once given to me by a good friend. She is truly one of the best moms I know, and her secret is to do things that protect her sanity.

And I do! Negative thought patterns are a habit. Literally, your brain in a rut. When we think grateful thoughts, we create new neural pathways. Happiness is a choice.   

I'm choosing to find what's good right now, and conversely to keep the bad thoughts at bay, because through a fluke of the calendar and custody schedule, this is not my year for birthdays or Christmas. I won't see Griff tomorrow when he turns ten. Nor will I wake up to happy little faces on Christmas morning. In fact, I won't see those happy little faces from 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve until noon the following Sunday (December 30). Six long days. 

I think from here. Lots of other gorgeous rooms.
It's enough to make me want to write "F#*@ 2012" in my holiday cards. 


I won't though. Obviously, that would be rude. And self-absorbed. Plus so many wonderful things happened in 2012. Most notably this is the year that Phil made our house his home, and the kids became part of the Catholic church through their baptisms. 

Santa will come to our house next Friday (which is also the date the Mayans think is to be the end of the world. Mere coincidence...). I'll work extra hard the days the kids are not with me. I'll make lots of money. I'll clean my house. I will smile and I will be happy

But I will LOVE every single moment they are home.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Organizing Time

Or, what I have been doing since my last post...

For Chic Sake
  • Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade was last weekend. As soon as I hit "publish" on the last post, we got in the car and drove up north. Technically we didn't go to the parade, most of our time was spent hanging out with grandma & grandpa. It was the first time the four of us have made the trip, though, and that's a big deal.
  • On Monday, a new friend and I had coffee from this place and walked around an older section of our city. 
  • The kids and I stopped at our little local grocer after school to load up on pre-made cookie dough, frosting, and sprinkles, and we made a small batch of quickly consumed Christmas cookies the easy way.
  • On Tuesday, I went to yoga for the third week in a row. I like consistency, I like it even more when I do it! 
  • I also popped across the street to a beautiful dayspa for a massively overdue brow wax. I haven't had an esthetician in awhile, and then because I was paying off debt, just didn't bother. And it showed.
  • On Wednesday, I had a migraine.  :(  
  • Somehow I still managed to make it a full day in the office, unexpectedly meeting one of our portrait artists, greeting a board member in town for the day, and collecting a brand-new portrait. At one point, I did close the door, turn out the lights, and take a nap on my floor.
  • Additionally, I took a sample of our water to the state department to analyze just what makes it so insanely hard.
  • I  also popped into this store while out & about this week. I could do an entire post on the treasures I found there. My faves were a big round water hyacinth basket (labeled as a snaker charmer's basket), a huge mirror, and vintage cross country skis. Not nearly so cool without photos, though.  
  • Phil & I watched The Dark Knight Rises last night. We have been putting off watching it since it was released on my birthday-eve. I'm the hugest Batman fan, and have loved this incarnation of the story. And the couple we most resemble? Bruce & Selena, just in a Midwestern house with kids...
  • My 7:45 this morning was for a facial with my new esthetician who I just love. I feel AMAZING! Some people like massages, I prefer facials.  :)  It was quite a treat!
  • Then I stopped at the big grocery store for something to take to the fourth grade brunch, and bumped into a mom I've been wanting to get to know better.
  • At school for brunch with my favorite fourth grader... and got to catch up with many of my friends, too!
  • And now work. 
This is an incredibly critical time for my nonprofit. My real life. The thing that pays the bills. Should I be wasting time on friendship, self-care, and doing things for my kids? Terrible question. 

I am reading 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam (who did my morning makeover). If you are looking for something thought-provoking and entertaining, I urge you to check out her work. I have also read her book All the Money In the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting & Spending and her e-book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. She makes a strong argument for creating a balanced life in this book. I find I am able to do more when I satisfy all those elements of my life. Her newest e-book What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend is coming out early next year. I can't wait!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Unexpected

Our Christmas decorating this year includes some of the unexpected. For example:

We brought the wreath inside.

Wrapping paper is a decoration when it is in a large glass vase. 

Unrelated to xmas, I hung this antique mirror on the doorknob in the entry. It had been in Bela's bedroom, and some Feng shui research long ago turned up the idea that mirrors in bedrooms can interfere with a good night's sleep. Since a poor night of sleep for her means a poor night of sleep for mama, it had to go!

To accommodate the Christmas tree in the perfect spot, we had to move the bookcase--to the entry.

 Note the photos way up high. The paper on the wall is for drawing our own Christmas tree.

A chair with a holiday pillow in the entry, plus some fun glittery shoes.
A pop-up version of The Night Before Christmas and candles make for a cozy night of reading.


And in the category of "wow, I never thought of that, and I don't know why" check out this wreath hung on the outer door. I have always hung my wreath inside the storm door. How about you? Is your wreath inside the storm or on the outer door?

Unknown source via Pinterest

Sorry for the blurry and/or dark photos! If I get some advertising revenue, I'm going to invest in a DSLR. Hopefully you get the idea though...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

7 Ways to Cheer Yourself Out of a Bad Day

"When mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

And this morning at home I Was. Not. Happy. To start with, I didn't get enough sleep. I was also feeling a bit nervous about the timing of my dentist appointment later in the morning and a presentation at work, and upset because it's going to be a long day away from home. 

The kids were dawdling. Bela undecorated our Christmas tree. Seriously?! I repeated myself about getting dressed, brushing hair, brushing teeth, getting shoes on ... more times than I care to. We were running a teensy bit behind schedule but it felt like everything was taking forever. Then I dropped Griffin's water bottle and it shattered, sending water all over the laundry room floor. 

At school Griffin told me that his dad wants him to have gloves, not mittens, in his backpack and where is his hat?? I wanted to say "you are almost ten years old. you need to be responsible for this stuff." But I didn't. Because it would have come out harsh and I praise God that He stopped my voice from hurting that little guy's feelings at that moment.

I promised him that somehow I would find a way to get him a hat & gloves TODAY. Because today is the day they go to their dad's house after school (so I don't even get a chance to make up to them for being a grump this morning). 

As I walked out of school, I felt like crying. What was I going to do?? Go all the way home--a twenty-minute drive one way?? I did not cry, however, because I was wearing lots of eye makeup. Instead I drove to Target and bought another hat and another pair of gloves. It's Michigan, it's not like we won't use them...

On the way to the store, I came up with this list of seven ways to quickly cheer myself up, and I offer it to you now:

1) Laugh out loud. 
To change my mood, I thought of lots of funny things. The best: a guy walks into a bank to rob it, but instead of saying "this is a stickup" says "this is a f**k up". I get tears every time! 

2) Splurge. 
You'd better believe I got a Starbucks when I got to Target. 

3) Do something nice for someone else.
And then I bought each of my kids a snowman cookie to stick in their lockers.

4) Prepare.
While I was at Target I stocked up on kid versions of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, then practiced my work presentation on my sweet dental hygienist later.

5) Smile at everyone you meet.
Good moods are contagious. Spread cheer! 

6) Sing.
Listening to a good song makes me feel better and singing it out loud makes me feel best of all. In fact, I refer to this practice as Carrie-oke (like karaoke, get it?). I do it a lot while I'm driving. :)

7) Take care of yourself.
I also stocked up on $5 tights at Target and gave myself a pat on the back for not canceling my dentist appointment.

Here is the most popular picture I've pinned on Pinterest so far this week. A cookbook shelf in the kitchen is something a lot of us would like to have, and this one is a great use of a tiny space. {If you would like an invitation to check out Pinterest, just let me know in the comments.}

I can't get to the website where this originated,
but there is a Houzz account here with a few more gorgeous pics.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Countdown

Our house is decorated for Christmas! Here's what we've done so far this month:

1) We put up our Christmas tree. 
We picked out a Fraser fir from Tannenbaum Tree Farm this past Saturday. It is the fourth year we've been there. Our tradition is nice and I LOVE having a real tree, even though I will pick up needles forever (in fact, I dug one out of the carpet the morning we went to get this year's tree...)

Check out the rest of Design Mom's 5 tips for family photos

2) We lit the lights.
There are colored lights on the tree, white lights around the upper cabinetry and on the stair rail, and more colored lights outside (on a timer to make things easy). All the lights are LED and thus more energy efficient.

3) We put out the decorations.
Our mini Christmas tree and wreath are in some totally unexpected spots. One day this week I'll be in our house when there is natural sunlight and I can get a decent photo, I promise. Otherwise the nativity scene makes one more house for Bela to decorate. 

4) We've got a stack of Xmas books.
Today after school the kids and I stopped at our branch of the library. For a teeny tiny village, they have a nice selection of Christmas books in the kids' section. We grabbed Christmas stories from the Berenstain Bears, Arthur, Olivia, Curious George, Max & Ruby, and more.
Source unknown. Image via Pinterest.

5) We've spotted some treats.
We've already gone through one carton of peppermint stick ice cream, and today Bela saw these Christmas tree-shaped brownies I'll be sure to make very soon.


Monday, December 3, 2012

On the Practice of Blogging

Last week one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Melissa from the Inspired Room, posted a great video about how to increase web traffic. She welcomed her readers to "de-lurk" and introduce themselves in the comments. I comment all the time. So much so, that when I look at where my readers are coming from a good proportion are directed from her site. 

I told her that writing Cosy Carolina gives purpose to my days, but confessed that I get a little discouraged when there are no comments. (I am happy that at least there are never any mean comments. Let's keep that up, for sure, people!)

Here's what she replied:
I can imagine that would be discouraging starting out right now. Comments are way down for everyone in the last year or two, I think because of the volume of social interaction online and amount of bloggers and social media sites available now, people take less time to comment and find new bloggers. It is hard for a blogger to not get any feedback in comments, I know I need that conversation to be able to talk TO someone when I write, not just myself :-) . The only thing I can think of is to maybe choose to comment regularly on others blogs and build some relationships with bloggers who are newer as well and want that same interaction. Usually newer bloggers will reciprocate and share comments on your blog too so I encourage you to find a group of pals to interact with and maybe build each other up a little bit so it isn’t as lonely! xo

Before I go any farther, I have to say that I am super thrilled that of my nine followers, the majority are here for reasons other than family loyalty (not that my family shouldn't keep reading; you are my loyalest supporters and I'm so glad for it.) I'm happy that some of you have chosen to get the posts by email; thank you very much! And I love it when I'm out somewhere and one of you whispers "Great post! Keep writing." 

But, I just wouldn't be me if I wasn't trying to improve somehow. So I'm going to keep trying to grow this thing. Make it better. Go big or go home, right?!

Part of that development will be connecting with other bloggers. If you've got a blog, let me know! Let's form a little posse! In fact, I just read about some bloggers who met by doing a blogger gift exchange. How fun would that be?! 

I also think developing local relationships is a pretty amazing idea. Just because blogs make it possible for me to know what a house in the Pacific Northwest looks like on the inside, doesn't mean that we couldn't have a mitten network for bloggers of all sorts from here in Michigan. 

So if you are reading this, please make today the day you leave a comment. Introduce yourself, leave a link to your blog if you have one, or just say "hi".  :) Because your comments really do make my day!


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