Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday I'm In Love: Summer Decorating

Happy Friday everyone! For the first week in ages I am back in my regular groove and it feels great! 

For this week's shopping post, I bring you the "Bedroom Savings Event" from Pottery Barn. Up to 40% off is a great reason to think about switching out your sheets & duvet covers--even your lampshades and rugs! Think of brighter colors, lighter-weight fabrics, and different textures.

I have selected a few of my favorites from the sale to show y'all how I like to mix things up. 

Here's my formula for making it look good: 

2 parts traditional/neutral : 1 part crazy woohoo

Here we go...

Here we mix the sandalwood striped duvet cover with the Rosalie paisley shams.

Or you could pair the Rosalie duvet cover with  either of these rugs from the sale.

For a preppy summer look...
... Or a look that is more romantic & eclectic.

I have several more faves from the sale, and could honestly match items all day... But it's off to work I go! [And since I neither work for Pottery Barn nor receive any compensation from them for promoting their products, you'll have to get the links to these items yourself. However, everything featured here is part of the sale that I mentioned above.] 

If you need any help mixing your traditional/neutral and crazy woohoo, let me know. There is a bit of a fine balance in that formula that may take awhile to perfect. Shoot me an email or post your question to the Facebook page. 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Two Houses: Summer Vacation

I am taking a brief break from the massive unpacking that still has to occur in my office to post about our summer plans.  

During the summer the kids have a different custody schedule than they do during the school year.  Beginning last year, when Bela was five and Griff was nine, they spend a week at each house, switching on Friday afternoons. 

So besides planning my work schedule around field trips & class parties, stocking up on Scholastic books & swimsuits, and arranging for summer camp & sleepovers, I am thinking about how to survive my part-time empty nest.

I think I've got some pretty good ideas, including...
  • a stack of summer reading
  • surprise re-do's of Griffin & Bela's bedrooms
  • prepping our house for sale
  • lots of time with my lovey
  • a Happier-at-Home happiness project
  • and DIYs galore {in fact, this weekend I plan to get out my gold leaf rub 'n buff for the fabulous Darlene's first-ever link party!}
Bonfires, BBQs, berry picking, and beach-time with my babies will make up the rest of the summer. 

Yes, divorce sucks. But so do lots of things beyond our control, even some of them very good, positive things. It all depends on your perspective. And we get a choice in how we see the world. I'll be trying to remember to make my choice rosy this summer.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lessons Learned from Moving

Martha Stewart
I am moving offices at work! Today is the Big Day! 

My new office is in the same building and basically just across the hall from where I have been working. But, it is part of a suite, full of really nice fun people. AND it has a window that looks out on a grassy space. Pure heaven for an outdoor soul like mine!

Today is also the "day" that four years ago I got the keys to my new life as a free woman {it's not the exact date but that too was the Tuesday after Memorial Day}. 

There are some similarities between those two moves. Like no moving truck, just me carrying little boxes in heels and a skirt. I went on to move once more within a year--after buying the house we have now--which has provided me with some insights on how to move with as little stress as possible.

1. Do a little at a time.
In both cases, I packed and moved a little bit at a time. A box here and another there adds up over a span of time. It also makes it more manageable physically if you are working on your own.

2. Get rid of what no longer serves you.
This is a fantastic time to go through your things with a critical eye. What do you need/what can you live without?

3. Achieve tiny goals.
It makes the process more fun to set little goals like "I will clear out the rest of my files by lunchtime" or "how much of my storage unit can I fit in my car?".

4. But make big plans.
Once I get to the new office, I intend to go through all of my files. I plan to accomplish this by touching each piece of paper once--actually looking at what it is and then filing it away.

5. Always stay flexible.
I have an overall idea of how I want things to look once a space is put together, but I also try to keep my mind open enough that I can relish the unexpected. In fact, I think this is one of the secrets of confident decorating. Sometimes I set something down and it just looks good where it is, even though I may never ever in a million years have planned it there.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday I'm in Love: Target

Yesterday afternoon I slipped into Target for a little summer clothes shopping. I was thrilled to discover that the colors and patterns I have been loving for my home have shown up on the clothes! And at Target prices!!

I started out with some tees in basic colors. You can never go wrong with black...

Design Stiles via Decor Pad
Or white. If the fit is right...

Emerald green is almost a staple in my wardrobe by now. Not to mention it is the Pantone color of the year.

Simple Details Blog

I bought one pair of longer shorts in a deep jewel tone. They are flashy on their own, but can almost exist as a neutral under the right top. Kind of like this beautiful chest of drawers.

It helps to think about the beach while you are shopping for summer clothes. To hear seagulls and waves from deep in your soul.

Lilly Pulitzer
Blue & green plaid make the perfect backdrop for Bermuda shorts. A navy polka dot ribbon belt makes it especially preppy.

And then there is mint...

South Shore Decorating Blog
I won't lie to you. Mint was the color I had gone in search of, but I came up nearly empty-handed in the store. The shorts were a bit too short. The tank was the wrong shape (even though an identical one in navy looked fine...). 

Addicted to Decorating
Sadly, mint is a color best left for my home.

But I do like how mint looks with fuchsia/magenta (which is another color I'm just crazy about right now.)
South Shore Decorating Blog
I love the interplay of color and pattern. It can be fun when you are designing a room or creating an outfit.

Polka dots rule! Quite a lot of my haul include items that were "spotted".

Better Homes & Gardens

I also bought a light-weight summer button-down shirt in a quatrefoil pattern similar to the bedside lamp above. 

How are you getting ready for summer? Do tell!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Giveaway Reminder

It's Not Too Late!!!

You can still win your very own Pampered Chef mini-spatula by leaving a comment on this post telling me your favorite cookie! 

Bake up some of your favorite cookies then use the scoop to make an easy ice cream sandwich! 

Comment here before Friday to be eligible to win!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kitchen Week Finale: Giveaway!

Today is the grand finale of Kitchen Week. And, as promised, there will be a giveaway!

I love to bake eat cookies. However, chocolate chip was getting a teensy bit boring this past winter. So I switched it up one day by substituting 1/2 the chocolate chips with an equivalent number of peanut butter chips. The result?? Delish! Then recently Griffin asked for Oatmeal Raisin, which is not my favorite. How could I make it more tasty? I substituted almond flavoring for the vanilla. And the cookie was beyond amazing! Have you ever tried it?

What I like to do is mix up the batter, put enough on one cookie sheet for our treat, and then freeze the rest of the cookie balls. I can pull frozen cookie dough from the freezer anytime (including in the morning before school to pack in lunchboxes).

I use the larger tray for the cookies I am baking. The smaller tray slides right into our freezer to store the cookie dough. I don't cover it or do anything special, and have never had any problems with freezer burn. We usually eat the cookies fairly quickly (within a week or two). The cooling racks are essential for when the cookies come out of the oven.

This is the scoop that I use. It is the mid-range size from Pampered Chef.

Which brings us to the best tool of all. This mini spatula, also from Pampered Chef, is the object of our giveaway. It works perfectly for peeling your cookies off the sheet as well as for serving up the perfect-sized brownie (or lemon bar).

Lansing-area Pampered Chef consultant, and my friend, Ellen Block is giving away one mini-spatula to a lucky reader of Cosy Carolina. Just leave a comment below telling us your favorite cookie! Be sure to leave an email address so we can contact you if you are chosen. The results of the drawing will be posted next Friday so you have until then to submit your entry. Good luck!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kitchen Week: Clearing the Counters

"When we learn to accept the whole of our experience--the fact that situations simply will not run to plan at times, but have their own will--we begin to dance with life." Shefali Tsabary, PhD

Right now I am reading a book called The Conscious Parent that teaches us to "sit with" our emotions rather than distract ourselves from what we are feeling. Once we are able to embrace all of our feelings, the feelings no longer overwhelm us. 

I believe that clutter is one of the ways that we distract ourselves from what we are really feeling. By covering every surface with stuff we either have a mess that we then need to clean up or we beat ourselves up for not being perfectly organized. Of course, neither is really all that important in the grand scheme of our lives. But it takes our attention off whatever is really going on.

Cluttered countertops become an outward sign of the clutter in our minds. We can't make a decision about where to put the special commemorative cup that doesn't fit in with the rest of our dishes so it sits awkwardly on the counter. We can't figure out when we'll fit going to the post office to mail that package into our busy schedules so it sits, day after day, on the counter. Then we try to cook dinner or wipe the counters down after a meal, and we have to move those things. Again & again. A constant reminder that we didn't do whatever it was we were supposed to do. Failure. What a serious bummer, no??

Becoming Minimalist suggests radically clearing your kitchen counters to gain peace, and I think they make a good point. 

Clover Lane
Check out the kitchen above. This woman has six children! Ranging in age from nine months to a freshman in college home for the summer, this is one busy house! Yet Sarah maintains this level of organization and in turn exudes calmness straight through my computer screen every day. I can only imagine how great it would be to actually live there.

Currently in our kitchen we have a great many things on our counters, and it looks constantly messy. I'll give this "absolute zero" a whirl and let you know how it comes out. Now I'm off to the post office to mail that darn package finally!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kitchen Week and Why I'm Not a Great Cook

It's supposed to be Kitchen Week and yet all day I have been thinking about iconic women, polka dots & ruffles, kindness & bravery

And now instead of starting dinner I'm typing away about who-knows-what. Certainly not anything kitchen-related. So while Google searches out an easy tilapia recipe and the microwave defrosts my fish, I'll fill you all in on what's new and maybe share something that enlightens someone somewhere...

First, Kate Spade. Several bloggers that I follow are hosting a style soiree interpreting Kate Spade's whimsical style. 

At the beginning of the week I interpreted Kate Spade style in dark tones. Purple polka-dot socks, black velvet ballet slippers, and grey chinos with...

...a ruffly purple & white striped blouse, big turquoise bib necklace, and camel-colored cardi.

This morning dawned a bright & sunny 75 degrees. And this warrior woman was waking up practically in my hometown. I just had to live out loud.

I interpreted Kate Spade-style as a pair of white fluffy peep-toe high heels...

beneath a purple floral dress, orange & white striped blazer, and big white bib necklace. Note the topknot. 

Colorful? Check. Whimsical?? Check, check. Bela, my tiny fashion adviser, did not approve of this combo, but in the end I had to be me

Unrelated, I ordered these magical running shoes for Bela from Nordstrom online. They were a great price AND you can get 14% cash back via ebates right now {Full disclosure if you sign up for ebates through me, I will get a small referral fee}. I thought posing them with the box of cereal would help you see how adorably tiny they are... but they look huge here.

Griffin and his classmates performed on stage this week.Is there anything better than 4th graders singing & dancing?

A Mother's Day gift of olde, that I turned into a Kate Spade-inspired DIY using rainbow-striped wrapping paper as a background. Don't you just love that one of the six reasons Griffin loves me is that I make his dinner?!

So, in the end, I hope that I have given you a better idea of what constitutes Kate Spade style. More importantly, though, I hope I inspired you to be as crazy bold as you feel like being in your dress and decor. It's your life and you only get one. Make it fun.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Kitchen Week

Did everyone have a lovely Mother's Day? I so hope you did...and if you didn't then please imagine I am giving you the most gigantic hug to make it all alright...

Anyhoo, as I mentioned in my Saturday post, the ladies of my family (including the little ladies--ages 3, 6, & 7) shoppppped on Saturday. I finally got to visit Anthropologie in person where Bela & Grandma bought me a sweet blue-green bubble necklace and I bought some summer tops. Bela and her cousin (actually the daughter of my cousin. So second-cousins? Cousins-once-removed? I'm not sure...) were really precious to watch as they shared a dressing room at Justice and made identical Build-a-Bears. 

Yesterday I still had to pick up dirty laundry that didn't make it to (or anywhere near) the hamper, break up sibling squabbles, and repeatedly remind them to brush their teeth. But it was all good because it's all part of the job title, I suppose. AND I got a nap. That helps a TON with my mood. 

A Real Hoot Cookie Jar / Crossed Spoons Plate Stand / Poppy Ring Brownie Dish /
Half-Dozen Egg Crate
Anyhoo, I have decided that this is Kitchen Week here on Cosy Carolina. Now for the most part, my kitchen is simply a place for pretty dishes and clear counters. To say I am not a gourmet is an understatement. There's a good reason this is not a foodie blog... When 5 o'clock rolls around, I tend to freak inwardly about what's for dinner.I mean, really, are there three more frightening words in the English language?! 

Which is probably why I have become Phil's little sous chef as well as the more-than-occasional dessert preparer of our house. The other night, however, he was out and I was on my own. Not wanting to be reliant on a man for everything, I made the most simple yet delicious meal of my life! It was so easy that I am sharing it with you all. 

Dinner in less than 20 minutes.
No Recipe. No Planning. Just GOOOD.
I threw some chicken breasts under the broiler for about 10 minutes, then literally tossed them in BBQ sauce when done (Tupperware bowl with lid and shake, shake, shake). While they were in the oven, I chopped up a cucumber and tossed it with grape tomatoes sliced in half to make a fake Lebanese salad. I also fried up some frozen hash browns on the stovetop. Voila!

Check back all week for more kitchen inspiration (mostly the non-recipe kind) and my very first giveaway!

Ciao! Or Chow! For now...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Friday I'm In Love, Somerset Collection, & e-Design Reveal

The provence market basket from Ballard is my latest and greatest favorite for the Friday I'm in Love. What?! You say today is not Friday? Details, details.  

It's a great size {19 3/4"H X 19 1/4"W X 18 1/2"D} and affordably-priced at $35.

Here are some ways that the brilliant folks at Ballard used it.

Personally, though, I think I would use it to hold our small board games, video game paraphernalia, or bedtime story books. 

Today I'm off to this "mall" to shop with the women of my family. It should be fun!

Ann-Marie has shared the e-design I created for her sitting room over on her blog. Go check it out!

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms & all those who made someone a mom! 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sneak Peek of My Inspiration For Ann-Marie's Room

I sent the e-design for Ann-Marie's room off to her yesterday, quite possibly the quickest I have ever turned anything around.  :)  She will be posting about it on her blog next week. But until then, I thought I'd give all of you a little sneak peek of my inspiration.

1. Window couch...

Kind of like a window seat. But how does a couch directly in front of the windows look in real life? Check out these inspiration photos!

The window in this room frames the sofa, giving it a larger scale, that I like. The pair of matching chairs is also perfection--more on that later.  :)

Pure Home

Here is another example of a sofa placed in front of the window. The light from the window creates a little bit of a halo effect that I like. Angelic seating...

2. A pair of chairs...

As I mentioned with the orange & blue room above, I love the effect of a pair of matching chairs. Here are a few more examples.

Matchbook {image 8}
Not only does this room have great symmetry in the matching armchairs, but the mirror in between them creates an interesting focal point. 

1212 Decor {image 13}

Chairs are a companionable option in a space that will be used for entertaining. A sofa creates a much deeper sense of intimacy since you are sitting cheek-to-cheek with the person next to you. However, a set of chairs provides some distance while still allowing you to have a conversation with your companion. Perfect for entertaining the boss or in-laws.

3. Bookcase bar...

And any room that serves as a space for entertaining also needs a bar.

The Coveteur

You only need a single shelf to hold some spirits and glassware. If you are not a drinker, then a pitcher of ice water and a plate of cookies.

Yellow Cape Cod
The point of the bookcase bar is not to party like a college freshman but to offer your guests a chance to wet their whistle without interrupting the flow of conversation.

Confession time: I came up with the ideas first and then found the images. Less inspiration, more justification for my suggestions, I suppose. What do you think??? Do you have a dedicated space for entertaining guests in your house? {We sure don't!}

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ann-Marie's House

Not too long ago my blogging friend Ann-Marie posted about a room in her house that has been a pain to decorate. As soon as I read that she was unhappy despite trying lots of things, I sprang into action. 

Or, at least in my mind I did... It was a few more days before I summoned up the courage to send her an email and offer my help.

Being a regular reader of Ann-Marie's blog, Raising May Flowers, I was already familiar with her style. I also knew that she and her husband have done several projects to turn their beautiful house into a home for their young family.

I was giddy when Ann-Marie wrote back, agreeing to let me do an e-design for her space!

The room that we will be transforming is a sitting area just off the foyer. 

The room opens to the dining room, and Ann-Marie said that they use the sitting area before and after dinner, and when entertaining.

She also sometimes uses the space for reading.

Her favorite colors for her house are brown and blue with a pop of red here & there.

The maximum budget for the project is $200.

She has lots of great pieces and some beautiful features in the room--like these large windows and the crown molding & pillars on the dining room-side.

I can't wait to show Ann-Marie (and you!) what I've come up with.  :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

When we know why we do what we do...

My friend and fellow blogger, Jen, from the Mindful Moms Network is special guest posting today! I absolutely love the message that Jen and her partners are sharing with the world, so I was THRILLED when she agreed to share some tips here on Cosy Carolina. In the post below, Jen gives us three simple but meaningful ways to deal with the clutter created by our kids' toys.

Simplicity Tip: Clearing the Kid’s Clutter and Creating Space for engagement, attention, and imagination

What might happen if you reduced your child’s toys by half…then half again? Would they even notice? My girls didn’t. It’s ironic, as you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their ability to pay attention and their capacity for deep play (Simplicity Parenting). Makes sense, right?

The Mindful Mama goal: control the clutter so that a smaller, more manageable quantity of toys remain that invite deep play, engagement, imagination, and attention. Remember, simplifying, even our kid’s rooms, means making choices and knowing the trade-offs. When we know why we do what we do, we can be more effective in bringing about the change we wish to see. These three steps will help you be intentional about clearing the clutter so that you can create the space for your kid’s engagement, imagination, and attention spans to soar!

STEP 1: Start with PILES-- With all acts of simplicity, you have to have a plan. Decluttering your child’s space starts with planning 4 piles-- 1) KEEP, 2) TOY LIBRARY, 3) DONATE, or 4) DITCH. Explain your plan to your kids as you engage them in the process of mindfully managing their space. When I did this with my 5 and 3 year olds, they were asked to choose a couple items that they wanted to play with now, ones they wanted to play with later, and ones they were done playing with to give to other kids. This was an incredible eye opener for me. I found that the toys that my girls were insistent on keeping out were the ones that were the most simple. For instance, dolls were the overwhelming winner. My girls love baby dolls that they can cuddle, mend, feed, teach, and take on adventures. For my girls, dolls provide an opened opportunity for creative play and imagination. 

STEP 2: CONTEMPLATE-- As you pick up each item (yes, each and every item!) in the overflowing toy box or room, ask yourself, “Is this a toy my child can pour their imagination into, or is it too complicated?” If you are not sure, think about how they have played with it in the past. If they have rarely touched it, you have your answer. Asking this question as I held each toy in my hand helped me decided which pile it truly deserved to go in.

Collect 5
STEP 3: INTENTIONAL Receiving-- There are many times throughout the year that our children are on the receiving end of fun, new toys. Our children are lucky to be so loved by family members who want to demonstrate their love with giving. This is wonderful. Teaching our children to receive this love with excitement for what they receive is important. Even in the spirit of so much getting, we can still be mindful. Even though you have little control over the kind of toys that are given to your child, you do control their environment-- as in…how many toys you allow to fill up the space. Something that has worked well for me is watching closely which gifts my girls gravitate to after the excitement of opening all the gifts, and the initial 30 second “quick play session” is over. I pay attention to the couple gifts that really engage them. I then put away the others for a later date-- maybe in one day, one week, or one month. My intention is to keep the physical space clear so they can focus their attention-- their deep attention-- on one gift at a time.

As Mindful Mamas, we are intentional with clearing the clutter to create space for our child’s natural curiosity and imagination to thrive. But that's not all; we also simplify our parenting in the process. When we simplify our kid’s space, we are also simplifying our parental duties:

“You don’t need to stimulate or enrich play. You don’t have to control it. Sometimes we parents help most by getting out of the way, while being available. We can provide time, opportunities, and resources…by allowing rather than controlling, we give children a sense of freedom and autonomy. Their play is open-ended, the choices and decisions are theirs to make, and the discovery process includes self-discovery.” (Simplicity Parenting)

As Mindful Mamas, we are all about allowing and not controlling, getting out of the way, and providing the space for our children to discover who they really are.

Carrie again: isn't this so great??? I love it! To quote, "When we know why we do what we do, we can be more effective in bringing about the change we wish to see." BINGO!!  Thanks so much to Jen and the Mindful Moms Network!!

Do you think you could reduce your kids' toys by half ... and then half again?? I have certainly noticed that when there are fewer choices, the ones that are left are more meaningful to my kids.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

5 Tips for Busy

Hello, friends! I'm back!  :)

Back from three big work events in two days. Back from one of the most elegant private clubs in the country. Back from a once-lost-but-never-gone Great American City.  
Back in my own house. And it's time to put this place in order.

For the past two weeks, I've let stuff slide around the house. There is laundry in baskets all around the house. Laundry on top of the dryer. Laundry on hooks waiting to be hung in closets. And even more laundry waiting unwashed in the hampers. Then there's the kid stuff--books, crayons, action figures & stuffed animals--on every flat surface...

Which is not to say that Phil isn't the most amazing person to live with. He is so great at seeing what needs to be done and just doing it. Without being asked or expecting any special thanks. Plus he makes the most delicious meals!

But, still. There's nothing quite as satisfying for me as watching our house transform from cluttered to clean. 

I have a whole list of projects I want to work on today while the kids are with their dad and Phil is at his annual golf outing. It is such an ambitious list: finish painting the cabinet and add the new hardware, "sew" Bela's new curtains, groceries, impromptu IKEA trip, clean the whole house and finish all the laundry, try out my new Rub-n-Buff gold leaf paint. But I also have a fun book to read and a more realistic sense of my abilities.

In fact, that's what I want to share with you all here. 

I really hate when I hear myself saying "I'm so busy!" because, really, aren't we all?! Like my friends who are working or parenting AND back in school studying for exams. Or the mom who just had a baby and also has big kids in multiple activities. Or the friends who have more demanding jobs than mine or volunteer for everything in the community, or do both. I could go on & on. 

We are ALL busy sometimes and so I share a few strategies that I used over the past two weeks to keep my head above water.

1. Triage
This one is just like in the ER. You assess what needs to happen and make a plan of attack that puts the highest priority items first. Ask yourself what has to happen and what can fall away. Last week I had to do some laundry, but I did not have to actually put the clean undies & socks in everyone's drawers.

2. Let It Go
The next step is to actively let go of the things that don't matter so you can become hyper-focused on what you do need to do. Last week the kids and I went to the Carnival at their elementary school. They had a FANTASTIC time, looked forward to it for months, yet I did not volunteer for any part of it. I still feel vaguely guilty but am trying to remember that I cannot. do. it. all.

3. Visualize
Imagine yourself soaring serenely over the stress. Radiating peace. Smiling. Just by repeating these little mantras I am able to change my experience.

4. Ask for Help
This one is perennially the hardest for me, but I found myself asking for (and receiving!) help, and it was so liberating.  From the very simple act of using valet at my destination and asking them to help me lift my heavy materials out of the trunk of my car. To asking my blogging friends to fill in here on Cosy Carolina. {In fact I'll be sharing a post from Jen at Mindful Moms Network soon!}

5. Go Round the Horn
And when all the busy-ness is done, have a plan to go back and do whatever it is you have put off. Like today at my house. So, it is now time to bid you all adieu and get back to my list. 

Do you use any of these strategies when you have more "to do" list than time? Do you have any tips to add?? Please share in the Comments section. Thank you! :)

Happy Saturday!


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