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30 December 2011

Organize Your Life | Getting Our the Front Door...

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I don't know about you, but we used to get out the door pretty easily. Now...it seems like it takes forever. ...and don't even get started on Kindergarten...that was a whole new game change when it came to organizing our front door space. Here's the thing -- it has to be super organized, but that doesn't mean it has to be colors that don't fit the rest of your home's scheme or bright plastic bins to contain everything. You don't need labels or tags or the typical organizational tools. You just need a little creativity, a little patience (or money) and a lot of organization.

This is our front door.  It all looks very calm and innocent, but wait until you see what lies beneath...


Before diving into the organizational structure, let's take a look at the actual furniture pieces first.  I use 2 types of wood that complement the wood flooring (the photo makes the colors look off, but I promise the floor is the same tone as the sewing desk :)  So there is a blond wood tone in the floor, the sewing desk (right), the cork and one shoe basket (not pictured).  There is a deep walnut wood seen on the mirror, hook rack, coat rack, clock, cork board frame, message center (behind coat rack) and shoe basket (under sewing table).  To the left of the arrangement is another landing table with walnut tones.

Now moving on to the real nitty gritty....THIS is what is underneath that calm exterior...


Here is how our front door works. There are levels of organization. The actual door is priority #1.

Our front door is magnetic (thank you previous owner!). I've never had a magnetic front door before, but it is fabulous. I use simple strong IKEA magnets the same color as the door to hold papers that absolutely MUST go out the door when we walk out. Typically it is papers that need to be turned into school (they are so amazingly strict even for Kindergarten...it just blows my mind...but anyhoo -- no use going off on a tangent now...) The other must for our front door is pretty standard. We must have a dead bolt. Now, many folks have a dead bolt to keep bad people OUT. We simply need a deadbolt to keep our baby IN. He is always trying to get out the front door and that dead bolt is a lifesaver - literally.

The second level is right inside the door to the left. The essentials for our family include:

#1 Mirror -- Who wants to go outside with lipstick on their teeth or hair sticking up??
#2 Key Storage -- You aren't going anywhere without them! We use 2 hooks that are attached to the mirror.
#3 Wallet Storage -- Again, you aren't going many places without it. This is also part of the mirror.
#4 Backpacks -- Homework in the backpacks, snack in the side pocket, kid height so they can hang them themselves.
#5 Kid Coats -- Separate from adult coats on strong hooks. All within a foot of the door because of the...
#6 Wipeable Floor -- A must. Our kids (and we!) track in tons of dirt and mud. A wood, laminate or tile floor is a must right inside the door.


The third level of organization is to the right of the door. These items are essential, but not as dire of consequence if forgotten like tier 1 & 2.

#1 Clock -- Timing is not a strong suit of mine, so clocks are everywhere in our house.  One near the door is essential.
#2 Message Center -- This is hidden behind the coat rack, but it is one of those little message racks from the 50's.  I keep a checkbook, a pen and a Sharpie in it.  That is it...no more, no less.
#3  Bulletin Board -- For essential bills and such that need attention right now.
#4  In and Out Box -- Letters, cards, bills, etc, etc.  I try to keep this empty.
#5 Coat Rack -- Adults Only, 1-2 coats, purses and an umbrella.
#6 Catchalls -- My catchalls at the moments include a little Haeger planter and a silver bowl.  They catch all :)
#7 Shoe Basket(s) -- We have 2 baskets of shoes by the door.  One is under the sewing table, one is to the right.  I try to keep adult shoes in one, kid shoes in the other, but it doesn't always work out quite that way...in fact, I often find my clean girl shoes mixed into the dirty boy pile, complete with Cheerios...


Are you still with me??  Hang on tight, we are almost finished!

The fourth level is to the left of the door.  There is a little coat closet across from the door, and then a landing table in front of it.  The stuff stored here is a lot less essential, but nice to have near the door.

#1 Library Book Box -- See that dark brown box under the table?  That was supposed to be for the laundry chute, but the moment my husband brought that puppy home from the store, it snuck right under that table and has been holding library books ever since.  It is the same shape and color as the shoe box under the sewing table, so I couldn't let it leave...it was just too perfect!  Anyway, the box is almost always full of library books, half to read, half to go back...and our fines have gone down (slightly) since I put this basket so close to the front door.
#2 Open Space -- This is a difficult one.  I always seem to be adding furniture because surfaces can't stay clear.  However, it is essential to have spaces that are clear of everything -- especially by the front door.  A place to drop a bag, set a book, lay down a heavy present, etc. etc.  Big.  Open.  Clear.  Space.
#3 Coupons and Books that I am reading or refer to often in the racks.
#4 Letter Rack on top (more cute than anything, but open storage in case...again OPEN, not full of stuff)
#5 Guest Book Frame and Matte
#6 I have chapstick in that drawer...another essential :)


The fifth level is even further away from the front door and includes the SHOE DRESSER with extra shoes, hats and scarves.  Also important to have close to the front door is a bunch of bowling pins stuck upside down in a frame you have been meaning to upholster...

um yeah...that is our home....complete organization and then crazy toys everywhere with half finished projects...IT WORKS!!


Now it is your turn...how do you keep your front door organized?  How do you make sure you have everything you need?  What are your tips and tricks for making it look like a habitable home instead of the inside of an office supply cabinet??  Share share share!

Christmas Means...

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You know, presents sometimes get a bad "wrap" when it comes to Christmas. You know...all the materialism and creating want in kids and generally encouraging greediness and all that.  ...and I agree...it can be a bit much.  In fact, the last few days have been spent attempting to rid the boys of I want, I need, I would like to put this toy on my list, I think this would be a great present...etc, etc, etc.  HOWEVER...going through photos of the present opening this year, I can't help but think that maybe the gifts ain't all that bad...

How often does that look of excitement and pure awesomeness happen??  (Well...too be honest...quite a bit...he gets that face when we give him saltines or craisins, but the chance to capture it is made available by an abundance of toys being opened by his bros across the room...)


...and these boys?  Check out that brotherly hug...and you should have heard the profuse thank yous.  Thanks yous to a brother who didn't quite want a bear hug at the moment, all over a 59 cent Hulk coloring book that said brother did not even pick out...but who cares about any of that.  The point is...I want my boys to hug and thank like this forever.  I want them to love on each other, love on their wives and their babies and be thankful for the smallest gifts.   ...and it can all start with a Hulk coloring book from Ollies...who knew...


So whether it is gift giving, gift buying, gift receiving or opening, I am thankful for all the gifts of Christmas -- even the commercial, greedy ones...

How was your greedy Christmas this year??

23 December 2011

Are you POPULAR or TALENTED?

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Now, don't go getting offended.  This isn't high school.  We are talking about blog strategies today and lucky for us --  it isn't all based on outward appearances :) 

There are three basic types of blogs.  If you look at your blog, you can probably classify it as a popular blog, a talent blog or a social blog.  Most blogs are social.  In fact, when polling you guys, almost 90 % of you said your main reason for blogging is social.  You want to chat about your life.  You want to read other blogs chatting about their lives.  You want to connect and build friendships online.  That is fabulous!  Today though, we aren't going to talk about the social blogs.  We are going to talk about the other 2 categories because they are the two basic ways to:

#1 Make Money.

#2 Garner Influence.

#3 Create Opportunities.


18 December 2011

Making Homemade Vanilla Extract

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Did you know that vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world (after saffron!).  
Extracting your own vanilla is a great way to make it affordable on a grand scale. 


One of my gifts this year for moms and sisters and friends are bottles of homemade vanilla extract.   Mexico is known for their vanilla beans and believe me when I say, we tried, tried and tried again to find authentic Mexican vanilla beans while we were traveling on the Yucatan Peninsula.  Of course, we were able to find bottles of vanilla extract and an untold amount of Chile powder, but vanilla beans -- no luck.   Luckily, amazon has a nice assortment of various beans from sellers across the world, so I was able to buy a bag of dried beans and shipped the next day.

You can see they are between 4-6 inches long and full of yummy vanilla goodness.  Before adding them to your bottle, cut a slit up the middle of the bean and make sure it is open widely so the alcohol can really "extract" the flavor from the bean.  I add 3-4 (edited: go for 5-6 for a deep vanilla!) beans per cup of vodka.

Fill the bottle with your choice of vodka and seal the bottle.  Every day, give the bottle a little shake and a few months later, you will have a nice sized bottle of vanilla extract. 


The transformation starts to happen immediately.  
Every day, the color deepens a bit more and the scent of vanilla starts to overtake the scent of alcohol. 

After you have finished using the vanilla extract, you can add more vodka to the leftover beans.  Just allow the alcohol to extract the flavor for several more months and you will have a new bottle of vanilla extract.  If you keep one bottle for use and one bottle in stock, you will never run out and never have to pay $4.56 for that little miniature bottle of McCormick's at the grocery store!  You can use the beans at least twice, but perhaps more. 


To challenge myself a little more, I not only purchased beans, but I also purchased a very small vanilla PLANT.  It is only 3-4 inches tall, but will hopefully grow quickly and start producing my own vanilla beans to process.  The vanilla plant is an orchid, and I've had good luck growing orchids in the past, so wish me luck!

One of the reasons pure vanilla is so expensive is that it has to be hand pollinated in most locales.  In Mexico, there is a certain bee that is very savvy about pollinating and naturally pollinates the vanilla beans.  In the rest of the world, humans have to hand pollinate by carefully lifting up a tiny flap called the rostellum and push the anther and stigma together.  I told you it was a bit complicated...those bees have SKILLS.  Anyway, this pollination must occur within 12 hours of the flower opening.  This process takes attention!

Like all orchids, the leading cause of death indoors is overwatering.  3 cubes of ice a week will do well for them!  If you can leave them in a humid environment, such as a greenhouse or bathroom, they need even less.  


Below are the amazon stores I used to purchase my beans and plant.  Both stores shipped quickly 
and packaged the items carefully,  so if you are interested in creating your own vanilla extract, I highly recommend them!
 


I bought my vanilla plant on amazon -- find a similiar one for only $4.99 HERE!

Want the beans?  Here you go!





Wrapping Presents when you don't have Wrapping Paper

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If you have a decent stash of crating materials, you have a decent chance of having enough "stuff" to forgo traditional wrapping paper altogether. This year, my boxes held a bunch of basic tissue paper, some nice ribbons and fabric. The addition of a few toppers and garlands and I didn't have to make a wrapping paper run - chewWAwa!



The bases of these packages are simple layerings of white tissue paper.  It takes 10-12 sheets to make an opaque coating, a light hand with wrapping, but otherwise folds similarly to traditional wrapping paper.

The garlands are made by cutting velum papers with a punch and sewing them together with a basic stitch on the sewing machine. 


I wanted to do most of my wrapping this year with fabric as it is not wasted after unwrapping and still looks pretty.  However, I had to compromise because my husband reminded me how much the kiddos love ripping into presents.  He was totally right, so all of the little presents got tissue paper while larger presents and mommy and daddy presents got fabric wrappings.


I get my fabrics from the remnant sections at IKEA, Hancok fabrics, Jo-anns and most often - WalMart.  Yes, most of my material comes from WalMart :)  They typically seem to have more remnant pieces and larger pieces than the other stores.  I can often find 1-2 yard pieces which are large enough for pillows and kid blankets.  Whenever I am in the store I check for remnants and pick up any pretty prints, good sized flannels and fleece and scraps of anything really beautiful.  I will also pick up the $1 bags of scraps with ribbons, fringe etc. even if I don't have a project in mind for them quite yet.  Here are a few of my Walmart remnant scores used in my holiday wrappings!



See that plaid and polka dot fabric above - here they are transformed!
By the way, that polka dot fabric comes with red, black and nay as well as brown, and it is a really nice, thick decorating fabric.  They always have some at my local WalMarts in the remnant bins and it is usually large pieces, so I've been stocking up.  Someday soon there will be an awesome project with all my polka dot  fabric.  For now, they are perfect for fun wrappings :)


Of course, hubby found a roll of fun paper, so he added to the "ripping" factor for the kiddos :)

So how have you been wrapping your presents this year?  Any fun new ideas?  Please share!



PS - I'm on Google + -- Are you on google +?  I've got two friends (Thanks Beth and Becky) and still aren't quite sure how the whole thing works, but blogger is putting the smack down to switch, SO I switched.  If you are tweedling your thumbs over there as well, come say hello!  You can find me HEREWhere can I find YOU?!  (Feel free to leave your profile links in the comments or on the facebook page so I can find you!)


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16 December 2011

Redbud: HOUZZ.com

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If you have been following my facebook page or twitter, you might have noticed a lot of linking up to Houzz this week.  I am honored and excited to join the ranks of my idols and mentors like Erika Ward as a contributing design writer for Houzz.

So what on Earth is Houzz?

It is like pinterest, but focused on design, interiors, garden design and architecture.
The Washington Post says it is the "Flickr of design idea sites" - March 5, 2009
Apartment Therapy says is the "facebook for interiors".

It is a magazine with article after article, new ones appearing from professionals several times a day instead of just once a month in your mailbox.  Like an idea in a professional's ideabook?  Make one click and save it to your own ideabook.  Instead of pinterest boards, you create Houzz ideabooks full of ideas and can then make comments and link them into an article of your own.  Who knows?  Maybe your ideabook will be the next featured ideabook on the site and hundreds of people will be "houzzing" your ideas!

So if you love design, check out Houzz.
If you love beautiful photographs of homes and gardens, check out Houzz.
If you love pinning design ideas, you will love creating ideabooks.

If you want to learn more about creating nests in your home and garden, LIVING BOLDY in your designs and decor choices and integrating plants and other natural elements into your living spaces, come join me as I write for Houzz!

My archived design articles for Houzz and new travel articles will be indexed HERE on 'A Nest for All Seasons' and HERE on Houzz!

PS...If you are wondering what else everyone has to say about Houzz...well...read on...

"Users can now tap on tags in images to learn more about items and where-to-buy information." - November 2011 issue, page 266
 
"The holy grail of all things design... Houzz's database is incomparable, the app is easy to use and the design is comprehensive." - October 26, 2011
 
"If you're in need of some good design inspiration for your child's bedroom, Houzz Kids' Rooms is a great place to start." - October 13, 2011
 
"As a launching platform for your decorating project, or just as idle inspiration while daydreaming about your next one, Houzz is practically a bottomless well of inspiration at the tip of your swiping fingers." - September 10, 2011, See #26
 
"Houzz.com provides a wealth of information on remodeling and redecorating... includes a plethora of articles relating to design. You can even submit a question to their Q&A section to get personalized help." - September 10, 2011
 
"This app will stoke your imagination. Houzz provides access to more than 100,000 photos of interiors, sortable by room, style or location. It also has contractor directories for over 50 metropolitan areas." - September 2011 issue, page 91
 
"Houzz is bringing the process into the digital age by creating a database of more than 170,000 home design photos sorted by room, style and geographic location." - August 30, 2011

"The Wikipedia of interior and exterior design." - June 11, 2011
 
"Even better, set up an account on Houzz.com and create an 'ideabook' online. You'll find a nearly endless portfolio of excellent ideas for your swipe file there that you and your architect can both contribute to and comment on." - April 28, 2011

"Perhaps the largest database of ideas... new ideas to transform your home with a few simple tricks. [originally in Italian]" - February 24, 2011
 
"Ten of the best Apps for Home and Property: Houzz - a US app with more than 68,000 photographs of inspirational house interiors." - February 1, 2011
 
"For those who are short on design ideas and in need of some inspiration to get this year's room re-do underway, Houzz Interior Design Ideas is ideal. Whether you're looking for what's hot in New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, or even London or Hong Kong, Houzz Interior Design Ideas has got you covered." - January 26, 2011
"English creates 'idea books,' or files of images, for his clients to review with Houzz, a free phone app that contains more than 70,000 photos of rooms, homes and landscape projects. Having the images to refer to helps clients articulate more clearly their likes and dislikes, he said." - January 11, 2011
 
"browse interior design ideas by style, room or location... once users have found an interior design idea they like the idea can then be saved and shared with others." - December 31, 2010
 
"However, keeping up with all the magazines is tough. A better alternative is Houzz... acts as a community letting users interact with one another, get advice, and find nearby designers." - December 31, 2010
 
"So far users have created more than 130,000 ideabooks. Homeowners can tag items, share photos with friends, or find designers to work with. Professionals, including contractors, architects, and designers, can upload photos to create their own portfolios and find new clients." - November 15, 2010
 
"Houzz appears to be a decent idea that's been executed well." - November 11, 2010
 
"Scroll through more than 40,000 images of interior eye candy on this app... then save your favorites in a virtual idea book for easy access." - November 6, 2010, Home+Garden, Page 1
 
"The online equivalent of clipping decor inspiration from magazines... browse more than 40,000 images submitted by interior decorators, architects and design-minded users (filter by space, style and more), then save them in your virtual idea book." - September 2010 issue, page 60
"So long scrapbooks and online bookmarks! Thanks to the new Houzz app for iPad, you now have a digital place to sort, save and share your favorite home design ideas... But beware: Like candy for design addicts, once you start perusing the Houzz pages, it can be hard to stop. Consider yourself warned." - August 18, 2010
 
"If you're not familar with Houzz you should check it out... it's a great resource for any pro or armchair designer." - July 27, 2010
\
"So far my favorite real estate app for the iPad is called Houzz. Houzz.com is a site where interior decorators and home design professionals share their various works and you can browse through their online catalog for ideas... The search options are endless and the browsing is entertaining. The photo quality is top notch and fills up the entire iPad screen... It's basically a dreaming app for your iPad which may potentially cost me a few hundred extra dollars as my home may have some unexpected new decor being added to it (thanks a lot, Houzz). " - May 11, 2010

"Site we're psyched about: houzz.com - Love room porn and stockpiling design ideas? Sounds like you've got a fever and the only prescription is Houzz.com. An online community for architects, designers and decor aficionados... Three cheers for the encyclopedia of room porn!" - May 7, 2010

"With more than 30,000 photos, the Houzz application has one of the most comprehensive collections of home design images on the iPad. In addition, there are also more than 25,000 helpful 'ideabooks' with articles about how you can improve the design of your house and helpful home design tips. See something that catches your eye? Just add it to your virtual idea book for offline viewing." - May 6, 2010
 
"To be honest, it's a tad difficult to describe the interior-design-obsessed website houzz.com. It is a bit of everything from inspiration to design notebook, to videos, to blog, to addiction -- in a good way. Have a design question? Post it along with any photos and, presto, you'll get advice from others. A new iPad app has also been launched so you can search, save, mark as a favorite -- basically access inspiration anywhere." - May 5, 2010

"'For the iPad, Apps With Their Own Wow Factor' - a digital look book for interior-decorating ideas... allowing you to search and save certain looks for offline access or sharing with others." - April 7, 2010
 
"The images are uploaded by users -- homeowners, professional designers, contractors, landscape artists, and architects. Just click on the image you like and save it to your own Ideabook. You can create different themes for your own book and tag the photos where you want to save them. I went straight to my favorite subject, DIY, and browsed around some of the other links, and created my own Ideabook. I'm just getting started, though. It's quite an addictive site." - March 29, 2010
 
"Our web of the week could be the ultimate home decorating resource! It's called houzz.com. No matter the room or the style, you will find thousands of high quality pictures, offering ideas. Another cool feature is you can save an image to your own idea book and write a few notes about what you liked in each one." - March 1, 2010
 
"I am not an architecture freak myself but I can nevertheless appreciate good quality when I see it. Houzz has it. A lot of it actually." - January 25, 2010

"If you are a professional you will put this site to excellent use since you can create a portfolio and spread your name around quite easily. In that sense, the site caters for every single person involved in the industry, and provides them with a platform that can but elicit fruitful relationships." - January 16, 2010
 
"One of Home and Living's favorite websites" - January 15, 2010
 
"Set this one to show up weekly in your inbox and you can check out self-submitted design ideas. It also offers a 'design book' to keep your favs." - January 8, 2010
Convinced Yet??




Want to meet the rest of the redbuds?  Check them out below!

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