Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Very "Merry" Christmas

I have such grandiose ideas about Christmas. Maybe, in a way, we all do, but I'm 100% sure of my own!

Although I LOVE Fall, the day after Thanksgiving, all of the Fall decor comes down and up goes Christmas! (As soon as I typed the word "Thanksgiving" I realized I forgot to blog about THAT event. I argued with myself for a moment, wondering if I should delete the current blog, go back, blog about Thanksgiving and THEN do this blog...but you know what? That kind of thinking is exactly what this blog entry is about!)

Let me allow you to catch a glimpse into my mind =) Scary, right? HA! When I tell my husband that "I'm just trying to explain to you what's going on in my head", he always puts his hands on his head and tells me,"That's okay, baby, I think that will just overwhelm me." But in THIS case, it's necessary!

I LOVE all things decorated, holiday-ed, event-oriented, etc. It's such fun for me to plan and organize and then carry it all out in a perfect manner...except, no matter how much I plan, it NEVER turns out perfect. And normally, this is a HUGE thorn in my side. I just have no idea.

I have a very vivid memory of the moment it turned Christmas last year. It was literally midnight, and I was in the kitchen, knee-deep in baking, and watching a stupid orange cranberry bundt cake cave in on itself before my eyes. I was literally about to cry, when I realized it was midnight, and I headed for the living room to wish my husband a Merry Christmas. I rounded the corner to see him knee-deep in all the packing materials of a sound bar and speakers for the TV, a gift that he couldn't seem to get working. I crawled through the mess to him, kissed his cheek and wished him a Merry Christmas. He nodded absently, wish me a Merry Christmas, too, and then proceeded to fume about the stupidity of technology...and it all just hit me. Merry freakin' Christmas.

Now, this is much more amusing to me now than it was at the time - we were just laughing about that night yesterday, as a matter of fact! But the thing is, I remember how frustrated I was, and this Christmas, I determined that I would not allow myself to get to that point again. It simply wasn't worth it.

So I planned. I charted out on the calendar every Christmas event, every day of shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, Christmas carding, musical-ing, all of it. It was perfect. I knew this would be the most amazing stress-free Christmas there ever was, and I was SO looking forward to it.

And then...I caught the flu.

I missed four days of work. I missed four Christmas parties. I missed a birthday party. I missed a choir rehearsal. I had to cancel two photoshoots. And I was MISERABLE.

And, all of my planning and charting had completely gone to waste!!!

When I finally felt human again and was able to jump back in, I was behind on EVERYTHING.

In the midst of it all, as I was talking to a client on the phone, he ended our conversation by wishing me a very Merry Christmas...and it was all I could do to not respond with a snarky comment.

It was then that I realized I wasn't being very..."merry". And that was the LAST thing I had wanted.

So, honestly, through no choice of my own, I decided that this Christmas would just not be Pinterest-Perfect. At first, I was pretty upset about it, and then I realized that, if I had to give up my sanity in order to have the perfect Christmas, then it just wasn't worth it.

Yes, I'm still behind at work. But I'm not going to work on any of my given days off over Christmas to fix that. I will catch up when I catch up.

Sure, the baking was late getting done, but it still got done...and it is going out without any flu germs attached to it =)

Of course, the presents aren't finished being wrapped, but, let's face it, the cat will probably mutilate them once they get under the tree anyway, so who cares?

And you know what? Not ALL of the food I take to remaining events is going to be beautifully made from scratch. Some will probably be a freezer item that I threw on a sheet and baked in the oven five minutes before leaving for the event. And that's okay. Because I'd rather spend my time with family and friends making memories than spending my time stressing out over perfection in the kitchen.

So I think the key to a Very "Merry" Christmas is not planning and much as I would like to think it is and as much as, yes, I have already started planning for next year! Ha!

But honestly, I think the key is thankfulness and time. Thankfulness for all that we've been blessed with, and time to share it with others. And a clear picture of Who gave us all these things we're blessed with in the first place.

May your Christmas be a Very "Merry" Christmas...whether or not it's perfection!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fabulous Fall

I LOVE Fall! And in Florida, that doesn't give me too much time to enjoy one of my favorite times of the year, ya know?

So, on the first offical day of Fall, I pull out all the Fall decor and deck my house out, from the front door to the patio and everywhere in between. It works for me because we aren't big Halloween people, so I don't use Halloween decor and then Thanksgiving decor...although I'm sure one day when we have a kid or two I'll deck everything out for Halloween in their honor!

This year, I also spent a bit more time in the kitchen, cooking delectable fall things I pinned to my "Fabulous Fall" board on Pinterest. (Are you following me? You really should! CLICK HERE!)

I discovered my "signature" cookie for the Fall! It's called Spiced Apple Cookie, and I made a TON of them: for my husband, for our neighbors, for the family here and the family reunion we went to...and everyone LOVED them! Score for me!

But I didn't want to just take people cookies in a sandwhich bag, so I found these awesome baggies and accents at Michael's, and of course, I already had the twine. (Take my advice and get yourself some twine, people. You will use it. I promise.)

Ta-da! Aren't they cute??? Oh, you were wanting to see the cookies themselves? Picky, picky, picky...

No, this is not a picture I took, because I'm really bad about getting in the midst of things and NOT taking a picture. This is the Pinterest picture, and, believe it or not, mine looked just liked this!

I also made several batches of pumpkin bread, to take along with us when we went on our Fall trip and to the homes of friends for special occasions. These are regular disposable pans you can buy at the grocery store, but with added twice and accents!

What special things do you do for Fall? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Utensil Bouquet

Sometimes I know the perfect gift for someone, but it seems SO simple! I mean, I know they'll love it, but the packaging just seems off. Sooo...sometimes I make my own packaging!

*Please note: these pics are just phone pics, so I apologize in advance for their quality!

These are utensils from Bob Evans restaurant. The last time we ate in there with my in-laws, my mother-in-law was ooing and ahhing over these items as we waited for the guys to check out. They ARE pretty cool - great quality with nice bright-colored silicone - the Bob Evans special brand!

So when it came time for her birthday, I figured I'd get her a nice assortment. But then I didn't know what to do with them!

I actually saw this at Walmart and thought...hmmm...this might just work! I liked that it was a nice bright color, too!

Yep, they all fit and the colors blended nicely! Perfect!

Entre some cellophane (that I ALWAYS keep on hand)...

And voila! Finished product!

I think there are countless ways to do something like this! Next time I'll have more fillers of some sort to add, but it turned out pretty good for a first effort, I think. The important thing is, my recipient liked it!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The List Book

Some people might have a "To-Do" list. Yep, I have one of those. (Well, more than one, to be honest!) Those are located at my full-time job - my daily list, my lunch list, and my "do this on your way home or when you get home" list!

But I also have a List Book.

Early in life, I found that making a list of things helped me to organize my thoughts, and since I've always had lots of different activities going on, it helped me not to forget anything at the same time. As time went on, I ended up with not only a few more "projects" but also the need to condense everything together in some concise form.

Enter: The List Book! Now, no more pieces of paper floating all over creation!

I happen to LOVE Vera Bradley, hence the pretty pattern! And it's not big - about the size of your average diary or journal.

So, what do I mean by a List Book?

It's pretty simple: it's full of lists. Lists such as...
  • People to Have Over for Dinner
  • Office Projects
  • Living Room Projects
  • Dining Room Projects (okay, every room of the house has a list, so you get the idea!)
  • Places to Go (for when me and my hubby both actually have a day off at the same time!)
  • Songs for CD (one day we plan on recording one!)
  • Dishes to Try
  • To Blog Of
  • Books to Read
  • Shows to Watch
  • Things to do in D.C. (our next vacation spot!)

I basically condensed down all the lists I had floating all around, and put them into one notebook! And that's not all this helps me with...

Also in the List Book, I keep listings of all of my frequented websites, along with account numbers, usernames, passwords, things like that. Yes, they are color-coded (with MARKERS, for my friends who LOVE to pick on me for this aspect of my O.C.D., ha!): Pink is Personal, Green is Photography and Yellow is Clever Container.

Whoops, that picture had no yellow on it.

There we go!

It's so easy to be able to grab this book and look up exactly what I need in a split second, or, when I get a brilliant idea, use it to make a brand new list!

And yes, sometimes things change. Lists get completed and websites expire, etc. That's why, at the beginning of every year, a new List Book is purchased, and all the necessary information is transferred over!

Try this on for size in YOUR life! I promise you'll feel more organized!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Organized Trunk

This has become somewhat of a running joke between a few of my friends - Kristen's "Trunk Baskets" =) But some are honestly interested in the process, so, here goes!

Several years back, when I was a full-time college student, "nannying" for triplets and their baby brother (all boys), directing the Kid's Choir at church, singing in the the adult choir at church, leading worship for the College & Career Group at church, freelance writing for Focus Magazine, and attempting to still  have time with family and friends, not only was I in my car more than any other place, but I was LOOSING things left and right. There was just too much stuff for all my activities to keep up with. It really was ridiculous, and I was so tired of feeling unorganized every single day! The Dollar Tree I went, and I purchased 6 plastic bins/baskets. Of course, back then each bin was assigned a different task than today's, but the basic idea was, anything for school went in the school bin. Anything for "nannying" went in the nanny bin, anything for writing went in the writing bin, and so on and so forth. Worked like a charm! Plus, it freed me from having "stuff" slide all over my back-seat every time I made a turn...I REALLY hate that!

Yes, I still employ this system today! Check it out!

1. Shopping & Errands (You can see the re-uasble shopping bags there now, but if I have any items that need to be returned, or I'm trying to match fabric etc., all that goes here)

2. Action Items (This is pleasantly empty at the moment, but if I am running food to a new mom or clothes to the seamstress, etc. here's where these things go)

3. Emergency Items (First Aid Kit, spare pens and paper, air fresheners, sewing all goes here)

4. Photography (You can see my camera bag here now ready for today's shoot - what you can't see is the packet of proofs that's underneat the camera bag, ready to be delivered)

5. Clever Container (As you may notice, I have an envelope here, ready to be delivered to a hostess today)

6. Work (This is the basket I carry in to my full time job and then back home with me every day - my briefcase of sorts. Don't you love the lunch box???)

7. I like to leave some space open for whatever may come up! And, generally, all of these bins can be stacked in one row across the back and leave room for larger items, like packages I've picked up or groceries I've made a run for.

It's also great to look back and see how many of these baskets are empty at the end of the day. That makes me feel accomplished! And it works the other way, too - a quick reminder of what I still need to get done!

I hope this is helpful for everyone! It's very easy to toss whatever is needed into its corresponding basket, and then, I know exactly where it is! No more losing things in the car, wohoo!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Pilot of a Clever Post

I just realized that I haven't even introduced my new venture via this blog! Scandalous, I know!

The truth is, I've been VERY busy, between the full time job in insurance, the part time business I run doing photography and other promotionals (I guess I should introduce that too, huh?) and NOW a lovely little side job with a company called Clever Container.

I discovered Clever Container quite by accident, while I was being an organizing nerd and searching online for ways to organize a problem closet. When I came across their website, I was intrigued, because I had never heard about it before! So I filled out the little "request more information" form and sent it off, not really thinking much more about it.

The next day, I got a call from a lady named Judy who lives in Ohio. Judy informed me that she had been assigned me as a lead from the website, and wanted to tell me all about Clever Container.

The long and short of it is: Clever Container is a company that specializes in organizing products to make your life easier. It's similar to things like Tupperware or PartyLite, but this is all about organizing!

It was almost too good to be true!

After multiple conversations with Judy, I finally decided to become the ONLY Clever Container consultant in central Florida. And my husband sighed and shook his head. "What?" I asked. "Don't you have enough to do already?" he questioned.

Apparently not =)

Since July 1, I've been doing Clever Container parties and helping people tackle their organizational issues, and honestly, really enjoying myself! I'm not entirely sure where exactly this is going, but I sure am having fun with it!

To find out more about Clever Container, visit their website at (Yes, you can view our catalog there, too!)

To follow me on this particular journey, feel free to head over to Facebook and like the page I've set up:, and continue to follow this blog, of course, because I'll be posting on here about the biz from time to time as well!

I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts! Have YOU ever even HEARD of Clever Container?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Holiday Shelf

While on my way to work this morning, I watched a few kids load up on the bus, and I smiled, thinking that all is right with the world again. School is back in session (in the county in which I reside, at least) and things are getting back to normal after all the unstructured activities of the summer.

In the same breath I realized, I have not even blogged about my Summer Holiday Shelf! And it's practically Fall!

So, here you go! (Oh, and if you want to see the original creation of the Holiday Shelf, click here!)

I started with one of my grandma's crystal goblets, and added some pretty artificial daisies from The Dollar Tree.

I added a fantastic Summer Love printable that can be found over at Landee See Landee Do, and some pink daisies (also from The Dollar Tree), too!

This purple candle is from Walmart (lavender-scented) simply because I love purple and wanted it for the shelf!

And my hourglass =) This is a favorite of my decorations because it reminds me that life is short! (I perched it a-top a votive candle-holder to add some height.)

I made this little garland out of paper cupcake liners, folded in half, hole-punched and strung with a pretty white ribbon.

Ta da! Summer Holiday Shelf! My husband said it looked pretty "Springy", but it was the printable I built it around, and THAT says SUMMER, so I'm good =)

How do YOU decorate for Summer? I wanna see!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Welcoming Others

"Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you  must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate." (Rick Warren)

I LOVE entertaining. I really do. And while we have a small place right now, I hope that one day we'll be able to have something larger and be able to welcome even more people into our home. (Although our family and friends have been really awesome about cramming into our little place. Hey, the food's normally good, what can they do?)

I also try my best to make sure that our home is always ready for company - whether it's a co-worker meeting one of us for a business trip, a neighbor dropping by, or someone who's just "in the neighborhood" and wants to say a quick hello.

I realize all of these things are much easier to practice since we have no kids. (I KNOW there was someone reading this and muttering, "Just wait until she has kids...") The change in everything that children bring is not lost on me...I worked my way through college as a nanny for triplet boys, remember? But the idea is to get in the habit NOW of doing things this way, so that when the kids come, they learn the same principles.

During the last event that we held at our house, one of our guests caught me in the kitchen and commented on how she always felt comfortable when she was in our home, and she thanked me for that. Such a simple gesture, but it meant so much to me!

Recent events have got me thinking...quite a bit, actually. Did you know that since 2000, the number of hate groups in the United States has increased by 69%? That's amazing to me, and not in a good way! Why are we so hateful? Why are we so fearful? What's happened to the love? When did passion begin to negate compassion? These are things I don't understand.

I certainly can't change anyone else, but I do know that I can control my own actions. Just as I have always wanted anyone (no matter their race, gender or belief) to feel welcome and comfortable in my home, I want the same when meeting anyone for the first time, fellowshipping with those I have known for many years, or coming together with anyone, really, whether they are in my home or not.

Because, let's face it: I don't know when I may have an opportunity to speak encouragement into someone else's life, and how can I do that if they feel like I hate them, or even fear them? I have many convictions, and my goal is to have my actions support those convictions, but I refuse to bash anyone else over the head with them, or mock someone because they feel differently than I do. What good will that do? I mean, really?

As Warren said, "You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate." Thank goodness for that! And although this topic may not seem the norm for this blog, I think that there's a very important destination along the Road to Domestication. It's name is Compassion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Red, White & Ka-BOOM!

Each 4th of July is a little different in my family, due to the fact that it's my mom's birthday, so I try my best not to have her have to clean the house and prep for all of us to come over...on her own birthday. It was so hot this year, I didn't worry about any outdoor activities, and we have a pretty small place right now, but I'm thankful for a gracious family who is always up for squeezing in and enjoying each other's company! (And enjoying the air conditioning!)

Welcome to our home! (This lovely find came from Hobby Lobby.)

This is my "Holiday Shelf", decorated for Independence Day. If you'd like to see more on the Holiday Shelf, click here!

All of these paper lanterns came from The Dollar Tree. I stacked them how I imagined them, and then basically sewed them together. (This was not the best way to do things - anyone know of a good tutorial for a paper lantern chandelier? I need one!) Ended up looking pretty cool, though. See the tissue paper sticking out of the tops of a couple lanterns? That was a nice spur-of-the-moment filler!

My mother-in-law bought us a bunch of these cool Coke placemats for Christmas last year (my husband loves all things Coke), and they just happened to be red, white and blue, so I decided to use them in the food table decor. Aren't they neat?

As you can probably tell, I'm a HUGE fan of The Dollar Tree (for one-time events). The plates and napkins came from there, and the awesome Coke glasses (that I'm using here for cutlery catchers) came from my mother-in-law, as well!

The main dish was Hawiian Pulled Pork...yummy! It was a hit, and the best thing is that it was a Crock Pot dinner! Wohoo! If you'd like the recipe, click here. (This pic is from when I first put it all together...made the house smell amazing, too!)

The cupcakes were red velvet (although the decorating of the cupcakes leaves a LOT to be desired...guilty! Hey, at least they tasted good...), and the truffles were created by my sister!

And the cake. Ahhh, the cake...

Again with the decorating =( My skills are obviously lacking...I guess I should take a class or my free time...but I digress. I had this idea for the cake right after last year's celebration, and then I started seeing it on Pinterest! So I did it!

Came out pretty cool, huh? The blue really needed to be a bit more blue, but it's okay. I'll know for next time. I had so much fun cutting the first piece!!!

My poor husband is SO used to having his food photographed! He offered this plate up willingly before I even asked him =)

More fun scenes...including mom opening her Kindle Fire, our little CoCo playing in the wrapping paper, group shot and mom blowing out the candles!

Happy Independence Day, from all of us to all of you!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Birth of the Holiday Shelf

So I'd been noticing all these Pins on Pinterest and these pictures on blogs that I follow about holiday decor on mantles. Very inspiring! Problem is, I have no mantle. Short of going out and buying one of those tacky-looking fake fireplaces, or moving to a house where there IS a fireplace, I wasn't sure how to remedy the situation. So I kept on gazing in awe at the lovely pictures all these creative folks continued to post...thinking of how I would creatively decorate my own mantle for different holidays...and decided I would do it someday when I had a fireplace!

Then I stumbled upon a lovely blog post from Brieanna over at Darling Doodles. It was called "Holiday Shelf". And THIS I could work with!

So began my quest to create my home's perfect Holiday Shelf. I explained the whole idea to my husband, who scratched his head and looked at me in confusion.

"I don't get it," he said. "We have shelves here. Why do we need a Holiday Shelf? Where are you going to put it? And are you going to change it out for every little holiday? I mean, how much is this going to cost?"

I reminded him that I had wanted to keep the Christmas tree up year round and change out the decor for every holiday, and he had very firmly told me no on that front. I explained that a Holiday Shelf would be MUCH more cost effective than a Holiday Tree...and he had to agree on that point. He still didn't understand, but I promised him that once he SAW my creation, he would love it. I knew he would!

Now, where does one go to begin any major crafting project? Why, Hobby Lobby, of course! I happened to find a lovely mirror and a nice shelf, the mirror for 80% off and the shelf for 30% off. I do love a sale! The problem was that they were both black, and I didn't want black. I wanted white. A can of primer and two cans of glossy white interior spray paint later, I was set.

Here is my lovely coat of primer being applied to my shelf. (Please excuse the garden rake and flower was windy that day and my fruit cobbler proclaiming newspaper was blowing quite violently!)

I also picked up a few different-sized frames at The Dollar Tree, and proceeded to paint those white, as well. The first picture is from before any priming/painting had begun. (Doesn't anyone sell white frames?) The second is in process. (Notice the lovely splattering? The can of primer decided to protest for some reason. Thank goodness we cleared that up.)

It would have been nice if I had remembered to take a shot of the mirror in transformation. Alas, I did not. I DID, however, happen to take a picture of how messy my hands got. Quite lovely.

After several days, several coats, several more explanations to my husband, and several very near misses with our very black kitten and this very white project (not to mention an entire episode of me trying to hang the mirror and shelf while my husband valiantly asssisted....that's for another blog)...voila! May I present, the Holiday Shelf!

Obviously it was decorated for the 4th of July when I finished with it - I was so excited with how it turned out!!!

The bunting was created with scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby and some twine I had in my craft stash.

I snagged this cool printable from A Little Crafting and placed it into one of my new white frames.

The red vase came from Beall's Outlet, and the small blue jar from Hobby Lobby.

I LOVE this printable from Landee See, Landee Do! I inserted it into another of my Dollar Tree frames made over. Might just be my favorite thing on the shelf =) But I also really like the American flag decorative ball...another Hobby Lobby steal!

All in all, quite festive, right? I'd LOVE to see YOUR pics of your holiday mantle! Don't have one? How about a nice Holiday Shelf? =)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sad Yet Sweet

Last week I had to say goodbye to a very dear friend of mine =( I'm well aware of her reasons for moving away, and I understand the situation, but it was still sad to see her go. Road trip soon!!! But here are a few shots of what I did with the plain ol' classroom we used for her reception!

We both have a love for inspirational quotations, so I covered the white board in the room with all these quotes that I printed out from Pinterest. At the conclusion of the reception, everyone in attendance was able to pick quotes off the board and take them home, as a reminder of our friend!

I LOVE me some good quotes!!!

I've found that I can use things I already have to decorate - this "theme" (I guess we'll call it "Spring Lilacs") originally came from the Dollar Tree, as that's where the plates and napkins were discovered.

The vase: Given to me by my Prayer Daughter (full of fresh flowers)
These flowers: Dollar Tree (they have a great variety in all varieties and colors!)
The sign: I created it on the computer
The mosaic ball: Part of my office decor...I think it was originally purchased at Burlington?
The paper: I created it on the computer, as well.
The tablecloth: Dollar Tree

If you can tell, the sign says, "Please take time to leave a 'note' for Kristy!" (Kristy was our piano player and rehearsal accompanist for the Worship Arts Ministry at our church - Plant City Church of God), so I thought it was only fitting that we should leave her "notes" on cards decorated with music "notes". (I'm so clever...or pick!)

I created a scrapbook for Kristy using a Hobby Lobby find that already had the pages created! (We found out she was moving and planned this party in less than a week - I had to work quickly!) The scrapbook is filled with pictures of members of our Worship Arts Ministry...and I'm not posting THOSE pics, because I probably wouldn't live to see our next rehearsal :/

We always want to give our Worship Arts folks an opportunity to bless others!

The sign: I created it on the computer
The vase and flowers: I believe those were another Burlington find
The hourglass: (more like a 10-minute-glass) was a Kohl's bargain
The cute miniature green filing box: A set of these was one of my 25 gifts from two of my fabulous girlfriends for my 25th birthday! I use the set in my office currently.

The whole shebang!

Paper flowers garland: Dollar Tree

Gift basket: I believe it came from Walmart several years ago (set of three nesting baskets)

Thanks to Kathy's Cakes for the fabulous cake! It was so beautiful; everyone loved it!

Closer shot at the details - fantastic!!!

I just realized that I failed to take any pics of the other table :/ Gotta work on capturing the details!

It was another purple-clad table with lilac-themed plates, napkins and forks, the cake, some yummy sausages wrapped in bacon, a gorgeous crystal punch bowl and some clear cups for the yummy pink punch. (I think by the time it was all set up I was distracted by all the friends entering the room!)

Maybe all of this sparked your imagination a bit? I'd love to know what you thought!