Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our 2014 Christmas Cards (A little late, I know!)

I know this is long overdue, but I just had to share our 2014 Christmas cards because I love, love, love the way they turned out! We've used Minted for I think as long as they've been around and couldn't be happier with the quality. This year's card is by far my favorite though (of course!)

I captured the picture of Miles playing in the snow (the first time it snowed this winter - he loved it!) And the rest of the shots are from family sessions with our amazing photographer Kayla at Full Bloom Photography here in Cleveland.

My other favorite thing about this card is that we had all of the addresses printed by Minted and they turned out BEAUTIFULLY! We also used their skinny wrap around labels for our return address.  Just makes them so much more special (and so much easier for us to assemble!)

I'm in the process of designing invitations for Miles' first birthday and can't wait to show you those too!

Monday, December 29, 2014

My 4 New Year's Resolutions... Annnnd my longest, most heartfelt post ever!

I love making goals, to-do lists, and plans. That being said, I totally eat up the idea of New Years resolutions! Not only because of the new date on the calendar, but overall it just feels like a perfect time for a fresh start when all the Christmas decorations are down, when money stops flying out of my wallet for presents, when I can't even LOOK at another cookie, and when I'm well rested after a couple of weeks off. It is the perfect opportunity to reflect, make some goals, and get into a new and improved routine.

I will also report that I am typically one of those people who accomplishes what I put on paper. I am naturally a person who just loves to be productive and to be making improvements. Usually however, my goals are more "one and done" type deals. This year my resolutions are things that I will have to incorporate into my every day operations and will involve a change of mindset, so they may be slightly more tricky (Actually, I KNOW they will be! If these were your basic "save more money" and "lose 5 pounds" types of resolutions, I don't think I'd be writing this post!). I'm sharing them with you in an effort to keep myself accountable and to see what advice you might have to help me achieve them (especially from you working moms out there!)

Overall, when I've reflected on my last year, one major thing that stands out is that I just feel so RUSHED all the time and like a million things are demanding my attention all at once.

I know part of this is normal for a new mom, but now that Miles is getting older and easier, I have identified some areas for improvement and here they are:

On the surface this sounds so vague, but I've tried to come up with a better definition of exactly what this means for me because "slowing down" is something I feel I desperately need to do. I have determined that in order to achieve this, I need to focus on being more present in the current moment, focusing on what I'm doing and not worring about the next 10 things I need to do, and stop trying to multi-task! (I've determined that multi-tasking is completely evil!) It also means to ask for more help with things and not feeling like since I work part-time I should be the one to do it all.  I need to stop trying to be superwoman. Evan, my in-laws, my parents, co-workers, friends, etc. are so willing to help me with things, and I need to let them! It also means not feeling guilty for hiring a baby-sitter once in awhile so I can clean and organize without trying to juggle a baby, or even just to treat myself to a book or a bubble bath! It also means reducing the "noise" and distractions. It means having more silence in my day where I can think! Right off the bat, I've decided this includes turning off the TV when cooking dinner/doing dishes (I usually watch the news), stop checking Facebook and Instagram every hour, and stop checking my e-mail every MINUTE. 

Incorporate more time to just b-r-e-a-t-h-e. 

In fact, the whole concept behind "The Fat Hydrangea" is that they are simple, natural, God-created things that remind me to stop, smile, and appreciate the beauty around me. Kind of my own application of what it means to "stop and smell the roses." I don't know where I fell away from that exactly but it's time to get back to it! It will be a challenge since I feel like I'm wired to run non-stop, but seriously thinking of these goals makes me feel an overwhelming sense of peace, and that is very, very good!

This is my attempt to zap negative energy, stress, baggage, and burdens by living more simply. This includes being more selective with "stuff" and by being smarter in order to dimish or remove the things caushing me stress. That being said, I've broken this goal of simplifying into two parts:

Part I:  Be Selective
First, this includes the obvious, common goal of getting rid of clothes, furniture, "stuff" that I don't need (and quite frankly, don't even want!) I noticed that I had a major need for this when I happened to catch a TV show over Christmas break about tiny homes and living in 300 square feet with only things you really love and need, and I realized I was actually JEALOUS! Not that I want to live in that small of an area per se, but I definitely feel like I need to shed some of the crap we've been hanging onto for honestly no good reason.

If it is not something I absolutely, completely love, I would rather donate it and have an empty space or an empty hanger, than have to store, clean, dust, step-over, organize, re-organize, and hate looking at it. The first thing that comes to my mind is getting rid of the old vases, frames, wine glasses, and other knick-knacks I find myself continuously passing over the 2-3x a year I sift through my home decor stash. Yellow Crate and Barrel Bud Vase, I'm looking at you! I think clearing out this stuff will give me the chance to organize the things I REALLY do want to hold onto, like the baby clothes and toys Miles has grown out of which we want to save for future children. It will all be clearly labeled and organized, and it won't cause me stress because I know it is serving a purpose even though it is stored away.

I am also thinking of applying this on a bigger scale as well. For example, the couch, rug, and curtains in my den. They served their purpose for awhile and I truly did like them at one point, but the couch is so worn out (we pitched the slipcover a long time ago and had plans of replacing it - which hasn't happened yet), the rug is not our style, the curtains are not the right color for the space, and they all increase my stress level every time I look at them. I've had complete designers block when it has come to this room, so we just haven't updated it and have left these here until I decide what the heck I want to do. Now, I'm thinking its time to change the strategy and get them OUT! Maybe once I have a blank slate again I will be inspired.

Overall, if it doesn't bring you good energy and you waste energy caring for it, why even hold onto it?

The plan is to do a huge goodwill donation ASAP and then have a garage sale in the spring. Along with this is just having the mentality that I should REALLLLLLLY love and need any tangible item we purchase going forward. The thought of pitching so much stuff already makes me feel like I will use more scrutiny when I shop... I picture myself weighing where $100 will best be spent.. on a sweater I will want to pitch in a year or in a Roth IRA? I better REALLY like something if I want to buy it, if not, the money is so much better invested elsewhere. 

I will also throw out there that I used to be much better at all of this.. I think having a house and more places to store stuff and more disposable income has just led to the accumulation of more stuff, and it is time to be more selective about what we keep and what we buy. Time to put our money, energy, and space to better use!

Part II: Strategize
This is one of my favorites. This is my attempt to be more strategic to solve my every-day problems. This involves creating solutions to address my common stress pitfalls. Here are a few examples...
  1. My iPhone is constantly dying on me. For a multitude of reasons I won't bore you with, I ended up with having only one working charger and I absolutely lose my MIND bringing it with me everywhere I go because I am constantly forgetting it! I then end up with a dead phone and get worried that the baby-sitter can't reach me or that I'll get stranded on the highway with no way to call for help and ugh, it is such unnecessary stress. To combat this, I just bought new chargers for work, home, and my car and they will never move from where they are currently plugged in. Problem EASILY solved and stress gone.
  2. My beautiful, dark wood floors get SO dirty and it drives me completely crazy, and therefore I am constantly cleaning them (or not cleaning them and just ending up stressed about them!) New rule = no shoes in the house. I figure there will still be paw prints and baby food, but at least it will help!
  3. We have been eating out way to much lately, and spend too much time/energy each night debating what will have for dinner and who will "fly and buy". It's expensive and usually not very healthy. Evan used to always do all of cooking and I would wash the dishes, but he switched jobs last year and now instead of a 5 minute commute and getting home at 5:05 he now has a 45-minute commute is home is between 6:00-6:30. It's hard for him to start cooking a meal this late because by the time the meal is ready, Miles is ready for a bath and bed at 7:15, and once we go through that routine we are too tired to do the dishes! This means we either need to prepare meals or I need to learn to cook.. I hate cooking, but I'm usually home by 4:45-5:00 so it makes sense for me to take on more of this role. Did I also mention we both hate grocery shopping? To rectify this sad situation, we are making a good faith effort to plan our meals for the week on Sunday and take turns grocery shopping (We are hoping with a list it will be much quicker and less painful!) On Monday's, I'll go to the West Side market at 7am before work and get all of our produce (best quality and unbeatable prices!) This will be a difficult lifestyle change, but like I said, we are going to try!
Overall, these are just a few examples of how I want to try to strategize and develop solutions for the everyday stressors.  Big or small, I want to try to recognize them and try to make some process changes to make life easier. No more beating my head against the wall!

Another big goal of mine is to be more GIVING, more thoughtful, more generous, more selfless, more encouraging, more supportive, more sympathetic. Right off the bat, this obviously includes donating to friends/family raising money in support of charities and doing a lot of donating to Goodwill. However, it's not all about giving away money or stuff, but just in every day life go out of my way to bring more joy to others and to offer support to those in need.

A friend of mine for her 28th birthday decided to do "28 Random Acts of Kindness", and she totally inspired me to do more acts of kindness  in my own life, big and small. I look back on the last year and I think of times I could have gone further out of my way to encourage someone or lift someone up or make their day a little brighter and I didn't because of convenience or busyness or cost or fear....whatever the excuse was I just didn't always do it! This year I want to commit to doing more of these types of things and not just consider them. I just need to step outside myself more often and find more ways to be a light to those around me.

Even though half this post has been addressing how stressed I am, when I step back and look at the big picture I honestly feel so totally blessed with my life right now and really have a desire to help those less fortunate, and to teach Miles as he grows to do the same. Whether it be those facing natural disasters or wars overseas, or someone just having a bad day at work, I feel like there is a lot more I can do in this arena... I am also inspired by the quote "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping him or herself" - Ralph Waldo Emerson. I am hopeful that helping others will put my own stresses into perspective and remind me to focus on what is really important in this life!

4) TAKE A RISK (Or two!)
I'm just about the most risk averse person you will EVER meet. I follow rules and societal norms to a T! I change my oil every 4,000 miles, I save what I'm supposed to for retirement, I don't fall asleep with my contacts in, I got to the dentist every 6-months like clockwork... I'm very reliable (which is good) but sometimes boring (not so good!) I have an idea percolating in the back in my mind about something I want to take a chance on and could very well fail, but I sooo want to push myself outside of my comfort zone and take a risk for once in my life! Sorry for being cryptic but if the time comes when I take the plunge I'll let you know!

Ok, so this is officially my longest post ever. I think I wrote more in this one post than I did in all the rest of 2014 combined. I'm not even certain any of you are still reading this at this point, but I thank you if you are! Wish me luck :)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Coming Soon!

Almost two months ago we ordered this beautiful "Desa Rug" from Pottery Barn for our living room. It has been on back order but should be arriving in the next couple of weeks and I am so excited! It is 10' x 14', so it will fill the room so much better than the small rug we have in there right now and it will be significantly more comfortable. The rug itself is thick and soft, and we ordered the PB premium rug pad to go underneath it. Given the fact Miles is almost a year old, we are playing on floor CONSTANTLY, so this will be such a luxury!

We'd been looking for a rug for this room for a long time, but we hadn't found one we loved quite enough to pull the trigger until we brought a square sample of this one home and it just "clicked!" It really ties together the wall color, throw pillows, and oversized chair.

AND, just in case I end up hating it in the living room (fat chance!), we could also put it in our master bedroom as a plan B because it would fit in there pretty perfectly as well.  No way we can go wrong, right?

Now we just have to wait! Let the countdown begin!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tis the Season

If you follow me on Instagram then I apologize because you've already seen these, but here are some pictures of our Christmas festivities thus far! I have to say, it is really fun having a child during the holidays. Not that he understands what is going on yet, but still, it is really special to start thinking about family traditions and the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a little one! Overall just feeling extremely blessed! Hope your holidays are off to a good start as well!

Monday, December 15, 2014

3rd Floor Bath

Along with the 3rd floor guest room, we also did some minor updates to the 3rd floor bath, mostly painting and accessorizing. It still needs new tile floors (the linoleum is beyond dated and ugly), new bath fixtures, a new toilet, and new mirror. I think we will tackle those projects this summer, but for now we just wanted to spruce it up!

Something that I think is essential for a guest bathroom are easily accessible toiletries in order to make them feel at home. I picked up these adorable baskets from Target for $14.99 each. You can't tell from this picture, but the top basket has toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, soap, and ibuprofen. Also easily accessible to guests are kleenex and TP. Just like a hotel, I think having these things handy for guests can make them feel much more comfortable during their stay!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

3rd Floor Renovation - Guest Room Setup!

After working our you-know-whats off for a solid month, I'm happy to say we were able turn our third floor into a pretty comfortable temporary guest room for Thanksgiving. From start to finish, here is what we did:
  • Painted the walls Martha Stewart's Flagstone (From Home Depot)
  • Sanded the floors and stained them Sherwin William's  Interior Classic stain in Pickled White (2-Coats)
  • Installed new baseboards
  • Installed new trim around the windows
  • Put up new curtains
By far my favorite part is the transformation of the hard wood floors. I would never be daring enough to stain the floors this color in a more prominent area of the house, but I LOVE the result! Like love it so much I want to marry it. I can't stop going and looking at it and just sighing! haha :) 

The permanent plan is to turn it into my office, so I look forward to transitioning the room over Christmas break for that purpose! Here are some pictures of the transformation: 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Snapshots - Thanksgiving 2014

I know Thanksgiving is SO over, but here are some pictures of our day! I just had to share.

Stay tuned for the "after" pictures of our third floor makeover! Coming soon :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Bright, Light, & Fun Thanksgiving!

I know this is a little overdue, but I wanted to share some pictures of our wonderful Thanksgiving! Since it was our first time hosting I was a little bit nervous about how it would all turn out, but everything just seemed to fall into place. The day was beautiful, the food was delicious, and having so much of our family here made our house feel as happy and warm as it's ever felt! Pretty much a perfect day!

Setting the table was obviously my favorite chore ;) I wanted to do something bright, light, and fun! Hydrangeas (of course!) and bright orange tulips were my inspiration. I picked up some orange tapers and beautiful orange french striped linen napkins from Williams-Sonoma, and some fun paper placemats. Overall super easy and super casual, exactly what we were aiming for. 

And here is the table at the end of the day once the meal (and desserts!) were long gone and the family had retreated to the living room to play Scrabble in front of the fire. Such a cozy feel!

Overall I don't think I have ever had a Thanksgiving where I was more thankful. Having this sweet baby boy in our lives is just the biggest blessing, words can't even describe! 

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

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