Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oh What Do You Do in the Summertime?

Just after the school let out my I participated in a get-together with my neighborhood lady-friends to discuss the art of summers.

As in,  how do you do bedtime, naps, wake-up, sports, activities, reading, meals, learning, snacks, play-dates, etc. in the summer?

We all want the summer to be a magical time for our kids, There's something beautiful about the structure-less time in which can be spent exploring, discovering, and spending both quality and quantity time together as a family with limited distractions.

At the same time, I think we've all reached the point (say, oh, about a week or 2 after school lets out) in which we need some structure or we all go batty. Balance is necessary.

For instance:
We want our children to enjoy not having to be at school all day. But we want them to continue learning.

We want our children to enjoy spending their free time playing with friends and cultivating those relationships. But we also need to draw the line when too much friend-time is too much friend-time and spend some quality family time. Or just plain quiet time!

We want our children to enjoy the freedom of some responsibilities that come with summer. But we also want them to develop a good work ethic and continue doing chores while also developing talents and learning new skills.

We want our children to enjoy the long days of summer and the cooler evenings. But we want them to get enough sleep, too, without forming the habit of sleeping in. ( Excuse me a minute here, but who can I pay to teach my kids the fine art of sleeping in?! I'm only sort of kidding there.)

We want to enjoy the impromptu stops at the snow cone shack, but we also want our children nourished by nutritious meals and snacks.

I was really impressed with all the ideas these women had. I soaked it all in, read some great articles concerning the matter, let summer "happen" for another week to see what needed attention and then I tailored a plan that fit us. {I highly recommend the Power of Mom's Web site and these articles here, here, here, here and here for  sound ideas on how to make the most of your summer.}

The kids and I got together and made a list of all the different things we wanted to learn about this summer on butcher paper and hung it in the playroom. When there is a free day (usually Fridays) we delve into one of the topics. I heart Google. I heart YouTube and I heart the library. There are so many resources at our fingertips!  


I also printed my older 2 children out a chart with a list of their daily Must-Do's (a power-of-mom's idea I loved):

*Morning Routine (Am I the only one who has to remind my children to eat breakfast and get dressed in the morning? They would seriously play until noon in their jammies and then begin to whine and complain due to starvation. Sometimes playing in jammies until noon is what summer is all about. Sometimes. Having their morning routine listed on their personalized chart helps them to remember all the little things like flossing and making their bed without me having to turn into the morning nag. I appreciate that.)
*Chores (each child has a few chores they do daily in addition to 2 chores I give them depending on the state of the house and yard)
* Reading (30 minutes minimum)
*Writing (Son has to write a page in his journal or a letter or a story. Daughter writes in her composition book each day. I write on one side and she copies what I've writtne and draws pictures at the top of each page.  This has been a lot of fun.
*Physical Activity (this is easy for them, but it's cute when they recognize they are working toward something good by going out at riding their bikes and scooters for 30 minutes or swimming in the pool. They always do plenty more than just 30 minutes of physical activity, but it is nice for them to have some of their wiggles out first thing in the morning)
*Extra  (Any sort of structured activity-- like painting, building a marble run, helping with a recipe in the kitchen or playing outside with Baby. )

I explained in order for them to have a play date, or other privilege each of these things has to be done. I was pleasantly surprised how well the kids took to this. I also gave them a reading incentive. Son just earned his incentive by reading 1,000 minutes and is well on his way to his second 1,000.

There are times when we get a little lax with the chart and sometimes often times, yes, we do fun things before all this other stuff is done. But this provides a routine and guideline, while being flexible to our days when we have other things planned.  I've appreciated having a reference point so Son and Daughter know exactly what to expect each day rather than waking up and wondering what they are going to do. There's always room for improvement and tweaking though and I could stand to be a little more consistent on some things, but over all, I've been really happy with this plan.

What thoughts do you have for making the most of summer?






Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spice up Your Life



I would love to move out my spices to free up some space in my pantry and drawers.  I've been gathering ideas for months now that incorporate beauty and function with spices. Perhaps they will inspire a solution!

courtesy of ETSY:
Carved Amarillo Yellow Beaker Spice Rack, Shabby Chic








































via Kaboodle.com & etsy


[framed-magnetic-spice-rack%255B5%255D.jpg]



2009-11-16-Spices.jpg




















 More pantry-esque organization ideas:

Wrap 'N Bag Organizers via Rubbermaid.com 
Wrap
via Rubbermaid.com


Stick & Store Suspension Basket






Rubbermaid.com says: "The Under Shelf Basket creates a new storage space for your kitchen or bathroom. It slides on to fit most standard shelves. The slide-in, slide-out design makes for easy access to items stored in the basket. It is durable and easy to clean."
Under Shelf Basket




Slide N Stack Stacking Baskets via Rubbermaid says: "These baskets are ideal for base cabinet organization. Store everything from cereal to cleaning supplies. The stacking baskets provide additional storage in compact spaces. The baskets are quick and easy to install."


Slide

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Preserving My Sanity (the pantry debuts again)



It's hard not to consume myself with all the things I'm not doing, should be doing, need doing but have absolutely no idea how or when they will get done.

Every once in a while, amidst the craziness of managing our home and the kids, I have to step away from the to-do list and do something for myself to preserve my sanity.

Sometimes it's indulging in a row of Oreos with milk.
Other times it's gulping down a chapter of a delicious novel.
But usually it's reclaiming some space in the house that I can call my own little sanctuary.
Sometimes it's just a drawer, a file or a single kitchen cabinet.  
Sometimes it's an entire room. 

I know, I know. So totally not exciting. 

But it's really nice when the rest of the house is a disaster...{you know, dishes piled high in the sink, dried applesauce covering the counters, Cheerios all over the floor, tooth paste splattered on the sink and mirror, toys, clothes, shoes and diapers littering the floors EVERY.WHERE!}....that I can walk to this door, open it, and say,

"Well, if nothing else, at least I've got my pantry."









Thursday, January 12, 2012

You don't HAVE to put shoes in them you know...

I had 4 loads of laundry to fold, a dishwasher to un-load, a birthday party to plan for Daughter, some e-mails to reply to and phone calls to make but I could no longer endure the chaos. The pantry needed a serious re-takeover. The fridge was bulging with leftovers. Sometimes the need to bring order to those places we frequent multiple times a day overrides my desire to finish other things I am in the middle of.

Instead of doing all that other stuff, I began tossing out leftovers with fuzzy stuff growing on them, reorganizing the condiments shelf, stacking yogurts and divvying up the produce/meat/cheese in their appropriate drawers. And I was winning the battle over all those uneaten treats. You know the battle. That battle between "Oh, but it was so thoughtful of so-and-so to drop this by and I don't want to seem unappreciative. But looking at these sweets is giving me a headache and the kids REALLY don't any more of it."

You have my blessing. Take those goodies and toss them. Heavens, I was finding Halloween candy and tossing it. It felt so good. Is it wasteful? Yes. But sometimes you have to trash perfectly fine Tootsie Pops to accomplish the greater good. The greater goods actually. 1. You have space on your counter again and you can see what actual nutritious items you have in your pantry to make dinner (or what you are missing). 2. You are achieving the goal of eating more of the nutrient-rich foods and less of the junk. It's January, folks. We all resolute to eat healthier and cut out some sugar. Even I, the self-proclaimed Oreo-aholic and the believer that Chocolate Cake -- yes, it's a proper noun in my own personal stylebook-- can make almost anything better, sincerely desires to take better care and notice of what I am putting into my body.  Trashing the goodies helps.   I know it was so sweet of Phyllis to make that toffee. But it's been a while so that toffee is probably stale.  I'm sure there are lots of perfectly great things to do with junk food(compost even?!) but sometimes you just need to get it out of your life.

After tossing old Halloween candy and the like, I also needed to get real with some of the items I had in my pantry (expiration dates give wonderful guidance).  I have a husband who likes to go backpacking every year with his dad and brothers. Each year he over-purchases on food items he is going to bring. These food items are the ones that really only taste good if you're camping. Those needed to go. That food goes to the Food Bank and less guilt is involved.

I also had to take back over the back of my pantry door. I don't have a huge walk-in pantry, so the real estate in my pantry is precious. {I will acknowledge that this is a respectable size. I have lived in places and have survived on much smaller. I don't want to sound ungrateful. But, in my perfect world, I would have a walk-in pantry. } I have this wonderful contraption that has helped free up cabinet and pantry shelf space in a way I never before thought. No tools necessary. No trip to the hardware store. Just grab it during your next trip to your favorite (or un-favorite but you still go there) big-box store. The problem with this, however, is if you don't stay on top of it, the careless eyes and hands of Husbands, Sons, Daughters and Babies could un-do the organization of this contraption pretty easily in a matter of moments. I needed to re-organize this in a bad way.

Here she is, post-overhaul:



{Take note of the mini candy bars. I am sure many of you can relate to this: Daughter had a birthday and Grandpa's package came today. It was filled to the brim of goodies. I only got to enjoy the period of "no junk food within eye-or-hand-reach for the children" for about a week when I re-organized the pantry and dumped it of a lot of the junk. 1 step forward, 8 steps back! Some things never last!}

I don't take credit for this idea. My friend Carrie, mother of six, inspired me with her use of this in her own kitchen. She mostly uses hers to house snacks for the kids (granola bars, crackers, etc) and uses another shoe holder in a different closet for crafting and art supplies.  In any case, it's a great place to put all that awkward-sized  food you have without cluttering up your cabinets and pantry.  I recommend the clear shoe organizers simply because you can see what's in them.  I think I may go the extra mile and label these to help the others in my family know what goes where. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to read my mind.

Would I prefer to have this? Yes. I think so.

Over-the-Door Large Pantry Rack
courtesy of Bed Bath and Beyond



But the shoe organizer works for me now. {Bed Bath and Beyond has a selection of these great pantry door racks ranging in price from $19.99 to $34.99}

Here are some other helpful solutions to maximize your pantry, and keep your food fresher, longer....

Love, love love these containers from Ikea. Every time I go I want to buy them out of all their clear plastic food storage. Not only do they maximize pantry space (if used correctly), I just think it makes food look so much more attractive. I really should get to labeling these. But for now I think I can differentiate my basmati and brown rice from the pine nuts.



Clearly, I need to beef up my short-term food storage. I have a funny story about that I'll have to share with you sometime.  I do love my Shelf Reliance cansolidators! I highly recommend Shelf Reliance for not only your shelving needs, but also your actual food storage. The stuff is delish, it's easy to order, and super friendly on your pocket book. 


Why we didn't use these tiered racks in all the tiny apartments we lived in (that had NO food pantry in them) I will never know. I am just so thrilled I have them now. Expandable. Bed Bath and Beyond and Wal-mart sell them.


Cereal stays much fresher when I keep it in these babies. And you can buy your cereal in bulk and throw away that annoying bag it comes in. I think I got these at Ikea...but maybe Wal-Mart. Either place carries them.


Here she is. I would really like to maximize the space I have on the floor of my pantry. I'm thinking a basket for the chips and perhaps some stackable open-front crates like these... 



I welcome your ideas! When I come up with something brilliant, or even mediocre, I'll be sure to share. 



This is not in my pantry-- but I thought I would share with you part of my "baking station."  This is just one little shelf in a cabinet just above the counter where I keep my Kitchen Aid. All of these containers  (minus the butter and sugar dishes) were purchased at Ikea. I keep the refills for these ingredients in an upper shelf. This pictured shelf is very accessible, a key thing to remember when laying out where supplies and ingredients will go in your kitchen. 




 Take back your pantry, your fridge and your cabinets!  You will be better equipped to meal-plan, and waste less food when you can actually see the food you do have.

Happy Organizing!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Prepared for the flu?

Baby first fell victim to the bug, poor thing. Next came Husband, then Son, then me...Daughter so far has avoided the awfulness and hopefully she'll either fall victim tonight or not at all. After all, she has her pre-school Christmas program on Friday and can't miss her opportunity to be the snowflake reindeer adorable Christmas-thing that her teacher assigned her to be that I can't seem to recollect with surety at the moment.

When we found Baby Saturday morning in her crib coated in puke, I tried to look at the positives:

1. I had a couple bottles of Pedialyte on hand!
2. We have a washer with a "Sanitary" cycle
3. Baby was still happy to see us, even though she could have been laying in the stuff for hours. Still feeling guilty about that.

When husband was stricken I again tried to remain optimistic despite the dismal outlook for mine and my other children's future health:

1. We were well-stocked with Gatorade and Saltines.

Unfortunately I didn't have his flavor of choice (lemon-lime). No matter,  I picked up some more.

Then Son tossed his cookies last night. He is such a heavy sleeper he didn't even wake up! Husband smelled it passing through the hall. We woke Son up to shower while we began the sterilization of his room.

When I came home this morning from my run I wanted to keel over and die.  Instead I fell to my bed and told Husband he was in charge for the day and I was clocking out. Recalling the contents of the pantry I remembered we were low on Saltines and had none of my flu-beverage of choice: Ginger Ale.

Just before settling into my morning coma my friend texted me asking if she could stop by to visit and  deliver her monthly spiritual message {one of the many perks of living the Mormon life}.  I told her she would be better off staying as far away from our house as possible.

Next thing I know she's delivering two boxes of Saltines, two bottles of Ginger Ale, and told me Chicken Noodle Soup would be delivered for dinner.

Moral of the story?

Prepare well for the flu-season. Like with tissues, pain relievers, fever reducers, toilet paper, baking soda, carpet cleaners and deodorizers, laundry detergent, Saltines, Gatorade, Ginger Ale, Pedialyte and whatever sounds good to eat when you're not feeling so good.

If you run out of supplies by the time you get the flu, have a good friend.

That soup was amazing.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Preparing the Home for Christmas...Michelle-style :)

I hate to disappoint, but this won't be a tutorial on how to hang your stockings with care, or how to trim your tree well enough to land a page in Country Living. No, no. I've got far more important matters to discuss. I apologize for having been scarce the last few weeks. We've been busy!

Pre-Thanksgiving I get a little bah-humbig-ish about Christmas. Mostly the part about my kids getting presents. I look in their closets and the toy room and think, "There is no way we are bringing anything else into this house." I don't even want to give them anything.  I want to send an e-mail to their grandparents telling them to donate to Orphans in Ecuador rather than give my children gifts. They have enough. Then my heart softens and I do what always makes me feel better: {Donating to orphans in Ecuador is still a very good option} Open every drawer and closet and find things to give away to charity to make room for incoming matter that will be here before we know it.

My 4 year-old daughter picked up on my frantic need to rid the house of unnecessaries. She joined me on a crusade through the house one afternoon even. She parted with this, this and this, among many other toys and books.  I was shocked. She informed me there were sick children in the hospital that needed them more than she. I may have wiped a tear from my cheek. I'd say in the last 8 weeks we've donated an entire van's worth of stuff. Like the kind of van that has NO seats in it except for the driver's seat. It was awesome.

Make your season a little brighter and someone else's and purge!

A few questions you can ask yourself:
1. When was the last time I wore/used this?
2. How long have I had it?
3. Will I be using this in the near future? (Be honest with yourself here. And truly guys, there are only so many white elephant parties you'll be going to this year).

Stop yourself before you want to say:
1. But I spent a fortune on this!
2. But I got this for SUCH a steal!

It doesn't matter. There is nothing quite so beautiful as empty space. Seriously.

If you really think some of your stuff indeed has value, definitely consider selling it. In fact, just when I thought I was done ridding my house of unused items, I was confronted with two realities when the Christmas bins and boxes were in the living room. One, I was in love with another Christmas Tree. Living .25 miles from Costco it was hard to keep my distance from it. I finally decided to break up with my old tree and sell it on KSL. It sold in 3 hours.  I bought my new tree that same night and felt pleased with my decision. The second reality I faced was this beautiful garland that once hung over my fireplace in Chicago now needed to go. I loved it, but hadn't used it in 2 Christmases. It was one of those things I thought I would set up but never did. So up on KSL it went. It didn't sell nearly as quickly as the tree, but still in less than a week. I now am relinquished of all feelings of guilt. No more garland to feel bad about not putting up for Christmas.

Farewell garland and tree. :)



Go on.  You can be strong. Parting with stuff can be a bit emotional and even painful for some. Start somewhere small and before you know it, you'll be running through the house wondering what else you can give away because it gives you such a rush.

Upcoming: Gifting made easier.  A little, anyway.

Happy December 2nd!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Art of Gratitude

Have you noticed that it's SO much more pleasant doing nice things for people when they are gracious and grateful?  

From an early age my mother tried to instill in me the importance of giving thanks and being grateful. In fact, in our stockings every Christmas, Santa left us Thank you cards, a tradition that lives on in my little family now.

I often think to myself, "I should write them a note," but just as often that thought gets lost in the muck of my mind and forgotten. I think of my grandparents who faithfully gift myself and my children thoughtful cards for birthdays, the speaker who gave a powerful talk in sacrament meeting a few weeks ago, the friend who though I haven't seen in over a year, I am so grateful to have.... the list of unthanked people in my life goes on and on. It makes me feel like a bum. Like I am being an ungrateful brat. The fact is, even if you are grateful for someone but fail to express it, your behavior is pretty much synonymous with ingratitude. Ouch. I don't want to be unappreciative. I don't want to be mistaken for someone who thinks she's entitled.  I want to be like the type of person who people don't mind serving. The kind of person who notices the little things one does and expresses genuine gratitude for it.

I finally decided I needed a "Thank You Spot."   I had Husband bring this secretary desk upstairs from the basement.  I love this piece. A dear friend of mine was redecorating and de-cluttering and she was ready to haul it away to Goodwill. I confessed my love for it and she hauled it to my house and even had her teenage son lug it to the little upstairs of our cape cod in Chicago.  It has since journeyed across the country and I love it even more because it reminds me of my friend.  It is where all my cute stationery, stamps, pens, gift cards and  address lists are tucked away and ready at will for me to use them. The reality was if the desk was in the basement, rarely would I get cards and notes sent out.  I decided the main level just off the kitchen was a very good spot for it.  Strangely, the children aren't curious about the contents of this desk and leave it be. We'll see how long that lasts. In the box I keep old Christmas cards and other sentimental notes.



I also keep a little notebook here so I can keep a running list of people I want to thank. When I have a moment, I can jot a note. Or if I have a chunk of time, I can write several.  Who doesn't like receiving real mail?


A closer look. Because I know you want one. :)


Now hopefully if I owe you a thank you, you will get it before my hair turns silver.

Need to change your frame of mind to prod you into a more grateful mood?  

I recommend these two books to get you started:

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."  
~Epictetus

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to fake like you're a designer...

When we purchased this home it was disheartening to realize that we weren't inheriting every piece of home decor or furniture from the previous owner. The home had shown very nicely, the lady being an interior designer and all.  It was one of those homes where you had to reeeallly close your eyes and try very hard to imagine a room without all the "stuff" to decide if you really still liked the home and not just the stuff in the home. In the end, we decided we still liked the home, even without all her stuff, and forged ahead, knowing in time we could eventually make this place ours. We were coming from a home about 1/4 the size, so while we were happy to spread out, it was a lot of house to take in.

Fortunately the walls weren't painted any awful funky colors, so I didn't have the urge to start making changes right away. I heard that it's best to wait at least a year before you really make any changes to the home. Once you've been in it a year, you can feel the flow, or feel what needs to change about the flow. You've had time to see what styles of decor are out there and what suits you.  I made some hasty decisions about our home in Chicago that I later regretted, so being patient was a necessity. I did not want to mess this place up if I could help it.

In just one year's time, I had plenty of face time with the walls of our home and likely more than the average person. Just one week after moving in, I started puking my guts out and continued to do that for several weeks/months. I was expecting baby number three! Then just two months after having Baby, I had bunion surgery, again forcing me to reacquaint myself with the walls of this home for a very, very long time.

Once I was back on my feet in the most literal sense possible, I was also ready to make some SERIOUS changes to my home, especially the paint. I felt like I was living in a chocolate cave! Now, I do love my chocolate-- on a plate or in a mug, but not all around me in every room of the house. Enter my fab designer friend, Jessica.

I've known Jessica since the awkward middle school years. Even during those years, Jessica  had this amazing flare for style. She always came up with the most creative and thoughtful gifts for her friends. Every time I went over to her house she had either repainted her bedroom, rearranged her furniture, or acquired some fantastically unique piece of art to display. So, it is no surprise that 15 years later she is a real, bona fide interior designer.

The first room I wanted to tackle was what the rest of the world would call a "formal living room" but what I wanted to be able to call a "casual library."  Once we moved in, all the room had was a couch from the former owner. Nothing else. You better believe lots of roughhousing and wrestling took place in this room. It was indeed perfect for that. But I was more than ready to retire it as the roughhousing room.  I didn't, however,  want this room to turn in to the room that never got used. I wanted it to be the place where I read to my children, gathered as a family, and also serve as my own personal escape  (which by the way, the best time to sneak into a book is when I have piles upon piles of laundry to fold).

I snapped some photos and took measurements and sent them to Jess with the budget I had in mind for the room. She also provided me with an in-depth questionaire to fill out so she could get a complete understanding for the purpose of the room and my style. This is the style board she came up with:

She also provided me with a detailed description of the vision she had for the room as well as some helpful  styling and organization tips and some fun ideas (like painting that triangular wall under the stair well with chalkboard paint so the kids could draw on it!).

Okay, so now I'll hurry and get to the befores and afters. That's my favorite part...

This a shot of  the room before we bought the house:

This is the room the night we moved in: (it was the week before Christmas. we HAD to put up the tree! As you can see the kids are very excited about it.)




This is the room a year later -- I made two big purchases at this point-- chairs and a book shelf.... The book shelf I fell in love with 5+ years prior and is my personal trophy for self-discipline, patience and practicality. It took a lot of all three and I will say it was worth the wait!  The chairs are super comfy to snuggle up in (that was an absolute requirement) and I love the whimsical bee print fabric.




The final product-- paint and everything. (is it not INCREDIBLE what a change of color on the walls can do to a room?! That is why I love painting. It's so gratifying. You can visually see as you paint the walls the improvement happen right before your eyes.)



I decided against getting drapes. The shutters serve the purpose of letting in and shutting out light, so I used the money I would have spent on the drapes towards getting a couch that I LOVED.


Buying a couch is quite a commitment. Good ones can be expensive. I was really excited about the one Jess put on my style board. It gave me a good starting point. I really wanted a lighter colored couch but thought maybe I was crazy. I do have children. And I don't want to love my couch more than my kids, you know?  I do believe, barring some extenuating circumstances, that you can teach your kids how to respect your stuff without ruining their lives or going crazy. Although I didn't tell Jess I wanted a white-ish couch, she put one on my style board and that gave me the confidence in my sanity that I needed.  I eventually made my way to Bassett furniture and got a decent price (not a steal by any means...they are no Ikea) for a couch and storage ottoman. I was really pleased with the service there and will definitely be back.

When Husband brought home the furniture from Bassett I called a family meeting with the kids. I made a really big deal out of it, explaining that when I was picking out the couch, the people in the store kept telling me I couldn't because I had kids. I continued with the story: "'I told those store clerks that I had special kids. Kids that are REEEEALLY good listeners who know how to treat things with respect. Most people couldn't have white furniture, but since I've got such great kids, I knew it wouldn't be a big deal and they would be just fine."  Son and Daughter ate this up and I got the reaction I was looking for. We sat down and discussed some basic house rules for the room (don't rest muddy feet on the couch or wipe peanut-buttery hands on the chairs, etc)  and at the end Daughter suggested rather enthusiastically, "we should make a sign for these rules  and hang them up in here!" 

There is no sign, much to Daughter's dismay, but they do a great job without it.   I won't tell them I did get the special fabric warranty. White couches I feel it would be served well to have a warranty on. I have never bought an extended warranty on anything else in my life. I figure white couches could be an exception. 

This is a shot with "the burlap sack pillows" as my husband refers to them.  I purchased these before the big design in Gardener Village just loving the colors and textures of them and they still tie into the room nicely. Jess gave me some fun ideas for more modern pillows.

These are the pillows Husband prefers. He calls them "the Greek pillows." (p.s. I love the card catalogue for an end table/ extra storage. It makes the room an official library, don't you think?! I love the flashback to elementary school I get every time I look at it. I can still hear Mrs. Davis the Librarian giving a lecture on the Dewey Decimal System).



This is what I call my "Nauvoo corner."  We used to live in the 'burbs of Chicago and took a mini-vacation down to Historic Nauvoo, about 4 hours away.  We had a wonderful time there and hope to take our family back again. I purchased a plate there from Zion's Mercantile that I thought had a sweet depiction of the temple, and captured it in a lovely historic sort of way. We got to bring home a brick from the famous brickyard, and this painting of "Sarah's Window" really spoke to me. I love having a place to put our momentos from this trip.


On the other side of the room is what I call my "French Corner."  Sadly, I have never been to France, nor do I speak French but it is on my bucket list. Going to France, that is. Speaking French, probably not. But I will happily sit and listen if anyone wishes to speak to me in French. It is the most beautiful language!  The keys are circa 18th century from France (according to the fella I bought them from on e-bay, but what do I know?) They have already been used a number of times by my kids as props during magical make believe adventures. So long as they put them back when they are done, I'm okay with it. The painting "A Difficult Lesson" is by  William Adolphe Bouguereau, a French artist. Originially I had some cute pictures of my daughter reading one of her favorite books on the wall, but she twisted my arm to let her have them in her bedroom. I was out getting a gift for a friend and happened upon this painting which was perfect. It's almost like an old fashioned version of the pictures I had before. The little girls' eyes are so brown and you can almost feel her frustration with this "lesson" she is trying to learn.

So here you have my French corner!


Here's a fabulous organizing must-have!  These frames OPEN so you can keep a stash of artwork in one place and switch the displayed one out when the chilluns bring home a new masterpiece. Found at Target.


The table between the chairs with a sweet picture of my older two. Lamp found at Target.


This picture is very illustrative of one of the most wonderful side-affects to committing to finish a room:  other rooms in your home will get freshened up, too! Doing this room created a domino-effect for my home. I found that spending a bit of time online searching for certain things or getting ideas for this room, coincidentally gave me ideas for other rooms of the house and inspired me to continue lightening things up all around the house.


As it stands, since I began the re-do on this room, the entryway, kitchen, playroom, family room, Daughter's room, and hallways of the main level all got painted in addition to this room (some hired, others I did myself). I re-styled the entertainment center shelves, freshened up the kids' bathroom with a new shower curtain and some new rugs, and have found some wonderful artwork along the way to hang in my home. The most priceless artwork though, has been the photographs of my children. Without this room, I wouldn't have those pictures of them. Seriously. After all, one can't have a gallery wall and fancy big frames (thank you, IKEA!) without darling pictures of children to go in them, right?

It was so much fun working with Jess on this room. She was always willing to offer her feedback on my random questions (ie "what color would you paint this?" or "where would you hang these keys?") and provided links on all of her recommended items so I knew exactly how and where to purchase them. I'd text her a picture of a find at a garage sale on Saturday morning or of my painting progress in the middle of the night and she was always there to cheer me on. I think everyone needs a personal design cheerleader in their corner. You'd think we lived next door but sadly, she's 3,000 miles away. (I love modern technology!)  I really appreciated her patience with me. She gave me her style-board way back in March so it took me a good 6 months to complete the room 100%.  She recognized that my family was my first priority and I'd move along when I had time. She never got on my case for working at a tortoise's pace.

I'm really looking forward to consulting with her on other rooms of my house. For now, this room is hands down my favorite spot in the house. I love how it reflects my personality and functions so well at the same time. I am happy to report that this re-design didn't transform the place into a stuffy formal living room! It is a very used, casual family library. But no more wrestling!


So...if you want to fake like you're a designer, just ask Jessica to help you. She's the bomb.