Sunday, November 23, 2014

Random thoughts about blogging in the month of December…..and a giveaway!

If you are wondering, I am still here.

I have been at this blogging thing since 2009 and I have never much cared for blogging during the holidays.  I completely blame the self-imposed pressure I put on myself.  But it's hard sometimes to not feel 'less than' when you visit blogs during this time and it seems everyone but YOU has time for homemade gifts, crafts with their children, orchestrating the perfect holiday gathering, hand-stamping wrapping paper, hand-painting signs, advent calendars, date nights, decorating thematic trees, creating festively stocked hot cocoa stands in their kitchens and baking the perfect treats and cookies……I'm just exhausted writing it all down.  Don't even get me started on the 'Linky Parties', blog hops, home tours…….I am often left wondering, does the real life experience match the Pinterest worthy images? Is that blogger REALLY enjoying the season as much as her photos want you to believe?  More important, would her children rather have her TIME vs. the hot cocoa stand?

I have, in the past, fallen into the trap of wanting everything to be 'perfect' only to feel immensely disappointed when it is all said and done….not to mention exhausted and just glad it's over.  I vow to not allow myself to feel this way this year.  I have really thoughtfully considered what it would take for me to arrive at December 26 feeling like I really enjoyed the holiday season.  I will make a some changes this year.  I am going to lessen/eliminate some aspects of the season that stress me out and focus on parts of the season that bring me and my family the most joy.

Lessen

1.  Buy less gifts.  My girls are teenagers now, and really want for nothing.  They are blessed beyond measure.  In the past, I always felt like they need a 'big' gift and many smaller gifts - too many.  We are paying for private school tuition, theatre classes and this year hefty travel expenses for our soccer player.  Thankfully, my girls appreciate these things and know that these experiences are 'gifts' themselves.

2.  Simplify the food/meal planning and preparation .  I love baking, but not five different kinds of cookies.  Our family tradition has always been to go to church on Christmas Eve and then come back home and eat appetizers while opening our Chirstmas presents {Santa brings presents for Christmas morning}.  This year, I am suggesting we go out to dinner at a festive restaurant before church and then come home and enjoy desserts and wine while opening our presents.

3. Blog when I feel like it.  You will hear from me less this month.  I do have posts planned.  I will be sharing my decked out holiday kitchen along with a bunch of other bloggers.  And I will show snippets of my simply decorated  home too.  I am hosting a cookie exchange as a fundraiser for my daughter's school and have some fun plans for that that I will share too.  But I won't blog just to blog - I will leave all the things I mentioned above to the over-achievers.

4. Decorate simply with mostly natural elements rather than doo-dads and tchotchkes.

My Joy List

1. Attend Advent masses.  I love attending the Friday mass celebrations at my daughter's high school - there is something about seeing teens expressing their faith I find so inspiring.  I always have better Fridays when I take the time to attend these masses.  They make sure they are really special during the advent season.

2. Host friends for casual gatherings.  Also, have fun lunches with my girlfriends!

3. Bake with my daughters.

4. Christmas shop. I love taking each of my girls separately and help them choose gifts for one another and their dad.  Instilling a giving heart in each of my girls is very important to me.  I love witnessing them caring about picking out the perfect gift for their sister.

5. Peacock Lane and Zoo Lights.  In our city we have a street called Peacock Lane where EVERY house decorates all out for Christmas.  It gets so busy it requires police to direct traffic!  When the girls were little we would get them ready for bed in their pajamas and then go drive Peacock Lane.  Our zoo does 'Zoo Lights' and since our girls were little we made a night out of it.  Even though they are teenagers now, these important family traditions are a favorite of the season!

6.  Get an Oregon Forestry Department tree cutting permit.  I love our family tradition of going for a hike in the forest to find the perfect Christmas tree.  Now, my family has vetoed the 'natural' tree for our main Christmas tree so this year {like last} we will find a smallish natural tree to have in our dining room.

7. Watch 'Elf' with my family - it's our favorite!

7. Remember the reason for the season….

In addition, we are putting up our tree earlier, like the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  Typically we would wait till the first weekend of December but I am thinking that getting the house ready earlier will allow me to just enjoy the season - because believe it or not - I am NOT a huge fan of decorating my house for the holidays.  I happen to like my house the way it is decorated the other 11 months of the year quite well, thank you very much.

Please know, I don't mean to insult readers or blogger who LOVE all things Christmas……I am just providing my side of the story…. Admittedly this plan of mine could all go sideways as fast as you can say 'we wish you a Merry Christmas'……I promise to report back to you in early January if my plan was executed and successful…….or just how much the family liked my hot cocoa stand…...

************************************

And in other randomness………….



 Remember the gallery wall update post I did a couple weeks ago?

When I freshened up my gallery wall, I replaced a more 'country' feeling sign that read 'NEST' with the more modern sign pictured above that reads 'HELLO'.

When I purchased my HELLO sign, I also purchased one to giveaway!


And because this post is all about making things easier for us busy moms…..I will make this the easiest giveaway you have ever entered! Simply type the word 'HELLO' in the comment section for your chance to win……that's it.  Enter by Tuesday, November 25th.  

Winner will be announced here on Wednesday!







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Monday, November 17, 2014

My Favorite Things 2014

Favorite Things List

First, thank you to Melissa from 320 Sycamore for including me in
her Favorite Things blog tour this year!  I loved doing this -
I even asked my family what they thought my favorite things were!
I wanted this list to be authentic….things I really love, use
and were a part of my life in 2014!



I have included some explanations and links if you
are interested in making MY favorites YOUR favorites!

Volcano Candles
These candles meet my 'candle standards' in many ways -
They smell good, are in a pretty container and are long lasting.
If you want your home to smell like an Anthropologie store, these are your candles!
I tend to burn a candle every day - I find it calming and it instantly cozies up any space.

BM Revere Pewter
I would define this neutral paint color as my 'go to' neutral.
Revere Pewter is painted on the walls of many satisfied 2014 clients, enough said.

iPhone 6 Plus
I recently upgraded my old iPhone 4 and chose the biggie, iPhone 6 Plus.
Despite my children's complete embarrassment and teasing….I love it.  Since I am 40ish,
my eyes have a hard time reading small print and this phone is a great help!

Ugg moccasins 
My days have been busier this year with my business and my
momma duties….when I come home after a long day, I switch into these fluffy
moccasins and instantly feel cozy and comfortable!  Uggs can be pricey but
last forever - totally worth the investment!

Hang and Level Tool
I hung many a gallery walls this year and I could not have
done it {without putting a million holes in my client's walls} without this tool.
It's an 'As seen on TV' product which cracks me up.

21-Day Fix
I am not really overweight but last spring I was feeling
'soft' and really wanted to do something to tweak my eating.  I already exercise
regularly but felt like my eating could improve and I desperately needed some
discipline.  I joined Marta's group and did the 21-Day Fix.  I stuck with it and
ate NO flour and very little sugar for 21 days.  I have continued to really
eat very little flour and have definitely increased my fruit and vegetable intake.
My jeans are looser and more importantly, I feel better!

Noonday Jewelry
I don't remember when I first learned about Noonday,
but I have purchased pieces over the last couple years from my friend Paige and
wear them often…..This year, I hosted my first in-home Noonday party with
a local Noonday Ambassador and definitely increased the number of
pieces in my collection.  I love knowing that my jewelry is handcrafted by
artisans that receive a living wage in return for my purchases!  Noonday is
changing lives and bringing hope to impoverished countries all over the world,
that is something amazing that I am happy to be a part of!

Starbucks Green Tea Lemonade
This was included at the urging of my teenager……who describes my
love for this drink as an 'obsession'.  I can't help myself….
Admittedly, I drank many of these over the summer.

Beauty Aids
I am a pretty simple girl when it comes to beauty products.
I try to spend as little time as possible getting ready in the morning….
I love Smashbox's Camera Ready CC cream!  It evens out my skin and
gives it a healthy, dewy glow.  It's really forgiving an application is super easy.

I recently went pretty short with my hair but will never give up my
Kerastase products!  Now, these products are on the pricey side
but I have learned that better products are more concentrated so you
don't need to use as much in your hair.  I highlight my hair often and this
product leaves my hair looking healthy and smooth!

Now you can head to over to Elizabeth at Fresh Plate to see what
are her Favorite Things!

** Also - Melissa is hosting a link-up on Thursday and would like all
of you to post and link YOUR favorite things if you would like!
Please do - inquiring minds want to know!

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

A winner…..And Favorite Things!


A rare Saturday post to announce the winner of the
$150 shopping credit from Minted……
Theresa!!!!
*I sent you an email so check your inbox darling!

Also want to alert you to a fun bloghop {is that a word?}  I am participating in
 - all next week Melissa from 320 Sycamore is 
asking a group of bloggers to share their "Favorite Things"….
I am one of the blogs sharing on Monday!

I can't wait to share….but don't get your hopes up,
It's not the Oprah "you get a car, you get a car" kind
of Favorite Things…..but it is always fun to discover 
new products and services, books, beauty products
etc….that others love…..


Seriously, head over to Pop Sugar to see these hilarious Oprah reactions!
Random fact….I grew up in Chicago and attended many
Oprah tapings, saw many version of the Oprah over the years…
….but was never lucky to be at one of these shows!
Lord knows I probably would have cried and hugged/kissed all those
around me too…..

Please come back on Monday and visit ……..

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gallery Wall {re-FrEsH}…and a giveaway from Minted so you can do yours too!


My gallery wall posts still bring this blog the most Google search traffic -
the trend doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon!
I know this because I feel like I am installing
gallery walls at just about every other local client I see!

I originally installed our gallery wall shortly after our move
into our home almost four years ago - my first attempt was ok
but I tweaked it a bit soon after that first installation.
You can see those posts HERE and HERE.
My wall was even featured on CNN.com - I talked about
that HERE.

While I am still pretty much in love with my wall - especially 
the precious photos of my babies, I was ready to make it a tad less
busy, more monochromatic…..UPDATED!  


I started by removing some of the more 'vintage-y' art and signs.
I also spray painted some frames white to 'lighten and brighten'….
Because the wall was feeling crowded to me, I added
some more space in between the frames by rehanging and readjusting 
the overall layout a bit.


My love for vintage flea market art will never fade, but
I felt like my wall needed some modern pieces 
added in for balance…..
I went to Minted.com to find a couple graphic,
modern art prints to add to my wall.

Minted.com never disappoints - their options just
keep getting better and better!


It's important to mix up the shapes of frames in your
gallery walls so this square print was a fun Minted find!

I chose the print below for a hint of color and it's
modern, on-trend hexagon print.


Minted.com is once again offering a generous $150 credit to 
ONE lucky Forever*Cottage reader!

Whether you need a couple pieces to complete your gallery
wall or you want to start a gallery wall in your own
home - the gorgeous and varied prints from Minted
will really get you started!

TO ENTER:

1.  Visit Minted.com and browse the art prints!

2.  Come back here and tell me which TWO were your favorites
in the comments!

** Enter by Friday at MIDNIGHT PST.
** I will announce the winner on Saturday, November 15.


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