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I’ve moved and forgot to tell you!!!

May 12, 2011

Hello friends!

A few months ago I switched by blog / website over to a different place thinking that it would automatically switch over my blog subscribers.  Just realized today that that wasn’t the case!!!  I’m so sorry!!!  I’d love to invite you over to my new place!  When visiting the new blog you can just click on the RSS icon or add in your email {found on the right}.

PLEASE go to: + check out the new site + catch up with my posts! {And would LOVE to know what you think!}  Here are some of the topics:

  • Re(organizing) your schedule:  What I’m doing with mine
  • Home accessories gone wild!
  • Your 1st Impression Room:  What does it say?
  • De-cluttering tips {starting with the kitchen}

With school wrapping up shortly, I’ll be shifting more of my focus from 1-1 client organization to website + blog stuff:  SO many ideas – looking forward to sharing them with you!

Again, thank you so much for subscribing to my previous blog location… I really hope you’ll make the move over with me! Please keep in touch : )




A glimpse into my friend’s story

January 26, 2011

My last few posts have been about “story” and as I continue this series, I’m going to add in a couple of things from my past chapter {past company (The DearBook Co.), that is}.  I wrote a monthly newsletter to go along with my album design business, and the reader favorite was definitely the monthly spotlights where I’d chat with a special friend about four {of my favorite} words and what each meant to them:

  • Order
  • Comfort
  • Style
  • Joy

I thought it was so neat how, even though we were talking about the same four words, each spotlight was so different.  My wonderful newsletter readers {this is before I had a blog!} say they miss these spotlights and would love to see them come back.  I loved doing them so am thrilled to start thinking of who to talk with – along with an updated Q&A format!  {See the bottom of this post to see who’ll be one of the first : )

In the meantime, I’m going to share a few of my past spotlights.   I think these tie into the “story” series that’s underway … these incredible people {BTW, I think we ALL have some pretty incredible things to share} let us have a glimpse into their own story.  This one is with my fabulously wonderful friend, Barbara….


Barbara + me

The DearBook idea was first sparked over coffee with Barbara.  We were talking about the holidays and Christmas memory books then the discussion turned to, “Wouldn’t it be neat to have a book for your year with not just Christmas, but all of a family’s occasions, both big and small?”  That was December of 2005, and a lot has happened since then.  What hasn’t changed is the incredible support from Barbara.  From the countless conversations, questions {she has innately good taste} and advice {she should be a therapist!}, her support has kept me sane and has carried me through to where DearBook is today.  Her simply asking how things are going with DearBook have meant more to me than she knows.

Have you ever read a “You Need Lots of Different Types of Friends” article that says you need one that makes you laugh, one that listens, one you can trust with anything, one with great advice to give, etc, etc, etc?  Well, Barbara is an all-of-the-above friend and more.  We’ll talk back and forth about “friendship” in a bit because this is something that has provided us both with much “joy” but first, here is what Barbara had to say about Order, Comfort and Style…

Angie:  Order:  Any good organizing tips?
Barbara: I am not organized! But I try to be and the details my life are totally organized in my head but I’m still working on translating those thoughts into action. I have been organized in different ways throughout the years but making lists has always been the most effective way for me to keep order. I seem to spring into action when I’m working from a list…and feel productive! “Less is more” in every way is a must for keeping order in our family. We are on a first name basis with the guy at Goodwill! Our kitchen pantry is the most organized “room” in our house. The food is neatly arranged but more exciting to me is that we painted it a great color and hung a nice framed painting on the wall. All of my favorite entertaining pieces are displayed as are ordinary items stored in cute containers. I think I am motivated to keep the pantry in order because it’s a happy space. Just how you’re more likely to write diary entries when you have a journal and pen you love! Simple…but effective.

A:  Comfort:
B: I am a “nester” and homebody so comfort is a biggie. A hot bath, green tea, fresh flowers throughout my home, a box of old cards and notes from my friends and family tucked away in my closet, sentimental artwork hanging on our walls and a great book to read at night all provide personal comfort. And nothing beats the nightly peaceful feeling of all three kids sound asleep in their beds with the sweetest expressions on their faces. We keep photo albums within easy reach and we all love looking through them often and reminiscing. We all seem to find comfort in that. And for decadent comfort, what else but chocolate?!

A:  Style:  You’ve got great style.  Where do you get your inspiration from?
B: I learned about style at an early age from my mom and my Aunt Nancy. In grade school when my friends came over they headed straight for my mom’s closet to play dress-up. She didn’t wear the Pappagallos the other moms wore but instead cute high-heeled Candie’s. And she had lots of them. Her accessories were snazzy as well. She is lovely, smart and funny and has always had an eye for fashion (and great shoes) and pulling herself together for all occasions…in her own personal way…in her style. During those same growing up years I was obsessed with my bedroom and creating a cute, fun and organized space (much like my pantry now). I constantly rearranged my furniture into every conceivable configuration creating different looks. Then my Aunt Nancy who owned an interior design business told me I could come pick out fabric, etc… to re-do my room. My chance to really show my style! I can still see those big bright blue flowers. Personal style is a wonderful reflection of what’s within.

A:  Our conversation on friendship:

All of the following quotes come from the book, The Art of Friendship, 70 Simple Rules for Making Meaningful Connections, by Roger and Sally Horchow, published by St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Quote from book:  “If you learn to be a person who takes action an any of the ways we describe, if you make the nurturing of friendships a personal priority, and if you understand the importance of following up with people, you will enjoy vital and long-lasting relationships in your life.”

A:  You were so good at keeping in touch when we both moved away from Jacksonville…I’m so glad you did because otherwise we would have lost touch and I wouldn’t have found one of my very best friends! What are some ideas of keeping up with people in your life that you wish to stay in touch with? We are all so busy and sometimes don’t make this a priority. {I know my wonderful South Carolina friends are hoping I take note of this!!}

B: One of the neat things about being a parent is that while you are teaching your kids about sharing and how to be a good friend you are reminded of the basic but fundamental lesson that being a good friend takes work. For instance, you invite a classmate to your 5th birthday party and you follow-up with a thank-you note using your new handwriting skill complete with the occasional backward letter. You try hard to show you care. As adults, making friendships a priority competes with a long list of other priorities. True friends are patient, so the occasional forgotten birthday, unreturned e-mail or snippy comment should be “allowed”. Following-up, honesty and mutual respect seem to be the basics. There’s nothing quite like reconnecting with an old friend and feeling like no time has passed at all. You pick right up where you left off. This was definitely the case with us, Angie, and I’m so grateful that our friendship has grown as we have!

The Art of Friendship:
“We also believe that a meaningful connection does not necessarily have to always imply a lifelong, devoted friendship – there is room in every life for fulfilling acquaintances, situational friendships, and temporary but mutually beneficial associations. Understanding these different levels of friendship is an important part of making healthy connections.”

A:  This is an interesting quote because it shows that you can have different “levels” of friendships. We’ve all heard “quality over quantity” and this quote reminds me of that in regards to friendships. Building friendships take time and energy, but they are crucial to our well-being! It’s nice, however, to know that it’s okay to have a lot of casual friends and leave it at that. Do you know what I mean? And you never know which of those casual relationships can evolve into a life-long friend.

B: I know what you mean! I have a friend who moved to a new city where she knew no one. She called and complained that she couldn’t find a friend who she could talk with like she talked to her friends here. I think a big part of that is that she had a lifetime of history with friends here. Then a few months later she talked about this new friend incessantly. Turns out they both love to cook…something none of us here like to do. Recipe swapping and neighborhood bake-offs (as dreadful as that sounds to me) has widened her circle of friends and provided her with new and “healthy connections”. It’s fun to look back on life and see how your friendships have grown, changed, come and go. All friendships are different.

A: We’ve talked about this before… I feel it’s so important to surround yourself with things that make you feel good – and that includes people. We’ve all had conversations with people and then left feeling drained – I know I’ve probably been on both ends!! These are some interesting “warning signs” you may encounter:

The Art of Friendship:

Early Warning Signs: Consider these warning signs reasons to be cautious in proceeding with a relationship:

1. Someone who tells lies or cheats with ease: a person who is comfortable with dishonesty is likely to lie to you, too.
2. Someone who criticizes others: You never know when your friendship might fall out of favor, and your flaws become discussion topic for this person.
3. Someone who brags about getting away with things: That person might decide to put something over on you one day.
4. Someone who is openly argumentative or combative: Who needs it?
5. Someone who is a “victim” or collects injustices: These folks are never satisfied with the way they are treated – even by you.
6. Someone who offers too much information too early: People who tell you their personal business very quickly often tend to become overly reliant or needy.
7. Someone who makes empty promises: You don’t need an unreliable friend in your life.
8. Someone who is always looking over your shoulder: If someone is constantly looking for someone “better” to talk to, you should move on.

A:  What are your thoughts on this? Do you have anything you would add to this list?

B: I think when you are younger you really overlook these signs. I now give myself permission to pull back from “toxic” or “red flag” friends and/or acquaintences. If you’re naturally a people pleaser {guilty!} this takes a lot of grit to allow yourself to do. I think friends who honestly, truly get excited for you when something good happens in your life are keepers and friendships worth cherishing.

I’m so lucky you’re my friend!!!
Thank you, Barbara!!!  The feeling is mutual!



Jennifer + me

I dedicate this post to one of the most beautiful (inside and out!) girls I know …

Happy Birthday to my dear friend Jennifer!!!! Love you…


YOUR Story: Who’s writing it?

January 19, 2011

“Your life is the most important story you will ever tell, and you’re telling it right now whether you know it or not.”

Jim Loehr, The Power of Story

Why is your “story” crucial? Our stories have a tremendous impact {in a really good OR really not-so-good way} on each of our lives. My hope for this post is to provide a bit more awareness to this topic by sharing a little of what I’ve learned.

First, a few thoughts {based on my own personal experiences} on designing your life {writing your story}:

  • Have a vision:  the more detailed, the better.  {If you were writing a book, you’d start off with an outline, right?!}
  • Know what you value most and make sure your story is aligned with these things.
  • Include the fun stuff!
  • Your future is still in draft form, your past is not. Actually, I see both of these as good things: 1.  Your past is just that, “past.” There’s not a thing you can do to change it. However, there are many lessons there {at least I’ve had many from my own past : )  LEARN from them! 2. Today and tomorrows can be written in so many ways. You are the author!
  • Understand the role your past is playing in your present chapter.
  • Make revisions along the way.  Don’t settle for “stuck.”
  • The key to turning your vision into a reality:  ORDER.

Having a vision {giving thought to how you want your story to play out} is a wonderful thing.  But, understanding what’s going on “behind the scenes” is C R U C I A L.  These are a few roadblocks {that you may not even realize are there!} to living the story you wish for:

#1:  The story you are currently telling yourself

I’m fascinated with the role our subconscious mind plays in our lives. The more I learn about this topic, the more I realize the power it has over our story.  And, our voices…  In The Power of Story, Loehr discusses how powerful our “private voice” is and the importance of ensuring it matches {not conflicts} with our “public voice.” He also discusses false assumptions stating that “if we don’t exhibit the courage to look at things somewhat coldly and carefully, then our somewhat {or largely} false story becomes THE story.”

#2:  The role your past chapters are playing in your present

I love anything by Martha Beck – found this quote from an article she wrote in O Magazine: “Getting bogged down in old stories stops the flow of learning by censoring our perceptions, making us functionally deaf and blind to new information. Once the replay button gets pushed, we no longer form new ideas or conclusions—the old ones are so cozy. But becoming present puts us back in reality, where we can rigorously fact-check our own tales.” 

#3:  Living a story someone (or something) else is writing

“Funny: We enjoy the privilege of being the final author of the story we write with our life, yet we possess a marvelous capacity to give ourselves only a supporting role in the ‘writing’ process, while ascribing the premier, dominant, true authorial role to our parents, our spouse, our kids, our boss, fate, chance, genetics, bad weather, or lousy interest rates. Anyone or anything but us appears to have more influence in moving the metaphorical pen across paper,” says Loehr.

Attention Parents: A critical factor: “It’s not just about you.” {my husband is good at reminding me of this…} It’s not just our own story.  Our children’s chapters {if you have them} are being written at this moment. As parents, we are like the Executive Producer / Editor of their stories… at least while they are under our roof!

This is a lot of heavy stuff!  There’s tons out there on this topic, including Loehr’s amazing book, The Power of Story {which helps you understand your “old” story and helps you write a “new” one.}  I’ll end with one last quote from his book:

…I’ve come to see that, amazingly, the key to almost all of our problems…is faulty storytelling, because it’s storytelling that DRIVES the way we gather and spend our energy. I believe that stories – again, not the ones people tell us but the ones we tell ourselves – determine nothing less than our personal and professional destinies. And the most important story you will ever tell about yourself is the story you tell TO yourself. So, you’d better examine your story, ESPECIALLY this one that’s supposedly the most familiar of all.  “The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and never scrutinize or question,” said paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould.

Participate in your story rather than observing it from afar; make sure it’s a story that compels you. Tell yourself the right story – the rightness of which only YOU can really determine, only YOU can really feel – and the dynamics of your energy change. If you’re finally living the story you want, then it needn’t – it shouldn’t and won’t – be any ordinary one. It can and will be extraordinary. After all, you’re not just the author of your story but also its main character, the hero. Heroes are never ordinary.

In the end,  your story is not a tragedy. Nor is it a comedy or a romance or a thriller or a drama. It’s something else. What label would you give the story of your life, the most important story you will ever tell? To me, that sounds like an epic.

End of story.

Jim Loehr, The Power of Story

Published by Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Your Story: What are you doing with it?

January 5, 2011

photo courtesy: CFleenor

The start of a new year is a time many of us spend reflecting back and looking forward. I am reminded of an all-time favorite quote which comes from Annie Dilliard:  “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” These “days” – the yesterdays, this moment, and the tomorrows – compose our story. And this will be the topic of my January blog series. I’ll give you an idea of what’s in store, but first… here’s a quick background on me + story:

THEN: If you’ve been with me since the beginning of this {business + personal} venture, you know I’m passionate about preserving your story. I started off designing DearBooks which were albums that kept “what’s dear, near” – kind of like a yearbook for those wanting to preserve their family, wedding and baby memories – in a quick and easy {and good-looking!} way.

NOW: Over the past year or so, I’ve shifted my focus from PRESERVING to actually DESIGNING your story. I still make my albums but am spending more of my time working with clients {and sharing through this blog} how to CREATE THE BEST SURROUNDINGS {from home / work space to calendar / habits} that will best support the story they wish for themselves and families.

This month, I’ll share:

  • some of my favorite books/articles on the topic of “story” and what I learned from each
  • different ways to organize your photos {simple to more elaborate – depending on your preference} – and the crucial factor to matter which way you go!
  • other ways {besides just photos} you can preserve your story
  • why giving serious thought to your story is one of the best things you can do for your children
  • the correlation between “order” and “story”
  • your ideas, suggestions, comments… what works for you, what doesn’t… {please…. I’d LOVE your comments right here on my blog – or feel free to email me: : )

This Sunday, our pastor ended her sermon giving us the exact number of hours we have left in 2011 – saying these hours are our gift and how we spend them is up to us.

These hours = our story. What will your story be?

Marinated Cheese Appetizer

December 22, 2010

Marinated Cheese: a fabulous make-ahead appetizer

One of my favorites! This appetizer came from my friend, Leigh. It’s equally beautiful and delicious, and is great for holidays with the marinade’s vibrant red and greens. It needs to be made ahead of time which works for me… I’m always thankful right before a crowd arrives that I was forced to prepare ahead of time!

Ingredients for marinated cheese {btw, I didn't have the white wine vinegar so just used balsamic}


  • 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c white wine vinegar
  • 2 oz diced pimento, drained
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp green onion, minced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  • 8 oz sharp cheddar
  • 8 oz cream cheese

Tip: when slicing the cream cheese, I wipe the blade with a paper towel after each slice - makes it a little neater.

  • Combine all marinade ingredients (can be made a day or two before)
  • Cut cheeses in squares and arrange, alternating the cheeses (can do night before – just cover tightly with saran wrap)
  • Pour marinade over cheese and chill for approximately 8 hours {sometimes less when I do it!}
  • Serve with toast rounds {can be found in most grocery’s bakery}

If transporting: Carefully wrap up when you’re taking it somewhere: I’ll drain extra marinade off, adding back on when I get to where I’m going. Also, wrap it well: I wrap a few times with saran wrap + put in plastic grocery bag + put in paper bag… just in case. It’s such a great appetizer so it’s worth the extra care it takes in traveling.

My favorite gift ideas: budget & last minute-friendly

December 16, 2010

Cute purses that are eco- and budget-friendly! I found at Whole Foods.... many styles - around $20

If you still have people on your list to do something for, here are some of my family’s favorite things. {I’ve just included stuff you can get last minute – not much searching involved! I’ll wrap it up with what to do if you’re feeling a little stressed.}.


{I’ve bold-ed each so you can scan quickly if limited on reading time}

STUFF IN GENERAL we love for our kids: building toys {from blocks to Legos}, games {we gave a 4-in-one game set from Target to our kids last year – it’s nice enough to leave out in our living room; we all love playing Chinese Checkers…and they love chess}, art supplies…anything without batteries!!! {Yes, we do have a Wii and DS but these are used with major limits-or else my 9-year old would do nothing else.}

Side Note: To encourage these “better for you” activities, this is what we’ve done:

  1. Make a special space for each {We’ve made an art center which includes easily accessible supplies and our not-so-pretty but wildly practical Little Tykes picnic table.}
  2. Establish simple guidelines for using {When finished, clean up / pick up what you get out.}
  3. Schedule DOWN TIME to allow time for this type of stuff!


MESSAGE FROM SANTA: This AMAZING site is your link to Santa!!  He’ll create a special message just for your child! It’s QUICK {it took me 10 minutes for each child’s message}, EASY {just answer a few questions and download a couple of photos}, and FREE (you just “join” the site}. Go to this link:  www.PortableNorthPole.TV/home



A family book: Last year, I overheard two customers in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble trying to locate a book that “everyone was looking for.” It was Lightening Thief which I ended up buying as well.  It made a great family present – we only read when we were all together. This year, I’m going to pick out a classic – with the help of these great references:

Other Good Books:

  • For the entertainer {or those that don’t consider themselves “entertainers” – it’s equally good for both; I raved about it in an previous post}: The book?  Lulu Power’s Food to Flowers Love it!
  • For the parent wanting “better” family meals: The Family Dinner: Great ways to connect with your kids, one meal at a time, by Laurie David, with recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt {This one is under our tree!}
  • For the home-lover: I have found my I D E A L home-related book. I am absolutely IN LOVE. Although for my mom, it will not be wrapped until the very last minute – I cannot put it down. {Is that horrible to read before you give?!} Unfortunately, I can’t share title at this moment since she’ll be reading, but no doubt I will be highlighting it early next year!!!!!
  • For zen-lovers {and zen-needers}: ZenHabits’ {my favorite blogger} Leo Babauta has written some that are on my list. See his About page to order.
  • Little “gift books”: I just love books – for myself and for giving others.   B&N has a whole display of great $6+ displayed near the entrance.


COMFORT: My mom gave our boys two things they still use all of the time: cozy blankets {As babies they had plenty, but now they have big-kid ones. She had monogrammed with their names.} Another year – she gave them each good pillows {My kids’ pillows where ones I’m sure I got on sale at Target for $5. These “gift” pillows are a few notches higher!}  My nine-year old insists on traveling with his blanket; my seven year-old with his pillow.


PHOTO: photo books, photo mug {I’m having ones made for my boys – along with a box of hot chocolate}, memory stick filled with new pics {for digital frame-owner}, note pad personalized with favorite photo.  And the classic: a pretty frame – along with pic. {Anthropology has fabulous frames – well, they have fabulous everything – it’s my favorite store.}


MUSIC: Make a personalized CD – easy to make and duplicate – great party favor or gift in bulk. And I LOVE the Putumayo World Music CDs – great for kids AND adults. {Just bought the Paris one!}


STYLE / BEAUTY: Anything Sephora {my second favorite store!}: great gift sets at various prices. Also, I’ve had more compliments on a purse I got from Whole Foods of all places! {It’s made by Earth Divas – a line of fair-trade goods made by working women’s co-ops and small cottage industry producers in Nepal.} And while I was at WF this morning buying two as gifts, I found great little soaps for $1.29 each – bought the frankincense & myrrh scent since it’s Christmas-y! I’m helping Santa out by putting these in the stockings…

Time to RE-GROUP!

Whether you started off the season feeling well-organized – or not – you probably need to do a little regrouping. Find 30 minutes of alone time and focus:

  • Look at what you have left to do – calendar, mailing, shopping, baking, packing-related – and figure out when you will do it. Keeping all of your “things to do” in one place is extremely helpful. Carry that list around everywhere and when something pops into your head, jot it down.
  • Streamline {delete} what you can. And forget perfection. {My Christmas cards haven’t been mailed yet. Because I organize professionally, that may be surprising to some, it’s just not crucial to me when they arrive in others’ mailboxes. Is Christmas not celebrated after midnight on December 25th? : ) I actually enjoy addressing the envelopes so I want to do when I’m in the mood.
  • Avoid just “looking around” – before you know it you’ll end up with all kinds of “stuff” and chances are, you’ll spend more than you’d planned.  During this “focus” time, decide exactly what you need for everything left on your list.  Then using your specific list, group errands together – and avoid busiest times, if possible.
  • KEEP RECEIPTS in ONE PLACE & know return policies. If you are going over budget, make some returns / do some shifting around.
  • DON’T BE DUMB and keep unwrapped gifts in the back of the car (what was I thinking?!#@$%).  Instead, wrap what you don’t want found and put under tree {for someone other than who it’s actually to!} or place items in large cardboard box “to be shipped” {not really!} – make sure to tape up well.  Just un-tape if you need to add something to it and then tape it back with shipping tape.
  • And finally – remember to take good care of yourself {some rest, lots of water, some exercise – even 5-minute spurts of it, meditate/prayer/quiet time}. Really try to make sure this is somewhere in your day.

In the next couple of days, I’ll share a few more recipe favorites and some decorating ideas that are simple, inexpensive and beautiful {a wonderful combination of words!}

Party Pizzas: a favorite recipe

December 8, 2010

Party Pizzas: easy to make / easy to freeze

Here’s a favorite family recipe that we usually have on Christmas night – along with She-Crab soup. {Both recipes are from my Aunt Trecie: her She-Crab is THE BEST but I better not include that one without her permission!} These little pizzas need to be served right when they leave the oven – but they freeze wonderfully so they’re a great menu item for get-togethers.  We serve at our oyster roasts and TV tailgates {watching football from the comfort home : )  Here’s the recipe: {makes 45 little pizzas}

Ingredients for pizzas {no, this is not an ad for Publix!}

  • Rye bread rounds {1 lb / 45 slices}
  • Mozzarella cheese slices, slice into 1/4’s {12 oz – I buy two 6-oz bags}
  • Hot sausage, cooked & crumbled {16 oz hot pork} {we’ve always used the sausage but I’m sure other toppings would work well}
  • Tomato sauce {8 oz can}
  • Dried oregano {a sprinkle for each}
  • Parmesan cheese {a shake for each:  I typically love freshly grated but for this, we’ve always used the kind in the shaker}

Place bread slices on baking sheet {lightly greased… OR see good tip – below}. Then, layer the following:

  1. Cheese slice
  2. Tomato sauce {approx 1 tsp}
  3. Crumbled sausage {approx 1/2 tsp}
  4. Parmesan cheese {a shake or two}
  5. Oregano {a shake or two}

This is what pizzas look like before baking - just to give you an idea of how I top them

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12-15 minutes {until melted and bubbly}

To freeze: Make just like above but instead of putting into oven, place in freezer {on top of anything flat that’ll fit in freezer without tilting: a baking sheet, cutting board… my mom uses a strong piece of cardboard}.  Once frozen {about an hour} place pizzas in air-tight freezer bag/container. Good in freezer for about a month.  To serve, bake the same as above – just add a few extra minutes to cooking time.

TIP:  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper when making these pizzas {or baking cookies} instead of having to grease up the pan. Baked goods easily slide off – and clean up is minimized.  Parchment paper also works well when you’re using the kitchen counter as a work surface – not that I use my rolling pin often! But the times I have, parchment paper – sprinkled with flour or powdered sugar – works beautifully.

My all-time favorite blog & how it changed me

December 2, 2010

Zen Habits' creator/writer Leo Babauta; photo courtesy of

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my personal holiday favorites: gifts, easy + FABULOUS recipes, simple yet beautiful decorations {and take a look at last week’s post: 5 ways to make your holidays HAPPY if you haven’t yet!}.  But today, I wanted to share what has brought me great “tidings of comfort and joy”… my all-time favorite blog:  Leo Babauta’s

I’ve been following Zen Habits for about a year now and it has shifted me in some pretty amazing ways:

  • letting go of rigid goals {I’m still a huge believer in having a vision and making a plan, but am much more open to change.  This openness has brought some pretty incredible opportunities that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.}
  • streamlining {a big part of my organizing philosophy – see my “surround yourself with what you love” series: car, people, work, style, home}
  • working smarter {including creating frictionless systems and having a clear desk} {Leo has also become one of my business mentors – that’s another post!}
  • focusing {and focusing on what you truly love}
  • being in the moment {Finally! I’m able to actually experience this!}

Infusing Zen Habits into my life has shown me first hand the power of surrounding yourself with what you love. It’s too easy to become completely overwhelmed with the vast amount of “stuff” out there – from our computer and TV screens to our calendars and what we are “supposed to do.” Every single thing we choose to surround ourselves with shifts us in one way – or another. Be intentional about where you are shifting. {Shift yourself – don’t be shifted!}

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Aristotle {a quote from Zen Habits’ About page}

If you are in need of a shift towards peace during the holiday season – and beyond – visit Leo at He describes Zen Habits as “finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.” Zen Habits is one of the Top 25 blogs in the world, and Time magazine named it the number one blog for 2010.

5 ways to make your HOLIDAYS HAPPY

November 22, 2010

photo courtesy of jurvetson

If you’re like me, you can feel the excitement and anticipation of what’s about to arrive… along with that added stress that’s trying it’s best to accompany the holiday season.  DO (don’t just read – grab a pen and paper and make a plan!) these 5 things to welcome the holidays – while turning your back on that stress:


Find a few quiet minutes and think:  What do I want the holidays to be? {Not just for your family  – but for YOU!} Using “surround yourself with what you love” {last blog series} write down what you want to both experience and avoid.

This is what I’d love {and not love}:

LOVE:  experiencing and being the true meaning {cliche sounding, but true-and doable… if you need some ideas, let me know & I’ll send some to you – from an Advent workshop I attended} + calm AND happy times with loved ones + singing Christmas carols with my kids {they actually think I have a beautiful voice – which I so don’t! –  it’s my rock star moment} + favorite traditions {from yummy foods (she-crab soup on Christmas Eve & chocolate peanut butter balls) to the arrival of our Elf on the Shelf (if my boys don’t spend too much time pondering why identical elves are lined up in every store) + reading The Night Before Christmas + pulling out decorations and Christmas music + wrapping gifts + finding great {not necessarily “perfect”} gifts + that magical feeling I still get when I wake up Christmas morning + PEACE.

DON’T LOVE:  rushing around + overbooked schedules + paying for express shipping OR seeing “out of stock” when I go to buy something {because I waited too long} + attending my children’s Christmas programs and thinking “I really need to be using this hour getting stuff done” instead of being in the moment + spending too much money + not having any downtime + being amidst that “hustle and bustle” at a mall {know this goes in the “LOVE” category for some : ) + looking forward to the holidays being over

WHAT TO DO WITH THIS? Do your best to add your holiday “loves” into your calendar or to-do list. {This is EQUALLY important if what you love is a bit of nothing! Make sure to block out that quiet time.}  For the things on your “don’t love” list, see #2:


I still tend to pack too much into my suitcase {which I’m perfectly okay with}.  But when it comes to packing my schedule {including to-do’s}, I really do try to streamline as much as I can. This quote from a wellness program I’m involved in that beautifully sums it up:

“The most important perspective to keep is one of ‘crowding it out.’ Crowd out the draining tasks with uplifting choices. Crowd out the mediocre tasking junk food with excellent tasting indulgences. Crowd out the frenzy by prioritizing what you will do and bringing calm and joy to those experiences.”

Lisa Byrne

from Roadmap to a Happy, Healthy, Meaningful Holiday Season

(click here for more info on this wonderful program)


Establish your budget FIRST.  Then, make your list of who you’ll be buying for. After you know these two things, then determine how to allocate your $. I do an Excel spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • For (recipient’s name)
  • Gift Purchased (or gift idea)
  • Budget*
  • Actual*

* I made it to where these two columns calculate the total budgeted / spent at bottom. It’ll calculate as you plug in different amounts and you can keep adjusting until you have the #’s where they need to be.  BTW, this list is great to refer back to in years to come. {My husband will probably be amused that I’m giving budgeting advice but I’m very proud to say that this is what I did last year and it worked beautifully UNDERbudget!}


As you know, I’ve fallen in love with order. It’ll not only keep you sane, but help you truly enjoy the season. One tip: Make a holiday organizer: This is what I use:  a pocket file holder {found one at Target for like $2.50} with the following tabs:

  • Ideas {such as tear-outs from magazines}
  • Cards {our holiday card mailing list + extra stamps + few extra cards + my writing pen}
  • Receipts {all receipts from holiday / gift items purchased}
  • List {my gift list: I just print out the spreadsheet, see #3 above}


Drink lots of water, ensure downtime is on your schedule, breathe, spend time with some of your favorite people, get in some exercise {even if it’s 5 minutes here, 10 there}, throw in some healthy meals / snacks… And finally:

Keep all “things to do” {including those you’re keeping in your head} written in ONE PLACE!  Place with this holiday plan and regroup every few days.  {This tip falls under the “organize” category but it’s also one of the best ways you can take care of yourself. More order is HUGE for your well-being. And something else that’s big:  letting go…

Abandon Guilt. You are supposed to enjoy, indulge, delight, relax, and pamper during this time. In order to have a healthy and peaceful holiday season you will need to say no, say yes, establish priorities, get things done and leave things left undone. It is all okay. A moment in guilt is a moment wasted.

Lisa Byrne, Well Grounded Life

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some favorite recipes {fabulous for entertaining over the holidays}; some easy + beautiful decorations for your home + favorite gift ideas + more!

In closing, I just wanted to say that I am thankful for each of you and hope you are surrounded by what you love during the holiday season – and beyond!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and again, thank you for reading!

Surround yourself with what you love: HOME

November 17, 2010

photo: courtesy of R. Clock

While we don’t have much control over the outside world, what’s under our roof is a different story. And speaking of “story” – your home {the “setting” of your story} plays one of the biggest supporting roles in the life you are writing. Your home should be your personal oasis:  one that nurtures, comforts, welcomes you {and your family} – and, simply put, makes you happy.

I could write a book {actually, several} on this topic alone, but for now, I’ll just share a few thoughts mixed in with some of my favorite “home” quotes, starting with my all-time favorite.  It beautifully sums up how our surroundings (our spaces both at home and work) impact us:

The power of being in a space that feels fully aligned with our soul is sorely underrated. In all my years of coaching (and in my own life), I’ve seen few ways to practice Extreme Self-Care that have a more dramatic, immediate effect on our quality of life than this one idea. I’m not just talking about clearing clutter or getting organized, although these are a huge part of the formula; I’m talking about recognizing the impact your home or office has on your emotional and physical health, your energy levels, your self-esteem, your relationship to yourself and others, and your spiritual well-being. It’s called “creating a soul-nourishing environment,” and I’ve seen this vital concept – the transformation of a person’s home or office – literally transform his or her life.”

Cheryl Richardson, The Art of Extreme Self-Care

A few {of the many} things I like to surround myself with at home:

  • light {This drives my husband a little crazy but I need my mood lighting! I counter with this eco-friendly tip: use “good for the environment” light bulbs in favorite lights.}
  • comfort {from favorite blankets to super-comfy-while-trying-to-keep stylish clothes}
  • music {quite the variety-all depending on my mood}
  • quiet {for when I’m in the mood for NO noise}
  • happy kids {and happy husband!}
  • delicious food {I very much dislike wasting a meal – or snack – on “filler stuff” as I call it. I’m working on adding in really good stuff that’s really good for me… another post}
  • good wine {we’re building quite the collection of corks}
  • systems {keeps the day-day stuff running smoothly}
  • nature: bringing the outdoors in {fresh air (open windows), water (my tiny indoor fountain), styling (from pine cones to cut greenery/flowers), fire (in fireplace or on top of candle only!}
  • books {I just love them} and, of course, my magazines
  • favorite photos of loved ones/friends {and even better – when they are here in person!}
  • order {There’s nothing like it – especially if you’re like me at aren’t (or should I say “weren’t”?) naturally organized! Learning how to make it work – priceless! And I’m not just saying that because it’s what I do now professionally!}
  • our animals {the few times they haven’t been there… it’s just not the same … even though all they do is sleep!}
  • inspiration of different sorts {from our kids’ favorite artwork to the inspiration board in my “studio” – another thing my husband “loves,” when I refer to the office as the “studio”}

As far as furniture + other decor, I try to stick with advice from my mom {who – along with my dad – are the true experts at creating a welcoming, beautiful, personal home}. Her advice:  If you don’t love it, don’t get it. {I must have heard that 1,000 times in response to my, “Look what I got – and it was only $____!!!”}  And she is right. Looking through my home and closet {with very few exceptions} the things I bought on impulse, often because they were “such good deals,” are things that end up in my Goodwill box.

Surrounding yourself {home, work, people, car, style} with what you love is about doing these two things:

  1. Designing a vision {knowing, keeping and adding what you DO love}, and
  2. Streamlining {taking away or changing what you DON’T}.

When we acknowledge the importance of home, we are taking note of ourselves.  Home is ultimately the place in our lives that is uniquely ours, a flexible space reflecting where we come from and how we got here.  The home becomes the canvas on which we express our own viewpoint and sense of style.  Once we arrive at that place, however, we often become overwhelmed with how much there is to do.  We have the desire to make the effort, but we are unsure how to start or where to begin.  We can change this feeling by adjusting our point of view so that we can enjoy the process of creating home, over time.

Louis Sagar, Zona Home: Essential Designs for Living

Making your home is a journey {not a destination} so, just as with life, HAVE FUN with it as you design it.