Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 30: Final thoughts

Even though this is day thirty, it's not my final post.  I'm planning on continuing this blog, but there will be some changes.  Each month with be a different 30 day quest theme.  There won't necessarily be 30 posts on that specific topic, but for example the month of October might be "30 day quest to becoming closer to your spouse" and November might be "30 day quest to organize your life".  I'm not professing to be an expert in any of these areas, but I hope you will be able to take something from each month's topic. I will also be adding in another blog author, my good friend Jennifer Reynolds.  She is a mother of two and a wonderful Christian woman with some great insight. We will be taking turns posting on this blog. I'm super excited about the changes, so stay tuned.

Now onto my final blog post. I pondered what to write about for my 30th day.  I decided to simply write some closing thoughts on what it means to be elegant.  Elegance is a state of mind.  It's a decision to make your life and your home pleasant.  Elegance is not the quest of getting and acquiring things, it's the quest of being content with the things you have.  It's a quest to make your home a beautiful and comfortable place without spending too much.  Simple changes in your everyday routine and finding beauty in commonplace items add elegance.  Iron your pillowcases, organize a closet, put fresh flowers in a mason jar, be positive, serve others, shine your kitchen sink and you will be well on your way to an elegant life. Elegance can be manifested in your home, but it starts in your heart.

Remember, strive for elegance, not luxury.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 29: Elegant Centerpieces

Ok, this title leaves nothing to the imagination.  I wanted to come up with something more clever, but ya' get what ya' get.  Yes, this blog is about centerpieces.  I don't know about you, but I feel like my dining room looks a little more polished and elegant if I have a centerpiece on the table.  Lately, I'm a little over my daily "fruit in a bowl" centerpiece.  It makes for a great still life painting, but it gets boring as my everyday centerpiece. There's nothing special, creative, or personal about it.  It's fruit and a bowl.

 That has spurred me on to repurpose items in my house (most of which you probably have in your own house) to create centerpieces that are a little more whimsical and creative.  I bought nothing extra for these pictures.  They are simply items I had in my home that I put together to create a more personalized look on my table. They aren't earth shattering or designer-worthy, but hey, they're cheap and cute.  What more could you ask for?  Here are my creations....

 Display a pretty plate in the center of your table.
 Use those mason jars on a table runner.  During the holidays you could fill them with cranberries, or acorns, or cinnamon sticks to create a holiday themed centerpiece.
 Simple candle and holder with little succulent plants.
 Pile up some cute cookbooks and place a darling little teapot on top.
 I know, I know, still fruit in a bowl, but I layered a placemat on top of a tablecloth to give some more color and I put the fruit in a trifle bowl on a stand, rather than in a short bowl.
 I grabbed this piece out of my living room.  It gives it a more formal architectural feel.
 Open up a cookbook to a cute recipe page and set in a holder.
Grab a basket and fill it with fruit, cookbooks, or rolled up tea towels.  

I hope you've been inspired to look around your house for items that would spruce up your dining room table.  It's just a simply elegant way to add more interest in your dining room.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 28: Count Your Blessings

Hopefully by now you have begun to add some elegance to your home in simple, but significant ways.  Perhaps you've organized a little better, or put together your own home binder, or ironed your pillowcases. Sometimes as we do our housework, we find ourselves wishing for things to be a little better, easier, bigger, faster, etc.  For example, the other day I was wishing that our laundry room was a brighter and bigger.  Alex (my husband) quickly pointed out that at this house I could do laundry at any point during the day whereas in our old house I couldn't because the dryer would heat up the house if it ran.  And during the summer our laundry would back up so bad because I didn't want to make the house too hot.  Just a little example of how I lost sight of my blessing with my new laundry room.

I'm challenging all of you to sit down with a paper and pencil and write out your blessings.  Set a timer for 5-10 minutes because you could easily go much longer.  List all the blessings that come to your mind.  Look for the hidden blessings as well.  Yes your child might be sick, but that gives you lots of cuddle time with him or her on the couch!  Here is some of my list.  Some of them might sound silly to you, but they're important to me.

1.  Being a child of God
2.  Having a husband that works hard to provide for our family
3.  I'm able to stay home with my girls all day
4.  My girls are healthy and happy
5.  We have no car payments
6.  Live in a beautiful state with lots of outdoor activities
7.  Wonderful friends
8.  Central AC for those hot summer days
9.  Heat for those cold winter nights
10.  A wonderful loving church family
11.  Supportive and loving parents
12.  My health
13.  Ability to live close to my parents
14.  A nice vacuum (I know silly, but I love it!)
15.  A washer and dryer (I'm so glad I don't have to tote our clothes to a laundromat)
16.  A nice big backyard with beautiful green grass for my girls to run in.
17.  My husbands job
18.  My job
19.  My home
20.  Sunsets over the Rocky Mountains (I can see them from my front yard)
21.  My husbands family
22.  Working stove/oven/dishwasher (I don't appreciate these as much until they're NOT working)
23.  Comfy bed in which to sleep at night.
24.  Hugs and kisses from my family.

I think I will post my list on my refrigerator and add to it through the days and weeks to come.  If we keep our blessings in the forefront of our mind we are less likely to have negative thoughts and attitudes. A blessed life is an elegant life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 27: A little sanctuary

I think each person, man or woman, should have a part of the house that is their "getaway."  I'm not talking about a shrine complete with candles, incense, and pictures of yourself.  I'm talking about a place in the house that you enjoy spending time and making it comfortable for you.

I recently read a blog where the author said she made her kitchen window sill her sanctuary.  She decorated it with trinkets that she loved.  She didn't have a dishwasher and that is where she spent a lot of her time, so she wanted to make it comfortable for herself.  That really struck a chord with me.  While she was doing a chore, she was able to make it a pleasant experience.

Even though I have a dishwasher, I still do end up spending a lot of time at my sink and in my kitchen.  I took a cue from her blog and decided to make my kitchen window a sanctuary.  It's now a place that is enjoyable to look at and it holds personal, special items.

The blue cups on the left are some that I found at an antique shop.  I love blue and white dishes and they are part of my collection.  I put some of my fave lotion, a pretty pink candle and a picture of my precious family.  That way when I'm washing my one thousandth dish of the day, I can look at those sweet faces and be reminded of why I love my job as a mommy!

I encourage you to add elegance to any space in which you often find yourself through the day.  It might be your laundry room, your office, your dining room, etc.  Make it your own, make it simple, make it pretty, and make it elegant.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 26: A Bit of This

For day 26, I've decided to write a hodge- podge of household tips.  Some of these you may have heard of, and some you may find you want to try in your own home.  All of these tips are inexpensive (even free), quick to do, and will provide some more elegance to your home.

1.  Take your folded sheet set and place them in a pillowcase from that same set to keep them all together.  When it comes time to change your sheets, the set is easily found! This tip has been brought to you by Bonny Cable.
2.  Use space saving vacuum bags to store extra blankets from winter.  You can even use them to store winter coats or sweaters.
3.  Use a squeegee after each time you shower to keep soap scum from building up on your tiles, or shower door. This tip has been brought to you by my mother.
4.  Use a piece of wax paper to rub your clothing rods in your closet to help your hangers slide easier.
5.  Hang a lint roller on your closet door to remove pet hair, or fuzz before you leave the house.
6.  Stick dryer sheets inside your shoes to keep them smelling fresh.  This tip has been brought to you by the Snuggle bear.
7.  For an inexpensive table runner, take two dishtowels, iron them flat and place them sideways on the table.
8.  Take the tops of fresh flowers and float them in a wide glass bowl with floating votive candles for a simply elegant centerpiece.  (I will be doing a blog post on centerpieces soon so stay tuned).
9.  Clean your stainless steel cookware by boiling a half cup of white vinegar in some water.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for an hour. This tip has been brought to you by the letter "K."
10.  A few drop of cooking oil will remove the adhesive stickers on new items.  Put some on a cloth and rub on the sticker.

I hope some of these tips sound doable and I hope you have found them to be helpful.  They aren't earth shattering, but it is important to have little tricks like this up your sleeve to keep your home in shape.

We only have 4 days left until the 30 day grand finale!  I will be doing one last giveaway to one lucky reader.  It is going to be a GREAT prize!  Here's a hint- It's going to be a giftcard to one of my favorite stores.  Here are the rules for the contest.....

1.  Take pictures of one of the tips that I've listed for making your life more elegant.  Show how you've implemented that tip in your home.
2.  Post your picture on my facebook page, or if you don't have facebook, you can email it to me at emilyvelez@rocketmail.com and I will post it for you.
3.  And you're done!  The winner will be chosen randomly.

Break out those cameras and show me your elegance!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 25: Freezer Cooking

I've seen a few people do freezer cooking and I think it's fascinating!  For those of you who haven't heard of freezer cooking, it's where you spend an afternoon chopping, dicing, mixing, and storing meals to use for later.  Some people will do freezer cooking to last them a month.  If I ever attempt that, you all will be the first to know. I will admit I don't know the ins and outs of freezer cooking, but I do see several benefits.  First and foremost, it can bring elegance and simplicity to your dinner time routine.  Also......

1.  Saves you $$$
2.  Saves you time when it comes dinnertime, which is usually a very busy time for all families.
3.  Allows you to cook more healthy than going through a drive through.
4.  Gives an opportunity for you and your family to sit around the dinner table.  When you have meals already prepared in your freezer, you limit your excuses for not having a home cooked meal as a family.

These meals were shown to me by a Pampered Chef director that I work with, so Susan, if you're reading, thank you!  Here are 3 dinners that you can throw into a gallon ziploc freezer baggie and put into your freezer.  Total time to do this will take about 25 minutes and you'll have 3 meals at the end!  The approximate cost will be put after each recipe and totaled at the end.  The totals will be based on a family of 4 just to give you a reference point.

Caesar Chicken
Chicken breasts or strips (however many you need to feed your family)
1 bottle of Caesar dressing (whichever is cheapest and on sale)
Place chicken in ziploc baggie and pour dressing over chicken.  Done!  That was easy :)  Cook in a slow cooker or baking dish and serve over pasta or rice and a salad.
Cost= $6.00

Mexican Chicken
Chicken breasts
1 jar of salsa
1 can of chopped black olives
Place chicken breasts and olives in baggie, and pour salsa over the chicken. Place in freezer.  Done!  Serve over spanish rice- yummo!
Cost= $8.50

BBQ Ribs
1 rack of pork or beef ribs (you may have to cut them in half to fit into the gallon bag)
1 bottle of bbq sauce
2 cloves of garlic
Pour sauce over ribs in the bag and mince the cloves of garlic directly into the bag.  Done!  It doesn't get any easier than that!
Serve with baked potatoes and coleslaw.
Cost= $12

Total for 3 dinners for a family of 4 comes to $26.50. That's about $2.20 per person per meal.  Not bad considering a meal at a drive through is usually around $4.  I hope you use these recipes and if you're one of those people who are hard core freezer cooking, share some of your recipes either here on the blog, or on my facebook page.  Happy cooking!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 24: A Shiny Sink is a Happy Sink

So, I think it's funny how yesterday in my blog I wrote about giving yourself permission to not shine once in awhile, and today's post is about shining up your sink.  Hmmmmmm......make up your mind lady!!!!

I saw this tip online a few days ago and I think it's wonderful!  For all you stainless steel sink owners out there, this post's for you!  I find that my sink becomes grimy and dull looking after washing dishes, wiping down high chair trays, rinsing off peanut butter covered hands, etc...  This is a very safe and inexpensive way to clean your sink, deodorize your disposal and give your sink a nice shiny finish.

 Slice a lime or a lemon in half.
 Pour some baking soda in the bottom of the sink.  Baking soda could cure cancer I think.
 Dip half the lime in the baking soda.
 Scrub the sink in circular motions. 
 Let it sit for a couple minutes then rinse.
Buff dry with a clean cloth.  Then throw your limes down the disposal to clean the blades and freshen it.

And voila! You have a pretty, shiny sink!

Keeping your sink spic and span is a wonderful touch of elegance in any kitchen!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 23: Permission Not to Shine

When I first began my teaching career, I thought I was going to change the world! I just knew that I was going to positively influence every student that set foot in my classroom door.  Just as with any new adventure, we set our hopes high and our expectations higher.  There's nothing wrong with that.  We just need to know that at some point reality is going to hit and we may become discouraged.  I remember seeing an article, or book title, or training topic (it was a long time ago) entitled "Permission Not to Shine."  It was about realizing that we can't be perfect and stand out all the time. I thought that was so odd.  Who wouldn't want to shine?  Who wouldn't want to try their best? Who was already going to make excuses for what they didn't accomplish?  Then it hit me.  It's not about not wanting to do our best, it's about forgiving ourselves when we fall short, knowing that we can't always be perfect.

Keeping our homes in perfect order while maintaining an elegant attitude while having the perfect little gifts on hand while ironing our pillowcases just can't happen 100% of the time.  AND THAT'S OK!   Cut yourself some slack.  Take the day off of housework to play in the sprinklers with your kids, or to finish up that crocheting project, or to start that classic novel you've always wanted to read.    Elegance comes in small steps and small changes.  Elegance can be found in taking a break :)  What a nice thought!

In your quest for elegance, give yourself and others around you permission once in awhile to not shine.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day22: Micro-managing- sweating the small stuff

Today isn't necessarily a tip for making your home more beautiful, but it's a tip for making your life more beautiful.  Enter my musings on micro-managing.

If you've been following my blog lately, you will know that we've recently moved into a new house and rented out our other house.  It makes me crazy wondering what the renters are doing to the inside of my house.  Are they the people they claimed to be on their application? Will they take care of the house?  Will they have wild parties in it?  Will they water my flowers and trees that I've planted?  Will they....and the list could go on and on.

I need to stop obsessing and realize that I can't control what other people do.  I can't live every day in fear that one of my plants out front might die because they forgot to water.  I need to let go and stop trying to manage every detail of my life, let alone someone else's life.  For me it's my rental house, for you it might be your kids, or your husband, or your job.  If we want to lead elegant lives, we must realize that the only person we can truly control is ourselves.  Outside of that we can control our attitudes about what others do or fail to do.  Sidenote:  I'm not advocating letting your children run wild because you shouldn't control them.  You should obviously take disciplinary cautions with your children, but so what if they want to make a mess in their rooms, or so what if they get peanut butter on their brand new shirt.

I could go crazy with the "what-ifs" in life, but today I choose to not do that anymore!  Today I'm choosing to relax and let the little things work themselves out.  I need to put my annoyances, concerns, worries, and hypothetical "what-ifs" in a box and hand them over to God.  He is the ONLY one truly in control of EVERYTHING.  And I know that He will take care of me.  So join me in the "control freak support group" of life, and together we can overcome our tendencies to sweat the small stuff.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 21: Tissue paper, gifts bags, and wrapping....OH MY!

I don't know about you, but I love to save my gift bags from birthdays, showers, and Christmas.  It saves us hundreds of dollars to keep them and not have to buy a gift bag each time there is some occasion.  However, when it came time to wrap gifts my blood pressure would raise ever so slightly because I didn't have the gift bags and wrapping organized.  They were shoved in the back of my daughters closet. I would have to duck under her clothes and search in a closet, without a light, to find a gift bag.  I would have to make sure it was the right size, for the right occasion, and don't even get me started on having to find tissue paper that matched that bag.  Whooooooo....that made my blood pressure rise just typing about it.

Well those days are over!  I am going to show you how I organized my wrapping and how you can too!  That way when those elegant gift giving occasions arise, you too can be prepared.

I used a 3 drawer nightstand that we didn't need anymore.  You can always buy those plastic bins with drawers and wheels at Target or Walmart.  In the top drawer I put all the tissue paper, in the second drawer I put gift bags for birthdays, showers, or just plain bags.  In the third drawer I put all my Christmas gift bags.  I set aside a large gift bag to hold my rolls of wrapping paper, odd sized gift tins, ribbon, and "to-from" tags.  Here are my before and after pictures.

 Now you can see why my blood pressure would rise.
 AHHHHHH.......after.  This is the large bag holding odd sized tins, wrapping paper, etc.
 Here are the drawers with the neatly folded gift bags.
Here are all my goodies for wrapping gifts!

Now I'm hoping that a gift-giving occasion presents itself soon so I can open my neat drawers and easily find a gift bag to wrap a present.  I hope it needs lots of tissue paper too, because I know where to find it now!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 20: Home is Where Your Heart Is

I apologize from my absence of posts, but between moving, a sick toddler, a burst pipe at our house that we  rented out, and living amidst boxes, this blog has been put on the back burner.  But I'm baaaaaaack!!!!!

All this turmoil has really added to my ideas of new posts.  I guess I can count that as a blessing :) I've entitled this one, "Home is Where Your Heart Is."  As Alex and I packed up boxes in our old house, I cried and I cried and I cried.  That was our first house we ever purchased, it was a home where we redid the kitchen cabinets ourselves, we laid new bathroom floors, put in new light fixtures, installed a beautiful front door, brought our babies home to that house, planted flowers and trees, and made a lot of new memories.  We put a lot of our time, effort, finances, and love into that house.

As attached as I was and still am to that house, I've come to the decision that my home is where my heart is.  My heart is now at this home.  And my heart is my family.  It doesn't matter if we had moved to a teeny apartment or a giant mansion- it's my duty to find contentment and realize that the most important thing is that our family is happy, healthy, and together.

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  Matthew 6:21

Hopefully we treasure our reward and inheritance in Heaven and our heart longs to be there.  But in the meantime while we live here on earth we need to treasure our families, so that no matter where we might live we will always be at home.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 19: The Lost Art of Common Courtesy

This post is something near and dear to my heart.  Especially after my recent dealings with strangers, I've learned that common courtesy must make a major comeback back into our lives!

To borrow a line from one of my favorite movies (Hello Dolly), "If you really wanna be really elegant.....you walk."  In my movie, the line would be, "If you really wanna be really elegant...you honor your commitments."

If you receive an invitation, RSVP.  If you sign up for a certain position, fulfill that role to the best of your ability.  If you say you're going to call someone, call them.  If you say you're going to pray for somebody, pray for them.  If you're invited to dinner, show up on time.  If you're going to be late, call and let someone know.

Elegant people show consideration for others.  Elegant people understand that other people have things to do, places to go and things to plan and they don't leave them waiting.  Elegant people are courteous.

It brightens my if a stranger holds the door for me at a store as I try to maneuver "THE BEAST"  (a.k.a my double stroller) through a narrow door. That's a simple act of common courtesy that helps a young mother. If I pass out invitations and I get an RSVP, even if it's declining the invitation, it helps me to better plan and I respect that person for respecting me.

Now, I'm not wanting to this post to sound like a rant and rave, nor do I think of myself as perfect in this aspect.  However, I think we can all use a gentle reminder to not get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to consider another persons' needs.

Please remember to honor your commitments, be a person of your word, put others first, and you will truly be an elegant person.

Now on to the fun part!!!!!!  My Friday giveaway- sorry it's late, I've been packing and the day got away from me.  Because I've posted so late in the day, this contest will run through Saturday.

My giveaway product is- drumroll please....................................

Falsies mascara by Maybelline.  I thought this would be a great giveaway because it's makeup and who doesn't love makeup? I'm what you might call a mascara junkie.  I have used every brand, and different types of mascaras within those brands and I  have a tough time finding one that I like.  This stuff is so GREAT!  It is my fave and it's inexpensive!

I will be giving it away to two of my blog readers.  Here are the rules...

1.  Leave a comment either here on the blog, or on my facebook page of your favorite beauty product.  It could be a lotion, eyecream, footscrub, etc...Whatever your go-to product may be.
2.  The contest will run from now until 8pm MST.  That's 10pm for all you east coasters and 7pm for all you west coasters.  Look for the winner to be announced Saturday evening!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 18: Tell 'Em What You Told 'Em

On day 18 of my post, I thought it would be a good idea to review what we've talked about so far.  This serves 3 purposes..

1.  Allows newcomers to the blog to get caught up without having too much to read.
2.  Gives my regular readers a good reminder of things they can try if they haven't already.
3.  Gives me a day where I don't have to come up with something new :)

So here we go with a quick recap of each blog post up until today...

Day 1:  Keep those linen closets organized.  Keep things easy to find and in order.
Day 2:  Iron your pillowcases before putting them on your bed.  It's a super simple way to impress your family and houseguests.
Day 3:  Focus on positive things.  Do your best to keep negative thoughts and speech away from your home.
Day 4:  Make your home look great from the outside.  Hang a wreath, mow the lawn, sweep the porch, buy a welcoming mat to put by the front door.
Day 5:  Mason jars are a great way to store dry goods, hold flowers, drink out of, bake in, give as gifts, make into centerpieces, etc... Basically they're wonderful :)
Day 6:  Fresh flowers add such a happiness to your home.  They take a small portion of your budget and can bring a homey feeling to your kitchen table.
Day 7:  Turn off the TV and turn on some music.  Let music fill your home.  Introduce your kids to The Beach Boys, Elvis, Josh Groban, Broadway, classical, and whatever kind of music you enjoy.  Dance in your living room. It's a free, fun way to alleviate stress and bond with your kids.
Day 8:  Family traditions are important to implement to form strong family bonds.  For a list of ideas, you can click on day 8 of my blog and look for ideas!
Day 9:  Keep a pitcher of iced coffee in a container in your fridge to sip on these sweltering summer mornings. For directions on how to make it go to Day 9 in my blog archives.
Day 10:  Sunday lunch recipe.  It an easy, do ahead, yummy dinner idea.  Go to day 10 for the recipe!
Day 11:  In the morning choose to put on your metaphorical apron and serve others.  There are also directions for how to make your own VERY inexpensive apron.
Day 12:  Clean your windows.  Especially the ones you commonly gaze out of.  Removing dirt and grime will give your home a sunnier feel.
Day 13:  Wake up a little earlier in the morning to spend some time in prayer, reading, exercising, etc.. Just an extra 30 minutes will add some order to your morning routine.
Day 14:  Spruce up your kitchen with a set of cute inexpensive dishtowels, a bright rug, or a small counter lamp.  With all the time we spend in the kitchen it helps to make it a sunny, cheery space.
Day 15:  Giving spontaneous little gifts is a great way to brighten someones' day, and be a gracious guest.  For a list of ideas go to day 15 in my blog archive.
Day 16 & 17:  Make a home binder complete with a check sheet to keep you day in order, family budget, important phone numbers, fave recipes, etc..For pictures and ideas you can click on those days and read my post.

Let me know what ideas you've tried and what has helped make your home a more elegant place!

Stay tuned on Friday for our next giveaway!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 17: Home Binder Part 2

So, as promised here are some pictures of my household binder.  I also included tabs for our church directory and other important phone numbers that I might need at a moment's notice.  Hope this idea inspires you and feel free to copy or add to it based on your needs.

 Here is my notebook with a quotation about home on the front.
 Oh so organized!
 My list filled out for the day.  Doesn't feel like as much to do when it's all written down.  It seems more manageable this way.
 I like to call it my "Top Goal List" rather than "To Do List"

This is my weekly meal plan.  Complete with ingredients and directions!  Love this!

Let me know if I can help you start your notebook.  It will take a few days to really develop it into what you want it to be, but if you can get your notebook to work for you, it will be a great resource in running your house.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 16: Household Notebook; Part 1

In most jobs, you have to utilize desk organizers, notebooks, Blackberrys, rolodexes, day planners, etc.  Why don't we do the same for running our homes? In a home, there is sooooooooo many things to think about! I needed a system by which I could have everything I need in ONE place.


 I like lists. I like to be organized.  I like to feel and be productive.  I like to check things off my lists.  I like Diet Dr. Pepper, but that's another post.

I have seen other bloggers do something similar to this, but I didn't want to completely rip off their ideas so I created my own household binder.  In this binder are different tabs.

*Easy go-to meals
*Weekly meal plans
*Household check sheet
*Family budget worksheets
*Grocery lists

You can create your own tab categories, or use mine.  Most of these categories are self-explanatory.  For our family budget worksheet we use the cash flow worksheet from Dave Ramsey.  You can find them here   Dave Ramsey budget sheets.

I signed up for weekly meal plans from www.mealtimemakeover.com for $5/ month.  This site is also recommended by Dave Ramsey. Each week they plan a new dinner menu for the week.  They even create the grocery shopping list for you.  You can download the meal plan, print it out and keep it in your notebook.  Then you will have a great catalog of dinner ideas.

For my household check sheet, I created a word document with a goal list for the day, dinner menu, chore list, etc.  You can make your own, or if you want mine, leave me a comment and I will email it to you.  Elegance in our home doesn't come by accident.  We need to plan, set goals, and be organized.  I hope this notebook idea helps you run your home more efficiently!

I will be posting pictures of my notebook tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 15: Elegant giving

I love giving gifts.  Especially unexpected gifts, but what I love more than that is receiving unexpected gifts.  What... I'm just being honest!  I think it's so special when I invite someone over to dinner and they bring me a hostess gift.  I have received dishtowels from Williams and Sonoma, a little cookbook, flowers, and bag of coffee.  There may be more, but that's all I can think of as I type this blog VERY late at night.

Recently I read a book by Shannon Hale called, "The Actor and the Housewife."  Okay, I read most of it.  Okay, part of it.  Anyways, the main character in the book talked about how every Wednesday she made two pies.  One for her family, and one to give away.  I thought that was a wonderful idea!  If there is a day designated in which to do your baking it becomes a habit, and your gift giving intentional.

Now I don't do pies.  I'm not so sure that someone would want to eat a pie I made.  However, I do make a mean chocolate chip cookie!  It would be very beneficial for me to choose one day a week in which I can lace up my apron and whip up a batch of cookies.  I could send them to work with my husband, take them to a neighbor, give them to someone at church, mail them to my sister at college, etc.  I don't think there is a single, solitary person on this earth who doesn't appreciate home-baked goods.

Giving gifts is a way of making friends, showing appreciation, meeting a new neighbor, teaching your daughter or son the importance of reaching out to people, and being a gracious person.  It doesn't have to be cookies or pies.  Here comes my list of ideas...

1.  Scented candle wrapped with raffia.
2.  Houseplant/ flowers
3.  Card or note
4.  Ingredients for cookies in a mason jar with directions for cooking wrapped around the lid.
5.  Extra veggies from your garden
6.  Loaf of home made bread

And the list could go on, but again it's late and my brain is done thinking.

Let your elegant manner and nature shine through in reaching out to people.  Gifts do NOT have to be expensive, but they need to be given with love and cheerfulness.  What a special lesson we teach our children when we make it a habit to think of others.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 14: Spruce up your kitchen

If you're a mom you know the kitchen is where it's at!  Okay, if you're a human being and you like to eat, you know the kitchen is where it's at!  A lot of time is spent in our kitchens.  If you've been following my blog, by now you may have fresh flowers on you dining room table, or your coffee and beans in mason jars.  Here is one more quick, inexpensive way to spruce up your kitchen.

I was at Target today and I saw the cutest dishtowels!  I bought them, hung them up in my kitchen and they add some new life to my stove and oven.  I heart dishtowels and table linens!  Can I get an amen?! If I could have more storage for my linens, I would own more.  Probably explains why my husband won't put in more storage for me...hmmmmm......

There is something very elegant about having a cute tablecloth or placemats on your table, and clean dishtowels hung.  To me, it is a very welcoming and homey sight. I like to designate certain dishtowels as my decorating towels, an then I have others that can be used to wiping hands or spills.  This way I know I can have a few towels that are kept nicer than my everyday towels.

Here are some more quick facelifts you can give your kitchen...
1.  Buy new kitchen rugs.  I did this a few weeks ago and it made me super happy :)
2.  Shine up the front of your oven, stove, and dishwasher.
3.  Consolidate the clutter on the front of your fridge.  I try to keep most of mine on the side where it's still accessible, but not as visible.
4.  Install under cabinet lighting.  My husband did this for me a couple months ago and it wan't very expensive and he did it within an evening.
5.  Dislpay your pretty mason jars, or kitchen aid mixer on you counters and get rid of the nonessential items cluttering up the space.

Any and all of these steps will bring elegance and new life to your kitchen.  Make the rooms in which you spend a lot of time comfortable, pretty, and organized.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 13: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

It is a fact that I love BEING up early in the morning, but I don't love GETTING up early in the morning.  Does that make sense?  If I could just skip the sleepy, groggy feeling and be wide awake, getting up would be a whole lot easier.

Regardless to my aversion of getting up, there is something very peaceful about being awake during the early morning hours while your family is still snoozing.  I love hearing the birds chirp, the coolness of our house, and being alone with my thoughts. Now, I'm not consistent about waking up before my family because of two main reasons...

1.  With two little children, I never know when I'm going to hear them stirring in their rooms.
2.  Frankly, I enjoy my sleep!

However, on those rare mornings that I have some time to myself, I'm able to better gather my thoughts and when the girls wake up I can proceed through the day with clarity.  I would like to challenge myself and anyone out there, for the next week, to wake up at least 30 minutes earlier than usual.  Here are some things that you can be doing with those extra 30 minutes...

1.  Pray- this is one of the best things you could do early in the day.
2.  Read
3.  Drink your coffee on the porch watching the sunrise
4.  Listen to the birds
5.  Catch up on some light housework
6.  Excercise
7.  Prepare your schedule for the day
8.  Make homemade cinnamon rolls so they're ready when your family wakes up

And the list could go on.

For me, if I have extra time in the mornings I like getting my workout in then.  If I do it later in the day it's usually very hot in my house and/ or I have little fingers tugging at my workout pants wanting to be picked up.  And let me tell you, Tae Bo is a lot more difficult to do with a 25 pound toddler in your arms.

 It will take some self-discipline to get up earlier than you're used to, but it will be worth it.  There is elegance in being busy serving others, and making your house a home, but there is also elegance in taking time for yourself. Making a small change and giving yourself an extra 30 minutes to prepare yourself for the day ahead will change the course of your day, and your attitude.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 12: I Can See Clearly Now the Dirt is Gone

Driving with a dirty windshield is one of my pet peeves.  I can't stand to look out and see dirt, dust, or pollen smattered on the window.  I probably use my wiper fluid too much.  And my husband would probably tell you that one his pet peeves is when he's driving and I reach over and click the switch to make the wiper fluid squirt.

If driving with dirty windows bothers me so much, then why do I have dirty windows on my house?  I will tell you why!  I can't just flip and switch in my house and squirt Windex on them.  It takes work! My elegant tip for the day is to clean as many windows as you can inside and out to make them sparkle. If all you can do today is the window in your kitchen, then great!  Choose a window that you commonly look out of and wipe it down!

 I love looking out my kitchen window and seeing Pikes Peak, and I'm sure I would love it even more if it were clean!  (Not Pikes Peak, but my window).  With a basset hound and two toddlers, drool, handprints, and nose prints are a staple on our back sliding door, but not today!  Cleaning your windows is one of those chores that you don't realize how much it was needed until you do it.

So today pick one, two, or if you're ambitious three windows and clean them inside and out.  It will let sunshine in and it will let you gaze uninhibited at the scenery.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 11: Bib or Apron?

This post was inspired by a Bible study I had with my friend Sarah Campos.  She relayed to me a message she had heard about our choosing to wear bibs or aprons. What does that mean?  I'm so glad you asked!

Each morning when we wake up we choose to either put on a bib, or an apron.  This signifies our choice to serve (apron), or to be served (bib).  Too often we look to other people to fulfill our needs.  Instead, we need to tie up our metaphorical apron strings and get down to serving.   Christ came to serve, not to be served.  If we follow in His footsteps, we must become a servant of His first, and then we will become a servant for others.  Elegance in your home will do you no good, if it's not shared with others.  There is nothing more elegant than a hospitable home and a servant's heart.  Let's open up our homes and share our blessings with others.

In honor of this post, I have included instructions on how to make a simple, but super cute apron from a pillowcase. I found this idea on a website, so if my pictures are not clear to you, then you can always google "pillowcase apron" and hopefully you'll find instructions to help clarify.

 I have described each step as well as taken pictures so that you will be able to duplicate this project if you so desire.  There are very few items that you need to make this...
1.  An old pillowcase (that's cheap right?) Grab one out of your nicely organized linen closet, or go to the nearest thrift store and find one with a cute print.
2.  Some coordinating ribbon
3.  Thread
4.  A sewing machine
5.  Some straight pins
6.  And about 20 minutes, or if you sew like me, about half a day.

 Lay your pillowcase (ironed of course) flat.  Fold up the open end about 8 inches.
 Iron to create a stiff crease.  It makes it easier to sew.
 Stitch along folded part. Does this picture make sense to you?  I hope so!
 Turn pillowcase over.  Grab the sewn crease and pull up another 8 inches.
 Iron again, then sew along new crease.  Do you like my hairdo?
 Just keep sewing, just keep sewing, just keep sewing.....
 Sew along the sides of the 8 inch folds.  This will create the edges of the pocket.
 Measure along the bottom of the apron.  If you want an apron with two pockets, find the center and pin.  I made mine with 3 pockets, so I divided the pillowcase into thirds and pinned.

 My mom helping me pin.  I told you I was inept at sewing.
 Apron with the pins marking where to sew the pockets.
 When the pockets are sewn, take coordinating ribbon and find the center of the length of ribbon.  Place on the center of the apron at the top and pin.  Pin across to hold the ribbon in place to sew.
 And VOILA!  You have a cute, functional apron. This of course would work for cooking, but with those great deep pockets, it would also be ideal for gardening, or for teachers holding for art supplies.

This apron cost me about $5 to make.  That was just for the cost of the ribbon. What a great gift idea for your mom, sisters, or girlfriends!  You could make them for different holidays!  I'm pretty excited about how cute they are, and frankly I'm excited that I used a sewing machine and didn't do bodily damage.  

Remember to put on your apron every morning and serve your family, your coworkers, and your neighbors.  That's a simple, pure way of adding elegance to your life. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 10: Sunday lunch

There's something about going home from Sunday services, putting on a cute apron with my dress and pearls and cooking Sunday lunch.  It makes me feel all Martha Stuart-y inside!  Here is one of my favorite Sunday lunch recipes courtesy of my good friend Jennifer Reynolds.  She gave me a cookbook that she printed out that is comprised of her favorite recipes.  It is one of my most treasured gifts!  Homemade recipe books are wonderful, thoughtful gifts.  I'm planning on doing a day of "elegant gifts" in the near future, so stay tuned!  Here is the recipe- you definitely need to try this one because it's super easy, delish, and can be put together Saturday night and put in the oven Sunday morning on time bake.

Easy Tomato Baked Chicken
1 small red onion
4 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 c. balsamic vinaigrette dressing
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Slice onions and place in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish; top with chicken.  Combine tomatoes, dressing and garlic powder; pour over chicken.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Let me know what your favorite Sunday recipe is!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 9: Coffee anyone/ freebie Friday giveaway!!!!!!!

Recently I saw a blog post from the Pioneer Woman about how she makes a large container of iced coffee to last her about a month. This begged three question from me.

1.  Does it still taste good at the end of the month?
2.  Do I even have a container large enough to hold a month's worth of coffee?
3.  Will drinking iced coffee in the morning instead of my usual hot coffee upset the time continuum?

So I improvised and made my own technique and storage option.  I don't have one of those pretty glass drink dispensers that she used, so I just use a regular drink pitcher. The Pioneer Woman also used restaurant style containers and a cheesecloth to brew and strain her coffee.  I'm not going to traipse through the store with two toddlers looking for a cheesecloth, so once again I improvised!

After talking to my sister ( a barista at a well known coffee joint- rhymes with Schmarbucks) I now know the secret to iced coffee and I would like to share it with you!

1.  Brew a full pot of coffee at DOUBLE strength.  This is key so it won't taste watered down after you place ice cubes in the drink.
2.  Pour the coffee into a pitcher and add sugar at this point if you like it sweetened.  Dissolving sugar in refrigerated coffee is nearly impossible.
3.  Each morning put some ice cube in a glass, fill your glass half full with coffee and the other half with the dairy product of your choice.  Except yogurt, because that would be disgusting.

This amount of coffee lasts my husband and me about one week.  Brewing one week's worth at a time is a way it ensure that it never gets that old coffee flavor.

I love opening up the fridge and already having my coffee made.  It makes my morning routine a bit easier.  If my husband is running late for work, he doesn't have to wait for a pot of coffee to finish brewing, he just grabs some out of the fridge.

Now, I probably will still opt for my steaming cup of joe on those blustery winter Colorado mornings, but for the summer, I've found a routine that has added simplicity and elegance to my morning routine.

Now for my freebie Friday giveaway!!!!!  I will be sending two lucky readers a free bag of Starbucks coffee so you can try this whole iced coffee idea.  If you want to drink it hot, I guess that's okay too.

Here are the contest rules.  Leave me a message here on my blog or on my Facebook page "Striving for Elegance" about your favorite "elegance" tip and the reason that's your favorite.  Only one entry per person. I will be randomly selecting the winners.  Check my facebook page and my blog to see the winner's names!  If you are a winner, I will be mailing your Starbucks coffee next week to your doorstep!

 ***Disclaimer****I'm not paid spokeperson for Starbucks, the opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of my husband, and any person depicted in this blog is innocent until found guilty in a court of law.  Did I cover my bases?

I look forward to hearing from you and remember to check if you're a winner tomorrow morning!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 8: Start a New Family Tradition

Sorry, I'm so late in posting today.  We had to go to the farmer's market and play in the fountains and have a cookout.  You know, the usual.  And my best laid plans went awry.  I had a great blog post complete with a project and pictures, and now the pictures won't upload, so we'll save that for another day.

Let's talk about family traditions.  It's difficult to write one post about something that usual develops over long periods of time.  Traditions are traditions because you traditionally do them in a traditional way.  That's the best sentence I've ever written.

On my 30 day quest towards a more elegant life, I believe that forging strong family connections is important.  After all, why make a home elegant and comfortable if the relationships in that home aren't a priority.  Instead of telling you about our family traditions- which, quite frankly would be a short list because we've only been married for 4 years and we have small children.  That's not to say that we can't start traditions now.  Here is a list of ideas to get you started in building family traditions in your elegant home.

1.  On the first day of school, take pictures and keep them in an album so you can look back at the kids growth through their school years.
2.  Make Christmas ornaments together as a family.
3.  Read "Twas' the Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve.
4.  Have a special designated plate for the birthday boy or girl to use on his or her birthday.
5.  Cook green eggs and ham on St. Patrick's Day.
6.  Read the Declaration of Independence (or portions thereof) on July 4th.
7.  Get ice cream for a good report card or conference
8.  Serve together in a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving.
9.  On birthdays pull out the kids' baby books and talk about what they were like as babies.
10.  Take family vacations (even small ones).  Designate one child to take pictures on the trip and then let the kids create a scrapbook after the vacation.
11.  Try a new restaurant on your anniversaries
12.  Have weekly family game nights and Bible studies

This list is just a way to jumpstart you thinking about how to implement family traditions with your spouse and/or kids.  If you don't have a spouse or kids, who's to say that you can't have your own traditions?  Remember, close knit families don't happen by accident.  An elegant life is one that is enriched by the people around us.

I would love to hear what family traditions you have!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 7: Dance to the music

Most mornings the sound of Dora the Explorer and Angelina Ballerina pervade our home.  Today I decided to turn off the TV and put on some music. It's only 10am and already it's made a difference!  Instead of being distracted by the TV in the middle of playing, my girls have read books, played together, and danced in the living room.

Music played such a huge role in my home growing up and I want it to be the same in my home now with my girls. I want to introduce them to music I grew up listening to.  My parents gave us the love and appreciation of so many different types of music; classical, rock, broadway, and oldies.

So today we're turning off the TV and entering into a day of music.  We are starting our day with James Taylor, and we may progress into Josh Groban, or Elvis, or maybe even some Michael Jackson.  Just a few minutes ago Eva was twirling in the living shouting, "I love this music!"  If a two year old can appreciate James Taylor, that's a good start!

Whenever I enter someone's home and I hear music playing instead of a loud television, it feels more elegant.  I want to create in my home an atmosphere of calmness, peacefulness, and fun.  All those emotions can be created by listening to music. I hope that you will try, even if for a day, turning off the distraction of TV and putting on some music.  I guarantee it will change the atmosphere of your home.

 Well, I gotta go, I have a little ballerina who needs a dancing partner.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 6: Fresh Flowers

Ok, here's an easy one.  Add elegance to your home by placing fresh flowers on your table, nightstand, mantle, end table, patio, or wherever you see fit.

 If your an allergy sufferer....sorry this tip may not be for you. You can cut out pictures of flowers from magazines and imagine they were real.

I tried to find a fitting quote about flowers to place in my blog, but they were all lame, so no flower quote for today.

If you have a green thumb (which I definitely do not) you could snip some from your garden and place in a vase, but if you're like me, you will have to travel to the nearest store or farmers market for those flowers.  My favorites are tulips, but alas, those are not in season right now.  I also love getting lilacs off my huge bush in the backyard, but those are done blooming. So I settled on flowers from Wal-Mart.  Hey- flowers are flowers, right?

I think different flowers emit different kinds of emotions.  Tulips are sweet. Daisies are happy.  Roses are romantic.  Hydrangeas are sophisticated. Peonies are feminine.  Sunflowers are energetic. What?  Don't you give your flowers emotions? All the guys reading this post are rolling their eyes right about now.

It doesn't matter what kind of flower you choose.  Just by having them in the house, it will add an air of elegance.

 Did you notice they're in a mason jar?  So cute!

Just by this simple act, it makes my home seem a little bit brighter.  I also noticed that my girls lit up as they saw me placing the flowers in the jar.  There is a happy glow on my kitchen counter from those purple mums, and a happy glow in my heart.