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 walk."  In my movie, the line would be, "If you really wanna be really 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 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.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 5: Mason Jars

Hey look!  A post from me in the morning!  Mark this date on your calendars people! Okay, enough with tooting my own horn.  Here we go with Day 5 of striving for elegance.

Mason jars?  I don't can fruit preserves, why would I need them?  Well I'm glad you asked.  The thought of using mason jars didn't occur to me until I read about a couple of other people using them for things other than strawberry jam and pickled cucumbers.

They are great because they come in a variety of sizes, they are reusable, and they are versatile.  Use them to store coffee, pasta, rice, beans, cinnamon sticks, buttons, ribbons, pens, crayons, cottonballs, little soaps, or ribbon.  Use them as drinking glasses, or as a vase with fresh flowers.  Place a large candle inside with stones at the bottom and you have a simple, elegant, inexpensive centerpiece.  Stencil numbers or names on the outside and make them even more personalized.

Mason jars have become my latest obsession.  For some people it's football or golf.  For me it's pretty glass jars. 

I hope you will go to your local grocery store soon and purchase a set and then send me pictures and ideas 

of how you used your jars.  I hope this is an easy way of adding elegance to your home.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 4: Curb Appeal

The front of your house is what first greets your guests and passersby.  Does it say, "I'm happy you're here," or does it say, "Watch out for the dog poop and weeds?" My house is tiny and my yard is big, and I can do a few things to spruce it up and make it more elegant on the outside.

My allotted time for yardwork per week equals about zero.  Pulling weeds is like #19906 on my to do list. However, I acknowledge that having my house look welcoming on the outside is important.

I'm not talking about ripping up your patio and installing an outdoor kitchen complete with granite countertops (although that would be lovely).  I'm talking about giving your front porch a good sweep, planting some brightly colored flowers, mowing your lawn, or adding a cute wreath to your front door.

Today, I decided to forgo my Sunday nap and work on the outside of the house.  I have pictures to prove it..........

 The outside of our abode before the sprucing up
 Another before shot
 Can you tell the yard was mowed?  Well it was :)
 My cute planter I installed on the front of the house.  I say "installed" because it sounds a lot more impressive than just "hung up."

 Here is a wreath I added to the front door.  I actually made this wreath because buying a wreath is way too expensive!  I bought a basic grapevine wreath and added some silk flowers and berries to it.  Voila!
A close up of my new planter.  I'm very proud of this.  It's cute. It was on sale for $5.99.  Boo-ya!

So Day 4 of my quest for elegance was a success.  I love pulling up to my house and seeing the yard look somewhat in order, the sunny wreath on my door, and my new flower planter.  I feel welcome as I walk up to my front door and I hope my guests feel the same way.  

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 3: No Negativity

I'm inspired to write this post as I sit here on my couch at 12:27 AM listening to my daughter crying in her crib.  This has not been an easy week.  My husband has put in almost 70 hours at his job this week and come tomorrow, he will have put in about 80 hours.  This means that he is tired, and that means that I'm tired because I'm doing double duty with the girls.  Some of you are probably thinking, "Call a wahhhhmbulance!"  On little sleep, though, everything becomes a tad more stressful.

So, today's tip for adding a bit of elegance to our lives is try to eliminate any negative words from our speech for a day.  With a toddler finishing up potty training, another toddler learning to walk, an unruly basset hound, and a husband who is putting in crazy hours at work I may have difficulty with this one.

"Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone."
Colossians 4:6

Do we speak words that are attractive?  Do people (namely family members) want to be around us?  Do we have the right, patient, loving response ready on our tongues for our temperamental children and our over-worked husbands? I sadly admit that I fail in these areas.  

We can only organize our homes so much, or make ourselves look as attractive as possible, but if our speech is not seasoned with grace and salt we have failed.  May I suggest that elegance begins with an attitude on the inside that will pervade every aspect of our lives.

Join me on Day 3 of my quest as I work towards eliminating negative attitudes and words from my mouth.  Who's with me?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 2: Break out the iron

My least favorite chore in my house is laundry.  I'm sure some of you can relate.  There are just TOO many steps.  Sort the clothes, put in detergent, put in softener, switch from washer to dryer, fold, take to respective rooms, put away.  And then lo and behold the next day there's more to do.  This post is inspired by my mom. (Obligatory shout out...........check).

One day I was helping her iron and she handed me a bunch of pillowcases.  I was shocked that someone took time to iron their pillowcases.  I was lucky if I could find matching ones for my girls beds.  Much to my surprise after I ironed them they looked really nice! Plus, they had that country fresh starch scent which is one of those smells that just makes you feel like you were productive.  I think I will start spraying that in my house before my husband gets home just make him think I worked all day ironing his shirts.

I was inspired and a couple days later I took the pillowcases off my bed, washed them and ironed them and then put them back on the pillows.  It looked so nice and neat and smelled so fresh!  I realized that this was an easy way to add elegance to my chores.  The simple act of taking two small pillowcases and making them look pressed and clean added something extra to my room.  When I laid my head down that night I actually laid down face first just so I could smell my pillow and I made my husband do the same :)

So throw your pillowcases in with your next load and iron them right before you put them back on.  It's also a great way to impress houseguests. Let me know what you think!

P.S.- In a few days there will be a giveaway of one of my fave beauty products, so stay tuned and you might just be a winner.  Details to follow!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 1: Reorganize Your Linen Closet

This is one of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog, so I thought I would re-publish it since we've been talking about organization.  It's a repeat, but it's still worth the read.  Jen and I are working on your suggestions for other areas of the home you need help organizing. Stay tuned for those posts!

I thought I would start with part of my house that I look in almost every single day.  Maybe I'm a crazy, but if things are out of order it makes my blood pressure rise a little bit. Here's a great idea for reorganizing your everyday items in order to bring you a little more elegance.

This project is free- that's the best news of all!  I began by taking things out of the closet.  Why is it that you have to make an even bigger mess to make it clean again???  Anyway, I took inventory of what I could get rid of and what I need to keep and where it would be stored best.  I decided to put my stock purchases (toilet paper, tissues, hand sanitizer, etc..) On the top shelf where they could be plainly seen.  Okay, plainly seen by me.  All you shorter people out there may want to put it on a lower shelf.  If you take stock of what you have it saves you $$$$$.  You won't end up buying things you don't need.

Then I proceeded to refold (crazy I know) my washcloths and towels to make them look neater when they were stacked.  And amazingly, it looks good! I have a large basket on the very bottom to hold extra pillows instead of them just sitting out looking bulky.

Scroll down to see the before and after photos!

 Embarrassing I know!
 My beautiful mismatched towels
 Still mismatched, but what did you expect?

My stockpile

Here are some other tips you may want to try....
1.  Use smaller baskets labeled to hold stock purchases or even odds and ends items
2.  Stash dryer sheets between towels to give a fresh scent to your linen closet
3.  Put your prettier towels on the top shelves to give a more uniform appearance, because let's face it, we're not Martha Stewart and we don't have perfectly white fluffy towels that comprise our entire towel collection.
4.  Store sheets, blankets, and larger linens on bigger shelves.  I realized I had my big items on the tiny shelves and that's why they were falling off.
5.  Add command hooks on the inside of the door to store any hanging items.
6.  Cover shelves with pretty contact paper, or put on a fresh coat of paint.

If any of you are brave enough to tackle your linen closet, let me know how it goes.  It's free, it's quick and it will bring a little elegance to your life!  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A 30 Day Quest: The Beginning

I read a quote once that said, "Strive for elegance, not luxury."  That quote has stayed with me for the past few years.  I repeat that phrase it in my head when I look around and wish for a larger house, bigger closet, prettier things, etc.

That quote helps me to remember that I can find within my humble means and abode, the ability to make life elegant.  And that's just what I'm going to do!

 Elegance is defined as: pleasingly graceful and stylish in appearance or manner.  I'm on a mission to find elegance in simple tasks, home projects, and products.  For 30 days check back and I will have one tip per day on making your life more beautiful, homey, inviting, easy and peaceful. Join me on my quest as we bring the art of elegance back into our everyday lives.