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.