Monday, November 04, 2013

Date Night


Wow, we had a date night!!!  This is the second one since Carolina was born.  I'm not going to lie.  It was a little weird not having her with us.  

We had to get warmed up to each other again.  It was good because if we are already feeling a little isolated from each other, it's obvious that we need to make it a priority to do this more often.  I used to laugh when people told us to have date nights.  

 We went to a restaurant next to a grassy area so we could see the families playing and people walking around.  I thought I would be brave and order oysters because I just finished the book Shucked and she made them sound so dreamy.  I've only had oysters one other time and they were fresh out of the ocean in Puerto Rico.  See the above picture and how it looks so perfect?  The next picture would be of me spitting that oyster in my napkin.  The mushiness was not cool.  

We made the waiter eat one, his first one, and he was a trooper.  The real trooper was Gustavo though who finished them off.  He's a star like that.  No food left behind, as we say.



The most fantastic part of this story is that this date night was brought about by our friends who offered to babysit for us.  What a blessing!  Tonight they are going on a date and we are watching their little one.   It will be good to see what life with two kids is like for awhile.

xo-Jennifer

Friday, November 01, 2013

Boxes and Bags

I have always loved boxes- 
pretty boxes, useful boxes, little boxes, big boxes-
just try to pry them out of my hands.

And bags, oh the pretty ones from nice stores are my undoing.
But things are changing.  
Boxes are being emptied.  Bags are being filled with clothes to give away.
Boxes and bags are leaving this house.

Can you hear Gustavo cheering?

It feels good to let go.
It feels a little hard to let go.  
I send pretty old perfume boxes and shoe boxes to recycling.  
Organizing boxes can organize someone else's stuff.

I bet you didn't know I was a box and bag hoarder.
Here's a confession, as if the previous wasn't bad enough.
I keep makeup box packaging until I use them up.

I know.  

Weirdo.

What's your confession?  Do you keep strange things around your house?

xo-Jennifer

P.S.  Just for fun…Carolina's new car!

video

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Laid-back Cleaning Routine


After having Carolina I never got into a groove of taking care of her and the house.  I was feeling really overwhelmed anyway adjusting to a new baby, but when she started crawling and then walking, everything quickly changed.  I was getting frustrated because I felt I couldn't keep up.  My priority is taking care of her but I wanted to find a way to "do it all".  I'm not going to tell you that I figured that out, but I do feel better about the housework/Carolina balance these days.

I'm not someone who ever really had a "system".  If you know me, you would know I'm not that kind of person.  I have to make myself do schedules and then I learn to like them.  

At first I thought about getting someone to come and clean for me once a month.  It sounded like a good idea and I had friends who used that service.  I even had a lady come and quote me, but I just couldn't do it.  I thought that surely I can do this, I can clean my own house for goodness sake!  So I started googling, as I do, and found a system from another blogger that seemed like it might work for me.  I knew it had to be a little flexible or I would quickly abandon it.  I felt like this was a challenge that I wanted to conquer so I could feel proud of myself.

I modified what she did to make it work for me.  I printed hers out and used it until I established the rhythm of my own.  

 Laid-back Cleaning Routine

Everyday

Make the bed
Pick up the house
Clean the kitchen
Laundry (almost every day)

Monday

Vacuum all the floors
Clean the kitchen floor (with a rag and bucket! I feel like Cinderella!)

Tuesday

Clean the bathrooms

Wednesday

Clean surfaces-dusting and always picking up

Thursday

Special project like organizing or decluttering
Changing sheets, cleaning blinds, 
some deep cleaning item that needs to be done

Friday

Pick up house
Finish laundry
Get ready for weekend


Weekends

Make a mess!

I have been doing this schedule since July and it's really working for me.  I love that just vacuumed feeling every Monday and clean bathrooms on Tuesday.  It's something that makes me feel assured that any day of the week my house is going to be moderately to really clean.  

It's also progressively easier because you do the majority of the cleaning at the beginning of the week.  I don't usually spend more than an hour a day cleaning.  If I don't have time to do much that day, I will at least do part of it.  It's like I have to check the box because it makes me feel I accomplished something.  A few times I have done my cleaning the night before if I have a busy day the next day.  

I want to have people over at any moment and not worry about my house.  But let me tell you that my house is never perfect.  It doesn't have to be!  I'm not ashamed to have a few things in disarray or obvious life happening in my home.  To me it's more about being proactive than having a perfect house. 

What's your trick to keeping the house clean?  

xo-Jennifer

Monday, October 28, 2013

Minimize Makeup Clutter

Decluttering inspiration can come in many forms.  I've had an issue with my "potion bottles" and makeup for a long time.  I've come a long, long way since having an entire linen closet full of bottles to what I have now.  There is just something about the promise of what makeup and beauty products can do for you that draws you in.

Thankfully I do not fall into that trap anymore. I don't give in to the allure of the shiny packaging or that it can somehow make my life better.  I occasionally buy a lipstick or cosmetic that I don't need but just want, but since I wrote about Project 10 Pan here and here, I have continued to use up things without purchasing much, which in the end leads to less and less.  I want makeup to be fun and not the double burden of too much money spent and taking up too much space.

Even with my progress, I still try to whittle down to just what I love.  Believe it or not, I still have my little list from Project 10 Pan too.  I'm on part 9 which means 90 products used up.  My goal is still to have a small makeup bag with all my cosmetics in it.

With Carolina getting taller and taller, she can reach up into my drawer and pull out my makeup.  It's just more motivation to clean them out, or it could get very interesting in my house with some red lipstick in her hands.

I found this video on youtube a couple of weekends ago.  Gustavo was watching football with Carolina one Sunday afternoon and I watched a ridiculous amount of these videos with my free time.  They are really addicting and most importantly inspiring.  




If you are a little bit crazy like me and love to watch someone declutter anything, I invite you to watch these videos.  She has a little series called Less Stuff, Less Stress.   Here's some little nuggets I gleaned from her videos.

Be decisive

Have someone in mind to give things 

I got my use out of it

This is way too much for one person to have

It's a good thing to see space

Be honest about what you are using now

The money was wasted when you bought it, not when you get rid of it

You can bless someone else with your excess

I'll let someone else love it


Anyone else have trouble with decluttering makeup?  Who is still doing Project 10 Pan?  
What inspires you to let go of unloved products?

xo-Jennifer

Friday, October 25, 2013

Decluttering for a Cause

I'm always looking for incentives to pry more things out of my closets.  Why is it so hard to decide to let go of things that you know you don't wear?

Well...

I might need them later,

they could come back in style,

and I like having options.

Just to name a few little reasons.

When I pulled out my winter clothes, I discovered some dress pants that I used to wear to church but I know I won't be wearing this year.  They have a wide leg and I've fully transitioned to skinny jeans. (I never thought it would happen!)  I showed them to Gustavo and he agreed that they are nice pants so I put them back in the chest.

But later I got to thinking about it and then I read Janet's post.  It was just the motivation I needed to get those pants back out.  And then I had an idea since these could be work pants for someone.  I don't know anyone to give them to but I quickly googled Dress for Success and saw that Houston has a donation center.  They have a very strict list of acceptable donations.  Without too much analysis paralysis, I went through my clothes with a different mindset.

Now, I am helping someone less fortunate dress for their new job.  I can get on board with this!  It was just the motivation I needed.  I was able to dig deeper in my wardrobe and let go of things that I wasn't even going to part with, but I knew that I rarely wore those items.


I reasoned that if I held on these clothes too long eventually they won't be current at all and then no good to anyone.  Do I want to wish that fate on them?  No, they should be of use to someone if not me.  The waste would be in not giving them away and letting someone else use them.

When I came to a moment of indecision, I would text my Aunt Karen to help me decide.


If you need an honest opinion, I'll give you her cell phone number.

xo-Jennifer

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pizza Party & Pizza Crust Recipe

We've had a couple of pizza-making parties at our house lately.  They are so fun and I highly recommend that you do one too.  

The recipe is crust + toppings +  people + dash of creativity = great memories

It all started when I started making pizza crust again because I was inspired by a friend's kale and butternut squash pizza, I thought that this type of dinner would be an experience everyone could participate and be creative.  
The way we did it is to have everyone bring their favorite toppings.  I made the pizza crust, had the mozzarella cheese, sauce and a few toppings.
You can have the crust ready in cookie sheets or have them roll it out and form it themselves.

Some toppings ideas from our parties:

Pepperoni soaked in Frank's Red Hot Sauce
Black Olives
Roasted Butternut Squash
Sauteed Kale
Garlic
Roasted Onions
Pineapple
Bacon
Parmesan Cheese
Pesto

Prepare a big salad, some drinks and you're done.  It also helps if you have great friends who offer to bring dessert.  Ice creams works too though.

Easy and did I mention fun?












I tried a few different crust recipes and ya'll this is the best pizza crust I have ever made and maybe ever had.   I like to experiment with different recipes just because that's my idea of a good time, but I think I can say that the search is over.

It's not like Pioneer Woman needs any endorsement from me but if you are looking for an easy delicious recipe, here it is.  I would double it and save one crust for later.  She says it's even better when you put it in the fridge for at least 24 hours.  

However, I didn't do that and it was still wonderful.  I let it rise for 1 1/2 hours sitting out and covered before using it.


One Basic Pizza Crust

Prep Time:
 
  
Cook Time:
Difficulty:
 Easy
  
Servings:
 12

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon (SCANT) Active Dry Yeast
  • 3/4 cups Warm Water
  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Preparation Instructions

Sprinkle yeast over 3/4 cups warm (not lukewarm) water. Let stand for a few minutes.
In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with paddle attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined, and the dough comes together in a sticky mass.
Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it aside for 1 to 2 hours, or store in the fridge until you need it.
Note: it’s best to make the dough at least 24 hours in advance.
********************
Have you had a pizza making party?  What other Pioneer Woman recipes do you love?
xo-
Jennifer

P.S.  If you came to one of our parties, this crust is different than the one I made for those.  This one is better!






Monday, October 21, 2013

16 months of Carolina

Carolina just turned 16 months old.  I know that's not an official birthday but every 17th that comes it takes my breath away a little bit.  Just when I get used to ONE, two seems to be faster and faster approaching.

We did these monthly photos up until a year old.  If you are planning to do them just put them in the not easy but totally worth it category.  For the next baby, God willing, I'll just write in the months because once she realized that was a sticker on her belly it was all over!  You can use picmonkey or some other free editing software to write it on the photo.

We got a frame with 12 photo spots, the monthly stickers, and the onesies as a shower gift.  It was such a sweet idea!  


Celebrating the little milestones with photos is so precious.  I wish I were better about doing photo books but we do what we can!  I would love to establish some traditions in our family.  Besides celebrating birthdays and Christmas, I don't remember any growing up.  Wouldn't it be fun to have those moments that you share together that become the precious memories and history of your family?

What traditions do you incorporate into your family?  I'd love some ideas!

xoxo-Jennifer



Friday, October 18, 2013

Pumpkin Patch 2013

Last weekend we went to Blessington Farms to visit the pumpkin patch.  Besides being blazing hot, it was so much fun.  I just eat up every opportunity to take these iconic pictures with Carolina.  

Remember how long we waited to get our precious little girl?  40 months!  40 months of watching everyone else get to do these fun things.  Yep, I just want to soak it all in.

Check out this dads and daughters picture on the pedal carts.

 I had to try it too.  I'm not going to lie, I was feeling the burn pedaling that thing.  Obviously I need to lift more weights.




Family photo


Chiquilina always wanting to walk on her own.



My sweet friend Rheanna and her daughter Grace






This is G and me being silly!



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Un-storing

So I mentioned that I have been doing a lot of cleaning in the last month.  Almost every day I'm thinking about it again.  I have a little tip that might help you too.  Since when we put things in containers, organizers, boxes, etc, we call it storing, I like to call this un-storing.

Sometimes we put things away or "organize" them as we like to call it but it's really just a way of not having to deal with something at the time.  I've noticed that as I pull out bags and boxes of things that have been stored away to use later, they are really not getting used and may never get used.  These organizers, boxes and bins are taking up my space!

I've been pulling them out and seeing what's really inside.  It's not that it's all junk but much of it needs to be in a place that I will use it or let it go.  

My goal is empty boxes and bags and bins.

And then my goal is space.

Empty space

The first thing to do is begin decluttering your spaces that are obvious, that are in plain view.  After you have done that, don't think you are finished.  Look around and see if there are containers and drawers that you can begin decluttering too.  If you aren't sure about something pull it out and look at it for a couple of days.  Maybe you'll decide you don't need it.

Did you need it when it was in the container?

How long ago did you put it in there?

Hmmmmmmm.

Some things are better contained however.  You know what those things are!  Containers can be great for concealing things and making them look neat on a shelf.  I'm all for that.

But maybe there's a couple containers that can be combined, or cleaned out?

Care to join me in the process?  It's a journey so don't worry if you don't do it all in an hour, a day or even a month.  It's a mindset that you might always be looking for things that you don't need anymore.

This is how Carolina likes to clean, I mean un-clean her room

video


xoxo-

Jennifer




Monday, October 14, 2013

Favorites at Costco

These girls are best friends!  They light up when they see each other.

I have a friend who takes me to Costco almost every time she goes.  I love Costco and I never thought I would say that!  We don't have a ton of space for big warehouse packages but I have found that if I spread purchases out I can really make it work for us.  

Some of the bulk items are not only tough to store but they can hit the budget pretty hard. I have to be very disciplined when I shop there.  Sometimes we split items like eggs, vegis, cheese, and snack packages like the Annies crackers.  Sometimes I just have to leave something behind because I may not need it immediately and it can wait until next time.  On our last visit I had to leave behind the Reynolds wrap.  Even though it is a good price, it was too much for that week and we needed the kleenex more.



We have so much fun and take far longer to shop than anyone should. This is our version of a double stroller or what happens when I forget mine.  It's the you sit at my feet and I'll kick your head stroller.  


 We usually make at least a half day of it and stop and get a coffee first at this cute place on the way.  It's such a cute area with Anthropologie and Paper Source next door.


It's always an adventure with two little one year olds!  We always have to clean up after we leave because theres usually a million cheerios on the floor.

So after the first stop, we head to Costco for shopping and sample eating galore.  When I first started shopping there I would look online for some of the favorites so I wanted to share my list too.  I put the link to the products on Amazon but everything is much cheaper at Costco.  I listed prices from my receipt but your local Costco may have different prices.


Annie's Crackers $11.59 for 36

Dubliner Cheese was $10.39 on sale on our last trip but normally $12.99

Organic Tortilla Chips $4.99 for this huge bag.  I split it up when I open it into 3 large freezer ziplock bags and they stay fresh for a couple of weeks.

Red Star Yeast  $4.49

Garlic $3.99

Organic Eggs 24 for $6.99  

Fig Bars 24 for $7.99 

Organic Flour 2 5 pound bags for $11.99


So tell me, what are your Costco favorites?  



Friday, October 11, 2013

Happy Anniversary Appliance

Yes, my husband got me a kitchen appliance for our anniversary.  It was actually a big surprise and very sweet.  You see, he's not the best at remembering to buy me gifts so we are calling this gift a success.  Even though I was on the fence about having a juicer at all, we are having fun with it.


This one had beets in it.  Beets-Celery-Lemon-Ginger  It is Gustavo's favorite.


Carolina likes them too.


We had some green juice for the family.  


This was today's juice which I highly recommend.  
Cucumber-Kale-Ginger-Lime-Honeydew

Thanks honey for the sweet 6 year anniversary gift!  I know your boss made fun of you but I wouldn't really want a Carolina Herrera bag anyway.


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Cleaning Out Old Things

There has been a lot of cleaning out going on around here for the last few weeks.  I don't know what finally broke the camels back but I just got fed up with holding on to old things.

Maybe you would like to be inspired to have a fall clean out as well?

These are a couple of books I've been reading that are delightful for getting one into gear. I have Unstuff Your Life on audiobook and I just listen to it while I'm decluttering or sometimes just puttering I should say.  I also like to listen to A Spring Affair on audiobook which is unashamedly a girlie girl book in which the main character spring cleans her life.  The Joy of Less comes from a minimalist approach which I always appreciate.

The Joy of Less

Unstuff Your Life

A Spring Affair

Yesterday, I looked at my Timehop account on my phone.  It had pictures of things I was going through 2 years ago that I had just picked up again yesterday.  They were some of the exact same things!  It was an epiphany for me.  Obviously two years ago I wasn't ready to let go of some of the sentimental items.



Now feels different though.  I felt like I have had enough of wasting my time, my space and my energy picking through the same old things again and again.

This is a picture of what happens when I open up my hope chest which had all kinds of old things in there.  I'm happy to say it is now empty and living in the guest bedroom instead of the office.  Many of those items have already been donated and some relocated, but all in all greatly reduced.  

Even though I feel as though I am always decluttering here and there, there were a significant amount of sentimental items that I have decided to clear out.  It wasn't easy.  It's hard in a way that I can't describe but I made that decision for my self now and for my future self.  It's doubly hard when your husband doubts every thing you want to throw out!

I want to be current in the things I own.  I'm pretty sure that the influx of toys and clothes from having a child is having a huge impact on my willingness to let go of things from the past.  There are so many new things coming in that I have to keep up somehow.

Letting go of these things is helping me clear my mind so much.  It is like a threshold has been crossed and now I am able to be comfortable without so much from my past in my present.  Maybe it's because I can now relive a childhood through my daughter and I don't need things from my childhood.  Calling Freud, Line 1!

Now where are those Holly Hobby sheets?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Carolina's First Birthday Party


Carolina's first birthday party was just perfect!  I had so much fun planning it and joked that it was really my party.  I'm sure she'll make her requests for future themed parties but I was happy to do this one all in my taste.   

We felt so blessed to have our friends and family join us in celebrating her first year.  Most of the kids were little so they would be able to play together and play with her toys.  It was a Saturday morning party so everyone could come and then get on with their day.  


There were so many details but one of my favorite parts was Carolina wearing the bloomers I made her for her newborn photos.  I made them a little big when I was still pregnant (not on purpose!) but it worked out.  She wore some costume pearls that my Nanny gave me a long time ago.  


 I loved having all the little babies crawling and running around the house and it was so adorable to see them interacting with each other.  See the homemade birthday cards from some sweet "older" friends in the collage below.  And just look at the little chat by the window.  I wonder what they were saying.

I know that nobody expects a gift when you are coming to a birthday party but it was fun being creative and putting together the beach bucket gifts.  My favorite thing was a stamp pad and little card for the kids to make art on.  The next day was Father's Day so I thought I was helping out there!

 You can't see them, but I had beach balls hung up through the house and a float as the centerpiece on the table.  I did use Pinterest a lot for planning but my goal was to not spend too much on decorations.  I mostly used what I had.  The most I spent was buying 9 beach balls for 99 cents each.  We also invested in a long table that we can use at holidays as well.


The cake was my masterpiece!!  I love having an excuse to bake and decorate cakes.   I thought I would make a healthy cake for Carolina but in the end, aesthetics won out.  I wanted a pretty cake more than a healthy cake.  Fortunately, she didn't eat hardly any of it.  She touched it and then pushed it over on the floor (on a sheet)!  We all still ate some though even though I made cupcakes for the guests too.


Carolina has been such a joy to us, it's indescribable how much we love her!  I'm so excited that I have more parties to plan for her and a lifetime to love her.


Saturday, June 08, 2013

First Birthday Party Plans

I am so excited about Carolina's first birthday party!  I've been googling and pinterest-ing for a few weeks now piecing together what I want to do.  It's not until next Saturday but I have been working on things a little at a time.  

Today I had some help though and it was wonderful!!  I had a little assembly line going to put together mason jar tags and water bottle labels.  Having a teenager full of hot air helped blow up a lot of beach balls too.  I'm so happy I didn't have to do that.  Thanks guys!

Carolina had fun playing in the beverage containers


There was even an official goldfish taste test to see which ones I want to serve.  


Can you tell it's a summer beach party theme?  It's a loose theme but I wanted something that would be simple to do.  It all started with the party favors, which are adorable.  

I'm one of those crazy Moms who wants her baby to eat a healthy cake.  I tested this one out because it uses bananas as a sweetener, so no added sugar.  It's kind of like a banana bread and really good.  I still have to test out what icing I'm going to do with it but I'm thinking whipped coconut cream.  I realized this idea of healthy everything is going to be an uphill battle when I saw they are serving marshmallows to the 1 year olds at VBS next week.  



For the guests, I am making strawberry cupcakes.  I baked these today and the icing has real strawberries in it.  After sampling these, I think I'm going to go with a vanilla cake and strawberry icing though.  The strawberry cake competes too much with the icing.


 These are my blue mason jars.  I love them!!  I deliberated over whether to buy them or not because I really don't need any more glasses.  I decided that we would use them a lot in the future and Gustavo really liked them too.  

There was a lot of experimenting with what to do about names on the mason jars.  I have a limited amount 12 blue and 12 clear so people can't just lose their glass.  I was going to do sticky labels but they might sweat off.  Hopefully this will do the trick.  


A friend made water bottle labels at my baby shower and I was completely enamored with them.  They make everything look so much more elegant!  I googled some free templates and found these which go perfectly with beach ball colors.  I just used packing tape to put them on.  So simple and free!


I'll be working on a lot more little details through the week.  I'm having so much fun planning for her first party.  It's a great distraction so I don't have to focus on how a year has passed and how it can be that my little baby is turning one.

Sob.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Three Summer Shoes

from here

I've been online shopping and in person shopping, buying and returning for a month now looking for my perfect summer shoe line-up.  Getting out a little every day with the baby has helped me so much and I do love a good shoe hunt.  

I used to think that more options was better but I actually don't like to have a lot of shoes anymore.  I still have plenty but I used to have more, many more.  I would go shopping with an open mind looking for a deal and the shoe possibilities would play out before me.  Now I need my shoes to fit into my real life and not my fantasy life.

 Of course I still would love to buy them on sale but I put them through rigorous testing now to see if they will come home with me.  Or rather I should say stay home with me since I return often after having them at home for a week or so.  I try them on with different outfits throughout the week to see if they are going to work for me.  

My Critera:

Comfort
Style
Multi-Use
Goes with almost everything
Will wear them a lot

Trying them on at home with different outfits is an important part of the process for me.  Obviously I like the shoes when I buy them, but that doesn't mean they are going to fit in with my lifestyle or clothes I wear.  Let me tell you my Converse story.  I have always wanted a pair and I got the dainty style of grey Converse that are so adorable.  They are the same Converse cool but less clunky.  

I tried them on with so many outfits and realized three things.  One, they pinched my little toes.  Two, they made my feet feel claustrophobic in the heat.  Three, I probably wouldn't reach for them that much to wear.  So instead of keeping them and wasting money on something I wouldn't wear often, I decided to return and maybe try again another time.  

So here are the shoes I finally decided on.  I know they won't make the pages of Vogue but this is what works for me.  I'm a pretty casual kind of girl.

First shoe is for all around comfort in my day to day life.  It's hot here in Houston and I need something that I can slip on and also lets my foot breathe.  I wanted it in yellow but they didn't have my size.  Aerosoles can be kind of orthopedic looking but I love the squishy soles.  I always look for their flip flops first.

Link

I have loved my winter Sperrys so much that I decided to get some summer ones.  All this shoe planning started because we have a vacation to Kiawah Island and Charleston coming up and we will be biking and walking a lot.  I got the classic ones so I wouldn't have to worry about coordinating them.  


These are my dressier sandals.  I don't really dress up all that much but if I do wear a dress I think they'll be ok. 

 I rarely wear heels.  Have you got the message that I like to be comfortable?




Link


I wonder if all this analysis is too much?  I'm always trying to balance spending money on the right things with having the right things when I need them.  I want getting dressed to be easy and non-dramatic when there is a time crunch.  Anyone else know what I am talking about?  Closet meltdowns?   Yeah, I'm trying to avoid those buy proactive shoe hunting.  And that's how you sell it to your husband.

Carolina's Fifth Birthday

We have been busy celebrating someone's much anticipated birthday around here!  Carolina has been longing for five since her classmates ...