Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Facebook Excess and Update

I've been trying to find more areas of excess in my life as I journey through this year. Next on the chopping block is Facebook. I just don't need to be friends with people I don't like, used to know, met once, don't recognize, etc. So I have deleted quite a few of late. I have no desire to offend, just to cut down on my newsfeed information so that I can spend less time of my life getting all this "vital" information. I also have stopped myself from logging on several times of late--I just don't need to see everything that goes on, but I DO enjoy staying in touch with certain people via this means. So I'm trying to be sensitive to using Facebook in balance (easier said then done).

Next up: Word files on the computer (eek).

I am becoming more and more aware of excess sugar in my life. Spring is a perfect time to start hitting up the farmer's markets and changing our eating habits for the better, but I do so love certain processed foods. I'm worried...

Any suggestions of other things I can focus on or things you have stopped from being excessive in your life? I have cut down on clutter in a mighty way in every room of my house, picture files on the computer, Facebook, shopping, etc. What's next (insert sinister laughter here)??

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Possessions Fast and HUGE Yard Sale!

Ever read the book "Seven: an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker? Last year my Sunday school class studied it in book club and this month the time came for application! Two friends from our church are flying to Africa to run a 54 mile marathon all to raise money for World Vision--to provide clean water to those in need amongst the African continent. It is a HUGE accomplishment that they are raising so much support and awareness. Our class was charged to set aside 7 items a day for the month on April to donate to a yard sale. All profit from the yard sale will go toward World Vision. As my word of the year is excess this couldn't have come at a more perfect time.

My first thought was "SEVEN items a day? That's 210 items in a month! I'll aim for 200." Yesterday I dropped off my items to the yard sale location and I tallied up 350 items. THREE HUNDRED FIFTY! That's disgusting considering that it didn't even hurt. To throw away that many items, I didn't have to get to the point of sacrifice where it stung to throw things away. My husband has not even noticed what is gone--we didn't even make a dent. Sick... That is a selfish hoarding of resources from others. I am not proud of giving away 350 items, I wish it was double that. My sweet man didn't even have time to go through his stuff! That is just me, my one daughter, and household items. Big wake up call to me that I need to keep going, keep giving away and keep my possessions under control so that I am not distracted. To be distracted by stuff and kept from what truly matters--relationships--is a waste.

Enough with the heavy. If you are in the Chicago area you NEED to check out this epic yard sale:

Date: Saturday, May 4th (rain or shine!)
Time: 8am - 12 pm (please, no early birds)
Location: 3700 block of North Paulina
Purpose: To raise money for the World Vision charity (all proceeds will go directly to them)
All items priced to sell! No reasonable offers refused!!

Some of our items include: Infant (blankets, bedding, boppies, carriers, breast feeding/pumping supplies, bumbos), toddler, and child games, toys, clothes, and supplies. Men's clothing (lots of suits and shoes too), Women's clothing (J Crew and other great brands), jewelry, bags/purses, camping supplies, ice skates, lacrosse sticks, volleyball net, tennis rackets, tables, chairs, electronics (printers and tv's, playstations), picture frames, art, kitchen stuff, linens, collectibles and memorabilia, gifts and gadgets, holiday items, and much more!

Spread the word! Consider making a donation to here to World Vision!

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Monday, April 8, 2013

DIY $2 Sweater to Cardigan

As soon as I saw this sweater at the thrift store for $2, I was in love. I am crazy about stripes and yellow right now, so this was a "duh" moment for me. However, it was a smidge too small, so I followed this tutorial (that I discovered a while ago thanks to Pinterest) to help me cut it down the middle, hem under the sides and turn it into a cardigan. I may add a button or two later or I may just leave it as it. Couldn't be happier with how this came out. Yay!
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Possessions Fast

Two friends at church are running the 54 mile Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa to raise money for World Vision (an organization that provides clean water to many). To help raise money, my Sunday school class has organized a possessions fast. Let me know if you want to join us (and how timely that this is happening during my focus on "excess" this year)!

Join us in going on a Possessions Fast for the month of April. The possessions that you collect will be sold to raise funds for World Vision as Anthony (pictured above) and Wendy prepare to run 54 miles in the Comrades Ultra Marathon (South Africa). Details for the fast are below.
Possessions Fast
- Collect 7 possessions per day for every day in April that you can do without.
- Retain the 210 possession at your home until the end of the month
- Deliver your possessions to a designated location after the fast.
- Your possessions will be sold to raise funds for World Vision.

If you want to participate, let me know and I will forward you the contact info of the people organizing it!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Eliminating more excess

My word of the year is EXCESS (you can read more about it here). All around me I see possessions accumulating. When I tote bags up my 3 flights of stairs into my home, I frequently think "I'd better take some stuff out to make room". I recently tackled these trouble areas in my home and have come up with several more trashbags of donation items:

Maternity clothes: whittled it down from two big boxes to one (labeled now, of course). If I didn't wear it much (or at all), it's going away.

Linen closet: I have one queen sized bed but four sets of sheets. I have just one crib, but I had four sets of crib sheets. I used to groom dogs so I had a plethora of "junk" towels but I don't see myself going back to that anytime soon. All that to say, I filled nearly a whole garbage bag with just items from my linen closet--Goodwill here I come!

Bookshelf: I have learned that like my closet, I have to go through this area again and again and again. Sorting through my too-full shelves just one time a year is not enough. I have now given my shelves a serious stare-down twice in the last month. Each time I go through, I find a book I hated, never read, or just don't see the need to keep anymore. There are currently 15 books in my Goodwill bag and I plan to add more.

One interesting thing I've learned through this purging journey is that I have often thought "Well, what IF I need an extra ___ in the future?" My previous and quick answer would have been "Oh I'd better keep it in case". But I'm discovering that clinging to THINGS for an unforeseeable future is WASTEFUL. It's a selfish means of hoarding resources from others. It's a wasteful use of my limited space in my home.

Here's what I'm talking about: Q:What if Emma gets the flu and vomits on her sheets three times in one day? A: Then I'll do laundry or better yet throw any extra sheet on her bed (who said it had to be crib-sized in an emergency?!). Q: What if Emma needs to read Silas Marner in high school--shouldn't I hold onto my copy? A: That is a whopping 15 years away, I can easily get it at a used bookstore for a few dollars then, and I have no intention of going through that book again myself so by all means PITCH IT! It takes me taking the time to go through these questions in my mind as I'm staring into the endless pile of belongings to be able to reach these conclusions. There is no rushing a good healthy purge. It takes a few more minutes to think critically about each item but to see how much I DON'T need is greatly freeing...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Update on "Excess"

Quick update on my word of the year "excess" and how I'm cutting down on mine. You can read my initial post about it here.

~I have made another 4 bags of items to donate.
~Emma's three boxes of extra toys in the back stairwell are now down to two boxes.
~I had three baskets of toys for her to choose from in the house, but whittled it down to just two (she hasn't noticed, shows you how much she cared!)
~I have installed an app on my iPhone called KeyRing and have loaded up all my loyalty cards AND gift cards on there so that I have less to carry around in my wallet. The only cards I carry now are my license  insurance and credit card.

Fun, fun, fun! Every time I lug bags of stuff into my house I think "gotta take something out now to make room". Not a bad pattern of thought I think. :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Emma is 1 1/2 years old!

My daughter is 1 1/2 today. To pause and remember how quickly the time goes, I made a shutterfly book of the photo shoot that we did when Emma Penelope was a newborn. Shout out to our favorite photographer Kenny Nakai! First I'll leave you with a recent photo, however. Look how big my girl is!

Photo Book Tip: Create an adventurous travel photo album at

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Word of the Year

My word of the year is EXCESS. A number of things have contributed to this being my focus this year and I’d like to share with my readers how my progress has been going. First, one of my best friends Kristi is teaching in Brazil and she mentioned that there are only two kinds of cereal to choose from at the grocery store and no one complains about this. There are about 50 kinds at my local Jewel Osco (can you say excess!). The second contributing factor to my revelation is that my toddler is beginning to really accumulate possession and our apartment can only hold so much before we are all literally tripping over playthings. Oddly, Emma isn’t any more or less happy when she has 10 toys in front of her or 2. She can only focus on one thing at a time. Third, there is a family at my church that have three kids and they live in a studio apartment. There is really no reason for me to feel like I don’t have enough room for three people in our two bedroom apartment. Fourth, Nate Burkus always says you should have meaningful things in your home decor and your home should rise up to greet you. How can I make my home happy if I don’t know what’s in it?!

So here’s what I’ve done in my life to focus on eliminating the excess and organize my life at the same time. Hopefully you will find motivation to do the same in your home!

TOYS: Emma has three small baskets for toys: one in our bedroom, one in the living room, and one in her room. If it doesn’t fit in the baskets, it goes in the back stairwell which has three boxes of extra toys (I am ready to cut down on these but at the same time we like to rotate what’s in the baskets). I plan to further eliminate and reduce the number and maybe file away the infant toys.

BABY CLOTHES: Emma has two tubs of outgrown clothes even though she’s only 18 months old. So I went through all the baby clothes and donated or gave away anything that she didn’t wear more than twice (lots of hand-me-downs equals lots of clothes that aren’t quite my taste or the right size for the season but for some reason I previously felt the need to keep them). Needless to say I donated lots. The clothes 0-9months are now in a vacuumed sealed bag under Emma’s crib.

BABY GEAR: Is now labeled in a box (bottles, paci’s, carriers, spoons, breast pump, boppy, etc). I have lent my cloth diapers and baby swing to a new Mama and our giant saucer toy is in the backstairwell.

THE PANTRY: I have lots in my cupboards that I didn’t even know was there. If the world’s supply of food ended, I think I could live off my pantry goods for weeks—I’m not proud of that. I want to keep things that I need and use and eliminate the excess. So I have been using recipes that will get rid of those random items like…two cans of coconut milk! Expired or (dare I say) moldy items from pantry or fridge are now gone. Our medical supplies are stored in the kitchen and the shelves are now labeled “Emma, dog, vitamins, cold/flu, and pain” to organize the contents on each shelf.

OFFICE SUPPLIES: Our small desk was stuffed full with office supplies and we could never find what we needed. I re-organized so that there’s a box of office supplies in the closet next to the desk and in the desk is only a few of the things we need. Ex: one strip of staples instead of 500, four pens and two pencils instead of 30. The rest is labeled and in the box:

MAGAZINES: I used to keep magazines that had one or two good-looking recipes in them but no longer. I rip out the recipe I want to try, fold it up and put it in my recipe box (which is clearly labeled now). When I am searching for something new to make there’s only one place I need to go and that’s my box. Neat articles or pretty pictures get documented on my phone and put on my Pinterest board. I then recycle all extra paper (side note, we don’t have recycling bins here in Chicago which annoys me to no end, so I have been sending home tons of recycling with my family members every time we see each other. So ridiculous. Okay rant over).

PICTURES: Having an iPhone has changed our lives in more than one way, but one thing we’ve accumulated more of than ever before is tons of photos and video. When you have a video camera in your back pocket at every moment, you can catch every (and I mean every) moment of childhood you so desire but the result is thousands of photos/videos of the same thing (I surely thing my baby is the cutest but I’m not going to print 500 photos every month!). So I have been going through each photo and video from Emma’s life (and plan on going back even further in our computer photos). So far I have deleted 1900 photos and you’d never know it!! Scary (and excessive, no?)!

KITCHEN: I went through my kitchen drawers and cabinets with the term “excess” on my mind and came up with a whole paper bag for Goodwill (four plastic spatulas and three soup ladles were hiding in the farthest corners of my drawers. I just don’t NEED all these gadgets). I know and use what is in my kitchen now.

CLOSET: Emma’s closet has our extra boxes of belongings. I critically looked at the contents of each box and clearly labeled each.  Every single box or bin is labeled (and I got rid of lots in the process):

As for the master bedroom closet, I have critically gone through my entire wardrobe several times (I used to think once was enough each season, but now I know that that is not enough). Every article needs to be used frequently enough to warrant its space. To ascertain if I wear my clothes enough for my liking, I have turned every hanger around. When I use the item on that hanger, I turn it the proper way. In 6 months I can see what I haven’t worn at all and in December I suspect I’ll have even more clothing to donate. Extra purses, bags, bras, you name it, I’ve gone through it. I just don’t need so much! Oddly, I have yet to miss anything I’ve thrown out. And I’m more excited about my wardrobe than I ever have been before because I make sure I LOVE everything I have and wear it often! Here is every t-shirt I own--used to be three times this many:

MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD: The other half of this project is that I am focusing on what it means to be excessive spiritually. I want to walk with the Lord closely. I want to love Him excessively. You know, like “God will be most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” (thank you, John Piper). I think when I’m excessive toward the Lord by excessively giving Him all of me I will be satisfied that I am doing all I can to invest in our relationship. Not that our satisfaction in the Lord is anything to do with what we do or don’t do, but aiming to focus on Him more and really basking in the joy and grace He has given me. I am accomplishing this by surrounding myself with Scripture (and posting it around my home), being diligent with my quiet times, playing my guitar more, praying purposefully with Emma, and speaking about the Lord daily.

There are several exciting things about this venture of mine, but two major ones are that I feel FREEDOM. Free from clutter in my home, free from the burden of extra. I like my home more since I have thought about each item in it and decide keep only what I love. It really feels good to donate 8 bags to the Goodwill store. I feel happy when my husband asks “where are the batteries?” so that I can say “In the box labeled batteries! Hooray!” Let me know if you have any tips for ways you have organized and cut down on clutter. It’s only March--I can’t wait to see what June, September and December brings for this project! Goodbye excess, hello freedom!

Future projects: the utility closet, baby toys, and continue to go through old pictures. Wha-hoo!

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Downton Abbey Finale Party

Downton Abbey Finale Party

Downton Abbey is pretty fantastic. Minus a few elements and the deaths in season three, I have loved every minute of it. My husband is equally into it as I am which hasn't happened with other period pieces (he doesn't really care for any Austen, Bronte, Anne of Green Gables, etc). So we decided to throw a finale viewing party for a few friends who are just as into it as we are. Only problem was, we couldn't do a weekend due to Mike's work schedule (and anyway, "what is a weekend?") so we made it a Wednesday night which eliminated the other 8 people that we invited, but we were undeterred and celebrated with two other couples. 

Deviled eggs
Grilled cheese sandwiches with pesto and hummus (thank you Trader Joe's)
Pound cake with mixed berries and whipped cream
Walkers tea biscuits
English toffee squares
An assortment of tea

We enhanced our table with tablecloth, placecards, my grandmother's suitcase, a few victorian-looking boxes, a hatbox, and The World of Downton Abbey book. 

The tea sets were loaned to me by my mother. The blue and white China was used daily by my grandmother and holds a special place in my heart. I almost didn't take them for fear of one of us un-trained, clumsy Americans breaking a piece, but everything remained in-tact throughout the evening! 

I created the Downton pennant banner. The outside triangles say "What is a weekend?"

We had our guests wear pins should they deign to show up without costume. Just kidding. We bought these here on etsy.

For my costume, I saw this dress on etsy which reminded me of this one worn by Lady Mary and thought I'd give re-creating it a try.

I went to Goodwill and scored big with a $7 formal dress and a $4 lacy black lingerie piece that I chopped into bits as soon as I got home. The purple dress came with a matching shawl that I used to lengthen the dress from ankle to floor length. I used the black trim the came with the lacy dress to create the girth, then sewed 6" wide straps of lace to the dress and secured them under the flowers at the back 

(here's a fairly good photo of the lace attached to the back)

 I found the beading for the dress on etsy for $12 and hand-sewed it to the front. I purchased black opera gloves at Chicago Costume for $10 and dolled-up my own pearl necklace with some ribbon. My sweet husband wore a tux, and even our schnauzer got a bow tie!

Hair: I watched several "downton abbey hair tutorials" on youtube but came up with my own solution. I separated my hair into three sections and teased each. I then twisted the sides and secured to my head. Then I used the tube-part of a black sock to wrap the middle section up into a low bun (the sock added some volume). Add some bobby pins, some hair spray, and a brooch from my grandma in-law and my hair was complete. I loved how it turned out.

Here's the whole ensemble:

The home-made photo booth background was our shower curtain and the props I made from foam sheets hot-glue-gunned to skewer sticks. I also found a tray from Goodwill that I painted with chalkboard paint for our sign. I edited the photos with

We also played trivia. Here are the questions that we came up with along with the correct answers (and some of the best answers that we got from our guests!)

 20 Downton Abbey Trivia Questions from Seasons 1-3

1) What is the name of Lord Grantham’s dog? A) Isis
Best other answers: Pedro and Baxter
2) What war did Bates and Lord Grantham fight in together? A) Boer war 
3) Before becoming engaged to Matthew Crawley, Lady Mary considered a visit to what country? A) America
4) What does Daisy’s father in law do for a living? A) Farmer

5) Downton Abbey was created and written by whom? A) Julian Fellowes
Best other answers: Mark Walberg, J.K. Rowling and Laura Linney
6) DA Season 1, Episode 1 opens which the news of what historic event? A) Sinking of the titanic
7) What country was Mr. Pamuk from? A) Turkey
8) In Season 1 what medical condition did Mrs. Patmore have? A) Cataracts
9) In season 3, episode 3, what type of spoon did Alfred fail to identify correctly? A) Boullioun Spoon
Best other answers: French onion soup spoon, spork
10) What was Lavinia Swire’s father’s name? A) Reggie Swire
Best other answer: Pamook
11) Sir Richard Carlisle was a self-made man who acquired his fortune in what business? A) Newspapers
12) A badly disfigured soldier arrived at DA and claimed to be the rightful heir. Who was the only family member to believe his story? A) Lady Edith
13) Several family members were taken ill in the last episode of season two. What disease caused havoc in the house? A) The spanish flu
14) Who was Robert talking about when he said “She thinks that if you put a toy down, it will still be sitting there when you want to play with it again”. A) Lady Mary
15) Which hand did Thomas injure in the war? A) Left
16) What is the first name of the Dowager Countess of Grantham? A) Violet
17) What is the name of the castle where DA is filmed? Highclere
Best other answers: Tower of London, Kensington
18) Who left Edith at the alter? A) Sir Anthony StrallinBest other answers: “One-armed man”, Bob, “old man who is awkward”, and “creepy guy’
19) In season two when Matthew and Mary dance together to a record, what musical is the song from? A) Zip Goes a Million
Best other answers: Les Mis, Marriage of Figaro, Lion King, 
20) Name as many ingredients in Branson’s slop mixture for theArmy General as you can. A) Sour milk, cow pie, ink, oil
How many people in downton house caught the spanish flu? A) Five

First place trivia winner won this fabulous framed Downton quote that my friend Debbie made for me (it says "You'll find there's never a dull moment in this house"). Second place got a tea cup (thank you, Goodwill) filled with English toffee squares.

Even Emma got into the spirit for the evening:

(just kidding, she didn't spell that, I did).

We had a wonderful evening and will do it on a weekend next year so that more people can attend. I'll leave you with some final pictures of the night.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Papper Snoflingor Creations

Papper Snoflingor Creations

My friend Kristen recently started an Etsy store and I am in love with what she is doing! She creates these paper snowflakes with no pattern and each is completely unique and different. I purchased one for my mother for Christmas:

This one I purchased for myself:

They come mounted and framed--a perfect and unique gift! Go check her out. No really do! click here!

Thanks Kristen!
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Embroidered House Project

Embroidered Pillow

I've never embroidered anything before in my life. But I saw this tutorial on Pinterest and decided to give it a go. Our good friends Kari and Steve moved to Kentucky after living in a gem of a building in Chicago. It was their first place together and despite the 3rd floor walk up, mixed-matched kitchen, grody shower, uneven floor, super tricky parking, and wind like you would not BELIEVE, I know they miss it. Therefore, I decided Kari and Steve's old place was going to be my guinea pig for this project. I snapped these photos of their house, converted them to black and white using, and printed them on computer paper at home.

I then traced the main building lines with a Sharpie and then re-traced the whole thing onto another piece of paper, creating a pattern. I tried to incorporate some of their building's special features to aid the identification process, which brought me here:

(I later tweaked the tree trunk, obviously)

It was then lightly traced onto a piece of muslin, and I went to town with my embroidery floss and hoop! Added a border and backing and this project was finished!

I used all scraps so this project was a big ol' f-r-e-e!

Better yet, I think she liked it. :)

Go check out Kari's blog:

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Best Thrift Store Find EVER!

Yelloware bowls are special in my family because my grandmother made her bread in them everyday for years. They are perfect for my family's beloved rice pudding recipe because you can bake it in the same bowl you mix it in. My mother gave me one of her smaller ones when I got married but I always am on the lookout for more at antique stores. I recently debated over one that was being sold at an antique mall for $45. Ouch.

Meandered into my local Goodwill here in Chicago and stumbled across this beauty. It was hiding under an ice cube tray in the knick-knack department and I literally gasped and asked aloud "is this for real?" because I was SO excited.

Looks remarkably like this one which is being sold on ebay for $116! Want to know how much I paid for this beauty: $2.25!! That's right; two dollars and twenty-five cents. What's that verse about how every good and perfect gift is from above? ;)

Beyond pumped. This is why thrifting has me hooked--you never know what's around the next corner or hiding under cube tray!

*insert happy dance
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Monday, January 7, 2013

Sweater Quilt

Sweater Quilt

Saw this tutorial via Pinterest to make a wool sweater quilt and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to try something like it. My sister Jenny loves quilting as much as I do, but rarely has time to do it, so I decided to give this one to her. The tutorial called for wool sweaters, but I wanted to keep this gift reasonably priced so instead I headed to my local Salvation Army thrift store and found this selection of cotton-blend sweaters in brown, gold, white and tan:

After a thorough wash, I cut out all the seams and laid out my collection.

 Then I just sewed the blocks into strips and strips into rows.

I seriously considered leaving it as it was but then decided I wanted a bit more completed of a look. So I backed it with flannel (mmmmmm), turned it right-side-out (like a giant pillowcase), and used brown yarn to create a double-blanket stitch around the edges. I sewed the few buttons left on the quilt from the back to the front to attach the layers together.

Jenny loved it and was touched that the only quilt I made all year was for her! :) Mission accomplished. Overall this quilt cost about $30--extremely reasonable and one of a kind! Perfect for a car quilt, cabin quilt, or everyday quilt!

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