Wednesday, August 20, 2014

DONE: Pick Berries with the Girls

One of the reasons I started this blog was to show people that you can do/achieve anything, no matter your income or social standing. My "DONE" series features Bucket List items I've done/achieved. They may vary in size and importance but the message I always want readers to leave with is that they too can achieve their dreams.

Long, long ago, The Boof and I went berry picking. As we meandered through the fields, we dreamed of taking our future children berry picking with us one day. There isn't anything particularly exciting or adventurous about berry picking. However, that afternoon I went home and wrote "pick berries with my children" on my bucket list. Being out in nature, sneaking a taste of berries, and spending less than $10, made me want to share this experience.

Luckily, we live in a county that is known for it's strawberry and raspberry fields. Our favorite local farm, Underwood Family Farms, features a PYO (Pick Your Own) program nearly all year. So in mid June, we finally committed to taking the girls for some berry picking. Like I said, it's not all that exciting but there are ways you can make it fun.

First, know that my kids are four and one years old. I'm sure my one year old didn't know what was going on, but it was a great opportunity to introduce berries with small tastes. My four year old on the other hand had a number of questions. I plan on taking them again either later this year or next.

Things I Plan To Do Differently

1. In the weeks or days leading up to our trip to the farm, start pointing out strawberry fields we pass on our trips to and from school.
2. Research some fun facts about strawberries. I found this great interactive link for kids age 5-12.
3. Look for recipes to make with your berry pickings. Find one that would excite your child. The great thing about berries is that they are delicious and nutritious.
4. Plan to spend more time at the farm. Pack a picnic and things to eat with your fresh picked berries. Underwood Family Farms has a picnic area, play area, and petting zoo. It's quite amazing.
5. Explain in more detail how to tell if a berry is ready to be picked. There were a number of berries Presley picked that weren't ripe yet. I've since started to have her help me select fruit at the grocery store so she can learn how to tell when something is ripe.

Have you been berry picking? Do you have a favorite recipe you make with the berries you pick?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cemetery Spotlight: Pere Lachaise in Paris, France

I've mentioned a couple of times that I find cemeteries beautiful. Whenever I tell someone that I love cemeteries, their face instantly morphs into a state of confusion. I can tell they are wondering just how crazy and morbid I am. But have you ever thought about the essence of a cemetery? Have you inspected it's beauty? Were you looking at the details? Because most people find it odd that I am enamored by cemeteries, I think I've managed to come up with a decent answer to the question, "why?" Our final resting place is a marker for our story, the way we lived our life, and for some, the way we saw life. Now that being said, some of us, don't think about the ends that need to be tied once we are gone. Don't let fear keep you from exploring this topic. It's the circle of life and how we celebrate it.

If you still think I'm crazy, bare with me for the entire post. Perhaps, you'll be inspired by the time I'm done.

This particular cemetery, Pere Lachaise, provides an afternoon of awe. Sure, there are a bunch of well known individuals buried here, but once I'm done highlighting just a few of the great treasures, you'll understand why I didn't feature any of their graves in this post.

The cobble walkways and intricate mausoleums catch your attention and pull you into the details. It makes you wonder who thought of this? Is there meaning? Is the dead telling us their story through their details?

Take a look at some of the beauty the dead has left for us to enjoy.

As you may know, the photo above is of a very famous tree that is in front of Jim Morrison's grave. This tree has undoubtedly been there for years before Morrison passed and was never graffiti-ed before herds of fans paid their respect. I don't know who wrote, "Can you show me the way to the next whiskey bar?" I don't know who they were to Morrison nor what Morrison meant to them. I don't know why they wrote that lyric. I don't know when they wrote it. THAT is perfect example of the beautiful details that make a cemetery. I'm not saying go out and vandalize a grave. I'm saying revel in the unknown. Allow your imagination explore the dead's life. Who they were. What they did. And what they mean to those they left behind.

There are thousands of graves at Pere Lachaise. Each grave is different so stopping to enjoy each one is a bit time consuming. However, there are many that grab your attention. Here are just a few that caught my attention.

If you ever make your way to Pere Lachaise, don't just visit the well known graves. Absorb the history, the beautiful and the grotesque details. Spend an afternoon daydreaming of those that came before you. It's a huge cemetery and if you aren't feeling the whole "I see dead people" vibe, at least go for the great views of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pay It Forward: Facebook Challenge

I'm not one to typically partake in the various challenges circling Facebook. You know the ones. The ice challenge. The "What makes you feel beautiful" challenge. Not my thing. However, back in late January, a friend of mine posted a Pay It Forward challenge and I accepted. If you want to know exactly what the challenge is, here you go:

"To start this year off in a loving way I'm participating in the Pay-It-Forward initiative. The first five people who comment on this status with "I'm in" will receive a surprise from me at some point in this calendar year-anything from a book, a ticket, a visit, something home-grown or made, a postcard, absolutely any surprise! There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy.

These five people must make the same offer in their FB status and distribute their own joy. Simply copy this text onto your profile (don't share) so we can form a web of connection and kindness.

Let's do more nice and loving things for each other in 2014, without any reason other than to make each other smile and show that we think of each other."

I was a little disappointed that I didn't receive five comments, just four. It's now August and I am finally sending these wonderful and generous people a surprise. Since they are in the mail, I'm going to share with you what I sent.

Listen, I'm a sucker for stationary. Growing up, my mom gave me the hope chest her father made for her. She had some of her things still in it and you know what it was? Stationary. Over the years, I added to the pile and together we would spend hours in the greeting card and stationary section of stores. There is nothing that can possibly replace the sentiment of a handwritten note. I've mentioned a couple of times, that I love Tiny Prints. Well, the past few times I've ordered from them, for Paloma's birthday party and the recent spa party, I had to slip in some items that were selfishly for me.

I love the idea of paying it forward to friends and family, but what about complete strangers? The best way to make someone's day is a random act of kindness. While it's great if you are able to witness it in person, opportunities don't always allow you to do so, but you run into the predicament of missing the chance to express for them to pay it forward. That's when I decided to order some business cards just for that occasion. I did some research on hash tags and came up with one that I hope spreads like wild fire - #TeamHumankind. Wouldn't it be amazing to look up that hash tag on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media outlet and see people paying it forward and inspiring kindness for Team Humankind?

So I rounded up a few little "treat yo'self" items and sent them off to the Pay It Forward Facebook Challenge participants. I know it's just nail polish and lip shimmer, but I hope they are surprised and take some time for themselves.

The Pay It Forward movement is not just about passing along things. It's about being kind to one another. That's why I came up with Team Humankind. Sometimes the words and sentiment we pass on to each other means more that material items. It's just as important to be kind to one another as it is to "treat yo'self."

Team Humankind, let's start a movement of genuine kindness. Unexpected. Selfless. Heartfelt. Kindness.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Treat Yo' Self to a Spa Party

Sometimes we all just need a time out. What better way to treat yo'self than to have a spa party, right? There are two must haves for any party - good friends and alcohol. I kept it light this time. Just mimosas and bellinis. Freshly made bellinis. I followed a simple recipe from Haylie Duff. (Really, it is so easy and fast. See below.) We also had light snacks: carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, chips and dip, and frozen berries. I love putting food in glass vases, it gives the party a sense of simplicity. They are also easy to decorate should you want to add a little extra flair.

Fresh Bellinis
  • Cut six peaches and puree with fresh lemon juice from two lemons.
  • Pour puree into glass and top off with chilled prosecco.

There are two main reasons why I decided to follow through with this spa party in the first place. One of my friends, Jessica,  is an Aesthetician and starting a private practice. She approached me about hosting a party so she could get her name out there and gain new clients, offering to do mini facials on each guest. Meanwhile, I was planning Paloma's first birthday party and found these perfect invitations for the spa party at Tiny Prints. The minute I spotted these puppies, I reached out to Jessica to lock down a date for the party so I could order the invitations.

As I was browsing around on Tiny Prints, more caught my eye. Personalized gift tags, which always add a nice touch, and personalized notebooks. Now I have a problem that I will admit to you guys. I have a habit of browsing Tiny Prints and making up parties just to match the invitations, then I chicken out and clear my shopping cart. A party every month just isn't feasible. The past few times I've planned these phantom parties, I added personalized notebooks from their custom gifts section to my shopping cart, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with them. Well peeps, the spa party presented a great opportunity to incorporate them into the party theme. Aren't they beautiful? If I was smart, I would have ordered one for myself.

Once I ordered the notebooks, I started to think about the other things I could put in the gift bags. Let me just say the you can find some great stuff at the dollar store from time to time. I scored these makeup remover towelettes and facial brushes.

Jessica also gave me some samples of a skin care line she recommends, TecNiche, to include in the gift bags. I tried the Restore Serum the day after the party and my skin was glowing. Not the greasy kind of glow. The "my skin is radiant" kind of glow.

Once again I relied on my trusty cricut machine to help add a little something to the gift bags. I cut out each party goers first and last initial to paste on the front of the bag. Coupled with the personalized gift tags from Tiny Prints, I think it came out pretty well.

The day of the party Jessica shared with us the importance and difference between chemical and physical sunblock, why we should add vitamin a and vitamin c to our skin care regimen, and explained the procedure of a facial. As she took turns giving mini facials to each attendee, it was nice to catch up with guests and enjoy bellinis. Dang, they were good. Great recipe, Haylie Duff!

By the end of the afternoon, I had happy guests and had learned some rather helpful skin care tips. The party was better than I had anticipated and I think the guest left feeling refreshed.

Friday, August 1, 2014

August Goals

Doesn't it seem like every month goes by faster and faster the closer we get to the holidays? My intention to save for Christmas and start shopping early doesn't seem feasible at this point. I have all sorts of ideas in mind, which isn't much different for other years. I just need to get my butt in gear and start on some craft projects.

Well enough about that, on to the...

July Recap

I'm running a little behind with my domestic maintenance and unpacking. This weekend I'll be posted up in the garage, organizing and taking boxes upstairs to unpack. I foresee a garage sale in my future.

Good thing is that I cleaned all the grout in my kitchen and bathrooms. I found Zep at Lowe's, which is a grout cleaner and whitener. It works pretty well. Although, if you are going to go out and buy the stuff, I suggest that you use a strong cleaner for mopping up the remnants. It left my floors very slippery, even after mopping. At least it got the job done.

August is going to be a great month. Our family is celebrating two milestones: The Boof and I will celebrate our 5th anniversary and Presley is starting school. If we can manage, I really would like to have a garage sale soon. So without further delay, here are my goals for August.

Main Goal: Reorganize Garage

Subgoal:  Separate items into area

Make separate areas for items I'd like to sell, donate, and keep.

Subgoal: Create shelving for additional storage

Main Goal: Have a Garage Sale

Subgoal: Use all money earned from garage sale to pay towards credit cards

Main Goal: Make our Anniversary Special

I'll admit that I can be a little selfish when it comes to my relationship. For our anniversary, I'd like to do something special for The Boof that will knock his socks off. Let me say, if you knew him, you'd understand that this isn't going to be easy. He's a difficult man to please. Okay, maybe not difficult, but he doesn't get excited easily. I might have to dress up as a comic book character to get any kind of reaction from him.

Main Goal: Create a Back to School Tradition

If I think about Presley starting school for too long, the tears start to flow. It's an exciting and sad time. I'm just trying to focus on the fact that I get to go shopping for school supplies again. Growing up I can remember my mom surprising me with tiny notes in my lunch box or binder. I always enjoyed that. It made me feel loved and missed. I look forward to creating similar traditions with Presley. I'm thinking a "First Day of School Eve" celebration might be a good idea. I'll have to give it some thought and will definitely post what I come up with.

What do you have planned for August? Make a goal and go for it!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

DONE: Join Toastmasters

One of the reasons I started this blog was to show people that you can do/achieve anything, no matter your income or social standing. My "DONE" series features Bucket List items I've done/achieved. They may vary in size and importance but the message I always want readers to leave with is that they too can achieve their dreams.

How many of you are comfortable with public speaking? If not, you may have a touch of glossophobia. Believe me, I once did. I would turn beet red. Actually, one time I broke out in hives. It wasn't pretty. You know what? I'm talking in past tense and I really shouldn't be. I still have a problem with turning red when I talk before a group of people. I don't know how to fix it but I know I want to gain confidence in front of large groups. Since the time I first heard of Toastmasters, a communication and leadership development organization, I knew I wanted to eventually give it a go. The only thing holding me back? My nerves. The idea of intentionally giving speeches did not sound appealing, but I knew the payoff would benefit my future endeavors.

In the beginning of May I took the plunge and attended a meeting. I was nervous as all get out. I had a feeling I would have to speak to some extent the first night, and I think I did fairly well. All I had to do was tell my name, what brought me to the meeting, and share what my thoughts were after the meeting. Guess what? It wasn't so bad.

The next week I attended the meeting with a membership application in hand. I made a promise to myself that if I am going to join Toastmasters, I have to give it my all. So far, I haven't missed a meeting and I've delivered two speeches. I have an awesome mentor and I even won my first ribbon!

If you feel shy in groups, find it hard to communicate, want to take your career to the next level, or just love hearing yourself talk, think about joining a local Toastmasters club. The uplifting and encouraging members help you work through your improvement areas.

Taking the first step and attending a meeting was the hardest for me. Since, I've enjoyed meeting new people and learning how to craft an entertaining speech. I'm sure I'll be sharing more with you as I continue to learn.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July Goals

June Recap

Did anyone else have a crazy and busy June? I did, and I knew I would so I only made two goals for the month. Technically, I accomplished them both. Paloma's first birthday party went well. I know she won't remember it, but I have plenty of pictures to remind her.

As for the weight loss bet between The Boof and I - we extended it for another month. Homeboy knew that I would win and asked for an extension. The only way I agreed to do it was if the winner got two days of ordering the other (AKA Loser) around. I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll win. Just a hunch.

It's midyear and a great time to take stock of your progress for all of your annual goals. I made a list of 49 goals. Don't ask me why I didn't make one additional goal so that it was an even 50. Guess how many of the goals I've completed so far. Just 14! No bueno. So I've decided to use this month to play a little catch up.

Main Goal: Organize craft area in the loft

Subgoal: Unpack craft boxes in the garage

There are quire a few boxes we still haven't unpacked. A number of them are my crafting supplies or things I kept in my desk at our old apartment. Our loft area is somewhat small but still a perfect area to set up all of my craft supplies. Perhaps if I unpack them, I'll use them more. And truthfully, I should think about selling or donating some of it. I don't think I'll ever use it.

Main Goal: Domestic Maintenance

We've been in our home for almost two years and I want to do all that I can to make sure it remains feeling new as long as I can. There are quite a few items on my list of annual goals that include house maintenance, so why not try to accomplish them during a somewhat slow month.

Subgoal: Clean grout in master bathroom

Subgoal: Clean grout in girls' bathroom

Subgoal: Clean grout in kitchen

Subgoal: Patch Presley's Mickey Mouse doll

Subgoal: Donate some of the girls' toys/clothes

How are you coming along with your annual goals? Check in with yourself and see what still needs to be done. It's not to late.