Product Review | Stella & Dot A Stellar Time

So, many moons and mood swings ago, I used to sell jewelry. It was after my Pampered Chef phase, but before my “let’s go to college YET AGAIN” phase. I started it as a side business to assist in paying for various extra costs for our wedding, and ultimately ended up spending more on the product, supplies, and presentation, than I ever made back. Lesson learned: I do not have the home show/ frugal money sense or personality to work in an atmosphere like that. I loved the social aspect of the business though, with the flexible schedule and opportunity to meet and make connections with ladies all across western Pennsylvania.

Fast forward to 2017, and I’m perusing the Facebook stream of positive vibes, after discovering the “I don’t want to see posts like this” filter button that was so discretely hidden from me for who knows how long, when I happened across a post from a high school classmate. Kayla was that naturally beautiful person, who went from crazy athletic to crazy mature beyond her years, like overnight. She was always about 3 steps ahead of the rest of us in life, and I always admired her sense of focus and drive. She and her husband knew what they wanted out of life, and they went for it, all the while, being fashionably and photogenically picturesque pursuing their version of the “great American dream.” So, I might be getting a little mellow dramatic here, but I just want to paint a picture of how I envision Kayla and her life with her high school sweetheart and two beautiful children.

One of the absolute greatest benefits to Facebook is the ability to find connections with people you may have always known, but never necessarily fell into the same social circles. Or, if you had interconnecting friends in high school, may not have really thought much beyond who you spent your day in and day out with. Back in our high school era cell phones were a new trend and very few had them. Those that did, certainly didn’t use them to connect with friends while in the same building with them. We were much less interconnected in each others lives, but can now use that to our advantage, rediscovering each other and watching all of our children growing up. The ability to find and reconnect with people you’ve always known but may not have taken the time or had the opportunity to develop friendships with these people, is the peak of social media. Finding others who are also in the throws of parenthood, saying goodbye to the “good ole’ days” of a social life, and finding that motherhood bond with others is priceless.

Getting back to Kayla and her beautiful family; while scrolling through my newsfeed, I noticed an announcement she was making about starting a new business. Instantly feeling the nostalgia of taking on a new venture (and having recently dove head first into blogging) I couldn’t help but jump on board and immediately volunteer to host a party. I had no idea what the brand of jewelry was that she was selling, but simply knew, she was excited and starting a new chapter in her life, and I wanted to help and share in that new adventure. So after a few delayed social media messaging sessions, we had a date, a time, and a theme. “Girls Night In” was going to be straight Mimosa’s and Cupcakes. Seriously, does a girl need anything more than cupcakes, mimosas, and jewelry on a Friday night? NO. NO WE DO NOT.

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Prior to the party, Kayla set me up with an online account and continued to promote her line through her classy style and impressive photography skills using her Instagram account, which I strongly recommend each of you find and explore her new adventure. She arrived at my house the day of the event with at least an hour to set up. While she was putting together he beautiful display we were able to catch up about the past few years of life, and while we were able to creep on each other through social media, there were so many aspects of our lives completely missed. It was really intriguing to just pick each other’s brains about life for an hour or two before everyone arrived.

Her displays were so elegant, and the jewelry… WOW, the jewelry was definitely worth every penny. I was totally impressed and admitted almost immediately how this jewelry blew the line I used to sell out of the park. The line is newer to our area, and I believe everyone who was able to stop by was also impressed by the quality of the jewelry. This is not your typical cheap costume jewelry. Kayla was wearing a beautiful necklace she had owned for several years and it looked brand new.

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Once closing out the party it was a matter of days before my free and fifty percent off items arrived. The packaging was so classy and professional. I have to admit, I saved the boxes! The care and quality in the packaging was incredibly impressive.

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The materials were such high quality and the options were ENDLESS, that I seriously changed my mind about 5 different times trying to figure out what to order. (Kayla will vouch for this…!)

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This leather wrap bracelet is definitely my favorite and has just enough gold on it to go with just about any outfit. I wear it daily with two very special bracelets that are near and dear to my heart. (Yes… yes, I do have friendship bracelets with some of my bests, and I never take them off. My husband makes fun of me for this at every opportunity possible.)

The next item up on my list of great bracelet finds is this pretty little white and gold number.

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This one paired up really well with the first bracelet I opened, and I do wear them quite often together, but I try to not wear the white as often with the harsh reality of two toddlers running around like maniacs.

The third and final bracelet on my list of Stella and Dot must-haves is this silver and cool minty blue bracelet.

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How can you not LOVE a piece of jewelry that says, “hello gorgeous” before you even meet it?!

I love all of these new pieces of jewelry and did a serious re-evaluation of my former jewelry purchases, weaning out the cheaper and slightly over-bedazzled styles of my meal attempt at selling jewelry.

At this point, I feel very safe in saying I will be making several more purchase from Kayla’s Stella and Dot website, which you can access HERE, and strongly recommend having her over for a fabulous girls night in of your own! Isn’t this what we new Moms, experienced Moms, young Moms, older Moms, and soon-to-be Moms do? We collaborate, and we support each other. So trust me when I say, investing in this product will not leave you disappointed.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2017

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This week I have really been focusing on gift giving. I know it’s a random time of year to choose gift giving as a topic of interest, but there is something about Spring that is so new and fresh and makes me want to put winter blues behind me and brighten some one’s day. It could also be that my husband and two very good friends have birthdays right at the beginning of Spring, or even the fact that Easter is coming just around the corner. Regardless of whatever inspired this mood of gifting, I wanted to share some of my top Mother’s Day Gift Ideas with my 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide.

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Every product includes a description of why you will love it along with an image and link to the product itself. Spoil your mother, or better yet, share this with your husband… and enjoy the spoiling yourself!

  1. Echo Dot

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Ok… so at first I wasn’t sure about the whole talking to a piece of technology in your home; however, there are countless times that I have my hands full with the girls and my husband is off doing whatever… and a little assistance would be nice! Our three year old likes to try to change channels and mess with the dvd player while I am cooking. How nice would it be to say, “Hey Alexa, play Frozen, for the girls.” Or even, “Hey Alexa, what is the next step in this recipe?” How many of you mothers use Pinterest as your recipe book? I do! I am constantly flipping through my phone, leaving flour or who knows what else on the touch screen of my phone while trying to cook.

2. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

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This classic novel, is a picturesque story of the occasional struggles between mother – daughter relationships, and the secrets children sometimes are unaware of when it comes to their parents. Kristin Hannah’s attention to detail and build up in this heart warming novel will leave any mother in tears of joy by the end.

3. Keurig 2.0 K200 Series

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I am a coffee junkie! My husband and I recently purchase a more elaborate coffee system, but inevitably returned to our classic Keurig. It is so simple and convenient! I registered for a Keurig 5 1/2 years ago before we were married and my teaching friends purchased it for us as a shower gift. I still have that system. Keurig products are such great quality products. There is something about feminine colored appliances that really appeal to me. I love this K200 in Oasis. Keurig also offers a K250 in Sandy Pearl

4. Gold Flatware by Threshold

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I confess, I have been eyeing this set of flatware up for months. I am in love with the gold finish and the price! You just can’t beat a good value that looks and feels like quality. If anyone happens to speak with my husband, this would be an excellent addition to our home…!

5. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

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My Kitchen Aid is my appliance better half. My husband bought me a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for my first mother’s day and I use it constantly. It literally fell out of the hatch of my vehicle on a trip to my sisters this past Christmas, bounced across her driveway, and miraculously still works. There was a moment I thought I might be losing my poor baby appliance, but it was a trooper and pulled through! If that doesn’t sales pitch you on the quality of this machine, I don’t know what will. This is the specific model I use and love. I would recommend ordering an additional bowl, for busy baking days. While this item is on the higher end of the shopping budget, it certainly will let the Mother in your life know how much she is appreciated! Besides, who doesn’t love a little extra motivation to have baked good around more often?!

6. Porcelain Classic White Dinnerware Set

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LOVE my white dish set from Target. These dishes are high quality and affordable. You can purchase them as a set or individual pieces, which I also love. I was treated to a nice set of these clean white dishes last year for Mother’s day. The thing I love the most about a white dish set, is the timeless feel. You can switch in different accent plates, compliment with seasonal colors, and never get sick of it. While patterns and colors may be trendy a times, white plates will never go out of style. When I am investing in an item for my kitchen, I want it to last. These plates are exactly that.

7. Decorative Dry Erase Boards

Help Mom stay organized and stylish at an affordable price at a mere $9.99 with this Marble Dry Erase Board or this Navy Blue and Copper Chalk Board. These are so cute and would look great in an office, kitchen, or entry way! I have the Marble one in my Updated Home Office (post coming soon!).

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8. Classic Wooden Tray

These beautiful, yet simple, wooden trays remind me of a fun Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tradition we had in our home growing up. Each year on Mother’s day my dad and I (or my sister and I when she still lived at home) would get up and make breakfast for our Mom and take her a tray of breakfast in bed. As a kid it felt SO FUN to eat  breakfast in a bed! We did the same on Father’s day serving my Dad breakfast in bed as well. So when I stumbled across this Acacia Bed Tray and Espresso Benito Breakfast Tray I just had to share this fun tradition from my childhood. Even surprising Mom with the tray, breakfast, and some fresh flowers would surely start any Mother’s Day off perfectly.

9. A Shopping Trip!

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Plan a day and prepare in advance by surprising her with a scheduled date, child care arranged, and a budget for a shopping spree. Target now offers both credit cards and debit cards. If my husband ever said to me, “Here honey, I took care of scheduling a sitter for this day, and I have this awesomely full Target gift card (or credit card) spend the day enjoying yourself!” I might just have a heart attack and never even make it to the store. Some of my close friends who have experienced my shopping trips to Target will vouch for how dangerous it would be to send me unsupervised into a Target store with a credit card. But trust me, it has happened…

10.  Affordable Floral Necklace

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When it comes to jewelry you will really need to feel your way through this. I like jewelry that is inexpensive, as the more trendy styles come and go; however, I have my select timeless pieces with more sentimental value. (See the next item if you’re looking in this direction) This necklace lays beautifully when paired with a simple shirt and jeans but can also dress up an outfit for an evening out with the husband. I find myself following the ever spinning circle of “silver” or “gold” falling more heavily on gold at the moment, but like that the crystal look balances out the gold if you’re still unsure about jumping back into gold jewelry.

11. Personalized Jewelry by Unmistakably Mine

  1. As I have mentioned in my previous post, UnmistakablyMine | Personalized and Affordable, this is my ultimate go-to shop on Etsy for personalized and sentimental gifts for those that I love.  You cannot go wrong on Mother’s day when shopping with Lori and her quality products from personalized necklaces for a mother, to bracelets for a friend, and  even the Pet Mommy out there will find items to cherish on her website.

12.  Reversible Tote

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Show me a Mother, and I’ll show you a multi-tasker. This bag is perfect for the Mom on the go. It’s inexpensive and REVERSIBLE! Plus if you click the link above, it comes in 8 color options. I have one in the black and tan reversible option, prior to this little gem of a pattern being released. I love the spring feel this pattern has, and the strength of the bag has my stamp of approval. I’ve carried multiple laptops in mine at once, along with items for my kids.

13. Terracotta Planters – Personalized

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Plants and planters seem to go hand in hand with Mother’s Day. Perhaps it’s that Kindergarten-Style brainwashing we receive when we place our hand prints on Terracotta planters at 6 years old.  Then followed by the act of planting the pot with basil or some other random herb and take our creations home to our mothers, hearts beaming, anxious for her approval. Today I am presenting you with an updated, modern approach to that childhood gift. Hello Smith and Hawkins:

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I love the small Terracotta Planters new, empty, and full of gardening tools or seed packets, or planted with a favorite flowering plant or frequently used herb.

14. Cake Stands – Not Just for Cakes Anymore

From white, to milk glass, to crystal, and even metallic, cake stands are one of the trendiest purchases of late. I have two currently, but would love to continue to grow this collection.  A simple White Cake Stand is always a classic starting point. Galvanized Metal Cake Stands add that rustic charm so heavily inspired by Chip and Joanna Gaines. And the third cute stand listed above is a sweet little Gold Cake Stand with pretty little details that would be a compliment to just about any cake or cupcake presentation.

But cake stands don’t have to remain in the kitchen. I’ve noticed some very cute presentations from jewelry trays on a vanity, to accent pieces on a mantle. The possibilities are endless. So get creative!

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Well there you have it. 14 ideas to inspire some unique, yet thoughtful gifts for the mother in your life. Celebrate her and all that she does for her family. If you are the mother, just forward this helpful little link on over to your husband and leave the rest up to him!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Unmistakably Mine | Personalized and Affordable

Everyone is all too familiar with the endless supply of creativity found on Etsy, along with the countless opportunities Etsy has provided to independent crafters across the globe. Sometimes shopping in such a massive environment can be overwhelming. If you haven’t dabbled in the art of Etsy shopping, I can assure you that you are missing out on some of the most unique crafts, home decor, and gifts available. The task of narrowing down the shops can be daunting. To ease the unnerves that tend to come with purchasing from a strange shop online, I love talking to friends and discovering their favorite shops. About two years ago, a friend gave me a gift certificate to a shop she loved as a gift during a sprinkle held in honor of our second little bundle. What she didn’t realize at the time was she was inevitably sealing the deal for every future sentimental gift I would purchase from that point on.

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Lori Parcels of UnmistakablyMine on Etsy has perfected the art of simple, timeless, and elegant. She is a crafter who produces custom jewelry that leaves friends connected forever, New-Mom hearts melted, and loved ones feeling so cherished by the gifts she creates. Her hand-stamped jewelry is elegant down to the packaging and Polishing cloth included with every purchase.

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When I first purchased my necklace from UnmistakablyMine, about a year and a half ago, Lori was wonderful to deal with. I messaged her regarding the gift certificate I was given and she responded back within a matter of hours. She explained my text options, finish options, and was so efficient that I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to share the experience.

My most recent order I received, included a series of 3 necklaces, one being a very late gift to my life long best friend after the birth of her second child. For this gift I chose a dainty and simple gold necklace with her children’s initials on it.

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I love the simple packaging and the jewelry is incomparable! The necklace I received using my gift certificate has each of my children’s names hand stamped neatly on the discs along with the birth date for each child. I have yet to even use the polishing cloth, but love this extra touch. It really ads to the vibes that Lori provides a quality product and she wants her work to withstand the test of time.

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The variety of products just continues to grow on UnmistakablyMine and brings frequent purchasers like myself, continuing to return for new, creative gift ideas. To date, I have purchased 10 gifts for friends and family from Lori, and I can guarantee that she will remain one of my top go-to’s for personal and affordable gift ideas.

Lori definitely makes the cut for this year’s 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide coming soon to Shimmering Twig.

Whenever you are in the market for a product that is high in quality but affordable, check out UnmistakablyMine and tell Lori that Whitney sent you.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Gray and Pink Big Girl Bedroom

My baby is growing up. It’s as simple as that. At an age just shy of two and a half, we switched her to a “toddler bed” which was nothing more than a missing side to the crib. I can clearly see why the packaging spoke of the conversion but didn’t show it. I was not impressed in the least. Now that she is 3, we have been tossing around the idea of a “big girl bed” for a while. So I began to browse all websites offering free shipping, great discounts, and guaranteed quality. I just wanted a bed that was pretty. I wasn’t looking for high quality, amish-carved, hardwood that would cost me an arm and a leg. I am sticking to this spend less, value more theme for the year, and while I did invest in my daughter’s room, I was able to balance it out with money brought in at the same time.

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I have been falling in love with the cross between slightly vintage and clean line inspired with a slight farmhouse feel. The space needed to be a room that would grow with my daughter. I settled for a pink and gray theme, knowing that a neutral wall could easily be updated with new decor or bedding throughout the next 15 years of her life.

I started the room on a binge spring cleaning, decorating, and organizing weekend while my husband was off looking at hunting property. My favorite type of project weekend: one where I am left to my own devices, uninterrupted by the husband who is slowly learning to trust my decorating style. My parents graciously offered to have a sleep-over on the chosen Saturday evening to allow me a solid 24 hours for the transformation to take place.

I can still remember the day spent painting my daughter’s baby room in our old home, Benjamin Moore blue paint, paint rollers, round belly and all. I spent a solid 3 hours recapping this experience in the post, Painting Away the Baby Blues if anyone is interested in my ramblings about how quickly time passes. Her room was so darling with it’s blues and pinks.1610776_10202449172093566_6772120460429108894_n

My Mom hand-made the bedding for this little princess, and for that I will always be grateful! My very good friend now owns it with her sweet little peanut nestled in to it.

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Since vamping up my quality of decorating materials, I have become a devout Benjamin Moore Paint fanatic. I travel a solid forty five minutes to get the paint, and every mile is worth it because the quality of this paint is incomparable, as are the shades of colors they offer. I settled for a beautiful shade of A la mode which is found in the current Whites handout in the store. You can see photographs of my inspirations along with my daughters room on my Pinterest board, Gray and Pink Bedroom. I was so excited watching the simple paint transformation take place. My daughter’s bedrooms are small to say the least also lacking in closets. It took me a matter of 2 hours to cut in and roll the four walls slowly, therapeutically going through my process and listening to Pandora into the wee hours of the night. (Ok… I was done painting by 10:30, which is way later than I ever stay up.)

Getting excited about the progress in the room, I couldn’t hold out until morning without putting my daughter’s bed together, so my next task was moving the furniture I was selling out of the upstairs and brining this darling metal framed bed in pieces to assemble in the room. It was a simple project and I was able to complete the assembly by myself.

I bought the DHP Bombay Metal Bed in White for $99.00 on Amazon. You can go directly to link above to see the bed itself. It was a simple assembly and a good quality bed. My daughter loves the swirl details in the head and foot boards.

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The pink floral balls hanging from the ceiling were from the previous bedroom theme but transferred nicely into the new room. I liked being able to keep a few items from the previous decor to help with this heart-breaking transition to a “big girl.” I believe they were from T. J. Max and cost around $10.00 a piece.

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I spent the next morning adding in all of the details, arranging the furniture and hanging this gorgeous Pink Canopy Tent I also found on Amazon earlier in the week. for under $47.00

While the owl rocker doesn’t exactly match her bedroom anymore, it was so cute, I couldn’t take it out of the room! My mother in law gave all three of her newest grand daughters those for their first Christmas two years ago.

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Now for this mirror. I Love this mirror! I stumbled across this on a spontaneous T. J. Max shopping trip the day before my renovation project. It cost me 45.00, but as far as I am concerned, was worth Every. Single. Penny.  I was able to find a similar version on Amazon by Little Colorado HERE. My daughter loves looking in the mirror and checking out her outfit for the day! I still want to find a cute little hook and pretty hanger to lay her outfit out the night before.

 

The mirror leads me to my next favorite detail: the Gold Vinyl Dot Wall. I love, love, love this detail!!  This one simple little accent wall completed the room. They were easy to attach and only cost $10.00! (All blue links will lead you directly to each product)

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I considered an even spread of dots, but loved the look of dots being shot out from the corner, like stars falling gracefully from the sky. This won me some major points with my daughter, let me tell you!

The bedding is a whole different story. I struggled to find this bedding. It is Pillow Fort by Target, and was incredibly difficult to track down. They are out of stock every where you look. You can find it from some sneaky Amazon sellers who quadrupled the price. I, however, was not willing to pay 100.00 for a bedding that was 25.00 originally. I was able to find two fairly reasonable distanced stores selling the bedding and pleaded and begged a shipment out of the store.  I also found a perfect match set of sheets from the Better Homes and Gardens collection at Walmart. It’s a coral floral set that is so stinking cute!

Update* The pinch pleat bedding by pillow fort can now be found HERE on Target’s Website!

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As for the accent pillows throughout the room, they were a series of accent pillows either pulled from other bed sets used in our bedroom, the living room, and one perfectly pink and white pillow with gold dot accents came from a spur of the moment T. J. Max find.

The wooden crate was a repurposed crate I had laying around the house. I am a crate junkie and cannot be held accountable for any crate purchases made. You just never know when one will come in handy!

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It made the best little stuffed animal holder, and pillow holder once we discovered our daughter is not interested in sleeping with pillows!

The clean white lines of the metal bed really balanced out well with the rough wood of the crate and were pulled together with this super cute sign I found at Jo Ann Fabrics.

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The three items together, along with the white wooden mirror helped to pull the entire room together!

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The final touch added to the room was a set of sweet little white Christmas lights that added that final little soft sparkle to a space designed for one sweet little lady.

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By the time the room was complete, I could not wait for the girls to return and for my husband to get home to see the finished product! I spent the next several hours pacing the house, rearranging spring decorations and cleaning every nook and cranny of our house!

There are so many spaces in my house that I never thought to clean, which is incredibly gross, but I managed to take care of each one during my 24 hours of peaceful project work. Seriously, what did any of us do with all of our time before kids?

So lets break down the Budget:

Prior to renovations I sold our crib and changing table netting us + $100.00
I also sold the travel play pen we used for our babies + $50.00
A set of baby toys were also sold + $65.00

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+ 215.00

From that we spent 99.00 on a bed frame and 85.00 on a mattress leaving us at:

+ 31.00

I also purchase the canopy, mirror, and bedding

-25.00
-45.00
-47.50

Miscellaneous decorations and pillows totaled up to:

-50.00
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Leaving me with a grand total for my bedroom renovation of:

$136.50!

I feel that is spending less and valuing more, please don’t hesitate to share any ideas or renovation projects you’ve taken on recently with me! I love to see start to finish projects!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Designing a Home Office

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Whenever designing a home office there are a few things to consider before jumping head first into your project. I have been considering a home office space for about a year now. But since I haven’t had a real need for one until recently, the idea just kept getting brushed aside. We live in an incredibly old farm-house. It has the old farm house charm, but was freshly renovated before we moved in. When my husband and I walked through it for the first time, incredibly pregnant with our first child we both immediately fell in love with the space, the location, and the PORCH. Seriously, the massive porch on our house is a second living space in the warm weather seasons.

The house is set up in an L-shape floor plan with a brightly lit living and dining space and an impressive sized kitchen just off the dining room. A mud room, laundry room, and 3/4 bathroom were added after the original home was built and they are located just off the kitchen.

The second floor replicates the L-shape with a master bedroom above the living room. Just outside the master bedroom is an open hallway at the top of the stairwell with a bathroom and a door to the bedrooms. The one unusual thing about the floor plan is that you must go through each of the additional bedrooms to get to the next bedroom. Our house is considered a 4 bedroom residence, but each of the girls’ bedrooms are slightly narrow and lack closets. Very inconvenient since we have all daughters. But we make it work.

The first of the three adjoining bedrooms has been primarily dominated by my husband, turning it in to his western-Pennsylvania “trophy room” full of every type of mount you can imagine. We all win with this arrangement: he gets a man space, and I get a dead animal-free first floor. The girls bedrooms are just beyond this man case, which concludes the floor plan explanation.

Having talked you through my house, you may have noticed, every space is being used by a dominating purpose. There is no real spare room or office space in our home which meant I needed to get creative on my placement of my home office. I considered placing the office in the corner of our dining room; however, this space already has a lot going on and is just on the edge of becoming over-cluttered. We have a fire-place, staircase,  two doorways and even a closet door. The room also holds a dining table that seats 12 limiting the extra space.

My next thought was to utilize the additional space in our bedroom. The master bedroom is a bit large and a slight waste of space. In the future I would like to see our small bathroom expanded into the extra space. Unfortunately this construction project is not in the near future, so I settled on this space. The other plus to this room, is the amazing lighting. We have a windows on 3 of the four walls making it such a bright and welcoming space, particularly in the morning hours when I will be spending the majority of my time working in here.

I decided to use the smaller desk that was currently acting as an entryway table, (which lead me to redecorating the entryway… see how my mind works?!) as my desk. I love this simple white desk that worked well with the white woodwork throughout our home and had the simple clean lines that I like, without giving it a modern feel. I also received my equipment from the Cyber School I would be working for and knew the printer I received was massive, clunky, and black. I found a black filing cabinet to put the beast printer on to help blend that bad boy away from becoming an eye sore.

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Getting the equipment in place, the basic furniture set, I felt I had a good foundation to add the fun pieces. You want your workspace to be cute, but it needs to be functional and suit your specific needs. I will be teaching from this station, so I needed to make sure the backdrop for my lessons was simple. Since my husband’s side of the room would be behind me, it is very plain. Perfect. Next I would need to find ways to organize my daily supplies and make my bland view, a little more fun.

By the way, the color of my walls is Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore. You will never see a room in my house painted in anything but Benjamin Moore paint. I Love the quality of the paint, the thickness and the ease of cutting and rolling such rich paint.

After leaving my office alone for a couple of days to think about what items I really wanted I used an inconveniently scheduled doctor’s appointment and made the most of the day browsing the sale isles of various stores. My super creative friend showed me this darling sign she found at JoAnn fabrics and I immediately said “I need that for my office!!” Knowing they were having a 50% off sale I started there.

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I also found this great little glass milk jug holder there, and I’ve linked a similar product HERE for you if you are interested in this style of organization. The art teacher comes out in me when I organize. I can’t help but place all warm colored pens together, cool colors together, and blacks separated as well.

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If I am going to function well in the digital classroom, I need only a few items right at my reach, a planner located in my drawer, a notebook to write down to-do lists, and easily accessible pens.

I also am a “hanging file junkie” and will be using this as not only my classroom but finally a home office space, where I will keep all bills, family documents, and resources that might come in handy from my former teaching position. I plan to use the filing cabinet for bills, family documents and older resources that might come in handy in my new position.

I found these really cute crates at T J Max on clearance and decided I would use them as an additional filing system for all documents needed while teaching online and writing IEPs for my new caseload.

I love hanging file crates! How cute are they? Plus they distract from the ugly shade of green on the hanging file folders. Here is a similar product on Amazon you could use in youor own home office. Large Crate and Small Crates.

I also found this sweet little gem as a little reminder to myself each day why I chose this career and how fortunate I am to jump on opportunities like this digital career shift. Everyone needs a little reminder to Dream Big, so why not have one right in front of you every day?

Home Office-11

While my bedroom is fairly large, I didn’t want to add too much to distract from the simplicity of the room or look too bulky. So I began searching a series of chairs, from slipper chairs to crazy finds at TJ Max and discovered, once again, in the clearance isle a simple adjustable office chair that was less than distracting.

Home Office-16

I found a CLEAR OFFICE CHAIR! It literally blends into the space when rolled in, fits neatly in its place, doesn’t distract from the simple space, and is, believe it or not, comfortable!

You can find a similar chair HERE for your own office space.

Now there is one last piece I need to share. Every time I start a major career, I have one piece from these two particular girls. When I was starting my first teaching job, I took a vase and flowers made for me by my nieces as a little piece of home. That vase has stood the test of time and is still on my desk. I recently received a beautiful little cross stitch from my one niece and felt that I needed another good luck charm as I start my next career adventure.

Home Office-12

And that brings me to the finished product. My functional, personalized office space:

Home Office-05

So lets recap. There are several critical things to consider when designing an office space that works for you:

  1. Spacing and Location – If you have a designated room for a home office, your creative opportounities are endless; however, if you have limited space, as I did, you need to create an environmenet that utilizes the space efficiently
  2. Functionality – What will your office be used for? Will you be storing significant files? Or will you be primarily digital and simplified. These are all critical factors in laying out your space. Determine what items you need to be your most efficient self.
  3. Style – Find a style that fits your personality. If you aren’t sure what that is, Pinterest is always a great starting point. I wanted a style that held the farm house charm, but still reflected simple clean lines

So, whenever tackline your home office:

  1. identify your space
  2. repurpose furniture you may already have laying around your house
  3. determine what your purpose will be for the office
  4. find an effective layout for your office
  5. shop the clearance isle for cute accents
  6. have fun with it!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Groceries | How to Simplify Your Shopping

Grocery shopping is usually the most dreaded task of the week. Whether it’s the idea of dragging two little children through several stores to get everything on your list, or the idea of planning meals with zero assistance from fellow food critics in the house, the fact is grocery shopping sucks. Period.

With this new mental shift to spend less and value more, it has been my personal goal to find ways to save on our grocery shopping. I have an amazing sitter who clips diaper and wipe coupons for me all of the time, but I’ve recently discovered a way (and yes… the rest of the world has been doing this for a couple years already…) to earn the benefits of coupons without the hassle of searching, cutting, saving clippings, and not to mention actually remembering  to use them at the check out isle.

With my new approaches to weekly grocery shopping I have successfully dropped our weekly bill from almost 200.00 a week to my most recent success of $87.56!! This is literally the lowest I’ve ever spent to cook for a week!

If you have a Walmart near you, I strongly recommend downloading the app on your smart phone or device. At the bottom of every receipt you’ll find a code to scan. Using the Savings Catcher app in your device all you have to do is TAKE A PICTURE of this code and your receipt is automatically logged in your account. Walmart then does all of the leg work for you searching local promotions and actually GIVES YOU MONEY BACK. No joke.

Again, I am very much aware of the fact that the rest of the world has been doing this for a couple years now, but I was the type of person to blow that off thinking I was “too busy” to worry about these types of things. But the reality is, no one is too busy  to do half of the stuff they claim to be too busy for. You make time for the things in life you want to do. I find the statements “you have too much time on your hands” or “I’m way too busy to do things like that” incredibly insulting, although I am aware those statements are not meant to be insults.

The reality is: If you want to do it, you will. If you do not have the desire to accomplish a certain task or goal, the statement “I’m too busy” is a safe cover. Life is about priorities and how we use our time. Trust me there have been countless weeks where I have wasted ridiculous amounts of time and used the line “I’m too busy.” Everyone is busy in these crazy times we live in, its just a matter of prioritizing what you want to accomplish in that busy life. My goal for this year is to actually accomplish the things I set out to do.

So back to this annoying task of GROCERY SHOPPING. Ugh, even the words make me sigh. I have found a routine that really seems to help me, and perhaps it could help someone else as well, so I would like to share it with you. Before I shop I make a list starting with the meals I want to make for the week. I try to think about the groceries I have already in my house and the ingredients I bought for recipes from the previous week that were never used or never made. If I have a roll-over meal from the previous week I put it down first and then try to fill my list with 5 quality meals. By quality I do not mean highly organic or super healthy, just real meals I know my family will eat, and perhaps even re-heat as left overs.

This is one of those habits I learned from my mother. She was like the epitome of organized shopping back in the 90’s with her sweet pre-fab word document lists printed ahead of time. She then went through the regular items she bought routinely marking what was needed and eliminated what she didn’t need. All of her meals were listed on the side of the grocery list.

Once my meals have been planned I write down the groceries I need for the week, making sure not to miss a single ingredient. (I usually suck at this part, but have been consciously trying to improve on this task.) The goal is to go to the store ONE TIME. I find that when I begin making random frequent trips during the week, I spend way more than I planned on. My lists usually look something like this:

grocery-org

I’ve also started a habit of putting my lists and menus in the same notebook each week, so when I’m really struggling for meal ideas and I don’t have my recipe book close by, I have previous menus and lists to flip through for ideas.

Now, I have tried grocery shopping on a variety of days during the week, but have discovered that the most efficient time to accomplish my goal of sticking to my list is after work on Fridays. Fridays for me are like the fresh start that some view Monday as. The work week is done, but the weekend is just beginning. I used to grocery shop first thing Saturday morning after breakfast, and before morning naps. While this time worked well too, I don’t enjoy shopping for groceries and hated to start my weekend out that way. I also don’t enjoy making myself presentable that early on a weekend.

When my girls are at the sitter, I swing in and pick them up first before heading to the store. On the off chance they are spending the day at the grandparents I definitely capitalize on this and go without them. One of the parenting decisions I made early on and will never regret was incorporating my girls into shopping trips from an early age. Both are excellent shoppers and behave wonderfully (most of the time…) because it’s normal to them. Actually, my three-year old is super disappointed when she misses this weekly outing.

Once I return home I make a point to WRITE MY MENU DOWN in my kitchen… and yes, almost every time someone comes to my house to visit I get some funny little menu adjustment to my chalk board (Rob… we know it was you!) This may seem silly, but if I don’t write down what I planned, by Tuesday I can’t remember any of the meals I bought groceries for!

I have these three boards in my kitchen in a neat little row to help keep track of menus, upcoming events, daycare hours, and appointments. I cannot stress how much more organized my life has become since purchasing this chalkboard, cork board, and dry erase board!

So lets recap:

  1. Make a Menu – planning from items you already have in the house
  2. Pick a specific day that works for YOU – Mine is Friday, but this might not be the case for you.
  3. Stick to the List! – Hold strong while in the store and avoid tempting isles like the chip isle, snack isle, etc. where you may be tempted to throw in those extras.
  4. If children are involved, stay consistent! – My girls shop frequently with me, and while they are expected to behave, if I have a particularly long to-do list, I try to reward them with something small for being extra good.
  5. Do not return to the store! – Once you’ve finished your weekly shopping, make sure you have EVERYTHING and do not return to the store! No exceptions!
  6. Once you’ve finished, scan your receipt! – At this point, I have been using Savings Catcher for 3 weeks, and I’m up to 7.00 in extra money returned to me!

If you don’t shop at Walmart there are plenty of other savings options for you, particularly if you hate the idea of coupon clipping.

iBotta is another great savings tool you can use online or as an app in your smart phone. My sister in law introduced me to this over a year ago, but I didn’t really get into it until recently. The part I like about this app is the community approach. You can look at others who have referred you to see how they are using the app and what savings they’ve found. And let me tell you, that girl can SAVE! She’s a big part of my motivation to try to be a little more budget conscious this year.

Use my referral code: vsfqjix
when signing up and we both get extra money to start out! There is no expense to you when using this application and no spam associated with it. You simply log into the app and browse the current promotions going on at your favorite store, select them, and verify the purchases by taking a picture of your receipt.

Ebates was also recommended to my by a friend who is fantastic with saving money. I am a big time online shopper, so when I heard exactly how Ebates worked, paying you to go through their app prior to shopping online, there was no down side to me! You can now shop in stores and earn the same money back with Ebates.

Use my referral code: Click here

and get started saving while you shop! My first pay-out was only 30.00 and I used the app 3 times to earn that. If you refer a friend you get a nice little promo chunk added to your account!

I hope some of these time saving tips help you out going forward shopping! Again, I probably wouldn’t be so motivated to really step up my budgeting A-game if it hadn’t been for the motivation from my sister-in-law who is AMAZING at this! So thanks girl!

Cheers!

  • Whitney