Week In Review | March 23 – March 29, 2015

Happy Monday, friends!  I wanted to share some tidbits from my life last week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram feed with you.  Here’s the buzz:

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It’s hard to believe that we’re already embarking on the second quarter of the year with the end of March.  Life sure zips along quickly!  The way I slow down time is by taking a moment to appreciate the little things.  Some people find this quality juvenile and in some sense of the word it is.  Do you remember how slowly time ticked by when you were a kid?  How come it seems to pick up the pace so much once we enter adulthood?  It’s no trick.  Most of us were able to appreciate the little things when we were children, because we hadn’t yet been taught that it’s a “waste of time” to do so by our culture’s laser focus on productivity (read: making money).  My secret to stretching out and holding onto time when I feel it revving up to an almost frantic pace is through finding joy in the little things: the rich color of an herbal tea, spring snow clinging to tree branches, nibbling on cookies while reading a good book, the beautiful bubbles and patterns in the tub from bath products.  The list could go on and on.  I do all of this and still manage to be pretty darn productive in my opinion.  I wish everyone could know this secret and that it is not a waste of time to enjoy the little things.  It is, in fact, a gift of time.

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While I’ve always been the kind of person who delights in what others may find small and inconsequential, I have struggled in my adulthood with finding the joy in everyday nutrition.  Don’t get me wrong, I love food, particularly when it comes to individual things, such as pickles, chocolate, berries, avocados, peas, and ice cream, just to name a few of my favorites.  I’ve noticed over the years that I don’t take the time to appreciate the complete picture of my nutrition even though I do make an effort to eat mostly healthy fare.  I often find myself eating a meal without really thinking about it.  Common meal time distractions for me like watching YouTube videos, flipping through catalogues, and surfing the web don’t help, either.  Every so often I realize I’m not paying attention to the actual act of eating and will work on bringing my attention back to it, but it’s never sticked before and I think that’s because I don’t treat my meals, mainly breakfast and lunch, as special.  You might be scratching your head wondering why I’m going on about this, but consider how important food is to our well-being.  It’s literally what fuels us.  So why not treat every meal with respect and attention?  While I generally stick to my 80/20 rule of healthy vs. indulgent nutrition, which is a healthy balance for me, I have a feeling really committing to this principle of eating with awareness will make a big difference in my general health.  I’m going to give it a real go and I’ll report back once I’ve given it some time.

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My weekend was packed with lots of prep work as I prepared this week’s content in advance since I will be traveling most of the week.  I’m excited about my upcoming posts and can’t wait to share them with you!  I also posted a couple of times this past weekend, including a new Book Nook and a Cook Nook where I share the recipe for paska bread, an Easter tradition in my family.  I’m feeling so energized about posting here and on my YouTube channel lately and am working on falling into a better routine with it.  From what I gather in the comments, you guys are enjoying my content lately, too.  This brings me great joy and I hope to continue to be able to share in a way that makes us feel connected.

You might have noticed I’m feeling rather introspective in this post and that definitely reflects my current mood.  Last week I spent some time at my Grandma Betty’s condo with my family for the last time.  She’s moving out to San Diego this week to live with my aunt and uncle.  I applaud her courage and enthusiasm to take on this new chapter of her life at 94 years young, as she likes to say.  Grandma wanted us to come by and pick things we’d like to keep of hers, since she’s not taking much with her.  Going through her things and talking about the stories behind family treasures was a bittersweet experience, as I am sad we won’t live so close anymore but am also so happy she’s finally going to be reunited with her daughter on a permanent basis (they get along like two peas in a pod!).  I am so grateful I’ve been able to spend time and get close to my Grandma and can’t wait to visit her and the family in California.

I vlogged a bit from my day with Grandma and the family last week if you’d like to “meet” this special lady:

I’d love to hear from you if you care to share your favorite kinds of small moments and little things.  I find it fascinating to learn what brings others joy.  We’re all different in our preferences, opinions, and feelings, and yet the same in so many ways.  In sharing our differences within the context of our broader similarities we are able to develop connections that can cross borders and barriers of all kinds.  Sharing is caring.
I hope you all have a wonderful week filled with small and big moments that bring you joy!

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* This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Jen’s Cook Nook | Paska Bread

With Easter right around the corner, I’ve got baking on my mind as I am in charge of all of the baked goods for our family’s annual Easter supper.  One of my favorite things to make is Paska bread, a deliciously dense loaf that is slightly sweet and dotted with raisins.  I’m excited to share this family recipe with you!

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My mother-in-law, Suzanne, passed this recipe on to me when I married her son and I have baked it every Easter for the past ten years.  The recipe is Slovakian in origin and was passed down to Suzanne from her aunt’s mother, Mrs. Resavi.  It is a family tradition that I treasure and am proud to be able to continue and now share with you.

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I demonstrate the recipe in this video and provide my personal tips and tricks:

Let me know if you decide to try out this recipe.  Please feel free to send pictures via Twitter or Facebook if you do!  I’d love to hear what some of your family traditions are when it comes to homemade food and what you’re planning on making for Easter this year if you celebrate.
Happy Baking!

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* This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely our own. *

Jen’s Book Nook | Big Little Lies

Welcome back to another Book Nook where I share my thoughts on my current reads.  After finishing Confessions of a Shopaholic I was still in the mood for chick lit, but with a bit more depth.  This book was just right to suit that mood.

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

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I decided Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty was the perfect choice keeping this in mind.  I had high expectations for this book as I remembered thoroughly enjoying The Husband’s Secret, also by Moriarty.  She has a distinct way of turning what could be just another mediocre chick lit story into a juicy plot filled with twists and intrigue.  It’s not all thrills, however, as Moriarty manages to inject a lot of depth and emotion into her characters.  Covering all of that in one fast-moving, attention-grabbing novel is no easy feat.  I applaud Moriarty’s ability to do all of that with grace.

One of the things I like best about this story is that it follows seemingly ordinary people, predominantly young families living in a quiet coastal town in Australia, that seem rather unremarkable at first glance.  Moriarty lifts the curtain for the reader to reveal the intricate complexities that people work hard to keep hidden in order to “fit in.”  We’re all people with baggage, after all, but no one really like to admit that openly.  The way that Moriarty brings depth to her characters is in her carefully thought out timing with what bits she reveals.  This kept me intrigued with the storyline as it had a natural flow to it, but also allowed me to connect deeper with the main characters as their truths were revealed in stages, just as you learn things about people you grow close to.  It’s very rare that someone bares their soul to you in one fell swoop; rather, there is a process of gaining trust that evolves over time.  The ability to translate this feeling into a story showcases Moriarty’s grace as a writer in my opinion.

While you might assume Big Little Lies is just another light read after sweeping over the description, Moriarty makes it clear from the very beginning that it is not your average chick lit.  She starts by providing a glimpse of the climax of the book within the very first chapter, after which she backtracks to six months before that fateful school trivia night.  Within the first five pages, you learn that something terrible and unexpected has happened at an otherwise normal school event.  This sets the mystery in motion from the very beginning.  It’s an effective hook that Moriarty continues to flaunt over the course of the story as she inserts snippets of conversation from that fateful night at the end of most chapters.  As a reader, you are constantly reminded that there will be a climactic event and the reasons behind it and exact people involved are revealed to you piece by piece.  It’s mystery and it works!

I really like how Moriarty uses a close third person point of view jumping between the three main female characters, Jane, Celeste, and Madeline, in each chapter.  In this way, she provides the reader access to three very different experiences along the same timeline.  I was able to understand the backstories and motives of each of these three very different women.  I felt like I better understood the many pieces of the puzzle thanks to Moriarty’s use of this literary technique.  It also allowed me the opportunity to get to know the characters on a deeper, more personal level, which added to my overall investment in the plot.

I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it as well as The Husband’s Secret to anyone who enjoys stories about the connections we share, whether we’re aware of them or not, in communities.  The added plot twists and mystery that Moriarty infuses in her work adds to the intrigue.

Just finished: Inferno by Dan Brown
Next on my list: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Please keep in mind that these are just my opinions and while we may disagree, it can be fun to share our different points of view.  I am very interested to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this book.  I’d also love to know what you’re reading now and any book recommendations you have.
Happy Reading!

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* This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Clothing Purge | KonMari Method

I’ve got the spring cleaning bug! I just completed a major clothing purge where I paired down my wardrobe by about 70%.  I am super excited to share this first installment of my 2015 Home Purge series with you!

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

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I was inspired by Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which I reviewed last week) to attack my entire wardrobe in one fell swoop.  I followed the KonMari Method, which suggests beginning the clothing purge process by placing piles of all clothing on the floor.  This first step was quite powerful for me as it revealed just how much I really had.  I was blown away by the sheer size of my pile!  Keep in mind it includes everything from everyday wear to special occasion clothes, sleepwear, workout gear, undergarments, and everything in between.

Kondo recommends a particular order to go through your clothing, which I basically followed, starting with tops, then moving onto bottoms, hung items, socks, underwear, bags, accessories, clothes for specific events, and finally shoes.  I veered slightly from this order saving my bags, accessories, and shoes for after all of the clothing, mainly because I couldn’t fit any more piles on my floor.  Even though it looks like one jumbled heap, I actually placed the clothing on the floor in piles in this order for ease of sorting.  While it did feel overwhelming at first, I found that once I sat down and started sorting I felt really calm and focused.  It took me about an hour and a half to go through and pick up each garment before deciding what to keep and what to give away.  In the end I broke the rules just a bit and tried on seven things I had put aside because I couldn’t get a clear read from just holding them.  I only kept one of those items and donated the rest.

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The “after” pile surprised me as well, but in a much different way from the “before” pile.  I had a feeling going into the purge process that I’d be getting rid of about 50% of my wardrobe, but I hadn’t expected to get rid of more than that and with such ease.  Using the KonMari Method, I was able to make instant decisions about each article of clothing and accessory.  Instead of hemming and hawing and getting stuck over rationalizations, which is what normally happens to me even when deciding whether to purchase or keep a new item, I instead relied on my feelings and intuition about each piece.  Right away after picking something up I knew if I had a good feeling about it or not for the most part and was able to make an immediate decision based on that feeling.  How liberating!  Taking the brainwork out of the equation freed me to really let go of what I truly no longer needed or wanted in my life.   I am a KonMari convert!

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I was left with five extra large garbage bags of clothes to donate, one regular size garbage bag of clothing and winter accessories and one regular size bag of trash (I only tossed things that couldn’t possibly be recycled like underwear and worn out socks and slippers).  I also filled 8 large shopping bags of nicer quality items to donate to specific charities, and two rectangular bins with enough handbags and accessories for my own charity auction next year (this year’s charity auction will be announced soon!).

Here is a list of the charities/donation drives I picked:

1. Goodwill – Items donated are sold and the revenue generated funds employment training and job placement services for people in the community.

2. One Warm Coat – Provides a list of local coat drives (most are held in the fall so I plan on keeping this bag in storage until then).

3. Dreams Delivered – Provides free prom wear including dresses, shoes, and accessories to local underprivileged high school students.

4. Dress for Success – Provides business appropriate clothing, shoes, and accessories to women in need going on interviews.

5. Shelter, Inc. Thrift Shop – Proceeds from sold items fund this organization which provides support to abused and neglected children and teens.

6. Northshore Exchange – High-end resale boutique whose proceeds support local charities serving children and families with the greatest need.

7. Personal Charity Auction – I sell my previously loved bags and accessories to support a charity of my choosing through eBay Giving Works.  This year’s charity auction will be announced soon!  Click here to see the results of my first charity auction.

I understand that not everyone will agree with my charity choices, but I ask that you please respect my right to choose where I donate my belongings.

I documented my entire clothing purge process in this video, if you’re interested in a more in-depth look:

I’m feeling energized after completing this major wardrobe purge and I can’t wait to tackle the remaining parts of my bedroom and then move onto the rest of my home.  I’ve decided I’m not in a particular hurry to complete my entire home purge process and will be breaking it down mainly by room from here on out.  I plan to space out my process so that I can focus on sharing other things with you as well in the coming months.  I’d love to know if you decide to give the KonMari Method a go and what you think of the process.
Happy spring cleaning!

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 * This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Subscription Box Round-Up | March 2015

I love receiving subscriptions delivered to my doorstep every month filled with fun products, ranging from beauty and lifestyle to food and crafting items.  It’s a great way to be introduced to new things I might not otherwise try.

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My current subscriptions include Julep Maven, Eco Emi Beauty, KnitCrate, and PopSugar Must Have.  Read on to see what came in each box this month:

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

Julep Maven

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It’s no secret that I love nail polish.  I’ve been a Julep Maven subscriber for a couple of years now and I always look forward to my monthly box from them.  The Julep polish formula is one of my all time favorites.  The Maven Box costs $24.99 a month, or $19.99 a month with a three-month prepaid subscription.  They ship to the United States and Canada only.  I love that you can select between several different offerings each month or even skip a month if you’re not feeling it.

I received the Classic With A Twist version of the Pop Collection for March which includes two polishes and a lipstick.  The two polishes in my box are LuLu, a light pastel purple crème, and Jahnavi, described as an “iced chai chrome.”  Both shades are soft and light and feel quite fitting for the transition from winter to spring.  The box also came with a Light On Your Lips Full-Coverage Crème Lipstick.  I like that I was able to pick my own shade during the Maven selection window offered before the box shipped.  I picked Primp, a marsala crème, which is apparently the color of the year.  I’ve only just tried this lipstick once, but so far, I really like it.  It’s a very “me” kind of shade in a brown-toned pink/neutral tone and the formula feels nice.

Each Maven box comes with a quote.  This month’s quote is: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’” – Robin Williams

If you’d like to learn more about the Julep Maven program, I recommend checking out their website.  Join now and use code SPRING to receive the four-piece welcome box for free!

Eco Emi Beauty

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The Eco Emi Beauty Box includes four to five deluxe or full sized natural and cruelty-free products ranging from bath and body to beauty and cosmetics.  It costs $22 per month for US customers, which includes shipping.  The box is available internationally for $34 a month.

The March box theme is “Spring is in the Air” and comes with three full size beauty products and one deluxe size perfume.  The “Always Loved” Perfume by My Daughter Fragrances features Bulgarian rose oil and Turkish rose absolute for that really rosy experience.  What a lovely spring fragrance!  The Bergamot Orange Sugar Scrub by Grain Bath and Home is densely packed with “organic cane sugar, avocado and grapeseed oils, soothing aloe vera and essential oils of bergamot, orange and grapefruit.”  Notably, it contains no nut oils for those with allergies.  I always love trying new scrubs and can’t wait to give this citrusy one a go!  The Gentle Peptide Cleanser by Jillian Wright Skincare is formulated with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich botanicals to help “reduce redness triggered by environmental stressors without stripping the skin of it’s natural lipid barrier.”  It is unscented, which is a bonus for sensitive types.  The Pressed Satin Luxury Eyeshadow by Haughty Cosmetics is designed to be a smooth, long lasting formula that is both paraben and cruelty-free.  I received the shade Awe, a pretty champagne shimmer.

Sadly, the March Box is the last Eco Emi Beauty Box.  The subscription line wasn’t as well received as the folks at Eco Emi had hoped, so they had to discontinue it.  You can still subscribe to their Monthly Lifestyle Box, which includes seven to eight samples of eco-friendly and all natural products.

KnitCrate

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I absolutely love KnitCrate, which is a monthly (or bi-monthly if that seems like a bit too much yarn coming at you) subscription service geared towards knitters.  There are eight different subscription options, which you can see here if you’re interested.  The prices range from $23 to $75 a month depending on which kit you choose and where in the world you live (they do ship internationally).  I subscribe to the Beginner’s KnitCrate, which includes a pattern suitable to that level, enough yarn to complete that project, a couple of bonus items (ranging from soothing to sweet to fun), and promo codes for knitting related products.  It’s basically the most awesome care package a knitter could ever dream of!

The yarn included this month is Scrumptious Aran by Fyberspates, a 45% silk and 55% merino blend.  It is deliciously soft and the magenta colorway is super vibrant!  There are two patterns included this month: Filkens by Jen Arnall-Culliford, a quirky wrap, and the Kenwyn Hat & Cowl by Rachel Coopey.  The fun extra is a Baby Baggu Nylon Tote.  This little resuable tote is made from ripstop nylon.  These are great to have on hand (I always carry a similar kind of bag in my purse).  The soothing extra is a packet of Lemon Wafer Bites by Dolcetto Petites.  Confession: I ate these as soon as I opened the package. LOL!  I couldn’t resist.  They were tasty and at only 100 calories a pack they are the kind of little daily treat I could get used to.  I see they’re also offered in chocolate and cookies and cream.  Sign me up!  As always, KnitCrate subscribers receive promo codes each month.  This month includes discounts on patterns by Melissa Sibley, and yarn from Lydia Yarn as well as Ewetopia Fiber.  There’s also a coupon to save on the Digital Tally Ring Counter..

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I also subscribe to the 5 Mini Add-Ons package available through KnitCrate.  Each month I  receive five 30-yard mini hanks in hand painted/indie dyed yarns.  It’s a nice way to try out a variety of  hand-dyed yarns from different providers.  I use the mini hanks I receive through this subscription for my Beekeeper’s Quilt.  This month’s selections includes five earthy shades of Kickapoo Sock by Kate Wright Designs.  This hand-dyed sock yarn is an 80% superwash merino wool and 20% nylon blend that is snuggly soft in deep colors.  I love all of the variety I get with this subscription for my ongoing quilt project!

If you’re interested in purchasing the Beekeeper’s Quilt Kit or other items from KnitCrate you can receive 10% off your first KnitCrate purchase (not including monthly or bi monthly subscriptions) by clicking here!

Popsugar Must Have

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This subscription is so much fun!  PopSugar Must Have is a monthly subscription service where you receive a selection of full size and premium beauty, fashion, home, and fitness items for $39.95 per month (this includes shipping and is available in the US only).  The March box theme is inspired by “Renewal, Citrus, Spring Break, Fresh, and Traveling.”  As usual, there is a nice variety of items in this box ranging from beauty to leisure.

Most of goodies they included this month are geared towards travel, especially to warm, beachy places.   The dayglo pink vinyl Pink Piña Zip Pouch by Samudra, a Popsugar exclusive, is perfect to toss into a beach/pool bag.  The What to Pack Pad from Knock Knock is a super cute and helpful list to aid in travel prep.  I am particularly excited about the deluxe sample set from Benefit, which includes the POREfessional and Roller Lash Mascara, as I’ve really wanted to try both.  Sample sizes like this are perfect for travel as well!  I was also happy to see one of my personal favorites, a Wet Brush, in this month’s box.  This small version called The Squirt is perfect to keep in my beach/pool bag to deal with tangly hair after taking a dip.  The bright yellow color makes it super easy to spot!  I’m always interested in trying new skincare products and am very interested to see how I like the Micromagic Microdermabrasion Treatment from Bliss.  It gets rave reviews on the Sephora website.  You guys know how much I love trying new snacks, and of course, I already ate the Halfpops that came in the box.  I had no idea half-popped popcorn could be so tasty!  I will definitely be hunting for these in my next shopping trip.  The last item is The Archivist Lemon + Cucumber Reed Diffuser Kit from Greenmarket Purveying Co.  I set this up in my office bathroom just yesterday and it immediately made my entire office smell divine.  It’s got quite the range!  The lemon and cucumber scent is a lovely refreshing combination for spring.  PopSugar delivered another smashing box, as per usual!

Click here to learn more about the PopSugar Must Have Box. Use code REFER5 to save $5 off your first box!

I like to order the special limited edition boxes that PopSugar offers from time to time.  I share a look at the Resort box in this video:

I picked up an additional Popsugar Must Have Resort Box as a special gift for one of you!  The PopSugar Must Have Resort Box Giveaway will run until Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  One person will win the PopSugar Must Have Resort Box like the one I showed in the video.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties. If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I hope you enjoyed seeing what I received with my subscriptions this month.  I’d love to know if you receive any monthly subscriptions, too!

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* All products mentioned are part of the Julep Maven, Eco Emi Beauty, KnitCrate, and PopSugar Must Have monthly subscription programs, for which I pay for my own memberships.  Post contains affiliate & referral links.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Week In Review (March 16 – March 22, 2015)

Greetings from snowy Chicago!  I wanted to share some tidbits from my life last week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram feed with you.  Here’s the buzz:

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As I write this there is now about half a foot of snow that’s accumulated in our backyard since the wee hours of the morning.  It’s hard to believe that just one week ago I took Winnie on walk into town the long way in appreciation of the gorgeous spring-like weather.  Spring, come back!  (Don’t worry, it will ;) ) While we were in town, we popped into Wet Nose, a recently opened pet boutique.  What a treat (quite literally for Winnie who was spoiled with cookies, belly rubs, and compliments from the lovely lady running the shop)!  It’s always fun discovering new dog-friendly places in the neighborhood.

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While I spent most of my weekdays doing what I normally do (film, take photos, edit, write blogs, repeat), I squeezed in a few extra fun bits in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.  It started with enjoying another glorious morning walk with Winnie and also included repotting a couple of plants (which felt like a “green” sort of thing to do).  And of course, the day ended with my once a year favorite, the Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s.  I know fully well that this is in no way, shape, or form good for me, but it’s oh so good and something I splurge on every year as a mini celebration of sorts.  St. Patrick’s Day heralds the changing of the seasons with the spring equinox landing just a few days later.  That’s definitely cause for celebration in my books!

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My brother’s family drove up from St. Louis to spend the weekend at my folks’ house, so we spent the majority of our time hanging out with them.  On Friday night we had a delicious dinner at my parent’s house and were joined by my Grandma and Aunt, who is visiting from San Diego.  My Mom made her famous boeuf bourguignon which is to die for!  On Saturday, we went to see the new Cinderella movie as a family.  I really enjoyed it, even though it was quite the tear jerker.  Later that evening the family came over to our house for a sushi dinner in honor of my brother’s birthday.  My parents shared photos from their latest trip to French Polynesia.  It was a relaxed evening of merry making (the very best kind of evening in my opinion!).  I spent the majority of Sunday going through my entire wardrobe using the advise from Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I recently reviewed.  What an experience!  I documented it and will be sharing very soon.  Stay tuned!

I hope you all had a wonderful week and are enjoying a much more spring-like start to the season than we are here in the midwest.  I’ll leave you with my favorite part of the Cinderella movie and words that I personally strive to live by:

Have Courage and Be Kind

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* This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Jen’s Book Nook | The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Happy first day of spring!  It’s that time of year when winter starts to fade away and the natural world around us comes out from hibernation.  Here in the midwest, the birds have returned in flocks and are singing sweetly, buds are forming on barren trees, and the tippy tops of dandelions and tulip buds are poking up through the ground.  With this energy of rebirth and regeneration all around us, many feel invigorated to clear out and clean up our homes.  Refreshing our surroundings is a natural reflection of the season.  It’s time to spring clean!

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

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I just finished reading the ever popular and current best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  This is essentially a guide on how to whittle down your belongings to only having things you truly love and keep it that way.  Kondo recommends a fully immersive purge and sort process which she calls the KonMari Method.  Her recommendation to do this all in one go is meant to have drastic results that basically shock you into changing your old cluttery ways for good.  While I plan to primarily write my book reviews and post them here in the future, I decided to film this book nook since it’s an appropriate segue into my own home purge I am about to embark on.  I talk about the book and my thoughts on Kondo’s process for the bulk of the video and then wrap up by discussing my plan for sharing my home purge process with you.

If you’d like to hear more about my thoughts on this book, check out my video:

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this book.  I’d also be very interested to hear about your plans for spring cleaning this year and what you hope to accomplish from them.  I will be sharing my own spring cleaning/home purge process and checking in with you along the way.  Stay tuned if you’re interested!
Happy spring cleaning!

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 * This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Pinspired | DIY Sharpie Mug

I’ve noticed the popularity of DIY Sharpie Mugs on Pinterest pop up over the past year and finally decided to give it a go.  It’s not quite as easy as you might think although the general concept is pretty simple.  Read on to see the steps I took and my thoughts about the process:

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

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I think this project is a great handmade gift idea.  I decided to design my mug using quotes from one of my husband’s favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, as a gift to pop into his spring basket of goodies (we exchange little treats with each other in celebration of the season every year).  I’m quite pleased with how it turned out especially considering I have absolutely zero artistic talent and rather unsteady hands.

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I was inspired by the many tutorials on Pinterest that pop up if you search for “DIY Sharpie Mugs.”  There are varying opinions on what the “right” method is, but from what I gathered the most important things to ensure a lasting design through many washings is to use oil-based paint markers and bake at a hotter temperature (in this case 425F).  After combing through many posts I settled on three from which I gathered all of the information I used for my technique, including prep, template design transfer, and setting advice from Living Your Creative and The Cozy Old Farmhouse, as well as the great tip about designing your template on a computer from Pink Heels Pink Truck.  Here’s how I made my own DIY Sharpie Mug:

Materials:

• Plain White Mug (mine was from Target)
Sharpie Oil Based Paint Markers (Fine)
• Rubbing Alcohol, Q-Tips, Paper Towels
• Scrap Paper, Ruler, Painter’s Tape, Sharp Pencil

Instructions:

• Wash and dry your mug thoroughly.  Wipe it  down with rubbing alcohol and allow to dry completely.

• Use scrap paper to measure out the template dimensions.  You can design what you’d like on your mug using your favorite computer program (I used Photoshop).  This could include text and/or images.  Make sure the template you design is set to the proper scale to fit your mug.  Print and cut down to size.  Or, draw out your design on paper cut to the proper dimensions.  Keep in mind that thicker lines are easier to transfer and trace onto the mug.

• Flip your cut template(s) over and completely shade the back of the text and/or images with pencil.  Make sure you shade the back of every possible area of your design for the best transfer.  

• Place your template onto the mug where you’d like it with the shaded side facing down (against the mug) and secure in place with tape.  Carefully trace the outline of your design pressing firmly onto the template using a sharp pencil.  When you’re done and you lift away the paper you’ll see a faint outline of your design left by the pencil lead.

• Use an oil based paint marker in the color(s) of your choice to fill in your design.  Please be advised that colors can change after baking.  Make sure you allow one side to dry completely before working on the other side if you have a two-sided design. You can use rubbing alcohol to “fix” any mistakes, but keep in mind that a little goes a long way.  Use it sparingly to avoid running.  I recommend lying down a small towel with a paper towel on top to help keep your mug in place while you work.

• Once you’ve finished filling in your entire design, allow the mug to dry for at least 24 hours before proceeding.  Make sure to clean up carefully around the design to remove any smudges and/or pencil marks.

• Place the mug on a sheet in your oven before turning the oven on.  Doing so will prevent your mug from cracking as a result of drastic changes in temperature.  Preheat your oven to 425F.  Once the oven is preheated, set your timer for 30 minutes.  At the end of 30 minutes, turn your oven off.  Leave the mug in the oven until the oven has completely cooled (this took about 4 hours for me).

• Let your mug sit for a few days before washing.  Now it’s ready to gift or use!  Some claim this setting process yields a “dishwasher safe” mug, but I recommend hand washing only for a lasting design.

*** Please be advised that I do not know whether this kind of paint pen is “food safe.”  There seems to be varying opinions whether the curing process of baking the mug makes it so or not.  If you’re concerned about it, I recommend avoiding placing your mug design anywhere it might come into contact with food or liquid. ***

You can see my step-by-step process in this video:

This is a fun project and a sweet handmade gift, but it is rather time consuming and takes some patience.  I’m very happy with how my mug turned out and I think Don will enjoy it.  I’d love to know if you decide to try this project how it turns out for you.  Feel free to send pictures via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram if you’d like.
Happy DIYing!

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* Techniques used adapted from Living Your Creative, The Cozy Old Farmhouse, and Pink Heels Pink Truck.  All opinions are my own. *

Week In Review | March 9 – March 15, 2015

Hello friends!  I wanted to share some tidbits from my life last week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram feed with you.  Here’s the buzz:

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The beginning of my week didn’t start off on the right foot…or any feet at all for that matter as I spent a couple of days under the weather in bed.  Luckily I had my all-star home care team of husband, Don, and pup, Winnie, who gave me all the TLC I needed for a swift recovery.  My sweet Mom even popped in for a midweek visit (we usually see each other for girl-time/lunch on Fridays) complete with hugs, flowers, and chocolate treats.  Talk about feeling pampered!  Later in the week even though I felt physically better, I was having a bummer kind of day and sweet Don made me one of his amazing grilled cheese sandwiches complete with a sliced pickle (my fave!) and veggie puffs to help cheer me up.  Comfort food like this is the way to my heart!  Fortunately, my slump didn’t last long and by the end of that very day I was feeling more like my usual chipper and optimistic self.  Food isn’t the answer to solving problems, but the sweet gesture definitely helped lift my mood.

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I spend more time in the bath when I’m not feeling great (either physically or emotionally), so I managed to get in quite a bit of tub and reading time last week.  I actually finished two books and started on a third!  It’s so nice to be back to reading on a daily basis again, especially after surprisingly not fitting much in over the winter holiday.  I enjoy all kinds of literature, but have been in the mood for chick lit and mysteries lately (and sometimes a combination of both), as you can see from my picks.  I just posted a Book Nook on Confessions of a Shopaholic if you’d like to hear my thoughts and should have reviews of the other two up soon.  I’m enjoying getting back into book reviews.

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My general well-being improved just in time to truly enjoy the glorious spring weather this weekend.  My goodness, it was ever so nice out!  I took extra long walks with Winnie every day in just a fleece jacket for the first time since fall.  I also relished airing out the house a few days in a row.  There’s nothing quite like opening all of the windows and letting fresh air run through the house for the first time after a long winter all shut up inside.  Winnie loves open window days, too.  Plus, there was a lot of people watching for her on the block this weekend as everyone was out and about running, walking, and playing in the neighborhood.  Welcome, spring!  We are so ready for you!

Don and I enjoyed a weekend at home with no big plans for the first time in awhile.  It was so relaxing!  I was able to run a bunch of fun errands I haven’t had the opportunity to do in some time.  We also enjoyed a lovely casual evening at Don’s folk’s house last night.  I vlogged our weekend at home if you’re interested in seeing more:

I’d love to know what your favorite comfort food is as well as any books you’re reading and loving lately if you care to share.  Here’s to a good week!
Take good care…

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* This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

The Bag Buzz | Jetsetter Mini Convertible Backpack

I’ve been promising this Bag Buzz post for awhile now, since I’ve shown the bag in my last few Favorites posts.  Without further ado, allow me to introduce…

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

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…the lovely Jetsetter Mini Convertible Backpack from Henri Bendel!  I purchased this bag last December and have worn everyday since.  I got into the backpack purse craze years ago when I used to wear a Longchamp backpack, but then I was more into tote style purses and more recently medium-sized crossbody bags.  Backpack purses apparently came back into vogue in the last year (I’m just guessing here, I really don’t know for a fact, but I’ve been seeing them everywhere) and I was reintroduced to wearing the style with my beautiful Mulberry Mini Cara Delevigne bag last fall.  Carrying a backpack purse has both its pros and cons, and the style is certainly an individual taste sort of thing.  I personally really enjoy the total hands-free experience of a bag thats weight is equally distributed across my back and shoulders.

OJ_TBBB_03-15-2015_05Burberry Bowpark Raincoat | Zella Live In Leggings | Frye Veronica Slouch Boots

I lusted after the original (larger) Jetsetter backpack as soon as it came out (early last year or around then, if I’m not mistaken), but it was just too big for my needs and didn’t suit my frame well.  I told myself that I would spring for it only if they came out with a smaller version.  I can’t tell you how excited I was when they finally did late last year!  It’s the absolute perfect size for me at 10.5″ high x 11″ wide x 5″ deep.  I wear mine solely as a backpack, although the straps are convertible so you can wear it on your shoulder or crossbody style.  The handles have a 5″ drop and each backpack strap is adjustable to up to 30″.  I keep mine on at the shortest length possible, because it’s the most comfortable on my back that way.

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All of the bags from the Jetsetter collection from Henri Bendel feature a durable, water resistant nylon fabric with saffiano leather trim.  The mini backpack has a ziptop closure with snaps to hold together the handles.  Unlike my Mulberry Cara Delevigne bag the Jetsetter’s straps are more stiff and stay upright without needing the closure, which I like.  There is a small slip pocket on both the front and back exterior.  My iPhone fits perfectly inside the back exterior pocket (it’s an iPone 5S with a Rifle Paper Co Clear Rosa Case).  The black backpack features gold-toned hardware, including a decorative padlock.

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The interior of the backpack is quite roomy and flexible thanks to the vibrant royal purple satin lining.  I can comfortably fit all of my usual everyday purse things in the bag, including my vlogging camera (a Sony RX1003) and case (not pictured).  I like that all of my things easily fit inside this bag without a lot of extra room for them to flop around.  Like I said, it’s the perfect size to me.  The bag includes a zip pocket on the back interior and a phone sized slip pocket on the front interior.  While there is no included key fob, I use the cross body d-rings, which are tucked just under the zipper on the interior of the bag when not in use, to hang my keys.

As usual, I will share the contents of my purse with you despite the fact that they are the same month after month.  I don’t switch these items up very often.  I may change my bags out with some frequency, but I like to keep the contents more or less the same.

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1. Orla Kiely Graphite Small Cosmetic Cube – My current Walking Pharmacy, this Target exclusive has great organizational elements built right in. Still available in a different printInterestingly, it seems they are discontinuing this line at Target, although I just noticed Ulta started carrying Orla Kiely makeup bags.  They don’t have this exact style listed on their website right now, but maybe they will in the future.
2. Vinyl Zip Pouch with Coupons – Exact one shown is no longer available but I also like this alternative from The Container Store.
3. Green Hearts Smart Shopper – Having a fold-up reusable tote in my bag comes in handy in a pinch.
4. Lunchskins Snack Bag – I like keeping a snack on hand & this little reusable (and washable!) pouch is perfectly sized to hold my favorite trail mix or other small snacks.
5. Two Pocket Card Holder from ATime4Everything on Etsy – A great way to cut down on bulky card cases!  I stow gift cards and store cards in mine.  My pocket card holder is pretty stuffed so I keep it together with a Mane Message hair tie (also great to have on hand).
6. Henri Bendel Mind Your Business Case – I keep my business cards in this beauty.
7. A small tin filled with treats for my pup, Winnie, and poopy bags.
8. Mulberry Bow ID Purse (no longer available) – My favorite wallet!  Perfectly sized to carry in smaller bags.
9. Car keys with my favorite Henri Bendel Bow Stripe Key Fob and Swiss Army Knife (this has come in so handy over the years!) & my house keys on a keychain sent from a viewer in Malaysia.
10. TicTacs & Bach Rescue Remedy Pastilles – One for fresh breath & the other is meant to soothe.

The Jetsetter Mini Backpack served me well this winter and I have so enjoyed carrying it for the past three months.  I’ve actually just switched out to Beauty, my Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandoulière 25, for spring (and yes, this bag is so gorgeous she deserved a name ;) ).  I’ll miss using my Jetsetter until next time!

I would love to know what bag you’re currently loving and carrying or just lusting after, if you care to share.  Handbag lovers unite!

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* This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

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