Despite my serious lack of talent and funds, I love to decorate! I enjoy making a space look nic(er).

Unfortunately, I learn the hard way through many mistakes and decorating disasters. This is why I have nearly forbid myself to spend money decorating these days. I’m okay with rearranging, re-purposing, and using materials I already have i.e. paint, fabric. But as far as the spending and buying new stuff to decorate with, I’m grounded. Maybe forever.

I find that I thrive on limitations. And I’m usually happier with the finished product because 1) I had to pull all my creative energies together to make it happen and 2) there is little to no money lost if I hate it.

A few things I’ve been working on lately… I rearranged kids rooms in preparation for the oldest two children to share a room come December. I painted our kitchen with paint I had leftover from painting our bathroom. I re-purposed a children’s table to use a bedside table. I painted it blue (and I did spend a little money for the paint). Pictured below is a window valance I made from an old maternity top. I paid $2.79 for the tension rod to hang it with. I know your thinking bless her heart…she thinks she’s decorating, she made a curtain out of a maternity top — ha. Remember I’m not claiming to be a talented designer. I just enjoy decorating, especially when I can make the most of what I’ve got. And this curtain makes me laugh (hard). And when I laugh I’m happy. Captain Steve was very enthusiastic and supportive of the curtain. He said it looked very Betty Draper. And I said “that’s exactly what I was going for!” I consider it a win.

The blog that sort of inspired me to not spend but work on the projects I already have the materials for is Small Notebook. She writes often on this subject.

I enjoy not running a hundred errands looking for the perfect this or that. I enjoy not throwing away $40 here, $50 there. In my maturity I have learned that I’d much rather spend that money on something quality like a nice lamp or a custom frame. In maturity I’ve learned patience in decorating and that your house is always a work in progress.

Pinterest has really helped me find my personal style. I pin what I like and discover the common themes. I would say my style is casual, rustic, colorful, and eclectic. I’m also drawn to all things vintage. My all time favorite look is white walls with pops of color.

I find that I’m gaining more confidence as a “decorator”. And the reason is – after observing dozens of rooms I find that there is so much out there I don’t like. There are homes decked to the nines and I care nothing for them. We are all different. Of course my style is not going to appeal to everyone and vice versa.  This fact gives me freedom – freedom to be tacky in the eyes of others.

I like decor to be personal. I like the look to be born of the individual who lives in the space. Of course a little help and validation is nice. But the end product should reflect and represent the home dweller.

Artwork by my talented college roommate and given to me as a birthday gift yeas ago.
New kitchen color – grey that looks purple-ish (not on purpose).

I think decor should also be practical. Once when dealing with the challenge of a tricky room and a weird window layout, a decorator friend suggested I hang a drape on the wall to give the appearance of symmetrical windows. Heavens to Betsey No! I would never create a faux window.

I don’t like flowery decor just for the sake of decor. I like a room to be real, even with its problems.

Lastly, the most valuable truth I’ve learned about decorating is – when you’re down about a space, when you feel a certain room needs work but it’s not a reality for you to go spend $500 on a new ____. GET RID OF TEN THINGS, big or small. Less is more. Sometimes it’s not about bringing things in but getting stuff out.

My Method to Meal Planning – and a Sample Menu and Grocery List

Let’s continue this conversation…about grocery shopping and meal planning! I loved your questions and comments! Just to set things straight I need to clarify that I really don’t love the entire process. Some weeks I just dont feel like planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. Some seasons of life are harder than others. But the way I see it is I’m going to either work on the front end when meals are planned in advance, or I’m going to work on the back end when I’m stressed and dragging my kids into 5 o’clock traffic to find food.

I do enjoy the creativity it takes to make a plan come together…. and the fantastic home cooked food.


My first and most important step is to pour a drink. Coffee, cup o’ tea, diet coke, big ice water. Why not make this event festive?

Then I attempt to get into the right mindset. Meal planning is quite a task. You have to have your thinking cap on. I give myself a pep talk every time. I tell myself just do it. Like Nike.

Then I begin. I make mental notes of all the food I have in my pantry and freezer. And with those items in mind I make a list of possible meals I could make with the ingredients and leftovers I already have in the house, especially fresh produce I need to use up.

{sample meal plan and grocery list}


Inevitably, someone doodles on my list.

Next, I get a shiny, new piece of notebook paper and I write down the the dates and days of the week (from Sunday to Sunday) in the top left hand corner. I immediately make a note of any evening plans we might have that week that involve dinner i.e. church, supper club, dinner out, work, Stephen out of town, me working, etc.

Next, I fill in evenings with meals I can make from leftover ingredients or stuff out of my freezer and pantry. Then I schedule the remaining days with “new” meals, the meals that I will have to go to the store for in order to prepare.

After I have listed all of our dinner plans, I write to the side any food or dish I have to prepare to take to a …. party, church function, tail gate, etc. Example: Thursday I took dinner to friends with a new baby. Sunday I was responsible for sending a dessert with Stephen for a church lunch (that I did not attend b/c of work). And Monday was Stephen Small’s turn to take a snack to his preschool class.

Once I have established all my dinners and food responsibilities, I make my grocery list at the bottom of the page. I go through each meal one by one and write down the needed ingredients. Then I add items for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and replacing kitchen staples. Many true meal planners plan every single breakfast, lunch, and snack. I just plan my dinners. Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are pretty basic around here. I shop at 2 different stores, so I make a Publix list and a Costco list.

That’s it.

I never execute the plan perfectly. And that’s okay! It is important to me to be flexible. But having a plan at least gets proper ingredients in my house and is better than the alternative (no plan). I still have lots of mishaps in my planning, but more often than not the plan pulls through!

Hope this inspires. Keep your questions coming.

P.S. I always write my plans and lists in pencil. So I can easily make changes 🙂

Grocery Shopping, Meal Planning – Working on a New Game Plan

I’m at a grocery crossroads. For many reasons. 1- My family has grown and my kids are eating more. 2- I’ve been trying to prepare healthier foods, lean meats and lots of produce, fewer sweets. I was doing this for while but then pregnancy. Boom. Nausea. Pass the Cheese Its. Which leads me to …. 3- I was so nauseated for the first three months of this pregnancy, and I completely got out of the habit of meal planning. It has thrown me all out of whack. 4- I joined Costco. And I love it. There are lots of great savings, but shopping at two places (Costco and Publix) is tricky and I have yet to master it.

All of these changes have me desperately needing a new game plan.

I used to meal plan/grocery shop for two weeks at a time. It worked well for a season of life with a newborn. And it was also great for winter foods – soups, stews, and casseroles that freeze so nicely. But I find the two week method challenging in the warmer months when we try to take advantage of fresh produce.

So I’m working toward getting back in a good grove. My game plan is still very much in progress. One pattern I have noticed is that I over buy and overestimate how much food we actually eat, in general and per meal. A little food can go a long way when carefully planned. So I’ve decided to scale back on the quantity of food and buy some higher quality items instead – good coffee, fancy dark chocolate, fish, better cheese, pricier produce we love and eat like mangos, avocados, raspberries, red and yellow bell peppers.

Sources that are greatly influential in this new chapter of my grocery and cooking life are….
Small Notebook (Great food budgeting advice)
Good Cheap Eats (Very detailed methods for grocery shopping, meal planning, cleaning out your pantry and freezer. Inspiring.)
100 Days of Real Food (Very informative about real food and avoiding processed food. Lots of good tips.)

Also, I just ordered Why French Kids Eat Everything. I hope to get my kids to eat the meals I laboriously prepare and stop begging me for snacks

My goal this week has been to put off going to the store and eat what we have. Sunday afternoon I sat down and wrote out a very detailed meal plan and shopping list. Then I thought Wait, we have so much food already. What am I doing? So the past three nights we have been eating from the freezer, pantry, and leftovers. And I know I could get two more meals out of stocked items. I’m amazed at how much food we have when I thought we were out. I did go to the store for some lunch stuff – turkey and cheese for sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, etc. But I probably bought a third less of the amount of food I was originally planning on buying. Less food wasted and money saved!

Yesterday my goal was to make some breakfast and snack foods from ingredients I had on hand. I made homemade granola and a double batch of chocolate chip banana bread muffins, which of course Stephen Small helped me make. He is a total stud in the kitchen. It was such a good feeling to use the 7 frozen overripe bananas I had in my freezer.

My long term goals are to—
1- Scale back on quantity and cure myself of my food hoarding syndrome
2- Buy more quality (the cost will hopefully be off-set by decreasing quantity)
3- Continue to slowly implement a healthier diet. Because I really love healthy food.
4- Eat through our deep freezer and defrost it by the end of the summer. I want to clean it before I start stocking up the freezer and preparing for the new baby (due in December – whoop, whoop!).
5- Aim for once a week grocery shopping. My motto is “Make a list, stick to the list, make plan, stick to the plan.”
6- Get better at staying within the budget and aim for a surplus ($$) at the end of the month to stock up on sale items and deals. My goal this month is to have a minimum of $100 remaining at the end of July to spend on meat at Costco.

So have I completely freaked some of you out?!

I am a tried and true grocery NERD. Can you tell? I could go on grocery retreats, host seminars, have meetings, etc. I have so much to learn.

What are your grocery/food goals?

Less is More: Part 1

“The world is not running out of stuff”
                             -my cousin Bibba

These are the words my dear cousin Bibba reminds me of when I’m debating a material purchase that might possibly produce more anxiety than blessing. The world – indeed – is not running out of stuff.

Recently, I have been on an organizational journey and spring cleaning extravaganza. And its been quite a kick. I’m not here to offer any strict advice. And I am most definitely not an expert on home organization. But I would like to share my progress and hopefully inspire and liberate some you to do the same – to simplify, unclutter, de-stuff.

This project all started two weeks after Laurie was born when my mom came to stay with us. She came to help with babies but also to help me establish my new normal. As we began to wade through all the newborn things and general household items, she suggested that I throw away 50 things. And I threw away 60. Then 70, Then 80. I couldn’t stop. By now I’ve thrown away {or given away} hundreds of things. Old things, broken things, things we don’t use anymore, and things we have duplicates of. I purged big time. It felt great.

That’s where it began…by setting a goal, a small goal, and getting rid of STUFF. Clothes that were too small, out of style lampshades, stacks of papers, books I will never read, stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Gone.

The challenging part about getting rid of things is 1) the “what if I might need it one day?”  and 2) the sentimental aspect.

The book I mentioned before, Unclutter Your Life in One Week, has some excellent suggestions for dealing with the sentimental aspect of getting rid of things. The author suggests taking pictures of certain items, storing documents digitally, etc. Another suggestion she has is not to have more stuff than you have space for. Like not having more cookbooks than you have room to store in your kitchen. This rule of thumb really helped me draw the line in many cases of deciding what to keep or not. Example: I have lots of gift bags and tissue paper but little room to store them. So I designated one single box to it. I kept the best and rest was history.

When parting with much of my stuff, I had to constantly remind myself that these things are just that – things. A book {that I never intend to read} with my grandmother’s name and handwriting in it doesn’t hold a candle to the actual relationship I had with her. Not to mention that I have dozens of books with her writing in them, one being her Bible. Also particularly hard to part with were some of Stephen Small’s newborn clothes. I found myself having an unhealthy attachment to a set of stained, white, gerber onesies and had to force myself to push through and throw them out. What am I going to do, keep everything he’s ever worn? Those onesies are nothing compared to the little boy that he is, the millions of pictures I have of him, and the precious memories I have to cherish.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 (NASB)
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–

…even when it comes to your material world.
You – I – we – have to let go.

My point in doing all of this {this uncluttering} is to live a fuller Life, to not be so bogged down by what I call “the management of stuff”. I want to spend more of my waking hours playing with my children, making phone calls to friends, reading books, cooking, exercising and less time straightening my house. Of course there will always always always be stuff to manage, BUT less really is more. Less stuff equals less maintenance.

Two things to note:
By no means do I think stuff is wrong or bad. Stuff is necessary. I love stuff. Also, there is always a need for new stuff. I recently got a double jogging stroller, a new crib, a boat load of cute hand me down girl clothes, and numerous baby gifts from friends that we so appreciate and enjoy. With a new baby as with any new season in life there is a need for new and appropriate stuff. Stuff management is a continual and ongoing process. There is no rest for the weary.

All this being said, here are a couple of things I found so tremendously helpful in my recent stuff detox.

1. A liberator. You need a liberator, someone to help you sort through the piles. A fresh set of eyes. Someone to say “keep that, toss this.” My mom was my liberator. Let’s call her “Lovie, the liberator.”

2. Sometimes it takes a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and on certain occasions, a 4th cleansing. I went through all my books 3 times, finding a few more to pass on each round. Then I had Stephen Grande go through them with me a 4th time. Often I’ve found it takes several looks at the same area or items before you know what you really want to keep and what you don’t care for.

3. Give yourself time. I’ve been working on this project for five weeks. I know the book says you can unclutter your life in one week, but its taken me five and counting — and I don’t consider us to have an abnormal amount of stuff. Its just a process, but totally worth the work in my opinion.

To end this nerdy organizational post on a cooler note, I must share that I love this Stephen Small boy more everyday! He’s not only a genius when it comes to throwing away his trash, he’s also a fabulous dance partner. Tonight I sang “Play that Funky Music White Boy” and – he – broke – it – down.

This kid is awesome!!!
More {or less} to come 🙂