Productivity Push

A month or so back I mentioned that I had started to do the Make Over Your Mornings by Crystal Paine.  In typical fashion, once I got started I kind of went off the deep end with the whole increasing productivity thing.  I’m now a graduate of it, the Make Over Your Evenings course and I’m half way through the Make Over Your Year course.  My husband and I are doing the Year course together since it’s about household as well as personal goals.  It’s been fun to work on this together and also helpful.  We are pretty different in work styles and personalities so the course is helping us in two ways: to create better balanced goals through helpful feedback since we view things pretty differently and to let us come to common ground on some key goals that we don’t seem to make headway on year after year.  It feels exciting to get some traction going on our goals!

I had to laugh the other day when Steven guided me back on the rails about something that I was over reaching on and said “what would Crystal Paine do?”  Now my almost 14 year old is also working doing the Morning program and we all have fun with WWCPD added in here and there in our weekly planning conversations.  We’ve become Crystal disciples – LOL.

So what’s the result of all this work?

  • I’ve woken up at 5:40 AM for over a month now and am feeling much more in control of my day and my productivity has definitely improved.
  • For 2 weeks now I’ve been tracking my sleep, activity and calories (in connection with My Fitness Pal) with the Jawbone UP2 that my friend Hallie and Crystal Paine recommended.  I LOVE the alarm feature!!  It’s so nice to wake up without been jarred by a loud alarm but instead wake with the Jawbone vibrating.  My husband likes it too and I’m not worried about waking my toddler anymore.
  • Checking a number of significant projects off our Pivotal Tracker house project to do list.  If BTW you’re doing any type of home remodeling, or really just want a nice way to check off the to do’s, check out Pivotal Tracker.  We love how you can attach dollars needed and assess time needed to each entry as well as assign an “owner.”  I’ll post photos soon of the various finished projects.
  • Going from struggling to get a weekly meal plan done to getting a full month’s worth of meals planned by the 1st.
  • Expanding the Our Groceries App functionality in our house to include 35 favorite meals and 3 staple lists (cold, pantry and specialty) which in combination with the shopping options below has saved many hours a week.
  • Setting up almost all grocery shopping with online accounts through the three different Amazon options of Amazon Prime subscriptions and Dash Buttons, Amazon Fresh and Prime Now.  I used to have to go to the grocery store multiple times in a week and to between 2-4 different stores to get the variety of items we use.  Now, my husband handles making the list with the Our Groceries App (based off my calendar), checks our stock levels and orders needed items.  I receive the deliveries and handle putting things away.  FINALLY we don’t spend hours on a Saturday going these tasks.  And we can divide up this major housework item between us in a way that matches our skill sets.  It’s so freeing!!
  • Using a daily schedule to get other housework and tasks done so that they don’t feel overwhelming.  I found the cute template on Classy Clutter that you see below.

I’m still in progress on quite a lot of my other goals and I’ll keep you updated on them over the next few weeks.  I hope where ever you are that the sun is shining as beautifully as it is here in Seattle.  And I need to sign off and go enjoy my new found free time!

Cleaning Schedule


Playroom Makeover

In late January of 2014 we moved into our newly purchased house which was built in 1927 and a good amount of it had been updated but the basement was pretty dark, dingy and screaming for an update.  See the before pics:

Before we moved in, carpet and paint were updated and we added both balusters (i.e. upright posts along the staircase) for safety and a carpet runner to the stairs.  We also added a closet where you see the coral tile to store games, puzzles and art supplies.  The laundry area is located on the top floor of the house near our bedrooms so the hook ups you see are still there but not in use.  I had the plywood desk top and shelf removed from the nook so that I could create the play grocery store I envisioned as soon as we saw the house.

Fast forward a little over 2 years and we managed to create a much nicer space for a play room but were stalled on the project for probably a year or more.  Because of time and money constraints we fixed things up in fits and spurts but I’ve finally reached a point of not being able to take the almost finished status any longer.  I hope to have EVERYTHING finished by the end of May and hopefully sooner than that.

Check out the progress we’ve made to date in the photos below but do keep in mind that we’re only part way there…

Dress up areaplay grocery storeArt tableReading nook

The color scheme of orange, fuchsia and turquoise that’s used in most of the playroom began with the repurposing of fabric banners from Isabelle’s 12th birthday party.  The deep red accent wall is next to the grocery store and my husband’s office both of which have the same red carried through them but in art & accents instead of a whole wall.

The antique cheval mirror and Louis XV Chair were things I’d found antiquing in France during the 4 years I lived in Germany.  I had hoped to keep them in my bedroom but alas, the space isn’t right for them so instead of storing them, we’ve put them here.  Much of the other furniture was found second hand on the local Seattle mom’s Yahoo group but the Land of Nod table and stools were left over from Isabelle.  And other than the duplo Legos and a handful of gifts, all of the toys are used and found at garage sales or the mom’s group for sale postings.

More in a couple of days about the Toy Rotation that I put into place this weekend and our Activity Planning Chart that I’m making. When I’m completely finished with the project in a few weeks I’ll give a full source accounting on where things were purchased, paint & carpet colors and other details but if you have any questions in the meantime just email.

Making Family Life Easier

Healthy Day Chalkboard

I’ve been trying for the past year to year to get different systems in place that help our family keep on top of things, reduce stress and/or just generally help each other out.  One of the simple things I did last year was to create a chalkboard system tracking what my youngest daughter ate during the day.  This may seem like something folks shouldn’t have to track, but since there are days when up to 3 different people serve meals to Reina, this system has proven very helpful.  And even on the days when it was just me feeding her all meals, I will confess that my memory isn’t always awesome so it saves me time and lets me plan ahead for the next meal knowing what she’s missing towards the goal of a balanced diet.

I used 2 different round platters, a large cup and a serving fork as templates for the design.  Just be sure to clean the chalk pen off any more porous items pretty quickly – one wooden platter was tough to clean after the pen had dried.  I use regular chalk to fill in daily details and then a damp paper towel to carefully wipe the daily details off at the end of the day yet keep the design in tact. Over time we’ve added standing notes about what time she woke up, length of nap and if she’s taken medication.

The larger chalkboard is below and we try to fill it out every Saturday so that all family members can plan their week.  I’ll continue talking about other systems over the next few posts.  I hope that some of them will help you and your families out!

Family Life Chalkboard

Happy Easter Traditions

Bunny Pancakes

Happy Easter everyone!  Just a quick post to tell the special fun of having a few unique traditions for this holiday.  It happens to be a sentimental holiday for us.  Easter reminds me of how extremely lucky I am that my daughter and her step-father have a deep, loving bond.  It’s rare I believe based on what I’ve been told by friends and things I’ve read.  I am so grateful that they share a similar temperament, love of games and sense of humor.  Their connection really strengthened 5 years ago when Steven (my now husband of almost 4 years) and Isabelle (my older daughter – 8 at the time) spent a vacation together for the first time and began a tradition of what I’d call The Egg Hunt Challenge.  Both of them love puzzles and games – it’s one of their many connection points – and Steven took great pride in hiding eggs and candy around the beach cottage we were staying at.

Every year since, the egg hiding anti has been upped and upped.  This year was no exception and now that Isabelle is 13, she gets less eggs (20) and they are really hard to find.  It took her around an hour to find them and much like when she was a toddler, many of the items in the eggs aren’t candy (for example they share a love the mini Lego figurines so Steven collects them and gives them to Iz throughout the year). Steven often camouflages like colored eggs into something always around the house.  Last year the golden egg sat on top of a silver cup and was the one egg she walked past 20 times before seeing it. Another sitting on a step of a staircase architectural model was long overlooked.  This year, one on top of a wall clock and another sitting just inside the open design of the garden bench we use as a side table were the two she hunted for the longest. I hope you too have a love of Easter and that it is a time of family traditions and reflection.  Happy Easter!

Easter Decor How To Info

Carrots in apothocary jar w antique chocolate moldsEasy daisy arrangmentMeri Meri rabbit balloon centerpiece how to


From the Toddler Egg Hunt post here are some close ups and how to photos.  Everything was super easy!

Carrot & daisy floral arrangement: wash carrots and remove any unattractive greenery and broken stems.  Line a large vase or apothecary jar with the carrots placing the more attractive carrots on the outer edge.  You could insert an inner tall/thin vase inside the carrots but I didn’t need to.  They stayed nicely and created a natural inner area to place the daisies.  This was an awesome impact for $10 (carrots were 3 bunches for $5 and daisies were $5).  Fill with water.  I bought the carrots & made this the day before the event and it still looked fresh 24 hours later.

Table including $ 10 carrot & daisy arrangement, antique chocolate molds and apothecary jar fill


Bunny Balloon & other centerpiece items:  find bottle or bud vase the right height for your cache pot, place it in center, insert plastic stick included in Meri Meri kit and fill with Easter grass.  I had to stuff a bit of paper in the neck of my bottle to get the stick to stay straight and centered.  You can also use floral foam if you have some but I wanted to save the cost. I’m sure if you were so inclined you could create your own bunny balloon.  The kit just gave pre-done adhesive ears, whiskers and bow tie.  The eyes and nose/mouth were stickers but could be drawn on a white balloon and the balloon tied to a thin dowel.  I displayed my antique chocolate molds with this and the Balloon Centerpiece below.  One mold was placed on a small glass candy dish that had fine Easter grass on  it and I covered it with a large jar and added a wired ribbon.  I like to use books as risers in centerpiece groupings to things show well above the food on the table.  The colored eggs in the smaller apothecary jar are sentimental as my older daughter has made them over the years. See above photo.

Golden eggs on skewers

Mimosa Bar floral arrangement:  this is so easy, it’s hardly worth mentioning.  The glitter eggs above came in a pack of 6 and I used bamboo skewers to add a fun dimension to the arrangement.

Other décor items shown below were things I’ve collected over the years, many of which during the time I lived in Germany and I sourced things at the French and German flea markets and specialty stores in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (a charming walled city near Munich).  The Christopher Radko Easter Tree and larger blown glass ornaments were issued around 14 years ago and I purchased them from a catalog.  I do add to my collection now that I’m  in the US by hitting after Easter sales to save money, but most things are items my older daughter made or are thing that have meaning from my time in Europe.  I much prefer using the same items year after year that have meaning to changing my look every year.  I guess I’m sentimental!

Radko & other egg tree ornaments




Toddler Egg Hunt (without candy)

Easy Brunch Potluck Party

egg hunting (2)

The Bloody Mary Bar was a guest favorite!


Last Sunday I hosted our play group for a brunch and egg hunt.  It was easy to organize and so much fun!  And the fun motivated me to get back to my long quiet blog!!

Before hand moms dropped off plastic eggs 25 eggs each and some trinkets and healthy snacks to fill the eggs with.  3 of us spent around an hour filling the eggs with stickers, coins for rattling effect, Annie’s graham & cheddar bunnies, dollar store items like egg shaped side walk chalk, light up dinosaur stress balls, bracelets, cars and bows.  Target dollar bins and any dollar store are great places to get food non-candy filler.

I provided an easy (yet so tasty!) Cheese, Sausage & Croissant Egg Casserole, Bloody Mary Bar featuring a mix recipe from Emeril Lagasse (which was AMAZING!), oven baked bacon, cupcakes decorated with a Wilton décor kit and coffee bar. More recipe and set up specifics to follow. Our Evite outlined the pot luck needs and I highly recommend doing it this way so that you don’t have major items missing or get a table full of desserts.  Here’s a great brunch menu list for a well rounded offering:

  • egg casserole or dish with meat
  • non-meat egg dish
  • bacon
  • berries or fruit salad
  • orange & cranberry juices
  • champagne
  • sparkling water
  • small bottled water or other kids drinks
  • Bloody Mary Bar (can divide out vodka, mix & fixings or have 1 person provide all)
  • green salad
  • sweet pastry
  • savory pastry
  • cookies
  • ‘kid’ dessert
  • ‘adult’ dessert
table close (2)
Table including $ 10 arrangement featuring carrots & daisies, antique chocolate molds and apothecary jar filled with eggs
roses golden eggs
Mimosa bar and floral arrangement that featured gold glitter eggs on wooden skewers
bar close
Bloody Mary bar fixings & framed instructions
Salts including savory, spicy and lemon pepper options


We set an early, 9:30 AM start time to try to help those families with both a toddler and a baby (who nap late morning).  The timing seemed to catch all the kids at their best and most folks stayed long after the hunt. In stereotypical Seattle form, it was forecasted to drizzle during the egg hunt so we didn’t hide the eggs until after all the kids had arrived and were snacking inside. My older daughter had a blast hiding eggs and laying out ‘Bunny Footprints’ to guide the toddlers to eggs.  And we got lucky and the drizzle didn’t start until the very end of the hunt.  The kids wouldn’t have cared but the adults were definitely happier!

K picegg gathering (2).JPGeggs in tulips (2)J pic

R 2 post (2)
Non-candy filled eggs were a bit hit!


When we scheduled the party we chose the Sunday before Easter so that we didn’t conflict with family parties or church services.  The kids are so young that they don’t realize that it’s not actually the official day the Easter Bunny comes and nearly all of our members could make it.

Décor details include a Meri Meri Bunny Balloon Kit and antique chocolate molds as part of the table centerpiece grouping, flowers with glitter eggs found at Metropolitan Market, my collection of vintage Steiff rabbits, an Easter Tree & ornaments issued years ago by Christopher Radko along with eggs and ornaments I’ve collected over the years, a vintage wine bottle drying rack from France and other items from my collections.

The Bloody Mary bar featured:

  • Emeril Lagasse’s tomato juice mix
  • 3 salt dips (savory = Old Bay Seasoning, lemon = Old Bay Lemon & Herb Seasoning, spicy = 3 T chili powder, 3 T kosher salt, 1 T cayenne pepper)
  • protein options:  bacon, salami bites, shrimp
  • pickled items: mini dills, pepperoncini, Delallo Mild Giardiniera (mixed veggies) & Mezzetta cocktail onions
  • green & black pitted olives
  • fresh items: blanched asparagus spears, celery, cherry tomatoes, lemon & lime wedges
  • spicy sauces:  tabasco, sriracha & Frank’s Red Hot
  • seasoning: salt, pepper, garlic salt, onion salt, celery salt
  • vodka in a decanter
  • framed instructions: (Choose your glass, salt the rim, fill with ice, add the vodka, choose your fixings, fill with juice mix, spice it up, enjoy!)
  • random collection of jars, various sizes displayed on antique bottle drying rack
  • set of 4 mini copper pots holding water & salts for rimming glasses
  • an antique brass & glass shelf
  • various vintage silver serving forks and tongs and wooden skewers
  • stainless ice bucket & scoop

The Mimosa bar was a pretty simple version and featured just Champagne, St. Germain (elderflower liquor), strawberries, San Pellegrino, orange and cranberry juices.  In the past I’ve also featured blackberries, blueberries and additional juice options.  This party the cranberry version was most popular – probably because it was a break from the norm.

Next post will have a few DIY décor ideas so I’ll sign off with a few more photos.


coffee bartree full (2)antique rabbitsM T R and me

“Date Night In” Nourishes You & Your Relationship!

Date night cooking (2)

I learned about a fun blog from a woman name Faith that I did a ‘talent trade’ with (she helped with my garden design in exchange for my organizing & interior design help).  At the time I started following ‘Not Without Salt’ the blog author, Ashley Rodriquez, hadn’t had her cookbook published but when the release was announced, I ordered a copy of “Date Night In” right away.  This was in spite of the fact that I had never actually made any of the recipes on her blog BTW.  Her lovely photography and blogging style were enough to compel me to buy it and I’m so very glad I did!!

This Valentines Day I gave the book along with a promise to make a menu of my husband’s choosing once a month for a year.  The first meal I made was for Valentines dinner and it was absolutely delicious!  I chose the “A Taste of Home” menu because of the Salmon Cakes main course as I knew Steven would love it since salmon’s a fav of his.  The Salmon Cake were probably the best I’ve had and given that they are pretty popular in Seattle, that says quite a lot!  Flavorful but not overwhelmed and so moist.  Makes me hungry just thinking about them…

So it didn’t surprise me when Steven went digging in our mudroom (through my mountain of cookbooks) to find “Date Night In” early last week.  He spent quite a bit of time pouring through it and left it open to the “It Gets Him” menu.  In spite of the fact that I’m a bit overwhelmed with work at the moment, I set the date night for Friday and got busy planning.  I managed to get the shopping done on Tuesday night with the grand intentions of doing the numerous advance cooking items completed over the next couple of days.  Needless to say, my week got away from me so I instead spent most of the day puttering in my kitchen while juggling time between cooking and my toddler.  I will say that it was time consuming – maybe it’s my slow pace? – but the end product was soooo worth it!  The whole menu (cocktail, salad, main & dessert) was some of the best food I’ve had and definitely the best that I’ve prepared myself.  The flavor of the Citrus Braised Pork is to die for and so simple.  And the ritual of the date itself is so much fun.  Ours started with the cocktail when he arrives home from work followed by a quick goodnight tuck in for Reina and then having a long, relaxed meal.  Perfect in every way.  I had fun setting the table with a cloth we bought from the Beauville factory in France while honeymooning for the extra touch of memories.  If you ever meet my husband ask him to tell you the story of almost missing the train in Colmar because we had so many bags (filled with the spoils of French shopping) for him to load during it’s quick stop 😉  He wasn’t thankful at the time but now he relishes each occasion we use our mementoes.  I do not begin to have photographs as lovely as Ashely has in the book, but I wanted to share our nice meal so I hope you enjoy them and put this special cookbook on your ‘to buy’ list!  It’s currently on backorder BTW, but Amazon will keep one reserved for you if you click the link above.  Or better yet, subscribe to Ashley’s blog as she sells them there too and will surely announce when the new stock arrives.

saladtable (2)Date Night book dessert

Cool Baroque Sconce!



molly m (2)


I’ve been lusting after the light fixtures at a Seattle ice cream shop, Molly Moon’s, since the Queen Anne location opened a few years ago.  The are lucite Baroque surrounds with a mercury glass light bulb in them.  Just the perfect touch of modern mixed with a chic antique vibe.

My daughter & I stopped in today for a treat (their ice cream is to die for if any of you every visit Seattle) and I snapped this pic.  The details are hard to see so I set out to find them on the internet so you see them close up.  I stumbled on a blog done by some OC designers that sells them.  Check out Little Crown Interiors for more details or to buy one.  If only I could figure out where to add one to our house…


Quick office preview: my memory vignette

office2 Yesterday I shared that I’ve been working to finally (after living here a year) getting my office in order.  Because our house is from the 1920’s, closet space is far from vast so I opted to have a combo dressing room and office in the lower level of my house.  It’s a bit of a pain to trek downstairs to get ready, but I decided it worth it in order to have my own complete space that I can retreat to.

I’m the type of woman that prefers to save up (or break the monthly budget) and get one fabulous item periodically rather than shop often and have a huge wardrobe.  I also keep things like designer shoes for many years so that my return on investment ends up very low per wear. I started this habit of less is more (or is it a ‘more’ is more impact scenario?!?) as a teen.  I will admit that there were months living in San Francisco when I ate cheap diets of noodles and eggs for a month in order to get a perfect dress or pair of shoes.

Funny but I still own things from my teen years and early 20’s so I guess it was worth the marginal food in some cases! I had a good laugh the other day when I realized with a friend that I have owned some shoes for as long as she’s been alive (23 years)!!

This vignette is on top of my armoire and includes the YSL shoes I wore for my wedding, the Manolo Blahnik box from my very first couture pair of couture shoes (yes, I still have them) and an Hermes scarf box from my first trip to Paris.  So there are lots of memories for me in this display and it makes me smile.  On the note of memories, if you love fashion, if you’ve never been to the Hermes store in Paris you should put this stop on your bucket list!  My vivid memory of the French sales women whipping the scarves open & closed for to view their patterns was both amazing and a of bit hilarious theatrics.  I have no idea how they learn to do this in single motion but it’s quite a show!!  And doing it while looking so typically Parisian bored and beautiful just adds to the scene.

Two of the boxes are from another must visit spot in Paris – Laduree.  The 2 little boxes in neon herringbone are from when Steven & I eloped to Paris 3 years ago.  Laduree is one of the bakeries that spurred the macaron craze in the US.  They’ve been around since 1862 so macarons are far from new for them, and in my opinion, theirs are perfect…crisp and perfectly balanced, bright flavors.  The “best” macaron title BTW is a big debate point with Parisians so I may get grief for that statement!

Try to create a spot in your house or apartment that offers a quick glance at some mementoes from your life.  They need not be designer or expensive items – just meaningful to you.  Best to group like things together as collections offer much better impact when together instead of scattered.  My daughter has a similar vignette of shells, rocks and sea glass that she’s collected on vacations.  There are endless variations for vignettes of course – they seem to be everywhere these days on Instagram – but those that are best include special memories.  Happy collecting!

DIY $4 Centerpieces

Centerpieces were dollar store carnations sitting on black glitter stars

Last Academy Awards Party post.  Although the Awards show happened last night, I thought these centerpieces are good for a variety of occasions so I decided to post anyways.  I’ve been throwing parties for many years now and until recently, I hadn’t discovered the fab source of Dollar Stores.  Now it is a first stop when doing party décor planning and then I fill in other items from stores and Amazon.

These centerpieces are nothing I’d planned but when I saw the carnations at Dollar Tree, I thought they’d be an easy, cheap and make ahead option.  I’m not a huge faux flower fan but carnations are one type that look pretty darn good.  Each $1 vase was filled with marbles (already had these from Halloween displays) and then I bound 3 stems together with strong string and clipped the stems with a wire cutter.  SO EASY! Next I used the foil hanging stars from Amazon (shown a few posts ago) as a tracing guide on black glitter paper.  I usually opt for seated food service but somehow that felt too stuffy for this party so instead we used tall bar tables and decided to skip bar stools.  The girls just grazed on finger foods so no need to take up more space or spend money on them.

Each table had a $5 rented red tablecloths, layered with a 50 cent matte gold plastic square tablecloth (from Dollar Tree & cut in half so each cloth made 2 toppers), then a $1 black star with a $ 4 centerpiece on top.  And voila!  $10.50 total for an awesome looking table.