Ready, set, LOVE!

Alrighty girls, it’s a go for our two weeks of Valentine posts! Thanks for your input on the poll, I’m looking forward to celebrating the season of love with you! If you have any special Valentine’s Day ideas that you’d like to share with the readers of Living Graciously, please e-mail me: windy-poplars@juno.com. 
Stay tuned…the Valentine fun starts tomorrow!

Today is the  last day of the month. That means those of you who registered as a Gracious Maven, and have been participating in our Quests need to report your points earned this month! I hope you’ve had fun playing along with us, and even if you only do one or two a week, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the rewards of getting some good things accomplished! If you’re not a Gracious Maven yet,  now is a good time to join so you’ll be all set to go for next months challenges! Sign up on the right hand sidebar, and read more about our GM Quests HERE.

In the meantime, why not check out my lowfat Zucchini Bread recipe over in The Kitchen.
Or better yet, go meet my friend Emma over in The Style Files. I know you’ll love her…she’s a real Peach!

Valentine’s Hijack

Hello Girls!
     Happy Friday! I hope you’re all looking forward to a lovely weekend ahead.- I wanted to throw out a little idea for you, and just see what you think:
     I happen to LOVE Valentine’s Day! I think it’s a holiday that has gotten such a cheesy rap – mainly thanks to commercialism and teenagers. But Valentine’s Day is a wonderful excuse to celebrate love. If you’re married – it’s a wonderful day to spend with your soul mate – reminding him of why you married him, and making fun new memories together. In fact, we celebrate V-day for all 14 days of February leading up to it! – If you’re not married, instead of feeling sorry for yourself (for not having a Valentine), why not focus on making the friends in your life feel loved? Make them a baked treat, hand craft some valentines – just like when you were in elementary school – it will make their day!
     So here’s my thought: I’m thinking of hijacking Living Graciously for the next two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day with all kinds of ideas to make it a very special time of year. BUT, only if you think it a good idea. Will you jump on the bandwagon with me? Will you contribute ideas to share with the class? Will you celebrate love in all its forms this year? You can respond via the poll on my right hand sidebar (because I know you’re all a bit comment-shy ;-)). Talk to me over the weekend girls so I can decide which direction to head! –
     Before I go, I don’t know about you, but I was SO thankful for yesterday’s quest! Did anybody else get their dishwasher all sparkly clean? I am so ashamed to show you these before pictures. I swear – there were almost mushrooms growing in there. YUK! But, now it is fresh as a flower and ready to go! AND – it took me 10 minutes. Um, why did I put that little chore off so long??? Here are my photos for your before and after viewing pleasure. Excuse me while I go hide in my closet from embarrassment…

Before:
 After:
Before:
After:
 TGIF!
 

Sprucing Up on a Shoestring

Hello All, 
Thanks so much for stopping by today! As we’re approaching spring cleaning/house spruce-up season, I thought I’d show you a couple of house projects that we’ve done that took very little money, but had a wonderfully refreshing outcome!

Before
After

First, this is my mudroom. I still have some larger scale projects to do to it (painting and replacing the floor), but in the mean time the visual clutter from my DH’s work dresser/hamper and extra food storage shelf were driving me crazy! SO, we went to Lowes and purchased a wooden dowel and end cups; to Ross for  a couple of drape panels; then “shopped” around the house to find a few things to hang on the wall and some fabric to cover the ugly wire shelving. Did some deep cleaning, a little spray paint for the washboard that was getting rusty,  and I feel like I have a much more pleasant mudroom with all the shelving (and vacuum) now neatly hidden!

Before

Second project is the kitchen sink. This is an area in our house that most of us spend a good deal of time in, isn’t it? Mine was ok, but there were a few little things that were pleading for some updating. One was the soap dispenser that you had to pump at least three times (with umph!) only to be rewarded with a measly little pea-sized squirt of soap. Another was the old counter rags that were stained and pilled. Lastly, the curtains were semi-sheer, and you could see the cheapo white metal rod showing through the top. SO, for this project I went to Big Lots and got a black decorative curtain  rod for $5 to match the iron accessories I have throughout the kitchen. Washed and ironed the curtains.-  Then a trip to Ross (love that place for home decor) produced a couple of matching dispensers (that worked!): one for soap and one for lotion. They were $5 for the pair.

After

Also while I was at Ross, I found some nice new dishtowels for $3.99 that are a darker color so as not to show food stains as readily. Cleaned and dusted, changed the window candle holder, displayed the fresh cloths, and voila! A spruced up sink area for $15.

Do you have any “sprucing on a shoestring” tips for us today? Please share!

*This was originally posted on my Windy Poplars site way back in its early beginnings. Did any of you see this original post? It would sure be fun to see how many readers have been with me through this whole journey! I know there are a few of you!

Tuesdays Thoughts

Today I’m writing in The Kitchen, so hop on over to read my thoughts on breakfast there, and help a sister out, won’t you?

I’m feeling spread a little thin these days. Need a good kick in the organizing-my-time pants. Too many decisions to make, too many fun things to participate in, too many directions I want to head, too many loose ends undone, not enough hours in the day, not enough sleep at night… I don’t like that feeling! Anybody else feel like they’re still running on holiday time even though we’re full-swing into 2011?

For those of you who tried to vote for Chester and Caroline in the funny pet contest, thank you! The contest has been paused while being moved to the company website (something about a recent change on FB where you can’t have contests anymore), and I’ll let you know when it’s back up and open for voting.

I’ll be back here again soon with a real entry! The lack thereof kinda goes along with the whole organizing my time bit.-

Until then, thanks for stopping by!

Spring Has Sprung!

Well, maybe not quite, but at least the Christmas decorations are down, and some spring-y ones have taken their place! Today I thought I’d share my mantle and some vignettes in my den with you. The theme in that room is “birds” because of my valances, and I think the bird theme goes particularly well with spring.

 Have you started decorating for spring?

A Fabric Shaver???

Hello Dears!
     The other day I was pottering around (or do only cute little old ladies “potter”?) getting some miscellaneous chores done around the house, and while using one of my very favorite inventions ever, I thought: “I wonder if my bloggy friends know about this nifty little tool”? So, for those of you who have never met, allow me to introduce you to:

Do you have one? It’s purpose is to make your sweaters, wool gloves, tights, whatever you have that gets little pillballs on it, look brand new again by “shaving” them off. Works like a charm! Mine is super old – I think my grandma gave mine to me actually, but I simply couldn’t live without it! I actually call it my “Fuzz Baller” (didn’t know it was called a shaver until I looked it up to share with you guys). Here is the hubs sweater that I was working on – kinda hard to photograph fuzzballs, but hope you get the idea:

Before:

After:
 Like new, right? Maybe you can see it better if you click on the pictures! So to re-cap: all gracious mavens should have one of these bad boys in their clothes keeping arsenal. It will keep you wearing your sweaters for years to come!

Putting Christmas Away…

Today, yes, today (don’t judge), I put the final bits of Christmas away. Back up in the attic for another year.

As I was thinking about the potential symbolism to be found in this yearly ritual, I was saddened as I realized how much our thinking seems to change between December 26th and January 2nd.- During the Christmas season, we seem to think so much of others as we give and make them gifts, invite them over for holiday joviality, and we go out of our way to care for the poor among us. But then after we celebrate the New Year, we seem to turn inward. We realize in horror how much holiday weight we have gained, and we determine to change our entire lifestyle to focus on loosing it. We think of all the trips we want to take, all the goals we want to accomplish, and then hole up to read the hundreds of books that we resolve to read over the coming year. Do you see the focus shift?

So how can we fight this natural turn? Can we continue to keep the joy in our hearts (and on our faces) as we stand in long lines at the store? Can we sneak around our homes like we have a great secret in order to surprise our loved one with gifts and treats throughout the year for no reason other than because we love them? Can we volunteer at a local shelter as a reminder to be grateful for all the bounty we are blessed with? Can we invite friends over to mix and make merry (even without the eggnog?!)? Can we continue to make fires in our fireplaces, and make memories in our hearts!?

I don’t see why not! This year, I don’t want to pack the spirit of Christmas away with the decorations. If only we could take a little drop of the elixir of “good will toward all men” in our morning coffee everyday!
So girls, I want to hear from all of you. Do you have suggestions to share with me (well, with all of us!) on how to help keep the spirit of Christmas alive? What’s something practical we can do today to foster it?