A Very Exciting Monday!

Hello dear readers! Exciting things happening around these parts… I’m so glad you’ve stopped by today for our big announcement. Ready?! Well, I’m gonna make you wait just a leettle bit longer while I give you some background leading up to “these exciting things”: As most of you know, I started Living Graciously over a month ago now – mainly with the intention of better organizing the tips, recipes, and projects I had already posted on Windy Poplars (my personal blog). It didn’t take long though, until the vision of having a “one stop shop” blog for the woman of many interests (like me), began to take shape in my mind. I ran with it…so fast that I couldn’t keep up with myself actually. My vision became larger and larger…The Kitchen was born to catalog healthy, whole food, delicious, simple gourmet recipes; The Style Files were born because, well, I love style and the journey that I’m currently on to discover my own; The Personal Shopper was born to share reviews, giveaways, and great deals with you; and The Gracious Mavens were born to inspire you to daily to become mavens of your home, and to continually nurture the special relationships in your life. Whew, makes me tired just typing about it! So here we are…over a month later, with 100+ readers joining me on this new adventure through Google FC, Feedburner, and Facebook (wow! thanks girls~you make this all worthwhile!). BUT, I have come to the realization that I can’t keep this going on my own anymore. I want Living Graciously to be not just a mediocre blog that gets updated every so often, but a place that is always fresh with something new, interesting, and inspirational.
Sooooo…….

Without any further ado…..THE ANNOUNCEMENT.

It is with great excitement that I welcome aboard three new companions who have kindly agreed to come along for the ride! They are fabulous in every sense of the word. They are inspiring, talented, fun, and they are now the sisters of Living Graciously: Ashley from The Shine Project, Carmel from Our Fifth House, and Lauren from Healthy Food for Living. I truly wish I lived in the same neighborhood as these girls! Carmel would help me decorate my house to magazine-worthy status (fully furnished with Willow House of course!), whenever I was feeling a little discouraged, Ashley would be my motivational speaker :-), and I would think of every possible excuse to get invited over to Lauren’s for breakfast, lunch, snacks dinner! – Well, a girl can dream….right?! The good news is, they are now a part of the Living Graciously neighborhood, and you will have the privilege hearing from them on a regular basis.

****To celebrate, I’m holding a GiVeAwAy over at The Personal Shopper. Go get your name entered into the hat, and tell your friends!

Be sure and come back tomorrow to get to know each of the girls a little better when they introduce themselves formally.

Dreaming in Gold

  How many times a day (week, month, year), do we get that feeling in our souls that we’ve accomplished something great? I don’t mean great on the Richter Scale, measuring impaction levels on mankind as a whole, but great in the sense that you KNOW that what you just did, was something you were created to do. It resounds in your very deepest heart of hearts. It could be an inner joy and peace…a sense of purpose fulfilled…a delight with your soul at perfect rest…a longing satisfied. We’re going to call that a “golden feeling” for the purposes of this post. I find colors can be a great way of expressing emotions – don’t you think?

I love having that feeling of gold! It’s a natural high. Even if it’s only for a moment. It helps you wade through all kinds of daily mundane, and like a drug, keeps you wanting more.~

So with that in mind, now switch over to thinking about some of the dreams and goals you have for your life. Do they meld in any way with those aforementioned feelings of gold? Many of mine do, and that’s why, after one day connecting those two thoughts, I had my epiphany:

A Key to Happiness:
1. Spend some time thinking about the dreams and desires that were placed in your hearts secret place before you were born. – Consciously noting that the realization of them in your life causes your heart to overflow with feelings of golden peace and joy!
2. Stop sitting around and waiting for them to occur by chance.- DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Several blogs have been inspiring me lately to live my dreams. Who knows if we’ll ever see tomorrow? But we DO have today! Many of my dreams have always seemed far off in the future.- “We don’t have the money”, “It’s too much work”, “I have no idea how to even go about getting started”, “I’m too young and inexperienced”, are all excuses I’ve used. No more my friend!

It’s time to start being a dream liver! I’m stepping out into the unknown and am in search of gold! Here are some stops along my Golden Road Map, I hope it will inspire you to make one of your own!

*Golden Dream: Nurturing weary souls by providing care and pampering and bliss! Giving them an escape from their everyday life, and helping to restore their calm.-
*Map: Sprucing up our guest room and bath  to act as a “bed and breakfast” where all guests needs are met – offered to all on a donations basis -only as people are led and able.

*Golden Dream: Marriage Counseling – helping to build strong, vibrant marriages.
*Map: See the map above – providing thought provoking and interactive material for couples to use while staying with us if they so desire to grow their relationship. – Also planning marriage days/events for couples only that involve growing in trust, vulnerability, communication, and fun companionship.

*Golden Dream: Community – fellowship, and providing “family” for those who have none (or none close by).
*Map: Looking into building and running a boarding house – a long time dream of mine! Praying for direction… Making lots of phone calls!

*Golden Dream: Travel – My heart experiences many golden thrills when I’m exploring a new place for the first time, or visiting an old gem that holds lots of memories. Also tied tightly to this, is the reconnection that happens with my dear husband when we’re taken out of our daily routine, and set out on an adventure together. That’s pure gold!

*Map: Starting to look for a supplemental job that will exclusively provide travel money – so that it can become a more regular part of our lives.

***This was a post I originally wrote and published on Windy Poplars.

So now that you’ve read about some of my golden dreams – I want to hear about yours my friends! What could you be doing today to help make them a reality? I’d love to dialog with you about it! Won’t you take a moment or two to share? 

Linking to Coffee Talk today.

Do You Have a Stinky Sink?

Today is our very last February Blog Love post. I hope you have enjoyed meeting some new bloggers over the month! Our guest poster is Melissa (MeLi) from Domestiquette. She is a home blogger, and shares all kinds of wonderful updates about the new (old) house she and her fiance are fixing up to start a new life together in. I really love her style. We are kindred spirits in the home taste department for sure! I know you all will enjoy her too! Here she is sharing a very practical post with us about how to keep our garbage disposals in tip top shape. Take it away:
I started to clean my kitchen..lalala, cleaning…then after it was all clean, I still smelled something funny…what was it? The Garbage Disposal!

I’m sure many of you have stuck your hand in there to pick out any number of little things that have managed to get through..and if you’ve noticed, it is slimmy and yucky down there…so the ewwww smell is bound to happen….but sometimes it hits you out of nowhere, and soap doesn’t get rid of it….what do you do?!?!?
Well…next time you’re making lemonade, or orange juice, don’t throw those used up halves away!, they are all you need to clean your garbage disposal!…
Tips for Disinfecting/Cleaning a Stinky Garbage Disposal
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Grab a lemon/lime/Orange half
  2. Remove seeds & brand stickers
  3. Stick in your garbage disposal, turn it on, and run with some hot water for a minute or two
  4. (if you have some handy, also add a spoonful of baking soda, it disinfects! not the citrus still works fab on its own!)
  5. Turn off disposal, and carefully remove the crushed halves

And since we’re caring for our garbage disposal, why not sharpen the blades?…it takes a minute and makes a huge difference!…ok, here we go!:
Tips for sharpening the blades of your Garbage Disposal
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Grab a handful of ice cubes
  2. Stick them in your disposal, turn it on, and run with some cold water for a minute or two
  3. Turn off disposal…and that’s it!

Yay!!!, now your kitchen is sparkly glowwy, and smells grrrrrrrrreeat!
FYI
 Here are some common food items that shouldn’t go down your disposal….
  • Cooked Rice…(clogs up pipes!)
  • Potato peels …(again, pipe clogger!)
  • Onion skins… (sticks to blades, preventing anything to be crushed properly)
  • Banana skins …(causes the blades to slick up and also clogs up the pipes)
  • Bones.. (can break your garbage disposal)
  • Stringy veggies aka: asparagus, celery, artichokes etc…(the strings on the veggie don’t get ground up, and they stay there, rotting and stinking up your kitchen)
  • Seafood shells….(don’t crush properly and just stay and stink up the kitchen horribly!)
  • Cooking Oil…(it slowly creates a buildup in your pipes, and they’ll get clogged easily!..costly and bad for the water and environment!–Dispose of it in empty sauce jars, or such…keep them under your sink so there’s no excuse next time)
I hope this post was helpful!, many of us forget or neglect our disposal and totally abuse it..yeah, it’s just a plumbing kitchen gadget, BUT, clogged pipes require costly plumbing repair, and that totally STINKS!

The One Thing That’s Certain is Change

Hello Dears! Thanks so much for stopping by for a visit today. In lieu of an official post, I have an official announcement to make:

There are some BIG changes coming to Living Graciously beginning on March 1st. I’m so excited about the “brand new” Living Graciously, and I’m sure you will be too! You won’t want to miss it!

So for today: have you ever told your friends about Living Graciously? If not,will you help me spread the word? They will want to already be following over here for the big reveal on the 1st!

In the meantime: 
Why not check out this great guest post on Fajitas and Peach Cobbler over in The Kitchen
Or visit my store to buy a quick and adorable birthday gift for a friend
Have you read about my guide to sweater care yet?
Are you a member of Swagbucks yet? If not, today is a great day to join!
Did you get to take advantage of the wonderful LLBean sale yesterday? ***(Be sure and subscribe to the Personal Shopper page so that you get these great deals delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re posted.) Many of them only last one day!

As you can see, Living Graciously is FULL of interesting posts. Make sure you don’t just land on the homepage everyday and read what’s going on here, but check out the right sidebar under “What’s New” and you’ll see all the other posts that have been most recently published in The Kitchen, The Personal Shopper, and The Style Files! LG is your one stop shop for all of your interests!

A Night With the Girls

The other night I went out with a couple of girlfriends for dinner. We have quite a lot in common, and had such a delightful time over soba and sushi (and red bean ice cream-ever had it?), I wondered why I don’t make more room in my schedule for things like this.- I know it’s partially because of my strange work schedule, and partially because it’s been ages since I’ve had some true Kindred Spirits that lived locally (the sad part of growing up and your friends moving away). I feel so refreshed after those few hours – I can’t wait to do it again! It’s so good for the soul. Do you have a group of girlfriends that you get together with on a regular basis? What do you do? Is it planned or spontaneous? Do you have any clubs that you are a part of (cooking, book, etc.)?

I want to hear about your girls nights out!
 You know what that little badge means, right? Yup! It’s another blog love day where you get to meet another special blogger! Today our guest is Misty from A Rainy Day in May, and you can meet her over in The Kitchen where she’s cooking up some delicious (healthy and easy too) recipes just for you! Trot on over and visit with her!

Are You A Gracious Guest?

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In these terribly busy days that we live in, it seems it is becoming less and less of an occurrence to be invited over to someone’s home for a simple relaxing dinner, or a celebration of some kind. More often it’s: “meet us at the restaurant”, isn’t it? I believe partly because of its infrequency, some of the etiquette of being a gracious guest has been lost. – As someone who is more often a hostess than a guest, I can tell you from first hand experience that those guests that are kind and gracious stand out like shining stars in my memory! Want to be a blessing to your hostess next time you are lucky enough to receive an invitation? Here are a few “gracious guest” pointers:


*When you receive an invitation, respond promptly and using the method they request: i.e. if they put a phone number on the invitation, don’t e-mail them. Or if they place an e-mail address on the invitation, don’t RSVP when you see them at the store. Hostesses REALLY appreciate this!


*Arrive on time NOT early. There are a million things to do when you are the hostess right at the last minute, and running to answer the door should not be one of them. Your hostess will be ready for your arrival at the time that she asked you to arrive…but not before! Of course, arriving late is inconsiderate (but sometimes unavoidable) as well. If something detains you, call, apologize, and inform your hostess that you will be a few moments late.


*Always arrive with a small hostess/host gift. This can truly be anything: flowers, wine, a candle, a package of note cards, baked goods, etc.. This shows elementary good breeding and gratitude.


*Offer to remove your shoes. A hostess can always decline your offer, but you should always ask.


*Use your hostess as your cue: when to sit down, what to pass at the table, when to begin eating, etc.


*After your event, send a thank you note (yes, in the mail) within a week of being entertained.- A gracious guest, is a grateful guest!

Feeling Italian?

It’s another Blog Love day! Have you been showing some love to your favorite blogs? Our featured blog for today is The Happy Home Blog written by Emily. They are redoing their cute cottage by the sea and if you enjoy before and afters and lots of DIY projects, you’ll really like her blog! Emily also loves to cook though, and today we are lucky to have her posting a really yummy sounding Italian recipe for us over in The Kitchen. I love the simple, divine flavors from Italy, don’t you?! So go check her out, and leave her some love!