May 29, 2016

Perfection and a Bathroom Update



The thing about blogging these days is, it's SO easy to compare yourself to other bloggers and their oh-so-shiny sites.  Social media, with all it's stunning imagery, entices us creatives to visualize their latest holiday craft project, furniture DIY, room makeover, or entire house tour, copy and pasted right into our own homes!

All these fashion, lifestyle, and shelter sites, and their perfectly layered, fluffed, and staged images, can begin to take their toll on our own self image and how we believe we measure up.  Although I don't pretend to live in a manicured model home-esque house (Hello! Three kids, two cats, and a dog!), I do have visions of a immaculately set dining table free of Play-Doh and school papers, dust and wrinkle free window treatments, a fabulously tufted sofa without sticky stains or cat hair, a mudroom and entry with a lovely wool runner and fancy lamps instead of piles of muddy boots and a bag of clothes to return because I was shopping with a baby and three year old and couldn't try anything on...

...I can't be the only one.

And while I LOVE my children, and pets, and hubby, and house, and wouldn't trade them for anything, ever...I do sometimes (ok, nearly every day) have to remind myself that this stage of life is temporary.  That I will not always have chocolate milk and strawberry jam stains over every surface three feet high and lower.  That someday, in the not too distant future, I will miss the pitter patter of those muddy boots.

The point is, I can't help but feel like I can't share my home in photos (won't that already pinned Pinterest image look better, anyway?) because it's in a constant state of flux and clutter.  I'm (mostly) normal, and I'm usually justified in the way my house looks at any given time, but I never feel like it's worthy of posting on the web.  Why would anyone care that I hung new art in my kids' bathroom today when there's toothpaste stuck to the counter?  Who cares that I bought a new rug, or swapped some furniture around when there are piles of junk mail and laundry on the floor?

Sure, people might care if the room already looks BHG-worthy.  Why not see an updated version of perfection?  But when a room is no where near ready for a photo feature, why would anyone but my family (Hi, Mom!) really care to see?



Well, I'm hoping you do.

Why?  Because I think we're all REAL people.  Even those amazing bloggers who seem to have it ALL together regularly admit to the photo magic that goes on behind the scenes to get that headlining shot.  And while their homes are certainly enviable, I am (finally) beginning to truly believe that there's a place in this world, on this webnet, in this blog, for the average person; that it doesn't have to be "pin worthy" to inspire; that although I still have mismatched chairs that desperately need to be reupholstered, and my floors haven't been mopped in weeks (keeping it real), and my beautiful dining table is a huge monstrosity that needs to be swapped for something smaller (any buyers out there?), I believe that there are some people out there that might be relieved to see a decent looking dining room that doesn't make them feel insecure.  That my budget friendly, kid friendly updates are totally doable, and in no way intimidating (you can do it, too!).  That maybe you can take a look at my kids bathroom update and think, "Hey, that looks nice!  Maybe some new art would look totally cute in my bathroom!" or "Hey, I have one of those Ikea plants.  Maybe I should move some stuff around and see how it looks in the bathroom." Or even, "Hey, that's cute.  That's easy.  I can afford that.  I could totally do something like that."

Because we're REAL.  We're NORMAL.  We don't have unlimited disposable funds to decorate.  We have kids, and jobs, and LIVES, and can't spend every weekend in DIY bliss (ha!).

So, from here on out, I'm going to show you the nitty gritty.  The normalcy of daily life.  Don't worry, I'm not going to be showcasing my dirty laundry (or maybe I will!), or dishes, or cat boxes...ewww.  But I am totally going to be keeping it real!

I am going to take you on a journey:  declutter-ation, simplification, organization, beautification, and finally, relaxation!

Since y'all have been asking me for some house updates, we're beginning with a simple bathroom update.  Nothing fancy.  Just making our house a home.  Next up will be our loft updates (yay built-ins!).  After that, it's going to get scary.  My first step will be to declutter, dejunk, decrapify my house, basement, garage, and (*gulp*) storage units.  Yes, I said "units", with an "S".  As in plural units.  Ugh.



I'll be candid and show you what's really going on behind the scenes.  Sure, there will be features and pretty pics, don't you worry.  But, I wouldn't be true to myself, to you, or to why I write if I didn't also show you what's really going on.  Maybe it will help.  Maybe you won't feel so left out or alone in your struggles.

Because we ALL have skeletons in our closet.  Sometimes they look like depression.  Sometimes it's hoarding tendencies.  Maybe it just looks like parenting and feeling overwhelmed.  Sometimes you really have, like, thirteen Halloween skeletons in your closet (do you really need thirteen?).

Inspired to "make things happen" this year, I'm done shifting stuff around from room to room.  Done whirling around in a anxious cleaning frenzy before company comes over.  Done not posting updates and projects because I've got too much clutter around to take a "pin-worthy" photo.

We're going to declutter:  Our homes and our attitudes.  I'm going to be showing you my darkest secrets.  Get ready!  It's gonna be good (or thirteen skeletons creepy)!

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Q:  I want to know what you think!  Are you intimidated by all the perfection circling around on the web and in magazines?  Do you just view it as eye candy and don't sweat it?  Is your home ready for a photo shoot at any given time (can you come clean my house?).  Do you hoard holiday decor?


March 11, 2016

Travel Tips for Tots



I don't know any parent that doesn't have some hesitation about road tripping with young children.  Be honest, the "are we there yet" and "I have to go potty" and "I'm borrrrred" choruses aren't what we want to listen to while driving through the countryside for fourteen hours (been there, done that!)!

But, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be painful.  In fact, it can be FUN!

I've put together a list of things I did to prepare to take my kids halfway across the country, by myself, with a dog, while seven months pregnant.

Yes, I'm serious.
Yes, I lived to tell the tale!



TIP #1: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

I cannot stress enough how a little prep work made this trip a success.  If I had relied on stopping at fast food restaurants and only playing "I Spy", I think I might have gone crazy...and the kids would have come right along with me!

Being prepared with activities, a few surprises, and plenty of snacks made all the difference!


TIP #2: Bring Toys and Car-Friendly Activities

Chloe and Ryker loved playing with their drawing tablets, and it was a "mom" favorite, too!  No mess, no clean-up, no searching for lost crayons.  ;)




The kids both loved playing with colorful pipe cleaners and looking through favorite books.  Chloe also enjoyed spelling words and names with a set of plastic alphabet letters on a dollar store tray.




TIP #3: Plan Surprises Along the Way

Plan something fun at milestones during your travel.  At 222.2 miles I whipped out some new dollar store toys for each of the kids and a small treat.  Bonus if you wrap the gift first.  The kids will love it!





TIP #4: Bring Snacks and Spill-Proof Drinks

I dished out food and snacks (from the collapsible cooler I kept in the front seat) using mini plastic cups.  Goldfish crackers, yogurt covered raisins, and fresh grapes were among their favorites.  Think like a toddler and imagine how you might make a mess with your food.  Clean up not so bad?  Then it's a good snack to bring along on your trip!

Don't forget to bring something to drink.  Even though my daughter is six, I brought a sippee for both her and Ryker that I refilled with juice or water whenever we stopped.  Keeping extra bottles of water and juice in the back is a must!




TIP #5:  Take Picture and Enjoy the View

Don't forget to enjoy the sites during your road trip!

Unless you're driving in circles around the Hawai'ian Islands, I doubt your entire trip will be photo worthy (lucky you if it is!).  However, enjoying a change of pace and fresh landscapes is a great way to relax a little and let your mind wander.  It's also the perfect opportunity to teach your children about the amazing country they live in!

I pointed out farms, fruit groves (smelled so good driving by!), livestock, various native plants (Yucca, anyone?), natural and man made land formations, bodies of water (Virgin River was a fun one), and anything that seemed interesting.  Chloe learned to ask questions about anything new she saw, and it was a great learning experience for her!


"Picturesque" Beaver, UT gas stop

TIP #6:  Get the Wiggles Out

Although it set us back an entire hour, one of the best things we did was stop about 2/3 through our trip for potty breaks, ice cream, and PLAY TIME!

I knew traveling with kids would mean more stops for potty breaks and getting wiggles out, but I also knew that my young children (6 and 2) would need a bigger break at some point to totally recharge.




After some much needed play time, the kids relaxed and enjoyed an in-house movie!  We're fortunate enough to have a built-in DVD player and screen in our family car, but iPads and other devices are a great idea during down time.




TIP #7:  Bring On the Snuggles

Don't forget to bring your child's favorite snuggly items.  You'll be kicking yourself later for forgetting Bunny Bun or Blankie.

For this long trip, I also bought both kiddos a super soft blanket and stuffed animal combo from Costco (that they picked out before our trip) that they had to wait to enjoy.  These "treats" were great as a new toy AND some extra snuggle time during the late afternoon hours.





Traveling with a pet can prove a bit of a challenge, as well.  I purchased a fresh water/food dish combo from the dollar store and remembered to bring her leash, bed, a few of her favorite toys, and enough pet food for the trip (I measured out enough for the length of our stay and put in a large plastic ziplock bag).


Pixel, cruising in style!

I won't sugar coat it...the trip was loooong.  I was tired, my bum and hips were sore, and all I wanted to do was take a nap...

...sounds like a normal day during pregnancy, honestly.  HA!




TIP #8:  Bring Your Sense of Humor

As a parent, a road trip with little ones can be especially exhausting.  The best advice I can give you is to bring plenty of snacks, snuggles, and your sense of humor!  Just know that there will be soggy diapers, endless "Are we there yets", and maybe even a few melt downs.  Realizing ahead of time that it's all about the kiddos, and that you're not going to reach your destination any time fast, will ease your stress level and expectations.  You might even have a great time!




TIP #9:  Night Time Light Show

Traveling through the night?  Don't think your kids will fall asleep as soon as the sun goes down!  Instead of fighting those wide awake kiddos, plan your own disco party!  Armed with glow sticks from, you guessed it, the dollar store, you'll be jive talkin' and movin' to the groove in no time!




(I'm pretty sure they named me "Mom of the Year" after I pulled over to whip out the glow sticks.)


Final Thoughts

If asked whether I would attempt such a trip again, I wouldn't hesitate to say, "Heck yes!"

Traveling with toddlers and young children (even pets!) has it's challenges, but I was happily surprised by how much fun we all had!  I was able to bond with my children, even educate them, in a unique way that really could only happen while spending hours upon hours with each other in closed quarters.  It was wonderful to watch them have new experiences, especially my six year old who was enthralled by all the different scenery and landscapes.




Our trip was a success, and I would do it again in a heart beat!  It would have most likely been a disaster, however, if I had not thought ahead and made sure the kids would be well fed and entertained throughout the drive.

May the force be with you!


January 25, 2016

How to Decorate After the Holidays

Flashy baubles and delicate garlands are carefully stowed away, promises of weekly holiday events and get-togethers have subsided, and endless hours of (fun!) baking projects are no longer at the top of your To-Do list.  The holidays are over.  A new year has begun!



After the excitement of the end-of-year holidays has calmed, and your layers upon layers of seasonal decor has been stored for the following year, the calm of a clean and simplified house can be a welcome respite from the visual chaos of the past few months.  But after the novelty of a minimalist home dwindles, you might be left feeling like you're living in a sterile box.


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My favorite way to decorate after the new year is by layering fresh greenery, adding texture with fuzzy blankets and pillows, and keeping things warm and inviting without all the glitz and glitter!  Here's a few ideas to get you started!


Keep Those Greens!


I love fresh (and faux!) greenery all year long.  Ferns, boxwood, pine, magnolia leaves, palms, you name it...all add life and interest to any home, and are easy to come by!  Gently take apart the giant bows and ornaments incorporated into your holiday greenery and display the simplified winter greens in their own.  It's a great way to add life to your home when the weather is cold and bleak.


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Stick to Neutrals


As much as I love the warm tones of fall, and the vibrant hues of December holidays, I find that I'm ready for a palette cleanser at the start of the new year!  Simplify your decor by removing excess colors (pillows, throws, holiday decor, tchotchkes, etc.) in favor of a more calming neutral theme.  Your eyes will thank you!

And if you love color, don't worry!  You'll be off and decorating for spring before you know it!


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Reuse Your Red


Though your Elf on the Shelf may look a little out of place in February, if you love decorating with red for Christmas, why not keep the festive hue around for Valentine's Day?


January 11, 2016

Top Posts of 2015

As the world looks towards each new year with anticipation to lose weight, live healthier, save more, spend less, declutter and organize, spend more time with family and friends (the list goes on!), I've decided on a personal mantra to get me through 2016:

"Make Things Happen"

For too long I've been surrounded by unfinished home projects, lists of To-Dos and goals, and a struggle with perfection that keeps me drowning in details.  Determined to simplify my daily routine and surrounding, I pledge to create an environment of creativity, growth, and an abundance of love for my little family.

By "making things happen", I will send the thank you cards I wrote but never bought stamps for; finish the cabinet my husband repaired but I never got around to painting; stop and enjoy the little moments with my children who are each in completely different and totally amazing stages of life (ages 6 months, 3 years, and 7 years); stick to our budget and make our way out of debt; stop planning so much and start doing, even if the results aren't perfect or exactly how I envisioned; I will stop being so hard on myself and start acknowledging all that I do well!

2016 will be a year of change.  It will be a year of doing.  A year to "make things happen!"

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A quick look back to what we accomplished in 2015 includes a compilation of some of Bella Storia's top posts.  Decor ideas, easy crafts, free printables, and a few helpful life hacks were among your favorites!





















And then there's a few of the blog's all-time favorite posts including the first Frozen Room Inspiration post (Will Frozen Fever ever cool off? My daughters are doubtful.) ;)









Don't forget to check out Moving 101: Part One


A great big THANK YOU to all my readers!  Stick around...2016 has some BIG surprises in store!