Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Pressure For a Good Picture

Phew! We got everyone dressed and out into the greenbelt behind my folks' house inbetween rain showers on Sunday and got ONE decent family photo for this year.


{Andrew is now 6 and Ethan is 2.5}

And it all started when I found those adorable argyle ties at a craft show.

COMING SOON....our 2011 family newsletter!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Turns Out, the Grass IS Greener

We've been in our new place in the southeast Phoenix valley for over four months now and are finally (mostly) settled in.

I'd wanted to live closer to my folks for a long time, probably ever since our first son was born six years ago. We'd lived 50 miles away, which meant a lot of long drives home late at night, often with a baby on board.

I had done a lot of fantasizing about what it would be like to live closer together. {cue dream sequence music} I imagined dropping by for a cup of coffee in the morning or to smoke a cigar with my dad on the back porch at night. I figured we'd shop at Costco and split our purchases. I'd be able to leave the boys for a couple of hours so I could go shopping. My mom and I could consult each other on our makeup and wardrobe for special events and borrow nail polish and jewelry from each other. My dad and I could talk business over lunch. We could go on impromptu outings and celebrate holidays without spending the hour-and-a-half on the road. I thought it would be marvelous.

Beyond that, we hoped that our move would mean more career and ministry opportunities for us, an excellent school for our son to attend kindergarten, neighbors we could build relationships with, more fun things to do as a family and so much more.

But you know how it is: reality often does not live up to the fantasy. The grass is rarely greener on the other side.

But, in the four months since we started this new adventure, as my husband often points out: we ARE "living the dream." Our life here is amazing and we are thrilled with our home, our neighborhood and my son's school. I have found a wonderful church home where I can do what I love: write. Being closer to my parents is an absolute blessing, even better than I'd anticipated. It is everything we had hoped and prayed for--and more! God is so good. As my mom posted on our fridge when we first moved in: "He has done all things well."

Our new home has grass in the front and back yards. It's partly why I was so drawn to this house when we were shopping around.

I haven't had grass in the yard since we lived in Florida in 1998. Just being barefoot on the grass makes me feel like I am truly home.

I imagined how much fun the boys would have on it, running through the sprinkler, playing football and wrestling. They have done all of that.

My father-in-law recently brought his dog for a visit and seeing the boys play with the dog on our lawn made my heart so happy.

I love sitting on my swing and looking out over the grass, watching the birds in the trees and gazing at the Arizona-blue sky. It just feels right. Like I'm exactly where I'm meant to be.

Turns out, the grass IS greener here. I had always known it would be.

Friday, December 2, 2011

When Direct Sales Calls {part 2}

{To read part 1 of how direct sales called my name, click HERE}

....About a month ago, I realized that I HAD to find a job. I didn't have the luxury of treating another business like a hobby. I knew that whatever I did next HAD to be "it!" Even if it wasn't really "it," I was going to MAKE it "IT!" So I started soul searching and praying and trying to figure out my next move. Even as I started to pursue launching a brand new business idea of my own, I could still hear it....direct sales was calling.

So I started looking for a job. Not just any job....but a job where I was the boss and could write my own ticket, as they say. I wanted it to utilize my talents and abilities and make good use of my past experiences. For days, all I did was brainstorm ideas. What am I good at, what do people tell me I should do, what gets me excited, what would really make money?

Around that time, I attended a Christian Women in Business conference at a local church. My parents own a home painting business and I went representing them as their "color picker" but had an open mind as to other doors that God might be opening. In one of the break-out sessions, I was struck by the man who introduced the speaker. He was a long-time Arizona native and one of his many jobs was as a "business developer." I had a strong feeling that I needed to talk to him so I contacted his secretary and set up an appointment. Beforehand, I talked to my husband about my "dream job" and when I met with this gentleman, Jim, I told him about it. I told him that I love supporting women with their own businesses, I love planning and hosting events and I love networking. I also told him that I was ready to narrow my focus to ONE thing and really make a go of it.

Jim came up with a brilliant idea that involved me creating and launching my own business--something no one else was doing. I started telling people about it, making phone calls to set up my first event and pitched the idea to my family. I followed Jim's advice and read the books he recommended and purchased the domain name, too. {I hope, by the way, that someone would like to run with my idea someday because I'd be thrilled to give it away.} Ultimately, creating a business from scratch was terrible intimidating and when I told people about it, they were confused by my idea. I realized that I was even confused about what I was doing! So, I put it on the back burner and decided to wait a while before putting any more money into it.

In the meantime, I was still praying for God to open doors for me. At that Christian Women in Business conference, my mom and I shared a table with a realtor who belonged to a local networking group and she invited us to attend the next meeting. I wasn't able to go but my mom did. Besides having a great time, she met a lady who was also attending for the first time. This woman, Sherrian, happened to be THE Mary Kay lady of the retirement community only five miles away from our neighborhood.

My mom met with Sherrian soon after that for a Mary Kay skin care session and reported to me that I would love her when I met her. When she described Sherrian (a national trainer for Mary Kay who gave back to the community, had a beautiful home and happened to have her OWN networking group), I instantly thought, "She is who I want to be."

Mom and I attended Sherrian's networking group that next week. When they introduced me to the other 40-plus women in the room (all with a variety of businesses they owned), I told them about my business idea (the idea Jim had given me). Afterward, I met and chatted with Sherrian. She wished me luck with the business idea and said, "I can see you having your own networking group," and I told her that I actually wanted her life and that she was doing what I wanted to do! I told her about my passion for women and how I'd always dreamed of being a leader. I told her that I was going to pursue my other business idea...but that I definitely needed to make money in the meantime. She said, "Well, you need to do Mary Kay," and handed me their promotional flier for the business opportunity. She would later tell me that she just 'had a feeling' that she needed to share the business opportunity with me that night. Interesting.

So I mulled over the Mary Kay idea and when I went home and told my husband about what Sherrian said, he laughed. He'd heard that story before. I'd been tempted by the Mary Kay opportunity many, many times over the years, partly because I love their products and the company philosophies and partly because of the 50% profit. But I knew my husband was thinking, "Here she goes, launching yet another 'it' business," so I didn't pursue it any further. It almost seemed too obvious to do Mary Kay.

After that, my back-burner business idea still didn't take off. I was still searching. I attended a makeover event at Sherrian's house (which she used to help train the women on her team) and, once again, left thinking, "I could've done that better" and that I had an edge over all the consultants in the room. I knew direct sales, I knew skin care and makeup, I knew women and I even knew a lot about Mary Kay. My mom and grandmother also attended, and echoed my thoughts. "You could SO do that," my mom said.

Then I started thinking more and more about Mary Kay. I mentioned it again to my husband. I journaled and prayed. I studied the catalog. Was this really IT?!? Maybe just because it was obvious didn't mean it wasn't right.

{continue with part 3, coming soon!}

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When Direct Sales Calls

Tupperware, Mary Kay and Creative Memories were among the first home parties I attended and that was back in the 1990s. There would be a cute display of fun products. Women would eat, talk and visit with each other while flipping through the catalog. The consultant, all dressed up, would tell us about the company and the items she was selling. We'd play games, she'd give away prizes and she'd try to book more parties or recruit new team members. I realized that this woman was running her own business, with the benefit of being under the umbrella of a big, well-known company.

"Direct sales," as I discovered it was called, appealed to me from the beginning. I loved everything about it: shopping, hosting, meeting new people, eating, playing games and finding out about fun, new products. Even as a teenager, I could see myself being a consultant for a direct sales company.

In my twenties, I was known for hosting a home party several times a year and I rarely turned down an invitation to attend a friend's business launch or home party. I felt passionately about supporting these women and their businesses. Often, I would go to a party, observe the consultant the entire time and go home thinking, "I could have done that even better." I saw myself building a team, becoming a leader, earning prizes, making money and helping other women start a business of their own.

In fact, after having my first son in late 2005, I dabbled in a few direct sales businesses with some success. With Tupperware and Blessings Unlimited, I was happy just to get the starter kit. BUT, with Arbonne, Southern Living At HOME, and especially Cookie Lee jewelry, I told my husband each time, "This is THE company" and I set out to "work my business." I would get excited about it, have a launch party, hold a handful of big shows and even recruit a few people. I dreamed of moving up in the ranks and becoming a leader. But eventually, I always lost momentum and then got distracted and moved on to the next thing.

Still, my heart was in direct sales. From 2005 to 2010, I helped a friend with her daughter, did some writing, launched a ministry and ran an Etsy shop, all the while thinking, "Gosh, I just always thought I'd make it big in the direct sales industry."

From August 2009 to August 2010, my family took a break from life. We sold our home and rented near my husband's job. We stepped down from leadership at church, I shut down my Etsy shop and we enjoyed a slower pace. I did sign up for Melalueca and still enjoy ordering from them, especially their natural cleaning products. Other than writing, I didn't "work" and it was marvelous to take a break.

That summer, we fulfilled a long-time dream of living closer to my parents and moved into their neighborhood in Chandler, Arizona in time for our oldest son to start kindergarten at the nearby elementary school. After we got settled, bills began to pile up and reality set in: I needed a job. I had to make real money.

Looking back, I realize that being a stay-at-home mom to a young kid (or kids) meant that I could only dabble in direct sales as more of a hobby. It would have been nearly impossible to have treated any of my direct sales businesses as a real "job," without a nanny, personal assistant and/or maid.

Nevertheless, about a month ago, I realized that I HAD to find a job. I didn't have the luxury of treating another business like a hobby. I knew that whatever I did next HAD to be "it!" Even if it wasn't really "it," I was going to MAKE it "it!" So I started soul searching and praying and trying to figure out my next move. Even as I started to pursue launching a brand new business idea of my own, I could still hear it....direct sales was calling.

{keep reading in Part 2, coming soon!!}

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

{me & my mom yesterday, having a girls' day out}

When I found out that my one of my devotions for our church website was being published today, on my mom's birthday, I knew I had to pay her a tribute. Here it is.

Colossians 1:9-10 “For this reason we also, since the day we heard of it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Today, November 20th, is my mother’s birthday. My mom is one of the most extraordinary women I know and I am incredibly blessed to have her for a mother, friend and neighbor. Anyone who knows her would agree that she is creative, giving, fun-loving, beautiful, humble, gracious, godly and the best kind of nice. My mother throws quirky themed parties, gardens in her gorgeous back yard, gives thoughtful gifts, always looks put-together and exudes calm and happiness everywhere she goes. She can find the humor in any situation and lives every day to the fullest.

Sometimes people say that she lives a charmed life. We all know these people—the ones who seem to ‘have it all’ and whose life is rich, unique and maybe even enviable. But I know her secret.

My mother’s life is charming because it is by GOD’S design and because she pursues God’s will and God’s wisdom for her life at all times. She not only diligently prays and studies her Bible every day but she actually lives it out, too. One of her many life mottos is “Make your plans in pencil then hand God the eraser” from Proverbs 16:9 that says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” She seeks God’s will for her life first and trusts Him to take care of the rest. She asks God to lead her and she looks for guide posts everywhere, saying, “I’d rather be guilty of believing too much than too little.” She often says, “Life is good,” her paraphrase of John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” She is a living example of the fact that achieving a truly charmed life is not possible apart from being sold out to Jesus Christ and maintaining a moment-to-moment relationship with Him.

My mother has taught me the art of living well but it doesn’t end at hosting parties, cooking or accessorizing. Today we will be celebrating her at a Julie Child-inspired cooking class and brunch, wearing aprons and pearls and competing for a ‘best apron’ prize. I will make her a handmade card and inside I will write, “Thanks, Mom, for teaching me the real secret to living a charmed life: Jesus.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

I love to give these as gifts

I enjoy having a small bowl or "dish" to place my rings and other jewelry in. I use one on top of my dresser for my wedding rings and frequently-worn earrings, one next to my kitchen sink for my rings when I'm washing dishes and I like to have one for guests when they spend the night.

They're also lovely for paperclips on your desk or to hold lemon slices at a tea party. You could even use one at each place setting at a dinner party to hold a pat of butter or a condiment.

When I started looking for them, I found them at Goodwill and other thrift stores for anywhere from 75 cents to no more than $3 each.

These make lovely, thoughtful and inexpensive gifts. They're easy to collect and keep on hand for a gift-giving occasion and they're small enough to tuck into a gift bag. See? The one I just found was only $1.49 at Goodwill.

Just check the bottom to make sure it isn't cheap ceramic or "made in China." It's fun to hunt for one in a friend's favorite color or that matches her decor.

The hard part will be not keeping them for yourself {and keeping your mom from stealing them from you--that's what mine did!}!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Everyone loves punch

Here I am with my two dear friends, Chrissy and Rebekah, at Rebekah's baby shower today. We're so excited--she's having a GIRL!

My mom and I found her this funky outfit--no pastels here!! I made the flower (with a little touch of WILD) to go with it.

And where I come from, a shower just isn't a shower without punch.

I made this one with a can of raspberry lemonade concentrate watered down with a 2-liter of 7 Up and a bottle of raspberry sparkling water, with two containers of rainbow sherbet spooned over the top. That's ice from Sonic, by the way. Did you know they sell bags of ice for $2???

The soda and sherbet can be changed to achieve a different taste or color. For St. Patrick's Day, I do a can of limeade concentrate, 7 Up, a lime sparkling water and lime sherbet. It's hard to do punch wrong so just go for it!

Everyone loves punch. Make it for your next get-together and watch it disappear!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A tour of my new studio/craft room

Welcome to my studio/craft room!

Let's enter the room to the left and move around clockwise, okee dokee?

Bookcase with my most-used books, including my NEW color theory and interior decorating books. The bookcase is the Billy from IKEA.

Teacup and apron collections.

Seating area. Scored the wicker chair at a garage sale for $7. The garden stool is my favorite color, I got it at Ross for about $30 (I was thrilled).

Artwork wall above the seating area, BEFORE I added more fun pieces! :)

And AFTER! "More is more" in this case! I scored the rose artwork for $5 on clearance at Target and the metal bike for $10 at Hobby Lobby to round out this wall. Yeeesss, the shadow box is still empty.

Another angle. With the 10-foot ceilings, we hung everything high. I think I like it! The little white shelf closely resembles my white chairs, I got it at Goodwill for less than $3.

Dresser and hutch. I took it out of the boys' bedroom. They don't need display space (or an excuse to climb up on the furniture).

Close-up of the tea station. I want to get a French press for my coffee-loving friends, too.

Hutch, screen and work table.

Day bed, temporary side table and new quilt. I was so happy to find a quilt that's pink and turquoise with a hint of green....WITH owls! I found it in the kids' department at Homegoods.

I love my IKEA day bed! It retailed for $99, is no longer available and I scored it on Craigslist for $75. I'd been eyeing it for several years and my husband got it for me as an anniversary gift in August.

Workspace and craft supplies. This table was a freebie from a friend that I painted green, then re-painted white. It's nice and big to spread out my projects, and to craft with a friend. I'm getting a lot more use out of my Southern Living at HOME silverware caddy now that I'm using it to hold art supplies and crafting tools. My boys enjoy sitting with me and coloring and drawing while I work, too, so I always keep their stuff accessible.

Crafting area with fabric and card-making supplies and Ott lamp. My photo storage boxes are indispensable for storing my craft projects (I've since added more). The framed cork board is from Homegoods. I'm going to use it to show clients potential color schemes.

I love the wicker "shelf" I found to display my favorite rubber stamps! It's easier this way for my friends to find the stamps they need for their projects, too (without digging through the ten pencil boxes I keep the rest of them in).

If you came in and closed the double doors, you'd see my bulletin board. This one will be purely functional so I wanted it to be hidden. As much as I'd love every square inch to look like a magazine, it DOES have to WORK!

And this room definitely WORKS!

I adore my new room! The wall color is "Tame Teal" by Sherwin Williams for anyone interested. Any other questions, just leave a comment!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Studio Sneak Peek

My space in our new house is going to be soooo much more than "just" a craft room so I'm trying to get use to calling it..."My Studio." Wait 'til you see this room! When we toured this house, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this space.

My wonderful hubby trimmed out the ceiling paint last night (while I was out galavanting with my mom at the mall!) and I'm waiting on him to do the baseboard before I load up my big pieces of furniture.

In the meantime, however, I am making some progress! Here's a sneak peek!

{studio seating area}


{tea tray}

I hope to reveal the whole thing (as a work in progress, of course) VERY soon!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

choosing paint


As for the colors, I debated and debated for weeks. Aqua walls and neutral decor? Gray walls and colorful decor?

Gray? Aqua? Gray...aqua??

"Sea Salt" gave us both.

When I settled on "Sea Salt," I knew it had blue/green undertones but looking at the paint chip, and the samples I painted on the walls, we really thought it would be gray.

(the one to the right of the stove)

Boy, were we surprised when it started going up on the walls. My husband and I looked at each other all day, saying, "It's blue."

The family room wall, just to give you an idea of the color. Love it.

Paint Matters

We moved.

Our new place is AMAZING. I feel like I'm living in someone else's beach house for the weekend (and enjoying every minute of it) but Monday, I'm gonna have to go back home. It's a little surreal.

In a new place, you get a lesson on accentuating the positive. This place has 10 ft. ceilings, a reeeaaalllly wide front hallway, fabulous 18" tile floors, lovely kitchen counters (granite and Caesar stone!) and big, light-filled rooms. I told you--lots of positives! And the previous owners painted it...Dog Puke Yellow. It was a dirty, mustard-y, lifeless, brownish yellow. No redeeming qualities and didn't do this beautiful house any favors.

So! My first order of business: PAINT.

Thankfully, my dad is a long-time professional painter and my husband has a lot of practice painting interiors. I did not hesitate to put them to work. I just could not abide the yellow. And our time-frame allowed us to paint for two days before the actual moving process started. Painting an empty house is the way to go.

And now for some before and afters!

I will be tweaking this house for...well, probably for as long as we live here! So this is just the 1st of MANY "afters!"

{paint color details appear at the end of this post}

The dining area, BEFORE. I knew I wanted to give this space a little "wow" because it gets nice light and frames the backyard view. Our rental had no back yard so you know I'm appreciating this one!

AFTER. My only accent wall, painted in "Aqueduct," with our dining room table and chairs. I envision bamboo shades for these windows. Someday I may paint the table and chairs black.

A different look. These were the cookies waiting for Andrew when he arrived home from school after his first day of kindergarten!

My baby started school! Sniff, sniff. As cute as he is, all I'm looking at are the wall colors behind him!

Kitchen BEFORE. To me, the paint color just makes the cabinets and counters disappear.

(almost) AFTER kitchen. Our new color makes the taaaallll cabinets stand out and compliments the Caesar stone counters. It wasn't trimmed out yet, nor was the ceiling done. I'll add that "after" ASAP!

Pantry was just dingy! BEFORE...

...and AFTER. Just gave it a cleaning and two coats of "Swiss Coffee" white. The paint was trimmed out around the outside at this point, too, which really helps.

Looking from front door, BEFORE. This was from the MLS listing.

...AFTER. I envisioned our turquoise sideboard here, I think it will stay. Just needs some artwork above and accessorizing.

The hall looking toward the front door, BEFORE.

The hall, AFTER.

I adore the bright, light, airy feel! Plus it's still very neutral, so we can add more fun colors to the mix. I'm very excited about personalizing our space! Stay tuned!

INTERESTED IN THE PAINT COLORS? "Sea Salt" walls (eggshell), "Crystal Clear" ceiling (flat) and "Swiss Coffee" trim (satin). All Sherwin Williams.

The three paint colors together.

And in natural light.

More to come!!