Archive | January 2013

If the Shoe Fits… Organize it!

By  Mary Ann Filler

Am I the only one who thinks about organizing this time of year?

As a person who teaches people to think systematically, you might get the impression that organization comes easily to me.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to be organized, it’s just that I’m not a natural.  Before kids, I spent many hours keeping up with my “stuff.”  After kids, my “stuff” and their “stuff” took over!!! Ever since the “stuff” took over, I have been attempting to impose some sort of system of organization on it.

This may sound crazy, but one important area of organization for our family involves shoes.  As a family of five, we have a lot of them!  In addition, I have a son who feels like some women; one can never have enough shoes.  In fact, my son even photographs his shoes.

Note the closest pair in the photo…his prized one of a kind self-designed Converse!

Note the closest pair in the photo…his prized one of a kind self-designed Converse!

Keep in mind, this is just one of his shoe collections!

Keep in mind, this is just one of his shoe collections!

These shoes are getting their marching orders...

These shoes are getting their marching orders…

From the beginning, our boys have been trained to remove their shoes in the garage upon entering the house.  I’m not sure why, because neither my husband nor I removed our shoes prior to entering our homes of origin.  I will say that this habit has cut down on cleaning and the mal odors that tend to emanate from active boy’s foot ware. It has also help preserve the carpeted areas of our home.  But, this practice has also caused strife with having to nag the boys to take their shoes up to their bedrooms and then locate them again when it was time to go somewhere.

It was then that we decided that we should just store the shoes (other than their “Sunday” shoes) at the door leading from the garage in to the house.  When the boys were little, this was not that big of a problem as we were helping them on and off with their shoes, their feet were tiny, and they only owned two to three pairs of shoes in total.  As they grew, they each accrued many pairs of shoes, and we were no longer supervising them as they removed them.  This led to chaos in the entryway!

The quest to determine the best way of organizing all of these shoes was on.   We needed a system that would allow us to easily find and store each pair of shoes.

Initially, I used stackable plastic bins.

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I even labeled each bin thinking that it would help the boys remember to put their shoes in their individual bins when removing them.

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At first, the system was golden.  However, after the initial glow wore off and their feet grew (as well as the number of pairs of shoes), this is what our “shoe situation” typically looked like…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okay, I’ll admit that some of those shoes belong to my husband and I. We only keep a few pairs of shoes in the garage; the rest we store in our bedroom closet.

The bins were too small and the shoes became jumbled up, spilled out and difficult to locate.  At this point, I can’t tell you how many times I twisted my ankle attempting to enter or exit our home; not to mention the frustration in locating a pair of shoes when in a hurry.

I had to figure out a better system.  Some of the “systems” I considered wouldn’t work.  Width-wise we don’t have that big of an area at the doorway, and I didn’t want to “break the bank.”  I finally found a 4-tiered shoe rack that was affordable, durable and a perfect fit for the space!  We needed 3 to accommodate all of those shoes!

I purposefully included the winter boots in the photo as they will not fit on this rack.  We store our winter boots on a tray just beyond the racks in the winter and in our attic over the garage in the off-season.

I purposefully included the winter boots in the photo as they will not fit on this rack. We store our winter boots on a tray just beyond the racks in the winter and in our attic over the garage in the off-season.

I really like that this rack has shelves.  Many of the affordable options that I had considered had open rods for shoe placement; I could envision shoes slipping off the rack and on to the floor.  I also appreciate how sturdy these units are, as some of the racks I looked at would not have held up to teen boys!  This system allows easy access and storage of each boy’s shoes with a few extra slots for my husband and I (although I did have to convince my husband that he didn’t need 3 pairs of back up mowing shoes;-).

I completed this project back in September, and I have to say that it’s the best solution I’ve come up with so far.  It’s so nice to be able to enter and exit our home without spraining my ankle!

Purchasing information for the shoe racks:  I purchased mine at Home Depot.  However, you can go to Amazon.com and search 4-tier shoe rack and quite a few options will appear with prices ranging from $12-$30 per rack.

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Recycling Christmas Cards

Popcorn tins make great storage containers for treasured Christmas cards

Popcorn tins make great storage containers for treasured Christmas cards

By Karen Hendricks

Sending and receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite things about the holiday season. From glossy, glittery greeting cards to customized family photos, and even a few handmade cards created with stamps and inks, I cherish them all. And for many years, I’ve collected each holiday season’s cards and saved them in giant tins and baskets. But the collection is getting a bit unwieldy at this point…

So thanks to two projects, my son and I have found new ways to reuse these beautiful cards.

Last year in school, my son learned how to make a Christmas card ball, using principles of math and geometry–how cool! He has become slightly obsessed with creating these gorgeous decorations, so he made them as gifts for just about every family member between last year and this year, and he received plenty of hugs in appreciation. Aren’t handmade gifts a million times more valuable than store-bought ones?

Each ball requires 20 circular images cut from Christmas cards, so you can imagine the number of cards he recycled! You can make a circular template, about two inches in diameter, or use scrapbook tools such as a circle cutter.

Here are two of his creations:

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Even though it’s January, he’s still creating… so I took inspiration and joined him the other day. I was anxious to try a new “toy” I recently purchased–the Creative Memories Tag Maker. It’s a “punch” that creates a perfectly-shaped gift tag–how handy! I used portions of the Christmas cards, my son’s scraps, to create colorful gift tags. I feel like I have a head start on next year’s Christmas preparations, now that I have gift tags made. (I don’t usually work this far in advance!)

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Sorting through the cards brought back many fond memories of family and friends as we admired illustrations, set aside personal photos for safekeeping, and read the messages and signatures. Between my son and I, we discovered new life for quite a few old Christmas cards.

For information on the Creative Memories Tag Maker, click here.

For a YouTube video explaining how to make Christmas card balls, click here. Please note: the video instruct you to use glue sticks but we used staples instead.

How do you display, enjoy or reuse Christmas cards? Feel free to share your ideas, below by clicking “comment.”

“It’s the Little Things That Matter”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Sunday morning, my son and I were on our way to church. Over 1,000 acres of reservoir and woodland surround us here – and wildlife makes it their home. Sadly, though, countless number of deer and other wild animals can be seen dead on the side of the road. Many people drive way too fast to stop if anything unexpectedly jumps in front of them. I like to think of myself as a cautious driver who goes slowly enough to spot animals alongside the road in time. Yet that day, from out of nowhere, a deer just suddenly appeared and sailed across the front of our car. Since I wasn’t going too fast, I had enough reaction time to tap the breaks and just miss it as it darted safely to the other side.

A close call for sure, yet what really stood out for me is that the deer and I had time to make eye contact – and I think we both saw our lives pass before our eyes! I was a little shaken up so I turned down the music a bit, and told Andrew I just wanted to slow down my driving some more and take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. Wow, I thought – a car accident is a big thing.

Car accidents, traffic jams, job losses, job searches, new employment, working our fingers to the bone, broken bones, broken relationships, illness, injury – the list of big things in our lives goes on and on and, frankly, sometimes I get tired just thinking about it all let alone doing it all.

Photo Courtesy: Ring Lake Ranch

Photo Courtesy: Ring Lake Ranch

My mind goes back to an ecumenical retreat center my husband and I visited from August 20 – 26, 2006 in Dubois, Wyoming. This wilderness of indescribable, serene beauty is called Ring Lake Ranch. As a pastor with the daily stress and strain of dealing with parish ministry, my husband used to go once every year or two to refresh and renew his spirit. When we got married, he took me to a seminar there to show me why the place held such meaning for him.

The presenter was Esther DeWall, an internationally known spiritual guide. The underlying theme was various ways of looking at and experiencing things in our lives. Esther wanted to guide us in keeping our eyes and ears open throughout the week – to help us become more in tune with our surroundings. She wanted us to be awake, alert, and aware … to be totally present in the moment. She asked us to think about the things we see, hear, and do less as “activities” and more as “encounters.” She helped us learn to use our five senses to become more aware of the “little things” that we often miss during our busy, daily lives. Sometimes it is something very small that can change our perspective – or even our entire life.

Photo at Ring Lake Ranch, Courtesy:  Cindy McBride

Photo at Ring Lake Ranch, Courtesy: Cindy McBride

As the week went on, my husband and I discovered many little things such as sweet bird songs and hopping bunnies; and even a few “medium” things such as how to square dance. Yet even more importantly, within those tiny nuances of nature and foot stomping, we found a way of bonding with, and reaching out to, new people for comfort and healing in our lives.

Grins & Giggles - my son's cheesy smile!

Grins & Giggles – my son’s cheesy smile!

Following my close brush with disaster Sunday, I took time to think about some of the little things I am grateful for, and to focus on those – versus the “bigger,” more complicated things in my life. Here are just a few of the little things I have been particularly in tune to, and grateful for, this week:

*My son’s cheesy smile

*How good it tastes to “sneak” eating ice cream every night for a week

*Sitting by a really warm fire … until you feel like you are on fire!

*Curling up with a good Ken Follett novel (Is there one that isn’t?)

*My husband’s all-enfolding embrace

*Stephen Colbert’s humor at the end of a hard day (Thank you – you super-intelligent, amazingly funny man!)

*My too small dog barking at everything – meaning … nothing

*The so-delicious caramel creams my sister Heather buys me

*My father still being alive at age 93

*Friends who are family

Little Christmas Tree ornaments my best friend bought my husband and me for our first Christmas

Little Christmas Tree ornaments my best friend bought my husband and me for our first Christmas

In my next blog this month on ‘How to Journal,’ I will share the first and last entries from my retreat seminar journal. It can be very interesting to go back and read things you have written and were thinking about at a particular time in your life. In the meantime, remember to keep your eyes out for the little things that make your life special!

We would love to hear about a ‘little thing’ you found this week – please share with us!

Click here for more information on Ring Lake Ranch

Guest Blog: Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round

By Guest Blogger, Marian Parsons, AKA “Miss Mustard Seed”

This post originally appeared on missmustardseed.com on December 30,2012, and caught our attention!  Marian is a youth pastor’s wife, mother of two little boys and a lover of all things home. In addition to running her own business, Mustard Seed Interiors LLC, and authoring her blog, she is a freelance writer for HGTV.com, CountryLiving.com and a contributor to Cottages and Bungalows magazine (DIY Essentials Column). Her DIY projects have appeared in numerous additional publications and her first book Inspired You is currently #2 on Amazon’s Best-Selling Decorating Books. We are honored to republish “Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round” with her permission:

Miss-Mustard-SeedIn my business I’ve had to make some tough decisions.  The hardest thing for me is to say no and to set limits.  I want to fly as high as my wings can carry me and I don’t want to be limited by things like sleep and time to crash on the sofa to watch a movie.  I love my work and I love being productive, so it’s hard for me to sit, be still and rest.  It’s hard for me to see the great potential in something and then say no to it and make a clear decision to not pursue it.

Well, after about a year of going back and forth about it in my mind, I have made the difficult decision to leave The Old Lucketts Store as a vendor.  I know, I know.  It’s Lucketts!  How could I leave Lucketts?!  I know I don’t need to justify myself to all of you, but I thought I would lay out how I came to that decision in the hopes that it might help others who are thinking through some tough business (or maybe even personal) decisions.

1.)  It’s a matter of money.  When I looked at my year end profit and loss statement, I was pretty amazed to see that 2/3 of my gross income came from my blog and freelance writing jobs, leaving only 1/3 from merchandise.  Of that 1/3, about 1/3 was made in just two events (the May fair and the Christmas open house.)  Then when I looked at my investments, I saw that I spent almost twice as much on pieces to resell than I did on supplies for photo shoots and materials for projects.  Now, I know there is a lot more earning potential at Lucketts and I simply haven’t had the time to put into it to get more out of it.  From a business perspective, I had to look at my income and make the decision to put more time and money into the area that’s getting the highest return – blogging and writing.

2.) It’s a matter of time.  I am regularly asked how I do all I do.  Well, the simple answer is that I’m often hanging-on-by-a-thread and flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants and holding on-for-dear-life, which is fun, but it can be exhausting and overwhelming, too.  Over the past year, I have known that I needed to cut some things out.  I spend the majority of my time shopping for Lucketts, painting pieces for Lucketts, pricing for Lucketts, driving to Lucketts…you get the idea.  It’s a good 3-4 days of my week spent on Lucketts, which would be fine if that was my primary source of income, but since it’s not, it’s not a good return on my time.  What has kept me there for so long is all of the intangibles.  It’s great exposure.  I LOVE it.  I love working with the people there.  I love the interaction with my customer and readers.  All of those things made it tough to leave.

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3.) It’s a matter of goals.  There is a lot more that I want to do.  I have ideas for new colors and products to go along with the milk paint line.  There is so much more I want to do with my blog to make it informative, functional, inviting, etc.  I have a list of house projects a mile long that have been put on the back burner for a couple of years.  I’m really excited about having the time to pursue those ideas.

4.) It’s a matter of reality.  I’m often called a machine, but the truth is that I’m not.  I have periods of burnout and I just had a long stretch of it.  I just wanted to lay on the couch and watch old episodes of ER.  I love all that I’m doing, but I can’t continue at this pace.  As much as I like to think I can keep piling exciting projects on, I can’t and it’s time I recognize that and make changes accordingly.

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So, what does this mean for you, the reader?

Will I still write this blog?  YES!  That’s one reason I’m leaving Lucketts.  I want to be able to give more of my professional time to my blog.  I’m actually hoping to increase the number of posts I write each week and that slowing down in other areas will give me time to increase the content on my blog.  You see, I have had to work at such a rapid pace to keep my space filled at Lucketts that I can only show you a small percentage of what I do.  I rarely have time to film a video tutorial or take step-by-step pictures and I would love to do more of that.  I also want to give more attention to my house and blog all about that.  I have other ideas, too, about maybe expanding into sharing some foodie posts (Miss Mustard Seed’s Kitchen) and starting a companion blog with my husband (The Mustard Seed Workshop.)

Will I still refinish furniture to share on my blog and to sell?  Of course.  It’s what I do.  I don’t think I could handle NOT doing furniture!  I’m still going to be a vendor at the Lucketts Fair in May and I’ll probably do smaller pieces that I can make available for sale online.  I’m excited about setting my own pace and not having to worry about filling a physical space.  And would you believe I have furniture in my house that needs to be refinished and/or painted and I just haven’t had time to do it?  I’m also going to finally make some other things available for sale online like t-shirts, German Glass Glitter, some handmade items and vintage finds.  If my house starts to look like a storage unit, I’ll have a tag sale in my yard!

Like I said, it was a tough decision and I felt a little panicked after I gave my notice.  My business has been retail-driven for a long time, but now that I have a blog, product line and a book, it’s time to focus on those things and I think my business will be the better for it in the long run.  Thank you so much to Suzanne and all of the vendors at Lucketts for taking me under your wing, fluffing and filling my space when I was writing my book, and for being so encouraging and inspiring.  It’s an amazing store and I’m so honored I had a chance to be a part of it.

Enjoy a photo gallery of Miss Mustard Seed’s work, below, and be sure to check out her blog.  We wish her much continued success–congrats on having the faith to cut back and step off the merry-go-round!

2012 in review

Ok… so we’re a week into 2013… but we’ve finally compiled our 2012 annual report.  MANY THANKS for reading and following!  We launched in September, so truly, this is a four-month report. But enough from us… check out the cool stats from WordPress, below!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Discovering Hidden Opportunities, Every Day in 2013

By Jen Ashenfelter

Happy 2013 everyone! How are those resolutions going so far? How many have you broken already?

Jimmy Choo

oooo… Jimmy Choo’s might be in my future for 2013! (Credit: OhJimmyChoos.net)

Don’t fret, just laugh. It’s a quirky tradition so why not have some fun with it. After discovering my favorite shoe store didn’t close but simply moved to another location, I gleefully announced to my husband, with a chuckle, that I resolve to buy more shoes in 2013. I only bought new flip flops and one pair of shoes in 2012, so I think buying more shoes in 2013 is a pretty good resolution!

Regardless of your thoughts on resolutions, I think they are a good idea if not taken too seriously. I really like my friend and fellow blogger Jenna Schuler’s recent post about creating “value principles” so if you haven’t read it, please do. The only way to move forward is to reflect—not dwell—on the past and make plans for the future. Celebrate the accomplishments—both great and small—and learn from the challenges and mistakes. Writing down desires, goals or value principles should motivate you to start the year off on a positive note. Think of things that excite you rather than creating a laundry list of things to change; however, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

While reflecting on 2012 and thinking about 2013, I  came across this quote on Facebook and decided this is really the only resolution needed: Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day. ~Michael Josephson

One resolution…that’s it, you say? I know, where’s the fun in that? In theory, it’s a great resolution but a bit vague. It gives nothing to be excited about or work on. How do you hold yourself accountable to succeed—or not—without any details? So for the sake of a few giggles and something to work toward, here’s my list.

Write – Possibly the most important item on this list since I’m writing content for 3 blogs—this one included. Past resolution lists have included steps to reach my goal of writing more—personally and professionally. I recently landed a job as a marketing coordinator for an animal hospital and lodging facility where my primary responsibility is writing—yay me! Now the focus is to improve my writing and learn more about content marketing and social media.

Read – Good writers spend a lot of time reading too. 2012 was a good year. I read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, definitely did not ride the 50 Shades bandwagon but did enjoy a romance novel written by a good friend, and finally bought a Kindle where Gone Girl is waiting to be finished.  Reading for pleasure might prove more challenging in 2013 now that I’m working, but I have a healthy reading list to work on.

In 2012 I read my friend Kelly Jameson's novel To Tame A Rogue. And her novel What Remained of Katrina, is on my list for 2013.

In 2012 I read my friend Kelly Jameson’s novel To Tame A Rogue. And her novel What Remained of Katrina, is on my list for 2013.

Eat – This one is easy; I love to eat! Ok, too easy…let’s call this resolution Healthy Eating. Listing “lose weight” is pointless because I automatically get defensive. I will not give up bagels! I prefer to continue with my quest to eat better and provide healthier meals for my family. I believe in the real food approach and reducing the amount of foods with a long list of ingredients and preservatives in our pantry. I plan dinners before my bi-monthly trips to the grocery store, so creating Meatless Mondays and Seafood Saturdays will be fun. Besides creative menus, 2013 will be the year of the vegetable. My youngest actually announced his new-found love of brussels sprouts and asked that I make them more often—wow!

Pray – And let’s call this resolution Wellness—in mind, body and spirit. I thought maybe I’d join a 5K training class at the YMCA and blog about the experience. I have completed the training and 5K race in the past; it’s definitely a good way to jumpstart an exercise program. However, it requires training outside in extreme winter weather conditions from January to March. Been there, done that—I don’t live in Florida. I’m quickly changing this to a focus on yoga—easily done in a warm, dry setting without having to wear 20 lbs of clothing. Remember, resolutions should be motivating and not include “crazy.”

I’ve taken restorative yoga classes and loved the experience. I’ve tried aerial yoga—hanging upside down from a silk suspended from a ceiling is definitely challenging but exhilarating once you get the “hang” of it. But what I’d like to spend more time on in 2013 is learning and practicing more traditional yoga poses as a form of exercise and meditation. This one will be tough since committing to time for exercise and quiet prayer always seems to be at the bottom of my To Do list. But I’m excited to try a basic exercise plan I found in a recent issue of Prevention which combines yoga exercises with journaling—two resolutions with one stone. If all else fails, I’ll sign up for another round of restorative or aerial yoga classes. Namaste.

Love – Of course my first priority is to my family. I’m extremely lucky to have a loving family as well as wonderful friends. As the saying goes, anything worth having is worth working for. So this resolution is my commitment to continue working on being my best so I can give back to the family and friends who mean the most to me. Whether it’s achieving milestones with my husband, celebrating the accomplishments of our sons, sharing special weekends with girlfriends, or simply telling family and friends how they’ve touched my life, I resolve to live each day with no regrets or words of love and appreciation left unsaid.

Committing to resolutions—or whatever you decide to call them—is like reviewing that class syllabus at the beginning of the year—a bit overwhelming at first, but if you take it day-by-day, step-by-step, while diligently working through challenges and celebrating the accomplishments, reaching the end is not so difficult. Maybe some resolutions will fall by the wayside quickly but if you find the positive lesson and the joy in each, then nothing is lost.

Maybe I’ll only read one book in 2013, but I will enjoy every chapter of the adventure. Maybe Seafood Saturdays won’t last past February because the family absolutely hates it, but hopefully they will appreciate trying something new for a few weeks. Maybe you won’t lose 10 lbs, run a marathon, or mend a broken relationship but consider the hidden opportunities to be discovered in simply trying.

Whether it’s a resolution or a value principle…or maybe just one thing you want in 2013, I encourage you to write it down. Yeah, post it on the refrigerator or share with your social peeps, just keep it handy and see how far you go. If you find a dead end, then create a new path to whatever makes you happy and brings health, happiness and harmony to you in 2013.

A New Type of “Resolution” for 2013: Family Value Principles

Photo Credit:  All17 on deviantart.com

Photo Credit: All17 on deviantart.com

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

As we say goodbye to 2012 and welcome in the New Year, I want to wish everyone in our Off the Merry-Go-Round community a very happy, healthy 2013! The more I talk with people and families about how they celebrate the passing of another year, and about making “New Year’s Resolutions,” I see that there are so many ways in which people do so.

For example, I used to make a resolution for each year, yet soon found (as many people do) that the change I vowed to make usually didn’t stick, at least not for long. My husband, on the other hand, has never made resolutions. Smart guy–he already knows this is often a self-defeating prophecy!

This year, my husband and I came up with an idea that we thought would make a good compromise between vowing to make some future changes in our lives, and not holding ourselves to anything too grandiose such as “we will lose 20 pounds.” Besides, we have too many leftover Christmas goodies to make that kind of resolution!

Instead, we took some quiet time on New Year’s Eve to reflect back on the past year–on our work and careers, fun activities we did, financial choices we made, and relationships in our lives. While discussing what went well for us and what we struggled through, we came up with what we called value principles–statements to live by–for the New Year versus goals to accomplish. We kept our list short…just 5 that we can post on our refrigerator and refer to when we need to make a decision about an activity to pursue, a financial purchase to make, or a relationship to engage in–or let go of.

I share these value principles with you below in hope that they will give you a few ideas about how you and your family can think positively about starting the year ahead. Have a good one!

 The Schuler Family 2013 Value Principles

  • Our family and individual activities will nurture our spirits (for example, vacations; hobbies and interests; visits with family and friends; events we attend).
  • In the pursuit of these activities, we will seek ways to support one another.
  • We will spend time with people who are positive and healthy influences in our lives.
  • The use of our financial resources will reflect the above values, and our commitment to positively affect those less fortunate than we are.
  • Relationships, situations, and decisions which cannot be in harmony with these values will not be pursued.

Did you talk with your family about how the past year went? Have you reflected on what the high and low points were for your family? Is there something your family has resolved to make happen in 2013, or even something you have decided to stop doing? If so, please share your ideas with us!