Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cheap (or Free!) Ways to Embrace Trends

Be they fashion, decor, technology, or anything else, "trends" can be kind of negative. And, to some extent, I agree. When a few years fly by, we find ourselves laughing or rolling our eyes at what we once thought was "cool." However, I've realized that it's up to us to decide which trends are worth our time (and money) or not. As with all things in life, we have to be true to ourselves and always go with our own individual interests and tastes in the end. I wholly believe that.

But, it doesn't mean that we have to completely ignore the world outside our own minds. Some trends help to light a spark inside you that can help freshen up your life, fill you with inspiration, or put a spring in your step. I've discovered some of my favorite colors and prints after seeing them used in a really fun, creative way on a blog or store display. As long as it's not ethically immoral (say, fur or a demeaning message), I'll always give something new a little consideration. Sometimes I immediately know it's not for me. Other times, I fall in love.

Says the girl who once adamantly brushed aside the latest fads for Punky Brewster mismatched clothes, a Peter Tork haircut and tie-dyed tees, and a short-lived '50s James Dean (like, guy clothes) wardrobe. Take what I say with a grain of salt. I'm clearly not a fashionista. (Even that term is outdated.)    

Anyway, even as a girl who considers herself to be pretty eco-friendly and minimalist, I feel greatly that while we purge, we still need to surround ourselves with joy...simply.

So, today I'm sharing a few simple ways to embrace trends without totally breaking the bank and completely overhauling your own uniqueness. (After all, that's what's most important in the end.) Some of these ideas are to spruce up your surroundings and others are wardrobe-related. All are just a little inspiration to try to mix up the old with some new-ish styles.

Cheap Accessories Help Layer in the Fun - This chevron print infinity scarf is a great example of one of my favorite things about trends: they clearly failed history class because they keep repeating it. For only $15 (or on sale if you're lucky), you can brighten up your bland wardrobe. This is honestly the only chevron print I've seen that isn't overdone (it almost looks like diagonal stripes), so my attention is less on the print and more on the vintage-inspired colors. Oh, and a great pair of sunglasses (I grab mine at TJ Maxx for the cheapest options) helps bring it all together.

Put Some Spring in Your Step with a New Shoe - It may seem subtle, but switching out your usual flip flops for a cute sandal with fringe detail can bring you happily into the warmer seasons. The rest of your outfit may be a slouchy old t-shirt and capris or skinny jeans (yes, I've jumped on that bandwagon, too; don't tell my 15-year-old self), but an inexpensive (this one's about $20) shoe can help wake it up.

Try a New Style of Pant with Subtle Details - Trying a new style can be downright frightening. (Almost as scary as bathing suit shopping. Eep.) So, if you're a little shy, try to keep to a solid color. If you're a touch more daring, try for a very subtle pattern, like this gorgeous colored (they say it's red but it sways towards my favorite "new" color, coral) with dots. The fact that these pixie ankle pants remind me of Laura on the Dick Van Dyke Show makes me want to run, not walk, to my closest Old Navy. No, seriously. Oh, and I tend not to pay $35 for pants, so I'd suggest waiting for a sale (they're currently on sale for $30...still iffy, but better).       

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows - One of my favorite ways to include some new trends around the house is with the use of throw pillows. I usually buy mine at TJ Maxx (yes, again), but Target and World Market are great alternatives for inexpensive pillows. I usually pay between $10 - $15, but even upwards of $20 is worth it for a pillow if you fall in love with it. This World Market pillow uses the southwestern/tribal motif while the Target pillows follows more of a geometric, '80s color vibe. (Okay, who am I kidding? The '80s are back. Cue clapping and cheering from my husband.)

Do It Yourself - This is one of my favorite ways to get a trend you love without breaking the bank. While I haven't done any projects lately, I always keep an eye out for super inexpensive (but good quality) pieces to transform. I actually have a couple of super old, super inexpensive (like $20 for both) wooden chairs that need to be stripped, and I'm giving serious consideration into doing the paint-dipped look like Remodelista shows here. 

#1 - Buy Vintage - What's old is new again! Hit up your local thrift shops and antique stores to see what once-scary item might serve a new purpose.

#2 - Free Printables - Depending in your style, there are free printables available from a ton of blogs and sites. Just Google your taste or check by your favorite blog and see what comes up. I'm loving this calendar from Vintage Revivals that uses the geometric trend wonderfully but in a fun, easy (and free!) way:

So, what are your favorite trends lately? Do you skew "classic", "trendy", or somewhere else? (I'm definitely all over the place, myself!)

(There are actually no affiliate links in today's post, despite the links. Just wanted to share some thoughts and inspiration. No kick-backs. :-))

Monday, March 2, 2015

Essential Oils - How We Do

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Real Food Challenge - Week #9

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I'm hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here's how it works. I'll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the "rules" for that particular week. It's up to each participant as to whether or not they'd like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There's also a very active Facebook group (I've actually joined an offshoot that's super supportive and far more focused) that's there to share, answer and support.


Review of Week #8 - This past week was all about listening to internal cues to stop eating when we were full. I took this also to mean no mindless snacking (at least, not on crap ;-)). So, while it sounds simple and we did great with it, we needed a few reminders. I tend to eat a smaller lunch with some mid-morning yogurt and a healthy snack in the afternoon (depending on my schedule) from my pregnancy days, so it actually makes it easier to make it to the next meal. But, yeah, it was fine. Definitely not an issue.

We'll see about this upcoming week, though...
Week #9 - This week will involve eating no refined or artificial sweeteners. In other words, foods and beverages can only be sweetened with a moderate amount of honey or maple syrup...which I'm not that great with. I normally use raw organic sugar in my tea or coffee (a little less than a teaspoon, which is an improvement but still significant). The consequences also mean no baking (unless using maple syrup or honey), none of my usual granola bars, etc. I'm not pleased. (And, spoiler alert, in a few weeks I won't be allowed ANY added sugars. No syrup on pancakes, aaaarrrrgggghhhh!!! #firstworldproblems)

So, my solutions are as follows: Yes, I'm going to bake. We already have pancakes for H's breakfasts for the week (and ours, if we like), but for that granola bar craving I tend to get, I'm trying out the 100 Days of Real Food Whole-Wheat Carrot Applesauce Muffins. Gotta say, I may need to make another dozen mid-week since Dave has already proclaimed his admiration for them. (He's right; they're really good.)

I JUST happened to buy a new organic ketchup which, of course, contains sugar. SO, since I'm jonesin' for some meatloaf (in the guise of meat muffins...something about muffins), I plan on making some sugar-free ketchup. The recipe I found is a non-cook one, which is VERY different from what I've read in my great grandmother's recipe notebook, so we'll see how it comes out. Oh, and I happened to find a pasta sauce that doesn't have sugar, although I could've made my own...but, yeah. I'm not my mother, and that's okay.

I also discovered two breads that meet my personal guidelines for this challenge. Our usual "white" bread is actually a peasant bread from a local bakery. It's not organic, but it has very few ingredients and is completely natural. I'm also super excited to see that the Barowsky's Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread I buy on occasion is a honey wheat -- no other sugars. Score!

Here's my "guide" for the week:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Generously Minted - Giveaway

Raise your hand if you're ready to leave this frosty season behind! While I do my best not to obsess over winter's chilly bite, it's definitely easier to appreciate when you can find some springtime inspiration. Kind of like the gorgeously refreshing light to look forward to at the end of the icy tunnel.

So, when Minted contacted me to talk about their products, I hopped over to their website and found immediate inspiration, all with a gleam of springtime freshness and warmth. In case you don't know, Minted is a fun company that offers beautiful invitations, cards, party products, home decor and art, all from independent artists' designs. The fact that they have a Tree Planting Program that works with Plant-It 2020 to plant trees in order to supplant the paper that they use (some of which is actually made of 100% recycled paper) makes it a no-brainer to work with them.

And talk about gorgeous stuff! 

Here are just some of my favorite art prints that I'm having serious mental back-and-forths about choosing:

Don't they just pull you out of the winter doldrums?? They're all beautiful, but I'm leaning towards Float with its bright retro watercolor vibe and Indigold with its fun, floral 1960's mood...although I've always had a soft spot for Forsythia.

Speaking of springtime, Minted's Wedding Invitation Collection is sure to fit the mood of any theme you might be planning. Designs range from simply elegant to modern, graphic and colorful. No matter the design, all are of the highest quality.  Seriously, if Dave and I were planning our wedding today, I'd use these guys.

That said, aside from pretty spring art and wedding invites, I'm loving the kiddo stuff. I find myself falling for the birthday invitations (I'm mentally planning Had's third birthday already!) as well as the adorably quirky nursery artwork since both my sister and sister-in-law are expecting babies.

As always, I'm having a hard time deciding.

And, guess what. One of you will get to experience the same wonderful "I can't pick just one!" feeling. Yup! has generously offered a $50 credit to one of my lucky readers! How excited am I?

Just click on the Rafflecopter options below for methods to throw your hat in the running. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Today's post is written in partnership with All thoughts and opinions are my own, as usual.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Today's Tip - Actively Fun

This is part of a new series that I'm calling "Today's Tip." I hope to share little tips and tricks (or "life hacks" as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers...and anything else that pops into my brain that might be helpful.

Hey, guys! Raise your hand if you're feeling a bit sluggish lately. I know I am! Thanks, Obama winter weather. It's to the point where we have so much snow piled up, it's not at a "let's have fun in it" stage. It's more at the "sink down, can't move" phase. It's fine, we'll deal.

But, I feel like the little guy needs to get some more physical activity. He's a bundle of energy, and between sleeping better and acting better, getting physical only helps him enjoy his fun little life. So, I recently decided to try some "let's get moving" games with him.

Here are a few things that I tried, which not only got me active as well, but made me realize that he's reached a new level of "little boy, not little toddler." His hand-eye coordination and ability to follow directions is way better than I expected! Call me proud (and a touch sad).

- Mama Says - H isn't quite ready for "Simon Says" since the "Simon didn't say" rule evades him. But, he had been having issues with following directions, so this is my far the best activity for a 2 1/2-year-old. Just say, "Mama says..." and fill in the rest with whatever you think your little one can do. Touch your head/nose/knees/toes; act like a monkey; stand on one foot (he couldn't do it for long, but boy was he proud that he could do it at all!); turn around three times; hop like a frog. This goes as long as your imagination can hold out.

- Let's Stretch! - You can start your "exercises" off or end them this way. There are lots of stretches that you can do, so keep them as simple as "touch your toes" or as complicated as downward dog. It's also a fun way to practice counting. "Bend over and touch your toes for five seconds, count with me - one, two, three, four, five!" Simple, fun...and totally made me realize how inflexible I'd gotten! 

- Dance With Me! - Dance party time! Turn on Pandora or your favorite workout mix and get a-movin'! You'll see your little one start on day one using one swaying dance motion, then building up an arsenal of hilarious self expression. Our guy has been saying "oh, yeaaaah! Oh, yeaaaah!" while he does some helicoptering arm motions lately. Very Kool-Aid Man. Very awesome.

- Tumble Together - One of my favorite memories as a kid was doing somersaults, rolls, leg lifts, and tumbles in our living room with my sister. Sure, it's not always safe, but when Mom gets into it with you, you'll at least have a spotter. Pile the pillows and jump or use the ottoman to roll on your stomach (used to do that at my grandparents' and adored it). Just get silly and remember: horse play isn't always a bad thing.

What indoor activities do you do to get the blood flowing and energy out? I'd love to hear!