Monday, October 21, 2013

Time Away

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen me post this picture Saturday morning, tagged #happiness. We spent the weekend camping with friends, and despite the frigid temps, we had an incredible time.
Campfires that never got a chance to die down, sipping warm drinks out of tin mugs, long underwear, sleeping in hats and mittens, kiddos snuggling on all of our laps, listening to the Badger game on the radio, french press coffee, crunchy leaves, beautiful views, crisp air, great hikes, storytelling, and lots and lots of laughs. 
And the best part? I came home feeling so incredibly inspired. We're in the home stretch of 31 Days, and I'm hoping to finish strong with some fun projects ahead.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Just a quick update today, to show you that I am indeed making progress. A little before bed crafting + knitting session last night was definitely good for the soul.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making Plans, and Changing Them

I had lofty plans last night, plans I was excited about. I’d come home, whip together a quick dinner, and head upstairs to my office/studio for some serious crafting until bedtime.

But when I got home, I could tell that my husband had a rough day. He looked tired, and stressed, and a bit on edge. And I could tell that what he needed was some good wifeing.

You see, I’ve been inspired lately by Domestic Fasionista’s series about serving her husband, and so I’ve been making a more concerted effort to serve my husband in a mindful, nurturing way. Well, suffice it to say when I saw how furrowed his brow was last night, I knew that the right thing for me to do was change my plans and give him some attention.

So what did I do? I changed gears. Instead of a quick dinner and escaping upstairs, I went through the house and picked up all the clutter while Ryan was finishing up some work. I cleaned up the kitchen, and set to work on a nice dinner for the two of us instead of the quickie dinner I had planned. Nothing special, pork chops with onions, mushrooms, and garlic, roasted cauliflower, and baked sweet potatoes. But he loved it.

I poured us each a glass of wine for dinner and really listened when he talked about his day.

Did I finish a project? No. But do I feel really good about what I accomplished last night? You bet.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halfway Point

Here I am, halfway through the 31 Day challenge. I wanted to take the time to reflect on what I have accomplished so far, reevaluate if needed, and make a plan for the days ahead.
Truth? I haven’t achieved as much as I had hoped.
Sure, I'm getting a few things done. I’m better at making phone calls right away, and I did paint that old owl finally. And I'm thrilled with my new and improved workspace. Which is something. But still not where I thought I would be at the halfway point.
I find myself still in the gathering and preparing stage most of the time. I’m stockpiling frames for a gallery wall I’d like to do, but I haven’t actually hung a thing yet.
I’m spending more time than I’d like thinking about, writing about, and listing the projects I want to accomplish, instead of just doing them.
I bought supplies for a new project last night, but still have so many things already purchased that need to be worked on.
So why all the apprehension? I still think part of it is fear. Just because I say “I’m going to conquer my fear of failure” doesn’t mean that I automatically start fearing it less. Sure, I can easily start a little project because the internet is waiting for me to write about it, and I will have accomplished something. Win for me. But I have to do the actual work in my heart to face my fear. And friends? That’s a whole lot harder to do. I’m going to keep working at it though. And keep plugging away at my projects.
One thing I'm starting to realize is that when I'm in a "funk," I buy lots of things to foster creativity (spending money on crafty things is my "feel better" fix, as is eating Trader Joe's pumpkin ice cream and hunkering down in the house and avoiding all unnecessary interactions with people). It's as if I think that bringing home a new project to do will pull me out of depression. Honestly, though, it rarely does. Instead I just get overwhelmed by all that I have to do and end up shutting down. It's an ugly little cycle and it usually gets worse this time of year when the days are getting so very short and I start spending full days without seeing the sun.
I've been struggling with this for years, but the difference now is that I'm finally able to start recognizing the signs before I'm so far into a funk that I can't pull myself out of it. 
Today is a rainy, gloomy day. Instead of calling in sick and spending the day on the couch (which is what I had every intention of doing this morning), I made it into work, switched on my Happy Light, and am going to try to be productive. And I'm planning a crafty night tonight to work on a few projects.  
I might not get everything on my "master To Do list" done this month. But I'm ok with that. I'm making progress, and that's all that matters.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Radio Silence + Work Space Reveal

I apologize for the radio silence over the weekend. I had every intention on logging on to post, but what my soul needed instead was to be unplugged for a bit. It was so rejuvinating and I'm super excited to share some of my latest projects with you this week.

In the meantime, remember that messy desk we talked about? Well, it took me a bit longer than I intended to get through the piles of procrastination that had been hanging about, but I finally got through it all.

Inspired by the clean new slate I had to work with, I spent some time sprucing things up a bit. and making the space more "me."

Remember what it looked like before?

Stuff everywhere. Multiple cups and mugs, a bowl, piles of work I needed to deal with. No wonder I felt like I could never get anything done.

This is  so much better:

  I rearranged things a bit, giving me a much greater area of "clean space" on the left, which I really love.

I added a new, more clearly-defined In Box with a pretty label that I whipped up in 5 minutes using colored card stock and an Avery address label.

I also brought a few things from home and created a little vignette with a faux potted plant, our wedding picture, and a blue yarn M. This is my favorite part of the new arrangement and I catch myself smiling whenever I look at it.

To the left of my computer is my favorite coffee mug, which is parked on a little knitted mug rug in my favorite colorway (Malabrigo Tortuga, if you're wondering). To the right I have my stack of in progress work (organized by category), my Happy Light, a picture of my niece, and the cutest little crocheted pumpkin ever (a gift from my sweet friend).
 While this new set up doesn't make me dislike my job any less, it does make it a hundred times more pleasant to be here.
While I'm disappointed that it took me longer than I had hoped to finish this project, I'm proud of myelf for seeing it through and sharing with you all in true Don't Think, Just Do fashion.

Friday, October 11, 2013

InstaFriday - Fall Edition

I'm linking up again with jeannett at
{I'm @christinamckee on Instagram if you want to follow along.}

End of the season picnic + play with my girlfriends | Planning for 31 Days
Fall Salad | Costco for the win!

Beautiful fall color | Updating my mantle + a garage sale makeover
Mantle getting fallified | Real food is beautiful

Stealing Moments

One of my biggest challenges with time management and productivity is thinking that I don't have a big enough chunk of time to accomplish something meaningful.

While I know in my head that isn't necessarily true, I use it as a justification to myself to browse Pinterest or Ravelry (or Facebook, or Instagram... you get the picture) to fill time instead of doing something productive (like folding laundry.. ugh how I loathe this task).

Since starting this challenge, I've been trying to be more aware of how I utilize my time. I'm the first to say that I don't have enough time to do {insert task here}, but I sure do know how to fill those little bubbles of time up with nothing.

Which leads me to this.

Yes, it's just a dish cloth. But it's a dish cloth that I knitted this week in tiny snippets of time. Time waiting for Ryan to get in the car in the mornings (we carpool). Time in line at the grocery store. Time waiting for my oatmeal to cook in the morning. Sure, I was only able to manage a few stitches here, a row there.

But in all those stolen moments, I made something. Something useful, for our home. One of my goals this year has been to add more handmade touches to our home. Finally doing that feels so good.

For those of you that care about such things, I used the Grandma's Favorite Dish Cloth pattern (available for free on Ravelry) and the yarn is Knit Picks Dishie in the Coffee colorway.

Want to read more about my journey during 31 Days of Don't Think, Just Do? You can view the entire series here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Today, I will finally get my desk cleaned + organized.

Today, I will tackle the pile of ironing that has been taunting me all week.

Today, I will forgive instead of hold a grudge.

Today, I will be grateful.

Today, I will listen.

Today, I will create.

Today, I will not be jealous.

Today, I will just breathe.

Today is Day 10 of my 31 Day Series, Don't Think, Just Do. Want to see the rest?
Here you go.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Garage Sale Potential

See this guy? What a creepy looking owl, right? I picked him up for a song while out garage sale-ing with a friend a couple years ago. (Sale-ing? Is that a word?)

I figured, I'd bring him home, give him a little bath, and a fresh coat of paint. He'd spruce up the place in no time.

Guess where he's been living? Yep, shacking up with my curtain fabric in the long-term storage... I mean, office closet.

I've been on a mission to tackle some of the craft projects that have been hanging around the longest, and this guy nearly fell on my head when I was hunting down some candles.

Congrats, Mr. Owl, you're up.

I applied two coats of Martha Stewart satin craft paint in the Cloud color with a small foam brush. The paint went on great and dried quickly. It was so much fun, my husband even wanted in on the action.

Mr. Owl now is now perched on my newly fall-ified mantle. I kind of love it.

 And what's even better? I got off my rear end and did something. It didn't take that long, just a little bit of time and effort, and I"m so thrilled with the result.

Don't Think, Just Do for the win.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

31 Days... Every Day

When I get home, I'm going to walk the dog.
Ugh, I had a long day. I don't really want to walk the dog.
I have too much to do... Laundry, make dinner, ironing, do dishes.
I don't have time to do it tonight.
Its going to be dark out by the time we get back. It's not worth it.
The dog walker is coming tomorrow... He doesn't need a walk today.
Am I being a bad mommy if I don't take him on a walk?
If I spent half the time I spend making excuses actually doing something, I'd be the most productive person on the planet.
I did take Amos on a walk last night. And I'm so glad I did. The crisp autumn air was so refreshing, and I got to spend quality time with this guy.
 Not a bad use of my time at all.

You can view all of my 31 Days of Don't Think... Just Do posts here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

31 Days + Preserving the Harvest {Juliet Tomatoes}

This weekend's rain was the perfect excuse to stay inside and putter around the kitchen. I spent a good portion of my time preserving the last of our tomatoes. The easiest to tackle were these little gems. Have you heard of Juliet tomatoes?

Ryan and I first planted these little beauties in our garden last year, and after the drought we had in Wisconsin, they were pretty much the only thing that grew. And grow they did! We were harvesting bowlfuls every couple of days, and we only put in one plant.

This year, it was a no-brainer to include Juliets in our garden. And, since we overdid it a tiny bit on plant buying day, we put in 3 plants. Even though the garden has been sorely neglected this year, we're harvesting these beautiful little jewels by the bowlful again this year.

While I love to eat them out of hand (with salt, of course), or chopped up in salads, there's just no way we can stay ahead of our massive plants. Here are my two favorite ways to preserve these little bites of sunshine so we can enjoy them in the cold winter months that lie ahead.


This is just as easy as can be. Simply halve the tomatoes lengthwise, and spread out on your food dehydrator racks cut side up. You can sprinkle with a little salt and/or dried herbs, but most of the time I'm lazy and just leave them as-is. Dry at 135 degrees for 12 to 24 hours, checking every so often to pick out the dry ones. Instead of letting the tomatoes get brittle, I like to leave them slightly squidgy and soft, and then package them up by the cupful into freezer bags and freeze. They're great added to a winter Caprese grilled cheese sandwich, or added to your winter pizzas or pastas. They make a fantastic appetizer on toasted baguette with a little goat cheese. Personally, I like to just snack on them straight from the bag too.


This is slightly more labor-intensive, but worth every second.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. On a large baking sheet, dump as many tomatoes as will fit. To the pan, add several peeled whole cloves of garlic, whatever fresh or dried herbs float your boat (I'm partial to thyme), salt, pepper, and a good healthy drizzle of olive oil. Roast for at least an hour (but probably closer to 2). You can tell they're done when the tomatoes are all slumped over and raisin-y.

Again, I like to freeze these beauties by the cupful and pull them out to add to fresh cooked pasta with a little grating of Parmesan cheese, or serve as a rustic starter with grilled bread to catch all the delicious tomato-olive oil juice.

The beauty of these two methods of preserving is that they basically tend to themselves. You either set up the dehydrator or the oven and then putter around while the tomatoes do their thing, only checking on them every once in awhile. And yet, still getting things done, still crossing something off the To Do list. My kind of putting by.

Did you miss the first week of 31 Days of Don't Think...Just Do? You can view the whole series here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Inspiration

There's something about the change from summer to autumn that I find so inspiring. Fresh air that isn't weighed down by humidity. Farmers markets bursting from the seams with their bounty, so much plenty before the leaner times of winter. Motivating me to cook, bake, freeze, preserve. I'm doing it now while there is still so much.

These beauties, picked hours earlier. Apples, pears, and plums. So beautiful that they almost don't look real. Lucky for me, they are.
My neighbor finds leaves a nuisance. This time of year, he is in his yard from sun up to sun down trying to eliminate any evidence of their presence. I love them, though. The contrast of the browns and golds and reds against a backdrop of still green grass. Like a painting, and yet so real.

More leaves, with the aged wood of our deck. So imperfect. Yes, this deck needs to be replaced. But it still serves us. We sit on two mismatched chairs in the morning with our coffee and watch the birds. Enjoy a glass of wine together on its steps after a long day of work. I love this deck, even more so in its imperfection.

Inspiring. Beautiful. Real. Imperfect.

I'm not going to get everything right throughout this 31 days. I'm imperfect, too. But how can I help but be motivated with this kind of simple beauty around me.

Are you interested in the rest of 31 Days of Don't Think...Just Do? You can view the whole series here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

31 Days :: Curtain Call

I have been obsessed with this fabric for years now. I originally saw it a couple years ago when Pink and Polka Dot slipcovered this chair.

I couldn't stop thinking about this beautiful print. I would go online several times a day to find the best price for it. I began daydreaming about wallpapering my office with it. Overkill? Possibly. But I was in love.

After much deliberation, I decided that this fabric was destined to become curtains in my office. It didn't matter at all that I didn't know how to use my sewing machine. It couldn't be that hard, right? Besides, this fabric was perfect. Once I figured out the perfect use for it, I had to have it. Right. Now.

I immediately went online and bought 8 yards of it. Yes, I am aware of just how much fabric 8 yards is. But I wanted to be sure I had enough. These curtains were going to be incredible.

Fast forward two years. That beautiful fabric that I lusted over and just had to have? It's sitting (nicely folded) in a tote in the bottom of my office closet. And the windows in my office? They're curtainless.

What happened?

You see, once I had this beauty in my possession, I was terrified to cut into it. What if I screwed it up? My curtains will be awful and they'll look ridiculous and I might as well just throw that money away.

But you know what? That money is already spent. And that fabric isn't doing anyone or any thing any good sitting in the bottom of a closet (least of all my naked windows). So what if my curtains aren't perfect? At least if I make them I'll be able to enjoy that lovely fabric, right?

I can't do that if it's hidden in a closet.

So, here in front of all of you, I hereby declare that this month I will make those curtains! Like the Nester says, It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Don't think, just do.

Are you interested in the rest of 31 Days of Don't Think...Just Do? You can view the whole series here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

31 Days :: Work Edition

Today, I'm tackling this mess. Yes, this is my desk at work. True confession time.

I am a slob.

I let papers pile up. I leave my coffee mug out. I lose important documents in the clutter that is my desk. It's embarrassing. And it doesn't reflect how I want to be viewed as an employee and a team member in my office.

I know I would be so much more productive and efficient at work if I maintained a clean work space. My goal is to get everything cleaned and organized, and then implement a mini-routine of picking up and organizing before I leave work every day. This is a far stretch from my normal routine of work, work, work until 5:00, and thenturn off my computer, grab my purse, and bolt for the door.

Check back Monday to see my workspace, all spruced up!

Are you interested in the rest of 31 Days of Don't Think...Just Do? You can view the whole series here. And hop on over to Nesting Place to check out more of the over 1,500 bloggers posting for 31 Days 2013!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

31 Days :: Say Yes

This week I said "yes" to hosting friends for dinner. On a weeknight. And I didn't cancel at the last minute because I "felt like I was coming down with something."
(I am ashamed to admit the number of times I have done this...)

I said yes, when I really wanted to say no. Having people over is a lot of work. I have to plan a menu, and sweep the floor, and make sure we have clean plates. And wine. And I really should finish decorating for fall so we can have a nice harvest-themed dinner and everything will be beautiful and cozy and perfect. If I do all this, I am sure our friends will go home and say to each other what a lovely time they had because the food was delicious and the wine paired perfectly, and above all else, I had a pumpkin centerpiece. Yes, I am aware of how ridiculous this sounds.

I really didn't think I would have time to pull off the dinner I was envisioning in my head, but we hadn't seen these friends in a month, despite living only a couple blocks away from each other.

So I said yes.

I made beef stew in the crock pot and threw together a salad and apple crisp when I got home for work. I didn't finish decorating for fall, but we had a beautiful bowl of end of the season tomatoes on the table, which was an equally lovely centerpiece. We miraculously had clean plates and enough cloth napkins to go around. Our friends brought wine, and we sat around the table talking long after the last of the apple crisp had been scraped from the dish.

Do you know what I said to my husband after our friends went home?

I had a lovely time. And I'm pretty sure they did too.

Even though I didn't get around to sweeping the floor.

Sometimes, I need to remind myself to not get caught up in the over planning.
Don't think, just do. Say yes.

Want to read more about 31 Days of Don't Think...Just Do? You can view the whole series here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

31 Days :: Where Do I Start?

I'm going to be perfectly honest here. When I decided on Don't Think, Just Do as my topic for 31 Days, I immediately started a huge list of recipes to make, projects to do, things to sew... you get the picture. By the end of October, I was going to be a completely different person. Organized, with a beautifully decorated house, full of creative, thoughtful little touches carefully hand-crafted by yours truly. And while I'd love for all those things to be true eventually, it's probably going to take a bit more than a month for all that to happen.

And you know what? I need this challenge to be about a lot more than the big things. So often, I get super motivated to do a lot of big stuff and then fizzle out right away because it's all so big and takes so much time.

With that in mind, I decided to start this challenge a little differently than I normally do. Instead of picking a huge project to start with, I picked one thing. One small thing that has been on my To Do list for a couple weeks now. One small, tiny little thing that would probably only take ten minutes, but that I promised my husband I would take care of and haven't done yet.

I made a phone call.

Yes, that's right. I called a local landscape materials supplier to find out how much a delivery of topsoil would be. The entire process -- looking up the phone number, making the call, writing down the information -- took less than 5 minutes. Probably more like 2 and a half minutes. Seriously. I've put this off for weeks.

But you know what? Now it's done. And I got to cross it off my To Do list. And I made my husband happy. I'd call that a win for today.

Did you miss out on Day 1 of 31 Days of Don't Think...Just Do? You can view the whole series here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Introducing: 31 Days of Don't Think...Just Do.

Don’t think, just do.

I have developed a love | hate relationship with this phrase. It’s one of my husband’s favorites. Any time I start whining about a task taking too long, or being too tedious, or too daunting, I hear “C’mon babe, don’t think just do.” It’s his way of saying mind over matter, combined with a little it won’t be so bad once you start it.

My husband is the king of “don’t think, just do.” He is so great at just tackling projects head-on. He is motivated, driven, and fearless. These are some of the traits I love most about him - he is rarely paralyzed by a fear of doing something wrong, or worrying about it taking too long. He just does it. This is why our master bathroom has been completely gutted for the past 2 years. We made the decision one night that we wanted to redo it, so the very next day he just ripped the whole thing apart.

I, on the other hand, am the world’s biggest procrastinator. I’m paralyzed by the “what if’s.” I will decide to do a project, will buy all the materials, and then everything just sits in a closet for months (or years) waiting for attention. I will have “call butcher about meat order” on my To Do list for weeks (or months sometimes) instead of taking the 5 minutes to call. Why do I do this? It drives my husband NUTS and frustrates him to no end. It also makes me an unreliable person. It’s not fair to him that I tell him I will take care of something and then not do it. It makes me dishonest, and makes him feel like he can’t rely on me. That’s not the kind of wife I want to be. Remember that bathroom I was telling you about? Yep, still waiting for me to pick out tile and a tub so we can get started putting it all back together.
I have spent a lot of time contemplating why I do this. (Trust me, I am a pro at pondering. It's just the execution where I fall short.) I don’t want to put things off anymore. I'd like to have a master bathroom we can use before we eventually sell our house. I'd like to be able to tell my husband "Yes, I'll take care of that" and not see the doubt on his face.
Here’s what I think: Fear.
Fear is stopping me from reaching probably 95% of my goals.
I’ll do it wrong and ruin it and will waste lots of time/money/energy on nothing.
It will take too long. I shouldn’t start it because there’s no possible way I can do the whole thing in the tiny bit of time I have to work on a project.
I'm going to use this 31 day challenge to tackle my fears head-on and accomplish something. A lot of my goals are project-focused -- crafts I bought materials for and never did, minor renovations/upcycles I've been wanting to tackle, things like that -- but I'm also going to try to really hone in on some of the goals I've kept hidden away in that closed-off place in my heart that I'm too afraid to share with actual people.
Thank you so much for coming along with me on this journey. It should be one heck of a ride :)