Friday, February 27, 2009


Happy Friday to you all!  I'm taking a brief break from spring cleaning to do some freshening in another part of my life: my gut.  One borrowed juicer, six stalks of asparagus, a bunch of spinach, half a lemon, and a wedge of pineapple.  Delicious! (I'm serious--it's really tasty.  You wouldn't think so, but sometimes life surprises you...)

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Consulting the Experts

I thought I'd start this morning out with a little Irish Breakfast tea and some web surfing.  Surfing for "spring cleaning," that is, and hoping to find some inspiration.  Now, admittedly basic cleaning shouldn't require a lot of research.  Scrubbing, laundering and vacuuming are not the tasks of rocket science.  However, I love to use research as a procrastinating tool, and it gives me an excuse to remain in my pj's a bit longer.

So I figured I'd start with Real Simple since I remembered pulling a sheet from their magazine last year on the subject.  A quick search and I bumped into their spring cleaning checklist.  I've written before about how I have a weakness for laminated routines, so this checklist was right up my alley.  Whether it would actually help me get cleaning is still entirely up for questioning.  In true Real Simple style, the list is basic and helpful, touching on the major points and making it all sound so easy.  Based on this list I could probably bang out my cleaning in a week and forever end my 4-year spring-cleaning-abstinence.

I learned in school, however, to always reference more than one source, so I hopped over to Good Housekeeping to see what they had to share on the subject.  I found lots of links to short articles focused on strategy--kind of motivational "you can do this" sort of clips.  They talked about playing music and not exiting a room until it was finished (I might need someone to bring me a chamber pot and food rations if I stuck to that plan!).  This link is a short "here are the basics to bang out if you don't have the time for deep cleaning" list, which I could have definitely used when I was working full-time.  Unfortunately I have no valid excuses for this "reduced checklist" plan--I have time for the Full Program.

And speaking of the Full Program, I headed over to the Queen's website last (Martha Stewart, of course), and quickly located her spring cleaning list.  Always the overachiever, her list was exactly what I expected: detailed, time-consuming, and thorough.  It included things like defrosting the freezer and resealing grout lines.  In true Martha fashion, it includes phrases like "Organize files: review insurance policies, contracts, and household inventories," as if you could just wave your hand and Poof! those things would be done.  Nevermind that that phrase alone would take me a week to do (we don't all have the staff that Martha does)!

Anyway, I've probably procrastinated about as much as I can this morning, and should get to work.  Armed with all the appropriate checklists, of course.  

Previous Nesting posts:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Confessions of a Negligent Housekeeper

Yesterday I spoke to you of my plans to freshen up (in other words, scour) my home in the days to come.  Now I realize that ordinarily spring cleaning is supposed to be an intense and yet rather short affair.  Like a week long.  But I am imagining that it will take a stretch longer for me.  Why?

Because I've never done any spring cleaning in this house.  That's right--Never.  Feel free to judge me all you want.  For someone so domesticated, I've managed to avoid this annual chore for over 4 years.  Right again--Four.  You can count them.  Sure, I've scrubbed down a few things, and dusted in corners, and put the oven on the self-cleaning cycle.  But I've certainly never done what I'm about to do.

Which is to say that I intend to move furniture.  That's right--actually scoot my sofas away from their terminal resting places and--heaven behold!--run a vacuum underneath.  And do the same with the beds.  And wash down the doors and walls.  And clean out my closets, which are undoubtedly stuffed to the gills with things I've completely forgotten about and never intend to use.

And why have I never done these things?  Well, mainly because I didn't have the time.  Up until a year ago, I worked full-time like many of you readers out there.  And during my precious leisure time I sure as hell didn't feel like moving furniture!  So I've done what I think a lot of people do: the basics and not much more.  Therefore my house has always looked presentable (as long as you don't gaze above my eye line, which according to my husband--who is five inches taller than me--is quite grimy), but is far from clean.

And why am I doing it now (and writing about it daily)?  Well--other than the health concerns arising from the terrifying layer of dirt on the blades of my ceiling fan--because spring is coming.  And though I was raised to be a faithful feminist and eschew the trappings of housekeeping for more noble affairs like world domination, I feel this almost primitive urge to air-out and clean-up.  It coincides with the exact same urge I've had this winter to hunker down and snuggle up.  

I call it Nesting.  And apparently I've been very bad at it over the past four years.  Now, I don't feel too guilty about this because honestly--in the grand scheme of things--who cares if my nooks and crannies are less than presentable?  It's not a character flaw.  But for once I thought I'd indulge this ancient urge to spring clean and see where it takes me.  I'm hoping that during a season of struggle (click here to read more) these simple tasks will brighten my spirits as much as they brighten my home.  Call it spring cleaning therapy. 

We'll see if it works!

Previous Nesting posts:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fun with Design

If you have a minute, check out to take a fun design quiz.  You just scroll through a series of photos of rooms and select whether you like them or hate them.  Then Sproost computes the results and tells you what your style is.  

I ended up being a combination of Rustic Revival (figures given that I live in Colorado) and Vintage Modern.  Other choices included Contemporary, Asian, Southwest, Arts and Crafts, and more.  

Another great way to figure out your design style is to create a design notebook.  I've been ripping out pages I like from magazines for years and compiling them in a three-ring binder (actually, I'm up to three binders now...) for design inspiration.  Whenever I need a jolt of creativity, or I'm stumped with a room makeover, I'll pull out my books and flip through the pages.  I also have lots of photos for landscape ideas, and even a few fashion finds.  

Happy designing!

Letting the Fresh In!

Happy Monday to you all!  Like you, I am heading back to work after a brief reprieve last week.  Thank you, by the way, to all of you who sent me your kind comments and even mailed me cards to encourage me in this season of my life.  I appreciate it more than you know!

As I suspected, I'm returning refreshed and inspired.  Inspired, that is, to clean.  Spring clean, to be more exact.  It was Saturday afternoon, in fact, when the spring-fever bug officially bit me.  I was taking a walk, breathing in the brisk and fresh air, and longing for just a pinch more warmth from the sun.  Warmth like spring.

Perhaps it was this sense of freshness that caused me to glance disdainfully around my house.  The clean-ness outside must have made the dirt inside all that more striking and unattractive.  And so I headed out to the store to stock up on supplies (Magic Erasers and Windex vinegar spray) and am set to do some heavy-duty cleaning and organizing.

Spring cleaning, incidentally, is just the type of work I need to be doing right now in my life.  Simple, gratifying, mindless.  Perfectly productive and distracting.  It also happens to fit in perfectly with Nesting, since clearing out and sprucing up supports the backbone of our Nesting instinct.

So, you can expect the following from me on this domestic blog in the weeks to come:
*  reflections on how exactly I allowed my house to get into the grimy state of disrepair it is currently in (note: tidy does not equal clean!)
*  poetic musings on how the simple pleasures of wind-dried sheets and sparkling floors defy even my strongest feminist inclinations to be otherwise occupied
*  lots of before & after shots (because who can clean without doing a little decorating in the process?!)
*  notes from research I intend to do on the tradition of spring cleaning (in other words, my thoughts on all of the housekeeping books I've been meaning to peek through, like Real Simple's cleaning guide and Martha's latest household reference, etc. etc.--who knew domesticity was so marketable!?)

Additionally, I will be hosting a few guest writers to share their thoughts on Nesting, and (I promise this time I'm serious) the return of some fabulous Marketplace Mavens!

So please stick around as I throw open my windows and let some fresh air in!

Previous Nesting Posts:

Monday, February 16, 2009

RX: A Quick Recharge

It is common for bloggers when writing a personal blog to wrestle with the question, "how much do I share?"  "Where is the line between personal and private?"  And so I find myself asking that question this morning.

The question comes up because I need a brief respite, and plan to take one this week.  No posting.  No working.  No updates.  Now normally I'd have material saved up for a week like this, but my life isn't exactly following "normal" lately.  

And since some of you readers check in frequently, I didn't want you to wonder "what happened to her?  Did she fall off a cliff?  Did she suddenly abandon her blog for greener pastures?  Did she catch the plague from the prairie dog colony next to her neighborhood? (a possibility, I assure you.)  

No, none of those things.  (And here comes the line between private and personal).  The truth is that I'm dealing with the emotional roller coaster of trying to start a family (a subject I have posted about during this recent Nesting series--see the links below to read more), and need a little holiday.  You know--a chance to recharge my battery a bit.

Incidentally, the opportunity to recharge for a spell is one of the benefits of my "lifestyle makeover" that I've come to value greatly.  Opting out of the traditional career track and opting in to a stay-at-home life has had many challenges, many of which I address on a regular basis in this space.  But it also provides some benefits.  Flexibility and cushion for dealing with life's unexpected obstacles is one such amiable quality.  

And so I leave you all for a few days.  I'll return, I'm sure, refreshed, and probably armed with a bunch of knitting projects I've finished and a slew of new ideas and thoughts on Nesting and life at home.  Until then...

PS:  I only wish I was on the beach.  Walking among prairie dogs will be more like it...

Previous Related posts:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Sussie: Rosetta Stone

note: sussies are amusing things I encounter during the week that I share from time to time.  If I knew how to say "sussie" in French, I would.

I love, love, love my new birthday present: the French Level 1 version of Rosetta Stone!  I've always wanted to learn French, which admittedly isn't as practical in the States as Spanish, but Oh So Pretty to listen to.  

And given that I have never had one lesson in French, and am catching on quickly to the new vocabulary, I'd have to say that the Rosetta program has impressed me so far.  Granted I'm not sure how practical it is to know "egg" and "swim," but I've only completed the first two lessons, so I'm optimistic!

So, if you are toying around with learning a language, I highly recommend Rosetta, even if it is a little pricey.  Or, if you live in my town and know how to speak French, email me so I can practice!

Au Revoir!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Procrastinator's Guide to Valentines Day

Well, it's Friday and the subject of budgeting just doesn't seem that alluring to me the day before the weekend.  Although truth be told, it's probably a good time to talk about it since I always tend to spend more money on the weekends.

My guess, though, is that you aren't thinking about budgeting either.  So, in lieu of money talk, I thought I'd share my Procrastinator's Guide to Valentines Day.  
Warning: it may not apply to newlyweds or those otherwise enmeshed in goober-y love.  
It goes as follows:

1.  Wake up the day before said Cupid Day, taking time to roll your eyes at the cheesy cherub-with-flapping-wings graphic on the local weather forecast, and lament the birth of the person who conjured up this blasted holiday!
2.  Realize shortly thereafter that you have less than 24 hours to convince your significant other that you really do love them, even if it is a forced, Hallmark-induced display.
3.  Begin brainstorming sentiment ideas--cute card?  candies?  lingerie?
4.  Painstakingly try to remember what you did last year to no avail.  Obviously it made a lasting impression on you...
5.  Get ready for your day, and between important tasks, dash out to the stores to find the perfect love token of affection.
6.  Wander the crowded card aisles covered in a vomit of pink and red and try to read over the shoulders of other Valentine procrastinators also earnestly searching for last-minute sonnets.  
7.  Eventually select a card, and wander the aisles for inspiration.  Finding none, grab the closest negligee, pray it fits, and head for the door.
8.  As evening dawns, proudly present your Valentine package, pretending that you've had it thoughtfully oozing romance under your bed for weeks.
9.  Allude to obligatory bedroom activities even though you are tired, not in the mood, and fighting violent thoughts about that fat-baby, Cupid.
10.  Well...I'm not sharing the rest.  You get the idea.  Eventually go to sleep and wake up one day closer to doing it all again.

Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wading into the Deep End: an Uncommon Approach to Budgeting

As promised yesterday, I am devoting a couple days to budgeting, and I'm kicking off the discussion with a talk about my city's budgeting strategy.  Right off the bat I'll admit that it is quite dorky for me to use municipal planning as an example of good budgeting.  I mean, a) it reveals the fact that I actually know details about my municipality's planning strategy, which is weird, and b) that I know enough to recommend this strategy to you, which is also weird.

I won't go into why I know this information (it was rooted in a rampant curiosity about the town I live in), or even the specifics of the strategy.  But I will tell you the general idea, which is that good budgets start with your values and build from there.

Now, this seems to make common sense.  And in fact it is very close to the way we normally budget, which is to use our goals as a compass to guide us.  But although similar, goals and values are not the same.  For instance, one of my goals is to be able to send my husband to graduate school someday, but the underlying value--meaningful knowledge and work--is deeper and broader.

This budgeting strategy, then, starts not with what do I want to accomplish? (goals), but who do I want to be? (values).  Once you determine who you want to be as an individual (or family if you are married and/or have children), you then assign your dollars accordingly.  Now I'm tempted to jump into a bunch of examples of what this looks like, but I'll save that for tomorrow.  First I want to make a point about the nature of Nesting, and how it synchs with this budgeting strategy.

The truth is that though on the surface Nesting just looks like decorating and preparing for children, beneath that veneer it is actually a process of deciding who we want to be as women and what our values are.  Because the root of our lives--our homes and core relationships--are the first place we express our values and our ambitions.  Putting those spaces (both physical and ideological) into the order that best nurtures who we want to be is part of the DNA of Nesting.  And since money is such a powerful tool in this process, it makes sense that budgeting plan that starts first with values fits well within Nesting.

Now I confess that I waded into the deep end of the pool with this post, perhaps a bit more than I intended.  And the truth is that even I'm a little surprised at some of the turns this series has taken (like going from cork finials to the core of who I am as a person in two days time!).  But if HGTV can get away with "start at home," and make it sound cool, than I figure I can too, even if it does get a little deep!

BTW--this budgeting strategy that I'll talk more about tomorrow helped my town garner an economic surplus during a time when most cities are operating in the red.  Pretty impressive!

Previous Nesting posts:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Managing Cash in the Nest

Those of you who have been following this blog probably suspected that eventually I would somehow tie budgeting into nesting.  Well, that time has come!  Hooray!  Hooray! (okay--so maybe I'm the only one who gets excited about it...)

Last fall I posted several times about my personal struggles and triumphs with spending and organizing my finances.  I lauded as one of my best finds for the year (and then subsequently quit visiting it...), and wrote about practicing mindfulness when venturing into the stores.  

Since then, I've touched on the subject from time to time, even a tiny bit during this series.  Up to this point, though, Nesting has been in large part devoted to creating comfortable and cozy living spaces.  Establishing a home, however, also includes the pursuit of order.  And I can't imagine an area needing more order in my life than my household finances.

The concept of financial order in Nesting is certainly less endearing than design and motherhood.  But it is arguably as important.  Finance, as we are learning in the nation and the world right now, has this knack of sowing itself in to the foundation of everything, including our households.  So while a pretty living room may bring comfort and joy (and believe me, it does), it will not manage to erase the anxiety that comes from economic insecurity or debt.  There are few things in the world that have the power to bring us as much comfort as secure finances--even soft beds and warm soup on cold days have trouble competing.  To draw an analogy from nature, birds can build nests to lay and hatch eggs, but they still have to bring in the bacon (or seeds, or bread, or whatever).  One pursuit cannot survive without the other.

And so I'll be spending a few days discussing the subject of getting my dollars and cents in order, all as an extension of Nesting.  Starting tomorrow when I borrow a great budgeting idea from the city I live in.  Come back to learn more!

Previous related posts:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cozying Up (even if it is Vicariously Done)

Though Northern Colorado has had an admittedly fabulous, spring-like winter so far (sunny days, many of them above 60 degrees), today is a bit dreary, and the forecast calls for snow to roll in later this afternoon.  The change in the weather reminded me of one of the main reasons I started this Nesting series in the first place: because the thought of cold, dark winters made me want to focus on warm, cozy homes.

So far it's been a little too warm outside to crave cozy inside, but bloggers in other parts of the world are cozying up and writing about it for me.  

Thus, if you have the time today, take a gander over at two of my most favorite blogs: SouleMama, written by Amanda Blake Soule and Yarnstorm, written by Jane Brocket.  Amanda lives in the Northeast which is incidentally covered in snow.  Her photos of both inside and out will warm you right up (or remind you of winter in the case of us Coloradoans!).  Jane writes from England where snow days and freezing temps have her snapping shots of brilliant flowers forced from bulbs blooming in front of frosted windows.  A perfect Nesting image.

Hope your Tuesday invokes as many cozy thoughts as mine has, even if you have to live vicariously through others!

Previous Nesting Posts:

Monday, February 9, 2009

On Life in General: Birthday Musings

I turned 29 last Friday, and like every year around my birthday, I spent some time thinking back on my life so far, and on the previous year, and my hopes for the year to come.  And though it is out of the norm for me to post philosophically about life in general, I just can't resist.  I blame it on the birthday.

I was telling some ladies this weekend that there will be no love lost between me and my twenties, and that I'm looking forward to ending this decade of life and moving into the next one.  This, I realize, is unusual.  Most of us are forever attempting to hang on to our youthfulness, especially when our twenties give way to our thirties, and our thirties to our forties, etc. etc.  But for me, my twenties was a decade of a lot of personal struggle.  I mean, I had a vision for what I wanted with my adulthood early on--I even wrote it down on paper when I was 22 or 23.  And somewhere between then and now, I deviated greatly to my own demise.

This blog comments regularly on my attempts to get back to that original vision, which included entrepreneurialism (specifically related to design), lots of domesticity, community engagement, and motherhood.  The journey back, as I've related many times, has been challenging, especially as I've wrestled with income, and accolades (there aren't many in my line of work...), and my expectations for success.

There are two things I guess I'd like to communicate clearly--lessons I've reflected on during this birthday.  The first is that it took me a long time to finally pursue the kind of life I've wanted, and it's been a hard process.  I lacked courage and fortitude for so many years, and I was afraid of what people would think if I left an honorable career to work at home.  But now that I've done it, my confidence grows in it every day. 

The second lesson is that my choices aren't for everyone.  I never want women to read this blog and think that I'm only advocating a life at home.  Sometimes readers will comment to me--almost as if to apologize--that they are working and enjoy their jobs.  I fully support careers in the 9-5!  I just want us to have the option to choose the lifestyle we want.  My lifestyle makeover has involved lots of domesticity, but the style that looks good on me (speaking metaphorically) may not look flattering on someone else. 

As for other lessons, I'll leave those unwritten.  You've probably had enough birthday musing for one day...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Birthday Pillow

Today is my birthday, so I thought I'd make a new pillow of course.  I'll be raffling it off this weekend at a retreat!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Before & After: Part 2

In January I shared some pictures of my first Nesting project, which was my office makeover.  And although I'm not finished yet with my office, that didn't stop me from starting a whole new project on the spare bedroom, which resulted in the following Before & After pictures:

When thinking about what I wanted to change in the room, I knew immediately that the curtain rod had to go!  The wrought iron (okay--so maybe it is black plastic resembling wrought iron...) rod with the scrolling finials had served it's design purpose long enough.  I was going for a more modern look, and scrolls just don't cut it. 
So I did what everyone does--I shopped around for a new rod.  And I found tons of them at fairly reasonable prices.  I also found a lot of other things that I wanted too, and my budget was getting too fat.  So I ditched the new rod and contemplated plan B: new finials.  And that was when it occurred to me that corks really are under-appreciated design friends, and wouldn't they make perfectly nice, functional and free finials?

Indeed they do.  It took me all of two seconds to twist on a couple leftover corks from my favorite New Mexican sparkling wine and my curtain rod troubles were fixed.

Next was the headboard.  Formerly the bed rested anchor-less on the wall, much to my chagrin.  I knew I needed something substantial behind the pillows to complete the room.  So I did some research.  My options included 1) purchasing a new headboard at the furniture store, which would have run me $100-$300; 2) create one with paint on the wall, which is a great option, but one I wasn't interested in; 3) create one with mirrors--another great, affordable option, but a little too glitzy for me, or 4) find a thrift store headboard and refinish it.  

Those of you who read Monday's post know which option I chose: #4.  I was lucky to find a headboard with style that was still in good shape (even my husband was impressed, and he Hates my thrift store finds).  The headboard cost $10, so in addition to refinishing supplies, I only spent about $50 total, which is not bad for furniture.  

So after sanding and staining, I am thrilled with the way it turned out.  And as predicted, it completed the bed perfectly.  

I share all of this with you because a) I love design, and can't help but writing about it.  And b) I think that creating beauty in our homes (and the world) is a worthy pursuit, especially if you can do it with some money-and-resource-friendly (aka cheap and recycled) savvy.  

Previous Related Posts:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nesting Your Life

In between my mad flurry of painting and staining and sewing this week, I have had some time to reflect more on the idea that as women we start preparing our nests for children a lot sooner than when they actually arrive.  In the traditional sense, this may not seem to be the case.  I mean, you can walk through my home and notice the conspicuous absence of anything related to children.  My electrical sockets are exposed, my spare bedroom has a bed (with a fabulous newly refinished headboard, I might add), instead of a crib, and you can find a plethora of poisons under my kitchen sink.  The absence of kid things, though, doesn't mean that I haven't been creating space for them in my life.

It is true, in fact, that I have been consciously making decisions in their favor for years.  Like when my husband and I first got married and decided to limit our lifestyle and budget to one income in case I wanted to stay home with them down the road.  Or when we worked hard for five years to pay off extraneous debt that we were carrying so that we would be more financially prepared to raise a family.  Even my decision to use contraception early in our marriage was a choice I made with my kids in mind, because I didn't want to bring them into our relationship when we were still getting used to it (Yes--I think postponing pregnancy can actually be a form of preparing for kids down the road, as backwards as that logic may seem.).  

I know I'm not alone in the planning.  As women, many of us start "nesting with our life" (aka making decisions with our future children in the back of our minds) from very young ages.  We ask "will this man make a good father someday?" or "will this career support me in motherhood in the future?" or "will my weight/health help or hurt me when I want to get pregnant down the road?"  We may not consciously assign these questions to "nesting" at the time, but that is exactly what they are.

My point with all of this is to say that our relationship with the process of becoming mothers doesn't begin with a positive pregnancy test, but much sooner.  And it should start sooner. Being intentional about the choices we make in favor of our children (even if we're twenty and still in college, and our kids are not even a twinkle in our eyes yet) only helps us.

So nest on with your life, ladies!

Previous Nesting posts:

Monday, February 2, 2009

And Then it Happened...

I was all prepared to start out the week as promised, with some nesting posts and the newest Marketplace Maven...and then it happened.

Suddenly I was overcome by an all-too-familiar compulsion to design.  I've had this happen to me before.  I'll be moving along in the day just fine and dandy, and then Wham!--I'm hit with the bug to completely overhaul one of my rooms or tackle a long-forgotten project.  

Sometimes I am able to resist these sudden attacks.  But not today.  Today I'm ankle deep in paint and varnish stripper, peering into the door of a half-painted room (goodbye, dear orange--hello, pale blue) and a half-stripped headboard (so retro, don't you think?  Picked it up for $10 at a local thrift store just this morning.).  

So I'm afraid that Nesting and Mavens will have to be delayed just a bit.  I'm sure you understand how sometimes these things cannot be helped.  Like unexpected sick days.  Or family emergencies.  I overhauls are kind of like that.  Right?  
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