Monday, August 30, 2010

The Perfect Summer Night

We've just returned from a great weekend at the lake, or as we Minnesotans say..."up north." 

We got to the lake Friday night, just as the sun was setting.  Here is one of my husband's favorite shots- taken through the car window.

Saturday was hot, but sunny and beautiful.  Brad captured several loons hanging out:

We had THE perfect summer dinner of steak on the grill and Minnesota-grown corn on the cob.  Mmm-mmm good.  There was wine, in the wine glasses my dad just won in a big golf tournament, topped off with a wonderful sunset.  Behold:

Ahhhh....Minnesota at its best.  I hope you all had an equally great weekend.  Dinners at home are economical and have better ambiance than any restaurant!  With nature's glory on the shore, you don't need much more!

Until next time...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bathroom Re-Do

My husband bought a great house as a single guy.  Then we met, and when we got married, I moved in.  Together we picked colors and painted every room on the first floor...except the bathroom.  I had a plan for it.  It just took me 4 years to actually get to it.

There's nothing like a deadline to motivate you.  I started stripping wallpaper and sanding the sponge-painted walls, with entertaining my family for Easter as the motivator and deadline.  Once started, well, I HAD to finish it.  I could hardly have my family over for Easter with a babthroom with no light and taped walls. 

This was a cheap project- sweat equity, paint, and a light fixture from Menards.  The hardest part was sanding the walls; the scariest part was changing a light fixture myself.  I'd never done anything with electricity.  Turns out it isn't that hard! 

Check out the before and after pictures...and if there's a project you've been putting off...what are you waiting for?  It's so much fun to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Before:  Think sponge painting about 4/5 of the way up the wall, a brass light fixture, then a wall-paper border, and top it off with an irridescent leaf stamp the rest of the way up to the ceiling.  Very country.

After:  Two coats of paint (Monk's Hood is the paint color) and a new brushed nickel light fixture make this bathroom all better. 

Until next time....


Monday, August 23, 2010

Cards Cards Cards

I've been absent for awhile- but the good news is that my new business website is up and running ( and business cards are in hand! 

Now I'm busy making custom greeting cards to fill an order from La Barista in Detroit Lakes.  They'll be selling both my hand-made cards and photo cards.  Following are some of my hand-made designs.  If you are intersted in buying a set of custom-made cards so that you're set for the full year of occassions, conact me!


The Witch Collection: Simply Bewitching!

And some others:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Out with the Old and in with What You Need

Out with the old and in with only what you need! Though we won’t celebrate the New Year until December 31, September is around the corner and it is its own kind of New Year. It’s the start of a new school year, a time for new schedules; it’s a new season, etc. It’s a mental new start, and a great time to get rid of clutter and start with a clean slate.

Don’t wait until the night before school starts to see what still fits your kids from last year. The same goes for you. Check out the fall clothes and see what still fits. If you have summer clothes you haven’t worn all summer, get rid of them or donate them if they are in good condition.

Go through the winter clothes now too. If you didn’t wash them before storing them for the summer, start washing now so you are ready to go when the cold season starts. If you didn’t wear an item last season, get rid of it now. If you are still waiting to lose 20 pounds, the smaller clothes you are waiting to fit into again need to go out now. They make you feel guilty for not losing weight, and chances are good that they won’t be in style by the time you do lose the weight. When you do lose the weight, congratulate yourself by purchasing a few new items. Use your local discount stores, thrift stores, and coupons to get great deals! Think strategically about what you buy and what you have room for.

All of this requires work, but will save you stress in a couple months when the temperature drops and you are left with nothing but tank tops and flip-flops at your disposal! Plus, research shows we wear only 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. That means we have way more than we need or wear. It’s time to pare down and allow our closets to hold just the clothes we really wear. Maybe clearing out will even create room for all of your clothes in one closet!

Out with the old…and in with just what we need. Clearing out also reacquaints you of what you have. You are now in the perfect position for back to school/fall shopping. By knowing what you have that works, you can make a reasonable list of what you need to get, and buy only what you need. Don’t fall into the trap of just buying clothes, without knowing if you really need them. Obviously my frugal side is showing, but my words come from learning the lesson myself. I’ve bought clothes because I thought I needed them; thought they’d go with what I already had; thought they were a good deal. And months later, I find I’ve never, or hardly, worn many of the new purchases.

Let me know what you find that you forgot you had…and what you were able to let go!

Until next time…

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Simplify Your Life Week: Corral the Mail

Here we are. Day 5 of Simplify Your Life Week. Today’s Tip: Corral the mail and handle it immediately. No more messy piles, no more bills thrown out with the junk mail, no more 3 foot high piles of old catalogs and magazines.

If you’re following yesterday’s advice, you’re taking a few minutes each day to consolidate and update your to-do list. While you are at it, take a few minutes each day to go through the mail.
Set yourself a few simple rules: 
  1. Touch each piece of mail only once (this is the ideal).
  2. Recycle junk mail immediately.
  3. If you know you won’t order anything from a catalog, recycle it immediately. If you’ve gone 6-12 months without ordering from the catalog, cancel it. You can always re-subscribe at a later date or find the information online. If you plan to order something in the catalog, hop online and order right away, or flag the page and schedule time to go to the store.
  4. Deal with bills immediately. Either pay them right then and there, or place bills in a designated place and pay them on a scheduled date.
  5. If you subscribe to magazines, have a designated place to put them and commit to reading them within the month. If you find you routinely do NOT read a particular magazine, save yourself the money and cancel the subscription. If you really want to read a particular future issue, buy it or read it at the library.
Simple Organizing Solutions for Corraling the Mail

I have two cloth baskets- one for myself and one my husband- that sit on our kitchen island. Mail is sorted into his and hers immediately and we take care of our own. When company comes over, these baskets areeasy to stack and stash away for the duration of the visit.

There are great wall hanging solutions out there as well that allow a slot for each family member. Especially in homes with children, this provides each person a place to put their mail, magazines, papers, permission slips, etc.   Magazine organizers and wall pockets work well for this.  You can find the ones pictured below at The Container Store.

In addition to our cloth baskets, we have one of these in our mudroom to collect the weekly coupon circulars, and magazine articles about places we want to visit.
Again, the ideal is to touch each piece of mail only once, and you can do that by dealing with it right away. Good luck!

Until next time…

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Simplify Your Life Week: Simplify Your Lists

What will you do this week to make your life a little more simple, a little more calm, a little more manageable and a little more enjoyable?

If you feel like you are drowning in to-do lists and items that never get crossed off, one step to simplification is to call on Render Lifestyle Management to help. If you live in the Twin Cities area, contact me for a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your priorities and budget and let’s get you on your way to some simplicity.

While Render Lifestyle Management can help you get items on your list done, you still need to know what’s on that list.

Listing with Technical Tools

If you use a smart phone, you already have a great place to keep your lists. If you have a habit of constantly starting new lists and never knowing which list to look at, take the time today to consolidate them all into one list, and stick to using just that list. Another technique is to make your lists right within a daily calendar.

Listing with Pen and Paper

If you are a pen and paper list-maker like I am, that’s a great system as well. If the lists are not all in one place, take the time today to gather them all into one pile, and create a consolidated list. I recommend a smallish spiral notebook- it’s small enough to fit in a purse or backpack, and thus, portable. When you are tempted to start a new list, just pull out your notebook and keep it all in one place.

Non-list Makers

If you are not a list maker, that leads me to believe you have a great memory, or forget to do a lot of things! If you find yourself forgetting dates and things that need to get done, a great first step for you during Simplify Your Life Week is to start a listing habit. Get out the smart phone and learn to use its listing features, or purchase a small spiral notebook. What is imperative is that you commit to starting a listing habit. Once something is on the list, you don’t have to keep using mental energy to remember to do it because your list will tell you what needs to get done.


Sometimes one list just won’t do. For example, if “grocery store” is on the to-do list, you may need a sub-list that contains all you need to purchase at the grocery. If your lists are all in one place, you can go to the grocery when it’s convenient and know your list is with you. This saves you from forgetting essential items and having to go back, or having to drive by the grocery when you have time to go there because you don’t have your list. Both scenarios necessitate a second trip to the store. That’s not a good use of your time or your resources.

The Running List vs. the Daily List

There are schools of thought for making uber-long running lists (allowing you to keep everything front and center and reviewed frequently), and for the shorter, daily lists. I’m a bit of a mix-breed, doing a little bit of both, sometimes more one than the other. I usually have a running list, but lately I’ve been using a great paper pad with headings for each day of the week. I stocked up on these pads at the dollar section at Michaels and am stocked for the year! For some of you, seeing a long running list without assurance that each item will be crossed off by the end of the day creates panic and a feeling of being overwhelmed. If that sounds like you, a daily system may be best for you. Have a page/list for each day of the week, and put items down according to which day you think you will do each task or must do a particular task.

This has been a fairly long post for one little tip. The take-away is really to think about what your listing habit is, and how it helps or hinders your productivity. Your biggest challenge is probably making a commitment to more productive listing. Hopefully some of this information will help you improve, or start, your listing habit.

Until next time…

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Know Thy Neighbor

Watch an old movie, or listen to stories about when your grandparents and parents were growing up. Chances are there are scenes involving family togetherness, a walk down the block, a front porch, and greeting the neighbors by name. Those were the good old days. Life was simpler and moved at a slower pace.

This is Simplify Your Life Week, and today we focus on creating neighborhood connections reminiscent of a simpler time. Today is National Night Out, or as many communities in the Twin Cities have chosen to call it, Night to Unite. It’s a night to band together with neighbors and focus on building stronger communities.

Knowing your neighbors is the basis of a strong and safe neighborhood. And, having neighbors you can depend on can definitely make your life easier. You never know when you really will need to borrow that cup of sugar for real, or in an emergency need to ask a neighbor to watch your dog (or kids!) or water your plants…or make sure your house is still standing after a storm when you are out of town.

My best friend has cultivated an amazing relationship with the family that lives across the street from her. They have a son and daughter the same age as hers. They often share cooking responsibilities- each making something to contribute to a meal that both families eat together. One year they shared a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share together; they carpool together. They rely on one another for last minute babysitting (even overnights) and know in any emergency their kids have safe and trustworthy adults they can rely on. They are the best example I’ve ever seen of how knowing your neighbors can make life simpler (and more fun!!).

I moved into a neighborhood with a good number of original owners that all know one another. Meeting one of these women led to an invitation to a neighborhood girls’ night out, where I met several other women in the neighborhood. This also led to our involvement in a progressive dinner with five other couples. Knowing my neighbors provides me a sense of security, belonging and attachment. I really do sit on the front porch and greet many of the walkers-by by name (and their dogs!).

If your neighborhood has a National Night Out event planned for tonight, I encourage you to attend. If such an event is not planned, get out there to meet your neighbors anyway and plan an event for next year. Get to know your neighbors - you never know when you’ll need them. And when they need you, I hope you’ll return the favor.

Until next time…

Monday, August 2, 2010

Simplify Your Life Week: Getting Back to Basics

Life is complicated, and with the advent of each new technological gadget, we are led to believe we can cram more and more into each 24 hours. I think it’s time to get back to basics. To me, this means going back to a simpler time. Think pre-internet.Maybe some of you really did take time yesterday as suggested to reflect and think about your values, and whether or not your life exemplifies those values. Following are some tips for slowing down, and maybe they will even tie in to things you value- like your family, or at least your sanity. Pick one suggestion, pick them all, do one just once a month. Or, carry out just one suggestion this week in honor of Simplify Your Life Week. If you like what you try…implement it on a permanent basis.
  • Put more emphasis on personal communication. When you pass a co-worker in the hall and ask how they are, actually wait for their answer and respond to it. Pick up the phone and chat with a friend you haven’t had time to connect with lately. Use the phone rather than email to schedule appointments, play dates, dinner dates, and to personally RSVP for your invitations. This is a much more personal way of communicating and will help you feel more in tune with yourself and those around you. It takes some time, but allows you to slow down and focus a little more on one task at a time.
  • Slow down. Quit multitasking with everything you do. When making your phone calls, focus on those and those only. People deserve your full attention, as you deserve theirs. While you are driving, focus on driving, not on your phone, putting on make-up or eating a rushed breakfast on the way to work. When you are spending time with your kids, don’t worry about the dishes or the laundry, but give them your undivided attention. They will remember that most, not if the dishes got done before they went to bed.
  • Eat meals at home and as a family. Whether this means eating with a roommate, a spouse, or the whole family. Plan the menu together, and cook together. Turn off the T.V. and spend some quality time together. Put your focus on the people you are with rather than rushing through dinner to get to the next thing. Make dinner a fun family activity and not a chore.
  • Allow yourself to say NO. Limit activities and commitments to what you can reasonably handle and give focus to. Again, nobody wants just half your attention. If you cannot give up the commitments, Render Lifestyle Management can help you with the errands!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember hearing about relying on neighbors for help and a cup of sugar? If you need help, ask. Whether from friends or professionals, it is NOT a sign of weakness to ask for help. Nobody is good at everything. Render Lifestyle Management specializes in providing help to busy people like yourself.
  • Finally, unplug. Spend less time online, listening to an iPod, playing Wii, and checking email. Maybe you make Sunday a day for family and rest. Maybe you make a household rule to unplug after a certain time each night. Allow yourself time to be calm. Use this as time to gather your thoughts for the next day, get your lists together, get things done around the house, read, or play with your kids.
Today, think about the values you identified yesterday, and think about ways you can refocus on those values and slow down just a little bit. The laundry can wait a day.

Until next time…

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Simplify Your Life Week

Did you know there is a whole week dedicated to simplifying your life? Indeed there is, and it starts today, August 1, and is called Simplify Your Life Week. In honor of this week, I’ll be posting daily.

My hope for you this week is that you find at least one golden nugget in my posts that will help you make your life a little more simple, a little more calm, and a little more enjoyable.

To that end, I believe that simplifying our lives begins with knowing what is important to us on an individual level. So, let’s kick off Simplify Your Life Week with examining our values. After all, if you don’t know what you truly value, it’s hard to shape a life that exemplifies your values.

You may all be groaning. I know that’s my typical response to somebody telling me it’s time to do a value exercise. But lately, I’ve come to see the, ahem, value in them. I’m not going to ask you to complete a sentence, or a worksheet, or read a book. All I ask is that you reflect. How simple is that? Actually take 10 minutes out of today for yourself, think about what is most important to you, and how you want that to show through in your life. After all, our values are really just those people, ideas and concepts that we hold dear.

Congratulations if you are living out your values! If you don’t feel you are, think about how you could. The answer to that question is your guide to changes you may want to make to simplify your life. Perhaps you know you value your family, but you’re realizing that’s not who you put first in the daily lineup. It’s easy to let work, emails, carpools, laundry, the garden and the snooze button take precedence.

If you find your values are out of sync with your daily life and need some help restoring the balance, contact Render Lifestyle Management. We will work together to determine what you can delegate to create time and space for what you hold most dear. This may involve hiring Render Lifestyle Management to carry out services for you, or a consultation to help you develop a plan for how you can reprioritize your life and tasks to live out your values more clearly.

I’m working my way through a great book, “The Simple Living Guide” by Janet Luhrs. As you think about your values, I’ll leave you with a great definition from the book. “Simple living is about living deliberately.” I just love that. Live your life with intention. Think about what you hold most dear, think about how you spend your time, and make sure there is not a disconnect.

Until next time...