Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow Days, Rainy Days, or Any Day {Make a Memory}


     We have not had a full week of school since before Christmas break and can I tell you I LOVE it!!! But and yes there is a but when it is an unplanned day off of school and I need to change my plans for the day even though I love it I go into a bit of a panic for a moment.  I like to take advantage of having the kids home and I like to have a plan of something fun to do, even though it might be a simple plan, a plan is something I find comfort in...what can I say I am a planner!!!  To appease my planner persona and go with the flow of the unexpected I have come up with a list of go to activities that are simple, don't require a lot of preplanning, and also don't require things I don't have around the house(because I have them now, yes the planner in me is prepared...AHHHHH)

1.  Snow Day Donuts...a simple tradition and all it requires is oil, refrigerator biscuits, and powdered sugar(frosting and sprinkles if you would like too).  Heat oil, stretch out dough, put a hole in the middle with your thumbs, place dough in hot oil, approx. 30 seconds, remove from oil, place on paper towel lined plate and dip into powdered sugar or frost and sprinkle.  Easy and the kids LOVE it!!!

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2.  Build a Fire...in our old home we did it outside...ahhh hot chocolate and smores around a fire while playing in the snow outside can't be beat in my book except by building a fire in your fireplace and doing the same thing in the warm indoors after playing outside building forts, snowmen, angels and I have been known to start a snowball fight or 2(ok I always start them).  Our new family favorite is to gather around the fire and I read the children a story..right now we are reading Willawaw, yes I gave up on reading Oliver Twist it made my brain hurt.
 
3.  Painting....I love to paint and so I always have paper(you can get end rolls from a local print shop and usually for free) and paint available in our art/science room. 
 
 4.  Window Art....my kids love to be able to draw all over the windows and lets be honest I know I don't wash them enough anyway, this is the perfect time.  We use Crayola Window Markers and they work fabulously!!!
 



 5.  Popcorn...pop some up and snuggle with your kiddos and watch a movie.  Turn the phone off, computer, and snuggle with your kids.  They LOVE it!!!
 
6.  Balloon Projects...decorate them with a crazy face(use permanent marker), make them into a rocket(tape a straw to the top of the balloon, blow up balloon and hold air in, cut a long  piece of string, thread through the straw, have 2 people hold each end of the string or tie it to something and let go..weeee , blow them up in an unexpected way(vinegar in a pop bottles add baking soda, put balloon over top to seal it up and see what happens), or bat them around with PAPER PLATES.
 
7.  Paper Plate Crafts...you can go online and search paper plate crafts and I tell you, it is a bit overwhelming.  There are a ton of fabulous ideas out there and all you need are paper plates best $2.00 you will spend!!!
 
 
 
 8.  Picnic...throw a blanket on the floor and eat your lunch...it is so simple but so memorable and no table to wash off just pick up the blanket and throw it in the washer!!!
 
9.  Games...our family loves games and remember that fire I was talking about this where we play our games on snow days right in front of the fire...some of our families current favorites are...BANG!, Apples to Apples, Settlers of Catan Jr, and Uno Roboto!!!
 
10.  Play..just play with them with the toys they have, be on the floor and play!  I am guilty, I don't do this enough but when I do this is when we have our best talks and bonding moments.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cooking with the Kids {crunchy black bean tacos}

I love a good Mexican recipe.  In matter of fact my very first cookbook that I received when I was 14 was a Mexican cookbook and so my love of cooking began. 
 I am sure, in matter fact I know my mom was so tired of having tacos for dinner when I was a teen because I would make them all the time.  
 
 One day while on Pinterest I came across this fabulous recipe.  I however considered my children's taste buds which can be picky at times and changed it quite a bit.
 
The reviews were unanimous they LOVED them, absolutely loved them...there was not a crumb left and if you know anything about picky eaters you know this is a miracle. 
 
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This is Cooking with the Kids and they really did everything when doing this recipe,
even down to tasting and adjusting the spices. 
 
  I have found that when you cook with children they all want to help
 but letting them all help at once is difficult and to be honest dangerous at times so use good judgement when cooking with children.   
Assigning the jobs ahead of time and considering their strengths is key
 for no craziness in the kitchen. 
This way they all know they are going to get a turn and are prepared to help when it is their turn.
 This keeps their little fingers and other body parts safe.
 
  I divided the job amongst the 3 of them and so I had the one with the most sensitive taste buds be the spice adjuster and to say enough is enough. The oldest did everything with griddle.  My youngest mashed and measured while the middle child grated and sliced. 
 
 Was this their first time doing these jobs in the kitchen absolutely not.   I pull each one of them individually during the week to help make dinner at least once and I have a couple that would help every time if they could.  This allows me to know what they are ready to tackle with little help from myself and the more they can do by themselves the more confident they feel about their abilities and this makes for some very happy kiddos!!!
 
 

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos


Makes 10 tacos (serves 5).Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

{Ingredients}
2 C. black beans, cooked
½ peeled onion, grated (I grate the onion because my children DO NOT like chunks of onion in their food, you can dice it if you would like)
 1/2-1  tsp. cumin
 1/2-1  tsp. paprika
 4-6 ounces cheddar jack cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. olive oil
 Pinch of salt and pepper
8 corn tortillas

{Toppings}
 Hot sauce
1 avocado, sliced
 Salsa
Sour cream
snipped cilantro

{Directions}
1) In a medium bowl, add beans and grate onion over beans, add spices. Add a pinch of salt and lightly mash all of the ingredients together with a fork or pastry blender. Grate your cheese and have it ready as well.

2) In a large, non-stick skillet or griddle add a few tablespoons of oil and heat over medium-high heat or 350 for the griddle

3) Add one corn tortilla at a time and let each get hot in the oil for a few seconds. Then add about 1/4 cup of the bean filling to one half of the tortilla. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese.

4) Using a spatula, carefully fold the tortilla over so it forms a shell. Press down lightly on the tortilla so it stays folded in half

5) As the first tortilla cooks, move it to the side and do a second one. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to get 2 or 3 tacos at once or on a griddle 6-8.

6) Cook each taco for about 3 minutes per side until they are nicely browned and crispy. As a note corn tortillas are very forgiving and are resilient to heat so don't worry about burning do the 3 minutes per side to get them nice and crispy

7) When flipping the taco to cook on the other side, use a spatula and flip the taco toward the fold so the filling doesn’t fall out.

8) Serve tacos with toppings like hot sauce, salsa, avocados, sour cream and cilantro.

 
BE AWESOME,
 
Julia


 
 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Stairs : AFTER

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They are finally done and can I say it has definitely been worth the wait.  If you want to read about how the stair project came to be you can go here to read all about it. 
 
Once I realized the stairs needed to be completely redone I went online and did some research to decide what I wanted to do.  Did I want to be out there, or not so out there but super  colorful, or did I want to play it safe.  I went around and around about it for months, when I say months I mean from June until November..5 MONTHS.  I finally took the plunge and called  a friend that happens to own a building company and I know they do beautiful work. I knew this was something I did not want to tackle on my own.  We met went over the details, my vision, and then I waited for a bid. 
 
 
December came about we had a bid and now I needed to meet with the finish carpenter.  In the midst of this my mom was admitted to the ICU and so a lot of phone tag happened.  We finally came up with a time to meet and  can I tell you I absolutely love him.  I am sure we will be working together again someday soon.  He really understood what I wanted and so we were ready to start but first ordering some special order pieces had to happen.  Once everything was in it went quite quickly.  Jason came did super precise measurements of everything and left me with the risers to paint while the treads would be finished at the shop.
 
Here is the before:
 
 
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Before the work could proceed I need to paint the trim up the stairs and the banister.
We chose Glidden Duo white on white in satin for the trim and banister(which means now I am locked into painting all the trim in the house).  This was a long process it took three coats and several hours over many days.  Next on my list painting the risers. 
 
I honestly had the hardest time with this and not the painting, the painting was a snap but deciding on ALL of the colors. I knew I wanted to do 3.  
 
 I had my red color( cocktail dress by Valspar in satin), this was a color decided long ago for another project and to help with the flow of the house it will be in every room on the main level somewhere, have I mentioned I LOVE red!!!  Yes, yes I know green is the color this year but I don't love green, I love red. When it comes to home décor and projects you need to do what makes you happy not what is in trend...what YOU love, what puts a smile on YOUR face!   
 
 I had my light blue color(arctic blue by Glidden in satin) which is the color I painted my family room and eventually my kitchen will be painted this color as well.  When you walk in to the family room you just go AHHH and want to cuddle with a blanket in front of the fireplace...I think this blue is named wrong I think it should be named serenity.
 
 I knew I wanted to do a beige color and this is where I hit a wall.  This is the color I will eventually paint the living room, foyer, the walls up the stairs, and the hallway upstairs and so I felt very overwhelmed by this decision.  I even had considered grey.  I have a grey I love and have painted other rooms in my old house grey but I am over grey even though it is everywhere right now.  After several trips to the paint stores around town and research online I decided with antique beige by Glidden in satin.  I know, I know beige is boring but I am one that wants a blank canvas to fill with colorful accents and so a nice neutral is what I wanted.  I don't know if I love this color or not.  It is paint after all and if I end up not liking it I guess I will tape it off and paint over it.  The luxury of paint...you can fix it.
 
I assigned each color a number 1-3 and put it through a  random number generator.  This is a free handy tool when you want true randomness in the order of something.  Humans tend to put things in a pattern and this is not what I wanted at all I wanted it to be random.  I however I  ran my numbers through several times because yes I did want it random but I did not want any colors that were the same touching. I took over 21 tries to get them all separated but it is as simple as clicking on a button to redo it.  Now I was set to paint.  I had my paint colors, I had the risers, and I had the order.
 
  I decided at the very last moment and when I say last moment, I was putting the paint on my tester riser and I decide to go with 4 colors...WHAT CRAZINESS!!! My husband thought I lost my mind.  Here I had fretted over this project for months, debated over style, color and had it all planned out and at the last minute I made a change to my well thought out plan.   Yep I did and can I tell you I am so glad I did.  The fourth color I added was rich navy by Glidden in satin.  I left my practice painting and ran the number generator with 4 numbers instead of 3 and came up with a new pattern.  Then I got to work painting the risers.  I use a cabinet roller when I am painting wood, it leaves a smooth finish when it dries.
 
As I was getting everything done here, it got really cold and remember the stairs that were being finished in the shop they were taking forever to dry between coats and so it was pushed back a week and then Jason had a baby girl so we were pushed back a bit again, no worries because I was having a case of the nerves about the whole thing.  I am a very visual person.  I want to see it and even touch it before I buy and so here in my head was this vision and I didn't know if it was going to work out how I saw it in my mind.
 
Well the morning came and the stairs were going to be done and can I tell you I was a ball of nerves still and then the first 3 stairs were done and I was getting super excited.  David and I left for lunch which was a good thing because I was hovering.  What can I say I like to see my vision come together and when someone else is doing the work, I still want to see it come together. When we came back all the new stairs and risers were in.
 
 
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Can I tell you I stood and stared at those stairs for 5 minutes and I could not quit smiling not for one second.  I just stood there and stared at that vision in my head right in front of me. I could taouch it too, and I did!!!   It is so hard to explain that feeling when you see your vision in a very tangible form in front of you. 
 
Here they are my fabulous, fun stairs:
 
 
 
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What I am learning about creating a home you love, it truly needs to be what YOU love.  Trends come and go.  Black walls are popping up all over, green accessories, chevron stripes, yep it is all over the place but if you do not absolutely adore it don't do it!!! You will change it in short order. You will take time unnecessarily away from your children, your spouse, you will waste money, and effort.  Do what inspires you, what puts a smile on your face, what you love!!!  I promise if you do what you love you will be happier for it and love your home and it makes all the difference in your everyday life when you love where you are most of your days!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Stairs: BEFORE

I had mentioned in this post how one project leads to another
 and the stairs happened to be a victim in the project to do fest. 
 
Here is a picture of the before:
 
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and here they are again with some paint on the side trim:
 
 
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I can't wait to show you the after pictures tomorrow.  Until then here is a sneak peek:
 
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Personal DIY MRE

Sometimes we let things go and for us it was our 72 hour kits. 
The kits themselves are good but the clothes sizes too small for our children and the food expired. 
 I knew this in my mind but it just was not the top priority or
 even on the list of things to do in our lives. 
 
 Isn't amazing how a major catastrophe like hurricane Sandy and the devastation left behind didn't even make me panic stricken enough to put it on the list. 
 It wasn't until several weeks later when I was reading an article about it and saw a picture of a family going through a dumpster for food that shoved it to the very top of our list of things to do.
 
 Several years ago I did some real in depth research on the topic of being prepared in an emergency so I have base knowledge of what to do to be prepared and I did it at that time and had kept the 72 hour kits pretty up to date. I however felt like it was not complete and it needed to be simplified. 
 
So I did some research went on Pinterest and found this site  A Bowl Full of Lemons that I thought was simple and doable and it is broken down into 8 weeks.  This site is fabulous and the e-book is definitely worth the $10.  Even if you don't get the e-book the site is full of valuable info.  In my Pinterest research I found several other great sites and put them all on my Be Prepared board.
 
 
After gathering for a couple of weeks I pulled all of the items I had collected and set them on the table and had the kids come and put their own kit together. We just used 1 gallon Ziploc bags to put our food item in.  We talked about being prepared and our emergency plan while we worked.  We also tried some things out to make sure they would be edible in a emergency situation. 
 
 
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Our kits contain:
4 individual cups of Jif Peanut Butter
2 small sleeves of ritz crackers
3 small boxes of raisins
a can of soup
2 packs ramen
1beef jerky
1 apple cider packets
2 Breakfast Essentials packets
2 Oat Fit oatmeal packets
(love these because you put the water right into he pouch and eat out if it)
2-3 granola bars
2 GoGo applesauce pouches
3-4 100% fruit leather strips(found at Target)
 

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My husband has always been concerned with the calorie count of our previous kits and these hit a number he was very comfortable with sustaining our family for 3 days.  I can't tell you what peace comes to your heart when you know your family will be fed if there is an emergency and all it took was a little planning, some shopping, and 20 minutes of time, SO WORTH IT!!!!
 
 
 
 Be AWESOME,
 
JULIA

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cooking with the Kids ~ Lasagna Rolls

I started doing something with my children that I love and so do they.  My husband works one night a week and so those nights I try to have fun with them...we don't just need to have a fun dad right??? 

 I pondered what exactly I could do and after much debate cooking class won out. 
My children LOVE cooking class!!!  We have them go to one once a quarter and Chef Patrick is fabulous but they mostly focus on desserts at this age in those cooking classes
so I thought we could focus on the main course. 

Our first class was learning how to make lasagna rolls...

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Don't the look DELISH!!!

Here is how our cooking class went:

We always start by washing hands!!!

First we gathered all of our ingredients:

Box of lasagna noodles
salt
2 jars pasta sauce
faker Parmesan
pre-cooked ground chuck(the amount is up to you)
4 cups mozzarella
2 eggs
garlic powder
onion powder
Italian seasoning
parsley flakes
grated real Parmesan


Let them fill a pot of water, add salt, and place the lid on and bring the water to a boil, once boiling add lasagna noodles and let boil for 10 minutes and stir occasionally. 

Teach your child how to turn on your oven to 350(the magical degree, is what I refer to it)

Next is getting the sauce on.  I had cooked the hamburger a few days before hand and so we just dumped it into a skillet and added 2 jars of our favorite spaghetti sauce(we like things saucy you could get away with one).  Turn the heat on low and let it heat up, we also added 1/4 faker Parmesan cheese. 

This is really teaching them to multi task and work quickly.

Next was to make the filling.  We have children that do not like ricotta cheese so we left it out and that is what is all about when cooking with and for children you adapt.  Now don't get me wrong I cook things they do not like and they have to give them the old college try but if I know they really don't like something and I can substitute it I do.

In a bowl add 4 cups of shredded mozzarella, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tbs Italian seasoning, 1/2 tbs parsley flakes, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, and 2 eggs.  Mix this up until the eggs are coating the cheese evenly.  Set aside.

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It is time to do a clean up of your work area while you are waiting for the noodles to finish and the heat can be turned off the sauce.  Once the noodles are done drain them and rinse them with cold water until they are cool about 2 minutes.  You don't want your babies to burn the little fingers.

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Have them lay out a noodle on your counter.  He is always hamming it up when I take pictures. 
 Yes I said act like I am not here about a dozen times but he could not help himself!



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Have them spread a thin layer of the cheese mixture over the cooled noodles. 
We just used out hands but you could use a spoon as well. 




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It will look like this once the mixture is all spread.

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Then you roll them up and place them in a lightly greased baking pan seam side down. 
( I do not have any pictures of this because I was helping during this time and my hands we covered with cheese mixture and no dad to snap away)

Once you have them all rolled up and in the pan cover the rolls
with your sauce and put it in the oven for 25 minutes.

Let sit for 5 minutes and serve with a salad of greens.

 I will never make lasagna the traditional way again simply because I knew exactly what a serving was and it scooped out of the pan fabulously and it was so FUN to make!!!

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Enjoy...next week I will share our cooking class on making crunchy black bean tacos and can I tell you they were scrumptious and all the kids LOVED them!!!


Be Awesome,

Julia



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One Thing Leads to Another

     When we bought our home before we ever moved in we knew we needed to do something about the uncohesive, broken, dog scratched, hula hoop size red koolaid stained floors(sorry for the hideousness of the following picture, it is a picture of a computer print out but it is all I have).  On the main floor there were 5 different floorings and yeah it needed to go:


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We replaced them with this:
 
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    It was amazing what a change it made to the house it seemed like the main floor grew 100 times it size and when it was all in I truly knew I made the right decision for the home.  Even the floor guys raved about it!

  The only carpets we didn't replace on the main floor were the white carpet in the living room and what was on the stairs(white on the stairs who would do that) anyways, we had them steam cleaned, after all  there were stains here and there.  The steam cleaners came and everything looked fabulous...fast forward 6 months and the stains started popping up NOOOOOOOOOOO...BOO! 

     We first started with replacing the carpet in the living room.  This was no easy task by any means because I am so indecisive when it comes to a permanent and expensive changes.  A piece of Julia trivia:  I have expensive taste(I am coming to learn that).  After talking with some friends and the carpet guy(Pat is his name from AT FRANK in Midland if you were curious) which it was the talk with the pro that helped me make my final decision.  On a side note if you are ever in a quandary for what to do ask a pro they know their stuff.  It really boiled down to this, I was trying to decide between doing what I loved and what would resell, since this is how I made most of my decisions in our old home.  This however is going to be our home for a very long time and Pat said if you are not selling in 3-5 years do what you love because you are the one that is going to live with it.  That thought has never left me and never will..DO WHAT YOU LOVE!!!  This is the carpet my heart was swooning over:


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 I love it, I mean absolutely LOVE is in all of it's chocolately textured goodness!!! While Pat was here measuring I had asked him if he would be able to have the carpet guys finish the top of the stairs because I was planning on ripping up the carpet on the stairs. He said let me estimate how much it would cost them to rip it up and at $21.00 he had a deal again if you have a pro in your home ask them all the questions you can it is free advice from someone that knows what they are doing and asking that one simple question saved me over 3 hours of work(yes that is how long it took the carpet installers to remove all the carpet and tack strips from the stairs, totally worth the $21.00) Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed when the carpet was torn up and I discovered this: 

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     Particle board treads and risers...NO NO NO....I couldn't believe it because the bottom 3 stairs and risers were solid oak.  After trying to decide what to do we were given a fabulous gift to have them done....YAHOO!!!  I was super happy with this because I realized this was way out of my skill set and I wanted them done perfect  right and I knew we would need to hire it out.  I called a member from church who owns a building company to see if they could do it and he said yes.  While our treads are being stained and sealed at their shop we have to get the stairs prepped for the installation of the new treads and risers. My hubby and I make a great team I come up with ideas and he does the work...JUST KIDDING!!!  We do make a good team though so while I was taking pictures and prepping the paint he quickly sanded the trim on the side of the stairs, wiped it down and taped it off...these are the 3 jobs he does over and over again in any painting project around here.  Once he was part way down the stairs taping I followed behind him painting.  Of course it took me 5 times longer to paint than it did for him to tape so I sent him to tape something else I had been wanting to paint:

THE MANTLE

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and then this:
 
THE SIDE OF THE KITCHEN CUPBOARD
 
 
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(all the cabinets will eventually be painted but
 I wanted this end painted so I could finish another project)
 
and A WALL I want to paint!!!
 
This is how one project runs into another one around here.  New Carpet, lead to tearing off of carpet on stairs, lead to new risers and treads, lead to the painting of trim by stairs so while we have the paint out we might as well paint the  wall by the stairs, lead to painting the side of the cupboard, and finally lead to painting the mantel.  We are in painting mode around here so my suggestion do not stop by you might end up with brush in hand!!!
 
 
LOVE IT and BE AWESOME,
 
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**The two companies(AT Frank and Greystone Homes) I had mentioned in no way asked me or compensated me for this blog post.  I do however believe in supporting local, family owned businesses when at all possible even if you do shell out a little more cash.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A New Year A New Name

     In my last post you were able to learn a bit about my life over the last 18 months.  Over that time I on a number of occasions considered not blogging any more but something kept driving me to continue.

      I recently had the opportunity to go away for a girls weekend(thank you friend for the weekend) and I took that time to hang out, do some projects for my daughters room, and most importantly look at my life and create some goals for myself and my family.  My husband and I talked on the phone one evening after I had created my main list of goals and one of the topics was blogging.  It actually was the one item we talked about the most because it was the one thing I was the most undecided about.  It was him actually that convinced me that having a blog was a good thing for myself and my family. 
     1.  It keeps me ever mindful of doing fun things with the kids
     2.  It keeps me always having a goal
     3.  It keeps me creating which makes me happy

Yep I have the best husband ever for encouraging me to continue to blog and pointing out all the above reasons, which are all good reasons and he also pointed out how they also went hand in hand with my other goals for the year.

      With blogging now on my goals list for 2013 and really need to come up with a plan and I have.  I am actually really excited about it.  Number one if I am going to do something I like to do it well or not at all so I need to make my plan for blogging doable for me.  I can't have a regular schedule for blogging it is just not me.  What is me is spontaneous...I will get an idea and I will do it.  I of course have to do lists like anyone else and plans for my home like anyone else but those plans are carried out when I have the time to do it which is not on a schedule.  My blog is going to spontaneous and irregular and that I can do well.  It is going to be full of all the things I love home décor, cooking, fun with my kids, and a lot more I can imagine. 

      I love the name of my blog Sweet Serendipity but guess what so do lots of other people, a coffee shop in NewYork for instance and this is why I am going to need to change the name of my blog.  After lots of thoughts and pondering.  I knew I would keep the word serendipity because it honestly describes my creativeness perfectly.  As I thought about it more and more it hit me the answer is me.  I have had a nickname since I was born, my dad called me jewels and still does to this day so without further ado welcome to Serendipity From Jewels!!!

     My new web address is www.serendipityfromjewels.com  If you would like to change it in google reader or any other way you come in contact with my blog you can but my old blog address will redirect you to my new site!!!

Love, Jewels{that'me}