Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ikea for my bedroom

My husband grumbles at the mention of Ikea.
He rolls his eyes if I want to go browse, and he complains about everything there.
I am not sure where his disdain came from, seeing as how one of our best set of bookcases, which we have had over 12 years, came from there.  He just has a chip on his shoulder.

I am lucky in that I have sisters that share my love for Ikea with me, and one sister came with me on a recent trip.  Before I knew it she talked me into buying 2 dressers that I realized would be perfect for organizing my bedside.  With an enthusiastic pep talk she convinced me we could build these dressers before my husband even came home.

Here are the details and my tips to you:

Don't be stressed when you start your project

This is what my dresser looked like out of the box. Yikes.
We sorted through the items and organized them, and worked together.  This pile of pieces brought me slight anxiety, I am not gonna lie....

Follow the steps, read the instructions

The images of the screws, nails, and bolts are actual size, so you can compare side by side and make sure you are using the right piece for the step.  I am not real big on building my own this helped me feel like I could break down each step and do the right thing.
There are steps that use two people for bigger items- definitely get a helper. Don't think you balance large items by yourself.  I did learn this one the hard way after my sister had to leave.

Stick with it - the final result is worth it

Ikea dressers used as bedside nightstands

Truth be told it took me 2 1/2 days to finish my dressers.  I only had my sister's help for a few hours,
and then I got sidetracked, so I had to step away from my project. (another reason to strictly follow the steps, so you can always pick up where you left off.) I was actually proud of myself when I finally got them finished.  Hubby was out of town, so only one of us had to tiptoe around the piles of dresser parts scattered around the room.

I fell in love with these dressers in the store because of the color- they match our walls and I love their clean look.  I tend to lean toward ornate and shabby items (thus the light board above our bed) and my hubby loves clean lines- these dressers made us both happy.  He was surprised and really likes the finished look the dressers added, which made me even more happy with the leap of faith it took to buy and build these.

A good idea he had, (which I adore more than I ever thought possible) a hidden mounted surge protector.

It sits right at the side of my headboard, so we can light our wall mount and my night stand lamp with the switch.  You know those nights when you get cozy, only to realize someone needs to get up and turn off the light, or sit up and switch off the lamp.  No more. Now all it takes is a stretch of the hand to switch it all off, although let's be honest...some nights even that feels like a chore......
(note: don't use this to charge your phone if you turn everything off at night. Plug it into a wall so it is charged in the morning...duh.....I learned that one the hard way)

For my birthday I was able to convince him to take me back to Ikea for matching shelves.
I have always loved the thought of a reading nook, and I need a place for my books to make that happen.

We ended up not only getting 2 shelves, but also new curtains for our windows.

I am still in the process of sorting through my books and arranging my shelves, but this little space has already made me so happy. (note- side desk found on the curbside on garbage day- I used spray paint to make it over)

side by side book shelf corner

After moving to our home over two years ago it has been a process to make it feel like ours.
These projects weren't that expensive, and I sort of have to ask myself why I waited so long.
If you need a few basic furniture items  to help you complete your space don't forget the awesome deals at Ikea that can be used as your staples.  If your hubby is the type to roll his eyes...just do it without him, but don't tell him I said that.

and don't forget to enjoy your space

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Birthday Mini-Service Project

This year, my birthday came quick.  It is true, what they say- that as you age time goes by much more swiftly.
At my niece's wedding this summer with my man 

When I went to my eye appointment (new glasses needed) my eye doctor joked with me..."27 years old, right?"  I laughed, but took this chance to sort of be a warrior of happy thoughts.

"No way- I would never go back. I have earned these years, and I love my life!"

So 43 it is.  I never understood people who didn't want others to know how old they are, or seemed embarrassed because they aren't a young thirty-something.  I am a grown-up, and on a good day I might act like one! But it is bliss.

Anyway, I had heard about people doing acts of service for each year on their birthday.  This adorable blog shows a man and his family making his random acts of kindness list come true on his birthday. I love that!

Recent articles, however, about how the food banks are getting low due to pay and job changes (less then 30 hours a week to avoid healthcare costs) have bothered me.  We have an amazing woman nearby who literally woke up and decided to open a food bank- without government help. I wondered how I could help her out before Thanksgiving.

I felt like this was my birthday act- give her little pantry a boost.

A Facebook post and Instagram shot got the ball rolling, and then I asked clients coming over if they would be willing to bring a can or two of food.

After 2 days the box I had set out was completely full- and someone left a flat of soup on my porch too.  That was also a fun thing about this project, people did it anonymously for me.  I had no idea which one of my friends and neighbors were leaving goodies.  It was a fun element I didn't expect.

I had a goal to get 43 items- but that was done within 3 days.  I had planned a week of gathering food.
I even picked up items from a few people who couldn't make it to my house. The boxes got more full, and the flats stacked up.

We went to a store and bought cold supplies, fruits snacks, just random things that looked like they would add variety to our donation.  I am 'couponer' so that was full in affect, to get more for my money!

The day we took our donation this is what my stash looked like:

I was probably well over 200 items, including toiletries and personal care items.
It was actually sort of overwhelming to see it all gathered up together- took our family of 5 two trips each to get it all loaded, as food isn't exactly light!  This small little goal reminded me of how much we can do when we help each other.  Had I tried to save up for all of these things I would have gotten a little overwhelmed, but when a few handful of people just brought a little bag of things it really accumulated fast.

We delivered the items with very little fanfare.  The workers at the pantry were busy hanging clothes (there is also a thrift store there) and serving the line of people waiting for their turn to get food.  We dropped it all off and were on our way.  I liked that, because I think it's important for my kids to serve without a lot of hype.

So my project is over and done.  But I had to blog about how it affected me.

First off, I loved that people who know me were so willing to support me.  Every day I would walk out to my porch to see new bags set quietly in my box, with no idea who brought it.  I kept thinking to myself 'People are so good- we just need an excuse to SHOW IT!' I felt happy all week as my project grew.

Second off, I wasn't thinking about my birthday.  I attached the number to it just to do it, but all week I kept looking at what was brought, thinking about buying a few more little things to add, and trying to decide when to take it.  I had a friend ask me- what are your big plans for your birthday? And I didn't have any...and that didn't bother me.  I honestly just didn't care that week about what I was doing. (Don't worry, I am no saint- I found plenty for my hubby to do for me! Can you say 'bookshelves and curtains'?)  It was just refreshing to arrive on my birthday and not really care.

Third- and last- was that I DID IT.  It was more then just cleaning out my closet and donating the no longer wanted stuff (although that is great, too) but it was ON PURPOSE.  I guess it was easier than I thought it would be, and took little effort.  I know, as a mom especially, there were things in there that will bless lives who are in need of it right now.  And having done this successfully, I can say...I will tackle this (or some other fun project) again next year.

I am grateful for the blog I found and the birthday acts of kindness and how they have inspired so many people to do the same thing- here's to hoping my birthday will make your next birthday a little better.

  I call that grown up.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tape In Hair Extensions

I confessed months ago to taking the plunge and putting in extensions, full blown extensions, to have long hair.  I had been growing it out, and while I loved my shoulder length bob (some days I still miss it) I really wanted to try long, flowing hair.

Well, my hairdresser talked me into trying TAPE IN EXTENSIONS
How is this even possible? I wasn't sure I believed it until one of the other hairdressers showed me hers.
All smooth (no bumps from the weft) she can wear hats with ease, and best of all-
no tight scalp or pulling head after you get your extensions moved up.

I tried it- and first, let me show a shot of my hair 

I am sort of loving my hair- 
so here is a list of pros and cons (compared to having a weft sewn in) 
after having them long enough to get them moved up.

*You forget they are in- literally. They feel so natural, you can lay anyway, wear any hat, lean back anytime.
Not so with a couple of wefts of hair across your head.

*Hair style time is much quicker.  There is not  one thick mass of hair, so it doesn't take as long to dry.

*It is much quicker to get them put in- and much less painful.  

*No discomfort time waiting for them to 'loosen' and grow out a day or two, these feel great the minute they are put in

*I feel they look more natural when styled

They look like this (you kind of have to look close)

Can you see the strip of hair inserted (about an inch and a half or so) at my temple?
(please ignore gray roots that are also a bit frizzy)

I have about 10-12 of these all around my head, so the extensions sit more like clip ins, if you have ever used those.

*They are small and you do forget where they are- which means if you're not careful you could snag them, so be vigilant about using the right brush!

*They take a little longer to remove from the hair for the process of being moved up, and come out sticky.  Since I sort of help my hairdresser my hands get sticky as I peel off the old adhesive and apply a new bit of tape.

*You may have to "tuck" them in when you pull your hair up- just make sure they are covered by your own hair and not showing

*They can be more expensive. I use the BABE brand, and they are considerably more than my other extensions, but the hair is LOVELY and so soft. I really love it

That's about it for the cons- not a lot of bad to say.  I notice my hair grow out faster, but they are so soft and comfortable, I honestly forget I have extensions in at all.

Anyway, my last post generated a lot of traffic, and I have received a ton of emails with questions about my hair (why is it nobody wants to talk about their hair extensions???) so I wanted to post an update, and maybe if you were one of the people afraid of having a big piece sewn in, you might like this new alternative.

Not to mention- it is fall (yay!) so bring on the beanies! <3 br="" nbsp="">
I have received a lot of emails and questions about if these pulled my hair out. I never had a problem with that.  My hairdresser used an adhesive release that made most of the tape pieces work out. Some took a little effort, but my hair did not break and it always felt fine.  After 18 months I have gone back to my natural hair, mostly for simplicity and time.  You can see in this post how it looks after that year and half, of which I pulled out my extensions to move them up every 5 weeks. It did not damage my hair at all, in fact, I felt like my hair grew better because of the strength and volume the extensions added.

For the record- I bought these jeans after reading a blog post on avoiding 'mom jeans'- and I kid you not, I followed her tips and found a pair that passed all her criteria, at SHOPKO, no less.

These jeans are magic. I wear them anywhere I know a camera will be (i.e.25 year class reunion).  They are the most flattering things in do your own research and figure out what jeans will be best on your body type.
Grab a beanie and zip up your boots...and enjoy the fall.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Be Amazed - Stay Amazed

Last night I was dropping my son off at football practice- just doing what we always do when the fall hits
my baby boy- enjoying a football game break

After dropping him off I turned a corner in my neighborhood on the windy streets that kids love to play on.  Another football player, excited to be driving the family ATV barreled around the corner.
He was going to fast to see me, and I couldn't see him at all in the blind spot of my mini-van (dang, those thing have some huge A-pillars, right moms???)

Somehow, we missed each other.  It took me so much surprise that I didn't feel the THUNK of a 4-Wheeler in my side door that turned around to see the road where we passed.  I have no idea how we did it.

When I got home I told my husband "Man, I am so lucky! You wouldn't believe how close I came to taking out an 8th grader!"

Well this morning, as I was soaking in my bubble bath (which has become my private sermon time) I clicked on the following link from Joyce Meyer.

Living Amazed- Joyce Meyer

 (trust me- save the link and watch it later)

This spitfire of a woman preaches from the Bible in a non-denomination style that begs to be heard, felt, and practiced.   I found on her T.V.  months ago when I couldn't sleep one night, and I have been hooked ever since. I love to hear her fearlessly preach and watch her show a couple times a week.

In the Being Amazed lecture she talks about this very thing that I did. How we we get so used to God that we are no longer amazed at his miracles.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints uses a phrase which I love dearly..... "tender mercies".

I am sad to say I do not always sit amazed at God's hand in my everyday life, although I do it more now than I have in the past.  I mean, I have had miracles affect me in as big of things as the horrible accident our family went through, right down to the smaller mercy finding a backpack while school shopping when I absolutely was at the end of my rope.  I have had them in answered prayers in spiritual matters, far too personal for me to write here, to unexpected cash discounts that blessed us a little further....

I don't want to be guilty of taking God's goodness and merciful gifts for granted.

In this sermon Joyce also shows a box of journals she has.  This is dear to my heart because I always have a journal, a church notebook, and a scripture journal that I am working on.  I too, have my bin of remembrances.  She talks about writing down your prayers and desires of your heart.

This concept really hit home for me when I read (the ever life-changing) Remembering Wholeness, by Carol Tuttle.

This was a new way for me to use positive thinking, faith, and amazement and joy to attract more tender mercies.  Carol suggests you write your list every morning. I call mine my 'angel wish list' and while I don't do it every day, I do it A LOT.

My Angel List front cover

a morning's prayer and thoughts

I remember being nervous because I had returned a running jacket in the mail, and it was very expensive, and I hadn't heard anything about it, and was long over-due for it's return.  I was starting to feel anxious, so I asked for help this morning. I believe the jacket showed up the next day. I was also pleading for help in my work that day as I interacted with my clients, and for ease in our re-finance of our home loan (which later closed without a hitch, no closing costs, and very little effort on our part- it was AMAZING).  So, you see, I think, and I live on this belief, that God does care about the little things- those little things become big things without his guiding hand.  We aren't meant to live in anxiety, fear, or a stressed out state.  Write it down- and GIVE IT AWAY!

I even have a "master list" of my hearts desires- these are the biggies.  I have wished about Girls' Camp, going on a cruise, traveling to London, and getting a 'break' that would allow us to landscape our yard.
Guess what...check, check, check and check...all done.

So today I am telling you to first have the faith to ask, then stay in faith and be amazed.
The video link I posted is long- watch it while you do your dishes or fold laundry.  (or soak in the tub) She says it much better than I can.

Write down your hearts desires, remember to record your tender mercies, then sit back and prepare to be astonished.
If it's been a while since you have been blown away by goodness re-read your victories of the past.

Don't forget to be amazed.  The reasons are all around.

And, for the record, I am grateful for a safe journey home yesterday...both for me, and for that sweet boy on the street. It was not luck.
God is good.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Need to Recommit (over and over again)

I wish I was better at sticking with things.
Especially things that work and things that make me happy.
It seems like a no brainer- BUT- for some reason all of a sudden you wake up and think - why did I stop doing ____________________(insert wonderful thing that was great) ___________?

For me, it was running.
You guys know I was never fast, and that was hard for me to do something that didn't come naturally, but I still really enjoyed it.  Or let me rephrase that.....I enjoyed what it gave me.

I felt fit, I looked better, I slept great, I was more relaxed.  I loved the way I felt after a run...or just the thought of "hey, I ran 6 miles this morning and I am doing fine today"..... those kind of things are amazing.

But two summers ago I burned out big time. I had a bad chaffing incident in places that shall not be named (laugh all you want, but I was down...I mean down for days, and I hurt for months). No details will be given on that....

Then the accident happened, and running felt frivolous and made me upset.

Then, my awesome running partner got pregnant and her health dictated no more runs.  Boo.

That equals.....hmm....a year and a half of no running.

Once my partner was up and at it ( a c-section, brave girl) we just registered for a half-marathon to get us going.

I really doubted this strategy once we started running.  We were much slower, needed to walk more, and I literally felt the extra pounds on my body with every step I took.  We loosely followed this great program that I found on Pinterest via

I appreciated that it had rest days and encouraged you to cross train (which I didn't do a ton of, sadly).  We skipped the first two weeks because we were already close to our race.  No worries- this really did get us ready. (Note- I didn't do the 12 mile run on week 8. I stopped at 11 miles. I hate feeling tired for a race, and the long runs sort of wipe me out. I hope as time goes on I can conquer this, but for now I accept it and don't fight it).

We were nervous for the race, and agreed we were just going to try and match our worst times that we had for a half-marathon.  I just wanted to beat my first race, my slowest time.  Well, the morning of the race, we felt good.  Surprisingly good.  We ran the Bryce Canyon Half, and can I was gorgeous.  Lots of water stations (a must for beginners) and LOTS of porta-potties.  Really, these guys were great.

We decided to run together...and walk together. We knew we needed breaks.  We took them at the water tables.  We did great, visiting the first 4 or 5 miles, then putting in the headphones to find our groove for the rest.  
(my swiped photo from the email-  forgive me) I know it looks like we are walking- we aren't.  This is about mile 9.  We were doing good to finish better than our first race last year, and then my partner hit a wall. It was mile 11.  The strange thing was, I felt good. I felt really good.  I have never had that happen before (this was my 4th half marathon) and it really made me happy.  She told me to go ahead, and I did, with only a mile and half left.  

Here is the miracle... NO, I didn't have a fabulous time. It was my second best half yet.
 BUT....even better....I felt JOY. I felt GREAT.  My legs felt good, my breathing was good, my head was clear, and I felt so blessed to even be there.  To have the health to be running, to know my kids and husband were waiting at the finish, to know I got my fat butt up off the couch and made myself do this- in 3 MONTHS- it all just came swirling up to this great moment of happiness and peace, at mile 12.  I was so happy to finish happy.

That is why you should run.

Oh yeah, and your kids will think the medals are cool

Honestly, it was a great experience.  Much more than a runners high- just a true moment of happiness. And you don't have to be the first one done to feel it. I am living proof that slowly but surely can still bring you joy.

As we pulled away from the finishing area a young girl jumped out of a car ahead of us to puke on the side of road. My 13 year old turned to me and said, very seriously, "good job, mom."  The puking must have made it a little more real for him.  

By the way- this is my true badge of honor.
running toes

I know, it's pedicure is done for and my second toe is black.  But it didn't hurt at all while I ran, it still doesn't, but it  keeps getting blacker and blacker. I am sort of fascinated by it, so I haven't painted my toenails yet.  I can't wait to see it shed, if it does. Don't let it scare you off.  I look hard core to my kiddos.

Hopefully you can recommit to something you have let slip. 

Take it from feels so good to rediscover it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Seeking Divine Intervention

On Mother's Day my grandma passed away. She earned her spot in heaven, mind you, living 91 years of a full and inspirational life.  Her death has left me really pondering this life and the next, how the two are intertwined, and the plans God has for each of us.

Not too long ago I heard an excellent talk by John L. Lund, who I have been a fan of for years, but this hit a particular nerve for me. (Maybe due to miracles I have seen).  After sharing this with several close friends in need,  today I felt the urge to share these ideas on my blog.

 I hope they help someone out there. If it's you, God bless.....if not, pass them on to someone who might benefit.

There will be times in your life where you need the hand of God to move you forward.  We all have those times, and life was designed to push you to your limits and cause you to grow, but it isn't always easy.  Dr. Lund teaches 5 principles of divine intervention- how God intervenes in our journey. (these are from the class series "How to Hug a Teenage Porcupine")

1- The Lord will soften your heart, or the heart of another- this may cause a change in behavior or life choices, or a softening on your side to no longer be burdened

2- The Lord will give you strength- this is a noticable, definite gift of strength beyond your own, blessing you with resolve to continure through your trial in faith

3- The Lord raises someone else to do what you can not.  Another person enters the situation, your life, or the life of another, and does what you are unable to do.  Their presence in your life brings about the changes needed and they can offer the help you seek

4- You undergo an Exodus- you are (or the person in need is)  being led on or you are led away, perhaps a new location, relationship, or job. It can come in many ways, but it leads you out of the trial that binds you into your present state

5- The Lord removes the problem - the issue is resolved or suddenly removed, often in a merciful and miraculous way

I was touched by these concepts the moment I heard them.  Not only do they help me know how to pray for help and guidance (as you can see possibilities are often beyond our own vision) but I have also been able to reflect back over my life and see how many times divine intervention has blessed me.  It can happen again and again for all of us. Recognizing this gift can strengthen your faith for future trials, and giving thanks for past help can bring about a great positive shift in thinking as you gain more confidence  in the Lord.

A few things to remember as you seek divine intervention;
Sanctify your life.  Kick out the obvious harsh stuff....I know God loves you no matter what, but it gets hard to pick up the signal he sends if we aren't tuned in properly.  Clean up the things that make it hard for you to hear God in your life. Bad temper?  Too much drinking? Reading or watching things that aren't uplifting? You get the idea...these things make it hard for us to see the angelic hands in our lives.
Pray.  Just pray. Talk out loud to God and dump it out...he is waiting to hear it (he knows it all anyway!) so get real and let your heart speak and break before him.  If you feel your prayer needs some extra voltage, then fast. Skip a meal or two (or 3) and go somewhere where you can talk to God alone, out loud.  I am what most people would call a 'religious' person, but that is only because I adore my religion as it teaches me how to get closer to God.  This is what prayer does, this is what fasting does.  Especially when you do it right.  Push your physical a bit so you can rely on your spiritual self.  It can be life changing.
Be patient.  God is orchestrating a symphony, not a solo, in which you are a beloved instrument.  Give him time to work out all the parts, and he will come through for you. That I promise. (for more on this concept I recommend the book The Shack by Paul will uplift you and open your eyes to the wonders of God in the midst of trials, in a very simple story that has some powerful concepts, it is not doctrinal, but very interesting)

The trick is to remain in the beautiful place that only the faithful can be in.  A place of peace in the midst of troubles.  A place of stillness in the middle of storms.  For me, it means repeating scripture or hymns when negative thoughts choke me, and it works.

my shepherd will supply my need

The above collage I made for a friend who recently lost a child after an ugly adoption battle that she had taken home from the hospital and raised as her own for almost two years.  She struggles daily, yet still remains faithful and humble in her trial.  She is an incredible example to me of how to truly rely on the Lord when our strength is spent.

 If she can do it... so can you.

May you be blessed this Sunday and allow God's hand to direct your life.

Life is good.... God is better

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Unity Lesson for Young Women

Our ward had an A-Maze-Ing time at girls camp last year, and our Girl On Fire theme was a hit (I can't believe how everyone has taken off with this idea in blog land. You inspire me!) But, let's be honest, it is a week with teenage girls, and there can be a few bumps in the road on the way.

This year, we wanted to 'clean the slate' and start off our camp anticipation with more unity. One of our leaders had an good idea and used the lesson time on Sunday with all the combined girls for it.

They started off with the story of the Redwood Trees.  Yes, they are tall, but they must grow in groves, where they can support each other to reach their full height.  This is like us, especially as Daughters of God trying to stand tall in a world of storms.

In another room, a square had been taped on the floor (large enough for all to step in, but small enough for it to be tight), and everyone stood around the edge of the room. Then, it was "Step in the Square" time...

start off easy and fun
step in the square if you are wearing blue
step in the square if you have glasses
step in the square if you like sports..... etc

after the mood was more open, so were the requirements

step in the square if you've ever been scared
step in the square if you have ever felt left out
step in the square if you are nervous for camp
step in the square if you ever feel lonely

even the leaders joined in....and it was obvious we all share the same fears, pains, and anxieties

finally, our testimonies
step in the square if you have ever felt the Holy Ghost
step in the square if you know you are blessed
step in the square if you are a daughter of God

Everyone in the square!
 Arms needed to be wrapped and all had to stand close to squeeze on in!

Then, each girl received a small mailing label sticker, and was asked to write a fear, anxiety, worry or habit on it that they wished to let go of.  These were placed on balloons and the girls gathered outside.

If they wanted to share what they wrote they could, but it it was only optional. You will find some girls are eager to share their feelings, while others would rather participate quietly.  (Am I the only one struck with how lovely and graceful these girls are? You leaders out there know what I mean).

Then, it was time to release the balloons and let go.....

We were blessed with a perfect day! The lesson went so smooth, and the girls love the change of pace.
It was a great little activity, and while it may never be PERFECT with everything that we plan and do for these girls, I know these little moments add up and increase our awareness of ourselves, those around us, and that spirit that connects us all. 

Create space for those moments, and they will happen.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sightseeing for the Downton Abbey Fan

My sister and her husband are fans of Downton Abbey, just like I am. (We are fine with the Season 3 tragedy, in fact, we may even mock it now and then).  I was excited to see anything that had graced the scenes of the show, and so we took a day to explore.

The abbey  scenes (exterior and limited inside) are filmed at Highclere Castle.  (Seen above the hill behind me)

If you go on season, you can tour the castle and learn more about it's history, and the filming that is done there.  We were off season, and we knew that, so we ignored the CLOSED signs just wanting to get a  little closer for a picture.

Ummm...oops! CLOSED meant closed for filming...not closed for the season. (Let me hurry and snap a photo anyway) I am no expert- and this is taken from quite a distance, but could that possibly be Tom Branson walking to the set?  He is probably so sad about Sybil...perhaps a quick hug.......

We were asked to leave (very kindly, might I add, as my sister talked her sweet American sweet talk with the security) and did so quickly.  But it was enough for this fan to be pretttyyyy happpyyy.......

The Gorgeous Highclere Castle

My brother-in-law had also done his research and took us to Bampton, where the scenes are filmed when they go into town for the market, the fair, church and hospital.  This little town was amazing, so quaint, and we were definitely spotted out as 'Americans here for the TV show'.

Side street in Bampton, near the Library
Library entrance, filmed as hospital
This town feels so historic (really, like most of England) and it did seem like Anna and Bates would walk past me any moment.  The library had a little booklet they had put together with more information about the filming of the show, which I purchased like the suckered-in tourist that I am.

The highlight of the city, however, is the lovely St. Mary's church, where more filming is also done, and visitors are free to enter and photograph.  The grounds are amazing here, too.

St. Mary's Church gate

As seen in Downton Abbey- Matthew Crawley
(from the book The World of Downton Abbey)

Side yard of church
And the character of Isobel Crawley, Matthew's mother, lives in the church gate home- blocked by stone walls but seen from the church grounds on the hills.

Front yard and patio of the Crawley house
I think the most surprising thing was that the entire town felt so timeless, and while the people were all gracious and friendly, it was obvious that some of the ones we talked to, looking for directions or what not, didn't seem to really care that the show had been filmed there, or even care about the show much at all.  I guess that's just part of living somewhere lovely like that on a day to day basis. It's nothing special.

For a fan, it was perfect.  The sun shone at the right times and the green trees and grass framed everything we saw.  I do wish the town had some place to eat, pickings were slim for cafe or dining options, and we were ready to eat after walking around all morning.

If you haven't watched Downton Abbey yet, you can stream it on and catch season one on Netflix.  Such a delicious escape in television...I wish the US would produce something worth getting excited about.

And this is the book for the fan of the show, or the book lover, or as in my case, BOTH.  The thick pages are full of stunning photographs, behind the scenes peeking, and historical facts and trivia. It is a gorgeous book.

Until next time, mind your manners and please dress appropriately.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cramming more life in life

Our family has been doing a lot of traveling lately- and in order to get to any of it I will have to break it up into edible bites, chunks and moments of life lately..... but before that, I must explain.

I have never been one of those parents that says "Where did the time go?" when looking at my kids.  I journal, I photo take, I blog, basically I feel I do soak it in as we go along.  In spite of that, however, I have felt a sudden urge to do more lately.

At Christmas I realized "wow, we only have a couple of Christmases with all the boys here" and I look at my oldest son and think, "okay, he's almost 18- I gotta sneak in more time with him whenever possible" (which is the last thing he wants to do).

So, for my oldest son's Spring Break we loaded him up and flew to England, where my sister lives for the time being.  My son had told us when he was quite young that he wanted to see Stonehenge someday.  I always hoped we could make that happen, and with a sister within 45 minutes of the site we knew we had to go.

One funny thing about going to Stonehenge, is everyone tried to tell us it wasn't cool to see.  Well, guess what. They were wrong. It was awesome- and actually one of our favorite things to visit.

Just to walk around these stones (are you a Tess fan, perhaps? I am) and ponder how long they have been here (reported guesses are about 5,000 years) sort of fills you with wonder.  The path around it is great, giving you lots of space and many clear shots for pictures.

The audio guide here is well done, with good historical tidbits and speculations about what the purpose of this site is, and there are a lot of benches and areas to sit, look, even stop and eat if you want to. 

For some strange reason for us it became all about the pictures.

Honestly...I am not even sure what the point of this all was.  I just know when your teenager wants to take crazy pictures while fulfilling his bucket list you sort of just comply and enjoy the ride. 

This next one was for me, however, after much coaxing to my sweetheart (my sister helped put on the pressure, I was glad she had caught my vision!)

Oh yeah, totally worth it.

We also saw the stones of Avebury, which also form some sort of circle, only over a mile radius or so.  You can't really tell what you are seeing while you are up against it, but you can touch all the stones and walk right along them.  The country side here is gorgeous.

Here you can see some of the stones behind us.  Like I said, the lands and country sides were so pretty, so green, and just so peaceful. 

A photo for the gaming fan...................

You can see that some of these stones were huge.

The day we saw Stonehenge and Avebury, we also went to Salisburg, because it was within our driving range for the day.  Photos and highlights another time from there, though.  The day was amazing- and that was just one day of our 8 day stay. Every day was packed, and everywhere we went there was plenty to see and plenty to do. 

I literally fell down at the end of each day so tired I hardly wanted to take another step.  Good thing my lovely sister had plenty of BBC shows (Selfridge's and Paradise, no less!) and cozy drinks, chocolates, and other tasty treats to relax with.  It was always a perfect end to a great day.

If you get a chance to go abroad, just go.

 Cram some more  life in while you can.

from via pinterest

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Honest Truth about my Hair Extensions

This is a major subject shift from my last post. (Thanks for all your kindness and support, by the way. I was so overwhelmed this weekend with it).

We are going straight for the jugular of vanity.

I was lamenting to my hairdresser about how long my hair was taking to grow out. I am not getting any younger, if you know what I mean. I don't have many years of 'long hair eligibility' left.  She was scrubbing my head with her delicious smelling shampoo (which is when you are in their trance) and said, "let's just put in extensions."

Really? Just like that?
Check it out.

So she gave me this tip. You can buy hair online, at great prices.
Make sure it's REAL human hair, we shopped for Remy hair, and buy from a seller you trust.
You can get it for a fraction of what your salon will charge you. (usually $35.00-$65.00)  I got mine off Ebay. It took less than 3 weeks to make it's way from China to my excited American hands.

Find a hairdresser that will put in the hair.  Just ask at the salon you go to if anyone will do it. Try to get a referral. You know why.
My hairdresser loves to let people find their own hair, it just saves her so much time, but I know a lot of salons that would be pretty adamant about you using 'their' hair (which they probably ordered from China in the first place.) Find someone who will work with you.

If you want to know the process of actually getting them in please go here to Little Miss Momma's Blog.
The process is EXACTLY what we did.

Now, here is the honesty part I am going to share that NO ONE ELSE ever does. (Why is it such a big secret). Here is the truth about getting them in.

It doesn't hurt THAT bad. If you have ever let your kids brush your snarly hair you are probably ready.  The area just back from my temples was the most sensitive, but come on, really, I thought it would be so excruciating I took pain pills with me. I never needed them.

It took almost 2 hours. If your hair is smooth and a color match (check and check for me) it easier to get right to business. The two corn rows felt tight instantly, like a slight tug.  Not too bad.

It takes me much longer to do my hair.  I mean.... MUCH MUCH MUCH longer.  And I use a lot more product on it, as well. Only make this commitment if you can spend time getting your hair right.  I have 3 times the hair now, and I have to style it almost separately, drying and curling it in chunks. I used to do my hair in 15 minutes. Now it takes about an hour. Just be prepared.

It sort of feels like headbands are around your head all day. It can feel itchy at times, especially if it isn't fully dry along the weft attachment.  It's not a big deal, but this is new to me. I took a Tylenol PM the first two nights to sleep, because I was literally freaked out about my hair and it was still pretty tight.  It's been a week now, and I can snooze with no problems. I don't even think about it most of the day.

 Be prepared to feel different. I have hair that is pretty thin naturally, so even in it's longer years it was never shiny or glamorous.  It is weird to see my reflection in the mirror- it just feels different. I wasn't expecting that. I had to buy new hair clips and rubber bands, and they make a special looped brush that lets you brush through your hair without catching the attachment.

Also, if your hair had a blunt cut or bob like mine, it might take some patience when you style the back. I had taken a nap before I took these pictures, but here is what mine looks like typically. I might spend more time blending the curls before I head out.

I will be excited when my own hair has a bit more length, but honestly, it surprises me how natural it looks and feels.  Needless to say, my hubby, who loves long hair, seems to like it..... :-)

It is a drastic change, but it has been so fun.
I still adore cute funky bobs and short, stylish cuts...but for a while I just going to be that girl with long hair, and that's kind of fun.

BEFORE and AFTER my makeover.