Random Thoughts (and a Video!)

Hello dear ones! I always enjoy Design Mom's random thoughts posts, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do the same. It's simply a roundup of all of those little tidbits I've been meaning to share with you, but haven't gotten a chance to. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments!

- I'm trying to do more baking with my son this year. He loves to cook! And of course his favorite thing to make is anything sweet. So far, I've been able to steer us to not-too-sweet treats like home-baked bread and snacking cakes, rather than iced-and-frosted confections, but we'll see how long that lasts... He did love punching down the dough when we made bread, so perhaps some more yeast breads are in our future.

Tea and Cake.JPG

A favorite bake so far was the 'perfect pound cake' from Ruth Reichl's book My Kitchen Year (seen above), a slice of which made a delicious afternoon snack on a rainy day with a mug of chamomile tea by flickering candlelight.

- I spent quite a bit of time over the holiday break clearing clutter, and it felt really, really good. As I mention often in my course, clutter clearing is a process, and even though I have cleared all of the clutter from my home in the past, that doesn't mean I'm off the hook for the rest of my life! It's all about finding balance: finding that flow of things coming in and things going out. I think it's perfectly natural to go through phases where life gets really busy, or stressful, or the kids are all sick, and the house just sort of goes to hell. The important thing is to realize you can always pick up where you left off and get things rolling again.

The things I spent the most time clearing out were my own book collection, and my son Bixby's toys. I've gotten into a good rhythm with my home library, so it was easy (and actually pretty pleasant) for me to peruse the shelves and pull out volumes I feel done with. Bixby's room, on the other hand...that's a different story!

If you have children, you know how challenging it can be to get them to let go of any old toys, no matter how threadbare, broken, or unused they are. But thankfully, this time we were able to make a deal: he could choose what to get rid of, and we would take the items down to our local used toy store together to sell. Then, he can keep the money and use it to purchase something new, or save it. I am thrilled that he got on board with this idea.

- Speaking of kids, we are thick in the middle of Tooth Fairy time, since Bix lost his two front teeth over Christmas break! Quite honestly, I am not a fan of the whole tooth fairy concept. I mean, sneaking into your child's room in the middle of the night to exchange a tooth for money...what genius parent came up with that idea?? Every time I have to do it I panic that he will wake up right at the moment I'm switching the tooth! (Is this just because our kid is a light sleeper, or do other parents feel this way too? I'm genuinely curious!)

- It's been a year and a half since we moved back to California, and I am just now beginning to feel really happy with how we have things arranged in our new apartment. It's funny, because I really expected to settle in quicker: we have basically all of the same furnishings, etc., as we did when we were in Rhode Island, and our space here actually has an easier layout than our old bungalow, and yet...it wasn't easy at all! Maybe part of this isn't so much the furniture, but getting our vibes settled in here.

Or perhaps it's because we don't have a pet - our beloved cat Ziggy, who was 15 years old, passed away just a month before we listed our house for sale, so moving in here without him felt very strange. We are tentatively thinking of adopting another cat this year, so maybe having a furry family member once again will make us feel more complete. I don't know! But I'm glad it's beginning to feel homier here, whatever the reason.

- I recorded a video for you! Actually, I recorded it to share with my From the Heart email subscribers, but since I so very rarely record videos, I decided I would share it here as well. Just this once. Probably. In it, I talk about several of my favorite crafty books released in 2016, the sleeper-hit kid gift from this Christmas, clearing book clutter, and I pull a few Creative Joy oracle cards to boost our inspiration today. Click play below to watch:

Surprisingly (to me) I had a lot of fun making this video! I'm an introvert, so I typically prefer to hide behind the camera, but for some reason, this felt doable for me. Probably because there was no live audience. Hah! 

A few items mentioned in the video:

And...since this went fairly well, I've decided I just may pop into this session of my Mindful Clutter Clearing e-course (which starts on Monday!!) and record a few videos to offer a bit of extra support and encouragement. I hope to 'see' some of you there!

xo Laura

2016/2017 :: Looking Back, looking ahead

What makes life really matter? Over the holidays I read a book that addressed this question in a beautiful, heartbreaking way: I gulped down When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi in one night and one morning: I can't remember the last time a book gripped me so fiercely, or stayed with me so indelibly. Diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon and writer, passed away while working on this book, and each page feels like a little gift to us, the ones still here. It's sad, yes, but sad in a way that breaks you open and allows a new space to be filled.

This year I'm not making resolutions in the typical sense of the word, but I am aiming to be more present in each moment. I want to remind myself to breathe and accept whatever small task I am working on with full attention. I want to allow myself (and my family!) to be a little bored now and then, to discover the joy that comes from sinking into an afternoon of doing 'nothing'.

And now, on to a few favorites from the year we are leaving behind...

Favorite new beginning:

Mindful Clutter Clearing
Mindful Clutter Clearing

2016 was the year I finally (after years of thinking, plotting, and planning) launched the Mindful Clutter Clearing e-course. This is my baby, and each sweet little note, message, and email I receive from students letting my know how taking this course has helped them make a positive change in their life makes me feel all of the hard work is worth it. (p.s., the new session of Mindful Clutter Clearing is enrolling now!)

Favorite places:

October

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly known as The Ahwahnee. I hadn't been to Yosemite since I was a teen, and my husband and son had never been before, so I was thrilled when we were invited to go with Ben's family to Yosemite valley this fall. A highlight for all (aside from the hikes, of course!) was a special dinner in The Majestic...it felt like dining in Hogwart's!

Cat Town

Cat Town Cafe, Oakland. It's been two years since our much-loved kitty passed away, and we may be ready to adopt a new furry friend. Thankfully, we can visit with adoptable kitties (and sip coffee) here whenever we like!

Outer Banks

The Outer Banks, North Carolina. Beach for miles, wild dolphins, organic juices, and loads of cousins running around...if I could have stayed a month, I surely would have.

Favorite bakes...

Apple pie

We made our first ever from-scratch apple pie on Thanksgiving, and I'm hooked! I highly recommend looking up the standing mixer pie dough recipe in The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila, it worked like a charm and her clear instructions inspire confidence.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Also from The Homemade Kitchen, cinnamon swirl bread was a big hit: my little guy really loved punching (ahem, kneading) the dough. The loaves were fully enjoyed...plain, toasted with butter, and (my favorite) made into french toast for a special weekend breakfast.

Favorite moments...

December
Winter woods
December

Cocktail hour on the deck of the beach house, hiking in the big redwoods, playing in the winter woods...one thing all of our favorite moments had in common was time spent with family, deliciously unplugged.

Happy new year, friends!

xo Laura

Handmade Gift Guide 2016

The holidays are approaching more quickly than I would like to admit, and this year I'd like to use my shopping dollars to support small businesses and handmade artisans as much as possible. Being an artist or maker is a notoriously difficult way to make a living, and many rely on the surge from holiday shopping to tide them over during leaner times. Plus, handmade wares are simply beautiful! 

Handmade Gift Guide 2016: 27 Beautiful Gifts that Support Handmade Artisans

Many small shops are featuring sales this week, so it's a good time to buy. And since these are small businesses (read: there could be just one person filling all orders!) it's smart to get your order in early, so you can be assured of a prompt delivery.

Pin the image above to save this list for later, or scroll down for details on all 27 finds...

Handmade Gift Guide 2016: 27 Beautiful Gifts that Support Handmade Artisans

Top row: Hooded baby alpaca sweater from Ingugu; Linen pinafore apron from Not Perfect Linen; candle holder from Snug Studio.

Middle row: Striped infinity scarf from Ingugu; Cat Cave from Agnes Felt; Knitting bag from Aika Felt Works.

Bottom row: Baby bonnet and mittens set from Ingugu; Lunch Tote from Artifact Bags; Cat Lambswool Scarf from Sara Carr.

Handmade Gift Guide 2016: 27 Beautiful Gifts that Support Handmade Artisans

Top row: Baby bunny doll from Timo Handmade; Bear Breadboard from Snug Studio; Rag Doll from Simpli Jessi

Middle row: Bearded sailor backpack tote from Depeapa; Plywood Dollhouse from Milky Wood; Go Bananas Sweater from Paul and Paula.

Bottom row: Nursing necklace from Freja Toys; Bunny by Oh, Albatross; Winter Garden Dollhouse Furniture Set from Milky Wood.

Handmade Gift Guide 2016: 27 Beautiful Gifts that Support Handmade Artisans

Top row: Bamboo Weaving Loom Kit from The Unusual Pear; Linen Apron from Not Perfect Linen; Felted House Shoes from Agnes Felt.

Middle row: Heart Coffee Cozy from The Cozy Project; Joshua Tree Neck Tie from Amelie Mancini; Fox Tote Bag from Gingiber.

Bottom row: Your Child's Drawing on Cuff Links from Mu Urban Jewelry; Cream and Sugar Set with Wooden Spoon from Julia Paul Pottery; Crochet Circle Scarf from iDNi.

I had such fun pulling together this collection; the whole process reminded me of the early days of blogging, and the joy of discovering all of the beauty Etsy has to offer...I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! :-)