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One of my favorite blog friends Julie happens to have some mad design skills so I asked her if she’d like to contribute to the blog a couple times a month and lucky for us she was willing to! So I’m handing it over to her today, enjoy!
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Hey Friends!

Since it’s close to the end of January and resolutions may be starting to slide I decided to whip up a little Meal Planner to help get you back on track!

monthly meal planner

As part of my resolutions (or non-resolutions) for the year I have decided to simplify my life.

The Meal Planner has your days listed, as well as a snacks category, with room to write in up to 5 options for each day. You can list a few for each day of the week or completely fill it out so you have lots of options for the entire month.

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At my house we don’t always feel like eating pizza on a Monday or enchiladas on a Thursday. This Meal Planner will help to eliminate some of the common complaints that come with planning your meals.

Complaints:

1. I don’t feel like eating pasta tonight.

Use the planner to pick something that you are in the mood for that day (you should have multiple options if you filled in each day of the week). 

2. I don’t have all the ingredients to make those stuffed peppers.

Sometimes we don’t always have every ingredient on hand, pick one of the other options that you do have all the ingredients.

3.I don’t have enough time to bake the chicken tonight.

Pick something that is super quick like a crockpot meal that you start in the morning.  

The Meal Planner helps to give you a little more flexibility than only 1 option on each day. Use it however it works best for you.

I’ve addd a grocery list to the bottom because let’s face it as you’re writing down meal ideas you are going to be thinking of all the ingredients that you need. WRITE THEM DOWN. Then, when you go to the store you can take your meal plan with you or just snap a photo of it on your phone.

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Once you have filled out the planner for a couple months you should have quite the list of popular menu items at your house. Use them to look back at and make your future meals easier to plan!! Click here to download the PDF.

For more tips and tricks about how I’m simplifying my life this year check out my page!

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Today I’m making my modeling debut with the new clothes I’ve added to my online boutique!

Navy Baseball Tee – $22.00

oversized navy baseball tee

Aztec Print Cardigan – $44.00

chunky aztec cardigan

chunky cardigan

Red Quarter Length Cut Out Top – $24.00

red cut out top

Ivory Crochet Overlay Tunic – $25.00

ivory crochet top

Mustard Block Print Button-up Top – $29.00

mustard block top

White Cut Out Tank - $38.00
white cut out tank

I’ve been working quite a few extra hours lately to edit pictures and update my site. I’m still waiting on Will to build me a backdrop for the clothes, but then we’ll be all set! Everything is really starting to come along! I’m also going to be opening up a pop-up boutique every other Saturday in Liberty, Mo starting January 31 so my local ladies have an opportunity to come in and try things on. I finally feel like things are taking off and I’m excited for this little business of mine to keep growing!

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how to save money

If you know me personally, you already know that I am all about Dave Ramsey and making responsible financial decisions. Will and I are currently completely out of debt and have paid off some pretty big bills like my student loans and his truck that he just had to buy new off-the-lot.

I have skipped a lot of outings with friends and hardly ever bought new clothes to save money in the past and all of my friends are aware that I’m pretty tight with my money. There are a million ways to budget your money and a million resources to help you do so, so I’m not going to bother with that today, but I do want to share the way I’ve saved money after my budget was in place since high school. It’s a little mind game I’ve always played with myself to help me decide what was really worth spending money on.

First you have to set a minimum for your checking account, an amount that you absolutely can not go below. (If you’re a Dave Ramsey fan you’ll have a real emergency fund in savings of at least $1000, so it doesn’t have to be something extreme.) In high school my minimum was just $200. Oh how much easier life was then!

Then you aim for a higher amount with the goal to move over a set amount into your savings when you reach it. Keeping with the example of my high school finances, I would require there be $200 in my checking at all times, then I’d aim to get it up to $700 as quickly as possible. As soon as I reached $700 I would move $500 over to my savings account and start the process all over. And that’s it! Super easy :)

It was especially helpful when I was tempted to spend money on something I didn’t need. I would usually decide that I’d rather reach my next goal instead of spend the money.

My favorite part of this system is that it can be adjusted to fit your lifestyle. Your minimum requirement and moving over goals can be as big or little as you need them to be!

So what are your biggest money saving tips? Let me know in the comments if you have your own “secret system.” 

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how to stain and paint an old dresser

Lately I’ve been accepting more custom painting jobs from family and friends, and I have some really great projects to show you, and even more coming up soon! Today I’m sharing a piece that belongs to my cousin that came with a house she bought way back when. How awesome is that? Some people have all the luck!

It started out pretty dark and with some damage to the top and some of the doors.

old dresser

I started out by filling in all the missing veneer with putty and then sanded it down even once it was dry. Then I used a sanding block to sand the entire piece and went ahead and painted the body of the piece in Navajo White. I was just going to restain the top to begin with, but then some of the old marks were showing through the new stain, so I decided to go back and strip the top then restain it again. I just covered the body with trash bags since it was already painted, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do this part first!

I feel like the idea of stripping a piece of furniture is really intimidating, but it was so much easier than I thought it would be. After a little research, I decided to go with Citristrip, because it’s supposed to be less potent as far as fumes go. It was still pretty bad and I wore a respirator mask during the process just to be safe, but I was still happy with the product. I basically just followed the directions on the can, spraying it on, letting it sit for a few hours, and then I went back with a plastic scraper to take it all off. Then I cleaned the remaining residue off with odorless mineral spirits. After letting the wood dry overnight, it was ready for a new coat of stain.

I’ve been using an oil gel stain from a local paint shop lately rather than the stain available at Home Depot. I just like that I have more control over how much goes on and I can truly wipe of the excess unlike with the liquid stain that soaks in too quickly.

I added a quick layer of Valspar antiquing glaze (you can get this at Lowes) over the body of the piece to give it a more “dingy” look and help the bright white blend more with the dark top and sealed the top in with Masterclear.

beautifully painted dresser

You might have noticed that on of the little handles is missing a ring, so we may find a way to change a couple of them out, but regardless, I really love how this one turned out!

The worst part of painting custom furniture for people is giving them back their lovely pieces! It would be so nice if I could just keep them all! ;) The best part is knowing that they love how they turn out!

 Let me know if the comments if you’d be interested in a video about the stripping or glazing process! 

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Time to Reflect

The other day I was thinking about how it’s about time for a New Year’s post of some type, and what lame thing I had to say about New Year’s. I didn’t really keep many of my New Year’s Resolutions last year and I think I’ll let those go for now. Somehow setting a “resolution” seems to set more people up for failure than anything.

So basically, I was thinking about my failed resolutions and then tried to remember where I was at this time last year. It was then that I realized I have accomplished ALOT in the past twelve months. Last year I never would have imagined I’d be where I am today.

I got married. We paid off over $15k of student loan debt and over $20k of truck debt and are now debt free. Will made it through 2 more semesters of college. I quit my job. I opened an online boutique. We’re saving up to buy a house in 2015.

Wedding3

holiday mart

Our lives are far from perfect, but sometimes I concentrate too much on where I want to be and forget to appreciate how far I’ve come. I knocked out so many of my “life” goals in just one year that it’s so easy to just keep plowing ahead and setting new ones without celebrating the ones we reach.

I think my favorite part of welcoming a new year is knowing that no matter how much I plan ahead, I won’t ever be able to fully imagine my life just one year in the future. Change is constant, even when everything feels the same. New years give us a reason to look back and appreciate everything that happened while we were just living life.

I might have given up on New Year’s resolutions for a while, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have goals for 2015. This year I want to get rid of excuses and get organized.

What is the biggest thing you accomplished in 2014 and what are you looking forward to most about 2015? 

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Traditions

I cannot believe it’s already Christmas Eve. Where did the time go? And where is the snow? Over the weekend we celebrated Christmas with our extended families and Christmas felt so far away, and now here it is!

Tonight we’re going to my Grandpa’s house and then we’ll go spend the night with my parents. My mom bought a popcorn machine and is going to try to start a new holiday tradition of watching Christmas movies on Christmas Eve.

popcorn machine

I mean seriously, who buys one of these? “But it was one sale!” she says. She even bought movie theatre quality popcorn because the regular stuff from the grocery store just wasn’t doing it.

This is actually probably my favorite thing about my mom. That she feels compelled to love such random and silly things and then try to turn them into special memories, like Christmas Eve movies. In fact, as ridiculous as it is, I kind of love this little popcorn machine too, and I haven’t even got to use it yet!

Christmas traditions have been hard to come by in recent years as our family dynamic has been changing. We’ve had some new additions (marriages, significant others, etc.) to the family and that requires us to attempt to balance our time evenly between everyone. I’m kind of hoping this one sticks and that we establish more again in coming years as our entire family assumes it’s new normal!

I hope you have time to enjoy the traditions that your family cherishes and that you have a Merry Christmas! :)

What are you favorite holiday traditions? 

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How to start an online boutiqueDid you know that starting your own online business is actually quite easy? It’s coming up with great ideas that requires a little more work and time. But legally setting up a new business really just takes a few minutes for someone who knows what they’re doing.

I was lucky that a friend of mine was able to walk me through the process to let me know what all I needed to do to create a legal business. In case you’ve been wondering about that too, these are the steps I took to create mine.

1) Create an LCC, Corporation, S-Corporation, etc.

If you google “Secretary of State [Insert your state]” and go to their website, there should be a link to find all the information you need. On Missouri’s there is a tab that says “Start a Business.” This link tells you how to apply online for the type of business you want to start. I consulted an accountant for this step just to make sure I filled out the forms correctly. You should also use this site to research business names in your state to make sure the one you want isn’t already taken before you fill out the application.

2) Apply for a Federal ID Number

You can apply online for an instant Federal ID Number at IRS.gov. You will use this number to file taxes each year and to verify that your business legally exists when you are doing business with other companies, establishing a business checking account, etc.

3) Apply for a Sales Tax Number from your state

If you’re selling retail, this is required. Most real wholesale websites will not let you create an account without one. This just ensures that you are responsible for collecting sales tax on the products you sell and can turn them in to your state. It took me a little longer to get this number. I was able to apply online, but had to mail in a bond to cover any future unpaid sales tax and it took about 2 weeks to get the letter that assigned me a sales tax number in the mail.

4) Open a business checking account

This isn’t required, but it is extremely helpful in keeping your accounting records straight once you get started and keeping the business money separate from your personal finances. Once you start making money, you can withdrawal whatever amount you like to start paying yourself. I typically write a check from my business account to my personal account to pay myself. I linked my business checking account to Quickbooks Intuit and it has made the accounting process so easy. I also think it’s helpful to make as many purchases as possible with your debit/credit card that is linked to this account so that you have an online record of them instead of having to keep every single receipt.

5) Decide on a shopping cart service

There are many shopping cart services to choose from out there, including selling your items through Amazon, eBay or Etsy, but I do recommend creating your own website as well so that your sales aren’t dependent on the decisions of those companies. I use Shopify which has multiple plans to fit your needs and your budget. You can also host your own shopping cart on a website platform like WordPress. There are a lot of options out there, so be sure to do your research to find one that is the best fit for you.

6) Purchase packaging, labels and stamps to ship products

This is something I admittedly didn’t think about until AFTER I made my first sale, which was a mistake. I ended up going to the post office, purchasing a box from them, then stood in line to get my package stamped and shipped. As soon as I got home I headed to uline.com to purchase packaging (they have all sorts of options to best fit your products), purchased adhesive shipping labels from Amazon, and set up an account with Stamps.com so I could print my own labels (shipping costs included) directly from home. This allows me to prepare everything at home and just drop my packages off at the post office at the end of the day. Places like Office Depot also let you drop off your packages with them and USPS, Fedex, and UPS will come pick them up at a determined time each day. You can also ship priority mail and schedule a time for the USPS to come pick up the packages for you. There are a lot of different shipping options, so this is another one that requires a little research to determine the best fit for your business.

7) Find wholesalers or manufacturers

Finding REAL wholesalers is actually a lot harder than it seems. Google generally brings up hundreds of companies that claim they are wholesale, but are really just discounted retailers. That is not who you want to be buying from. Talk to trusted friends or connections in your industry to find out about legitimate wholesalers, or check the tags of the products that you like and research the brands that way. Just be prepared if you consult someone who would be a future competitor, they might be a little tight lipped.

If you follow these steps you’ll be well on your way to owning and running your own online boutique. There is still a lot of other work to be done like product photos, marketing, finding your ideal customers and delivering a great buying experience to customers, but you’ll be learning all of those things before you know it!

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Acceptance and Inspiration

I should start out by clarifying that this is not a sponsored post. I just thought this experience was super interesting. Read on and you’ll see what I mean :)

Lately I’ve been on this newfound health journey. And by “on a journey” I mean that I’ve researched and read a lot and done nothing to implement any of my newfound knowledge. I had (an entire) pizza for lunch today and Mexican for dinner and didn’t get around to exercising.

Anyways, I’ve been interested in these oils that are becoming more and more popular. My wedding photographer recently started selling Young Living Essential Oils, so I’ve been talking to her about them a little. This past weekend I got the opportunity to get a zyto scan which is basically where a machine scans your hand to let you know which oils your body needs the most. There’s something else important about wave lengths and what not to explain how it works, but I can’t remember all that.

I was prepared to see the consequences of my consistently bad eating, or some other health related deficiency. Instead, I was surprised to see my results:

young living

Acceptance and Inspiration would help with 27 of the 37 out of range markers detected in my body. If you look up these oil blends on the Young Living website their descriptions are even more interesting.

Acceptance© stimulates the mind with oils specially blended to promote feelings of accepting ourselves and others, regardless of perceived barriers. The Acceptance Essential Oilblend also helps overcome procrastination and denial.

Inspiration© includes oils traditionally used by the native peoples of Arabia, India, and North America for enhancing spirituality, prayer, meditation, and inner awareness. It creates an aromatic sanctuary for those seeking quiet meditation and spirituality.

What was more telling than these somewhat vague descriptions were the descriptions of the ingredients used in each blend, which my consultant and I reviewed as soon as the results came back (which took about 5 minutes). Most of them help the mind with concentration, positive thoughts, creativeness, focusing, gaining confidence and other similar qualities.

So many of these things apply directly to my recent decision to go out on my own and start my own business. They all help stimulate the brain. Isn’t that cool? I thought I’d find a healthy cure to headaches, not to the everyday mental blocks I encounter.

The “palm reading” as I started calling it only took about 10 minutes but I ended up talking with the two ladies hosting the event for about 2 hours. We talked about chasing dreams and the power of positive thinking and being confident in your skills and providing value to people and even without the oils I felt like I left so much more enriched than when I arrived. I love when little things turn into big things like that! :)

Needless to say, they sold me on the oils and a diffuser that plugs into the usb port of your computer.

Have you ever used any of the essential oils? Do you think they really work? 

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Falling Off the Wagon

Well folks, it appears I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon recently. I’m not quite ready to let it go yet, so here’s to hopping back on the wagon and getting back into a routine here. I ordered a passion planner that should arrive in January (I ordered it too late and it was already backordered) and I have high hopes that it will work miracles and keep me on track. It’s supposed to be perfect for entrepreneurs or just goal-oriented people.

So where have I been and what have I been up to? I’m still painting part time for a local faux finishing company and building my own business, and I’ve taken on a few custom furniture painting jobs for friends and family.

Things are going well. I’m not quite where I want to be, but nothing worth having happens overnight, so I’m getting there. I’m learning the ins and outs of running my own business as I try to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. There’s definitely a learning curve.

One things that’s been going well recently have been holiday marts. I’ve been selling my scarves and leggings locally and have had a lot of luck with in-person sales. I’ve met some great people and learned more about my products and my customers. I’m so thankful for the opportunities that have been presented to me and all the people who have supported me.

holiday mart

Will is in his final week of his 3rd semester of college. Only two more tests and a 10 page paper to go, then we’re only one semester away from being halfway done with his Bachelor’s Degree. I’m excited for his monthlong break from classes as things are a little less tense when his life isn’t consumed with work and homework and the military. It really gets to be a lot to handle and I’m not jealous of all his commitments. I’m kind of hard on him about all of it (I tend to go into mom mode about homework), but I probably wouldn’t have the drive to take it all on at one time.

us

Also – I can’t decide if I want to grow my hair out or cut it shorter. I see so many cute short hair cuts…but then I think that maybe I can’t pull it off because I don’t know how to style my hair well enough. I obviously wanted you to know the most important details of my life, so there ya go.

Now I think you’re all caught up! I can’t wait to start sharing projects again and I’ve already got some lined up :)

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How to Stain and Paint a Table

stained table

Today golden oak is on it’s way out the door while darker stained wood and white paint is all the rage. You can see why by the picture above. I myself have already decided that when I buy a house my kitchen cabinets will be white on top and turquoise on bottom. I live and breath breezy.

My cousin brought this dining room set to me for a quick makeover before Thanksgiving. Here is what we started out with:

stained table before

First, you should sand EVERYTHING. This is the worst part of painting anything, but if you just get it done all at once, then apply lotion to your hands generously, it’s not too bad. I’ve recently learned that sanding by hand with a sanding block really is the best way to go when your project hasn’t been previously painted. Electric sanders will leave marks in the wood that you’ll see when you stain it later.

After sanding, then you wipe down everything with a deglosser. This helps you clean off all the dust and gets your surface ready for stain. Wearing gloves for both of these steps is much more convenient than the dry, cracked hands you’re sure to encounter without them, especially this time of year.

Now you can stain. I purchased a gel stain from a local paint supply store. Home Depot and Lowes aren’t likely to carry a good quality one, so finding a local store and getting help from an associate is the way to go here. I ended up with an oil based gel stain, because that’s what they had, but you can also purchase a water based gel stain online, and that’s actually preferable for staining indoors on furniture that will remain indoors. You’ll want oil based if you’re painting anything that will live outside.

I was intimidated by staining before I jumped in and started doing it. It really isn’t that complicated. The gel stain gives you more time to work with the product until you get the look you like, unlike your normal liquid stain. I just applied my stain with a chip brush and feathered it out until all the lines were straight and the color was to my liking. 24 hours of drying time is ideal with stain, and then you should apply a few coats clear coat. I used Masterclear Supreme, but that stuff is pricey. Polyacrylic would also work, you’ll just have to apply a few more coats.

Then I painted two coats of white paint (Navajo White) on the legs of the table and the chairs and sanded the edges with my sanding block to give it a distressed look. If you use a good quality paint, you should have to seal it in with a clear coat if it’s not a high traffic item. I didn’t seal in the legs of the table, but I did seal in the chairs since they’ll constantly be sat in and touched.

And ta-dah – here is the final look!

stained table after

All in all this project took me about a day and half of constant working. The chairs definitely took the longest to paint, so the project really isn’t near as intimidating as it looks. I was so happy with how this set turned out and how pleased my cousin was with it when she got it back!

Are you tired of the golden oak look yet? 

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