An Uncomplicated Life Blog: 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Meditation Tips and Easy Mantras

Meditation is essential for busy lives. Here's how to do it.

In early June, I had the privilege of flying out to Snowshoe, West Virginia, to go to Wanderlust with a few of my friends. I had never been to West Virginia before so that got crossed off the "visit all the states before I die" bucket list (only two left! Oregon and Arizona) and I got to practice yoga and take interesting classes on top of a mountain. Literally, we were on top of a mountain - the road to get there was a 11% grade and it was questionable if the car was even going to make it up the road for a bit! But we made it and it was beautiful and I ended up learning a bunch of things about yoga generally and myself personally. One of those things is the absolute necessity that meditation plays in busy (or even non busy) lives. So I've crafted some tips using some super easy mantras. Read on and get enlightened! Just kidding.

Great read on how to meditate and how it changes your life

First, I think people get turned off by the word mantra. It's simply the Hindu word for "word." It's not some spell you're trying to cast, it's not something you're trying to conjure or manifest. It's simply something you repeat to help quiet the clutter in your mind. Without a mantra, its really easy to sit in silence and think about what you're making for supper or that deadline you're on. Maybe there's a bird chirping outside or you start to focus on how you're uncomfortable sitting cross-legged on the floor. 

But with a mantra, for have a word (or very short phrase) that you repeat in your mind to keep that clutter out. You repeat it over and over in a rhythmic fashion. Think about a heart beating or drums drumming and how rhythmic that is - that's what you're going for with a mantra. Long story long, there's nothing to be scared of with mantras!

Before I dish out some of my favorites, lets start with meditation 101. First, you want a quiet space. Remember that bird I mentioned? Yeah, that's a distraction that causes mental clutter. So try to find a nice quiet space where you can be alone for a few minutes. Start with 5 and build up from there. Trust me, your first time meditating for 5 minutes will feel like forever! But then you'll get in the habit of it and it will feel like just a few seconds. I like to set a timer on my phone so I don't have to keep checking the time - I can enter a meditation and be fully in it for whatever length of time I have set.

Once in a quiet space, sit upright. It doesn't have to be on the floor, although I like the floor. You can sit in a chair. Just make sure your shoulders are over your hips and your spine is straight. Why? Because you'll get so relaxed, it's very easy to fall asleep! This ensures that you'll stay with the meditation practice and not check out or drift off into slumber.

Use these mediation mantras to stay focused

Your hands can be in your lap. They can face up or down. Whatever is most comfortable for you is what's best! Get situated, take a few deep breaths, and then start repeating one of these mantras that either resonates with you, or perhaps pick one that you feel like you even need most that day. Here are my favorites:

I am love
Radiate love

See how simple those are?! Mantas and meditating isn't scary and it isn't complicated. The word Om is what the Hindu's believed to be the sound the world made as it was created - it's a vibrating sound of creation, beginning and being. So nothing to be scared about there, either. Some days you might want a new beginning, other days you might need a reminder that you are love. Some people pick one and stick with it, but I like to change mine to reflect what I need in that moment that day.

That's it! Having a regular meditation practice, even if it's just twice a week, helps you focus, relax and quiet over-scheduled and too-busy minds. It creates time and space for you to just be present, to be in the moment. Not thinking about what you should be doing, or have yet to do on the day's to-do list. Just a few moments for you to be with yourself in peace and breathe calmly. It's truly amazing what a meditation practice and positive mantra will do in  and for your life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mason Jar Garden Luminary

Make these easy DIY  Mason Jar luminaries to light up your yard, courtyard or garden

I'll be honest with you: I think the whole Mason jar thing is way over done. There's Mason jar salads and overnight oats; Mason jar chandeliers, painted Mason jar lights, glitter dipped Mason jars... And on and on. Wait, I know what you're thinking! "So Paige, why are you adding to all this Mason jar noise that's already out there?" Ahh-ha! Because the actual function of the Mason jar LID works wonderfully for these garden luminaries. Read on to find out why and for the world's easiest way to make your yard, courtyard, deck, balcony or any outdoor (or indoor!) space you have a little brighter.

Yuck, that was cheesy but it literally came to me as I was writing that sentence. So I included it. And it even made it past the editing process. High standards here at An Uncomplicated Life Blog, eh?

Mmmmmk, back to the over done Mason jar DIY and why the lid is great for this particular idea. Real Mason jars have two parts to their lids; the screw on part and the flat part. If any of you crafting queens know any legit terminology for those parts, please enlighten me! For now, it's the circular screw on part and the flat part that's actually the lid. Anyway, this functionality works well for outdoor lighting because you can store them with the full lid on, and pop off the flat part when you want to light the candle and use the luminary. I like the look of the silver screw ring thingy attached, so I put that back on but you do you.

While the whole Mason jar thing is en vogue right now (thanks Joanna Gaines) most the crafts (outside of the food ones) discard the lid. But this one actually uses it, and it's two part design comes in kinda handy. Yay designs that last decades upon decades, right?!

Here's how I made these:
- 32 oz Mason jars. I like the big ones for outdoors, because we have a large courtyard to line them up along. As you can see, we also have a small(ish) 4 person table, and three of them fit nicely  on it, so this size even works for smaller spaces.
- Broken glass. Pick a color that works for your space. I liked how this color stood out against the green of our plants but didn't stick out so much that it was distracting (similar color here).
- Encased tea lights. If you don't get these, the wax will melt all over your glass and that's a bummer.

Fill Mason jars about 1/3 to halfway full with broken glass. Shake slightly to even it out. Place tea lights in and boom. You're done! You can store outside with the lid on (take the candle out - I had these in the Texas heat for an hour and the candles were all melted even though they weren't lit!) or you can store in a garage, shed or closet. If they get dirty or covered in pollen, dump the broken glass into a large bin of soapy water and wash the Mason jars in the dishwasher, then just reassemble after the glass has dried fully.

Like it? Pin it!

Easy to make, easy storage, easy maintenance and easy to use. What's not to love about this Mason jar garden luminary?!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Thoughts On Adulting

It's en vogue to say "adulting is so hard!" But is it? And what does that mean about our culture?

I haven't written a soapbox post in a good long while, and I'm excited about this one! Let's have a little chat about adulting. It's not even a real word; it's a verb that's become in fashion to describe living an adult life, filled with work, chores, trials and tribulations, children, cleaning, and on and on. You've seen it in funny Facebook memes and you've seen it screen printed on witty tee shirt sayings. Everyone seems to think "adulting" is so hard. But I'm here to tell you it's not. And I'm also here to tell you what I think this "adulting is hard" crap says about our larger culture.

Ahhhh, millennials. I qualify as one officially by two years (1982 is the first birth year of this generation, and I'm an '84 baby). I learned to type on an actual type writer and remember the days before computers were in every classroom; I certainly remember the days before the internet and not-so-fondly remember the days of the AOL dial up connection and the absolute racket it would make. So while I am a millennial by birth year standards, there's a lot I don't identify with this generation.

Needless to say, the "adulting is hard" thought process is one of them.

Cool, we got the disclosures out of the way. Allow me to now jump into the heart of this post: Millennials, ADULTING IS NOT HARD. YOU MAKE IT HARD BECAUSE YOU'VE ONLY LED AN EASY LIFE.

Read that again for a minute, and let it sink in. I know you want to punch me in the face right now, are saying, "Nuh-uhhh!" and are rolling your eyes. Hear me out for a second. Yes, you're the one who's making your life difficult. How? With your horrible attitude. Now to be fair, this attitude was instilled in you from an early age...

Why does your attitude suck? Allow me to count the ways:

1) You were given participation trophies for all events you ever took part in. 
Even I remember track and field days, and how they didn't just hand out ribbons for 1st-3rd place; no, they went all the way to 5th place and then gave every event participant a green participation ribbon. While this is now funny, and this reference over-cited with fault, here's the thing about it: You never learned to fail at something. You think if you go on a job interview, you'll get it - or something - like that's part of the process. But it's not. There are winners and losers in life. Most the time, second place doesn't matter. Second runner up as the job candidate means you're still unemployed. It means you need to try harder next time. It doesn't mean that being an adult is hard.

2) You experienced grade inflation that never taught you the value of hard work.
I remember in my senior year of high school, my honors English teacher gave me a C+. It was the only C I ever got, ever. I asked my teacher why she gave it to me, and she told me she knew I just showed up without really working; that I was much smarter than that but sometimes, you just have to put in some effort. I remember in college, I dated a TA who talked a lot about grade inflation, and about how he wanted good reviews from his students so that he'd be more likely to land a professorship when he was done with his PhD. He didn't care if a student earned the A or not; he was pulling a cover-your-a$$ move for better reviews. Millennials, I hate to tell you this, but y'all never really learned how to work hard - because you didn't have to in school. You got by. But now, as an adult, you're shocked at the "amount of work it is." It's hard to land a job and it's hard to get promoted and it's hard to get into grad school and it's hard to have a relationship and it's even harder to be married. And yeah, that IS harder than coasting your way through school without ever really needing to work for that A. But it doesn't mean that being an adult is hard.

3) You believed that if you just went to college, you'd land a great job.
AAAAHHHHAHAHAHAHA. As it turns out, no employer cares about your educational theories. They care about demonstrated results. So if you went to school and never worked or held down an internship, you're not employable upon graduation. And yeah, that means you're going to be 22 or 23 and making $9 an hour as an intern somewhere. It does not mean that being an adult is hard - it means you should have worked harder before you were depending on yourself to earn an income. But it doesn't mean that being an adult is hard.

Look, we all have hard days. There are days that I wish I could just sleep in and then spend the day watching Netflix. But having one hard day doesn't make being an adult hard. Getting up, taking care of my children, running this blog, being married, owning a home with a yard and a dog - all of that is being an adult. And while there are good days and bad days, it is not hard. So please millennials, stop making everything so "hard" and start putting as much effort into your life as you do complaining about it. When you shift that focus, you'll be surprised at how much "easier" everything becomes!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Best Baby Stationery

Basic Invite has so many options for your baby stationery needs!

This post is sponsored by Basic Invite. All opinions are my own.

Are you ever cruising your Facebook or Instagram feed and think to yourself, "Holy cow, everyone is pregnant right now!" I had a big wave of friends give birth in May and an additional wave announce their pregnancies with October babies. I love seeing all this joyous news in my social media! It makes me so happy to see all my friends and acquaintances share their life events with all their connections, and read all the happy congratulatory messages. While I enjoy seeing the creative social media announcements, I LOVE getting a "snail mail" baby stationery announcement (or baby shower invite, etc).

While we didn't send paper baby announcements, we did do paper invitations for both the boys' first birthday parties. There's something about getting an actual invitation in the mail that's so fun and classic! Plus, I had both their invitations framed. I'll have these as a keepsake for the rest of their lives, and they currently help decorate the nursery both kids sleep in.

It's so fun to personalize a 1st birthday invitation with photos

Basic Invite is a great website that offers SO many options for any of your baby stationery needs. If you see a design you like but want to change the colors on it, you can. The website is interactive, so you'll get a preview right away with your customization. If you'd prefer, you can even order a paper preview of your baby shower invitation so you can actually see it in person. I wish I'd have had this option for our Christmas card. I ordered them online and *thought* the font would look far different than it did... Long story short, I paid more for "glitter" and it came back as digital glitter. Had I had the option to see it in person, I'd have known to change that before ordering (and paying for!) all our cards. Live and learn, right?

So sweet for a little boy!

Back to babies: Basic Invite has baby shower invitations for boys and baby shower invitations for girls that are just darling, and you can even customize the envelope you'll send it in. I remember my baby showers for Henry. I had one in Minnesota that was a "book party" where all the guests brought their favorite baby book and wrote Henry a note inside of it. Then I had a coed shower in Dallas with some of the cutest blue, green and white treats! Poor Otto didn't get any showers because, you know, he was the second boy that came just 19 months after the first one. Hashtagsecondbabyprobs, right? Showers are so special to the mom to be, and a paper invitation allows her to have a keep sake for that special day. After you're done showering the mama and baby, don't forget to order your baby shower thank you cards! Thanking your guests in paper is just as (if not more than) important than the invitation.

A fun coed shower invitation idea

Having a baby is such a huge occasion in the parents' lives. It's a time for celebration and showers and parties! Basic Invite has all your baby stationery needs covered with a huge supply of designs, customized colors and even a free addressing service. Let them do the work for you so you can focus on celebrating that baby and mama to be.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Best Kitchen Gadgets On Amazon

Amazon has some great deals on kitchen gadgets you'll actually use!

I'm not much of a gadget person. As a minimalist, having all these kitchen gadgets lying around just stresses me out! Why would I want to clutter my home with things I'll only use once a year, right? That's my thought process anyway. However, these gadgets truly are useful! Here's my roundup of the best kitchen gadgets found on Amazon plus some of the best recipes I've created using them.

These kitchen gadgets are helpful and come with recipes

Citrus juicer - My mom brought me this shortly after we bought our home in Dallas, and I rolled my eyes. I thought, "mom, I'm never going to use this! It's just going to clutter my kitchen. I can easily juice a lemon or lime with my own hands." LIES! I use this thing several times a week. It's actually my most used kitchen gadget, after our fancy knife set. Here's a great pasta salad that's chock full of zesty citrus - you'll be glad you have this juicer!

Grill starter - This isn't really a kitchen gadget, but it is used to make food, so same difference. Have you ever tried to start a charcoal grill without one? Yeah, you end up using a ton of starter fluid. And then you cook your food on that. Gross! This thing works brilliantly. Pour the coals in, light it, wait 25ish minutes and boom. Perfect grilling coals. This grilled chicken marinade is perfect all summer long, and pairs so well with the taste of a charcoal grill.

Crock-Pot - This one is a no-brainer. Every home needs one of these in it! It's perfect for making soups and stews, roasts, hell I've even seen recipes for cakes in this thing! I really recommend the one I linked, because it's programmable with a timer, and it also has a locking lid so that 1) you can carry it to potlucks, etc and 2) that means you can lock the lid on it when you store it, and you won't spend 20 minutes of your life digging through your cabinets. Did you know how easy it is to make your own "condensed" soups in a Crock Pot? Here's a fantastic cream of mushroom soup recipe that beats the heck out of a can of Campbell's.

Knife set - Speaking of knife sets, this one is my favorite. Yeah, it's not cheap, good knifes aren't. These come sharp and stay sharp for years! Once you've work with good knives, you just can't go back to dull ones. Invest in a decent set of knives and you'll have fewer cuts and shorter meal prep time. You'll be happy you have sharp knives to make this no mayo potato salad, perfect for summer cookouts!

These are some of the most used kitchen gadgets I own. Like I said, I'm not a gadget gal, and like to keep things simple, but these devices are the best kitchen gadgets on Amazon! They're competitively priced, and ship free with Prime. If you're in Dallas, you can even get them with same day delivery, which is more than awesome.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

See You Monday!

I know, I've been taking a lot of random breaks, but that's because my travel schedule has been cray cray! I'm currently at Wanderlust in Snowshoe (!!!) but I'll be back Monday with a post outlining kitchen gadget deals - I even paired them with recipes for y'all.


Monday, June 5, 2017

St. Pete's Blogger Girls Trip

I met a few of my favorite bloggers for a 48 hour trip to St. Petersburg, FL

One of the best parts about blogging has been the friends that I've made. It still sounds funny to me when I tell people that I meet a lot of my friends online, but it's 2017 so hopefully someday I'll get past it. Anyway, I met up with Tiffany and Supal (who flew all the way from London!) in St. Petersburg, FL for a whirlwind weekend of blogging fun, and it didn't disappoint.

We stayed at The Don Cesar on the house, thanks to Tiffany's husband's travel points. It was a historic hotel but the rooms and lobby were fully renovated. There were two pools plus a wide span of beach front to hang out at. While staying there, we learned that it was built as a R&R hospital during WW1 and was supposedly haunted. I didn't see any ghosts, but I was glad we learned that on our last day so that I didn't have to think about war veteran ghosts at night!

I got into town on Friday and Tiffany picked me up in our Hertz rental, a Nissan Rogue. For being a small SUV, that thing had tons of trunk space and the back seat was actually quite roomy - I was impressed! I flew into Tampa, and we headed straight to the hotel where we checked in, dropped off our luggage and immediately headed down to the hotel's beachfront bar where we quickly polished off two whole pitchers of sangria. Yup, three bloggers and two pitchers. But why stop there? Don't worry, we didn't.

After a refresh, we headed out to a rooftop bar and got a table overlooking the water. It was so beautiful watching the sunset with a bottle of prosecco! So romantic. There must have been romance in the air, because soon our table of three women was assaulted by a very drunk man named Gary. He was so drunk he had  to hold onto something to stand upright and literally wasn't make sense. Soon, his friends swarmed us too. Just three female bloggers who are in their late 20's to early 30's, surrounded by drunk married men in their late 40's and early 50's. Supal handled the situation with her cheeky British wit that was over their drunk heads, and fortunately, they left us for another bar.

They were, however, staying at the same hotel as us, and we repeatedly saw them throughout the whole weekend. They were always drunk. It was impressive their livers were still functioning.

The next day was spent hanging out by one of the pools. It was hot, but they had umbrellas set up so that we weren't in direct sunlight. After about two hours, a woman came up to us and told us that she had reserved the chairs we were in. See, she had placed Athleta catalogs on the chairs and thought she could walk away for four hours and have those still be "her" chairs. She literally stood in front of us and asked us to get out! Ha! After we wouldn't move, she went to find a manager, and was greatly disappointed when the manager told her that isn't how life works, and she'd have to find new chairs. We named her Debbie Downer, and watched her complain to staff for the next few hours about everything.

In the early evening, we headed off to a margarita festival in Tampa. While we got free tickets, they wanted you to upload your credit card to a chip on a wristband, and that's how you paid for your food and drinks. None of us liked that idea, so we bailed on the festival and headed to get tacos at a cantina in downtown Tampa. The carne asada taco was mediocre compared to the amazing beef we have in Texas, but my fish taco was on point! That night, we were all asleep by 10:30pm after a long day of pool time, Debbie Downer, failed festivals and tacos.

Margarita Festival attire. Appropriate, no?

The next morning we checked out of our room and headed to a bottomless mimosa brunch. The smoked salmon was fantastic! Note to self, always get the fish when you're near the ocean. We sat there for a good three hours, and wouldn't you know, along came Gary and his drunk crew again! He said something about staying hydrated, but his speech was so slurred I didn't understand him. Oh Gary.

After that, we headed back to the airport since Tiffany and I had flights to catch. Turns out, I ended up on the Flight From Hell. I had to connect in Houston and there were storms rolling through Texas. It should have been a 45 minute flight up to Dallas that turned into 6 hours of scream -inducing turbulence (literally, people were screaming and crying). Tiffany flew across the entire country faster than I flew a few hundred miles. I still have the shakes from that flight! 

Outside of the flight, it was a complete blast hanging with these blogging gals. We had so much fun talking shop, tatking children, talking to Debbie Downer and Drunk Gary and being by the water in a beautiful hotel. Girls weekends don't happen often, but when they do it's like a breath of fresh air. In this case, it was ocean air, which was even better!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

DIY Ribbon Knot Wreath

This easy do-it-yourself wreath is fun and affordable, and the colors you chose can match any holiday

It's been a while since I've done a good ol', non essential oil, crafty DIY. I used to do something like this every single month. But then kids happened and it's {not} funny how little time they leave for pursuing your own/former interests and hobbies, ya know? I have lots of decorations for Halloween and Christmas, but have nothing (literally, nothing) for any of the other holidays throughout the year. In honor of Memorial Day and the upcoming 4th of July, I wanted something a little patriotic to put on the front door.

While I chose red, white and blue, you could literally chose any ribbon color combination to suit your fancy - red and green, gold and silver, orange and black, pastels, you get it. If you're not into holiday decorating, just pick a combo that fits your decor! The most labor intensive part is cutting the ribbon; then, honestly, tying the knots on the wreath frame was therapeutic in how repetitive it was. I left the edges of my ribbons raw to keep the project easy (that was the main reason, because duh) and I also like how the fray adds a shabby-chic effect. But if you don't like that look or have more time on your hands than I do, running a lighter over the cut ends of the ribbon would be a quick way to seal it so that there's no fringe.

Here's what you need for a DIY Ribbon Knot Wreath:

- Wire wreath frame. I used a 16" just like this one.
- Scissors
- 1.5in width ribbon. Lots of it. I used red, white and blue like these and then a wire edged burlap with a printed design on it like this one. For my 16" wreath, I used four containers of each the red, white and blue, and then eight of the burlap (more since it's on the outer edge of the wreath).

Cut your ribbon into four to five inch long strips. If sealing the edges, do so and then let cool before tying the knots on the wreath. I used a simple cross knot and only did it once, but tightened it securely on the wire frame. Keep tying until the wreath is full. Boom. That's it.

One thing that's important to note is paying attention to how many wires there are on your wreath and how many sections. My 16" wire wreath had four wires that were divided into nine sections. The nine sections threw off the pattern I originally wanted in the wreath because it's an odd number. So make sure to plan any alternating ribbon designs accordingly to make sure you don't get to the end and realize you can't complete your desired design!

Like it? Pin it!

I also added the burlap to give the wreath some dimension. You could do this with any neutral accent color, but the burlap added to the "Americana" theme I was going for. That's it! That's how simple this DIY ribbon wreath is. It was easy to make, as I could tie the knots as I watched TV after the kids went to bed. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Day Break

Hey y'all, I'm taking a little week long break for Memorial Day! I've got some fun travel plans. I'll be back next Thursday, June 1 with some fresh content. I have a killer  July 4th DIY coming up that was so fun and easy to make!

I'll still be active on Facebook and Instagram so check me there :)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Weekend Getaway In Santa Fe

Santa Fe is a wonderful city for a weekend getaway, but you'll need to stay longer to see everything

We took off for a long weekend in Santa Fe a few weekends ago. Hubs was turning 40 on Mother's Day, and we hadn't taken a kid-free trip in over two years (!!!) so my mom flew into town to watch the kiddos and we escaped. It turns out, it's a WONDERFUL place to go for a weekend getaway! If we'd have had more kid free time, I'd have loved to stay longer. For a town of about 65,000 people, there's a ton to do.

Let me preface this by saying I've never been to a desert before. You have to fly into Albuquerque (which I still can't spell - thank goodness for autocorrect and spell check!) and I have to say... I was entirely underwhelmed with that city. There's sand everywhere and it's so monochromatic. The weather was nice but that's about the only kind thing I can say about Albuquerque. Santa Fe is about an hour into the mountains, and the further you got from Albuquerque, the prettier it got!

We stayed at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear and I absolutely recommend it! The two innkeepers are fantastic and cater to any need you may have. There's gourmet breakfasts every morning and a wine happy hour at 5. All the guests hang out together for breakfast and happy hour and genuinely love chatting and hearing about everyone's day. Seriously, don't look at any other lodging, just stay here. (I'm not being paid to say this and I paid full price for my room - it's just THAT good!)

We took a trip out to Bandelier which was a perfect half day event. It's about an hour out of Santa Fe and we hiked for about an hour and a half. It's a historic site where you can see (and actually go into) caves that the natives used to live in in the Frijoles canyon. Pro tip: Remember that you're 7,000 feet up and need to wear sunscreen even when it's 65 degrees.

On Mother's Day (and hubs' actual birthday) we got massages at 10,000 Waves Spa and I have to say, it's one of the most beautiful spas I've ever seen. It's built into the mountain side and so tranquil! Beware though; there are TONS of stairs. You basically have to earn your spa stay with a good hike first!

Santa Fe is built around a town square. In the square, independent artists and merchants set up their wares and crafts for sale. Bands play music and people hang out. Then surrounding the square, there are tons of shops, galleries and restaurants. We were there for four days and never went to the same place twice, nor did we get to see everything! Everything is walkable, and the town is historic (it's the first settlement in the U.S - even before Plymouth - settled by the Spanish in the 1600s).

If you're looking for sunshine, mild temperatures, art, good food,  and friendly people I highly suggest taking a weekend getaway to Santa Fe! Stay longer if you can, because you won't run out of things to do or good restaurants to check out. There are day hikes to go on, shops and endless galleries. It's the perfect getaway location.