Finding My Voice

When I first started my blog back in 2010, I titled it Everyday Moments: Celebrating Life, Love, and Laughter. I knew I wanted to use my own photos and I wanted to write encouraging words, but I really wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to go with it or who it might appeal to. Funny how, looking back, I just noticed that my very first entry fit well with the Faith Barista’s post on perfectionism from February 18th.

At that time, this is how I saw my blog developing: “my eyes are being opened to the importance of everyday moments and how we react to them or how we change because of them. Noticing the beauty around us. Spending time really talking to someone you care about. Finding things to laugh about every day. These are the types of things I’d like to share in my blog as it develops and grows.”

Squirrel

Several months went by before I wrote again.  In January of 2011, I began combining my words with words from Scripture, devotionals, and other blogs I read. I focused on the word “trust” for the month. Two entries were strictly quotes from other sources. While I think they are good quotes, I see that without my own story surrounding the words that I share, they are less likely to engage someone looking to connect.

In the following months, I wrote about things like “rest” and “peace,” but then I got to second-guessing myself. In May, I included these words in my post—“What Do I Hope to Accomplish?”:  “I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog lately. I’m not sure yet if I have really found ‘my voice’ or my niche. I’ve been struggling with figuring out what works best for me on posting specific topics or following certain formats. I believe, for the most part, that some of my content has been good and valid, but it also seems like what I have been writing is more appropriate for a paper for school rather than something directly from my heart. And I have been more worried about consistency rather than connecting. I don’t want my posts to seem like I am giving a lecture or a sermon (although many a good sermon has changed lives).  But I would like for people to want to read what I write.”

Dove

I thought about my title to my blog and how I should be showing more moments of love and laughter, so I later wrote about “Living with Joy” and I included pictures of some of the things that bring me joy, starting with my family and moving on to other things.

Live with Joy

And then came 2012. I was inspired by books and magazines on getting more organized and living a life with more meaning and less stuff. At that time, I changed my blog service and my domain name. I chose Fuller Way of Life (because Fuller is my last name) and I made my tag line “on living simply and living well.” Here  is what I planned to focus on “I promise I will have some interesting household suggestions, product recommendations, blogs to check out, ‘did you know’  concepts, and more.” I guess I thought that I might appeal more to others if I offered them a compilation of some of the information I was discovering for myself in simplifying my life. On top of that, with the big surge in Pinterest use, it seemed like so many people were focusing on food. I was doing a lot of cooking and trying new recipes myself so I began writing about food and sharing recipes with others, as in my “Food for Thought” post.

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I continued down this path for a few months. I think the recipes were appreciated and I enjoyed sharing them, but truthfully, I didn’t feel like this was the right voice for my blog or for me. It didn’t really fulfill me or provide the creative outlet I was looking for. In July, I eased back into something a little more thought-provoking with my “Seasons of Life” post, but ended it with a recipe. Just to cover all the bases, I guess. 🙂

Next up in my blog journey was our move from Texas to Kentucky and a big focus on “Finding Time” during a very busy period: I “realized that sometimes I need to forget about all the things that should be done and actually make or schedule time for the things that really matter to me – like writing, making crafts, and capturing images with my camera. I also need to try not to get so caught up in doing that I miss out on the chance to experience simply being.

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I delved one more time in some food sharing, and then … there was nothing. From October 2012 until October 2013, I didn’t write or post anything. Right after writing about finding time, it seems I was unable to actually make time for doing something meaningful that I enjoyed. “So, once again, I find myself working on finding focus in my life. Or maybe it is more accurate to say adjusting my focus. I know what the important things are. I just need to find a way to fit them all into my schedule. I need to set priorities and stick to them.”

I’m actually quite happy with my November post – “In Pursuit of Peace.” I feel like it has the right combination of personal story, quotes from other sources, and  real-life application. Plus, I have continued to use my own photos to enhance my posts. I know I personally enjoy blogs that include pictures as well as words, and I enjoy sharing the images I have captured, especially the ones from nature.

Ice Melting

Now, with the help of bloggers like Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista and Holley Gerth, 2014 is off to a good start. Although I still cannot keep up with regular weekly posts (and I don’t see how anyone does this on a daily basis), their weekly writing prompts are helping me to focus on, develop, and continue to share my voice … whatever it happens to be or wherever it wants to take me that week. And each time I submit a new blog post, it makes me feel somewhat accomplished. I also experience the joy of connecting to other bloggers at the same time, reading and enjoying their words and their journeys. This community of bloggers is really helping me continue to find my voice and appreciate the beauty and value of my own words as well as the words of others.

If you are a creative person (whether it be writer or artist or cook) or you want to be creative but are afraid that you aren’t good enough or you don’t know where to start, just begin anyway. As you work and play, you will begin to find areas where you are more often “in the zone” and where you feel fulfilled. And that’s really more what it’s about – not creating what’s necessarily pleasing to others, but finding your own joy and happiness in the process.

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Recipe for Successful Meals

We all need to eat. And I know lots of people who, as soon as they finish one meal, start thinking about the next one. Yet, I am constantly amazed by the number of people who don’t cook. How can people seriously enjoy eating out all the time? Especially when it’s fast food! Don’t get me wrong … I do enjoy going out to eat now and then, especially when it’s for sushi or crab legs or to celebrate something special. But I can’t imagine having to pick something up at the grocery store deli or at a drive-through window every day. I like my food with a little less salt and grease and fat. Now, I can’t say I cook healthy all the time, because I don’t. But when I make our meals, I can control the amounts of those substances that go in my food. I like that.

Plus, I guess some part of me enjoys cooking and baking. It’s my way of sharing a bit of myself and nourishing my family and sometimes my friends. I know some people really don’t like cooking at all; others simply don’t think they have the time. But with a little planning and all the cookbooks, blogs, and recipe sites out there, it is actually quite easy to come up with a few quick meals for really rushed days as well as some more substantial meals you can prep ahead of time and throw in the crockpot or oven.

RECIPES While my husband, Bart, would happily eat the same things over and over again (he’s fairly easy to please), I am always on the lookout for new recipes. I currently subscribe to a couple family and recipe-based magazines. Sometimes, I get behind on reading and they begin to pile up. But I keep them near the couch for when we are watching (non-recorded) TV so that when the commercials come on, I can pick up a magazine and quickly flip through the pages.

I look for recipes that sound yummy, but then I scan through the ingredients and preparation info. If it contains way too many ingredients, things I’ve never heard of, or too many steps or too much time to prepare, I skip it. If it looks like something I might actually make, I tear the page out and put it in my coupon drawer in the kitchen.*

I also subscribe to a couple weekly e-mails from different companies (see my suggested links at the end of this blog post). I look at the main page and if something catches my eye, I’ll go to the site and check it out further (or keep it in my in box to review later). If I get too busy, I just delete the e-mail as I know there will be more recipes to consider the following week. When I find a good recipe online, I print it out and add it to that same kitchen drawer or sometimes they even make it directly into what I would call my “working cookbook.”

OTHER OPTIONS When I attend a gathering and someone makes a dish I enjoy, I ask for the recipe. Accumulating good recipes from friends and family members is another way to build up your collection of meal or snack ideas to try. And, of course, these days there is Pinterest. I don’t know how many recipes and recipe bloggers I have found from pinning yummy-sounding or tasty-looking photos to my own boards.

Then, there’s the old standby—the thousands and thousands of printed recipe books out there. If you have some cookbooks that you haven’t looked at in years, try to get them out during commercial breaks or maybe even take them with you to look through when you’re in the car pool lane. Bring some sticky notes with you and flag any interesting ideas you come across that you’d like to try.

I recommend three different options for keeping track of these cookbook recipes that you’d like to try. 1) You can write down the name of the recipe, the name of the cookbook, and the page it appears on in your working cookbook so you’ll know where to find it again. 2) You can make a copy of the page and add it to your working cookbook. 3) Or (and I know some people will shudder at this) you can actually tear the page out of the book. If it is not a special book that you’d like to keep intact, and you know you aren’t likely to keep pulling that cookbook out for one or two rarely used recipes, make things easier on yourself. Then donate the book or pass it on to a friend who may appreciate some of the other recipes. (I also suggest donating or giving away cookbooks, or any other books, that are just accumulating dust on your shelves, even if they were gifts.)

Recipes also come directly on product packaging and on index cards at your local grocery store. There is no end to what you can find if you look around. Just don’t go crazy collecting recipes you will never use. It’s a good idea to occasionally go through your collection and get rid of recipes that either didn’t turn out that well or that you still haven’t made after many months (or years).

Have fun collecting good recipes, but remember, the goal isn’t to see who can collect the most recipes. The point is to actually use the recipes to provide a variety of meals for you and your family. One hint though—if you already cook, don’t go crazy and make a new dish every night. Most people don’t like that much change. Continue to use your standby family favorites, but once or twice a week, try something new. It will either become another favorite or a flop. Believe me, you’ll know whether it’s a keeper or not.

Bottom line—you’ll find that you are spending less money, probably eating better, and maybe, just maybe, even learning to like cooking.

  • *Later, when I have time, all recipes will be reviewed again for feasibility (will I actually ever make this?); those that remain keepers get put in my working cookbook.
  • My working cookbook is an ever-changing 3-ring binder full of page protectors. It usually stays on my kitchen counter and it sometimes contains a number of other useful pages, like lists of what’s in the freezer, what’s in the pantry, and what’s for dinner (menus for one to two weeks at a time), which I’ll talk about in another post.

Here are some of my favorite sources—in no particular order. Check them out!

www.betterrecipes.com/blogs/daily-dish/ (Easy. Elegant. Everyday.)

www.SavingDinner.com (menus, recipes, and shopping lists to get your family back to the dinner table)

http://www.bettycrocker.com  (recipes from Betty Crocker—sign up for their Dinner Made Easy newsletters)

www.bhg.com/recipes/ (recipes from Better Homes and Gardens)

www.TasteofHome.com (recipes from Taste of Home)

www.SuperKidsNutrition.com (saving the world one healthy food at a time)

www.EatBetterAmerica.com (part of Live Better America—healthy recipes/healthy living)

www.SixBurnerSue.com (cooking fresh and eating green with Susie Middleton)

www.UrbanPoser.Blogspot.com  (yoga & vibrant gluten free living)

www.BrokeAssGourmet.com  (recipes to keep your taste buds happy and your wallets thick)

www.Picky-Palate.com (original family style recipes for even your pickiest eaters)

www.EatWholly.com (tasty tips, yummy kitchen tricks, and entertaining videos from Wholly Guacamole)

Experiments in Baking

Almond Flour Cinnamon Roll

This past weekend, I had some extra time on my hands and some recipes I’d been wanting to try, so I have a few treats to share with you. The first delicious dish (that I’m proudest of) is my Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls. I told you about them in my Sharing It Forward post. I had never used almond flour before, so I want to say thank you to my friend Ben Hulet for bringing me the flour and to his wife Jenni for her awesome recipe.

Ingredients for Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

If you’re new to baking, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe, as the consistency of the almond flour dough requires a bit of a gentle touch. And you need to be careful to use room temperature eggs with the coconut oil or the oil will harden. But if you’ve baked a thing or two in the past and are open to trying something new (as well as following directions), these rolls are the bomb!

Actually, they taste more like a light, sweet biscuit stuffed with pecans and cinnamon. Mmmm mmmm.

Baked Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

We tried one topped with vanilla glaze and one drizzled with honey; both were good. But when I took the leftovers in to work, some people ate them with no added topping at all. And they loved them. (Part of me wanted to keep them all to myself, but not the part that wants to get/stay in shape.) It was definitely a great treat to share. And a successful experiment for sure.

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Ingredients for Apple Pecan Crescent RollsNow, if you’re looking for a simple but tasty dessert to bake, I’ve got just the thing for you. I found it on Taste of Home’s website.  It’s an Apple Walnut Crescent Roll. I didn’t have walnuts, but I had pecans, so I substituted. You can use either one. Your other ingredients are apples, refrigerated crescent rolls, cinnamon, sugar, and butter (raisins are optional). That’s it. (Although the picture shows raisins, I didn’t end up adding them to my recipe.)

You basically peel and core a few apples. Cut them into chunks. Separate the crescent dough. Sprinkle it with cinnamon/sugar. Roll up the apples in the crescent dough (starting at the small end). Drizzle them with just a little butter and top with nuts. You could also add a little more cinnamon/sugar if you want. Then bake. See … simple. (For the complete recipe/instructions, click on the link above.)

Apple Pecan Crescent Rolls

We shared these with Bart’s sister’s family, and I still had some left to bring in to work. I ate one at room temperature and it was good, but they really are best when served warm. And don’t they sound like they’d be great with a side of vanilla ice cream? Yum!

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Ingredients for Cheesy Quinoa BitesFor my last baking experiment, I tried quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) for the the first time, as part of my quest to try new, healthier foods. I found an image on Pinterest for Cheesy Quinoa Bites several weeks ago that sounded interesting (hey, anything with cheese in it has got to be good). I clicked on the photo to find the source (SoVeryBlessed.com), and I saved the recipe to try when I had time.

That turned out to be this past Thursday. To tell you how it went, I’m going to fess up, and share my ditzy moment with you. The recipe called for 2 cups of cooked quinoa. I had never made it before, so I read the package to see how to cook it. It said to mix 1 cup of quinoa with 1-1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Well, I needed 2 cups, right? So, I doubled it. Can you see where this is going?

If you are familiar with quinoa, then you know it is like rice in that it bulks up quite a bit in cooking. So, I now have several cups of cooked quinoa to work with. Turns out it makes a pretty good hot breakfast (especially mixed with a little sweet cream), and I’ve also mixed some up with black beans, corn, and a little lime juice, which I’ll be trying tomorrow.

Anyway, back to the bites … I thought they were okay, but I wasn’t totally impressed. However, my co-workers (who  get to try out my crazy kitchen experiments) seemed to like them. I think I will try making them again, but next time, I’ll use fresh grated Parmesan cheese or maybe even some cheddar – I think it needs something with a little more bite. I’ve still got half a bag of quinoa left. (I thought it was kind of expensive when I first bought it, but turns out – a little goes a long way.)

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This week, I wanted to provide some inexpensive dinner ideas for one of my nieces.  There were some listed in the June issue of Good Housekeeping (is it just me or is it crazy that they come out so early), but they’re not available online yet, so I’ll share them later. For now, I found some Budget Dinner Recipes from Kraft Foods that I thought I’d post a link to. I haven’t tried any of them yet, so can’t recommend them specifically, but if you make any, let me know.

I also found my next “have to try” recipe. It’s called Queso Taco Pasta Bake from Picky-Palate.com. It sounds delicious. So far, I have pinned the photo to my Food Favorites board. I need to go back later and copy/print the recipe. Of course, I will let you know how it turns out when I make it. If you make it before me, please come back and share how it worked for you.

Well, I think that’s it for today. I apologize for not getting this posted this  morning. We’re temporarily down to one computer, and Bart had to get some work done last night. Hope I’m leaving you with some good food for thought and you have a wonderfully simple yet full week.

Food for Thought

I decided to make today’s post food-focused because most of us are often thinking about food in one way or another: like what we can have, what we can’t have, what we crave, what we’re thinking about making, what we hope someone will make for us, etc.

I’ve heard/read several people, most recently my nephew Kevin, complaining about how expensive it is to eat healthy, especially when you’ve got several family members to consider. He’s right. It’s hard, but not impossible. I just came across this article from Care2.com on 18 Easy Food Swaps to Save Money that I think would be a great read if you are tempted to fill your cart with less healthy, cheaper foods. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Also, I just have to promote this new “Lunchables” alternative that I found at Target — from GoPicnic. Really, they are great for kids or adults, but I compare them to the lunch/snack option that I know some people buy for their kids, because even though it is labeled as a ready-to-eat meal, for most adults, I think it would be more like a great afternoon snack. I’ve only tried one so far–the one with hummus–and it was pretty darn tasty. In fact, I’m looking for a box of those baked crackers now; I really liked them.

Anyway, they say GoPicnic meals contain no trans fats, no high fructose corn syrup, and no MSG. Three of the four boxes I picked up are also gluten free. You can learn more about them online at GoPicnic.com, but they sell them on their site for $5, and I got them at Target for $3.51. Try them out and let me know what you think.

Besides looking for a good price on healthy foods, I know many of us are also looking for ways to save time with meal prep. In the February issues of Real Simple magazine, I found this article on “hearty and healthy slow-cooker recipes you’ll use (and love) forever.”  (I’m still getting caught up on some of my magazines.) I think there are a few recipes shown online that weren’t in the print version of the magazine, and vice versa, but check out this slideshow to see if anything catches your eye. If you find something you like, look to the right and below the description of the dish, there is a link to “Get the Recipe.”

And speaking of recipes, I have purchased menu mailers from Leanne Ely of Saving Dinner in the past; they help you quickly and easily make meal plans each week, and they come in a variety of categories (low carb, low fat, meals for two, etc.). Leanne has just paired up with Dr. Terry Wahls, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, to introduce the Paleo Bundle to share the critical link between the foods we eat or do not eat and the health we have or do not have. The bundle includes five audio lectures from Dr. Wahls; a Paleo Primer, to introduce you to what the paleo way of eating is all about and give you some basic guidelines to get your pantry stocked; and a one-year subscription to Menu-Mailer’s Paleo plan, which provides you with various recipes and helps you customize your meal plan and shopping list. Pretty cool stuff.

And finally, for today: Did you read my last post? In it, I mentioned a recipe for Impossibly Easy Mini Cheeseburger Pies from Betty Crocker, which I hadn’t yet tried. Well, I made them last night. They were very easy and very good. You make them in a muffin pan and then add toppings like you’d put on your burger. I put my garnishes/condiments directly on mine; Bart preferred to dip his in a mustard and hot sauce mix. (We treated the mini-pies like finger food.) You definitely need a side with these or you’ll want more than the 2-pie serving per person. (I had 2; Bart had 3.) We ate these with sweet-tasting corn on the cob. Yum!

I definitely recommend this recipe; however, I felt like it needed a bit more of the baking/Bisquick mixture. I suggest using 3/4 cup milk, 3/4 cup Bisquick mix, and 3 eggs (1-1/2 times the original recipe) to fill up the muffin pan more.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. I hope at least one of the items I posted was useful to you. Personally, although I love using the crock pot, I don’t really want so much of a “hearty” meal at this time of year. I prefer something lighter. Does anyone have any good, healthy summer-time dinner ideas? Please share.

Hope today fills you up with all good stuff.

Sharing It Forward

Several months ago, I discovered Pinterest. At first the concept sounded strange to me. I get blogging and sharing words and ideas, but what was the point of “pinning” pictures and following other peoples pins? Well, I tried it, and I liked it. A lot! [If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, click here. If you’d like to know more about how Pinterest works and what the benefits are, leave a comment below, and I’ll write about it in a future post.]

Through Pinterest, I found yummy recipes to try, great ideas for decorating and organizing, and awesome writers and photographers to follow. In fact, I discovered tons of wonderful sources of information and inspiration out there … way too many for me to keep up with them all on my own.

That’s when I started thinking about how cool it would be to gather tips and ideas from articles that I read (both in print and online) and share them with you, and then you could share some of the things you’ve discovered with me. We could pool our resources. With that in mind, here are a few links to some great sites with recipes (some healthy, some not as much), decluttering ideas, green tips, amazing photography, and a Did You Know.

Check these out

Gluten-Free/Dairy FreeThe Best Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

I’ve got some almond flour to experiment with. I’m definitely going to make these; I’ll let you know how they turn out.

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Tired of chicken? Try the Best Pork Chops You will Ever Taste. I made these, and they are pretty tasty. They come out with a nice, crisp breading but are baked, not fried.

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Quick and EasyImpossibly Easy Mini-Cheeseburger Pies: This seems like something simple to make on nights when your time is limited. I haven’t personally tried these yet, but I printed the recipe out and I plan to.

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Give your child’s lunch an extreme, and deliciously nutritious, makeover–Five Ways to Pack a Healthier Lunch
Bart and I are currently making our own trail/snack mix to take to work. We buy things like roasted peanuts, honey roasted almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, craisens, and chocolate and peanut butter chips and mix them together. It’s pretty yummy and goes a lot further than some of the pre-packaged mixes in the store.

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Don’t have the space for a regular garden? Try Container Gardening I used to grow tomatoes in a container out back. We had to keep it up off the ground away from the bunnies. Last summer was just too darn hot to grow anything. In the past, I have also grown bell peppers and jalapeños in a container. It’s easy and very rewarding, especially if you have kids and you get them involved.

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Interested in trying a little green living? Here are Five Tips for a Healthy and Green Picnic. A perfect idea for beautiful days like those we’ve been having lately.

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Is all your STUFF weighing you down? Check out Parade Magazine’s “Full House” and learn how you can lose the extra, unnecessary possessions cluttering up your home, and take back your life.

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And last, but not least, I just had to share this site. I absolutely LOVE this guy’s stunning macro photography and his inner reflections: http://beingmark.com/

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DID YOU KNOW

In last week’s post, I mentioned that I had found a place where you could recycle all the unmatched keys you had lying around your house. Keys For Kindness  is a small, family-run program where they’ll take the keys, recycle them, and give the proceeds to the Multiple Sclerosis society. The site doesn’t currently look super active though, so you might want to email them before sending anything.

Personally, I found another use for the extra keys in my house. I’m going to add them as embellishments on cards. “You Hold the [KEY] to My Heart.” “[KEY]P up the great work!” (not shown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I continue with this blog, I think some weeks I will write more content and share specific things I am doing to declutter or “healthify” my life, and other times, I will mainly provide a list of  links to great sites or sources of information. If you want to keep up with what I find, follow me and you will receive notifications every time I post, which I hope will be every Monday.

Have a great and peace-filled week.

A New Vision

At the start of the year, I had a vision for a new blog. Inspired by a book, Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider, and several magazines, I decided I wanted to write about living a life with more meaning and substance and less stuff and chaos. Based on my last name (and url availability), I chose Fuller Way of Life as my domain name. Well, as life would have it, the first few months of the year have certainly been “fuller,” and because of that, I haven’t found the time to actually simplify my life or get my new blog going … until now.

At the beginning of the year, all my magazines contained articles on decluttering, organizing, and eating healthier — concepts many of us are trying to incorporate into our lives.

But something happened recently that stirred the writer in me, and I feel that I must put the words and thoughts down soon or they will endlessly circle my mind and mentally drain me until I do.

To appease the muse, I am working on a post that doesn’t quite fit with my new theme, yet I feel compelled to write it. I had hoped to post it this past weekend, but I was suffering from some fibro pains and was totally drained, so I rested  instead.

Sometime this week, I will get this “special” post up, and then hopefully move on to more lighthearted content filled with tips and recommendations for healthy recipes, time-saving products, and earth-changing movements. I plan to post once a week, probably on Mondays, maybe Tuesdays. That’s my plan anyway … only time will tell what actually happens. 🙂

Meanwhile, if you were a follower of my blog “Everyday Moments,” please go ahead and follow me again here at Fuller Way of Life. I recently migrated my posts from Blogger to Word Press, which I believe will give me a lot more flexibility and will make it easier for more of you to follow me.

And if you weren’t a previous follower, I hope you will choose to follow me now. I promise I will have some interesting household suggestions, product recommendations, blogs to check out, “did you know” concepts, and more.

For example, did you know you could use removable window decals (like the ones sold for holidays) to decorate and distinguish wine and water glasses at parties or even for everyday use? It’s a quick and easy DIY project.

Do you have keys lying around the house or in a drawer that you have no idea what they go to? Check back with me next week, and I’ll tell you how you can recycle them for a good cause.

Hope your week is only as full as you wish it to be.