Thursday, December 1, 2011

a few of my favorite things

Ok, I couldn't resist starting out with this adorable family couch photo. It's our first good family picture since Hope joined us. Every time I look at this I think there is just too much cuteness to handle. Really? Do I not have the cutest kids ever? I mean, other than your own, that is.

Now, on to my point. I just read this post and it inspired me to join in on the fun. Check out the blog Nesting Place for lots of great gift ideas. I've always wanted to do a link-up party. So here it goes.

Hope and family updates to follow but for now...

Here are a (whole lot of a) few of my favorite things:

1. This is my bedroom. I like it but wanna guess what I'm madly in love with? Hint...the fireplace is "fake". It's really just a mantel with black cardboard covering the opening.See it now?! {Ignore the cord, it's on my list to "hide" this week}
It's this electric fireplace/heater:

Be still my heart. I just bought this last week and am still crazy-giddy about it. I've always loved my "fake fireplace" but this cheap little "fake fireplace/heater" has just upped the fake-ness and loveliness of it all. I saw a similar one on QVC for about twice the cost. I had been thinking about how cute it may look but couldn't justify the price. Plus, I knew it would either look wonderful or just silly. I found this particular unit at Home Depot last weekend. At just under $55, I had to try it. And it is so worth every penny. The fake fire is nice and makes me think I have a real fireplace. And the heating element is actually surprisingly effective for as small and cheap as it is. Our ceilings are vaulted and it still manages to heat the room up in a just a few minutes. It even has a remote. So I turn it on at night when I get in bed and after about 20 minutes of Andy telling me that it's too blazing hot, I turn it off with my remote. He doesn't exactly love the heating part of it. I do. I'm telling you, I love this thing so much I'm picturing one in the basement too. How fun would that be? Watching tv in the basement by fake-firelight? Call me crazy, but I love the idea of it. Does that make me a redneck?

2. Don't make fun of my next item. It really does make me happy. And it is on my top 5 favorite things of all times. For real.

A cheap Scotchbrite mop and an industrial-style spray bottle of vinegar and water. I'll keep this short or I'll really prove myself to be OCD and looney. The short story is that I spent years using those expensive Swiffer Wet Jet pads to clean my laminate wood floors and could not justify spending so much $$ on them. Enter my good friend Angie to save my head from spinning trying to find a solution for clean floors with no streaks. I now clean my floors with a spray bottle in one hand and this mop in another. The floor is dry almost as soon as you mop it so no more waiting around for it to dry. Never any streaks. Cheap as cheap can get. And a little tip if you try this...add a few drops of lavender oil to take away the strong vinegar smell.

3. And one more favorite cleaning thing. I have five kids. I spend a lot of time cleaning. Things like this really do make me happy.

The Shark rechargeable vacuum for carpet and wood/laminate/tile. I don't even know the real name of this but it's the cheapest kind they make. Shark changes the colors and features every few years and usually increases the $$ as well. I use mine at least three times a day in the kitchen all year long. They tend to last about 2-2 1/2 years before the battery goes bad. I have no use for a broom in my kitchen because this does the job of sweeping in less than 1/2 the time and with way less effort. Can not live without this. Any mom would love this. I keep mine charged at all times right next to the trashcan.

4. Next is a coupon-find, well, sort of.

I had coupons for a different brand and loved them. They're basically baby wipes to clean your face. It makes me far less likely to not clean my face at night than if I had to use a washcloth/soap. Call me lazy, but sometimes that can seem too difficult by the time I make it up to my bedroom for the evening. This particular brand of wipes is at The Christmas Tree Shop for just $1.99 for a 60 sheets. The brands in regular stores like Target, Walgreens, etc are more than twice that for just 30 sheets.

5. The next item is a magnetic storage tin. Who couldn't use one of these? Or ten.

Perfect for things like, well, for anything really. I bought a few of these at Bed Bath & Beyond but later discovered that Meijer carries them for cheaper. I fill mine with loose leaf tea and flowers (for my tea). You could put spices in them or office supplies or all kinds of fun things. Super fun organizational tool for any age. My daughter has a few of these in a bigger size for craft stuff and hair accessories.

6. Speaking of tea...

This a clever teapot from Teavana. You put loose leaf tea in it, add hot water, steep and then set the bottom of the pot directly on top of your cup or mug or pitcher. The tea comes out of the bottom of the pot and the tea leaves stay behind in the pot. I use this every week to make a big pitcher of sweet green tea.

7. And one more favorite tea thing

Tea tumblers for those that love loose leaf tea. You put leaves directly in the tumbler and add hot water. There is a mesh "strainer" on top so when you drink it the leaves stay in the tumbler. I love that you can see all the pretty tea leaves floating around. Any tea lover will LOVE this. The one on the left is glass and is from Starbucks and the one on the right is plastic and is from Teas Etc.

8. Ordinary things-turned pretty make great gifts for anyone. $6 or less and it's the perfect gift.

This is much prettier in person. It's a painted glass nightlight from Kirkland's. I could have bought 10 of these and put them in the bathrooms, bedrooms, etc. One can never have too many accent lights, right?

9. Suave Spray Shine

I had a coupon for this Suave Spray Shine. I was hoping I could use this instead of the more expensive one I was using at the time. Not only did I make the change to this Suave brand, I actually like it better than the one that cost more. It makes my fly away hair stay put and makes my color look better. I go through this like water. Love, love, love it!

10. Ok, this very well could be my all time favorite, for real, it's #1 on my list of favorite things

Personalized Coasters {all lined up on my kitchen counter}

I'm not a genius. But I do have rare occasions of genius-ness. Most of my brilliant ideas come from others but not this one. I claim it all as my own. If I had more genius-ness in me I could probably find a way to become a millionaire by selling these to every mom in America. But I'll settle for the pure bliss I get from using them in my own home. I made everyone their own coaster and it is the only place, I'm talking in my mean-mom-you-better-believe-I'm-not-kidding-voice, THE ONLY PLACE that anyone puts a cup other than in front of their plate while eating. With a family of seven, you can imagine how many cups we could go through a day if I allowed everyone to use one and put it in the sink or "lose" it around the house. I made these from cheap tiles from HomeDepot. I ordered everyone's name from Uppercase Living and put the vinyl decals on the tile. That's it. You have to buy the tiles in packs of 12 but even then, I think it was only about $5 for a dozen. The vinyl lettering cost $1 per letter. I get comments on these all the time. Every mom thinks it's the best idea. It is. If I do say so myself.

11. Back to tea. Clearly, if I were really a genius, I'd know how to rearrange these photos into a better order.

I recently discovered Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Chai and was spending way too much on a cup here and there and here and there and. You get the $$ picture. My mom told me about this boxed chai and I now treat myself to a cup of it every morning. Just add milk and it is as yummy as Starbucks. And way less $$. You can find it at Target, Meijer, Kroger, and probably all the grocery stores in the tea aisle. Great cheap gift for just about anyone.

12. Another new find for 2011 is this...

I guess these are called "Hercules Hooks" but I just bought the generic version of them and they work great. I am forever changing furniture around which, in turn, ends up causing a domino effect that ends up leaving me moving around all my wall hangings/pictures. These clever hooks allow you to hang super heavy things without having to use a hammer. Again, call my lazy but to find a hammer AND a nail that is the right size is difficult.

13. Kirkland's Cherry Blossom Light ($39.99 from Kirklands)
I don't know. Maybe this looks silly to some of you but it is seriously one of my newest favorite things. It's an LED lit cherry blossom light and gives off so much light/glow that I use it in my entry way instead of the stark overhead chandelier. I love unexpected lighting and this is just a fun way to add some decorative light. Kirklands now has a red and yellow version too. I'd love the yellow one for my bedroom. (Yes, that is an empty frame. And I'm a bit embarrassed to say it's not the only empty frame I have around the house. At least this one doesn't have random fake-families in it).

14. Framed Menu Board

Can't claim this one as my own idea. I stole it from a friend. All you need is a frame. I bought this black one from Goodwill but had I been smarter I would have used one of the two dozen frames I have sitting around and spray painted it black. A trip to Goodwill seemed easier at the time. You design your own "template" on the computer and print a copy. Just pick a nice font and center "Menu" at the top and the days of the week down the left side. Frame the copy and use a dry-erase marker to write on the glass. So simple. So cute. And {when I keep up to date on using it} it saves me a million and one questions about what's for dinner.

15. Country Blossom's Lip Balm of the Month Club

Lip Balm. I'm addicted to it. For real. I've used the same Blistex Silk & Shine for years. Until now. I recently discovered Country Blossom's Pumpkin Cheesecake lip balm. Homemade lip balm sold on Too many flavors to choose from? Yes, definitely. Solution? Lip Balm of the Month Club (click here). Seriously, how great is that?!!! I thought it was just the perfect gift for someone who loves lip balm. And I could think of no one who would appreciate it more So I signed myself up for the club. Merry Christmas to myself. Some things are just too good to give away. Did I just say that out loud?

16. Young Living's Thieves Spray

This is a great alternative to hand sanitizer which I have always detested. For some reason my hands always feel dirtier after I use that. This, on the otherhand, has a great scent and is the perfect size to keep in your purse or car.

And that, my friends, is my list of favorite things.


  1. You are JUST like Oprah....but different....I love it, and I am stealing a few of these....

  2. love the personalized coasters! i am forever looking for a cup or realizing reusable cups have been dropped in the sink. it really does drive me crazy. that may be an after Christmas project. i'll have to pin it!

  3. Love your list of favorite things! Can you tell me how much vinegar to how much water you use for your wood floors, please? Also, where do you buy your lavender oil to add to it? One more question... Does it need to be "pure essential oil"? Thanks!

  4. Kelly, just sent you an email. Post again if you didn't get it.

  5. I love my shark steam mop, and the coaster idea is amazing!!! Love it!

  6. You have a beautiful blog and home! I just love your whole list!!! :)

    So nice to 'meet' you today! I blog at "Only A Breath" and would love for you to stop by and visit :)


  7. Hi there!
    I just linked to your blog from the BCWI yahoo group. I just looked back at your China trip and my daughter (Ma Chun Hui) recognizes your little girl! It took my breath away to see your photos from the day she joined your family b/c she is wearing the exact same dress that our daughter came to us in. I would love to connect with you and learn more. Our daughter was just over 4 years old when we adopted in July of 2010. Our blog is (you can find our China trip and photos if you go back to July 2010).
    Feel free to check it out or email me at

    P.S. LOVE your favorite things post! And LOVE that we are sisters in Christ too! :)6

  8. Just found your blog and post from Pinterest. Love the coaster idea too! My questions is did you put anything on the bottom of your tile? I have granite counters and doubt the rough surface would scratch the granite but moving the tile might be "nails on chalkboard."

  9. Jennifer, I did not put anything on the back of the coasters. We have cheap-o laminate and it's not a problem but if you're concerned you could easily add a piece of felt to the back. But use caution b/c I used to have some coasters that had felt on the back and the color of the felt started bleeeding onto the counter. Plus, I never liked the idea of the felt possibly being wet and eventually getting moldy. If I ever upgrade to a nicer countertop I'd probably use those plastic square or circle things you put on the back of frames when you want them to hang nicely on the wall. You wouldn't be able to actually slide/move them around on the counter though. You'd have to pick them up to move them but that does take care of any scratching issues.