January 28, 2014

Valentine's Decorations

Do you decorate for the holidays or seasons? I think it's fun to decorate throughout the year. Often times it's as simple as putting a different wreath on the door. As for decorating my front door I did something different than a wreath. I love a unique front door. We painted the one at our last house bright red. I always wanted to paint my next front door bright yellow. Although I don't think that will work this time. I think my front door was hand carved and wood burned; I really wish I knew the story. It's a gorgeous door so I'm hesitant to put anything over it.
My friend got me a wreath for Christmas and there was already a nail on the door so I hung it and it looked great. I have other wreaths but they seemed as if they would detract from the doors beauty or just blend in. I feel like the outside of my house is so brown and really needs some life and painting the front door always helps but I'm at a loss because I just don't think that this is the kind of door to be painted. Anyway, I wanted to hang something seasonal so I scrounged around my crafty stuff and decided to make an embroidery hanging out of materials I already had. It's hung so that I can still see out the peep hole and it's not too big to where it covers the detail of the door. I really like the hanging but I'm still trying to decide if it looks best on the door.
Here's how I made the embroidery hoop hanging.

We've really made an effort to get settled in this new home  instead of live in a project zone. So we've been putting things up and decorating. We will do projects one room at a time and will just take things down as needed. We really feel more settled doing things this way. We have a mantle in this house which is very exciting! I always admired other peoples mantles and thought it would be fun to have one that I could change up every so often.
I'm thrilled with how well the plant on my mantle is thriving. It's a very special plant, I'll have to share it's story in another post.

To me Valentine's Day isn't about Romance or having a significant other. It's a reminder to Love. Loving others should come naturally and it sounds pretty simple but it's not always. I am reminded during this season to love my neighbor as myself and to show intentional love.
I was inspired to make the banner on my mantle by Kristen @ Ella Claire. I had an old hymnal book that worked perfectly for the pinwheels. I thought it was a fun project so I wanted to share it; I sent out an invite for some friends to come over and have dessert and make their own. It was a fun night. Everyone made their banner's a little different which was fun to see.

That's one thing I learned from our first house is to fill your home with people. I feel like before I was so excited to have my first house that I just wanted to make it perfect the way I saw it in my head. I was hesitant to have people over or it stressed me out because my home wasn't how I envisioned it to be. None of that matters though. We are created for relationships. So no matter what kind of space you have fill it with people! Speaking of that I would love to host more craft nights in the future. I'm not sure how many of you actually live in my area but if you're near Denver,Colorado  and you would be interested in participating in a craft night shoot me an e-mail so we can connect.

Get those Love decorations up so that you and your family can enjoy them!

January 21, 2014

Squirrel Appreciation Day

How did I not know that this day existed? I adore squirrels! You might remember some of the pictures I took in PA, you can find them HERE.

Today January 21st is a day set aside every year to appreciate squirrels. After all many of you have anything but appreciation for these adorable critters. Sometimes we tend to focus on negative qualities but today at least try to think about the positive qualities of squirrels. You can find out more about Squirrel Appreciation Day at Mother Nature Network. Also if you're looking for a really fun project head on over to Pleasure in Simple Things where she shared a fun mason jar tutorial. That's actually how I learned about this special day I saw some adorable pictures on her instagram feed.

This is the perfect opportunity to share with you some pictures I've captured of our new squirrel friends.
I have to admit I was pretty hardbroken when I knew that moving to Colorado meant not having as many trees or as much property. I wondered if I would have a place to hang the squirrel feeder my SIL gave me and if I did would I actually be able to see it and it enjoy from some good vantage points.
We have a tree right outside the window in our dinning room so that's where I hung the feeder. We watched for days and days and nothing happened. I didn't know if there were many squirrels in our neighborhood especially with all the coyotes roaming around. Soon enough though right when I needed a smile an adorable squirrel came along to enjoy the feeder.
You might wonder why I adore squirrels so much. It might sound strange but I feel like they're my little sign of hope. They bring me joy every time I see them.
They remind me that I need to save up for my future and think ahead.
It always seems that squirrels show up when I need a smile the most or a distraction. Once when I was teaching I had a VERY challenging situation and I was getting no support. One of my students would actually have violent fits. In that classroom I had the biggest window I've ever had it actually went all the way to the ground. When this student would have fits and I would feel discouraged and almost break down in tears. I would look out that window and there would be a squirrel or two dancing around. This is no joke! Every time it would make me smile. I know you're thinking squirrels are everywhere. In this situation there were no trees and it was a parking lot so it wasn't the squirrels top pick for hanging around. Another example of my sign of hope was when I ran my first race. Every time I felt like walking and giving up there would be a squirrel in the path right in front of me. I could keep telling stories but I'm afraid that I you might just think I'm more and more crazy.
You've got to admit that squirrels can be so much fun to watch?
The least you can do is appreciate them today and maybe put out a special treat for them. Food can be scarce this time of year and some of you are getting some really bad weather right now which means our wildlife could really use another food source.
Even ABC news is honoring squirrels today. Check out these entertaining videos: Honoring Amazing Squirrels on Their Day - ABC News

January 17, 2014

Surrounded by a Pack of Coyotes

If you're new to my blog you might be thinking, wow she sure is random. One day it's a recipe, the next it's a take down your bathroom door how to. That's why I love this space because it's a reflection of what I like to call my eclectic personality. I write what's on my mind and heart; I write about things I've just got to share. My goal is to encourage and inspire others to create happy, healthy and enjoyable lives. That being said I feel it's important to bring awareness to coyotes; you never know when you might encounter one!

I've heard the yips and howls of coyotes many times. I've also even heard wolves in Minnesota and Maine. The sound is pretty eerie especially the closer it gets but I've never been afraid. I thought they would always keep their distance from humans and that they were nothing to worry about. Actually when I lived in Pennsylvania our neighbors who recently moved from New York City asked if they should be worried about coyotes and if they would attack. I couldn't help but laugh and I reassured them they had nothing to worry about. Now I'm thinking I didn't give them the best advice. 

We are blessed to have an amazing trail system right behind our home here in Colorado. 
We frequent this place as often as we can, even when it's snowy. The dogs love it! It's about 5 miles from our front door to the top and back. 
Last week we went for a walk on these trails. It was a beautiful day and very quiet. We actually didn't see one person the entire way up the mountain which I'm not used to. It's possible that people weren't interested in tramping through the snow and it was the middle of the day. That day there was still snow on the ground but I was working up a sweat because it was such a warm day. 
We have often heard coyotes while walking these trails but that's always been in the evening. During this walk we heard nothing, it was so peaceful and I loved the silence. We made it to the top and started making our way back down. The dogs were running ahead like usual. Blanca was ahead and off to the side and Princeton was on the trail straight in front of me. Princeton is the smaller of my two dogs and he's very energetic.
Because of his herding instinct he literally runs in circles the entire time down the trail. He has great difficulty slowing down even when we call him to us. That's why when he stopped and sat down in the middle of the trail I was concerned. I kept walking toward him thinking maybe he saw a person or another dog on the trail. I kept looking and thinking what could he possible see. As I got closer to him I realized there was a dog just a foot or so in front of him blocking the path. Except this wasn't just a dog, I quickly realized it was a coyote. I called Princeton to me but he sat paralyzed. Blanca ran up beside me and kept her body in contact with my leg in a very protective stance.

In case you haven't figured out already I allow my dogs to be off leash. Overall they are great listeners and I feel it's healthy for them to have freedom. We do have one shock collar that we use for the dogs. We just use the warning tone on the collar and even though one dog wears the collar both respond. 

I usually wear a pack even though it's just a walk out my back door so that I can store the dogs leashes or have something to put my jacket in. When I saw the coyote in front of me I turned to get the leashes out of my pack and I saw another coyote behind me. I then realized that we are actually surrounded by a pack of coyotes. I pushed the warning button to get Princeton to come to me and he did. Then I took the leashes out of the pack and threw them on the ground. The leashes have a chain collar attached to the end so that the dogs don't pull. The sound of the chain hitting the ground made the coyote in front of me start to pace back and forth on the trail. He never broke eye contact with me. He was very intimidating and didn't seem like he wanted to let us by.  I leashed up both dogs so that they were right beside me then I screamed at the coyotes and raised my arms. This broke up the circle and they started to slowly move above us. That was very disturbing to have coyotes above us but I prayed and just moved forward down the trail. I do believe they tracked us most of the way down. I kept the dogs leashed and close. 

This really shook me up and I realized that I didn't really know what to do in that situation. I didn't know if yelling was the right response or if that would make them defensive? I can't believe I was so naive about coyotes. When I got home with the dogs I realized that I dropped the remote to the shock collar. I was so upset with myself because I couldn't even remember at what point I dropped the remote and it's not good that I wasn't thinking clearly in that kind of situation. I have a plan for all kinds of bad situations but I never thought about coyotes. 

I've done some research since then and have learned a lot. Such as coyotes actually aren't afraid to come near humans because they are getting more and more use to them. They will attack your pet. Coyotes attacking humans is less common unless of course they feel threatened. A lot of the information I read you can find at Project Coyote and Lakewood Connect. I was surprised to learn that Coyotes mate from December to February which can make them a little more aggressive.

Here are some ideas of how to prevent an encounter with Coyotes:

Here's what to do if you actually encounter Coyotes:

I bought another collar with a remote so now both dogs have a collar and one remote works for both collars. We have been asked many times how we trained our dogs and I have to say it's the collar. We've only had to shock them once and from then on we just play the warning sound. They actually behave much better when we just put the collar on. If you're interested in a collar for your dog this is the one we use.  


We like it because it's durable, waterproof and you can connect multiple collars with one remote. Yes I do get a benefit if you click the above link and purchase the collar. I have to keep this blog up and running somehow. 

Our new shock collar and remote arrived so I took the dogs out on a walk today, we hadn't been out since I lost the remote. I kept thinking the entire way up that it would be nice to find the remote since it's a pretty pricey gadget and it would be nice to have a back up. I even prayed that I would find it. There are two large rocks that are split in the middle of the trail which is a pretty distinct spot, I thought it would be nice to find it laying on top of the rocks but it wasn't there. We reached the top where there's fork in the trail. I decided to stop and take a picture of the trail signs thinking about putting it on Instagram. When I put my phone up to take the picture I saw the remote hanging from the sign! 
Only in Colorado would this happen. In other places I've lived I would expect one of two things to happen #1 it to be left on the ground and covered over with snow or mud  #2 someone would pick it up so they could sell it. It seems like here in Colorado most people are on the same wave length. Almost everyone I meet has a dog or at least loves them so it's very dog friendly. People overall are down to earth and laid back. People get outside as often as they can and live as self-sustaining as possible. People are friendly and care more about their surroundings. Thank you Coloradans and to whomever placed my remote on that sign! 
So do you have any wild animal stories to share? 
Have you ever had a close encounter with coyotes before? 

January 9, 2014

Shower Doors No More!

We are slowly but surely settling into our new home. I think at this point all the boxes are unpacked, now there are just piles of stuff that we need to find a place for and organize. The entire process of house hunting and moving can be tough especially when you feel like you have a time frame that's getting shorter and shorter. I really believe there's no such thing as a perfect home even if you build it from the ground up. Our tastes change, our family size changes, there's always going to be something that we didn't expect or plan for. Besides I don't know about you but I have fun making changes and making a home my own. One thing we've learned to look for in a home is easy fixes. Instead of focusing in on things we don't like we think about how easy would it be to change it. Sometimes people will walk away from a great house because they can't think beyond those things they can't stand. Well I'm hear to encourage you when you house hunt. Slow down and take your time, try to think about how you can make things your own. Keeping notes and a checklist helps when you're looking at all those houses. You might be surprised at how much you can change a home with very little experience and effort. Here's an example, one of our bathrooms has the vintage style shower doors.
Overall it's a great bathroom but those shower doors were not so great. Do you realize removing those doors is a project you can do yourself? We'd been thinking about taking them down since before we moved in and I went out and purchased a curved shower rod that leaned against the wall for a week or so. It wasn't until about an hour before we were supposed to be at a friends house did we decide hey we have some time to take those doors down. Our timing could have been better but we got the doors down and the curved rod up in less than an hour. 
First we installed the new hardware for the curved rod. That was so that we could be sure the curtain would line up directly over where the track was to cover any marks left behind. Then we removed the doors and unscrewed the track. You might need to pull or pry a little to remove the track since it was sealed with caulk. 
 WARNING the next 2 pictures are not for the faint of heart. 
Look at all that nastiness that gets trapped under there!
For this reason and this reason alone you should remove shower doors! YUCK!

Once the doors are removed you will have nastiness and left over caulk. The first thing you want to do is clean. Otherwise when you go to scrape off the caulk the nastiness will fly all over the place. Trust me it's gross! I recommend using Bar Keepers Friend, just put a little on a sponge and give all the nastiness a good scrub then rinse. Now you are ready to scrape the caulk up. I will say the only thing we got done in an hour was actually removing the doors and installing the new hardware. The clean up had to wait until the next day. 
I used a metal putty knife to remove the left over caulk. I tried a plastic one first and it didn't work as well. This requires a lot of patience. It's slow going and you want to be careful not to scratch the tub. All this effort is so worth it though! After you scrape up all the old caulk you will want to caulk any holes left behind from the track. 
There were 6 holes left behind from our shower doors, 3 on each side. Then the bottom edge needed to be filled in. As you can see the before and after is amazing. Much cleaner and you can hardly see evidence from the track. Only when you open the shower curtain can you see the small holes that have been filled with caulk. 
If there is any residue left behind from the caulk Goo Gone works really well, followed by warm soapy water. 
We are really happy with how it turned out. Of course I still want to paint the bathroom and redo the cabinets but just the change of the doors made a HUGE difference. 

Don't be afraid to do projects like this, it's not hard to accomplish quick and dramatic results.   So do you have some shower doors you're thinking about removing now? 

January 2, 2014

New Year Black Eyed Peas

How did you bring in the New Year, do you have any traditions? My roots are southern and we've got one we do every year. Eat Black Eyed Peas. I admit it took a couple decades for me to actually appreciate this tradition. Every New Year my mom would faithfully cook this dish no mater how much complaining she heard or funny faces she would get. I'm glad she kept making it and never gave up because now I love it. My mom's birthday is on New Year's Eve so maybe that's another reason why she stayed strong with the tradition. She loves her veggies and she deserves to have one dish that makes her happy especially around her birthday. HAPPY birthday Mom, I love you!
The further away I get from the South the less common Black Eyed Peas and especially greens are. We use canned greens because it's just easier and they taste really yummy as long as you get the right kind. I actually had a mini freak out when I went to the store here in Colorado and couldn't find them. They were on the bottom shelf in a corner. I suppose they aren't a popular item here.
If you're going with canned greens these are the ones to get!

I believe I briefly shared this tradition on the blog a few years back but I never actually shared the recipe; I don't think I ever made it myself until this year. So have you heard of this tradition before? There are many tales about why we eat black eyed peas on New Years Day. One being to start out the new year for good health. Another being that the peas represent coins and by eating them you will have a prosperous new year. Another is that by eating what is traditionally a poor man's dish you are starting out the new year in a humble way. I like to think of the dish as representing three things:
peas = health
greens = prosperity 
rice = peace

I served my black eyed peas in mason jars this year so we could enjoy seeing each of the layers and I even bottled up a couple to share with friends. I was searching high and low in my house for a pen and a cute way to label the jars. Shesh I'm sick of not being able to find things. My friends might have thought I was slightly crazy for handing them a jar of black eyed peas but hey if they have an amazing 2014 then it was definitely because of the peas ;)
This recipe is pretty simple, one thing to know if you've never cooked with dried beans is that they do require some prep so make sure you have some time carved out where you can do that. Some people soak them over night. We just put them in a pot of boiling water and let them sit off the heat for an hour. You still have to cook them after that though.

Here are the basic ingredients you need to make this dish:
My mom usually uses a ham hock but I didn't have one so I just used bacon. You can use either one or both but if you use bacon you will need to precook it and don't forget to add the grease.

The first thing you do when making this dish is prep your peas. First sort through them. 
You don't want to skip this step, there's nothing worse then finding a small stone in your meal. I remove debris and strange looking peas like this:

After you sort through the peas put them in a pot with lots of water and bring them to a boil. Then just let the peas sit off the heat for an hour. The peas will swell up and get softer but they will still need cooked even more. 
The dish is complete with greens, rice and a side of corn bread if you like. Pick your favorite rice and cook it according to the directions and heat up the greens. Then you layer the rice, the greens and the peas in a bowl or mason jar.  Just like any recipe don't be afraid to make it your own. You could cook fresh greens and use a whatever kind of rice you like. One thing we love to do is pour hot vinegar over the top and add Peperoncini peppers. 
I hope you'll save this recipe to try for next New Year or if you want to try it sooner please do but I can't guarantee a full year of luck since you're eating it after New Year's Day  ;)