Thursday, May 30, 2013

A change

Hey there! Hope you're having a good week! It's a hot one here....about 90 degrees every day! We are really excited to get the key to our rental home this Saturday! We won't be moving until the following weekend, but I'm looking forward to getting in and cleaning it, maybe moving a few things in ahead of time, and taking some pictures to show you!

While I'm at it....does anyone want to come hang out with Audrey next week so I can finish packing? Hahah. Joking. Not really, though!

Ok...onto the real reason for my post today! Although the timing does not seem ideal with everything else we have going on, I decided now is the time to change my eating habits, starting with 3 day cleanse. Ah! 

I found this cleanse from Dr. Oz on Pinterest and it seemed like a good fit for me. 


It's a 3 day juice cleanse and I love that it uses all fresh fruits and veggies that you make at home, so there's no guessing what's in your drink. If you go to the Dr. Oz website, you can learn more about the cleanse, but the basic idea is that it eliminates toxins from the body and resets your whole system. 

I'm really excited to try this! I plan on starting early next week (not sure of the exact day yet). It will be our last week in our current house, so I think the busyness of packing will actually help me to focus less on the fact that I'm not eating big meals 3 times a day. 

To help my body get ready for the cleanse, I've been trying to cut down on processed foods this week. Hopefully this will help ease my body into the cleanse...meaning less headaches and feelings of withdrawal from things like gluten and sugar. 

After the cleanse, my plan is to try to "eat clean" as much as possible (no processed foods). This will be a big change for me and my family! We eat fairly healthy now, but we eat too many processed snack foods and other junk we shouldn't be putting into our bodies, too. I just want to look and feel my best all of the time, and I know we need a change around here in order to get there! I'm sure it won't be easy, and I'm not expecting that we can cut out processed foods 100% right away, but we're going to start slowly and work our way up. 

I'm excited about this. I want Audrey to grow up with healthy eating habits, and know how to make good choices even when we aren't there to supervise her. Thankfully, she's already a great, healthy eater, but I think cutting out as many processed foods as we can now, will help her in the long run. I want her to know what whole foods taste like and love them!

Now, I'm not saying we won't have treats or that Audrey will grow up not knowing what chips and cookies are! She sure will (and trust me, she already does!), but I want our daily choices to be more health conscious so that when we do indulge in something, we don't feel so guilty, and it won't be something we do everyday or multiple times a day. 

I'm hoping this will be a realistic, long-term change for us. To help me get a jump start on making "clean" meals for my family, I've signed up for the clean eating plan from e-meals. With e-meals, you choose the plan that is right for you, indicate your family size, and then you're sent a meal plan each week. Pretty great, right? 


At first, I was hesitant to pay for weekly meal plans, but since I'm not used to cooking completely "clean" meals, I decided that this would give me a head start without any guess work. Plus, it takes the stress out of meal planning for me, which is something I absolutely dread every week. It makes your weekly meals work together, so that you're not buying 20 different ingredients to only use one time....which is exactly what happens when I meal-plan on my own!

I've also been using The Gracious Pantry for new recipes, it's an entire blog dedicated to clean eating!

So, that my friends, is the change that's happening here. I'll let you know when I'm starting the cleanse (probably next Monday or Tuesday), and how it goes.

Have you done a cleanse, or this cleanse before? Do you eat clean? Would you like to join me? Let me know in the comments! 



Friday, May 24, 2013

Moving and construction update!

Our current home is starting to look pretty empty! I've packed pretty much everything but the essentials, although there is still a lot that needs to be done!

We finally found a place to rent while our house is being built. It was challenging to find someone who wanted a short term renter with a small pet, but with the help of our amazing real estate agent, we did it. It's a townhouse about half the size of our current one, which means we will need to put even more furniture and boxes in storage. The house is only a couple of years old and really quite nice. I'm really happy with it, even though it's temporary. I think someone had me in mind when choosing paint colors too....lots of blue and gray on the main level! I'll definitely share some pictures when we are able to get in. Our lease begins June 1st, but we will probably move on June 8th. We don't close on our current home until June 14th, so that gives us plenty of time to move without much pressure. I'm so glad we aren't closing and moving on the same day!

Another great thing about the townhouse we'll be renting is that it's only 10 minutes away from our future home, (as opposed to 20-30 like we are now), so it will be easy to go over to check on progress or go to meetings on the homesite.

Speaking of progress, I just received these pictures from the construction manager and was so excited to see the foundation walls!




Well, that's pretty much it for this update! I'll keep you posted with the latest happenings!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What I wore: maxis

So this is what I wore Thursday and Friday of last week. It was very warm...like mid-80's!

I've been realizing that maxi skirts and dresses are probably going to become my go-to wardrobe staple for summer. You see, I have this small problem...I gained some weight when I added dairy back into my diet (after I knew Audrey could process it through my breast milk), and I gained a few pounds. I guess I didn't really think that not eating dairy for a year was keeping about 5 pounds off of me...but it seems like it was! So, now the thing is...I don't fit comfortably into a couple pairs of shorts and cropped pants that I bought just last year! Ugh.

I think maxi skirts and dresses are the perfect solution. They are very forgiving, so if I lose or gain a few pounds it won't matter too much, and they're totally mom-friendly for crawling around on the floor or playing at the park. I feel much better about buying a couple of these to get me through summer, instead of investing in more pants when I don't even seem to know what my size is!

Anyway, here are the outfits!




Top: Old Navy

Tank: JCrew, similar

Skirt: Spotted Moth

Shoes: (not pictured) JCrew

Necklace: Forever21, similar



Dress: Victoria's Secret, similarsimilar

Cuff bracelet: Lia Sophia, similarsimilar

Shoes: (not pictured) JCrew


I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy!


pleated poppy

Friday, May 17, 2013

Staging our home - part 2

Welcome to part 2 of staging our home! If you missed part 1, check it out here.

When I first thought of what I would do in preparation to put our home on the market, working with a professional stager was not on the list. Our real estate agent kindly offered to provide one, so we went for it. I will admit....I was very skeptical at first. I thought that our home looked pretty good as it was (well, aside from the unfinished room downstairs that I used for my sewing/craft space), and I was pretty confident that I knew what to do to get it market-ready. But, the stager offered some advice that I never would have thought of, and for the most part, I think it helped the overall presentation of our home.


I had to get over my idea that home staging was only for terribly cluttered and unattractive homes. Now I know that is not the case. Even the most beautiful, well-maintained home can benefit from a little staging!

The first tip the stager told me was to look at my home with a critical eye. Think about it from a buyers perspective. What would they see first? What would their eyes be drawn to? This, of course, is hard to do when I've lived here for so long and decorated it according to my tastes. But like I mentioned in my first post, staging is not the same as decorating. I had to look at our home with a fresh eye, like a discriminating buyer would. It really helped that we had walked through so many homes on the market before deciding to build. I remembered all the good and bad things that stood out to me when seeing them, and I tried to keep those in mind when staging our home.

The professional stager spent about 2 hours walking through our house room by room, while giving me her staging suggestions. I was surprised she spent so long since I had already done quite a bit of staging on my own, but I appreciated how detailed she was. After all, sometimes the little things make the biggest difference in how a house shows.

She wrote everything down and told me this was her "dream list" of every little thing that she would love to see done. Of course, the decision was in our hands, and we could do as much or as little as we like. She was very realistic and understanding that we just might not be able to get everything done, or live in a house that was so staged with a toddler running around. But....we were SO motivated to sell our home as quickly as possible, that we really did every single thing on her list.

Before I get into specific staging advice she gave us, I'll go over some general tips that could be used to stage any home:


  • Clean, clean, clean. Your home cannot be too clean while it's on the market!
  • Open up all curtains and blinds and turn on all the lights.
  • Show as much open floor space as possible. Remove small ottomans, baskets, small rugs, shoes, etc. that are taking up visual space and do not add to the presentation of the home. (Although baskets can be great to hide things when showing a home, too many can just break up open floor space and make a room look smaller and cluttered). 
  • Put away all personal items in the bathroom. This includes sponges and soaps in the shower, toothbrushes and make up on the countertop, robes, etc. If you can live without it, you should even remove the trash can and any toilet brushes or plungers from the corner near the toilet. (Yes, we did this! I thought it was silly, but once I did it, I saw how much better the bathroom looked, and I was sold!). Put out fresh, unused towels!

  • Confine children's toys to their bedroom, unless they are being used as part of the staging in another area of the home. On the suggestion of the stager, we actually used just a few of Audrey's things as part of the staging in the living room. We wanted to convey that this was a family space and "child friendly"since we figured most potential buyers would also have children. We left her piano out, and her chair with a teddy bear and story book in it. Notice how her items still flow with the rest of the decor in the space. The effect wouldn't be the same if I used a bunch of brightly colored toys! 
  • Clear your kitchen countertops of everything possible. Take this advice with a grain of salt, though. If your countertops are not a feature that you want to draw attention to, you might want to consider leaving just a few things out to detract from them. In our case, we had marble countertops that were only 3 years old and in great shape, so we wanted people to see them, instead of the usual kitchen clutter that is kept on top of them. For the open house, we even removed our microwave, but we did put it back afterwards, so it was there for weekday showings. 

Well, that was already a lot, huh?! Hang in there though, I'm getting to the fun stuff! Here are the tips she gave that were specific to our home:

1. Remove my beloved gold settee from the entryway. She felt like the back was high and wide and cut off the large, open feeling of the foyer. She left it up to me on how to stage the space after removing it. I decided to use a smaller bench that we previously had in the foyer, and reposition the mirror over it. This change drew your attention to the size of the foyer instead of the decor itself. 




2. Remove the loveseat from the living room (and use it to stage our downstairs room). Her thought was that this would really open up the living room and give the feeling of more space. While I agree that it did just that, I really didn't like how the room photographed without the loveseat. The gray cabinet just seems to be floating awkwardly in the room all on its own (instead of being grounded by the loveseat). We ended up leaving the loveseat out of the room, since we used it downstairs, although I would have preferred it in its original spot in the living room!



3. Pack away my craft room, and remove the bed and sofa from the downstairs room. Now this really broke my heart! I packed away all of my craft supplies in the name of selling our house! I really didn't want to, but the room down there was so messy, it would immediately turn off any potential buyer, so I knew it had to be done! 

On one side of the room, I created a cozy seating area in front of the fireplace.



On the other side of the room, the stager suggested creating an office space. This was done with items I already had. A good tip she let me in on was that, with staging, you don't need to be literal. You just want to do enough to create imagery of what the space "could be". In this case, a desk and a chair were enough to convey "office space" without literally purchasing an entire set of office furniture.



4. Guest bath: new bath mat, remove shower curtain, remove etagere. We originally had 2 small, white bath mats in here, and the stager suggested replacing them with a larger, patterned bath mat to detract from the less-than-pretty vinyl flooring. She also thought removing the etagere (aka shelf above the toilet) would open up the space. I ended up hanging art there that used to be on the opposite wall as you can see in the picture below. The last tip she offered was to remove the printed shower curtain because it looked too busy in photos. I removed it and left our plain white liner up (not vinyl) and tied it with a gray ribbon to match the bath mat. 



5. Master bath: Draw attention to the large size of the room and the high ceilings. I put some tall branches in a vase in the corner to draw the eye up to the ceiling. I also purchased a new, very long, patterned rug to draw the eye from one end of the room to the other. 



6. Put something attractive in bedroom loft spaces. I would have completely ignored this space if it weren't for the stager's suggestions. In each of our bedrooms, there is a loft type of space above the closet. In reality, we used it for storage bins (things like winter clothes, Audrey's baby clothes, etc), and I honestly would have left them there, but she made a good point. Too many storage bins left out in the open could convey "there's not enough storage in this house!", which would be a huge negative for any potential buyer. We removed the storage bins and put some prettier things in their place. Just a little something to draw the eye up and say "hey! look at this cool space!". In the master and guest bedrooms, I put a vase with branches and a couple of candles next to them. Audrey's room is my favorite though...story books, a teddy bear, and a toy basket.


Ahhhh. Are you worn out yet?! I think I could go on and on with more things we did to stage the home after meeting with the professional, but you might not be my friend anymore! 

These were definitely the biggest changes we made, and I think they made a positive difference in the presentation of our home. The stager was so complimentary of my work that she told me I should get licensed as a professional stager and to call her if I had any interest! Sounds fun, but I think for now, I'll just stick to taking care of Audrey and blogging:)

Before I leave you...a few really quick points on things I did for the open house (and some for midweek showings as well):

  • Put out fresh, colorful flowers in the kitchen and the master bedroom.    
  • Baked chocolate chip cookies and left them on a cake plate next to a stack of pretty napkins in the kitchen.
  • Lit a couple of lightly fragranced candles...one in the kitchen, one in the master bedroom. 
  • Played light classical music at low volume. 
  • Put away Audrey's high chair.
  • Put away all coats/shoes.
  • Put away Lola's bed and food dishes.

Well, I think that is all my friends! Hope this was helpful to you! Please comment below if you have additional suggestions for staging your home! I'd love to hear them! 

Have a great weekend! XO


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What I wore: It's been a while

So I decided to take a few pictures of my outfit from yesterday for a few reasons:

1. I haven't posted an outfit picture in way too long!
2. I really have no clue what looks good on my body anymore, so I thought taking pictures of my "outfits" more regularly will help.
3. I always feel like I "need" more clothes, but when I go shopping I have no idea what it is that I need. I think taking pictures of what I currently wear will help me decide on what items I truly need to shop for.
4. I have been completely unmotivated to put any effort into what I'm wearing lately...I figure making a point to share more will be a motivator! (Now....will this really happen with all the moving we'll be doing over the next few months? I don't know!)

A couple of funny things to note:
Yes, it's May, but we had a cool morning so I put on a blazer.
Audrey woke from her nap midway through these pictures so she made a few appearances...including one throwing a tantrum because I wouldn't let her stand on the dining room chair!







Top: JCrew factory outlet similar

Blazer: Gap similar

Pants: Levi's similar

Shoes: Steve Madden similarsimilar

Necklace: Gift from my friend Rebekah, similar

Also, friends, I got a fancy new camera from Josh for Mother's Day, but I can't use it for outfit pictures yet because it doesn't seem to work with my current tripod! Any suggestions for a tripod that will work with a Canon Rebel T4i? Thanks dears!

I'm linking up to The Pleated Poppy "What I wore Wednesday"!


pleated poppy

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!



Happy Mother's Day to all of the wonderful moms out there! Especially to my own mother....who taught me, by example, what it really means to be a great mom. Selflessness, compassion, patience and unconditional love are just a few words that come to mind when I think about the qualities she personifies. I hope Audrey will say the same about me one day.

Love you, Mom!

XOXO

Friday, May 10, 2013

Recipe: kale smoothie

Hi guys! Happy Friday! I still have Part 2 of staging our home coming up, but I wanted to pop in and share this today...

Have you guys tried kale? I hadn't until recently, but when I read about all the great health benefits it provides, I wanted to make it a point to start eating it regularly!

Take a look at this:

original source unknown

I've been into smoothies lately, so I figured an easy way to get a lot of kale in my diet would be to put it in a smoothie. Wouldn't you know...I'm not the first one to have done this! I saw many different recipes online which I used to get ideas for my own little blend.


After some trial and error, this is now my go-to smoothie. I try to drink one a day as a snack in between meals. Even Audrey likes it! Josh....not so much. He thinks it's the worst thing ever, although he has yet to try it!

Here's how to make your own:
Use these ingredients as a guide and play with the measurements until you get the taste and consistency you like. I never measure anything when I make mine...I just did it today for you guys to give you an idea of what I use!

1 ripe banana
2-3 large kale leaves, spines removed
8-10 frozen pineapple chunks
4 ice cubes
1/2 cup fruit juice of your choice
(sometimes I throw in flaxseed too)



Just toss everything in blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy! I promise, once you get your mix just right you won't even know you're drinking kale. The first one I made was barely tolerable, but after a little practice, now I actually enjoy them!

Let me know if you have another take on a kale smoothie, or other yummy ways of getting it in your diet!

Have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Staging our home - part 1

I wanted to write a little bit (ok...a lot) about this subject since some of you have asked. I really enjoyed staging our home for resale, even though it meant removing of a lot of personal items. I felt like I was hosting my own HGTV "Get it Sold" show like Sabrina Soto! There's a lot of information I want to share here, so I'm hoping I give it to you in the most concise and organized way possible! I think it will be best to break this up into at least 2 separate posts...so here we go!


First let me address what staging is and why it's something you might want to consider before putting your home on the market. Staging really just means to prepare your home for resale. The goal of staging your home is to make it as appealing as possible, to as many potential buyers possible...and hopefully this will all lead to a quick sale! Staging is different than decorating. When staging, you want to play up (or in some cases, play down) the features of your home, while decorating is more just about personal taste and style...having less to do with the actual features of your house. 

For part one of this little adventure, I'll be addressing the staging we did on our own before meeting with the professional.

First, we took care of some maintenance/cosmetic things we knew needed to be done and would dramatically improve the look of our home:
  • Touched up wall and trim paint
  • Replaced a foggy glass patio door
  • Replaced all faucets (nothing was wrong with them, they were just outdated)
  • Re-sealed the driveway
  • Re-caulked the shower in the master bathroom
  • Planted new flowers/shrubs in the front and back yards

Now for the longer, in-detail list of things we did to get ready to sell:

1. Removed almost all family photos from the walls around the house. And let me tell you....if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that there were LOTS.

Initially, I was torn on whether or not to remove all of my pictures from the walls. I thought they looked great, and they made the house feel cozy and personal...like it was ours. Then I realized that was exactly the issue. If I didn't remove them, I think potential buyers would have had a couple of problems:

One...not being able to imagine themselves living here with their own family photos and decor.
Two...being distracted by the photos and looking at them instead of the features of our home. 

Those two points made my decision easy. And so, as painful as it was, I took down nearly every framed photo and packed them away! Oh yes....then I had to spackle the holes, sand and repaint too! 





The only family pictures I left in the house were 2 very small ones above the crib in Audrey's room, and then a couple on her shelves as well.


In the living and dining room, the framed pictures were a big part of the decor and helped to define the space, so instead of removing them completely, I replaced the existing family photos with more generic ones.

In the dining room, I used black and white floral prints inside the frames:


In the living room, I used white and gray damask wrapping paper inside the frames:


Not a dramatic change, but an important one. By using more generic art in the frames, the rooms still felt lived in and had some decor, without drawing anyone to get caught up in "who lives here anyway....". I know that's something I did when we were house hunting! If I saw a family photo, I would always go check it out! It's not the end of the world, but it's certainly a distraction from what you really should be looking at while viewing a home. More generic art will also help potential buyers to envision their own decor and family photos in the space, rather than yours.

2. Depersonalized. Removed small trinkets/sentimental items. This sort of goes along with removing family photos, but takes it a step further. We also packed away things like trinkets on our dressers and end tables (candles, frames, books, small jewelry boxes), and other memorabilia, like Audrey's shadowboxes. Basically, anything that was creating visual clutter without serving a purpose. We also removed all identifying objects like the initial prints above our bed, and the name banner above Audrey's crib....again, to allow potential buyers to imagine themselves and their family living here, instead of  imagining us living here.
All of this depersonalizing really helped me start emotionally detaching from our home too...which is really important, because of course, I am very attached to our first home. The good thing is that the more generic it starts to look, the more I can start to think about leaving and moving on.




3. Cleaned out closets and cabinets. We packed away any shoes, sweaters, coats not currently in use (this was pretty easy since winter is over and those extra bulky things were just taking up valuable space). We really purged and got rid of anything we were hanging onto but not using or wearing. This freed up so much closet space (especially on the floor) and made our closets look so much bigger! We also moved anything out of the house that wasn't essential (like...tons of extra guest soap in the bathroom cabinets, boxes of cards I saved from our wedding, photo albums, books, clothes of Audrey's that I'm keeping but no longer fit her, extra linens, extra candles, decor, etc). We moved all of this into a storage unit that we already had...although we've since had to rent a second unit!

I'm not joking when I say we must have packed up 50 boxes of things like this! It's amazing what you can accumulate over just a few years! Moving these non-essentials out instantly made the house feel bigger and gave us extra "hiding room" for things we needed to put away for showings (more on that later). As an added bonus, we now have less to pack when we move out!

Now imagine...all of this was done before even meeting with the stager. It felt like we had already done so much, I couldn't imagine what she could have left to suggest! But....she sure had plenty! To my relief, she was very complimentary of our home, and said it was the most fun she had ever had working on one, because she was able to get right to the "fun" staging, rather than spending all of her time telling me I needed to repaint the walls, de-personalize, or get rid of a ton of clutter.

I think I will leave this first post at that for now! Have I sufficiently exhausted you with all this home staging talk?! Oh don't worry! There is more to come! Next up, I'll tell you about the professional stager's suggestions and how I think they worked out for us.

Stay tuned for another episode of Staging Rachel's Nest.
HGTV....call me?! ;)



Sunday, May 5, 2013

Just for fun...

I thought I'd share some cute pictures of Audrey with you. I had these taken a few weeks ago. There's a little backstory here....my friend Andrea just celebrated her 30th birthday, so when I was thinking of something to give her "from Audrey", I thought a few of these pictures would be perfect. You see, Andrea gave Audrey this tutu for her first birthday and I thought it would be fun to her to have a few of these pictures to hang in the office of her performing arts school (Bucks County School of the Performing Arts).

Of course, I can't wait to hang a few of these in the new house too!

I hope these make you smile!











A special thanks to my mom who came to this little photo shoot with us and made it possible by letting Audrey play with her pearl and ruby rings!

Oh...in case you're wondering, I made the ballet barre (like the crazy person I am), because I decided that it would be the perfect prop!
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