While we get settled into our new house (which is painfully taking longer than normal!), I want to pick back up with my Using the Cricut Explore for Home Decor series by sharing a tutorial for one of my favorite Explore function and uses: importing your own images! (By the way, you can catch up on this series here: Intro | The Essentials | Working with Vinyl). Part of the reason I am “Team Cricut” is because I love their vast collection of images (including trademarked images) in the Design Space library. And even though I have a Design Space subscription (which I personally think is worth every penny and talk more about HERE), I still find there are times when I just can’t find the “right” image for my project. It’s instances like these that instead of settling for one of Cricut’s images, I import something I make myself or find via Google images…and in a few simple steps, it can be sized and cut however I want. This process is easier than you might think, and I’m going to walk you through it today!
*affiliate links used
As an example for this tutorial, I am going to use the linen closet labels I made for our previous linen closet. You all might remember that I made and offered linen closet labels as a free printable a while back. But when I was putting my own linen closet together, I didn’t want to use printed versions (mainly because my baskets were white). Instead, I imported the same images and words into my e-cutter software (Cricut’s Design Space) and cut them from gold vinyl. The results were simple, easy-to-read and descriptive labels for our linen closet!
Finding Images to Cut
So let’s say you want to cut something you create yourself (like your own hand lettering) or something that wouldn’t be commonly found in an image library (like school/work/team logos or an image you find online). If you have a JPEG (or a PNG is even better!), you can most likely turn it into a pretty clean cut file. I will preface this tutorial by saying that I have the most experience with and best luck importing and cutting relatively simple and clean images. I find these by searching Google Images using words such as “clipart,” “icon,” and “symbol” (for example, I would search “light bulb clipart” to find a simple light bulb image). I then look for images that already have a clear background (here is an example), are a single color, and have good resolution. Once I find a good contender, I save it to my desktop and then open it Cricut Design Space.
Importing and Cutting Images with a Transparent Background
When you are creating and/or looking for images to cut, it is easiest to use PNG images, which often already have a transparent background. How do you know the background is transparent? You will usually see little boxes or lines in the background indicating it doesn’t have a solid background color (here is an example). Once you have a PNG with transparent background downloaded to your computer, open up a New Project in Cricut Design Space. Over on the lefthand column, click the button that says “Upload Images.”
Once you click that button, you will be given the option to select Image or Pattern Fill. Select “Image.”
You will notice that you have the option to upload several file types: .jpg, .png, .gif, .bmp, .svg and .dxf. To upload your file, select “Browse.”
From there, find your downloaded file on your computer and select “Open.”
You will notice right away why importing PNG files is so easy…the background is already cleared away, leaving a pretty clear cut path. Once the image populates on the left-hand box, pick the right “type” of image it is. If you stick to single color images like I try to do, pick “Simple Image.”
From here, you can clean up the image. You can erase any parts of the image you don’t want cut or clean up any fuzzy details. You can use the “Preview” button on the bottom center of the screen to see how the file will be cut. Because this image already had a clear background and good resolution, I just hit “Continue.”
Here is the most important step if you are uploading an image TO BE CUT. Make sure you select the right-hand button that says “Save as a Cut Image.” Sometimes that box takes a second to show your file, but it will usually pop up eventually. I also suggest you label your uploaded images so they remain easy to find even after hundreds of uploads!
After you hit “Continue,” you will be taken back to the “Upload Image” screen, but this time you should see your newly-uploaded image in the Library below. Select your image and click the green “Insert Image” button.
Once inserted into your project, you can re-size, color, edit out areas even more, and use it in conjunction with other images and files just as you would one of Cricut’s pre-made images!
And as you can see, the precision at which this imported image was cut is perfect!
Importing and Cutting Images with a Solid Background
Admittedly, sometimes finding the right images with a transparent background is near impossible. Thankfully, editing out a solid background to reveal a clean and perfect cut path is also pretty easy!
Just as before, navigate to the “Upload Image” tab on the left of your screen in Design Space, select “Upload Image,” “Browse” for your file and click open. This time, I chose a JPEG file that had a solid white background, but still had pretty good resolution, a single color, and really clean lines. As such, I selected “Simple Image.”
Unlike last time, notice this image doesn’t have the blue/white checkered background (indicating it’s transparent). If we were to preview this image, it would essentially cut the outside perimeter square and none of the first aid kit or words.
To clean up the image, play with the the three tools on the upper left toolbar. With the middle “wand” selected, work through your image clicking on any area that you would like to be transparent. Use the zoom buttons on the right if you need to get in close to clean up tiny details. And just like before, be sure to use the “Preview” button to make sure the image is fully cleaned up. This handy button will show you if you’ve forgotten to weed out the insides of letters of if you have a strange border that still needs cleaning up!
Cleaning up your image, depending on how complicated it is, can take a bit of time. But once you do, the process moving forward is exactly the same. Be sure to “Save as a Cut Image,” name your file, and then “Save” it to your library.
Once inserted into your project, you can size it, edit it, and color it specifically for your project!
With my images imported, I cut them all from vinyl and used THESE tips for transferring them over to my wooden rounds.
And with just those few easy steps, I had a slew of coordinated labels for our linen closet…all made from images I found via Google instead of paying for them through Cricut!
Cutting your own images is one of the BEST features of the Cricut Explore (at least in my opinion!). Being able to import any file you have or find and cut it with perfect precision truly allows you to make ANYTHING for your home, for gifts, and more! I still think having a Design Space subscription (which gives you access to thousands of images) is worth it, but also having the ability to import whatever you want keeps you from having to pay for even more cut files when what you want isn’t available!
Cricut Explore for Home Decor Series!
I realize there are so many great Cricut Explore tutorials and resources available on the web…many of which I use. But there are also some other tricks and tips I’ve picked up along the way that I can’t wait to share with you guys. If there is something you want me to cover, be sure to leave me a comment! Otherwise, be sure to check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the images below:
Part of the reason I was able to put my labels together so quickly is that I was able to save all of my label images (that I shared here) into high-res PNG files. After putting this post together, it occurred to me that you all might like to have those files too (since you can’t really upload the PDF files I already shared into Design Space), so look for these (and more!) cut files coming next week! Up next on Thursday though, I’m sharing a very special announcement you won’t want to miss! See you then!
I mentioned last week that I had a whole slew of personal posts coming your way this month, and we’re diving right in today with a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. However I needed to wait for the dust to settle and my raw nerves to heal before doing so! Some of you may recall that about this time last year…right when we were moving into our Kansas home…I took an entire month off of the blog to work tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare for a new blog design. In fact, it was August 5th of last year that I officially made the transition from the (free and easy) Blogger platform to the (not free or easy) platform WordPress and launched the all-new, custom-designed The Homes I Have Made (the design you see on your screen now). In the year since I transitioned to WordPress and revealed the new design, the blog has experienced tremendous growth. In fact, I almost don’t believe the numbers! My traffic in the last 12 months is almost twice that of the previous 12, and I have gained thousands of new followers, subscribers and readers across a variety of platforms! But as many of you dedicated readers also know, the year was not without some SIGNIFICANT technical challenges and setbacks that cost me a lot of money, stress and sleepless nights. A year later, I can say without reservation that switching to WordPress was one of the best things I did for my blog…but I sure messed up A LOT along the way! Read on to find out what I did wrong, what I learned, and what I’d do differently if I could!
(Pssst – I realize not a lot of you are bloggers and potentially don’t care about the technical side of blogging. However, I really want to share my epic failures with other bloggers (and somewhat feel a responsibility to do so) who might be getting ready to start a blog and/or transition from Blogger themselves. Blogger or not, hopefully, you’ll find this peek behind-the-scenes interesting and maybe even a bit humorous! And if you do make it all the way to the end…gold star for you…this one is a long one!)
1. Do A Lot of Research…And Then Do Some More
I started my blog 5 years ago (whaaat??) on the free Blogger platform, intending it to be just a hobby blog. When I started blogging a little more “seriously,” I knew I would eventually switch to WordPress because of the significant boost in website capabilities. I’m not tech savvy at all…so in November of 2014, I started exploring various designers (via Etsy) who could not only help me re-brand (with a new logo(s) and color scheme) but also design a corresponding website and move my entire Blogger blog over to WordPress. The early stages are a bit fuzzy now, but I believe I searched “WordPress design” on Etsy and then spent hours pouring over the plethora of sample logos, fonts, and designs available. This was my only “research.” I was consumed with the look of my site, and didn’t really research about WordPress itself or how the transition from Blogger to WordPress would and should work. I didn’t educate myself on how WordPress is setup or learn about themes/child themes (how a website looks and is organized). I didn’t know other bloggers had put together entire step-by-step manuals on how to setup a pretty and unique WordPress site for far less than I paid for a custom design. When I thought I was researching “how to transition to WordPress,” I was really just gathering ideas for what I wanted my site to look like. But a good web design is about so much more than how it looks.
LESSON LEARNED: I’ll just put it right out there…I very much regret doing a custom web design when I switched from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve since learned that you can purchase very pretty blog/website design templates (from online shops and designers) and customize them for much cheaper than what I spent for a custom site. I also regret not researching “how to setup a WordPress blog,” because a lot of the other mistakes I’ll talk about in this post could have been avoided if I was following a step-by-step guide. If I could start again, I would buy THIS e-book by Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog (which I discovered AFTER I had already switched and launched). She breaks down every step for starting a WordPress site, a lot of which I could do myself. Yes, I still would have needed help with customization and transferring my Blogger posts over, but I could have navigated the hosting, domain, and basic design stuff much easier than how I really stumbled through it all.
2. A Good Designer Does Not Equal a Good Website Builder
I am not about casting shade or calling someone out, so my original logo and site designer will remain anonymous. That said, a lot of my trouble in my transition from Blogger to WordPress was because I hired the wrong designer for the job. I found a designer who’s aesthetic I loved, and I (too) quickly signed a contract and handed over a whole bunch of money for a custom logo AND web design, including the Blogger transfer and a shop. The designer didn’t have a vast portfolio or a bunch of reviews…but because I was smitten with the logos in the online shop, I put aside my worries, stopped my “research” and went for it. We started with the branding process, which was honestly wonderful. Although I’ve gotten some negative feedback on them, I personally really love my logo, fonts, and color scheme the designer put together for me. I LOVE having several pre-made logos I can use on photos, printables, business cards and more…and since implementing consistent fonts and colors, I feel like I finally have a very recognizable brand.
The troubles really started when we moved into the website design phase of our contract. The designer was seemingly unable to translate my requests into a site design that looked and functioned the way I wanted. I now know it’s partially because it was designed using a different “theme” than most of the blogs I’m used to reading. But because I hadn’t researched enough, I didn’t have the vocabulary to ask for specific things. The whole design process came to a screeching halt when the designer was unable to complete the transfer of my old Blogger posts to my new WordPress site (despite having paid for it) and fix some final pre-launch issues. Out of desperation, I had to suddenly end our relationship and look for another designer to salvage my site and my launch.
LESSON LEARNED:At least in my experience, a good graphic designer does not necessarily translate to a good website builder. I LOVE my logos and branding and feel like they were worth every penny. But from the get go, it seemed my designer was not as comfortable or experienced designing and building the website. There are so many things about my site that I truly love, but if I were to do it again, I would have spent the money for custom branding (logo, colors, fonts) and used those elements to customize a basic WordPress theme. If you are going to hire a designer to do a custom website for you, do A LOT of research, ask to see sample sites, and trust your gut. Oh…and if the price seems to good to be true…it probably is 😉
3. Find Good Tech Support
When I was faced with putting off my blog launch (to sort out issues with my current designer) or jump ship in an effort to get back on track, I chose the latter. I went back to Etsy and searched “Blogger to WordPress transfer” and found Daniel of Trendy Themes. His prices and reviews were phenomenal, but having just been burned by lack of research, I was hesitant to hire someone else so quickly. My launch deadline was approaching however, so I trusted all the 5-star reviews and requested a custom order. Literally within a day, he had righted all that had gone wrong with my blog transfer/launch…and I practically became a customer for life! Messaging Daniel that “fate-full” day last August was seriously one of the best things I’ve done for my site. Not only is Daniel incredibly savvy and gotten me out of a whole heap of messes I made throughout the year, but he is consistently proficient, professional, reasonable, and just darn good at what he does. I have now gone back to him time and time again to fix things that break (more on that in a minute), and am quite certain that I will be using him for any site re-designs in the future.
LESSON LEARNED: For those of you thinking about transitioning/starting on WordPress, the rumors are true. WordPress can be hard to figure out; and when it “breaks,” it’s not the most intuitive thing to fix. If you are like me and lack any and all website/technical skill, then I can’t recommend finding a good and reliable tech/design support person enough. When things don’t look or function right on the site, it can be really, really unsettling, but I personally don’t have the time or interest to learn that tech side of blogging to be able to fix it myself. Having someone I can “call” to fix issues…big and small…has allowed me to get back to the funner and prettier parts of blogging!
4. Good Hosting Is Everything
Because I was not following a step-by-step guide and didn’t have a good designer to walk me through the process, I stumbled through a lot of the initial WordPress setup (i.e., domain name, hosting). Years ago, I bought my domain name (www.thehomesihavemade.com) through a partnership Blogger had (has??) with GoDaddy. Because I thought GoDaddy already owned my domain name, I figured it was where I HAD to setup my hosting too. It turns out that when you buy your domain through Blogger, GoDaddy treats them a bit differently. So I still had to “release” my domain from Blogger/GoDaddy and regular GoDaddy had to pick it up. This is an insignificant detail, but had I known that I wasn’t already tied to GoDaddy, I would have “shopped around” a bit more for domain and hosting support. Anyway, with my domain at GoDaddy, I figured I had to have my hosting through GoDaddy too (which actually isn’t true!) and signed up for a Managed WordPress hosting package, not really knowing what it was or that I had other options.
Life was good and the site transfer was going swimmingly until I made my biggest mistake of all (#5 below). To fix that mistake (which I go into detail below), I had to change my Managed WordPress hosting to Shared WordPress hosting…which in itself was a huge blunder. I wish there were big red signs and flashing lights somewhere that said ” Danger Ahead! Danger Ahead!” Because Shared hosting is exactly as it sounds…you share a server with other sites…it’s not the most suitable option for blogs with a decent amount of traffic (especially ones as picture heavy as DIY blogs). For 4 months, I (and you!) suffered through site crash after site crash, slow loading, “site not available,” and new posts not showing. It was exhausting and exasperating, and I can’t even tell you how many nights of sleep I lost fretting over my darn hosting.
In March, I finally had enough and committed myself to spending the time, money and hassle of switching BACK to a Managed WordPress platform (where you don’t share a server and a lot of the maintenance issues are handled for you). Instead of sticking with GoDaddy, this time I did REAL research and switched to Synthesis hosting. Not only is my site faster and no longer has any weird cacheing issues, but it has only gone down once in the 4+ months I’ve been with them. It was a very costly and time-consuming mistake but after MONTHS of agonizing daily over my hosting, I honestly haven’t thought or worried about it since (which is how it should be!)
LESSON LEARNED: If you have a picture-heavy site, a decent amount of traffic, and/or ads, a Managed WordPress platform is worth the extra money. Period.
5. HTTP AND HTTPS Are NOT the Same Thing
Oh friends. Just typing those words makes my face red hot and my fingers start to shake. A majority of my troubles over the last year are attributed to this, and I feel like I could write an entire cautionary tale on this one. But I’ll try to keep it brief. The short version of the story goes like this. When I originally setup my (Managed WordPress) hosting through GoDaddy (and before my new site went live), it came with an SSL (a secure certificate). I simply got an email that said “Setup Your Secure Certificate Now.” Not know what it was exactly (because I hadn’t done my research), I went ahead and set it up. I quickly learned that it’s the “thing” that makes a website httpS rather than just http….and that’s a big difference. Essentially, it’s an entirely different url..and unless you do some fancy coding, all of your old http links will go dead. Because I was having a shop on my site, I figured having an SSL was probably a good idea, so I kept it. I had my tech guy re-route all my traffic that was previously http (from Pinterest and other web features) to my new httpS site. I launched, and all was good with the world. I had a fast new site, I had an SSL, and my traffic was all re-routing properly.
After a few months of swimming along, I decided to put ads back on my site. Love them or hate them, ads are a valuable way bloggers make money, and I was missing out on a real and important revenue stream. Well, after LOTS of rejected applications, I learned that no ad agency will put ads on sites with an SSL. Whomp. I agonized for weeks on what to do, but ultimately decided to remove the SSL (so I could have ads on my site) and re-route all my now HTTPS traffic back to my HTTP site. Well friends…you can easily route HTTP to HTTPS, but for some reason that I still don’t quite understand, you can’t route it the other way without some very fancy and complicated coding. For 2 weeks, my site was dark, no one could find me, pins weren’t routing, and I was sad. So so sad. So…I switched my site to Shared Hosting (see above) and my tech guy did the fancy re-routing required to get all my traffic going to the right places. And for a time, all was again right with the world. You guys could get to my site, pins were re-routing correctly, I could have ads on my site, and I could breath. Until my site started crashing over and over and over…because of the shared hosting. Are you exhausted yet?? Because the whole thing was beyond exhausting then!
When I switched back to a new Managed WordPress platform because my site speed and stability were so bad, I had the option to keep the fancy httpS re-routing but decided to say goodbye to the SSL once and for all. No fancy configurations, no more re-routing. Just a plain old http site on really good hosting. For a few weeks, I had a lot of pins on Pinterest and around the web that led to dead links, which certainly isn’t ideal. Over time, the pins have mostly “washed out,” and after having a few rough traffic months, things are finally starting to come around. All in all, I’m relieved to have the saga over, but man did I pay in a lot of ways for a dumb, dumb mistake!
LESSON LEARNED: Stay away from the SSL! Okay…kidding…but just a bit. There ARE times when an SSL is very appropriate (like with a shop). My shop, however, only accepts PayPal, which has and uses its own SSL, so I never really needed one to begin with. Long story short? If you want to be able to have ad revenue, do NOT install an SSL!
6. Things Really Do Go Wonky
Okay…so I certainly had the perfect storm of design problems, hosting issues, and re-routing complications that most bloggers don’t regularly have to deal with (I hope!). BUT…the reality is that WordPress sites do “break” or go wonky seemingly inexplicably. After months of quiet on the backside of things (after a very rocky first 6 months), I logged on just the other day to discover my side bar was missing. Gone. I hadn’t done anything (wasn’t even logged on!) to make it disappear. Galleries have stopped working for me, my header has reformatted on its own, and more. I’m assuming they are due to updates or weird theme glitches, and boy they used to really, really rattle me. With everything I’ve been through with my hosting and link re-routing though, these small nuisance issues have become just that…nuisances. I typically wait until I have a bunch of them and then hire my tech guy to fix them all at once.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Yes, it can be frustrating to wake up one day and have a page or side bar missing or a link not working right. But if your site is up, running, and you can publish a new post, all is good. Figure out a way to deal with the technical glitches or hire someone to do it for you…but all in all…just know they ARE going to happen!
7. Being on WordPress Can Be Expensive
If you can’t already tell, I’ve forked over a good bit of money in the last few years just to get my blog up and running. From the custom design work to tech support, hosting fees and various plugins and services (like my mailing list platform), it certainly adds up. The blog does make money, so I am comfortable investing some of it back into its design and function; but when compared to the FREE Blogger platform, it can defiantly take some time getting used to. Thankfully, hosting and domain fees are an annual (or even bi-annual) cost and the design fees were a one-time investment (until I decide to change designs again!). All the tech support fees have been worth every penny for peace of mind and knowing things were done correctly. However, they are something I have to factor into my blog budget since I am pretty much incapable of fixing the technical problems myself.
LESSON LEARNED: On one hand, I want to say “It takes money to make money,” but I also know there are many, many successful bloggers running their businesses through Blogger and other free platforms. I don’t necessarily regret having to spend money to keep my blog up and running, but I do admit I could have penny pinched more along the way (like customizing a generic theme rather than getting a custom-designed site). Like everything these days (or so it seams), the online/blog world is a big ol’ business, and you can end up paying for pretty much every product and service out there. Instead of throwing caution to the wind, I recommend paying for a few select things that really matter to you (and only you know what those are!), and trying to DIY or find work arounds for the rest!
8. Find a Community
I could technically lump this one into “Do More Research,” but I thought it was valuable to point out how invaluable fellow bloggers are when it comes to de-bugging issues, finding the best plugins and tutorials, implementing the latest strategies and more. For my first few months on WordPress, I was marching along alone and very afraid to do or try anything that might “break” my blog. If I needed something done, I would reach out for professional help only to realize that (some) of the fixes were relatively easy (and even sometimes achieved via a plugin!). When I bought Abby’s Building a Framework e-book (for a whole host of reasons!), it was the exclusive Facebook community that I found the most helpful for WordPress-specific troubles. When I needed a new pop-up plugin, a simple post to the group quickly yielded dozens of options and opinions. When I finally decided to sort out my hosting saga, fellow bloggers were the ones I ultimately trusted to point me toward the best companies and packages. When my site is doing something crazy weird and I don’t know if I should freak out or not, I can quickly find out if other bloggers have experienced the same thing!
LESSON LEARNED: Google searches are great, but when it comes to finding the best advice for your blog, check with other bloggers (even better if they are in your niche). They know the platform, the requirements, and the common problems better than anyone and can usually offer a fix that is easier than you imagined!
9. You Can Easily Do So Much More!
I’ve gone on and on and on about how much more work, stress, and cost having a WordPress site has been, so you might be asking yourself “Then why even bother?” The simple answer is because WordPress really is a much more sophisticated platform; and because of that, you can easily do so much more (at least compared to Blogger). Uploading, naming and tagging photos is SO much easier. Linking back to old posts/projects is SO much easier. Writing specific SEO descriptions (so that Google can find you!) is SO much easier. Pre-populating picture descriptions for Pinterest and Facebook so they load automatically is SO much easier. Adding in “no-follow” and affiliate links is SO much easier. Sharing downloadable files (like printables) is SO much easier because you can actually upload PDFs right to WordPress (which is impossible on Blogger). Creating galleries and menus and forms is SO much easier. Yes, the big headaches of hosting and costs and broken links can sure be stressful and exhausting when they come up, which is infrequent. Rather, it’s the efficiency and simplicity of the smaller and much more frequent tasks you do in every single blog post that make the biggest difference and make it SO worth it to be on WordPress!
10. It’s Easily The Best Thing I Did for My Blog!
If this post tells you anything, it’s that I’ve been through the ringer my first year on WordPress. I made so many stupid and costly mistakes, and lost way too much sleep and wasted too many dinner conversations trying to fix them. It has been a steep learning curve and a heck of a lot of trial-and-error, but I will say this: I’d do it all again (well, maybe not the SSL part because that really was so painful to sort out). I love the professionalism of my site, the increased functionality, and the ease at which I am now able to do basic post functions (such as SEO, linking and more!). I can’t say that the increase in traffic and followers over the last year is directly influenced by my site design (because I have been busting my but on projects too), but I have to think it’s been part of the picture!
Phew! What started as a quick and simple listicle-style post turned into one of my longest ever. Sorry about that. Told you I’ve been storing up to write this post for a while! Beyond just sharing what I’ve gone through this past year, this post also serves as a good reminder for me on how far I’ve come. Making mistakes (especially costly ones) is not fun for anyone. And while there is still so much I don’t know about blogging and WordPress, it’s times like these when I can step back and see (and appreciate!) how much I do know! This whole blogging journey has really been one big DIY for me…figuring it out as I go, learning what I like and don’t like, and even making some great things happen along the way! Thanks for indulging me with your time on this one, and hope you found something here interesting and/or helpful!
P.S. None of the links used in this post were sponsored, I’m just sharing my favorite and most helpful finds with you! Oh – and the gorgeous photos are by Kellyn Wilson Photography!
Well here we are! After months of traveling, moving, packing, unpacking, and enjoying an entire summer of late nights, slow mornings and non-scheduled days, it’s finally time for our little family to pull itself together and get back into a daily routine. My little Henry starts Kindergarten today (how is that even possible?!?) and although I don’t feel ready for this big day on so many levels, we are all very much in a place where some routine, time management, and systems would do us some good. When the lovely folks over at JORD reached out to me about a possible collaboration, I wasn’t sure the partnership was a great fit. But then I realized this was an awesome opportunity for me to share a beautiful product with all of you while hopefully jump starting my new year in our new home with a return to some tried-and-true habits! Today, I want to introduce you to this beautiful line of women’s watches and share with you all some of the ways I am easing myself out of the slow and easy days of summer and back into more productive and structured routine!
Sometime during the last few years, I got out of the habit of wearing a watch and instead have been relying on my phone to keep me tuned into the time and my schedule. In recent months however, a simple check of the time has turned into a huge time drain. Please tell me I’m not alone on this one! It often goes something like this: I turn on my phone to simply check the time. Then I see a Facebook notification I want to check out or a news update that peaks my interest. Then once my phone is fully unlocked and I’m in, I’m suddenly doing a quick scroll through Instagram and checking my email…and before I know it, I’ve lost 15+ minutes on my phone. All because I just wanted to check the time…and this, of course, happens several times a day, resulting in hours (hours!!!) of wasted time.
Over the last few months, I have been feeling especially tapped out by my phone because of this exact scenario. I wish I could say I was disciplined enough to my keep phone time at bay, but grabbing my phone and checking this, that or the other has become too quick, easy and habitual. In the weeks since this beautiful Koa wood and rose gold watch arrived on my doorstep however, I’ve been more than happy to rely on it to tell me the time rather than my phone. Thanks to its simple yet chic design, amazing details, and comfort, it is one of the first accessories I put on in the morning. In turn, I’m finding less reason to reach for my phone and yielding more minutes I can put toward projects, posts, and quality time with my family.
Getting myself off my phone is just one way I am slowly getting myself back into a productive groove. Can I tell you a secret? Until a few days ago, I hadn’t cracked open my planner the entire summer. Not only was our summer so busy and crazy and fluid that holding myself to a planned schedule was practically impossible, but I also desperately needed a break from to-do lists, meal planning and all of the systems I rely on to stay sane. The break has been good for me; but in recent weeks, the effects of our lack of structure have been showing in Henry’s behavior, my disposition, and the overall function of our household. So this past weekend, I pulled out my planner and pretty pens and returned to the systems that work well for our family. It’s time, and we need it.
I printed out an entire stack of my Weekly Organizing printable to get back on track with meal planning and our weekly commitments, and used the same form to hash out our new morning and night routines for the school year. We’ve been turning off the Olympics earlier and earlier each night in an effort to get Henry back to a normal bedtime (and instead watching the coverage over breakfast!). I have been filling in my planner with due dates and commitments, goals and plans, and lots of pretty stickers; and I am getting myself back into the habit of time-blocking my day. I focus better and accomplish more when I take a few minutes each morning to determine what, when and how things are going to get done, and this printable still comes in handy for times when my productivity needs a big ol’ boost. By taking just a bit of time this past weekend to re-familiarize myself with these systems, I am (mostly!) ready to start making the most of these long child-free days that are now upon me!
This summer has been a long and hard one for our family; so to ease the stress of everything going on, we pulled back on the schedules and the forms and the calendars and the plans. And even though it feels like the last of the moving boxes were just hauled away and we’re not quite ready for structure…the calendar tells a different story. School is starting, and it’s time like these I have tried-and-true methods for reigning in the chaos and restoring order to our household!
Thank you so much to JORD for gifting me this beautiful watch and providing me with the motivation I needed to pull out of my summer haze and get ready to take on the school and work year head on! And to all my wonderful readers, JORD is offering one lucky reader a $75 e-voucher that can be applied to any watch on their website. Simply enter at the link below. Contest ends at midnight on August 23rd.
Last but not least, I’d love to hear what you all have been doing to ease yourself back toward the more structured days of fall as summer comes to a close. Are you struggling to restore order like I am or running willingly toward full planners and set schedules? If you have any tried-and-true tips for this time of year, please share in the comments!
Luxury Wooden Watch
I did not receive compensation for this blog post; however JORD did provide theCora watch for me to have and review. Please remember that I only work with brands and products I fully support and that make sense for my home, my family, and this blog. All opinions are 100% my own!
The time has finally come to reveal our home and home state for the next three years! Friends…welcome (back) to San Diego, California! So many of you had very, very good guesses after Tuesday’s post – especially my readers familiar with Marine Corps bases – and I loved reading all the speculation. However, no one hit the nail quite on the head. This time around, Greg will be stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, and we will be living in Northern San Diego County.
I use the term “welcome back” because we have actually lived in San Diego before. Right before I started this blog, we spent three years here while Greg was assigned to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (which is a different Marine Corps installation down in the city). San Diego is where I went to graduate school and where Henry was born. I didn’t have the blog live then, but you can check out our 2-bedroom condo on my Home Tours page – just please don’t laugh too hard 😉 We never really thought we’d get to come back to San Diego, yet here we are! And while I am struggling a bit with being back somewhere we have already lived (until now, we’ve always moved somewhere new), I’m trying hard to embrace west coast life again. Our life (and our home!) here will be so much different this time around…and as I have done for the past 5 years now (say whaaaat?), I will document it all here on the blog for you all!
While there is indeed a lot more “life” to catch you all up on, I wanted to go ahead and officially kick off this next chapter on the blog today by sharing a tour of our “new” home. When we arrived in San Diego a month ago (after our bumpy exit out of Kansas and our long and winding family road trip across the western half of the country), we hadn’t yet secured a place to live. We started making arrangements for viewings while in Las Vegas; and within 48 hours of arriving in town, we had found our next home! This wasn’t our first time arriving in a new place without a home already arranged; but it’s been a while since we’ve taken this approach, and I’m not sure we will/should ever do it again. #storyforanotherday
This house doesn’t have quite everything I had on my “wish list,” but it is southern California after all, where houses are small and rent is high. Although our search wasn’t all that long or exhaustive, we did find a great house for our family and our needs in a really wonderful area. You will soon see that this house presents some awesome decor/DIY opportunities as well as some significant challenges I’ve yet to face in our previous 6 rentals. I definitely have my work cut out for me with this one…but I think you’ve all known me to rise to the challenge!
This house is a spacious, 2-story home with a kitchen, dining room, family room, full bathroom, and office on the first floor; and 3 bedrooms, a large loft-area (which we will be using as a play space), 2 more full bathrooms and a laundry closet on the second floor. It’s the most “open concept” home we’ve ever had, and it has lots of great windows (which means lots of good light for blog photos!). We lived in the house for 12 days before our stuff arrived (yes, 12 days!!!); and of course I didn’t snap any photos until an hour before our truck was due to arrive. My apologies that these aren’t the best or most well-lit photos, but this tour will at least give you a sense for our starting point here. Okay…enough jibber jabber…are you ready to see our “new” house?
Although we will likely enter through the garage on a daily basis, let’s start the tour in our foyer…easily the most grand and spacious foyer/entryway we’ve ever had!
The ceilings in the entryway extend up to the open upstairs making it feel quite grand, open and airy. The room off to the left is the home office/craft room, and down the little hall to the left is a coat closet and full bathroom.
The room that is my home office is a pentagon-shaped room with high ceilings, great light, and two lovely glass doors. The one thing missing? A closet. Storing and concealing my craft stash will prove quite the challenge indeed!
As I mentioned, just outside the office within the foyer is a full bathroom, a coat closet, and the stairs that lead to the second level.
As you continue to walk through the foyer, you come into the family room. The picture below gives a sense for how open and airy the first floor is…as well as some major challenges we need to deal with. (I’m looking at you ugly built-in and dated fireplace!)
Even though the fireplace wall is proving a formidable challenge, the room is bright and large with high ceilings, huge windows, and crown moulding. And this picture below?? That’s the life of a military kid, right there: empty house, movie on a device, favorite stuffie, and goldfish in a disposable cup = life is good!
If you turn around 180 degrees from the family room, you will be standing right in the large dining space. I somehow didn’t get a picture, but there are huge sliding glass doors off the dining room that allow in great light and lead to the backyard.
The dining room feeds right into the very large kitchen…the largest we’ve ever had with tons of cabinet space. After four straight years of terrible flow in our last two homes, I am completely smitten with how the kitchen, dining room, and family room all connect and are essentially one big space.
Let’s head up the big staircase to check out the second floor!
Right at the top of the stairs is one of the main reasons we jumped for this house: a very spacious “loft” area that will function as a play space. We were almost certain we would lose the dedicated play space we had in the last house and were thrilled to find a home that accommodated our two sofas, two TVs and abundance of toys.
As you continue around the upstairs landing, you encounter some built-in cabinets and a very tight but super functional laundry “room.” This is our first time having the laundry room on the second floor and wow is it a game changer!
Here is the view standing in the loft/playroom looking toward the bedrooms. The first door on the left is a spare bedroom, the middle door is a full bathroom, and the right-hand door is Henry’s bedroom.
The first bedroom is a small square with an interesting moulding detail on the top 1/4 of the wall. Still, it’s a nice extra space with a good-sized closet.
The bathroom is a pretty standard bathroom…
…and Henry’s room is a pretty close replica of his last room. The dimensions are slightly reversed but almost exactly the same size!
Across the hall from Henry’s bedroom is the very large and very bright master bedroom. It’s really a lovely room, but the placement of windows and the odd bump-outs in the corners are making furniture placement a bit tricky!
Across from the wall with the three small windows is a HUGE master bathroom that I somehow failed to photograph in the “hurry up the truck is coming” rush. You’ll see lots of it over time though because it is so great and has so much wonderful storage!!!
Speaking of storage, through the master bathroom is a master closet unlike anything we’ve ever, ever had. And I dare say it’s the reason I went “ga ga” for this house. The large master closet is fully outfitted with an organization system that had me dreaming. Shelves, cabinets, cubbies and more…you can bet I was already planning blog posts around this closet before we even signed the lease 😉
The other thing that made me say “this is the one” is the garage. In southern California, both attics and basements are pretty much unheard of; and closet and garage space are tight. When I saw this happy garage outfitted with ceiling storage and GIANT cabinets, I knew we could make the other shortcomings of this house work for us!
Last but not least, let’s take a quick jump out the back door to look at the backyard. While we have flourishing lemon, orange and grapefruit trees in the back (seriously!?!?!), this space is going to need some major TLC to get it to a place where we want to hang out and play. Still…it’s a great amount of space…another thing we weren’t sure we’d get in this area.
So there you have it! There are certainly some details I missed along the way, but that should give you a sense of our home and our surroundings for the next few years! I am sure many of you readers who know me so well can already guess at some of the things I’m concerned about. The big one: it’s BROWN…SO SO SO BROWN! Oh my…from the tile to the kitchen to the walls to the carpeting…the house is so brown and so not me. The tile and style of the house are also proving a bit challenging, as I don’t particularly love the arches, textured walls and tile that is so common in California homes. And all the windows. Yes, they are wonderful for light…but they make placing furniture very challenging. It’s been a long month of trying to make our stuff work within this home and I can’t wait to share the decisions we’ve made and explain the solutions we’ve come up with!
For now though, this post is long enough so I’ll sign off for the week! Again, I thank you all so much for your patience as we got through this crazy summer. I know some of you have been dying to know about this next chapter for our family and the blog…and your curiosity and concern mean so much! Sit tight friends…lots of good things to come!
You all have been so patient with me as I wrap up the posts and projects from our Kansas house and even take some unexpected breaks over the last few months. But I am so excited to report that it is finally time to start catching you up on everything we’ve been up to in recent months, including our latest cross-country travels, our new home, and even some fun surprises. So much has happened in the months since we left Kansas, and I’ve had so many thoughts and news that I’ve been wanting to share with you. Now that we’re a little more settled and life is slowing down for the first time in months (!!!!), get ready for a slew of personal posts and life updates coming your way in the next few weeks! Last week I showed you our final Kansas home tour, as well as the start of pulling the entire house apart. Today, we’re hitting the road and you get to ride along as we make our way across country…again! But be forewarned: this time we are taking the (very!) long way around to our next home!
On May 26th, we anxiously looked on as every last one of our belongings was packed up and loaded onto a truck…in the middle of a tornado. Seriously. We’d gone pretty much the entire year in Kansas without a legitimate tornado threat. I guess Mother Nature was saving the best for last 😉 There we were: Henry and I hunkered down in our “safe place,” while the local guys never once paused during the thunder, sirens, winds, and torrential rain; they just kept loading the truck. In the 7 times we’ve packed out, we’ve never experienced anything quite like it! While there is always a sense of “Will I ever see my stuff again?” as the truck pulls off, this time around I couldn’t help but wonder “How wet will our stuff be when we see it again? Will it all be covered in mold? Is this an omen of what’s to come?!?”
We spent the Friday before Memorial Day weekend cleaning the house and packing up the cars and then set off on our first stop of many this summer:
Lake of the Ozarks, MO
Our house was empty AND spotless, and we were all set to move into a local hotel for a few weeks (Greg didn’t graduate until June 9). At the last minute, we took advantage of a cancelation to go out to the military recreational facility at Lake of the Ozarks for a Memorial Day weekend getaway. After weeks of getting ready to move, farewell to friends, dealing with packers and cleaning the house in preparation for check out, it was so wonderful to literally escape for a few days. We hiked, canoed, swam and basically soaked up every minute of no stuff, no connectivity, and no responsibility that we could!
We returned to Leavenworth, Kansas after a great getaway and lived for 10 days in a local hotel while Greg finished up school. We used this time to visit every last Kansas City spot we hadn’t yet made it to, including water parks, a baseball game and more! After Greg graduated from his military school on June 9th, we hit the road for an epic family road trip!
From Kansas City we drove to Lincoln, Nebraska and stayed a single night in the city. Who knew Lincoln was such a COOL place, especially when the drive in every direction pretty much looks like this:
From Lincoln, Nebraska, we drove on to Cheyenne, Wyoming and spent an afternoon exploring the charming little town. It was here that Henry and I shared the best steak I have ever, ever had!
Yellowstone National Park, WY
From Cheyenne, we finally made our way into one of our first major destinations: Yellowstone National Park! We spent three days and three nights camping, hiking, touring, eating, and animal watching our way through the park. Henry loved every single minute of camping (even during the 38 degree nights!!!) and showed us that he is quite the willing adventurer! From spotting wildlife (yes, we did see a bear!!!) to full day hikes…this kid loves the great outdoors!
Salt Lake City, UT
After three days of camping (read: no showers), it was time for some city life! We traveled through Grand Tetons National Park (which I LOVED and really want to go back to explore more!) on our way to Salt Lake City, UT. There, we city dwelled and hit up museums, restaurants, public transportation (Henry’s favorite!) and other downtown gems.
Zion National Park, UT
After the three days of explronig, rest, showers, and laundry in Salt Lake City, we traveled onto one of our favorite stops of the entire trip: Zion National Park. Greg and I love National Parks and hiking (if you couldn’t yet tell), and Zion has long been on our list of places to visit. The scenery, hiking, and amenities were beyond our expectations, and we loved every minute of it. We stayed in a hotel this time (which suits me much better than our tent camping in Yellowstone 😉 and ventured into the park for two full days of hiking and adventuring. Henry yet again rose to every challenge we gave him…even wading quite a ways into the world-famous Narrows! He is STILL talking about how fun it was to hike through the water with our shoes on!
Las Vegas, NV
After a few days in Zion, we were ready for another break from the great outdoors and made our way to our next stop: Las Vegas! Vegas isn’t the most kid-friendly of locations, so after 2 weeks on the road, we were more than happy to stick near the pool, play, relax, nap, visit the dolphins and take in a show. We had near-freezing temps while in Yellowstone and arrived to 112 degrees in Vegas – we really experienced quite the gamut of climates and experiences!
And then onto…
From Las Vegas, we made one more drive into our “new” home town to begin the long process of finding a house and getting settled. But that story is for another day 😉 I am not yet going to tell you where it is, but I’d love to hear your guesses!! And don’t worry…you don’t have to wait too long. Meet me back here on Thursday for the reveal of our “new” home town and “new”/next house!
There are a lot of things I hate about moving, but one of the things I love most is taking advantage of the relocation to see and explore new and unknown parts of this great country! Over the course of 13 days, 6 states, 2400+ miles, 3 National Parks (and 1 Vegas show!), we got to see and experience some truly awesome, beautiful and wonderful things as a family. These moments in between homes are just as much a part of our military adventure as our years stationed in one place, and boy do we try to make the most of it. It was a trip and a summer our little family will never forget!