November mini-update

As usual the month of November is moving along far too quickly as I’m once again writing for National Novel Writing Month and writing 2k words a day on top of work means that something has to slide. Usually cleaning the house :)

Still, I’ve been mighty impressed with myself this month in a few areas. For one, I continue to go to the gym 3x a week to work with a trainer. A few of the routines were seeming a bit easy so I started doubling up. Monday and Friday I do a full arm and shoulder workout, then meet the trainer for lower body (squats, leg lifts, step ups, etc). One Wednesday it’s the back routing with things like deadlifts, twists and such. We’ve been steadily increasing my weight per set so by December we’re going to rotate to a new set of workouts so I don’t plateau.

(And as I am adamantly against the gym selfie there are no pictures here. It’s sweaty and no pretty, trust me.)

Second, I’ve been keeping the kitchen in clean-ish condition, mostly by putting away all the dishes as soon as possible. With cooking more at home I often have pans, bowls and cooking trays which just take up a lot of room. There might be 5 things in the sink but it looks like it’s overflowing. Keeping the counters cleared off is another big one for me (although I have a ton of ingredients out right now for cooking).

One weekend I was able to do a big batch of ground beef from Costco which I then ground with boiled onions for enchiladas (add a little sauce, cheese, salt & pepper, roll in tortillas with a black olive. yum.) and used the rest of the beef for taco salads.

I’ve also done chicken breasts, mashed potatoes and gravy (cold weather comfort food ftw!) and pretty much have a revolving door of roasted zucchini, peppers, carrots and onions in the oven. I did a little baking for a party I threw last weekend but I’m also planning on making a couple pies for the freezer.

This weekend’s plan is homemade meatballs, a new potato soup recipe and cleaning out the fridge of old stuff.

The dogs have been pretty well behaved as much as I’ve been working or writing, they’re all napping right now so it’s temporarily quiet.

Oh! Right, the thing I meant to write about…

I distracted myself there for a moment. Today as I was lounging in bed having weird, weird dreams I started thinking about the hundreds of things I needed to do around the house. So I decided to count as I went, hoping to get up to 500. Basically it’s a game and every single thing you do can count.

  • take out the trash – 1
  • straighten up the couch – 3
  • sweep up the hallway – 1
  • put away the cups and bowls from all over the house – 8
  • add receipts to my shoeboxed bag – 6

Each action counts as 1 so if I have 6 receipts that means add 6. It’s amazing how quickly the little things add up, I’m at 122 and have only really been working for an hour but that includes loading the dishwasher, making the bed, cleaning up my bathroom and clearing out a few hot spots around the house. I know I’ll be able to easily get to 500 today and then I’d like to do another 100 every day next week to maintain it.

Now, granted, I could toss junk mail and get to 100 instantly or rake leaves and find myself at 10,000 but it’s much more fun to count bigger tasks as 1 or 5. You don’t have to be throwing things away either, putting away a hairbrush or hanging laundry works too.

Next up I’m coming for the garage and trying to get my clothes washer to work properly. It likes to stop mid-cycle because it thinks the door lock is off and then stops. I’ve been trying to get one load finished since Friday! It might be time for “the talk” – you know the one, “if you don’t behave I’m going Black Friday shopping to replace your useless ass!”

Random Cleaning Tips

I’m not too big on cleaning tutorials because, well, I don’t spend a ton of time cleaning! But I’ve had a few recent wins that I both wanted to share and document so I don’t need to return to Pinterest the next time I need a recipe.

First up was the oven which was looking pretty gross, especially the window. And, I didn’t realize until I started cleaning but the surround was also black and looking gross. With the oven completely cold, I used a wet Magic Eraser to scrub at the nastiness and after a couple of minutes it started to clear up. Here you can see the difference from the before:



I still have some more scrubbing to do but it’s so much better!

Ever couple of months I get fed up with looking out mucky windows and decide to clean up the glass on my windows. To start I make a big batch of cleaner:

  • 8 cups of warm water
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of blue Dawn detergent

It all goes into a bucket mixed up and then, using a scrubbing sponge, I scrub the window to get the hard water stains off.

Now, here’s the best part… I grab a squeegee and microfiber towel and clean a 1″ strip along the top of the window. Using the towel, I dry the squeegee and then run it vertically down the window, drying the squeegee between each pass. According to my extensive Googling, this is called “keeping a dry edge” but it really does work to keep streaks off the window. I don’t have great pictures of this one but trust me, it’s awesome.


Okay, last little cleaning tutorial and it’s one that I do a couple times a year. Since my AC is useless, I keep cool in the summer with desktop fans – 5 of them. They pretty much run constantly, one in the office, dining area and living room and 2 in the bedroom. Of course they get nice and dusty with all that use I clean them every couple of months – or once mid-summer and again before they get put away for winter. They’re very dirty:

IMG_7220I take the fans apart piece by piece and put them directly in the sink and I usually manage to get the dust on myself. Using a sponge and running water I’ll clean off the blades and front and back piece.




One thing I didn’t do until this summer was to clean the body of the fan. Think about it… where does the dust come from? It’s sucked in through the back of the fan and can muck up the motor unless it’s cleaned out. Using a can of compressed air, I clean around the motor and try to get all the dirt out from a few different angles. Here’s a before:


And after:


Thankfully the small straw for the canned air fits in the back of the fan pretty easily.

I wipe down the rest of the fan before drying everything and reassembling it. Or, at the end of the season, putting the fan into its storage box.

Okay, last cleaning tip! If you have icky hard water like we do here then you know how frustrating it can be to keep anything that has regular contact with your water clean. This includes faucets, shower heads and toilets. As a result there’s a nasty looking ring around the toilet bowl that regular scrubbing won’t touch.

Enter my secret weapon: drywall sandpaper.

It looks like this:

and comes in a pack of 10-12 long sheets for about $9, you’ll find it at the home improvement stores near the drywall mud and tape. I cut off a small section, one for each toilet and don some cleaning gloves for this one.

Here’s a look at the typical ring ’round the toilet bowl:

After a couple minutes of light scrubbing I simply flush the toilet and toss the sandpaper. It looks much better:


I’ve heard that the sandpaper can dull the shine of the porcelain but I honestly don’t care at all. Not only do I doubt anyone is examining my toilet for its shininess but I am also not scrubbing hard at all to get off the surface stain.

I’ll do this every month or so when I notice the stains are back so the pack of sandpaper should last me a couple years.

There you go! 4 of my cleaning tips for your casa.

Productivity, I’ve missed you

Since returning from Mexico I’ve been going non stop in the business and thus a non-start with the house but all of that changed today when I got a good amount of items checked off my to do list. Here’s a recap (because I’m damn proud!):

  1. Cut back bougainvillea bush – this sucker was absolutely taking over the corner of the side yard and it became problematic when I wanted to walk by. Since I’m getting gutters replaced on the side yard Monday it was time for a good trimming. And now I can see it better to devise a lattice of some sort so it’ll keep growing up and over!
  2. Move the grill to the backyard – since I don’t have a good home for the grill right now it’s been sitting in the side yard blocking traffic. I unscrewed the propane tank and moved it to the grass for now, again for gutter install.
  3. Sweep the side yard – with cut branches, dirt, leaves and dog poop, the side yard walkway was looking pretty nasty. So I got most of this junk up and into the green waste trash can (before filling it up with bougainvillea cuttings).
  4. Empty the extra trash can – I keep a few trash cans on wheels around for yard work but one was sitting under the eaves during last week’s rain and filled nearly to the brim with runoff water from the roof. Using a spare trash can I dumped 5 or 6 loads of water on the roses in the front yard before dumping the rest on the dying grass.
  5. Pull Caddy out of the garage – since I don’t have a lot of space to walk around in the garage when the car is pulled in, Saturday is an ideal day to get it out in the driveway so I can work a lot faster. I put the top up (so I can get it out if it rains) and Wilson and I went for a coffee. I like to get the car out weekly if I can so it doesn’t sit and stagnate. I know cars don’t work that way but still, I like driving it.
  6. Empty the box in the garage – throughout the week I keep a box on the hood of the Caddy and fill it up with things I find around the house that need to be put away. Then, once a week, I empty it and clean the garage up as I go.
  7. Finish sanding the old kitchen table – this one is about 90% done so with a little more work on the apron it’ll be finished. Mom wants this table for her sewing (it’s bar height) but the finish was scratched, there were some gouges in the side and I’d gotten glue on the top in a few places during a project. But now it’s sanded down smooth to the wood so she can re-stain, keep it natural or paint it from here.
  8. Put away the fans, bring out the heaters. Ever since Daylight Savings Time last week it’s been much too chilly for fans, especially at night. So today I cleaned 3 of the fans and put them away in the garage and brought in the first heater. I will probably end up with 3 in the house (bedroom, living room, office) but need to keep cleaning as I go.
  9. Bring candles into the house – one of the problems I’ve noticed is that now that my candles are in the garage I procrastinate on grabbing the tea lights for the mantle when they burn out. So I snagged the big bag of loose tea lights and put them in the living room so I can easily light ’em up. I probably have 200-300 so I should be burning them every night.
  10. Catch up on laundry – 3 loads are done even though my washer is being tricky and I have to unplug it to reset before each new load. I’ve got another load of blankets and sheets to do and then it’s time to bleach my down comforter (after Nixon got blood on it).
  11. Batch cook something – I picked up a big pack of beef at Costco this week so after browning it up, half went into the meat grinder with 1-1/2 white onions that had been boiled. This meat made the base for 2 sheperds pie dishes and the rest will get some cheese and sauce to make enchiladas for the freezer. I’ve also got the chicken and ingredients to make tikka masala which I’ll attempt on Sunday.

And here are the tasks I didn’t get to but have on the calendar for tomorrow:

  1. Re-hang picture above the couch
  2. Add new prints to canvases
  3. Rearrange frames in the hallway (add hangers to the backs)
  4. Sweep the master bedroom really well
  5. Vacuum the Toyota and clean the interior
  6. Take donation to Goodwill

Whew, it doesn’t look like much written down but it was definitely a full sort of day around here. While I was mostly offline I did pop in to answer a few emails.


After a week in Playa del Carmen relaxing on the beach and 11 days in Tulum for the retreat, I was on my way to Cancun for some decompression time before heading home. I knew that as soon as I landed back in the States it was going to be full on for the business launch so a bit of a break was badly needed.

I returned to the same resort I stayed in my first night in Mexico and to review, it is gorgeously situated on the peninsula between the ocean and the lagoon:


the morning light was especially beautiful in the sunrise:


but, per usual, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the resort itself. The first trip was an all day excursion to Isla Mujeres, a small island north of Cancun. Overall it was a really awesome day, we took the boat out from the lagoon to the ocean and had the chance to relax on a private beach before lunch.


There’s something so relaxing about sitting under the palm trees on a weekday…


After a little while those interested in snorkeling got back on the boat and swam about a mile up shore along the reef. The current was flowing in our favor so it wasn’t too exhausting.

We returned to the beach house for lunch and then a couple more hours to enjoy the kayaks, play in the ocean and relax. The pier was especially beautiful and you can see the hotels of Cancun in the distance:


Of course I had to get a panoramic shot:


Not too bad for a day at the beach!

Later in the afternoon we took the boat to the north end of the island for a few hours and were able to roam, shop and explore the downtown area. It’s rather small but I was able to find a few things. I also sat down for drinks with a family from Scotland that I’d talked with during the snorkeling tour.

After such a long day I was happy to get back to the resort and go to sleep early. I can’t recommend much in the way of restaurants because, on average, I’d eat one meal a day since it was so busy.

Waking up at the resort was always a treat, just walking down the open air hall to the ocean in the morning was a treat.


The day before I left I had a little more adventure planned with another parasailing adventure and then out to a different reef to snorkel.


Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy that parasailing adventure as much due to the very unbalanced “harness” which was really just a bench you sat on flying above the ocean so when I got back to dry land I needed some time in the clear blue water to recover.


On the last night in Cancun, I decided to try out the Captain’s Cove restaurant across from the hotel on the lagoon side and I am so glad I did. Because the sunset was incredible.


I kept leaving my food at the table to go out to the patio to shoot because the sky was so beautiful.


And the reflection on the water was amazing.


Okay, one more.


I left the next morning before the sunrise and I can’t wait to go back in a few months!

Time in Tulum

After a week getting accustomed to the hot, humid weather of the Mexican Riviera in Playa del Carmen, I headed south to Tulum.

Technically, first I picked up a rental car and went north to Cancun to pick up the lovely Natalie MacNeil so we could do some last minute shopping for the retreat.

For example, we wanted gorgeously simple flowers for the tables and room so we picked up 7 bunches at the Cancun Costco and arranged them on our own:


This total mess turned into the cutest little arrangements:


We also had some banners designed, printed and I hauled them down to Mexico. My favorite on was much larger than we anticipated and Natalie thought it was hilarious:




We also picked out and brought a journal for each attendee – these were especially perfect as we were at Dreams Resort:





It took us a full day to get the room set up but were in love with the end result:


Those little white patches on the journals? Our Conquer tattoos! Here’s mine:


Although we spent a ton of time inside working on the room set up, Dreams Tulum is a resort where you want to explore!

You’ll find lots of animals (this one is my favorite):


from the lobby you’ll find a great view out to the ocean:


and there’s a great little chapel where we held morning meditations:


Dreams Tulum is an all-inclusive luxury resort so the food is amazing. You can get fresh fruit delivered at room service:


There’s a fantastic Italian restaurant:


and the very friendly staff at the sushi restaurant generously pass around after-dinner shots


That’s Michelle and Heather but let me introduce you to some of our amazing ladies!


First night at dinner with Allison, Mandy, Layla, Nicky, Yasmine, Trudy, Kelly, Jennifer and Michelle.


another dinner shot with Sara, Mandy, Yasmine and Sandy.


Yasmine again with our wonderful life coach Vasavi.

And of course some selfies! With Karin:






and Laura:


And I had to add this one after a long, full day of coaching: IMG_9421

It had just stopped pouring down rain when I stopped outside into the hot, humid air.

Most of my time in Tulum was at the resort, working, with the exception of a trip to return the rental car (and tacos) and once into town to do laundry.

Of course, while driving around Tulum we had to stop and get some pictures of the best road sign. It read “stay present” and here’s Natalie in action:


After the retreat wrapped up I had an extra day with Natalie to plan our May 2016 Retreat and talk over the upcoming business launch before I made my way to Cancun.

Exploring Playa

One of the reasons I had given myself a deadline to finish blogging about some projects – instead of finishing new projects – is that on Sept 15th I left for 3 weeks in Mexico. Now before you get jealous of all that vacation time, over half was spent working. But first, I made a stop in Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 6.12.03 PM

Playa del Carmen is in the middle of Cancun to the north and Tulum to the south, and a short ferry ride away from the beautiful island of Cozumel.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 8.24.21 AM

It’s also not too far off from Cuba and the gorgeous islands of the Caribbean.

Tuesday night I flew into Cancun and wow was that sunset above the clouds beautiful!


I spent my first night in Cancun and acclimated to the hot, humid air, mosquitos, bottled water and geckos.


I actually came back to this hotel at the end of my trip so I’ll have more to share from Cancun in another post.

In Playa, I stayed at a little B&B that was run like AirBnB with a private room and bath, balcony, shared pool and breakfast in the mornings. The couple were very sweet and I was a 5 minute walk from the beach and 5th Avenue. Plus their housekeeper did this to my towels every day:




As I mentioned, the beach and ferry wharf to Cozumel was a 5 minute walk away but I, stupidly, brought shoes that were not so great on the cobblestone streets and had massive blisters by the end of the week. When you go down to the beach there’s this great meeting space by the biggest statue you could imagine:


The beach is surrounded with restaurants, shopping, massage tables, water sports and loungers so I made the most of it all. Here are some highlights:


basically I could eat fish tacos any day of my life but they are especially awesome in Mexico


the pool was super relaxing but the people who owned this house were jackasses. No one needs techno at 11am, no one.


I overcame my fear-slash-intense-dislike of heights to go parasailing and am so glad I did! It was beautiful to see the whole area from the air and simply exhilarating.


I didn’t like soaring over the beach much though, too many thoughts of “if I fall there’s no chance of survival…”


this is 5th avenue, a mix of stores and vendors, restaurants, hotels and lots of people. I picked up a few items as gifts but mostly meds that I’d forgotten at the small drug stores.


I set aside an entire day to visit Maroma, an adventure club north of Playa with a wide range of tours, private beach and restaurant. I started with a snorkeling tour of the reefs and burned the backs of my arms and thighs (dumb move) but the views were gorgeous:


the club:


After a light lunch and sleeping on the beach for an hour, I meet up with a small group for our next adventure: camels.


They brought these camels in from Texas and the animals were well trained, if completely terrifying to hold onto when they stood up or laid down.

I got the last camel in the row and she was a little impatient and bitey.


But it was a great experience and we stopped on the beach to give them a rest when the camel in front of mine displayed some impressive dramatics.


When all the other camels were quietly sitting and enjoying their carrot snacks this one flailed in the sand as if to say “I can’t go on!” It was pretty amusing.


By this point in the day the wind was picking up and I was a tad burned so I had to hold on to the camel, and my hat, while taking a selfie. I think I did a decent job.

I spent just under a week in Playa, balancing work and play leading into the last week before the retreat. For context, I’d been planning this event since February and organizing everything from excursions, the agenda, banners, gifts and communication with the resort. A little downtime in Playa was just what I needed!

Update to my projects list

Well my self-imposed deadline of Sept 15th has passed and the big list isn’t quite done. 19 out of 30 projects made it on the blog which leaves me another 11 to finish up. I could fill this space with excuses but I don’t care that much. Here’s a recap:

  1. New shelf + cable management solution for the desk
  2. Flexible lighting solution in the hall closet
  3. Storing books
  4. Medicine cabinet overhaul – I just completed this Sunday
  5. Organizing the guest bath cabinet
  6. Hanging TVs on the wall + hiding cables – halfway done because the bedroom TV is giving me trouble
  7. My new kitchen table + chairs – can’t wait to show this to you! 
  8. New pinboard for the office
  9. Planked wall
  10. New chairs for the office and guest room – no reason except cleaning spaces before taking pics takes time! 
  11. Curtains and shades updated- I wanted to have 2 more shades hung before blogging but that might take awhile
  12. Pegboards in the garage- is kinda useless until I get the workbench set up better. coming soon
  13. Storing wood in the garage for projects – while this is done it is pretty boring which is demotivating 
  14. New Cadillac, Old Garage
  15. Organizing paint for touch ups- an old project now holding old, some bad, paint
  16. Update on the raised garden beds 2 years later – sadly I tore out a lot of plants last month so the beds are recovering
  17. Covering up stains under the kitchen sink
  18. Shoe shelves in the master closet
  19. Organizing travel samples + luggage
  20. Updating hardware on the desk
  21. Sewing case makeover
  22. New privacy film on the garage window
  23. Bookshelf overhaul
  24. The guest room floors
  25. Gallery wall from Instagram prints
  26. Laminate floors through the hallway, closet and entryway
  27. New door frames
  28. Potting bench
  29. Sewing projects – I sewed a lot of things! 
  30. Rugs: Living room, kitchen, hall and office – will be on the blog as soon as I clean the kitchen rug really, really well

While I fully intend to keep blogging about these project, big and small, I’m also just really proud of how far the house has come this last year. I have been slowly upgrading to more permanent pieces that are good quality and fit the space a lot better. I do have some plans for the last few months of the year but nothing is decided just yet.

For now I’ll be taking a couple weeks off blogging and soaking up the last weeks of summer!