DIY Painted Tray

March 3
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A few weeks ago I purchased a new coffee table for my living room. After setting it all up I realized that it needed a little something to brighten it up. After looking at images on Pinterest and Instagram I decided what I needed was a nice tray to hold the little things and kind of break up the space. Now my coffee table is a nice medium wood tone. Because of this I knew I wanted to go with a tray that was not a wood color. I wanted something light-colored but not metal or glass. What I wanted was a white tray.
I did some hunting for the perfect tray but found nothing until, one day while wondering Target I came across a light wooden tray in their craft section. The thing was only $6.99 and perfect to paint.
I grabbed the tray and brought it home. I knew I was going to want to paint this white and distress it to give it a slight shabby-chic farmhouse look.
To achieve this look I started by staining the tray with a wood stain. Although this worked for me, if I were to do this again I would have purchased a gel stain which would have produced a darker result. After the stain tried I covered the tray with a few coats of chalk paint. I make my chalk paint by combining regular interior house paint with plaster of paris. Find out more here. After a few coats I then grabbed some medium grit sandpaper and sanded a few areas of the tray to give the piece some definition and let the stained wood show through. I distressed with the sandpaper along seams as well as throughout keeping a light hand. When this was all done I went back over the tray with an furniture wax to seal the piece and protect it. I then added felt pads to the bottom corners so that it would not scratch the table.
I am using this tray to hold remotes, a book, a plant and a candle. Just a nice little collection of things that are nice and relaxing. My favorite part of this is that if I need to remove the things from the table I just need to pick up the tray and move it to a side table and my coffee table is free for games or whatever. Nice and simple. How do you store remotes and books? Do you use a coffee table or tray?
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Day Designer Flagship Planner – review

February 25
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I’ve been a fan of Day Designer products for years, but I had never owned one of their flagship products, just their Blue Sky for Target line. (Love those.)

This year I finally got around to purchasing one of their flagship daily planners and I love it. These planners come in both regular and mini size and I went ahead and got the mini. Although smaller, it is not too small and is big enough to work well both at home and in the workplace.

One of my favorite things about this planner is the cover. It is a simple yet elegant marble. Other options include classy stripes and florals.

This is a daily planner with a schedule and a to-do list. This is great for busy people who want both to list as well as mark out their day. I am thinking about trying out Time Blocking, so this planner would work great for that.

Each weekday also includes a place to write down your top three tasks for the day, what is due, money, dinner and a reminder. There is also a space on the bottom for notes and a daily reminder. Important holidays are also marked to help you remember.

The weekend is shown on one page with just a daily schedule for each day. This works well to schedule your busy weekend, but not to plan it as much.

I love the gold tabs on this planner, perfect for finding what you want, when you want it. It also comes with a clear plastic bookmark that you can use to mark the day to make flipping directly there nice and easy.

My favorite thing about this weekly view is that weekends are lightly shaded so that when making plans you don’t accidentally schedule a work meeting on a Saturday. The shading helps me keep track of where in the week we are.

This planner also comes with some planning sheets to help you realize your goals and focus for the year. This is always helpful when starting out. One thing I particularly liked was where you could kind of rate yourself in different areas of your like to find both where you are doing great, as well as where you might want to focus some time for improvement.

One of my favorite things about Day Designer is that they have a blank copy of their planner page online for free so you can test out their style and see if it works for you. Find their entire free printable library here.

This planner is the 2019 daily option. Right now they are on a pretty good sale as the year has already started, but if you wanted to wait, new 2019-2020 academic year planners will be out soon.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Day Designer. I paid for this planner with my own money, but if you choose to purchase one via a link on this page I will receive a small commission.

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My favorite budget hair styling products

February 14
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I’ve been sharing less style/beauty stuff here on the blog, but I wanted to jump in and share some budget beauty faves for #ThriftyThursday. Please note all links are affiliate links. I receive a small commission from sales from these links.
First up is my Holy Grail straight hair product. This L’Oreal Sleek It Iron Straight Spray is amazing. I use this before blow drying whenever I plan to wear straight hair. My hair turns out silky smooth and I only have to touch it up with a flat iron.
Next up, also by L’Oreal is their Blow Dry it Quick Dry Primer Spray. When I had long hair this was a godsend to cut dry time and add heat protectant. I still use it with short hair, but my dry time has cut down significantly.
As any good woman does, I love me some dry shampoo. I have tried tons of brands and my favorite budget option is Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Dry Shampoo. I love the one with the Warm Sugar scent. It does the job without leaving residue or the heavy “I’m wearing dry shampoo” feeling other brands tend to leave in your hair.
Last on the list is the Not Your Mother’s Double Take Dry Finish Texture Spray. I love this spray for clean hair days before I curl or braid to give my hair a little extra grab. It is also a great light hairspray when regular hairspray would be too heavy a hold. So those are my current budget favorites. I am looking for a budget option dupe for Kenra Volume 25 hairspray and Aquage Uplifting Foam. Have a suggestion? Let me know!
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Cleaning out your phone

February 11
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I am going to be honest with you, if my phone was a bedroom it would be that room that nobody dare go in. It would have clothes strewn around the floor, the bed would be unmade, and you would wonder how long those three glasses of water had bed on the nightstand. I think you get the picture.

So last month I decided to get a “new phone.” Ok, so it is not new, but I cleaned up the inside and the outside so it is like new.

On the inside I reviewed all the apps on my phone and deleted anything that was not needed. I keep apps I use at least once a month as well as apps that you need to have just in case. (I always want to know that an Uber is at my fingertips.)

I deleted apps for stores and restaurants I don’t go to, as well as airlines I don’t plan on flying. Be ruthless. You can always download an app that you have removed again for free, so it is safe. I then sat down to organize my apps. I keep the front screen for essential apps only. These are apps I use daily and want at my fingertips. (Yes, I use Amazon daily, don’t judge.)

Once your most used apps are on your first screen, consider using folders for other apps. Pick categories that work for you. My folders are named Blog, Read, Travel, Finance, Photo, Utilities, Shop, Eat, Listen, Health, Games, Watch and Work.  I know some people like to organize by color, but that really does not work for me. I am more of a location muscle memory person. These new locations will take a few days to get used to, but that is it.

Next I went into my settings and turned of notifications for everything except calls, messages, calendar alerts, and alarms. Every time your phone beeps or buzzes is a distraction that can cause stress and steal time. You don’t need to know that Suzy commented on your post this very second. You will open the app again sometime and see it. So many apps ask up to turn on notifications when we download them that our phones are constantly buzzing. Give yourself and your family a break and turn them off. You will thank me.

Lastly, take the case off your phone and look at it. Like really look at it. Is it gross? There is a good chance it is time to spend the $10 and grab a new case. Amazon has tons of great budget options. If you use a screen protector replace that as well if needed. now take a rag and wipe down the front and back of your phone before putting the case on. Icing on the cake? Update your lock screen and background image. I like a darker photo for the lock screen that way it does not create as much light when the screen turns on. For the background I like a very simple color or pattern. The apps themselves are busy enough as they are, a nice soothing background will keep things relaxing and make finding apps easier.

Training with Couch to 5K + three tips for new runners

February 6
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Last year I decided to challenge myself to do somethingI had never done before. Run a 5K. I know A 5K isn’t very far, but I was out of shape and for sure not a runner. I challenged myself to this because although I knew it was an obtainable goal, it was something that I could not just get up and do. I had to train, practice, and take my time to get there.

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Now that I have run the full 3.1 miles of a 5k a few times, I wanted to fill you all in on the process, the app, and how I felt going from nothing to being a runner.

First off, I tried a few apps before I found one that really worked for me. Most people start their running training running intervals, the first apps I tried had me jumping into 2+ minute run intervals right from the start. I was out of shape, remember? This was so not for me.

After doing some research I downloaded the 5K Runner app by Fitness22. Is this the only app that will work? No way. It is just the one that worked for me. I ended up paying around $10 for access to the entire program. Inexpensive price to pay for the tools to turn myself into a runner.

With the app you run three times a week for eight weeks. By the end of the program you should be able to run 35 minutes straight which is a good 5k time. (My time is slower.) In week one you just start out by running for one minute and taking a minute and a half off. Each time the longest run distance got longer I was worried I would not be able to do it, but I did. It was just enough push.

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I posted this on Facebook on Christmas day when I successfully ran 23 minutes straight.

The first few runs I did with my phone in my hand. That quickly got old and I grabbed this running belt which is now a necessity for me. I use the belt to hold my keys, phone, and anything else I might carry.

For shoes I wore the shoes I already had. I did end up going to the Nike Outlet and grabbing a new pair last month, but I have not felt the need to be fitted for running shoes yet. If I ever start having foot-related problems I’ll go to the local running shop and have them help me pick a better shoe.

So, how was it?  To be completely honest the process was not fun. I did not like running when I started and I still do not like running. Do I still do it? Yes. Why? Because I love continually showing myself that I can do it. But it was doable. It was never too hard.  I am still running and I am running in a “real” 5k later this month. My goal is to continue running for all of 2019 and run a 10k before the end of the year. Will I keep up with the sport after that? I am not sure. We will let time decide.

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The best part of running? Experiencing great sunsets.

I do have three tips for those of you considering this program.

  1. Go slow: I wish someone had told me this before I started. Run slower than you think you even can. This is a mind game and as long as you are running and not walking you’re winning. Worry about going fast later, or never.
  2. Watch your breath: Remember those deep breaths we took in yoga? Bring them out. Ok, maybe not that deep, but be aware of your breath and take longer rather than shorter breaths. Your lungs will thank me.
  3. Just do it: Sorry to rip of Nike here, but this is really what it comes down to. Get dress, lace up, and run. Once you are dressed and ready just go and do it. It is easier to go run than complain and stall going.

I hope this helped those of you curious of the program as well as those wondering about my experience.

Have you run a 5k before? Would you do one now?

Using a digital calendar

January 28
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If you read my post about my 2019 planner plans, you would have learned that for the first time I am adding a digital calendar to the mix. I have always been a pen and paper kind of girl, but lately I’ve been looking for an easy way to have all the details at my fingertips all the time. To achieve this I have started using Google Calendar to create a calendar that I have access to at home, work, and on the go. With it, I can leave my work planner at work, my home planner at home, and still know what I am doing and when. Will this replace my planners? No. I love my planners for to-dos, notes, and more; the Google Calendar is just a place to save information and dates so my schedule is always easy to find when making plans.

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So how do I use it?

I love that Google Calendar is available in both the web and on my phone. I keep a tab open on both my home and work computers with the calendar so I can quickly add work and personal events as they come up. This is linked to my phone, so when I am out and about I can quickly check my phone and see if I am available for an event or get-together.

I am changing the way I record events and appointments a little bit. Before, I would wait until I was next to my planner and then add events there. Now, as soon as I receive an invitation in the mail or schedule a meeting, I add it to my digital calendar. Then when I sit down with my planner on Sunday I add all events for the week there. This had led to me skipping using the monthly layout in my personal planner which is working for me. (Now I use it for blog planning.)

The other upside of this is the sharing options; with Google Calendar you can share calendars with others. Right now I am not using this feature, but in the future I’d love to set this up to share with my husband. This feature would also be great for parents of teenagers.

 

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I started this venture using the iCal app on my phone with the google calendar synced, but I have started using the actual Google Calendar App to access my calendar on my phone and I love it. This app gives a full view of the month and the events whereas the iCal App just shows dots on days you have calendar items. I am also considering trying out Fantastical which is a paid app ($5) that is said to be a much better calendar interface along with an great watch app.  I will report back once I have tried that one out.

I know many people have been using phone and digital calendars for years, but I wanted to take a few moments to share how I have integrated this style of “planning” with my planner. I know this sounds super simple, but it is new for me and really working well.

 

Do you use a digital calendar?  Which one? How to you integrate that with your planner?

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Drinking more water (part 2)

January 6
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A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about tips for drinking more water and I feel like it is time to talk about it again. I have seen a ton of people both in person and online talking about how they want to drink more water this year and I figured I could share more about how I drink 70+ ounces of water a day.

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I get my water consumption in via both “chug sessions” and sipping throughout the day. I know ” chug sessions” sounds weird, but that is just what it is. I fill a glass at the sink with room temp water and chug the entire glass, sometimes two. I know for a lot of people this sounds horrible, but it gives me a chance to get it done. I just stand there and drink. (For those of you wondering, WATER is the only thing I drink this way. I could not chug a beer if my life depended on it.) I like using room temp water as it goes down easy and does not chill my body. I try to do this a few times a day with the most important chug sessions right after I wake up and right before bed.

My second method of drinking (WATER, people) is throughout the day. I like to keep water at my desk at work or near me at home. For me, the key is to have a cup or bottle you really like. What works for you really depends on your needs, but I personally LOVE my $3 reusable Starbucks tumbler. I know it is simple, but it works for me. I can have it at my desk, at home, in the car, or on the go. At 24 ounces I only have to refill a few times a day and I am good to go. Yes, it is sitting next to me right now, and yes, I did just drink some water.

A typical day for me starts with a 10 oz. glass of water from the tap a few minutes after I get up. At work I generally fill my 24 oz. cup twice, sometimes three times. I then drink 10 oz. of water at the sink before dinner, a glass with dinner and the at least one more “chug session” before bed.  No wonder I am in the bathroom so much. (Sorry) Try adding a glass of water at a few of these times if you’re still struggling with getting enough water.

I know a bunch of people carry water with them but still feel like they don’t drink enough. My only real tip for that is to double your sips. If you go in for one sip, take two. Keep going. You will start to get used to drinking more and it will become natural. Hate the taste of water? Check out this post I wrote about making easy infused water with the help of your freezer.

Below are a few water bottle/cup options you might like. The Starbucks one I have is only sold in stores.
water bottle options
1. Like your water cold? This one stays cold all day.
2. Here is a great option if you want glass.
3. Love S’well bottles? Go for it!
4. Want a visual of how much your drinking and when to drink it? Try a motivational bottle.
5. These are super cute. Go for the 24 oz.

Please note: These are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from the link I receive a small commission which helps fund this site.

Oh, and if you need more tips, this post from 2016 is pretty good.

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2019 Planner Lineup

December 28
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And now, the post you’ve all been waiting for…  (Ok, maybe three of you.) My 2019 planner lineup. Each year I like to sit down and reevaluate what I am using to ensure I am both getting the most bang for my buck as well as using products that really do help me. I don’t want to find myself wasting time trying to use more planners than I need or creating more work for myself. Here is what I came up with for this year:

 

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At home I will be using my DIY Happy Planner. I created this planner for myself when I didn’t love the other Happy Planner options. Read more about it here. I use this planner for all things home such as meal planning, activities, to-dos, my husband’s schedule and more.  This planner spends most of its time on my desk and is a daily reference and a great help through the week.

 

At work I use a Agendio planner housed in a Kikki binder. I love Agendio because they are completely customizable. Add whatever you want and have the planner start whenever you want. I created this custom planner to fit my needs with lots of space for notes and even an area to write down things for at home.  Read more about my experience with Agendio here.

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I keep my work planner at work to help separate my time and I love how this allows me to utilize two different planner styles. For many people one planner is enough, and I have done that in the past, however I really enjoy the work/home separation. For those of you who are self employed or work from home one planner might be enough for you.

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This year I will be using a digital calendar to help keep organized. I don’t like carrying a physical planner everywhere, but I do want to know important dates at a moment’s notice. I have started using Google Calendar which integrates perfectly for home, work, my iPhone, and Apple Watch.  This really helps when I want to jot down a date for a future event or appointment on the go. I have already utilized it a few times and was glad to have access to both my future plans as well as a place to add events. Keep an eye out for future posts about how I integrate this calendar into my planning system.

 

As I have mentioned here and there, I have started using PowerSheets by Lara Casey for goal planning. This is my first year using this system and I will share here about my experiences.  Although this is not as much of a “planner” I wanted to include it here as part of my lineup as it is a resource I will be using regularly.

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I know this is a lot of “stuff.” For most of you, one planner is enough but I feel that this setup really ends up being easier for me than one. Look at your life and see what you feel is good for you, everyone is different and needs really do vary. I know some people use even more planners based on their lives and howe they separate things. My goal is always to be as organized and efficient as possible and if additional planners make you less productive then it is time to find another system.

 

See how I use these this year b y following along on Instagram.

 

 

2019 Planner Guide

December 23
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Still looking for a planner for 2019? I’ve got you covered. Even though it is last minute, there are still tons of great planners out there, and even if you receive it after January 1st, it is fine, you can start planning any day.

First you need to decide what kind of planner you need. Most of my readers are interested in weekly and daily planners. Read a little bit about each of these here and then decide on what you feel is best for you.

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Weekly:

Weekly planners are great for people who like to plan out their week, see the entire week in one view, and mostly use their planner to to record appointments, events, meals, and some tasks. There is not a lot of space for notes, but you might not need notes in your planner. Like stickers? These planners are easy to decorate and super cute. See below for my favorite options for 2019.

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Daily:

Daily planners are great if you need a lot of space to write. Most daily planners have a section for your daily schedule to write down meetings and appointments as well as a section for notes or a long to-do list. One of the downsides of this planner format is that you don’t get to see the entire week in one view. Although you can for sure decorate a daily planner, most users are more focused on their to do list than stickers.

 

Have you decided on which one you need? Here are a few of my favorites for each:

 

Weekly:

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The Happy Planner is one of my favorite budget-friendly weekly planners. Grab one for 2019 here. One thing I love about this planner is that it uses the disc system so you can add, remove, and move pages at will. To see how I use mine click here.

Looking for something with a coil? The Erin Condren Life Planner is for you. This classic weekly planner is sturdy, bright, and super popular. Although these are a little more spending, you can get $10 off yours here.

Looking for something ASAP? I have created a list of weekly planners available on Amazon with two-day prime shipping. This list includes Moleskin and other brands. I have not used these planners, but they have good reviews.

 

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Daily:

One of my favorite daily planners come from Day Designer. These daily planners are coil-bound and super elegant. (Especially the marbled cover!) Their flagship line includes planners that will last the year and look great on your desk.

Looking for something a little more simple? Check out a Simplified flagship planner by Emily Ley. These planners are similar to the Day Designer but a little more simple and in some more fun prints. They also sell weekly planners that are bound like a book.

I am currently using a daily planner from Agendio. These planners are fully customizable so you can select when it begins and what sections are included. You can even add dates to a calendar so they are printed on the planner itself.  See more about mine here. Oh, and did I mention they can be bound, coiled, or sold as inserts? WIN

NOTE: These three brands sell weekly planners as well, so if you’re looking for a great week, check them out as well.

 

So I hope this little roundup has been helpful. If you have more questions or what to show off your choice, tag me in a photo on Instagram! I’m @amberdownsblog

 

Note: Affiliate links are in use on the post. I may receive a small commission for purchases made. This does not affect your price or my opinion of these items. 

 

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My 2019 home planner

December 16
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Note: Affiliate links are in use on this page. I have linked to Amazon whenever I can because their prices and 2 day shipping is great. I will receive a small commission from purchases made from these links but that will not affect your price. 

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Well friends, it is time to share my finished (for now) 2019 home planner. My home planner is what I use for my personal life and some blog information. I use this planner for meal planning, grocery lists, keeping my husband’s schedule, special events, and more. I like to think of this planner as a tool for keeping this part of my life sane. I also include important work events in this planner so that in the mornings I am ready for them before I leave the house.  This planner sits on my desk at home so I can glance at it in the morning as well as in the evening and do my best to keep on top of the crazy in life.

I have been using the Happy Planner for this use for several years now, but when the 2019 planners came out I was not in love with any of them. I was going to change to a different brand until I ran across the “Super Mom” planner layout. This non-traditional planner layout really made sense to me for my uses, but was filled with a ton of “mom stuff” that does not apply to me. I shared about that on Instagram and my followers informed me that there was a non-mom “dashboard layout” extension pack of this planner layout so I went and grabbed that up. Note to self, I need to go grab another one. 

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After I got the extension I realized that I could make this planner into a new form that really could work for me. I like to keep notes, plans, goals, and more in my planner so I might as well carve out a real space for them.

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So for this planner I created following sections:

I wanted this planner to look and feel classy and professional so I purchased silver metal discs and a black cover. Although a little more pricy, these pieces will hold up for the entire year and beyond. I still have my teal cover from a few years ago and it looks great. And of course, I always keep my punch around so I can add whatever pages I’d like to my planner.

I also grabbed these cute travel inserts and meal plan pages to incorporate into my weeks as needed. I used plastic dashboards as dividers for the sections as they are nice and sturdy and I liked the tabs on top.

Although 2019 has not even started, I have been gravitating to this new planner for note taking. I love that I now have a great place to write and store these notes for future use. I can for sure see that this planner will be an integral part of my 2019 and will look super classy sitting on my desk.

Have you picked your 2019 planner yet?

 

Note: Affilate links are in use on this page. I will receive a small commission on purchases.

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