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Colorful Outdoor Seating Poolside

Since I’ve been sharing our outdoor photos on Instagram, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people who are loving the fun videos and photos of our home. California seems to be all about outdoor living. People have very made up and beautiful yards. That’s not our style. We like to be colorful, fun and comfortable just like our personalities. Here are some pictures of projects I’ve completed in the backyard since I moved to Silicon Valley.

 

outdoor-seating

 

We have a strange shaped yard when you add in the pool at our rental house. Since I have a sectional outdoor sofa I snagged on Craigslist when we moved, we are limited in what we can do. You can see a small glimpse of the sectional in this picture on the right. I’m hoping to purchase new slipcovers for the cushions from Pottery Barn when they go on clearance later this year. I opted for a nice square table from Lowes and added some colorful chairs from World Market, one of my favorite California stores. The pillows are a combination from Etsy and Target but the theme is really turquoise, red and blue colorful California comfort. You can see more of my inspirations by checking out my Outdoor Living Pinterest board.

Hubby found the umbrella for us on Amazon and it was a good price. Only after we received it in the mail, did we realize it needed a stand too. Bummer. I love it because it is a solar one and provides some light for us in the evening hours. The art on the wall is something I made using extra torn bits of scrapbooking paper that are glued to a canvas and then covered in Mod Podge to protect it from the elements. I have a number of pieces like this for Ryleigh’s bedroom which is elephant themed. That’s a blog post for another day.

 

sullculent-planter

 

One of the things I love is succulents. When I stayed at my best friend’s in Orange County earlier this year, I came home with a huge bag full of succulents from her and her neighbors yard. I added them to this container I picked up for $5 at a yard sale. I added a couple larger succulents from the nursery, but was surprised that I could just plant the cuttings directly in the ground without starting roots in water. You were right, Rayanne. These will grow beautifully! The plant on the far bottom is what is called a Kangaroo’s Tail and it is doing really well in the pot. I was tempted to plant it in the yard but I love the ability to move pots from place to place. It’s holding up just fine with twice monthly waterings.

Since moving here I am putting aloe vera on my face at least once a day picking it straight off the plant you see in the crock planter. I think it’s one of the reasons my skin is looking so good. Last week, I was in Miami for the Top Recruiter Gala and reality show. I had to wear a fancy gown and get my makeup and hair done. My skin looked amazing and I believe it’s because of the aloe vera and my amazing esthetician Irena. She’s in Palo Alto and I’m happy to pass along her contact information to you. Such a wonderful person too.

Home

No Cost Outdoor Decorating

My friend jokingly called me the Martha Stewart of California. These days I seem to be really into gardening, decorating and experimenting with new foods. We recently tried quinoa and chia seeds adding them to our smoothies and salads we are making. Until recently I had no idea you could grill avocado. Yummy!

I’m on a budget. It is so expensive to live here, but we are enjoying it. I’m focusing my efforts on the outside of our home. Ryleigh is doing private swimming lessons at our home twice a week which is so much fun. It’s a controlled environment. I don’t have to drive 30 minutes to and from and I can get some work done while she’s playing.

Our outdoor space is amazing. I’ve added vegetable plants to two of our plant beds and redid several of our side beds so far too. We recently set up an outdoor eating area complete with an umbrella for dinners and entertaining. I’ll share more about at a later time. Outdoor furniture is expensive, easily several thousands dollars for 2 chairs and a side table. So I set out garage saling. It’s my low cost way to spend a Saturday. It also helps me learn the streets and the area. We’ve found some amazing deals scouring the city.

Mountain View recently had their city wide garage sale which I loved. We scored a second roomba vacuum cleaner, a new planter stand for my succulents outside and a floatable pirate ship for Ryleigh. The pirate ship cost her $2 which is her garage sale money she gets when we go shopping.

But the after garage sale is my favorite, and Mountain View did not disappoint. We snagged some super ugly white and dirty outdoor chairs from the 70’s for free. They were setting on the curb just a block from my house so I loaded up two in my car. We headed to Lowes to pick up a few cans of spray paint and magic erasers to help me in my chair cleaning. I choose a bright red to make a statement and because my outdoor colors are red, navy blue and turquoise. The red chairs match our patio umbrella nicely!

The before and after pictures are below. You will die at how amazing they turned out for literally $10 bucks of spray paint.

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I used water, Meyers clean dry soap and magic erasers to clean the chairs. Not all of the ugly dirt stains came off but because I cleaned them the paint was able to adhere nicely to both the rubber backs and the aluminum. We opted to not buy new pillows for the chairs. They are expensive and personally, I love the red too much to hide. I added some nice blue pillows I’ve had from Target. These are actually for indoor use but I sprayed them with several coats of Scotch Guard and after 3 months, they are still holding up nicely.

I loved how  the two chairs I picked up turned out with the spray paint, I went back and got the other two remaining chairs. These are those lightweight stackable aluminum chairs. They are easy to move. We have them facing two different areas of our pool for lounging, drying off and just chatting.

Also to note the black round side table you see here was from an estate sale I picked up for $10. I painted the bottom a turquoise and I thought it turned out great. It’s so wonderful to set down your drinks to jump into the pool on a hot day. In the back of the picture, you can also see one of our raised vegetable beds. Our onions were just about to bloom. So beautiful and tasty!

Home

My Master Bedroom Remodel

Having moved in and now gotten settled into our new place, I thought it was time for a change. I wanted a different master bedroom. I had purchased a couple new pieces of small furniture including two chairs and a nightstand since our old furniture doesn’t fit quite the same way.

All the purchased furniture for the room (2 french chairs, night stand and the side table between the chairs) came from my favorite consignment shop here called Home Consignment Center. They have locations all over the Bay, and I love that they will negotiate on the prices of some pieces that have been sitting on the floor for more than a couple weeks. The Campbell location seems to be my favorite as they are much more likely to adjust the price on nearly everything. Makes me feel much better about spray painting something that I spent less money on. I also love a deal.

OneKingLanes.com proved to be an awesome resource for me where I was able to snag a new duvet cover and a white bedspread along with pillows that match to finish off the creation. I purchased a king sheet set from Target along with an extra set of white pillow cases. Bleach is my friend with these. I’m quite happy about it as it was relatively low budget for everything.

I repainted the side table just in front of the bed in a gold paint from Martha Stewart. I use the same color to paint the starburst mirror which I got for a steal at a local consignment shop here. Similar mirrors and side tables run for several hundred dollars each so I decided to repaint mine and I can do so again when I get bored without feeling guilty.

We did not repaint the walls or do anything to them. This house has been freshly painted. I don’t want to have to repaint before I leave. They are a neutral yellow color. It’s not too sunny but just cozy.

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In the months that have followed I’ve changed out my lamps shades to a red to go with the red pillows and added my rug downstairs to the upstairs. There seems to be quite a lot of noise for visitors who are staying in the guest room below and I want to make it as soundproof as possible for guests staying.

Pinterest serves as quite the inspiration for me. You can click on my Master Bedroom bedroom board to see what I mean. I’m slightly obsessed since moving into our new home. For seven years I lived in the same place so I had the furniture and flow all figured out. Here it is much more challenging as we are dealing with an older home, quirks and much smaller closets that require me to be organized. I’ve had to purge a lot and reprioritize.

Home Passion

Easy Delicious Canned Orange Marmalade

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One of the perplexing things about now living in California is the amount of time I seem to have to enjoy personal hobbies. Living in Oklahoma, we seemed to always be busy. I was rushed, and I sacrificed doing things I enjoyed personally in favor of my business or my family. Now living in California, we are still busy probably even more so, but I find myself cooking more and most importantly eating together at the dinner table when the hubby or I isn’t traveling. In fact just last night we cooked up the most amazing cauliflower mashed potatoes. I’ve put together a Pinterest board of recipes we’re committed to trying. Click here to access the Yummilicious board on Pinterest.

At our home in Northern California, we have a number of fruit bearing trees in our yard including lemon, orange, guava and pomegranate. And so far we have enjoyed using our backyard resources incorporating them into our meals every chance we can. We have two orange trees, and truth be told we are up to our eyeballs in oranges which is why we decided to get a little creative beyond smoothies, popsicles and freezing our juice. We decided to try our hand at orange marmalade.

How to Can & Cook Orange Marmalade

Now I’ve canned in the past. I grew up helping my mom make strawberry, grape and cherry jam. I’ve even had success a few years back in canning my own tomatoes from my garden, but orange marmalade was a new adventure for me.

When I’m canning I use a 20 quart stock pot, a large wooden spoon, a large pressure cooker, assorted canning jars and lids, a funnel and a pair of tongs. Of course, you will need lots of oranges. Luckily, I have more than a few.

How to Can & Seal with a Pressure Cooker

It had been a while since I had canned with my pressure cooker, and I always get nervous using it because of the high velocity steam. Sadly, I couldn’t find a lot of great information and videos which is why I’ve included instructions on how to sanitize your cans and seal them using your pressure cooker included in this recipe directions and outline.

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Some of our orange stash. This recipe didn’t even put a dent in the tree in our back yard.

To start, we sourced Alton Brown’s orange marmalade recipe from the internets. I made a double batch since we have ridiculous amounts of oranges at our place. If you don’t want to make as much marmalade, you can half the batch.

Orange Marmadlade Recipe Ingredients

3 1/2 pounds of oranges, washed and cut into 1/8ths and cut into quarterly again

2 lemons, zest and juiced

12 cups of water

7 1/2 pounds of sugar

Canning equipment – 20 16 ounce canning jars, rings and lids

Directions

Wash your oranges and lemons. You will be leaving the peels on your oranges so make sure they are scrubbed clean. Cut the oranges into 1/8 inch slices and remove the seeds as you go. Stack the orange slices and cut them into quarters. Place them into your steel pot. Add the lemon zest, water and sugar. I’ve made a note to invest in a new zester. Our little KitchenAid guy isn’t enough for this big two lemon job. Set your temperature on high heat and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for 10 minutes stirring often. Reduce heat after 10 minutes to a rapid simmer. Stir frequently and cook for 40 minutes.

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Cut your oranges to 1/8th inches thick. We didn’t follow Alton’s instructions to use a madoline. Use your best judgement.

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3 1/2 pounds of oranges just as we put them on the stove top and heated them to a boil.

While your fruit is cooking, get out your pressure cooker. Fill with 3-4 cups of water. Insert your metal grill and fill with opened jars and place your lids beside your cans. Close the pressure cooker and add the whistle top. Turn on high heat. Once it begins to steam, leave it on for 10 minutes. Then shut off the pressure cooker and then pinch the whistler at the top to slowly release the steam and pressure so you can safely open.

By now, your oranges are likely simmering rapidly. I like to stir with a wooden spoon. The steam is sugar-ridden so it’s sticky. That means you’ll need to turn on your vent fan and be prepared to wipe down the above cabinets. I speak from experience.

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Oranges in the stock pot coming to a boil. Sticky steam!

The marmalade will reduce quite a bit. It’s part of the process so don’t despair. Once your marmalade is cooked, use your tongs and a silicon kitchen glove to protect your hands. The water in the pressure cooker and the sanitized can is hot. Add your funnel to to the inside of your jar, and use your ladle to carefully add the marmalade.

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I picked up this colorful and multi-sized funnel at Target for just a couple bucks.

I filled the jam jars all the way leaving 1/2 inch to a 1/4 inch at the top. Because I doubled the batch, we had a lot of extra marmalade, I ended up using my extra large canning jars after we ran out of our 10 16 ounce cans. Be prepared with 20 16 ounce canning jars, lids and rings. I had to improvise.

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A pressure cooker is much easier to use and quicker for canning, securing and sanitizing your jars.

Once your jars are full and lids secure, add them back to your pressure cooker. Add back in 2-3 cups more water. Tighten pressure cooker and heat back up for about 5-10 minutes. Release pressure and open with caution. Remove the jars with your tongs and silicon kitchen gloves. Set them aside to cool for at least 24 hours in a cool, dry place before storing.

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Let your newly canned jams cool for at least 24 hours before moving them to storage.

The marmalade keeps for 6-9 months, and I am looking forward to cooking with it as the main ingredient for an orange chicken recipe I’ve used for years in addition to the standard jam on toast we have at our place. Subscribe to my RSS feed as I’ll be posting the orange chicken recipe very soon.

Home Mommas

Why I Love My Daughter’s Mountain View Preschool

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Having just been in Mountain View, CA for a little more than 4 months, I feel like we are finally settling in. Finding a house to rent for our family in Silicon Valley, moving 2,000 miles and putting our Oklahoma house on the market was only the beginning. Moving pretty much sucks. It’s extremely stressful, aggravating and overwhelming no matter how much help you have or are OCD on planning. Maybe you just like dealing with stress, drama and driving 3 days in 120 degree desert heat. I can tell you’ve I’ve been there. It’s NOT fun.

How to Balance Working from Home  & Being a Mom While Moving

Me, I’m the laid back type but I do like my organization and structure. I really just like knowing where things are in my home. While still in mid unpacking, I broke down crying after spending 30 minutes searching for my favorite black blazer and black heels to attend a client meeting in the city. However, there is one thing I wished we would have spent more time planning and researching for prior to our arrival, which was my daughter’s new preschool. Since I work from home and hubby was doing a great of traveling, I rely on my daughter’s school to provide her with learning, development and interaction with other children since she’s an only child. Also extremely important is that school is essential to provide me a few hours of quiet and uninterrupted time to get work done especially conference calls, webinars and a lot of writing.

I pretty much went out of my mind the first two weeks after moving here. I was balancing work, unpacking and taking care of Ryleigh full time. I forgot how much I relied on her school time to give us both a break and much needed sanity. I have, however, mastered the fine art of juggling a 900+ registration webinar on hiring for happiness while getting ready my daughter for school. Essentially, I hosted, spoken and managed the entire webinar while Ryleigh was in the next room where I could hear here playing and bathing. Don’t worry I checked on her every few minutes when the other presenter was talking.

Why I Love Little Acorn Preschool

I want to introduce you to a great preschool in our neighborhood of Mountain View, CA called Little Acorn Preschool. This school has been essential to maintaining my  own, my daughters and my husband’s sanity. Click here to read the Yelp review or see my review below.

 

Having just moved to Mountain View from Oklahoma, Little Acorn in September 2013, the school has been great at helping my 4 year old in transitioning. The school is a great community and the teachers provided love and support as well as the new administration.

The school administration allowed us to visit the school on numerous occasions and meet with teachers while we researched and learned about other pre-schools in the area before deciding to enroll our daughter there. I’m glad we did.

Their curriculum is play based and they have provided much needed structure for my daughter. She loves all the teachers and comes home singing a new song every single day. One of the things I enjoy are the extra activities you can select including dance, Spanish and gymnastics. We walk to school or ride our bikes. Because they are a Christian school that is attached to a church they also offer a number of different community and family events. My favorites are the fall magic show, Christmas program and the trunk or treating event held in the parking lot.

 

We spent two weeks looking at schools. Ryleigh and I scheduled visits to 8 different schools, revisted 3 and made the decision to go with Little Acorn Preschool for a number of reasons including location, their flexibility and the sense of community. I wasn’t disappointed. They have welcomed our crazy family and my crazy work form home wardrobe of sweat shirts, yoga pants, hats and all. They have been extremely flexible with us. I highly recommend them as an option for new families relocating to the area and established families.

For the record people who think that moving is easy haven’t ever done it or they have selective short term memory. This is a personal reminder for myself when I get a wild hair to pick up and move my family across the country. Hire a full service moving company…

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