DIY Table Transformation

DIY Table Transformation

My in-kitchen dining area is neither here nor there. The window and light fixture are misaligned which makes my compulsive tendencies twitch. Do I place my table in front of the window or do I center it beneath the light? Woe is me. To the other side of the table is my hallway and beyond, my front door. Which means when I sit down to eat, the world can join us through the side panel. Hi, neighbor!

DIY Table Transformation

We moved into our home 7 months ago now and despite a beautiful furnished dining room, I wanted to fill that gap. I committed the new home owner sin. DO ALL THE DECORATING AT ONCE! BUY ALL THE THINGS NOW! So I bought an inexpensive bar-height dining set for two. Ten minutes later, I hated it. Lesson learned. The decor in a new home is to be collected with patience and love. Not hasty gathering.

Last week, after searching the internet and every store in the world, I ordered a small, round pedestal table and two elegant fabric chairs. I purchased the table unfinished so I could make it my own.

I live in the house of espresso, guys.

Subconsciously, we have been buying dark colored wood furniture. IT’S. EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t help that our floors are also a dark walnut. When the dog lies down, sometimes I can’t even find him. So that’s helpful.

Since the curtains at the dining area window are a grey floral and the area rug is a mix of powder blues and grey, I chose grey chairs also. The leather ones in the dining room are…yes, espresso, so I NEED some color in my life. With this in mind, the last thing I wanted to see was a dark colored table so I grabbed a bottle of antique white wood stain and got down to business! The finish I desired was not overly distressed but not a solid white as I think that would be an eye sore within the coffee cave. I still wanted the piece to fit in with the modern vibe of the chairs and just look a little farm house-y.

The table was already sanded, prepped and ready to go so after giving it a quick, dry wipe down to remove any dust, I painted the surface with two coats. I started staining at the bottom of the table which seems counter-intuitive but it avoids drips from staining the pedestal before you get to it!

DIY Table Transformation

DIY Table Transformation

Once thoroughly dry, I sealed the table with a matte finish sealant. You could use a satin or gloss but I wanted more of a rough finish.

DIY Table Transformation

Alternative Method

An alternate way of finishing this table and achieving more of a distressed look would be to utilize a milk paint. Mix paint with parts water as per instructions and paint one coat.

Once dry, get a damp cloth and rub vigorously in spots you want to achieve the ‘worn’ look. The harder you work, the more distressed it will look (I’m glad I went with a stain because in this Georgia 100 degree and 110% humidity Summer, I would be the distressed one). This one definitely takes some elbow grease so make sure you’re prepared to do it!

It was so fun to do this for a few reasons

  1. It gave me a project of my own, something to do outside the monotony of daily life
  2. I purchased the table a lot more inexpensively than a finished product (you can also do this with hand-me-downs or market finds)
  3. I was able to do exactly what I wanted without settling for something that would simple ‘fit’.

DIY Table Transformation

 

Darby insisted on posing for this one!

Have you up-cycled a piece of furniture or completed a recent DIY project?

Let me know in the comments.

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Why I Try (And You Should Too!)

Why I Try

I tried before to get y’all to love Mondays and guess what? Not all of you bought it. But I tried. I tried to spread the #mondaymotivation and quell the negativity.

Why I Try

I’m kind of a hypocrite though. Not regarding Monday but regarding negativity. It invades my head space an awful lot. It’s hard to shake because loneliness doesn’t exactly breed positivity. I spend a vast quantity of time alone mid-week with no support. It can be very hard to find any motivation to escape the negative thoughts let alone live life to the full. In most cases I view my problems as unsolvable black holes where all hope goes missing but I have come to recognize that depressive attitude and instead stop it in its tracks and try to seek potential solutions.

I have learned to be present in the moment and step back, calm down and approach the situation from a different angle. We cannot solve our problems with the same attitude in which we created them so we must attempt an alternative mindset. Changing ones mind is not an easy task but we must try.

To go all in to whatever you want to do, is one thing. To even attempt it, is another.

Try Quote

I can’t stress enough, the importance of trying. We so often convince ourselves that it won’t be worth our while, or that we will fail, or that it won’t work out so why should we try?

Try Quote

To try is empowerment. To try is freedom. To try is the motivation you need to succeed. To try is the beginning of the momentum that keeps us going. Just beginning something can often change our perspective about how challenging we see a situation and sometimes the second we begin, we lighten the load and gain enough confidence to proceed.

Try Quote

Have you got any Monday Motivation to share?

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3-Ingredient Bounty Bars

3 Ingredient Bounty Bars

Bounty Bars, or Mounds as they are known in the US, are one of my favorite chocolate bars. Growing up, my mother would have them in the house but I thought coconut was the worst thing in the world. What was wrong with me?! I am a huge coconut fan these days.

3 Ingredient Bounty BarsInstead of purchasing desserts, I try to bake as many sweet things as I can simply because I can see what’s going into them. I don’t claim to bake healthy versions of these treats but they are an awful lot ‘cleaner’ than the majority of items in America’s candy aisles.

I have said many times before that I’m an advocate of minimal ingredients, steps and clean-up when it comes to kitchen activities. Well this recipe is no different. With just three ingredients and two easy steps you can enjoy a Bounty! This is a great recipe to try with kids!

3 Ingredient Bounty Bars

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How To Optimize Pinterest For Your Blog

How To Optimize Pinterest For Your Blog

How To Optimize Pinterest For Your Blog

PIN FOR THE WIN! If you’re blogging without utilizing a Pinterest account then you are missing out! I get it, you’ve just started blogging and now you’re buried beneath countless social media platforms. My advice would be to optimize one or two (or three) that work best for you and ignore the rest. If you are trying to juggle a thousand accounts to promote your blog but don’t have time to write the blog then the practice is redundant. I focus mainly on Pinterest and Facebook and occasionally I dip my toes in Instagram and Twitter. Facebook is like a moody teenager. Some days she is obliging and sweet as pie, other days she hates your guts and refuses to help you. I will conquer Facebook’s wildly complicated algorithms one day but for now, I’m going to tell you about Pinterest.

When I first started blogging I developed an irrational fear of being away from my laptop. I became a stat stalker. I would see my hard work flatline if I took a day off and it affected me. If I kept this up it would have meant that I had no life outside this blog. Luckily I learned that lesson early on and made myself a blogging schedule. Sometimes this thing called life happens and that schedule changes but I try to adapt as I go along.

Honestly, I was getting bored of hearing bloggers sing the praises of Pinterest. I thought it was worthless and it was doing nothing for me. That was wrong of me. Pinterest is now my biggest traffic driver. For Sass & Shamrocks, it was Succulents For Beginners that took off first. The pin now has over 4000 repins! Of all social media platforms, Pinterest extends the shelf life of your content beyond measure. I now have two pins that sit there and pull in thousands of viewers a week and I don’t have to do a thing!

Pinterest has changed its algorithms and it has a drastic affect on your reach. Prior to the recent changes, you could join group boards (more on those later) and reach masses with your one little pin. Now, more than ever, Pinterest will reward the growth and popularity of your own personal boards. This of course means success takes longer but what’s the harm in a bit of hard work?

I started my blog in February 2016 and decided to take Pinterest seriously at the end of April. Here’s just a small sample of the growth I achieved by using a social media platform I used all along for fun anyway!

Sass & Shamrocks Pin Stats

Sass & Shamrocks Pin Stats

12 Steps To Optimize Your Pinterest Account

Get A Business Account

Firstly, how do I have Pinterest analytics as seen above? I switched my personal account to a business account. It’s free and can be done without losing the pins/followers on your original account. After a couple of days you will be able to see the behavior of your followers and pins. This is a very handy tool for determining what your followers like to pin.

Enable Rich Pins

What’s a rich pin? Necessary! Rich pins look more professional, stand out and they are also a nifty tool to prevent anyone claiming your content as their own. They contain more embedded information such as where the pin has been shared from, direct links and for small businesses, pricing. Get them now!

Sass & Shamrocks Rich Pins

Give Your Account Your Blog Name

Remove the bells and whistles. The new algorithms will do nothing for aesthetically pleasing characters and wide spacing between letters. Give your account your blog name – plain and simple. If you want to include your own name then put it after the blog title or in parentheses.

Simple Descriptive Board Labels

The name game applies to your boards too. Give your boards clean, simple and applicable labels. No characters, no spacing. I have entitled mine in upper case letters.

Niche Boards

Pin to boards that fit your niche. If you have other boards you cannot part with then make them secret and continue pinning to them. I totally have a board dedicated to giant, fluffy Old English Sheepdogs but you can’t see it!. Analyze the demographics of your followers. Maybe you don’t have kids but have a lot of ‘mom blog’ followers who enjoy your DIY and Food boards – create a board they may like related to kids/parenting/family vacation ideas etc. Of course pin to the board the things YOU like. It is your account after all.

Join Group Boards

Group boards are open boards belonging to somebody else that you can pin to. Some of these boards have thousands of followers and can be a good place to get your content seen. You will need to be invited to the board before you can pin. Often, the owner of the board will leave an email address in the board description so you can send a request to join. If you are struggling to find boards in your niche, search for some on PinGroupie.

Spring Clean Old Content

This was the kick starter for me. Stale pins are hurting your reach and engagement Regularly (once a month/two months) go through your pins and remove the ones with less than four repins. Pinterest rewards popularity. You need to repin and like pins that have a good repin record. This means your followers will engage with them also.

Choose Your Timing

Pinterest is typically the most active between 8pm and 1am and saturday mornings are also popular. Pin during these times as there will be more pinners available to save your pins.

Follow Accounts In Your Niche

I started in April with 45 followers and at present I have over 700. I gained organic followers by following in my niche, liking/pinning/commenting their content and pinning more of what my followers want (thanks, analytics!). It started slow but now I gain between 10 and 20 followers daily and even more if I get involved in Pinterest threads.

Pin Often

I also gain followers so consistently because I pin often. I don’t mean time-sucking dedication to the site or the type of obsession that means you abandon your family and friends for that little red button. No, I mean picking up your phone and pinning 2/3 things when standing in line at the bank or waiting on a friend for coffee. If you absent minded-ly pin throughout the day it doesn’t even feel like a task. This is something I would do anyway before I even started the blog.

Create Pin Friendly Images

Pinterest likes vertical images with some white space and lots of color. Ensure you are creating images of the correct dimensions. Horizontal images are not eye-catching and get buried. Be as creative as you wish but make sure your brand isn’t overly fussy or glaringly busy. This will turn people off. Pinterest is a visual place and images catch the eye more than content, initially.

Add Descriptions

Make sure your pin descriptions contain key words related to the content. Some people say with the new algorithm changes you don’t need to include hashtags but I still use one or two that I think fits best along with a short description.

I now have a number of pins that keep my blog alive when I am busy living my real life and you can too. Let me know in the comments how you find Pinterest.

Happy pinning!

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Car Essentials For A Long Road Trip

Car Essentials For A Long Road Trip

Ah the days of living in Ireland when I was blissfully unaware of the great American road trip and all it entails! When I would climb into the car and hit the road from Waterford to Mayo and think that 5 hours on the road was FOREVER. Now a five hour road trip is like a brief Sunday spin to me.

Car Essentials For A Long Road Trip

In the last 18 months we have driven over 11,000 miles (props to my husband who did ALL of that as I waited for my license!). From Georgia to Alabama and Florida multiple times and to Missouri and Ohio for special occasions. Soon we embark on a 21 hour journey from Northern Wisconsin to Georgia. I am now a seasoned veteran of the great state-wide road trip!

Aside from the back aching pain from sitting in car seats for extended periods of time, there are many obstacles you could run into on a long road trip. I’ve compiled this guide of essentials to make your journey as comfortable and seemingly quick as possible!

For Kids

  • If you’re fancy, seat back entertainment systems loaded with animated movies
  • Tablets or iPods. Even for the anti-technology parent, it will keep them relatively quiet and save your sanity
  • Travel versions of their favorite classic board games
  • Activites (coloring, Etch-A-Sketch, mess free markers etc.)
  • Books (stories, puzzles, quiz etc.)
  • Favorite comfort item whether it be a toy, blanket or pillow
  • A map of where you are traveling to point out locations and educate them along the way (unless you don’t want to hear, “where are we NOW?” every 5 minutes!)
  • Stomach friendly snacks
  • Water
  • Sick bags (sorry for the TMI but it’s that or spend ages cleaning up at the roadside)
  • Small washcloth to dampen and place on forehead if they feel ill

For Pets

  • Front seat barrier or hammock to keep Fido from clambering in on top of the driver
  • A canvas/mesh travel bag for a small dog or pet safety belt clip for a larger dog’s harness to keep him secure
  • Blankets
  • Water bowl with enough bottled water for the length of the journey
  • Food
  • Waste bags
  • Towel
  • Dog cologne (yes, it may sound weird but if you make a pit stop and pup gets wet then you’re completing the rest of your journey with the strong aroma of wet dog – fabulous!)

For The Car

  • Get a service and have your oil changed in advance
  • Jump Cables
  • Contact numbers for roadside assistance
  • Satellite Navigation System
  • I like the WAZE app for checking on potential upcoming hazards/traffic delays
  • Cigarette lighter USB adapter for charging your devices
  • Power bank for your phone
  • Car freshener. Road smells, farm smells, in-car smells…just have one!
  • Car seat organizer to hang on the back of the front seats and contain all the kids activities. No more “Where’s myyyyyy….?”
  • A map. A good old fashioned paper map!
  • An emergency kit in the back stocked with a first aid kit, towel, wet wipes, sun screen, umbrella, snacks and lots of bottled water

For Your Sanity

  • Dress comfortably but appropriately. You may leave in snow and arrive in the tropics or vice versa.
  • Your choice of entertainment (books, audio books, magazines, mobile devices loaded with movies/e-books/music playlists etc.)
  • Camera/Video camera. It might be fun to vlog your drive. Unless tensions are running high then it will at least provide evidence afterwards…
  • A blanket. Unless you have dual control heating then one may be hotter/colder than the other and the driver gets to be most comfortable in my eyes
  • A pillow. I keep a small one to place behind my back, to sleep against or to put under my feet when my legs get restless
  • Fluffy socks. You know the fuzzy bed ones? They keep cold feet toasty and are super comfy!
  • Snacks that won’t cause any discomfort
  • Gum (chewing it will take your mind off a sick stomach if you don’t follow the above!)
  • Gallons of hand sanitizer. I don’t even need to tell you about the condition of some of the restrooms you will stop at along the way.
  • Wet wipes to freshen your face/body throughout the drive
  • A cooler stocked with water/iced coffee (for that good caffeine!). Take a flask full of hot coffee/tea if iced isn’t your style. Avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Sunglasses and lip balm are two small things I often forget but make my journey very uncomfortable – don’t make the same mistake.

 

My greatest tip of all would be to just relax. So many times I have been anxious over arrival and hotel check-in times that I have found  those are the journeys where you run into 2 hour stand-stills on the Interstate. Certainly plan ahead places for pit-stops and places to sleep that night but be flexible in the fact that although you may leave at 6am for a 10 hour drive, an arrival time of 6pm is not out of the realms of possibility. Allow for traffic, roadworks, extended stops etc. Life happens. Go with it! Play old school games like eye spy and count license plates. One of my favorite past times in the car is to read ridiculous billboards aloud to my husband and destroy every country music lyric there ever was by speaking it and analyzing the ridiculousness.

For example,

“First thing we make you feel better. Next stop we pull it all together. I’ll keep you warm like a sweater. Hold on forever”

WHAT?!

If you have a long road trip soon, happy travels my lovelies!

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Lake Life

Lake Life

Happy 4th of July!

Lake Life

It’s the first time the stars have aligned and I am finally celebrating Independence Day in the US! It is fitting since it is also the year my residency was granted. I am so blessed to be able to live the American Dream!

Darby 4th of July

We’ve spent the past week in the North Woods of Wisconsin and it has been a slice of heaven on earth. As well as being totally relaxing, it has been inspirational both in terms of writing and self improvement. There’s nothing quite like being isolated in the depths of nature to re-evaluate your current situation. It highlighted the abundance of things in my life to be grateful for. This vacation among them!

Lake Life

Lake Life

If you’ve caught up with my Ocean Potion post, you will be aware that I love being near the water. I’ve never fished before. Weird, since in comparison to continental US I grew up on a small island. We set up on the dock and I was so determined to catch a fish but my hooks only wanted lake weed! I thought it would surely be better out in the middle of the lake but that wasn’t to be either. We waited four days before we got beautiful weather to fish out there. The only thing I caught were rays of brilliant sunshine! I guess fishing isn’t my secret hidden talent. The quest to find that continues…

Lake Life

Lake Life

Lake Life

It’s no secret that Wisconsin is famous for beer and craft brewing. It must be all that German influence. We even found one in honor of Darby, although I’m not sure he was too impressed. Come to think of it, he doesn’t look impressed in a single photo of this trip. What a thanks for taking him along!

Lake Life

One of the best and most perfectly timed moments was while drinking a local brew. I was enjoying my ‘Yankee Buzzard’ when a bald eagle flew through the trees. In the days leading up to the 4th, you can’t get more ‘MERICA than that! I was lucky enough to capture the moment.

Lake Life

Lake Life

To end our trip we had a joyous weekend of celebration at my sister-in-law’s wedding at Whistling Straits, which made our vacation all the sweeter!

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Vanilla Cupcakes + Espresso Frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes + Espresso Frosting

Ever feel like you’ve had too many cups of coffee but still want to enjoy a coffee? Get your coffee fix via these light and fluffy, vanilla cupcakes with rich espresso frosting! I love finding new ways to enjoy coffee and nothing goes better with a cup of coffee than coffee flavored baked goods! I didn’t want to over-do it so rather than make coffee cupcakes, I made simple vanilla cupcakes with a rich and creamy coffee frosting.

Vanilla Cupcakes + Espresso Frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes + Espresso Frosting

Have you tried espresso cupcakes or frosting?

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Carry Your Own Baggage

Carry Your Own Baggage

Carry Your Own Baggage

It’s funny how small actions or simple statements provoke such long-winded thoughts. Or maybe it’s just me. I truly believe in the existence of empaths, although some skeptical folk will scoff at the idea. I feel deeply. I am very sensitive to people, situations and when something feels off I can usually instantly come to the conclusion why, even if on the surface there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer. It’s borderline psychic sometimes and that in itself can be unsettling.

I recently trudged through US Pre-clearance (a wonderful affair where you clear immigration before entering the US!) in Dublin airport and one of the standard  questions I was asked had me thinking for a large portion of my 9 hour flight.

“Ma’am did you carry your own bag today?”

I did carry my bag, of course. I didn’t need to be reminded of the huge bulky monstrosity I had just lugged through check in. In the past five years I’ve carried my fair share of heavy bags and I’m now aware that I have carried them mentally too which led me to think about how much weight on my shoulders could I drop off and not worry about?

Being empathetic involves a lot of worry and 80% of it never seems to be my own. I carry burdens for people who don’t seem to care about what they probably should care about. I carry burdens for friends and family suffering. I carry burdens for strangers I see on the news in sad or dangerous situations. So how do I prioritize my own?

As someone extremely perceptive and introverted, I dislike nothing more than to be labelled ‘too sensitive’. Sensitivity is not a dirty concept. Sensitivity creates connection and intimacy. Sensitivity allows for compassion and understanding. Sensitivity is a wide open channel for love. It doesn’t mean thin skin. It means deep strength but somewhere along the line we were all told it’s a pathetic sign of weakness. What I consider weak are those who run from problems. Those who abandon instead of stand up and care for someone. Those who allow a loved one to carry their problems while they shamelessly continue on their carefree path. Weak are those who laugh in the face of sensitivity and take advantage of it.

I’ve been through enough to want to give up a thousand times. Some days, I still want to but my empathy for others won’t allow it. I guess empathy is stubborn’s ‘over sensitive’ sister.

When something comes natural to you, it’s hard to deliberately stop doing it. For me, it is natural to worry for others and stress over things that are not mine to be concerned with. But who will worry for me? Shouldn’t I give myself the same courtesy I give to others and look out for myself? Everyone desires to be supported. There’s great confidence in being enveloped by unconditional support but it’s not always an option. Sometimes you have to be enough by yourself.

I implore those of you out there sinking under the weight of others’ baggage to shed that load and prioritize yourself. Especially if what you are carrying goes entirely unrecognized. For your health and your happiness, lay down the baggage and carry yourself.

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Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

Ice cream and frozen desserts at the supermarket can be expensive so why not make your own? Uh, effort! Right? Wrong!

Last week I talked about ways to keep your dog cool and now I’m sharing these sweet treats to beat the Summer heat. The best part is, they are super easy to whip up. All you might need to purchase are the molds because chances are, you have the other ingredients. All TWO of them! Choose your favorite yogurt and dice some fresh fruit, freeze for 5-6 hours and enjoy!

Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

As well as being frugal, you will be saving yourself major calories and choosing the healthier option. Guilt free treats are the BEST treats! I personally, have been trying to eat less sugary snacks and more fruit but sometimes I’m just not in the mood. In this intense Georgia humidity these are my first sweet go-to snack.

The flavor possibilities when making your own popsicles are endless.

Some of my favorite combos are:

  • Vanilla yogurt + Strawberries
  • Vanilla yogurt + Blueberries
  • Vanilla yogurt + Raspberries
  • Vanilla yogurt + Peach Slices
  • Coconut Milk + Pineapple Juice + Pineapple Chunks

Why not experiment with your own flavor combinations? Try cucumbers, kiwi, peanut butter or even add granola!

Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

Don’t forget that you’re not the only one in the family needing a cool down, click here for frozen dog treat recipes for your favorite four-legged friend 🙂

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a fruit snack?

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Frozen Dog Treats

Frozen Dog Treats

It’s a dog themed kind of week, guys! I just published How To Keep Your Dog Cool In Summer and in it I suggested making your pup frozen treats as an additional way to keep him or her cool. Once we discovered our Doodle was an ice cube fiend I had a brain wave to combine his love of treats with his addiction to ice cubes! I’m going to share with you, the recipes our Dood loves.

Frozen Dog Treats

If you are confused about what human food is safe for your dog to eat and what is harmful then run a quick search first. It’s better to be safe than sorry and I am not an expert. As far as pantry staples go, here’s a quick list of things you might already have that is a-ok to give to your dog!

  • Peanut Butter
  • Natural Yogurt
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet Potato (cooked)

Darby Delights

Frozen Dog Treats

  1. To make Darby’s favorite frozen treats, pictured above, you will need a mold (or any ice cube tray). I like the silicon molds as they’re easy to extract the treats.
  2. Each treat is nothing but a Tbsp of natural yogurt combined with a Tbsp of peanut butter and added goodies, in this case banana and carrot.
  3. Layer the bottom of the shaped mold with your mixture then place diced banana (or carrot) on top, cover with another layer of peanut butter/yogurt mixture until shape is full.
  4. Set in the freezer for 5 or 6 hours.

Frozen Dog Treats

If your pup has a sensitive stomach and can’t handle peanut butter then simply freeze some of the doggy approved fruits/snacks in water like a regular ice cube. He’ll appreciate the treat and the cool-down at the end of his hard work licking the ice!

Do you make your dog frozen treats in the summer time?

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