Sing Peace: The Power of Positive Intention

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Our scene opens to an Amphitheater. Its Grandparents Day and its my son’s first year at this Montessori School. I am excited to show my Father in Law and his wife how AMAZING this school is. It’s reputable accreditations, top notch facilities, child led education model, etc. Then the kids come out. They get in their positions for a song. Then the music starts…

Light a candle for peace

Light a candle for love

Light a candle that shines all the way ’round the world

Light a candle for me, light a candle for you

That our dream of peace, will one day come true

Sing peace around the world.

Goosebumps. Tears.

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I am utterly inspired by this song that my son’s Montessori Primary class is singing. Mesmerized by the message, I soon forget about all the impressive outward characteristics that the school offered. They, in front of my eyes, are showing me that they are teaching the kids about world peace.

What a notion! Light a candle for peace? Is it really that simple? Can I really believe that me lighting a candle for peace for all, will be enough to actualize that peace?

Yes, the power of positive intention is exactly that. Amazing, untapped, raw, power. 

“This morning, in this room, these children are using their power to change the world.”

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Many folks ask me whether or not I’ve heard the latest on local, national, or world news.  The many tragedies that happen daily, the “government’s latest screw up” and “this party is responsible for the demise of all humankind”. For those who absorb and feel energy,  frequently called Empaths, these types of things go beyond effecting just their thoughts. We feel this sort of devastation viscerally, which is why it can be hard for us to stay “up-to-date” with current events. It physically and emotionally hurts….quite literally.

There is a feeling of hopelessness that comes with constantly being bombarded with the negative things that go on in the world. It is not that we wish to remain ignorant, it is that the physical and emotional pain of feeling it becomes too much, and we must protect ourselves from it in order to live our best life.

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I know, kid. I feel it too.

Within the last ten years, I have developed a ritual that helps me feel the power of proactivity within what feels like a muddy bog of the energy of today’s world. When I feel taken by the overwhelming feeling of the worlds tragedy, I stop and light a candle. This grounding technique helps me to send up a prayer of protection for myself and the world. I take one moment to speak aloud my intention for that day. “I intend to live today happily and in gratitude” or “I intend to offer a feeling of peace to all whom I encounter.” Walking in that truth, I believe, has the power to effect maybe even ONE person. If I can effect one person, then the ripple effect can begin.

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I feel as though it is safe to say that most of us have heard of the Power of Intention. Ever heard of the book, The Secret? Oprah has!!!!

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Whaddup Oprah’s Book Club List?

The book explains that in the theory of Quantum Physics, everything has an energy; including thoughts. If we think about all that we have to be grateful for, we tend to open our hearts and minds to attract MORE of the same. This goes both ways. Both negative thoughts AND positive thoughts attract one another. Relying on this can have profound changes on one’s life. Simply speak your intention until it ultimately becomes your reality. In the book, that can mean financially, spiritually, romantically, or anything you else can imagine. We are, in essence, limitless.

After all, we’ve heard this same notion since we were littles ourselves.

“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. When you wish upon a star your dreams come true.” 

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Nice one, Jimminy. Thanks.

And why the heck shouldn’t they? If we are all individually powerful enough to make this happen,

imagine the potential energy of the collective?

The mountains of positivity that things like The World Kindness Movement can move.

An example lies in yesterday’s stresses I faced.  For me, they were almost too overwhelming for me to function. Money, parenting, and hormones (TMI? ah, lighten up;))got the best of me. So today, I woke up with the intention that I would feel nothing but butterflies, unicorns, and rainbows. (photo below) I even dressed the part as a reminder. Needless to say, I had an amazing day today in that I could see the good, the fun, and especially the hope in all the things that had stressed me the day before. Had I not intended to live differently today, I would have most likely felt the same stresses take me over. Silver linings are just that. Shiny lines in the proverbial sand that let us choose whether to stay on the side the negative, or to choose to see the positive.

There are ways you can get yourself involved bringing kindness to the world. The Random Acts of Kindness Organization has plenty of ideas, lesson plans, and even motivational quotes to help you on your way. If you’d like to keep it simple, then just smile at a stranger every now and again. It is said to be hella contagious:)

Or, be like this kid,  Maurice Adams, Jr..

We can all learn from Maurice. Well done, good sir.

At Home with Christiana: Best Fitness Apps

Fitness is something that has always been a part of my life. From junior athletics to marathon running to postpartum recovery, fitness is a major source of stress relief, confidence, and balance in my life. So while a day in the life of home renovating and chasing little people is almost always a workout in some form, my personal fitness is something I work very hard to prioritize. For me.giphy4

We all know by now the countless benefits of exercise (if not, read up!) but sometimes LIFE HAPPENS and getting to the gym just doesn’t. Parent or not, sometimes just adulting feels like sabotage to your fitness routine. Then add the schedules of 1, 2, or 3 little people that have little no regard for your agenda, and well, you get the picture. Client meeting runs late and you miss your spin class. Baby changes her nap schedule and you miss yoga by 5 f&*ing minutes. Ugh. “Namaste!”  Luckily, for days like these, technology is here to literally save our asses. Praise to the Fitness Apps.

Fitness apps have been a game changer for me because they allow me to get a serious workout in whenever and wherever I choose. No gym, no trainer, nobody else’s schedule but mine. Even multiple little people can’t sabotage these – there is a pause button for diaper changes, (because sh*t happens) and frankly, babies make great kettle bell substitutes for those walking lunges.  Also, no one is around to judge me for drinking coffee during my morning yoga session. #mommasrules

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In sum, fitness apps are totally awesome! With one caveat. Apps are definitely a realm where not all are created equal, but don’t despair if you’ve struck out in the past.  I have included my three favorite, time-tested apps below.  They won’t let you down.

Best Strength/Cross Training App: Nike Training Club

Nike Training Club (NTC) is my go-to app for at-home cross-training. NTC features a wide variety of workouts designed by pro athletes and celebrity trainers (oh heeeey Ronaldo, I see you). Ranging in intensity and activity level, these workouts can get straight up hardcore.  I love that this app allows you to select a workout based on a number of criteria. Only got 15 minutes? There are workouts for that. No equipment on hand? There are workouts for that, too. Want to target a certain stubborn body part or muscle group? There are PLENTY of workouts for that.

Another great feature is you can play your own music without interfering with the app’s audio cues. Because NO ONE likes doing burpees in silence. No one. New workouts are uploaded pretty regularly so I have yet to get bored. You can also set up 4-8 week personalized plans via the app that provide you with workouts in the order and frequency you should do them based on your personal inputs. This app really gives you everything you need to get a serious sweat on. So get after it!

Cost: Free

Great for: Strength training, beginners to serious athletes

Best Yoga App: Yoga Studio by Gaiam

Anyone who spends the majority of their week surrounded by little people who have yet to develop the concept of ‘personal space’ can use a little zen. But sometimes a lot of the time your yoga studio’s schedule won’t jive with yours, your kids stay home sick, or you just plain sleep in. Fear not. Gaiam’s Yoga Studio is a great app that can bring the Om at home, on vacation, in the backyard… anywhere. Time to get those yoga pants doing some actual yoga, y’all.

I will be the first to say that I am picky about yoga, and I think this app does a great job of channeling the calming vibe of a studio class via your wireless device.  You can download a wide variety of pre-made classes and meditations (more of our thoughts on meditation here if you missed it) ranging from 5 minutes to over an hour that target specific muscle groups or problem areas (such as lower back pain, yoga for runners),  or a particular mood (strength, Relaxation, AM/PM). Or you can create your own custom classes too. The one-hour Relaxation class is a personal favorite in our household. After the kids go to bed, light a candle, roll out your mat, (maybe pour that glass of wine, because why not? You’re at home!) Annnnd enjoy some well-earned savasana.  You won’t regret it.

Cost: $1.99/month or $19.99 annually

Great for: All levels of  yoga 

Best Running App: Map my Run by Under Armor

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Running for me currently goes one of two ways…  either the stars align and I get a glorious solo run while someone else watches the kiddos OR I’ve loaded up the jogging stroller with kids, snacks, blankets, water bottles and goodness knows what else. Either way, I just want to GO before something goes wrong. I don’t want to worry about creating a route, monitoring my pace or distance, or fidget with a bunch of settings on my devices.

Enter: Map my Run. I can load saved routes with a touch of one button or simply “start workout” and go. All while my distance and pace and calories are reliably monitored and saved to track progress. You can add notes to your run once it’s completed (like perhaps “double stroller into the wind” or “goldfish spilled”) so you can track your training performance without trying to remember why you had a couple really off pace days.

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You can also connect with your running buddies/family members that use the app to encourage each other along the way, which is especially fun if you’re training for an event together, even long distance, or just for added support.  That “NICE RUN, BUDDY!!!” text from your partner never, ever gets old.

Cost: Free

Great for: Running/walking/biking, tracking outdoor routes, race training

I hope these apps are as helpful for some of you to maintain or even begin your fitness regimen as they have been for me.  Shout out with your favorites if you have some to add!  Now go get you some Om. Cheers!

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View More: http://taraliebeckphotography.pass.us/homecoming123

Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

Momday Faves: Part Deux

To continue a “few of my favorite things” on these Momday Faves list….

Kristy’s turn:

Mommy Hooks

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Does this look like you running errands or enjoying a day out with kids in tow…one in a baby wearing device, one holding hands, and one in a stroller? Trying to run errands, go to the farmers market, store, zoo,shopping mall, anything can be overwhelming when the “stuff” piles up.

“mommy hold this” twice from each kid….plus picking up that package from post office and the flowers that I told you to buy for yourself a few posts ago…..

Heres your solution…The Stroller Hook!

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This one, by Toogli, is one that I like but there are several comparable brands to choose from here: Hook Options

This lovely thing clips ALL YOUR BAGS into your cart, stroller, backpack, wherever you want it! Its a heavy-duty carabiner that saved my life with two kids, a diaper bag, a baby wearing device, all the coats, shopping bags, etc!

Home Meal Delivery 

I am way into things arriving on my porch, ready to be made! Taking my kids to the store ended up getting extremely expensive for a family of four who eats wants to eat a paleo diet. We found Sunbasket.com and have LOVED every box we’ve gotten. They have very healthy options, and it saves us the time and money of getting all the ingredients at the store. Most of you know Blue Apron, but Sun Basket offers organic, free range, and different options for different dietary restrictions.

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For the price point, we’ve found Sunbasket to be the most convenient and the most excellent. As cross fitters, we need to focus on the fuel we put into our bodies daily.  With our schedules as they are, we wouldn’t eat as healthy as we do without Sunbasket.  Give it a shot!

And finally, a HUGE thank you to all of you who promoted our blog and got us to 50 followers. Keep sharing the good news and we will keep posting fun/informative/inspirational/random stuff!!

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At Home with Christiana: Back-splash Low Down

Installing a tile back-splash is one of the first projects we took on early into our reno days, and I think it’s a great place for beginners to start. It’s fairly quick, fairly simple, and provides almost instant gratification. WIN! This post may seem long at first glance, but don’t be intimidated – EVERYONE can do this in ONE. WEEKEND. This post contains a complete shopping list of all the materials you need to get started, along with step-by-instructions to get you a back-splash-beautiful kitchen in just two days.  

**Recommendations and opinions are all my own, no sponsors.**
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Our first DIY backsplash in progress. If we can do it- you can!

Before you get started, A couple of things to note:

  1. The budget and difficulty of this project can vary greatly based on the type of tile that you select. 
  2. Soapbox moment: a back-splash is best when it complements without overpowering the kitchen. From my real estate experience, if a buyer leaves a house and all they talk about is the back-splash, it’s always for the wrong reasons. Please no tile ocean motifs, unless you plan on never moving, like ever.

STEP ONE: SELECT YOUR MATERIAL

If you’ve already picked your tile, great! Measure twice three times to make sure you buy enough material, then add at least 10% to account for mistakes or faulty tiles and skip to STEP TWO!

If you’re still on the fence about what to use, allow me to introduce some of my back-splash favorites, ranked in order from the easiest to most time consuming material. All of these looks are equally timeless and beautiful… the hard part is choosing which one you like best.

(1) White subway tile: Beginners rejoice! White subway tile is a classic beauty that installs with ease. No patterns to match, super durable, easy to clean, and a look that never goes out of style. Need I say more? Well, I will, because it gets better. You can install this tile without using tile grout spacers, since the tiles have nifty ridges built into the side which will give you 1/16 grout lines without any extra work. Boom! This tile is also great for beginners to work with because it can be easily cut with a manual snap tile-cutter as opposed to the pricier and more complicated wet saw required for larger tile and natural stone projects. I have an indiscreet obsession with white subway tile that has earned it a place in many of our renovated spaces.  

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Our white subway tile-clad kitchen.

Subway tile also comes in a variety of styles like the cool, modern bevel; and sizes such as the popular mini subway sheet mosaic. Trim pieces, such as bullnose tiles, are available to use if you will have exposed ends of your backsplash to give it that “finished” look.

Best for: Beginners, budget, classic style, messy cooks (like me)

(2) Encaustic or ceramic imitation: Equally stunning and costly, genuine encaustic or hand panted cement tile, is famous for it’s bold and beautiful patterns.  Lucky for us, there are some great ceramic encaustic-style look-alikes on the market these days. These tiles are popping up ALL OVER design sites right now, but with roots pre-dating the 16th century, this historical look is anything but a trend.

 

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Minton encaustic tiles, US Capitol, installed in 1856!

While ceramic encaustic-style tiles are not quite a hand painted piece of history, they are pretty, budget-friendly and easy to work with. I’ve ranked these as more complicated than subway tiles for two reasons. First, the tiles are generally larger in size and thus require a wet saw.  Second, these tiles ALWAYS, ALWAYS require a design plan. Patterned tiles must be arranged thoughtfully to achieve the desired pattern and overall effect. Even if you want your tiles to appear ‘random’ you need to make sure you don’t group tiles of one type together. Also if the spacing or alignment is off AT ALL at any point, it will be very noticeable because the patterns will not line up correctly.  In short, layout your project before you begin, use tile spacers and check your level lines and you’ll LOVE the result. I have personally installed the extremely affordable black vintage Merola tiles and the Faventia ceramic blue shown below, and I love the look, price, and durability they provide without sacrificing style!

Best for: Beginners, statement look, global style

(3) Marble: There really is nothing like the natural beauty of marble, which is available in several varieties, colors, and price-points. And don’t believe the “you can’t have marble if you have kids” nonsense! I have now maintained beautifully resilient marble in two heavily used kitchens and two constantly used bathrooms (including bathroom floors with potty-training boys… if you know what I’m getting at). And LOOK AT IT. So. pretty.

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Carrara marble mosaic. 

If marble is prepped and handled correctly it will weather your kitchen for longer than you can live in it. I promise. Let’s not forget there are actual buildings made out of marble that have been sitting there looking gorgeous for centuries. When installing marble, I suggest three additional steps for function and aesthetic.

  1. First, it is critical to inspect and sort the tiles to remove any chipped, cracked, or discolored pieces before you get started. When working with any natural material, some tiles will crack. Natural stone is much more prone to chip and crack than man-made materials such as porcelain or ceramic. Color and movement can (and likely will) vary greatly between natural stone tiles, and marble is no exception. Be familiar with the return policy of your retailer as you will likely have a number of tiles you won’t want to use.  
  2. Second, seal the marble according to directions on your marble/tile sealant of choice BEFORE you install it. Grout and adhesive can stain porous stone if it is not sealed correctly. Allow tile to rest for the prescribed time before proceeding with your project.
  3. Third, arrange the marble tiles to achieve your desired color and movement in a template BEFORE you begin to install any of them. This holds true for sheet mosaics as well as individual tiles. (TIP: Use painters tape to attach guides on each corner of your layout such as Top L, Top R, Bottom L, Bottom R. Particularly if you’re not working alone, orientation can be easily confused. You’ll be glad you did, just trust me on this one). At this point, you’ve already taken the time to seal your pretty stone, so don’t fung it up by installing all the dark tiles together in one “blob” under your cabinet!  DON’T DO IT. This step can be time consuming but is so worth it, and is often the difference between a professional or amateur looking result.

Best for: Patient beginners or experienced DIYers, adding luxury to a space, natural beauty

STEP TWO: GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES

Once you’ve selected your tile, there are a few more supplies you need to purchase before you get started.

(1) Tile saw: You can use a manual snap cutter for most small ceramic or porcelain tiles. (like pretty white subway tiles! Woot!) For larger tiles or natural stone, you’ll need a wet tile saw. Wet saws range in price anywhere from $100 for a basic saw to $1000 and up for contractor grade standing wet saws. Depending on the complexity and frequency of your projects, different tools will best suit your needs. We have used this pretty basic $189 Ridgid for several years now and it’s withstood all of our projects pretty well. You can also rent tools from hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes if you’re not in the market to buy.

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(2) Adhesive: If you are installing a backsplash in your already finished kitchen, you are likely installing over drywall or plaster. (This makes for easy tiling, hooray!) My favorite adhesive for the job is this pre-mixed mastic. It comes off the shelf in a premixed, resealable tub so there is no messy mixing and no rush to finish the job if you have to take several breaks to say… pick up certain rascals from soccer practice. Available at most hardware stores. 

(3) Trowel: You will need a trowel to spread your adhesive, and for wall tiles up to 8″ you’re looking for a 1/4″ square notch like this one

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If you selected any of the recommended tiles, I’ve included my favorite coordinating grout colors here. For both subway tile and marble installs, I love this perfect not-too-light-not-too-dark Delorean Grey color. I advise against white in almost all situations, but particularly in one where you will be potentially splattering your red wine and bolognese in the vicinity of this grout. With blue encaustic-style tile install I love this Italian Stone color by Stainmaster, and this charcoal grout by Maipei is perfect with bold black patterned tiles.

(4) Grout: Grout comes in two varieties, sanded and unsanded, and is available in a mind-numbing selection of colors. Backsplashes are typically installed with narrow grout joints, meaning grout lines of 1/8 inch or less. In this case, unsanded grout will get the job done. (Sanded grout is required for flooring projects and wall installs with grout lines greater than 1/8 inch wide.) You can buy grout in a pre-mixed tub, or for a bit less money you can buy it as a powder and mix it yourself. Grout can be mixed by hand if you don’t mind putting some muscle into it, or a mixing attachment like this can be purchased for your drill, if you have one. The drill option saves time and sweat, which is always nice.

 

(TIP: Once you select the grout for your project, please please take a picture of the package in case it gets discarded by an unassuming spouse (not that this ever happens…) or gets too gunked up to be read clearly. Take my word for it, there are too many brands and too many colors at too many different stores to simply go back out for more of “that grey-ish” grout when and if you run out.) 

 

 

(5) Caulk & Caulk Gun – You’ll need caulk to seal up the seams between your counter and cabinets or shelves. It is available in colors to match grout, or clear is always a safe bet. A caulk gun is used to press the caulk out of the tube and apply it along thin seams. You won’t be able to use the caulk without one! Enjoy a reason to make lots of Caulk jokes. 

(6) Grout float: Buy more than one of these if you want someone to help you grout! 

(7) Grout sponge:– Same as above!

(8) Tile spacers: (if needed) As mentioned above in the case for subway tile, no spacers are required for subway tile install with 1/16” grout lines. However, almost EVERY OTHER project needs tile spacers. These little guys keep your tiles evenly spaced, and your grout lines straight. I suggest 1/8” for backsplash install. These come in a few styles, but my favorite is this plastic type with a stabilizing ring.

(9) Tile nippers (optional) – I would suggest these if you’re going to work with ceramic or porcelain as they can help you make a small notches in tile if required to accommodate an outlet or cabinet. Skip them for marble or natural tile, as they tend to crack natural material too easily.

(10) Bucket (optional): For rinsing  your grout sponge. If you’ve got an old bowl lying around you can use that too!

(11) Level: For drawing a reliable center line and sanity-checking those grout joints.

(12) Measuring Tape: You’ll need to measure tiles to cut and fit accurately along walls, around outlets, and under cabinets.

(13) Grout sealer (optional): If you don’t heed my warnings against white grout, help me help you, and seal it. Application is easy with something like this

STEP THREE: PREP!

Yep, the boring, but oh-so-important step everyone wants to skip. DON’T!!  I promise, backsplash prep is really not too involved, and it pays dividends.

(1)  Clean up! Ensure the wall for tile install is clean and flat. Bumps will make tile uneven and adhesive doesn’t stick well to dust and dirt. Wipe off that kitchen grease behind the stove! I see you! A simple multi-surface cleaner is fine. Dry the area before tiling. Remove any electrical outlet covers in your tiling area. Move your range forward and out of the way. Now is also the time to clean and/or seal your tile if necessary (Marble people, I’m looking at you.)

(2) Measure and Layout: Measure the wall area for install and, if desired, create your backsplash tile layout on a table or floor area nearby. (TIP: DO NOT do this on the counter. While it might seem convenient, it will be super annoying when you accidentally glop adhesive on it!) This step is especially critical if you selected a natural stone or patterned tile (see STEP ONE above).

(3) Select and mark your starting point. Depending on your kitchen layout and the surface to be tiled, your starting point may vary. However it’s important to note that the best place to start your backslpash is usually NOT along one wall or the other. If you have a focal point on your soon-to-be-backsplashed wall, use this as your guide. For instance, often the center of the cooktop, pot filler or vent hood is a good place to start. Mark the direct center of the focal point, and draw your center line using a level or straight edge starting at just above your countertop. This is where you will center your first tile. You will always complete the bottom row of tile first so tiles can rest on the counter, and then, each other.  Otherwise, tile will sag – gravity is a thingIf there is no counter surface behind your range for your first row of tile to rest on, you can either (a) screw a ledger board into the wall to support your backsplash tile. A ledger board can be any scrap piece of wood (as long as it’s straight!) screwed directly to the wall in line with your countertop height to maintain a level bottom tile line; OR (b) run your tile to the floor for easy wipe-down cleaning behind your range. Up to you!

(4) Set up your saw. For a manual snap cutter, this pretty much just involves getting it out of the garage (yay!). But a wet saw requires a power source (think extension cords) and cool water. Follow the instructions on your saw for proper set up, please! If you grabbed tile nippers, it’s good to have those on hand too. You don’t want to be searching for tools while your adhesive dries.

STEP FOUR: START TILING!!

Yes! The fun part!! You’re here!!! Pop open that adhesive like a bottle of bubbles and get this show on the road! 

(1) Spread your adhesive. Using your trowel, dip into that adhesive! Using the notched side of the trowel, spread your adhesive across the wall from your starting point to create a “striped” look across the wall surface. It doesn’t have to be thick, just enough to ensure full coverage of the tile. Make sure your center line is still visible before you get too carried away, and drumroll please… Press your first tile firmly into the adhesive, centered on your starting point, and place a tile spacer under the tile so it doesn’t rest directly on the counter. (You’ll caulk that space at the end of the job.)  YES! A tile is on your wall!! Do your happy dance and continue by applying more adhesive in small sections just large enough to apply a few tiles at a time so the adhesive doesn’t dry before you get the tile up. Place a tile spacer between each tile as needed, to ensure proper spacing.

(2) Cut tiles to fit. You’ll hopefully get through at least most of one row before you have to cut a tile to fit around an outlet, wall, or cabinet. When you reach the end of your first row, if you can’t fit a whole tile, simply measure the remaining space (accounting for your grout lines), measure and mark on your tile, and cut the tile to fit with your manual snapper or wet saw by following the tool’s instructions. (TIP: If adhesive starts to gunk up your trowel, you can use water to rinse with a sponge in a utility sink, bucket, or bowl.)

Keep at it until you’ve filled up every last inch of that backsplash! If you’re using trim pieces, don’t forget to place your bullnose tiles at the exposed edges. Now revel in your beautiful tile!!! (And go to bed.) Wait 24 hours before you move to STEP FIVE.

STEP FIVE: GROUT

Alright, by now you have a legit looking kitchen with a fancy tile backsplash. Time to fill in all the perfectly straight and evenly spaced (because you DID that! Woot!) tiny little joints with grout. Wait at least 24 hours after tiling before grouting your new beautiful backsplash. Get your grouting tools out: Float, sponge, bucket of water, and rags.

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Our freshly-installed DIY Carrara marble backsplash.

(1) Mix grout per instructions on the bag to a toothpaste or peanut butter consistency, or open your pre-mixed grout.

(2) Remove all of your tile spacers and bag them up for your next project! (TIP: Label the bag with the spacer width, so they don’t get mixed up with others as you take on more of these exciting tile projects. Yep, see what I did there?)

(3) Scoop grout with grout flout and apply over the tile at a 45 degree angle, working evenly into the grout lines between tiles.

(4) Fill your bucket or bowl with water and grab your sponge. Wait 10 minutes.

(5) Use a damp sponge to remove excess grout from your tiles. There will still be residue, called a “haze” left on your tiles. This is NORMAL. Don’t try to get it all of right now. (Wait 2 hours. See next step!)

(6) After your initial tile-wiping, wait 2 hours. Use a slightly damp, clean sponge or rag and wipe remaining haze from your tiles, and celebrate. YOU. DID. IT.

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STEP SIX: FINISHING TOUCHES

Let’s be real – you are pretty much done-zo. Hopefully you are loving your result and can get this baby over the finish line with a little caulk.

(1)  Wait until tile is completely dry and use caulk to seal in the gaps below the tile and above the countertop, as well anywhere cabinets meet your backsplash. Caulk gives flexibility for material expansion and won’t crack easily. 

(2) Wait 7 days after tiling and sponge on a grout sealer, if you like!

(3) Fill previously mentioned wine glass, have friends over and impress them with your swanky new backsplash. Your kitchen value just went up and so did your DIY street cred. BOOM!

CHEERS until next time!

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Adventures of a Renaissance Mommy: Introducing Christiana!

Last but not least, I am Christiana, and I’ll be rounding out the DIY, home design, and real estate corner of this blog, which will be sprinkled (most likely erratically) with legal expertise, wanderlust, wellness, style, and my attempts at child-rearing philosophy (which mostly equates to embrace the crazy). A little bit of everything!  

I’m an attorney and a former Realtor, currently working as a full time at-home momma to three kids aged 5 and under, and wife to a Navy pilot. I love old houses and dirty jobs (no, not the diaper kind, but we have those here a lot right now too), and I spend my non-existent free time attempting DIY projects at the home we currently share with the tribe of monkeys we call our children. Think a slightly chaotic, less-than-polished HGTV show with naked toddlers and you’re just about there.

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Little Man Loves Demo Day!

I got here in kind of a roundabout way. I graduated from college and went straight to law school with a serious “Save the World” complex and a passion for Civil Rights. That’s all you need, right?! I focused on International Law and Human Rights and arranged to spend a year of my legal studies abroad in Japan, right around the same time my soon-to-be fiancé was stationed there flying for the Navy. I mean… fate, seriously? Gotchya.

I graduated from law school and joined a Big Four accounting firm in Tokyo. Fiancé became dear husband and we spent our dreamy newlywed years living in Japan and exploring Asia.  In short, I was living the life I had pretty much always envisioned for myself.

Graduate degree, check. Great job, check. Globetrotting, check. Fab husband, check. (Well, aside from saving the world. Which it turns out was not a paying job I was offered at graduation. Hmm. Still #lifegoals)

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And then don’t you know it, the universe threw change at me. My husband got orders back to the ol’ US of A and I was faced with the decision to either remain in Japan alone, or … go home. So, home we went. Because despite really enjoying our great ex-pat lifestyle, I had a sneaking suspicion that something was still missing. That something turned out to in fact be 3 little people, a fluffy dog, an old house or two, and complete madness. But more on that later. 

Back stateside, I seized the opportunity to try something new, and decided to try my hand at Real Estate. It involves a good deal of legal concepts and I’ve always not so-secretly loved architecture and design, so it clicked. At around the same time, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby and we threw ourselves headfirst into renovating our recently purchased 100+ year old home with literally NO experience. (You will see that a lack of sanity is a recurring theme here).  It was messy, hectic, and definitely not always pretty (a respirator with work gloves and maternity pants is oh so fetching).

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But it was through these experiences that I realized how much I really love to design, reinvent, and restore spaces.  And with a LOT of trial and error and research (and plenty of YouTube tutorials… woot!) we actually got kind of good at this DIY thing.

Fast forward through two more moves, two more beautiful babies, deployments and homecomings, and the dust is just beginning to settle on yet another home renovation. And… you guessed it, we are already planning our next move! Sigh. I can’t say that being a military spouse makes anything easy, but it does keep things exciting…

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Welcoming daddy home from deployment (Photo courtesy of Tara Liebeck Photography)

Right, so this leads me to… why this blog? I will be the first to admit that I am a technology hermit. An old soul. I like to write with a pen and paper, thankyouverymuch. So, blogging is not something I was naturally drawn to. However, I do love the idea of spreading the friendship and wisdom and hilarity I have been so privileged to enjoy with these three exceptional women.

And hey, with my gypsy lifestyle sometimes long-distance support is all you’ve got.  My hope is that in sharing this sometimes often utterly humiliating stage of our lives and mixing it all up with our diverse and ongoing passions in life, we just might bring a little bit of laughter, comfort, joy (or who knows, maybe even inspiration!) to another household.

When the universe, and maybe even more importantly, my best friends come knocking…  “I’m in.” So, here’s to finding the joy in the everyday, in postponed or reimagined careers, in wonky old house projects, in broken bones (more on that later), and in actual spilled milk. I hope you’ll join us in our journey of friendship and growth as we embrace the crazy and surrender to the chaos. Here we go! Cheers!

IMG_5058Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

Kristy, Au Naturale: Demystifying Doulas

In honor of the closing of World Doula WeekI asked my 7 year old son, “Honey, what do you think I do as a doula?” His reply was perfect, and what most folks (if they know doulas are a thing) think a doula does. He said “You help get babies to come out!”

In a word, “no” In a longer, roundabout way….yes.

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I am here to set the record straight on what a doula does and does not do.

I am, first and foremost, by no means, your primary medical caregiver. Whether the provider is midwife, OB-GYN, Nurse Practitioner, or even an EMT, they answer your questions about the medical care of your body and your baby, not the doula. 

So…. what is a doula?

One of the easiest and best definitions I have found comes from my doula-bible, Mothering the New Mother by Sally Placksin.

 “The doula’s basic role is to provide nonintrusive, nonjudgemental support according to the family needs and wishes”.

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We exist, and have since the dawn of birth in communal society, to assist a laboring mother’s relaxation and confidence that you can birth your baby, and to take away worries about anything else. We facilitate you and your partner (if present, whoever that may be) experiencing labor and birth however you have envisioned it.

That’s right. You envision a birth with no meds, in a tub with candles lit? We provide evidence-based assistance to help you there. You envision an epidural and watching comedy central while you dilate? We are with ya! What if something happens and medical advice doesn’t mesh with that? We help you through that adjustment to the vision. 

How does this work? A recent client had a fear of an epidural. Having had one previously, there was trauma about that experience. It was my role to talk about this prenatally. We talk about the benefits, the risks and how the couple wants to approach that decision this time. I’m there to allow the client to talk and tell her story about the reality of her trauma. And I’m there to do what can be done to make the coming birth experience empowering and under her control. Reassurance, peace of mind, and educational preparedness are our top roles prenatally and in the labor room.

IMG_0202Think the doula’s role is over once the baby is born? Nope. We also carry a role in helping facilitate breastfeeding and bottle feeding education and support. Some doulas are even IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) certified as a part of their postpartum role. We can help you prepare and get through those first days, weeks and months postpartum. 

In short, doulas help you feel like YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS. What is often missing from modern maternity care is the emotional support in prenatal care , in labor, and postpartum care for both mom, partner, and baby. THIS is the most important role we play as doulas. 

Are there benefits other than feeling supported? Hell to the yeah!

According to Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage, a randomized study at Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston Texas of 422 first time mothers were randomly assigned to one of three groups: 1) Control, had no one present. 2) Supported, doula present or assigned, or 3) just observed, someone there but no doula, showed:

“1)Epidural anesthesia and forceps use were much lower in the Supported group compared to the observed and control groups, and Cesarian section rates were halved compared to the control group”. From this, “They concluded that support during labor, even in the form of the present of a silent observer, has a therapeutic effect.”

Let me review: Lose your fear, feel empowered, AND potentially decrease risk of complications. Wait… can I get a life-doula?

IMG_9104Kristy Wright is a married mother of 2, doula, massage therapist, fitness coach and homesteader in the Richmond, VA area.

Margo’s Money Management: Why I Won’t Tell You ‘How Women Behave With Money’

Since we’re getting all personal here, I want to start by revealing a huge pet peeve of mine.  Let me set the stage with a few examples:

While studying for a finance exam recently, the instructor in my course said, “Women have unique challenges when it comes to saving for retirement.  However, one positive thing to note is that they take advice from financial advisors better than men!”

While driving in the car, a commercial came on for a bank.  “Women are more risk averse than men. Their investments generally are too conservative to earn the rate of investment return they need to save for retirement.”

While listening to a podcast, I came across this gem: “If you are an advisor that works with women, keep in mind that they want you to treat them differently than you might treat a man.  Speak to them instead of their husbands. Explain it in a way they understand. Don’t use too much jargon. Look them in the eye, focus on behaviors, and show empathy.”

An article recently came across my desk from a finance writer titled, “What Women Want.” Enough already! I immediately put it in the trash.

UMMMMMMM. HELLLOOOOOOOOOO.  Am I losing my mind??!?!!? When is the last time we heard commercials, read articles, or listened to instructors talk about men like this?  If men get to be individuals, with individual goals, needs and behaviors, why can’t women be unique individuals too? Dang. And who is writing this crazy offensive content?!  Boo hiss!!! 

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My managing partner asked me not too long ago if I’d be interested in writing an article to send out to clients.  I thought, “Maybe I should speak to our women clients?” However, when I sat down to write it I started to get frustrated.  I kept thinking about all of these experiences I’ve shared with you here and finally just wrote one sentence: “Women are individuals who each desire unique things from their financial advisor/investment manager based on their own situation, goals and feelings.”  I couldn’t get past this sentence so I gave up.

So, here is my PSA:  If you are working with an advisor, find one that helps you because you. are. you.  Not because you are a woman and he/she thinks she already knows what you want. Not because you “take direction well” or need to be coddled.  Ask them questions about the ways in which they are compensated (I will share some guidance on this in a later post). Figure out if they know how to incorporate your personal needs into a plan of action rather than just telling you what they think you should do (AKA, a canned plan) without getting to know you.  Find someone who respects you, regardless of your sex or whether you are the primary breadwinner in your household or not. Women have been running the show for quite some time now. (Actually, I heard recently that women control finances in 51% of households now so HELL YEA TO THAT!) It’s just that now women are starting to stand up and admit they run the show instead of allowing others to feel like they are all-powerful and the women can just “leave the money management to the men.” 

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To that point, I have one more story I’d like to share.  While at a finance conference, I sat down for the keynote session at a table near the front (Yes, I am one of those people who always sits in the front. It’s a survival habit from my elementary school days before I admitted I needed glasses).  The man sitting next to me turned to me and said, “Oh hi! You must be one of the TD girls!” Uhmmm, excuse me? “No sir, I am an advisor, like you.” Cue the mortified silence from him. And I have to say, I am glad he was mortified.  At least he showed some remorse for A) calling me a girl when I’m clearly a grown woman and B) assuming I must work for the bank as a conference hospitality rep instead of possibly being a financial advisor like him. Maybe that embarrassment is progress? Since I am trying this new thing where I assume positive intent from everyone I encounter, I have chosen to take the potential complement – he thought I looked young enough to be considered a “girl”.  However, this sheds a light on a major problem in the world of finance that still exists to this day – the fact that the majority of people think “it’s a man’s world and we are all living in it”.

Well, I hate to break it to you world, but this woman (and many advisors like me) won’t let that stand for too much longer.  And, let it be known, I treat all of my clients with respect and as individuals, whether they are man, woman, in the green, in the red, rich, older, younger or brand spanking new to starting this whole “saving” thing.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you (should) want or how you behave. 

 

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