Happiness Project Month 6

I love this monthly check in with my Happiness Project. While I haven’t been documenting in public and private on the daily. This blog post I’ve been doing each month prompts me to set my goals for the month and reminds me to keep the focus at the front of my mind.

In May my focus was on attitude. While I was very far from perfect, I feel like I made improvements and saw positive changes within myself. I did not start each day with a 10 minute meditation like I strived to, but I did check in with myself often to check my attitude. I did not do one act of kindness every day, but I did do acts of kindness regularly. I felt a shift, however slight, in my negative thoughts toward scarcity of time. Here were the goals I made and how I measured up.


MAY - ATTITUDE

  • start each morning with a 10 minute meditation, focusing on my outlook and attitude for the day
  • take mental note of negativity and complaining
  • resist raising my voice to my family
  • do an act of kindness each day
  • let it go. Whatever it is, let it go.
  • Do all things with love

my bridesmaids and I, photo  Lizzie Photo

my bridesmaids and I, photo Lizzie Photo

In June I will be focusing on friendship. I feel lucky and grateful for all the wonderful friends I have in my life. But it’s not without work. I have never taken my friendships for granted and always put in the effort to keep in touch. When I was younger I took it very personally when a friend canceled or didn’t make it to a party. I’ve always felt that you get to choose where and how you spend your time, and if someone doesn’t put in the effort it means they don’t value the relationship. I struggle with those feelings to this day. But it’s only gotten much, much harder to make that time as we’ve gotten older. It really takes time and commitment to keep relationships alive. I am grateful for the technologies that make it so much easier to keep friendships going throughout the years and across the world, despite our busy, full lives. This month I am committing to fostering those relationships that are so dear to me, I am planning on focusing on friendships, new and old.

What are your favorite ways to honor your friendships?


JUNE - FRIENDSHIP

  • Call or text one friend each day
  • send something in the mail to a friend each week
  • reach out to make a new friend
  • schedule a date to meet a friend I haven't seen in a while
  • do one thing to cultivate a young friendship

Happiness Project Month 5

When I started my happiness project back in January I was off on such a good foot. I really did spend the month organizing my life and making things work better for me, my family and my home. In February I focused on finances and a few road blocks and life circumstances threw me off. Now I feel like I’m playing catch up and trying to check all my unchecked items off my list whilst tackling my new month items.

In April I was supposed to focus on marriage and it didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to. Ironically Kyle and I had one of our biggest fights of our relationship that started over the dog eating Oliver’s Easter candy. Such a dumb fight. While we did do a good job getting out on dates and holding to our commitment of spending one-on-one time together, that’s about all I can give myself credit for. I may have sheepishly crossed off “being grateful for my husband everyday.” Technically true, I doubt I communicated those feelings to him. I’m happy that May’s focus piggy backs on April and gives me an opportunity for redemption while I focus my attitude.


APRIL - MARRIAGE

  • one date a week
  • make more time for sex
  • be grateful for my husband every day
  • let it go
  • don't pick fights
  • go out of my way to do acts of kindness

Photo by  Piero Istrice  on  Unsplash

MAY - ATTITUDE

  • start each morning with a 10 minute meditation, focusing on my outlook and attitude for the day
  • take mental note of negativity and complaining
  • resist raising my voice to my family
  • do an act of kindness each day
  • let it go. Whatever it is, let it go.
  • Do all things with love

Happiness Project Month 4

It is definitely a tough thing to keep the train moving through this Happiness Project thing. In case you missed it, I am undertaking a Happiness Project a la Gretchen Rubin. Instead of making a couple of New Years Resolutions, I picked an area of my life for each month, that I want to improve, and I spend the month focusing on that area. In January I was all about organization, and I did really well. In February I focused on finances and due to unforeseen circumstances I got off track. And in March I focused on my business. I’ll update you on that in a moment.

So theoretically the point of this exercise vs. making 10 New Years resolutions is that you really set your intention and focus hard each month on that specific area, and by the time the month is out you have built new habits that you will carry through the rest of the year and beyond. In her book Gretchen goes into great detail about her spread sheets and daily practices, and while I am an enneagram type 1, I have not been painstakingly logging my progress, thus it’s easy to let things go by the wayside. I do however like that I check in here once a month, which holds me accountable to be honest about my progress, or lack-thereof.


Photo by  Cathryn Lavery  on  Unsplash

In March I focused on business. I have a lot of half checked off items. I am absolutely in fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mode. And have not been able to get ahead enough to feel like I have time to check the items off my list. But I’m sure that will never change, so I will need to make time or it will never get done.

I am working with my friend, Miranda Schroeder, from Thoughtful Thrifted, an amazing marking brain, to help me do a digital audit of my brand and come up with a go forward strategy. Yes! Professional help, people! Miranda also turned me on to Making Sense of Cents, an online affiliate marketing course. I am working my way though that content to learn to bring the best of what you want to make all this work worth my while as well.

So far my accounting system is a spread sheet, but it is not very organized and not something I could pass off to an accountant work with. Girl boss needs to get it together there!! I have started using Later to schedule my Instagram posts, which has been life changing. And I have also started using Tailwind to automate Pinterest, I’m still learning this one, but loving it! You can sign up for Tailwind here for a month free!

MARCH - BUSINESS

  • Consistently blog Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week in March
  • Create new opt-in freebies
  • Make a "do-plan" to increase efficiency of my business
  • Take affiliate and blogging income cources
  • Clean up Pinterest
  • Set-up accounting system

This month’s focus is close to my heart, but has not been an area of focus in a while. When Kyle and I got together, 10 years ago this summer (after being friends for 7 years prior), we made a “fun pact.” We saw the value of how we laughed together and always had fun. As happens with so many marriages, life gets monotonous, there are kids and yard work and dinner and bills and all the things that make adulthood no fun. But we realize, and admit, that we have to work at it. I know I have some work to do. I need to make a conscious effort to not nitpick on the dumb little stuff and to stop thinking and worrying about getting stuff done around the house for a few minutes to appreciate the amazing human that I have chosen to be my partner in life. So for April, I am renewing my commitment to the happiness project, because this relationship needs a little more love and attention.

APRIL - MARRIAGE

  • one date a week
  • make more time for sex
  • be grateful for my husband every day
  • let it go
  • don't pick fights
  • go out of my way to do acts of kindness

Happiness Project Month 3

Wow, did February slap me in the face. The month kicked off with two installations, and an e-design project on top of my part time jobs. I was riding high. Then I was let go from one of said jobs. Right smack in the middle of the month when I was supposed to be straightening out and getting on track with my finances. Guess that’s the lesson about life, nothing is certain but uncertainty. So needless to say, between the loss of income, all the projects, the multiple snow days and scrambling to find another way to collect a consistent pay check, I can’t say that I’m as happy with my results of my second month of my happiness project as I was with my first.

The loss of income however, really did give me new perspective on savings and having a cushion. I am reading Suze Orman’s book, Women and Money, exploring different budgeting apps, and have rescheduled my canceled appointment with my financial advisor.

Real Talk: Finance Wins and Losses

FEBRUARY - FINANCES

  • do a full asset/liability assessment

  • write down financial goals short and long term and align with Kyle

  • make a plan to pay down debts

  • start contributing to 401K again

  • make appointment with financial advisor

  • stick to budget 100%


This month I plan to focus on all things driving my business. On the wedding side, I want to refine workflow with new and potential clients. And on the blog side, I plan to continue creating new content, but also set up a system to share existing and evergreen content. I also plan to find better metrics by which to measure my progress. Only a few items, but so much to do to achieve them. Let’s do this!


MARCH - BUSINESS

  • Consistently blog Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week in March
  • Create new opt-in freebies
  • Make a "do-plan" to increase efficiency of my business
  • Take affiliate and blogging income cources
  • Clean up Pinterest
  • Set-up accounting system

Introducing Our New House!

We put the One Room Challenge project to bed just in time, because we bought a house! After six months of looking, we finally signed the papers and made it official on Tuesday, November 6th! We looked 21 houses, there were three we really considered. We put an offer in on one that didn’t get accepted, and finally, we have a new home! We worked all weekend painting and getting things ready. One third of our stuff arrived from storage and this week the rest will be delivered and we plan to move in next weekend. I am most definitely in the stay up until all hours of the night scrolling Pinterest and Instagram gathering inspiration phase! Check out my “Dream Home” series to get an idea of where my head is at.

A few quick stats about the home, she was built in 1984, 2900 square feet, 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths.

Our New House

This bright open living room is what sold us on the house. After spending most of our time in our old living room, which was open and inviting, we knew a big living room was pretty much at the top of our must-have list. I love the balcony and the stair case. I keep picturing Ollie waking up on Christmas morning and running down the stairs to see what Santa left him.

LIVING ROOM PROJECTS

  • Immediate: paint, we actually already got to business on this one. This weekend we put a fresh coat of white paint on the walls and trim. Next we will update built in with floating shelves.

  • In the next 6 months to a year: Change out the light fixtures, update flooring, paint the fireplace

New House Plans
New House Plans

The kitchen definitely isn’t the big open dream kitchen I was hoping for. But it’s bright and somewhat open to the living room. I love the built-in breakfast area and I think with some small changes it could be really good and eventually we can save up and make it great!

KITCHEN PROJECTS

  • Immediate: update the breakfast nook, remove built-in desk and shelving

  • Next 6 months: update backsplash, remove uppers and bulkhead above the sink, and add open shelving. Paint cabinets and update hardware.

  • Long term: Open up wall between kitchen and library (where the fridge is in the photo below) and move the dining table to the library. Replace flooring, new cabinets (or reface).

New House Plans
New House Plans

Next room is the three seasons room, right off the kitchen. Currently it’s the plant room. I plan to put the dining table in here, but the problem is that the room is not heated, so unless we get a heating source, we won’t be dining in there anytime soon. I love the lighting and to me it feels like a great place to have a dining table.

THREE SEASONS ROOM PROJECTS

  • Immediate: paint the paneling, change the lighting

  • Next 6 months: replace flooring with tile

  • Future: add a permanent heat source

New House Plans

This is the room I referred to as the library above. I haven’t quite cultivated a vision for this room. But I think we will start with removing the wallpaper.

New House Plans

Our master bedroom is just off the living room. It has tall ceilings, a sliding door to the deck and a big closet. There is a lot to love. But the bathroom. Oh lordy the bathroom. She needs a facelift!

MASTER SUITE PROJECTS

  • Immediate: paint closet and bedroom

  • Next 6 months: replace flooring

  • Next year: Gut bath renovation. A year might be a pipe dream, but it’s bad, so hopefully we can pinch our pennies enough to make it happen.

IMG_0411.jpg
New House Plans

There are two bedrooms upstairs. One will be Ollie’s room and the other will be a playroom until another little comes a long. I am so excited to design these rooms for my little man, who has been a trooper living with only a few toys and no space of his own, now he will have two rooms to enjoy!

UPSTAIRS BEDROOM PROJECTS

  • Immediate: Paint

  • Next year: replace floors, replace closet doors

New House Plans
New House Plans

All four bathrooms in this house need serious updating. I plan to tackle the powder room soon. Once I cut my teeth with the small bath, I will probably DIY the upstairs down the road. I definitely won’t miss that blue countertop!

New House Plans
New House Plans

Check out my Dream Home 2.0 Pinterest board for all my inspiration and products on my short list to purchase.

A BIG Happy Exciting Life Update!

Lauren Koster Creative

A lot has happened in the last month. A lot of really great things! In September I had been unemployed for two and a half months, we had been living with my in-laws for four months and desperation was starting to sink in. I wouldn’t say I was in a dark place, but I was on my way. The rejection gauntlet of unemployment can be very hurtful to the ego. And I was feeling bruised. And it all felt so naked going through it while living in someone else’s space. Then there was house hunting. finding a house we liked and could also get approved for on one salary was proving to be quite a challenge. So I did the logical thing, I decided to take on renovating my mom’s kitchen as a pet project. Lol. It has occupied my time and taken my mind off feeling less than in the past couple of months.

Then, in late September, a wonderful girl boss reached out to me. She got my resume from an old high school friend who saw a post on Facebook. A post that took a lot of courage for me to write, admitting finding a job in Michigan was much more challenging than I thought it would be, and leaning on my network to help. It worked! Because of that post, Rose found me. The moment I stepped into Conscious Clothing I knew it would be a great fit. I loved everything about the vibes I got. Their clothes are beautiful and their values are honorable. I am now working part time for an amazing company that makes sustainable clothes in a beautiful studio only a 10 minute commute away. I am stretching my legs and working on marketing and creative services. I am so excited because they not only have great product, but also such a good story to tell and I’m honored to help tell it.

Around the time that Rose found me, I wrote to my intuition to ask what I should do next. My intuition told me to reach out to someone I admired. I immediately decided to cold email KLH Custom Homes, an awesomely talented and forward thinking design and building company here in West Michigan. Their work is amazing and totally aligned with my design style. I cobbled together the interior work I have done into a portfolio. And the wonderful people at KLH decided they liked what they saw enough to take a chance on me! I start as an interior design assistant next week!

I am still moving forward with Lauren Koster Creative. I have a few weddings booked for 2019, I just did a bridal show and I am looking to book several more, as well as continuing to build my installation business. It all sounds like a lot and it is, but I used to blog and run my business after working 40+ hours a week and commuting an hour and a half each way. My new schedule is going to allow so much freedom and flexibility to spend time with my family and work on growing my business.

None of this is how I thought it would look. I pictured myself moving here and finding a full time job while keep Lauren Koster Creative as a side hustle for the time being. But I am so happy at the way things are unfolding. I am so thrilled to be stretching my legs in so many directions. And beyond excited to be working with two wonderful family-run local businesses.

Stay tuned for more news coming soon on the house front.

photo by: The Lipstick Lens / jumpsuit: Conscious Clothing / boots: Loeffler Randall

How I Manifested $12k to Pay Off Credit Debt In Less than Four Months

I've always wanted to talk about finances here, but have been way too scared to do so. Why is money such a taboo subject? Why do we cast judgement on so many aspects of it. We judge people because they have too much, pity people who (appear) to have too little. I have been ever so slowly trying to crack this egg. I am at such a weird place in my money life that I really want to open up and learn from you guys. 

How-To-Pay-Off-Credit-Cards

As you know, my family and I have moved to Michigan. One of the factors in moving was and is the cost of living. However, I had a good salary in New York. I am facing the possibility of a very significant pay cut here. I know finding a job that pays a New York salary would be next to impossible, but I also want to make what a professional with 12 years of experience is worth. Navigating the waters of what to ask for, what we need to live a comfortable life and how to save to invest in my business, have another baby, buy a house and contribute to retirement is a rough sea. 

Truth about our situation: I am currently unemployed, but am still in wedding season, so I do have a little coming in. Luckily my husband kept his remote job, so we have a single income. My husband is a contractor, so we had to purchase an insurance policy from the open market (not cheap!) and we are paying a good bit of cash to keep our stuff in storage. But, we are living rent-free with my in-laws and share a car. It sounds like a recipe to stock-pile some cash, but alas, somehow that's not really happening. 

I want to talk for a minute about our wins and about the concept of manifesting money. It sounds so woo-woo. I feel like a fraud saying it, but after I read (and reread and reread) "You Are A Badass At Making Money," I decided to test this concept out. In it author Jen Sincero tells a story about manifesting $80k to pay for a coach to kick her butt into gear and to help her get the results she truly desired. $80k! That's more than most people make in a year!!! After the third read of the book, I decided that I was going to manifest $100 a day to put toward my accumulating credit card debt, which at the time was about $12k. *Look at that, I told you my credit card debt number and I haven't burst into flames!!!* I know that $100/day seems crazy. I thought so too, but if Jen SIncero could manifest $80k, I could make a little magic of my own. So in mid-March, I started, with the goal of paying it off by the end of June.

  • I had already been paying about $500 - $600 a month, I upped $700 and that was a week out of the month marked off my calendar.
  • I do some freelance blogging that covered another 2 - 3 days
  • I got a bonus at work during that time, an other week or so worth of payments
  • I styled a shoot to earn $500 
  • Since we were moving, I sold some things on Craigslist 
  • Cleaned out my closet and sold items on Poshmark
  • I used cash from the sale of our house to pay a chunk
  • Right after we moved I was employed and living with our in-laws allowing me to contribute a larger chunk to this "bad debt"

I got there! or more truthfully, I practically got there, with about $600 still left on the card. I am so so proud of myself and it has left me wondering what else I can ask the universe for and work toward manifesting. I know my situation and life change helped me get to my goal, and not everybody is going to have the same experience, but the truth is I set out to eliminate this debt and I think I would have gotten there with or without the life change, because I was 100% focused and committed. Before we even saw the money from our house sale I had paid over $4k toward the debt. 

Next up, I am planning a month-long spending freeze in order to achieve our goals for the down payment on our new home. I am laying out my parameters here and will document my progress on my instagram stories

  • It's our anniversary on September 8, we plan to do something special to celebrate. 
  • I will allow myself to only purchase the amount of coffee on my Starbucks card
  • networking lunch or drinks are okay, but I will keep it economical 

Have you done a spending freeze? How did it go? 

Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

I haven't talked about it too much here, but I suffer from the auto-immune disease, psoriasis. It actually started about 12 years ago, just weeks into living in New York. For the first 10 years it was really manageable, and I didn't think about it too much. I applied a topical steroid once a day, and visited my dermatologist about three to four times a year. I am not sure what the catalyst was, but about two years ago, the psoriasis flared up, and it was probably 10 times worse than it had ever been before that. For the past two years I have been searching for something to help and if it's natural, that is even better! 

I am happy to report that in the past few weeks my patches are more clear than they have looked in years! I began light therapy treatments a few weeks back, basically a tanning booth you go in for a minute or two at a time that emits UVB rays. So I am not sure if it's the treatments, a change in environment, a reduction of stress, adjustments in my diet, or a combination, but whatever it is, it's working. And the diet is what I'm going to talk about today. 

When I asked my dermatologists if there were changes in my diet I could make to help, they generally told me that there aren't any changes that have been proven to help. Then when I saw a naturopath, she suggested I try the GAPS Diet. I intimidated just reading about the GAPS Diet! So, I did some research to find something that could help and also fit my life. Enter the anti-inflammatory diet. 

Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

I based my pyramid off the one I found here, advised by nutritionist Barbra Mendez. I thought eating an anti-inflammatory diet was all about adding turmeric to everything, but it turns out there are a lot of delicious things you could be eating to help combat inflammation, and of course there are foods we all love (cheese and bread) that are no-nos. 


PYRAMID BASE: GREENS AND HEALTHY FATS


The most important food for lowering inflammation? Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, Mendez says. In her opinion, the more spinach, broccoli, romaine, cabbage, collard, and kale, the better. The reason? Greens are loaded with antioxidants, which rejuvenate weak cells, she says. 

Besides leafy greens, the most powerful inflammation-fighting foods are salmon, walnuts, fermented foods, like kimchi, garlic, and yes, turmeric. Ideally, you want a serving of fermented foods and walnuts every day,. Because salmon can contain mercury, limit it to two servings a week.

Adding garlic and turmeric into your cooking and juices is a good way to incorporate into your diet. Here is a recipe for turmeric oil I found.  


SECOND LEVEL: DOUBLE DUTY VEGGIES & FRUITS 


Bromelain, an enzyme in pineapple and papaya, is both an inflammation-fighting agent and digestive aid, one serving of either fruit per day is recommended, in addition to a serving of berries per day. Incorporate beets, sweet potato and squash into bowls or salads two to three times a week—like greens, they help repair damaged cells.

And if you’re serious about addressing inflammation, Mendez recommends drinking two to three cups of ginger tea a day and incorporating flax oil into a daily salad or smoothie.


THIRD LEVEL: AVOID NIGHTSHADES 


Nightshades are specific set of flowering fruits and vegetables that can be tough to digest, especially for those of us with autoimmune diseases. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes are all nightshades and should be avoided. Good bye salsa (but hello guac!).


TOP LEVEL: INFLAMMATION NEMESES 


As you can expect, the most important foods to avoid include gluten, dairy, sugar and processed foods, as well as corn and peanut butter, and meat that you don't know where it comes from, AKA full of hormones. All the fun stuff, right? 

The thing I love about this system is that it's not a rigorous diet, it's a guide line. Stress is a trigger for autoimmune diseases, so stressing over what to eat defeats the point. Trust me, I've been down that road before. 

Here's how I've been adapting my diet to align more closely with this pyramid: I have been incorporating greens into as many meals as possible, my morning smoothie, a bowl or salad at lunch and a green salad with dinner. I've taken to kimchi or kombucha as an afternoon snack. I add nuts and avocado to my salads and I do my best to avoid the top two levels when I cook at home, but when I eat out, I give myself grace and allow myself to indulge, because it's all about balance, right? 

Do you like this kind of content here? Should I share some of the recipes I've been trying?