Friday, February 27, 2015

The Reward of Sticking to (Financial) Goals

I've written a lot about reasonable goal setting. Whether a goal is large or small, however, it's important not be distracted or tempted away from what you want/hope/need to accomplish.

Coming to the close of the February Challenge, it is this week I've found myself desiring to shop for, well, anything. I don't know why it's been so particularly difficult this last week, but quite a few times, I was tempted to cave. Still, I've not been to shop in any store but a supermarket since the end of January! And it's been quite an eye-opening experience; I even managed to completely makeover a corner of my den into my dream home office, without spending a penny!

With my freelance work increasing (hooray!), an organized place to work has been necessary for a while now. After seeing Kara Haupt's beautiful - and yaaaay, small - space featured on A Beautiful Mess, I was inspired and with two ice-days at home, got the job done, all with materials and items I already owned! I'll write more about the rewards of the February Challenge in a coming post, because while this was a small goal, it was a fun experiment, sometimes difficult to stick by, and I learned a lot about my shopping habits.

It can be  a much harder challenge, however, to stick by a larger goal that will take longer to accomplish. Just this week, I had to make a decision concerning some additional funds I came into. In December, I'd made a financial plan and set a goal to be accomplished within a three-year time frame. This plan also included what to do with any and all additional funds, large or small.

I can be very in-the-moment when it comes to extra funds and it was easy to imagine mini-breaks, vacations, new shoes, and so many other possibilities. I like to think I'm being all zen-like and enlightened and living-for-the-moment when I use extra money this way, but it's often just an impulsive choice that is fun at the time...and not necessarily in my best interests long-term. It's a tough line to walk, wanting to stick by a long-term plan but also living in-the-moment.

So...I did not do anything at all for an entire week...but yesterday I took a deep breath and allocated the majority of the funds to the proper place, completely in alignment with my personal financial goals and plan. I kept out only a small percentage for a bit of fun, and this choice felt great! This morning, I am happy that I resisted the temptation to spend the money and followed my plan instead! My will power was tested, but not giving in to temptation felt better than anything I could have purchased or any trip I might have taken could have felt!

Why yes, I do eat so much sushi that I have my own personal chopsticks!

Last night, in celebration, I rewarded myself with my favorite sushi and a bit of relaxing, altering a couple of dresses by hand while enjoying movie night with my son. The February Challenge and my own personal financial plan have made this a month of lessons and discipline, which I will discuss more in a coming post!

Happy Saturday All!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oh, Those Big Collages! Two Easy DIYs for Dull Winter Days

When you wake up to Icemageddon, you pretty much know it's going to be an indoor day, possibly even an indoor week....

As I've stated before, winter here in South Carolina is not the lovely, softly snowing, cross-country skiing and sledding bliss my Northern friends enjoy. (Of course it is also not 6 months of sunless skies and continuous snow shoveling, so there are huge pluses!) It is a non-season, really, with alternating sunny 70 degree days and 30 degree grey days, often 24 hours apart. However, occasionally Old Man Winter decides to remind us somewhat spoiled Southern dwellers that he is a force to be reckoned with. This happened Monday night, and lead to us waking up in an ice-covered realm.

While winter scenery such as this can be breathtakingly beautiful, this particular storm has caused severe power outages affecting our entire region and closing schools and many businesses for a second day, with a lot of indoor time for families, due to the near constant danger of falling limbs, trees, and power lines. It's good to have a fun activity that everyone can be involved in (verses endless hours in front of television and/or technology). 

So here is a tutorial for you on making a vision board! Or, more simply put, a collage that features all the things you are hoping for in the coming year! 

I'm often asked about the very big collages that hang throughout our home, which were created during 2011's Snowmageddon during the week we spent inside. It was great fun and no special materials were required. Though I used old canvases - hence the large size of our collages - cardboard works just as well, or any flat surface you can apply glue and paper to! Our large collages were actually vision boards that were created with a specific purpose. Because as an artist collage is not a medium I work in, I was not aiming for creative composition or a showpiece. My son and I were simply having fun perusing old magazines and looking for inspiring images of what we wanted to attract our way in the coming year/years.

In January of this year, I had a vision board party with several friends, where we watched The Secret and made small vision boards. The supply list was simple - pre-cut pieces of cardboard, Elmer's glue, scissors, paintbrushes and magazines. Nothing fancy at all! 

Simply find the image you want, cut it out, brush a little glue onto the board, lay down the image, then brush a bit of glue over it to flatten it. I also brushed glue over the entire finished piece to add a layer of shine. You can also use Modge-Podge instead of glue, though in my experience, plain old Elmer's works just as well.

Listening to everyone discuss what they hoped to attract to their lives in abundance in the coming year was so inspiring! And the good thing is, no previous experience in collage is required to make a vision board - just knowledge of what one truly, authentically desires to have in their life.

Throughout the evening, there were many jokes and quips made as many images and words passed on to others in jest. Comfortable placed alongside Marriage and/or Career were  tossed about until we all agreed they sounded too settled and dull to be situations we'd want to aspire to. Joy. Adventure. Healthy. Travel. Off The Beaten Path. Presence. Fun Marriage. Exciting Career. Being Here Now - these were far more popular terms!

My son, who participated as well (most children love collage and older children can easily understand the concept of a vision board) knows well my love of shoes and added a humorous contribution to my board while making his own.

The party was great fun, and if  you are snowbound/icebound these next few days (or weeks) then making vision boards can be an easy and creative activity for the entire family! Have fun with it! We certainly did! Our two smaller boards adorn the older one on our den wall so that we can look at them and reflect at some point each day.

 The Law of Attraction - the basis of the movie The Secret, which I recommend watching - can be a bit scary of a concept if it is new to you, but I do believe what we direct our energy towards, especially in our thoughts, is what we attract to ourselves. I can see too much evidence of this in my own life to dispute it!

And here's another fun activity - polka dots are becoming all the rage here, but in the midst of The February Challenge, I can not run out and indulge myself in the dottiness, which is maddening because polka dots are about as me as fashion can get. I can, however, use fabric paint I already have and a old pair of too-plain tennies and suddenly I am rocking the latest fashion, without a dime having been spent!

I've got my eye on a pair of jeans in need of a transformation, too, and just enough paint - and thanks to the ice-storm, time - to make it happen!

How are you creatively spending these dull winter days? I hope the vision board tutorial inspires you! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Oh, Mother! Feb/March Issue of The Mother Magazine

Thrilled to share with you the February/March issue of The Mother Magazine, featuring not only my article on attachment parenting older children but also an exclusive interview with The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik discussing her new book, Beyond the Sling. In addition, there is a debut article on fostering healthy relationships between children and their food by fellow blogger Mari of SaimaaLife! So much goodness, available in both print and digital editions!

So hop on over to and use code panpanstudios to save on your copy today!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What I'm Loving Right Now!

In honor of Valentine's Day, my favorite holiday next to Christmas, I'll be doing a few posts this months on things I am loving at the moment! First, our homemade Valentines! I did the painting and the boy applied the stickers and we're all set to send out some happy mail! And that big sequined heart in the center is destined for a special friend, but I fell in love with it so completely that I bought a 3 foot long garland of them for my den! Before The February Challenge, of course!

I'm also madly loving Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Pudding. Oh my goodness, yes!

And A Beautiful Mess, the blog site which featured the recipe, is amazing. Pan Pan Studios totally wants to be A Beautiful Mess when she grows up. No doubt. Hop on over there and spend some time with Elsie and Emma. I am taking a course from them on how to brand and grow my blog soon, and I'm very excited about it!

And this may be inexcusably vain, but I'm also wildly in love with my hair!

I finally had the nerve to go as dramatic with it as I've always wanted to! Bold, thick strips of color...there may even be some new colors added to the mix in the future! If you've been holding of on doing something fun and funky with yours, remember - a good bag, good shoes, and cool hair means you can wear grimy sweats and still look pretty fly. And it's only hair, so go for it!

And although there is so little to get excited about during Southern winters, winter fashion is pretty fun, especially tights. And I have to say, I am loving my black-and-white heart ones!

Old Navy, of all places! I also scored beige tights with black hearts, black sparkly tights and black tights with red polka dots to go with my existing - and possibly excessive - collection of tights and leggings.

And those are a few things I'm loving at the moment, how about you? What are you loving during this month of hearts and candy and cupids and flowers?

Happy Thursday!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Pretty Little Soaps...and So Much More! Breezy Quarters on the Blog Today!

It was the name Pretty Little Weeds that first caught my attention. Not that it hadn't visually and sensorily already been hijacked by the look and scent of the soap itself.

I mean, who could hold a bar of Breezy Quarters soaps in their hand and say to themselves, "Nah, I'd rather use Dial?" Certainly not me. I left the holiday fair with 6 bars, 5 of which I gave as Christmas gifts. I kept Pretty Little Weeds for myself and am pleased to say, as we come to February, it's only just about gone. That's a lot of staying power for one bar! And Breezy Quarters now offers so much more than just soap! It's inspiring to listen to the story of how it came to be, and how a mother of two busy youngsters manages to run an ever-growing company today!

Paige Bowser, the force behind Breezy Quarters, was raised in Union, SC and lived there until moving to Greenwood to finish her degree at Lander University. "The thing that I've been involved in that has impacted me the most and would explain the most about who I am," says Bowser, "was the Marching Band.  I was in the Colorguard 9th - 12th grade and then was hired to assist and choreograph at Union High School, Emerald High School, and Abbeville High School.  None of these were really real jobs but the experience as a whole - all 12 years that I was involved - gave me a strong sense of self discipline, work ethic, drive, competitive edge, and the ability to take criticism as a positive thing, using it to improve myself and later, my business." 

A former middle-school teacher turned entrepreneur, the course of Bowser's life changed when she visited the Abbeville Spring Festival in 2007. "It was raining that day, and I was in a place in my life where I needed to learn to do everything.  Knit, spin, shear sheep, raise chickens, garden.  I was young... I guess I still am, but I was younger then.  There was a soapmaker vending at the festival, and I had actually never even smelled handmade soap before.  I guess I lived under a rock... the smell of lavender and rosemary was just amazing and I mentioned, 'Oh it would be so neat to learn to make soap!' The vendor was so generous that she let me come to her house in Anderson where she taught me the basics."

"She didn't give me specifics - no recipes or papers - but she walked me through the process: Weigh the ingredients; don't measure by volume;add lye to the water, not water to lye;  etc.   From there I did my own research and have experience a whole evolution of skill with soapmaking!"

And there is more! Breezy Quarters now offers a variety of products, including candles, lip balms, dryer balls, and the one I am particularly excited about - bath fizzies! (Two of my favorite things in the world are hot baths and bath fizzies!)

I'm lusting for these bath fizzies as I write!
And you can trust Breezy Quarters to keep things simple and as natural as possible. "My mom is a pharmacist, so I was taught to read labels. I've known my whole life that junk food is bad, too much salt is bad, preservatives are bad.  Now we have this whole cultural divide and shifting perceptions about what we use and consume," says Bowser.

Dryer balls!
 "My concern is not totally with things being natural, however.  Natural is great but the term is used so much now that it has lost meaning.  For example, arsenic is natural, but we wouldn't want to consume that in any form.  I like to be careful with that term - natural.  Wholesome is a better word, and the thing that has inspired me to try to be more wholesome would be my children.  Before we even considered having children, I knew that I didn't want to eat meat with hormones in it.  The documentary Food Inc. did a lot to open my eyes to what we are doing, using, consuming.  I like the idea that I can eat vegetables from Penny's Farm, and I can get my meats, dairy and other items locally from people I know and trust.  With this in mind, I like knowing I can be the one who makes soaps, cosmetics and other items."

Breezy Quarters at Aromas Village Coffee
Still, it is a giant leap from learning to make soaps to turning a hobby into a profitable career. How did Bowser manage? "I come from an entrepreneurial family; my house is known as The Potato Chip House because my great-aunts made snacks here to sell during WWII.  Their items were labeled The Goodiest Product.  If it was better English I would have used the same name for my company! Another name for my little piece of the family farm was Breezy Quarters, so that is where my company name comes from."

 Still, creating and operating one's own business takes more than talent and vision - it also takes a lot of hard work! "I don't think I'm meant to work for other people, but I'm definitely meant to work!" says Bowser. "There is nothing I get more enjoyment out of than being productive. That I can make products that help people, products they enjoy can enjoy and have fun with, that makes me so happy!"

And guys, don't think Breezy Quarters products are just for the ladies! Says Thomas S., a loyal customer, "My dad never liked any soap other than Dove before I started using Mr. Henderson The Amen Man soap by Breezy Quarters. I left it in the shower and he started using it and said his skin has never felt better! Neither has mine, and my acne has almost cleared up after using this soap." 

Breezy Quarters products are available via mail order at . Locally,  Aroma's Village Coffee  carries a selection of Breezy Quarters items, and Bowser adds, "People are welcome to contact me and make an appointment to visit the house and shop in the studio!" You can also follow Breezy Quarters on Facebook, Twitter, and for true visual eye candy, @breezyquarters on Instagram.

Now, with some rainy weather on our horizon, I'm ready to relax with some Breezy Quarters bath fizzies and a good book! How about you?