DIY Holiday Cards

Only 17 Fridays left until Christmas! Which means you have to start thinking about mailing out your 2019 Holiday Cards.

If you’ve been following my posts for a while you know I have a love/hate relationship with the whole holiday card thing so I do my utmost to have some fun with it. There was the year we did a photoshoot and sent out our cards super early wishing everyone a Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, and a Merry Christmas, there was also the year where we printed completely non-festive super plain photo cards at Costco and I misspelled our last name, and my ultimate favorite, the year I sent everyone “Greetings From The Beach” and included actual beach sand which apparently can be very messy.

The Holidays are stressful for me, so I try and do whatever I can to ease the pressure and reduce my anxiety as much as possible. Last year, I began receiving Holiday cards in the mail before I was ready for them. I had not yet gotten around to thinking about what cards we would be sending out so I decided to Stay Calm and Craft!

I had mentioned not too long ago that I’d jumped on the bandwagon of clearing out clutter and trying to use leftover craft supplies to make my own making greeting cards. Keeping with that theme I used leftover craft supplies to create super simple DIY Holiday cards too! Here’s what I used

  1. Blank Recycled Cards and Envelopes (Amazon)
  2. Green Felt
  3. Brown Sharpie Marker
  4. Glue Gun and Glue Sticks
  5. Wooden Craft Sticks
  6. Two types of Ribbon from the Dollar Store

I also made some cards I had seen on Pinterest using random buttons.

I’ve started a new Pinterest Board with different inspirational posts to see if I can get my creative juices flowing for Christmas 2019! What are your Holiday Greeting Card plans?

 

 

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Is There Such Thing As A Six Year Itch…?

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Something fresh… Something new… Something different. That’s what I was craving.

I started drafting this post over six months ago. I was trying to figure out what was going on and what my heart desired. I was struggling.

I tried chopping 4-5 inches off my hair to see if that would be enough of a change to quiet my raucous search for change. While I enjoyed my new shorter hair the desire for change remained.

One afternoon, while I was taking a lunchtime walk with my coworker who happens to be 2 decades wiser than me. I was telling her about my conundrum and she mentioned that usually when people feel this way it could be because things have become stagnant in their work or home life or they just need a vacation to reset.

Well, since a vacation is ALWAYS necessary I decided to take an introspective look at the other two categories. The part about things being stagnant at work immediately resonated with me as a highly likely possibility. I had been working for the same organization for over six years and had never thought to ask myself if I was happy working there because how could I not be? My office was close to home, my salary was quite generous, my boss was great, and the work was interesting. Once I really thought about it I realized that the work was a bit too easy and my efforts to ask for new projects had fallen on deaf ears. There was no room for advancement and the bottom line was that I wasn’t challenged. My colleague was absolutely right! I was bored! I decided to start paying attention to job postings to see if there were any opportunities that could provide me with more of an exciting daily work environment. The problem with this was that I’m not a big risk taker. As a working professional I literally spend more waking hours of my life at work than I do at home so rocking the boat and taking a gamble on the unknown could be a disaster, or on the flip side, it could be a win. With this in mind I began applying to new jobs.

Next I began thinking about my home life. Well, I live with my husband and dog and I still love and enjoy them both and don’t want anything new or different in that area so the next thing would be our actual dwelling. I really like our house and its location and truly enjoy coming home to our little abode. In fact, one of my favorite things is driving up to our house, while the sun is setting behind it, and admiring our newly renovated front yard. We came up with a vision for what we wanted the exterior of the house to look like and seeing the end result every time I pull up to our home is a great feeling. There are a few changes to the interior that I wouldn’t mind tackling, but every time we’ve looked at making those changes and seen the estimates and thought about the amount of work involved we’ve put it off. Maybe finally pulling the trigger on these projects would do the trick.

Well, here I am over six months later completing this blog post and I’m proud to report that after almost seven years I left my comfort zone and took a chance on a new job. Not only does the new gig come with a longer commute and way more responsibility it even included a hefty pay cut. Why did I accept something that’s farther, requires more work and less pay? Well, money isn’t everything but experience is. I have been learning so much at this new job and within a few years I’ll be able to use what I’ve done to move up and at that point the pay gap will be irrelevant. Also, every single day flys by at the new job because it’s so interesting and engaging! I actually look forward to going to work because I feel productive and get so much accomplished. Life is too short to stay in a position where I’m paid well but bored. I want to live each day to its fullest so that if it does end up being my last day I can say I did something worthwhile.

On the home front. We still haven’t pulled the trigger on the projects, but we have collected a few more estimates to compare prices and select vendors and contractors so there is movement! Also, on the need for a vacation to reset we booked a big trip for later this year to a location I have never been to so I’m really looking forward to that!

So? Is there such thing as a six year itch? I guess in my case there is so we’ll see how things are going in another six years!

 

 

 

Upper Left U.S.A.

My latest explorations of the Pacific Northwest included my first ever visit to the great state of Oregon! To say I was looking forward to this trip would be under playing how excited I was because ever since last year’s trip to the San Juan Islands and Seattle I had been itching to get back up the Upper Left!

Three of my girlfriends and I flew into PDX, rented a car and headed out to Astoria, then down to Newport and finally to Portland with various planned and unplanned stops around the way. We totally lucked out on the weather. Every single day of our trip was clear and cool.

On our first day we drove from Portland to Astoria. Astoria is tiny port city on the mouth of the Columbia River right where the river meets the Pacific Ocean. Why did we pick Astoria? Well, have you heard of the 80’s movie The Goonies? The movie was set in Astoria and filmed there along with other classic films like Kindergarten Cop, Free Willy and many others.

We had booked a room at the Cannery Pier Hotel which didn’t disappoint. Our room had a balcony overlooking the Astoria-Megler Bridge that connects Oregon to Washington.

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During our time in Astoria we drove around and explored the cute town, walked through the little downtown area and visited the Astoria Column from where the views were breathtaking. We learned about the adventures of Lewis & Clark and about the old Scandinavian community hailing from Finland that’s been in Astoria for generations.

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Our next stop was Sunset Beach. We were there fairly early in the morning and had the beach to ourselves. This is a beach that you can access by car and drive right on to the shore. The sand is hard packed so you can also easily walk right up to the water. Beaches with this type of coastline topography are common in Oregon, but they aren’t in Southern California so we really enjoyed these stops.

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After Sunset beach we drove down to Ecola State Park for epic views of Cannon Beach which was probably my favorite stop because THE GOONIES!!! Oh and also because it was absolutely majestic and the perfect mix of ocean, water, sky, mountains and trees.

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Other stops we made along the way included Seaside, Tillamook (Cheese Factory), Cape Kiwanda, Lincoln City, and Depoe Bay where I finally got to see whales!!!

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What I didn’t know about Oregon is how serious they are about coffee. There were tiny structures like this with drive thrus all over the place. We were stopping at least twice a day for coffee simply because coffee is so abundantly available.  We also enjoyed our fair share of chowder on this trip. Another exciting aspect of this trip was seeing the “fall colors” the picture below was taken outside a dounut shop in downtown Portland. Things like this are especially exciting for someone like me who hails  from Southern California because we don’t really get a true “fall”.  This was such a great trip that I can’t wait to plan my 2019 visit to the Upper Left a.k.a. the Pacific Northwest.pd

 

 

DIY cards

In my effort to simply my life by clearing out clutter in my home I realized that I had a lot of leftover craft supplies so I started making greeting cards for friends and family with all my existing supplies.

I’m not a regular crafter. The reason I had a surplus of crafting supplies laying around is because due to the infrequency of my crafting whenever I have set out to craft I have purchased extra supplies to give myself room to mess up. Years ago I purchased a bunch of felt and numbers to create an advent calendar for my friend’s daughter. I ended up with a lot of leftover felt and numbers. I also tend to hang on to scrap wrapping paper pieces in case I ever have to wrap small things, I’ve also collected other random crafting items over time. However to control my hoarding I have allotted myself a limited amount of space to store supplies.

When I realized I was running out of space I decided to begin making my own greeting cards to “use up” all my crafting supplies and save money on cards which can be anywhere from $4-$7 each these days. Here are some of the cards I’ve made and actually remembered to take pictures of. They were al created with surplus crafting materials I had laying around.

I keep telling myself I’m going to make our Christmas Cards this year…

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Minimalism and Tiny Homes

Have you ever watched the shows Hoarders or Storage Wars? Do you ever think about how the people in the shows acquired so much stuff? Now, have you watched any Tiny House shows and wondered how the people in the those shows have so little stuff? Which of these lifestyles appeals most to you? Minimalism and tiny homes are becoming more and more appealing to me. Here’s why…

Many years ago, while I was still a child,  my mother unexpectedly passed away, A couple years after her death, my father decided it was time for us to move. My sister was going to be leaving to attend a college 2 hours away, I was going to be starting a new school and it just made sense for us to move closer to my school and all of our family members. We downsized from this 3 story, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom, 2,400 square foot house into a small 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment.

Leaving my childhood home and the community I had grown up in was traumatic, but what was even more scaring was dealing the amount of STUFF we had filled the large home with. The home had 2 dinning rooms and 2 living rooms so it seemed we had 2 of everything! My parents had spent so much money on “quality furniture” that parting with these inanimate objects was considered “a shame”. If you ask me, what was “a shame” is how much money had been wasted on purchasing all this STUFF! In the end, we had a couple garage sales, family members took what they wanted, some stuff got stored in my aunt’s garage and the some stuff got stored at my father’s store.

About 13 years after this traumatic move my father retired and decided to move overseas. This meant he left with just some suitcases and boxes. I had to rent a Uhaul and move all of his remaining “quality furniture” into a storage unit. About 5 years and $10,000 later I told my father we had wasted enough money on storage and I would be emptying out his storage unit and letting Goodwill have all his furniture. Once again, I had to hear about the “quality furniture” and how it was “a shame”, to let it go.

Around the same time I sold his business which he had owned for over 35 years and when the real estate agent told me I had 30 days to vacate the premises once again I found myself emptying a space that had amassed decades and decades worth of STUFF! Office furniture, bookshelves, tools, ladders, etc etc… I let friends and family take what they wanted and everything else went into a dumpster I had rented. To this day, my father doesn’t like to think about all of the “quality items” I got rid of.

Earlier this year, my aunt unexpectedly passed away and her husband sold their home. I knew that this wouldn’t be an easy move for uncle because just like my father he was going to be downsizing from a 3 bedroom home with 2 of every room to a 2 bedroom apartment. He and his family had been in that home for over 30 years so they too would have decades and decades of STUFF. I knew from experience that their garage was packed to the brim because they had been storing items from our house in there. Over the span of a few days a few of my cousins and I showed up to help clear out the garage. We had to hear over and over about the “quality” of the stuff and how it was such “a shame” needless to say that once again after a garage sale and family members taking what they wanted, the majority of things ended up getting hauled away by a rubbish company.

I’d like to share a few nuggets that all of these experiences have taught me:

  • Life is temporary
  • We don’t take any STUFF with us, so don’t collect things
  • Collect memories not things
  • Live as if you’ll die tomorrow (because it really can happen that fast)
  • Minimize your clutter and only keep necessities
  • Don’t waste money on “quality” stuff that you’ll feel bad about parting ways with
  • There is no need to buy expensive furniture
  • Spend your money on experiences not things
  • Be a minimalist
  • Live in a Tiny Home
  • It’s “a shame” how much money we waste on STUFF
  • Rise above consumerism
  • Leave a legacy of deeds not STUFF

My husband and I live in the smallest house by square footage in our neighborhood. I wouldn’t say we are minimalists but my experiences have taught me that everything I buy should be viewed as disposable. I have no desire to hold on to things for decades and if the opportunity to live in a tiny house presented itself tomorrow I would gladly sell or donate all of our furniture and live a more minimalist life in a tiny space.

 

 

Yerevan is Always a Good Idea

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View of the Opera House looking down from the steps of Cascade

Yerevan, is the capital of Armenia and where a majority of tourist who visit Armenia base themselves out of. I’ve been to Armenia somewhere between half a dozen to a dozen times and yet every time I visit I find new and interesting things to discover in Yerevan. The best way to explore Yerevan in my opinion is on foot.

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Mulberries

During my most recent trip I wanted to take full advantage of the pleasant weather by walking around town as much as possible. Not only was I determined to get close to 10k steps a day, but getting lost in cities I’m visiting is one of my favorite things to do because I see and learn so much. During this particular walk around Yerevan, I couldn’t help but notice all of the different water features and water fountains and wondered whether our obsession with water fountains comes from being a landlocked country.

My father, upon retiring repatriated and now lives in Arinj in the Kotayk Marz. Driving to his house from Yerevan we always drive past the zoo. I have wanted to visit the zoo for many years and on this trip we had the opportunity to do so. Admission is about $1.50 in American dollars and well worth it because the zoo is built into a hillside so you will get quite a good workout walking uphill and downhill, but you also get to see deer, birds, monkeys, a hippopotamus. a zebra, bears, lions, a tiger, and my personal favorite the Patagonian mara. I had never seen a Mara before. It was like a cross between a squirrel, a deer and a rabbit!

Across the street from the zoo I spotted these cool images painted on a wall of Armenian authors Barouyr Sevag, Yeghishe Charents, and Avedik Isahagian.

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Day trip to Dilijan

During this last trip to Armenia we had planned a day trip to Dilijan. I wanted to show off this little remote mountain town to my husband who despite having been to Armenia a few times already still hadn’t been to Dilijan. Personally, I like Dilijan because in the spring and summer the weather here is milder than it is in the City and in other regions.

Dilijan is in the Tavush Province of Armenia and historically has always been a resort town where people go to relax and clear their heads. Our plan was to leave my father’s house in the Kotayk Province after breakfast and have lunch somewhere in Dilijan before heading over to the United World College (UWC) for our scheduled tour. I had bookmarked a few different restaurant options including “Haykanush”, which ended up being the one I was favoring because it was located in the Old Dilijan Complex on Sharambeyan Street which I really wanted to see.

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Haykanush Restaurant

This portion of Dilijan was restored and preserved by the Tufenkian Cultural Foundation and demonstrates the architectural details which have earned Dilijan the “little Switzerland” nickname.

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After a very delicious lunch and short walk up and down Sharambeyan street we made our way to the UWC campus on the other side of town. I had spotted this campus driving by it a couple years ago. The modern design caught my attention but what really impressed me was the rooftop gardens I could see all the way from the road. Doing some research online I learned that it’s a LEED certified building and during our tour we learned that the architect had intentionally designed living walls along the side of the building along with the rooftop garden to reincorporate the soil and plants that had been displaced from the land to make way for the buildings. I really liked this concept.

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During the tour we also learned that this “college” is actually a two year high school where students spend their Junior and Senior year of high school before going off to college. It’s a very competitive program and students indicate their top 3 choices from the 14 UWC campuses but can be placed at any of the locations. The student body is international in make up as is the faculty and staff. Our tour guide showed us all around and told about what the students study and how they spend their 2 years at the school. We also learned that although the Dilijan campus has only been around for 4 years Prince Charles has already paid the campus a visit and George and Amal Clooney are big supporters of the school.

If you’re planning a trip to Armenia I highly recommend emailing the UWC-Dilijan campus staff and scheduling a tour. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon touring a beautiful facility.

Four Years Later

Four years ago, my husband and I had plans to be on the East Coast right before the holidays and our trip happened to coincide with the eleventh annual Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) Holiday Gala so we decided to attend since this is one of the charities we both like to support. The star studded event took place at Cipriani and honorary guests included Andrea Martin, Michael Aram, Alexis Ohanian, Victor Garber, Eric Bogosian, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Patricia Field, and Stephanie Seymour among others. About $2.5 million dollars was raised to build the first of many state-of-the art SMART centers in Armenia. It was a memorable night for us and we were so happy to have been able to be there.

Four years later, during a planned trip to Armenia we heard that the first SMART center had just been completed and an official opening ceremony was going to take place. I couldn’t ignore the coincidence so I contacted a friend who works for COAF to ask if we could attend and we decided to make the 3 hour drive out to the remote and rural village of Debed in the beautiful Lori Province to see the center.

I’m so glad we made the trek because had I not seen this place with my own two eyes I wouldn’t have believed it existed. The site that was selected for this project left us all in awe of the beauty of northern Armenia. Even my father’s wife and her son who were both born and raised in Armenia kept saying they’d never know such a breathtaking place existed mere hours away from where they’ve lived their entire lives. As if the setting wasn’t inspiring enough then there’s the 20,000 square foot modern building! Since none of the photos I took can do it justice so I’ll just have you check it out for yourselves in this video

Over the next ten years more SMART centers like this one will continue to be built in different regions of Armenia to provide opportunities for youth in isolated areas to develop their language skills, have access to technology and develop their skills in the areas of IT, robotics, arts, music, entrepreneurship, organic agriculture, and economics. The goal is to empower the youth to tackle the issues in their villages and for them to feel connected to the world without having to leave their villages.

I’m so grateful to COAF, its founders, employees, supporters and donors for all the programs they have in Armenia that help make Armenia a better place for our youth.