Monday, August 31, 2009

What's In the Works?

I've got several blog-worthy projects in the works, but none quite ready to share in their entirety. So, I thought I'd give you a sneak peek into what I've got going on.

My mom and I are hosting a baby shower for my brother and his wife (who are expecting a little girl in November) and we are all about making it cute and festive and fun and homemade and easy on the wallet!! We've had so much fun browsing sites and coming up with decor ideas and then turning them into projects we can do together. And let me tell you, we have done ALL KINDS of thinking outside of the box on this one, people! For example, exhibit A:

The shower's theme involved pink, green and brown...and we're dressing up THESE fruit and veggie cans as part of the decor. The shower is in a month and after it's all said and done, I'll be filling you in on all the cost-effective and creative ideas we're using to pull off one amazing adorable afternoon!

And now, I move on to these beauties...

These 2 solid wooden chairs belong to my husband. In college, he decided to cover the ugly green and brown original colors with this oh-so-lovely cow printed contact paper. Considering these chairs still remain in seemingly good working order, I thought I'd rid them of their farming days and dress them up with some pretty fabric and paint for our living room. It's still a work in progress, and I'm telling you, that you won't even recognize these babies when I'm finished with them!!

That's what's in the works for on the lookout for some pretty big "After" reveals coming up soon!

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, August 28, 2009

And the winner is...

...drumroll, please...

CHRISTAL!! She loves our blog, subscribes to our RSS feed and was encouraged this past week in one of my favorite ways...with CHOCOLATE!! Congratulations!!

We were overwhelmed by the wonderful encouragement you all have blessed us with! So, thank you, thank you, thank you for reading...and come back soon!! We've got crafts and sewing organization and furniture makeovers (and even another giveaway in the next few months!) coming your way!!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

But for This

In the past eight years my husband and I have moved four times to three different states. In each new place we have faced the challenge of starting over, establishing community again among cities of almost all strangers.


How, I love myself a good but.

But, these adventures haven't been for nothing. We have learned so much about trust, ourselves, and risk taking. And we have learned, time and again, the value of building relationships wherever we have been called to go. No matter how hard it can sometimes be.

That's why this past summer inspiration struck to call together moms for a playgroup with a twist. Not only was our focus to slurp popsicles, to chitchat about potty training and discipline, to remind little hands about sharing again, and to laugh at the kids romping around. We hoped to get to know one another more deeply, to share and pray and encourage.

With some neighborhood tweens to babysit upstairs before lunch time/nap time meltdowns came calling (at a buck an hour for each walking kiddo)... an inspirational book You are Captivating; Celebrating a Mother's Heart by John and Stasi Eldredge... and the promise of meeting just about every other week... that's what we tried to do.

Last week was our final gathering for now and, in honor of the last chapter's title, we had a "Nurture Your Heart" celebration. My budget was pretty tight this month, but I still wanted it to be special even if I had to use a lot of what I already have. As I so often find, it's in those simple details anyhow!

Like mason jars filled with lemon lime punch, whipped cream, or candlelight...

Flowers from the backyard with a message to every guest...
Sweet things to munch on while we discussed where our hearts were at, how Stacee makes her rice krispy treats so gourmet like, and what so-and-so's munchkin did the other day...
(Don't be afraid to take shortcuts... with time and money running a bit low, these little treats made a big hit for a few dollars. Yes, I dug this box out of the trash for you! :)
Copies of the book to read and reread when we need a lift back in the blessing of what can sometimes creep into overwhelming...
Best of all, the Eldredge's have written two other great books-- Wild at Heart, targeted for the heart of men, and Captivating, for the heart of women in general. I throw this out there to you as a friendly challenge for whatever your season of life; grab a group of people, dig in, and encourage each other to become all that you were created to be!

Then, please, come back here to share your own but story.

We'll be waiting.

And we simply can't wait to hear all about it.


Don't forget the giveaway below ends tomorrow! I can tell you from experience that Sarai has a real gift for making these special (CUTE!) treasures. Can't wait to see the lucky winner!

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's Time for...


Thanks to everyone who has so graciously lent an ear (or, er, eye!) to us during the past 2 weeks. We hope that you've been both inspired and encouraged by our random tips. As a HUGE thank you for sticking with us throughout this learning process, we're offering our very first giveaway!!

Here's what's up for grabs:

Both of these items are handmade by me (Sarai). You could keep them for yourself or put them aside for a birthday or Christmas gift.

The item on the left is a cute little handbag. I'm sure many of you have seen them before...if you haven't, they're made from PLACEMATS! It's the perfect size for a night out with the girls or even for a few toys for church. It even has a Velcro tab closure at the top. Every time I carry one of these bags, I get tons of compliments!

On the right is a aromatherapy rice pillow. The polka dot cover is removable and washable. The inside is filled with rice and cinnamon. You can heat it in the microwave for 2 minutes for an almost instant heating pad that smells heavenly or throw it in the freezer for 2 hours for a cold pack. Let me just tell you, I have two of these that I heat up every single night before bed (stinkin' back problems-ugh) and when I wake up in the morning, they are usually still warm!

There are 3 ways to enter, which means you can enter up to three times:

#1-Leave a comment on this post and tell us one or more of your favorite "Three Simple Girls" tips/ideas so far.
#2-Subscribe to our RSS feed (see the link near the upper right corner of the blog). Leave a separate comment on this post letting us know that you're a subscriber.
#3-Been encouraged by a friend, family member or complete stranger in the past week? Leave a comment, telling us about it for another entry.

You can enter for this giveaway until Thursday, August 27th. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Friday, August 28th.

Good Luck!!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

You've Got Mail

What do you like to find in your mailbox? Let me guess, the power bill, random catalogs and sales papers. If you are like me, you find joy in weeding through the typical mail to find a handwritten card or note. These are my favorite mail days! I have always loved getting mail. In fact, one of my favorite parts of my house is the mail slot in the front door. Not only do I find joy in getting a little something special through my mail slot every once in a while, I also find joy in sending handwritten notes to others. But in the craziness of life, it can sometimes be hard to find time to write these handwritten treasures. As soon as I sit down to begin writing, a dusty table catches my eye, or the pile of laundry starts calling my name. So, to help me really be able to focus on adding a little happiness to someone's day, I have found that creating a "writing tote" and heading to my local coffee shop to write helps me to focus. I thought I would share with you what I include in my "writing tote" and maybe this will inspire you to take some time away and share a little mail with someone you love!

You will need a cute tote bag to gather your materials in. I find that this one is the prefect size for what I need. It is not too bulky and fits all the tools I will need for the day of writing.

The things that are in my tote bag are the most important. I really am fond of cute note cards, I have quite the stash. I always keep 2 or 3 generic packs in the bag so that I can write any kind of note that might be needed. I also include some specific cards for birthday, get well, and other special occasions. This way if an important day comes up, I am prepared.

I also like to have fun pens to write with, it just adds a little something to the notes you send. I found an old container at my house and filled with with markers, colored pens and other writing instruments.

Sometimes I like to tuck a little treat in the cards I send. Maybe a little note of encouragement or one of my favorite quotes. I like to include a quote book and my bible in my bag for times when I want to include some encouragement. I also have quite the collection of stickers and inspirational quote cards that also come in handy.

To finish up the contents of my bag, I will throw in my address book and some stamps. If you want to get really fancy on your notes, you might check out this website where you can make your own personalized photo stamps for those special occasions.

So there you go, a little tip for helping you bring a little joy to a mailbox near you. Have you checked your mail today?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Simple, Cheap, Healthy

We can all relate, can't we?

Those nights of the week when you know you're going to be scarfing something, anything, down before you have to be out the door. Those nights you know you should make dinner, but you just aren't feeling like a big production. Those nights when another drive through sounds just about right.

I hear you.

Enter pretty simple, cheap, and healthy go to meals! All of these standbys are easily accessible mostly by box or bag. They are especially easy if you do things like cook the meat or chop the veggies earlier in the day or week. They also serve at least a family of four (or split the final product into one-serving containers and feed the number you need throughout the week!)

Each of the meals cost only a couple of bucks per serving. When you take into account the sales/manager specials, coupons used or that could have been used, my love affair with Trader Joes, and garden produce... totals may change slightly. I also approximated how much it would cost for the small bits of some staples I used like soy sauce or spices. The "Optional Add Ins" are not included in the final totals. And I apologize ahead of time if any of my math is off. Just saying. :)

Blue Corn Hardshell Tacos

1 box Garden of Eatin Blue Corn Taco Kit- $3.50 (will have enough shells leftover to do more than one meal)
1 lb. package organic ground beef- $2.50 (manager's special; substitute regular ground beef)
1/2 head Trader Joe's organic romaine lettuce- approximately $.50
1 Trader Joe's organic onion, finely chopped- approximately $.30
Sour cream to taste- approximately $.30
1/2 bag of Kraft 2% shredded cheddar cheese- $.45 (had coupon; substitute cheapest cheese)
1/2 jar of Trader Joe's Corn Chile Salsa- approximately $1.10 (could leave out since the kit comes with sauce)
1 tomato- FREE from garden (substitute store/Farmer's Market bought tomato)
Optional Add Ins: black beans, pinto beans, cilantro, avocado, corn, guacamole

Grand Total: $8.65
Price per Serving: $2.17

Over medium high heat cook the ground beef until brown on all sides. Once brown, add the taco seasoning from the kit (One of the FEW MSG-free versions!) and a couple tablespoons water. Fill taco shells with meat and all of the veggies finely chopped. Top with sour cream and shredded cheese.

Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry

Stir fry beef- $3.58 (could substitute chicken, cut into strips)
1 bag frozen stir fry veggies- $2.25
1 box couscous- $1.99 (on sale, but generally not much more than that- could substitute brown/white rice or lomein noodles)
2/3 cup soy sauce- approximately $.30
1 tbsp. ground ginger- approximately $.20
Extras: Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Optional Add Ins: Any other fresh veggies you prefer, like peppers or snap peas

Grand Total: $8.32
Price Per Serving: $2.08

Drizzle a few drops of EVOO into a large saucepan or wok. Add your meat, 1/3 of the soy sauce, and 1/2 tbsp. of ginger. When the meat is brown, add the frozen veggies and remaining soy sauce and ginger. While this cooks, follow the easy directions on the couscous box. Put a scoop or two of couscous on each plate and top with the stir fry.

Fresh Mozzarella and Basil Pizza

Trader Joe's whole wheat refrigerated pizza dough- $1.19 (substitute other refrigerated pizza dough)
Trader Joe's organic marinara sauce- approximately $.55 (substitute other jarred spaghetti/marinara/pizza sauce; one jar this size lasts for three or four pies)
Fresh mozzarella- $2.25 (on sale, but Aldi almost always has this for about that price)
Basil- FREE from garden (substitute store/Farmer's Market bought basil)
Optional Add Ins: Fresh tomatoes and any other veggies or meats

Grand Total: $3.99
Price Per Serving: $1.00

Bake the dough according to the package instructions. Top with sauce and toppings and continue baking until cheese is bubbly. (The Trader Joe's crust only has to be baked once with toppings and sauce included).

To wrap this up, you know I couldn't forget dessert! A new fast, favorite is this:

Grand Total: $2.o0 for one (had a coupon, but I've seen them range in price from $2.55-$3.00)... that's like pennies per person!

Just follow the directions on those there packages!

Bon Appetit'!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shoes Solution

Keeping shoes organized and with their mate can sometimes be a headache. Some people opt for piles on the floor. Others opt for individual boxes. Well, you probably wouldn't be surprised to know that I've never really had a shoe organizational problem...that is until I got married.

It was easy to organize and store my own shoes. Even though I'm a proud member of the "10 & Ups Club", shoes were typically pretty small and slender in size.

Men's shoes are a whole new ballgame. They're big and bulky and boot-like and they take up SO. MUCH. ROOM. In an effort to keep my husband's shoes organized I ventured off to our local Wal-Mart establishment and came home with a $9.99 canvas hanging shoe organizer. You know what I'm talking about...the neat little canvas thing that has the compartments that hangs from your closet rod.

Well, apparently whoever made those things had never experienced the storing struggles associated with men's shoes. Upon installing my new organizational item, I quickly realized that the bulkiness of the shoes meant that each individual shoe had to go in a separate compartment. That's right...what was supposed to hold 10 pairs of shoes only held 5. Not a good solution. I thought to myself: There has to be SOMETHING that serves a similar purpose but has bigger compartments. And then I remembered...hanging sweater organizers. BINGO and Voila! The shoes fit perfectly! Check it out...

We'd love to hear your own strategies for storing those pesky shoes! Any other great ideas?



I'll admit it.

I am a seamstress wannabe.

I live vicariously through Sarai, and very soon I'm sure, through Brooke (Who Sarai is teaching to sew since they live much closer. Not that I'm the teeniest bit jealous or anything!) :)

Since I will have to wait for either a move back to North Carolina or for some other fairy-sewing-godmother to show up, I have learned to make do.

With an iron, that is. Please don't laugh.

I started with some t-shirts, a little denim bag, and iron-on transfers. Target and the Hobby Lobby hooked me up, but your local equivalents will probably do just fine.
I got home while still doing the happy dance because of the yellow and red stickers. Cuffed tees in matching sizes for my girls... $2.50 a piece and iron-on ribbons@ $.71 each! I paid full price for the bag and baby iron-ons... $1.99 and $.99 respectively. But, hey, they are for a gift after all.
If you're thinking this is a good idea, next you want to wash all your items. Play around with the, dare I say, "patterns" or "monograms" you want to create while you wait.

After the clothes are dry, heat up your iron on the cotton setting. Place all your transfers where you want them to be, cover with a white cloth, and carefully iron into place from both sides of the fabric. In case you forget, these wannabe enablers come with their own instructions too. Taking a picture and ironing... not so much, sorry.

Now, for the sake of showing you I meant what I said about being full of do overs and big fat flops, that denim bag was a bit of a pill. Either that or those babies had a fear of lifelong committment to blue jean material. I kid you not:
Smudgy, ghostly looking infants... not exactly what I was going for.

So, I did what any self respecting thrifty girl does. I covered up the mistake with the only thing I had left-- scraps! It will be even cuter later when I use my actual needle and thread to put on a few big buttons. That small bit of sewing, I think, I can handle. I also had to reinforce the ribbon with fabric glue because the durability seemed a little iffy.
The t-shirts, on the other hand, made me smile straight away.

Especially after one pair made their debut when we, as you can see, drug our kids to the county fair. And some lady stopped to give us such a sweet, genuine compliment.
My husband all proudly said, "Thanks! My wife just made those shirts." Should we have disclosed the transfer truth??!!

Hmm... anyway, in the end, we have four matching tees and a mini diaper bag for a four year old friend's birthday. About fifteen bucks total for jobs well... well, ironed.

How are you making do around your place?

'Fess up, friends! :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What's in your lunch box?

School is just around the corner...or for some of you school might be in full swing! When I was a little girl, I would love to open my lunch box to find a special note from my mom written on my crumpled up napkin! The simple words of "I love you" or "Have a great day!" sure made me feel special. Head over to Alpha Mom and check out the printable lunch notes! Sure to make your little one feel extra special and possibly make lunch the best part of the day!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mooove Over, Ice-Cream Truck...

There are a pair of new drivers in town. Actually, a couple of Simple Girls in Training. Let me introduce you to them:

It is likely that they will make guest appearances from time to time because, as we all know, good help can be hard to find. These two inspire me daily. Not to mention, they accept payment in the form of stories, strawberries, and snuggles. Or in this week's case, in the form of some easy peasey ice-cream.

Here's all you need to make five-ish ingredient ice-cream, with about five-ish steps, and in about five-ish minutes. Plus you make it in a bag, of all things, with very little clean-up. That's what I'm talking about!
The only ingredient I didn't already have on hand was the bag of rock salt ($2.49 at our friendly, neighborhood Super Target). As pictured, you also need milk, sugar, vanilla, one gallon sized plastic bag, one pint/quart sized plastic bag, and ice.

Step One: Now, as LA #2 (Lovely Assistant- Age Two) demonstrates, the first thing you do is fill up your gallon sized bag about half full of ice.
Step Two: Add six tablespoons of rock salt, and seal that gallon bag tightly.
Step Three: Mix together 1/2 cup milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/4 tablespoon of vanilla in the pint/quart sized bag. Seal that smaller bag tightly.
Step Four: Carefully place the smaller bag inside the larger bag. Yep, you guessed it; seal it back tightly.
Step Five: Shake the bags until the smaller one starts looking like ice-cream, which should be in about five minutes. This makes for one big scoop and for one cracked up LA # 1 (Lovely Assistant- Age One).
Put the homemade ice-cream into your bowl(s) of choice and top with strawberries or whatever else tickles your fancy. Serious eating, sound effects, and wiping the sweat from your brow totally appropriate, of course.

Hope you enjoy!
Katrina and the Lovelies

ps... It's only fitting that we're talking about ice-cream today. The girls wonder if you won't you help us wish a special someone the happiest of birthdays? XOXO, beautiful friend!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Anatomy of a Handbag

Our goal with this blog is to offer up creative and practical ways to make life a little more simple...and this first tip is just about as easy as it gets!

Women are notoriously known for carrying everything but the kitchen sink in their handbags. I mean, don't we all think But, I'm sure that I'll NEED that journal...or roll of tape...or pet medicine...or entire collection of Sharpie markers. And then what happens when it's time to change handbags? What should be so simple turns into a 47 step process of transferring stuff. Yeah, it happens to the best of us, and then we spend a fortune on massage therapy and chirporactors and handbags with neato compartments all because we HAD to take these things with us.

My friends, I've found a solution and it really seems to work! Let's say, for example, that you're getting ready to move. It obviously makes more sense to load 10 items into a box and transport them all at once, as opposed to carrying 10 smaller items one at a time. Right? Well, we're going to apply the same concept here.

First of all, you have to commit to simplicity in your handbag. If that means you carry a smaller bag (as to keep you from completely filling a larger one) then by all means, do it!

Next, you have to commit to cleaning out your handbag on a regular basis. Maybe set a goal to clean it out on Sunday afternoons or everytime you switch to a new bag. Do whatever works best for you.

I dumped out my bag this morning and here's what I found:

Wallet, Recipts, Checkbook, Chapstick, Lotion, Anti-Bac Hand Gel, Tide-to-Go, Lip Gloss, Hair Tie & Bobby Pins, Nail Clippers, Mints, a Notepad, Pen, Gum, Compact Mirror, Small Container for Advil and Sunglasses (and normally I'd have keys and a cell phone too, but they were located elsewhere)

And here's where the magic comes in! I found a small cosmetic bag to use. (I actually won it in a giveaway from this site. Isn't it adorable?!) All those little things, go into the bag. Very complex solution, huh? Then, I put all the receipts in my wallet. I ALWAYS try to remember to put receipts directly in my wallet when I receive them at the store. This step alone can keep you from mass chaos.

And that big pile of randomness turns into this...

I now only have to transfer six things to my new bag when I'm ready!! And when I need my chapstick while driving down the road, I open the bag and there it is! No more pilfering through the deep dark pit of a handbag while running several other cars off the road...not that that's ever happened or anything :)

And it all looks nice and neat in my bag!

Do you have any handbag organization tips or tricks? Feel free to share them with us! Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to leave a comment and let us know you were here!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

(in)couragement for the moment

I will admit, I am not a domestic diva. As a single gal, it becomes easy to put off the cleaning of my house because it is just me here. This weekend I decided that it was time to tackle the dreaded bathroom. I know you are probably thinking, wait a minute, this was supposed to be about what encourages you, and you are right it is. But trust me, it will all make sense.

As I was cleaning the bathroom on Sunday afternoon, it seemed that every time I turned around there was another mess to be cleaned up. I spent a lot of time scrubbing the shower only to turn around and notice all the dust bunnies behind the toilet. I had to pay attention to the details, the nooks and crannies of my space. It required getting down in the muck, into the mess in order for it to get clean. It was hard work. Not fun work. But the end result was a super clean bathroom.

This is what encourages me. The bathroom seemed overwhelming when I was in the middle of it. Life can feel that way too, busy and messy and sometimes a little scary. But God is willing to get dirty with us and do the hard work to help us become what He wants us to be. This brings me great hope and encouragement that the work is worth it. I tend to get so caught up in all the ways that I have messed up or how inadequate I am, but the hope comes in a God that looks past that and sees the final product. And along the way He fills our lives with countless other ways that we are encouraged on the way.

So from now on that task of cleaning the bathroom that seems so daunting will be a gentle reminder of the promise that has been made to me and you too!

Need a little more (in)couragement...check out the new blog (in)courage.

encouraged in this moment...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So Glad You Stopped By!

Good friends are like fine cookie dough to us three simple girls. We all officially met in college, cemented our friendships over a life changing retreat, and have since seen each other through the trials and joys of this life. Oh, how there have been so many of both!

Along the way we've discovered a great many things we have in common. We love crafting, photographing, sharing, and all around creating.

The eating of that cookie dough isn't half bad either.

You know how they say that the best things in life are free? Well, we just couldn't agree more. Free or next to free and very often hot glued. And so the inspiration for just such a blog as this is born!

Each of us now live in our different corners of the South, but we make it a point to stay connected. So you can start to feel better connected to us too, here's a quick peek at just who in the world we are:
Hi, everyone! That's me, Katrina. These days, in my completely unbiased opinion of course, I'm better known as wife to my dashing, hardworking husband and mother to my two beautiful, precious girls. (Ages one and two just in case you think my dark circles are for nothing!) :) I'm an elementary classroom teacher and reading specialist turned stay at home mama not too long ago. I'm pretty passionate about encouragement and community, literacy and young people, laundry denial, and the fulfilment of my calling to make a difference. I enjoy a good party or project, creative and meaningful ways to spend our time, and whatever else I can cook up in that kitchen of ours. I'm also full of do overs and big fat flops. All of which makes me so glad to be living this life by grace!

Hello!! I'm Sarai...yes, with an i on the end (pronounced Sara), and I'm probably just as unique as the spelling of my name! That's me with my cutie pie husband. We reside in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. I received a degree in Music Industry in college and have been heavily involved in music my entire life. However, in the past few years I've begun to realize that I've been blessed with many more talents than those of the musical variety. I love a good organization project and any excuse to use my label maker or put things in alphabetical order puts me in a good mood! I enjoy sewing, bargain shopping, event planning and am even trying my hand at a little graphic design these days. But whatever the project, my goal is to be a good steward of the blessings I've been given.

And now for Simple Girl this is me, Brooke. I grew up in the beautiful mountains of NC and after college ventured a little east to the foothills. My days are filled with crazy adventures with 25 super cute kids...that is right, I am a teacher by trade. I try to take my creativity to my classroom as well as to other areas of my life. I love the little things in know a hand-written note, flowers from the garden, homemade cookies and I especially like to share those things with the people around me, hopefully making them feel a little special. I enjoy party planning, crafting, and looking for new ways to put my talents to use. My life is full of joy and hopefully I can share a little of that with you here.

Now comes the chance, we hope, to meet many of you other simple girls out there. By simple we don't mean you aren't ever complicated. That would disqualify the very authors of this here blog. Instead, we mean this...

If you enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend who tries to understand... the joy that an unexpected card in your mailbox brings... the beauty of a sunrise, a handful of daisies, spools of ribbon, or some kind of meal served from the heart; we believe you've come to the right place.

So, welcome! For how much He has blessed us, we hope to honor Him with our talents by sharing with each of you. Our hope for this journey we begin together is already well put by the best writer we know:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.
(Colossians 3:23)

Let us know you've stopped by and check back for some projects, ideas, and even a giveaway coming real soon!

Us Simple Girls

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