Let There Be Porch Light

 

This is the story of a porch light fixture that was supposed to be an easy self-install last spring, but my 117-year-old house has something to say about that. Namely that the electrical needed revisited. No sooner had we removed the old fixture that it became abundantly clear that something was amiss – the grounding wire was charred and literally crumbled when touched and there were two black wires rather than one white and one black.

This is the end of any novice’s electrical work ability, and I’m not one to mess with anything that has the capability of burning down my house.

 

 

I had picked out a fairly low-profile three-light, energy-efficient, LED Vance outdoor fixture back on April 14th. April 14th. The heads swivel a little for light placement and I loved the modern-meets-traditional design of the piece.

 

 

Luckily an incredibly competent electrician was referred my way who was able to get the job done, as well as correct a few things that weren’t up to code. So maybe this was actually a blessing in disguise? Not burning a place down is always a good day in my book.

 

 

The LED lights are wonderfully bright and much improved over the old one-bulb fixture that had most likely been hanging up there for decades. And I not so secretly love how my little collection of decorative gourds are on display until all hours.

 

 

In fact, here are a few more gratuitous photos. I couldn’t resist adding geometric shapes with some paint pens to these two.

 

 

And I’d really like to turn that Hubbard squash into a crow’s face before October 31st rolls around next week.

 

 

I’ve also been wondering whether or not that butternut squash will last past next Tuesday so that I might cook with it? Only time will tell! Now let’s talk about how long it will take me to box in those scrollwork pillars…

This post sponsored by Lamps Plus. All words and opinions are my own, as always. Thank you for supporting the brands that help Design Crush create fresh content!

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Hearty Molasses Beef Stew

 

Even though the weather is still (oddly) in the 70s, I’m so happy to shift back over to heartier recipes in the kitchen. More Sundays than not I get together with my mom and stepdad for dinner and this is one of my favorite dishes – a thick beef stew with the a touch of unexpected sweetness care of molasses and golden raisins.

Hearty Molasses Beef Stew
• 1/3 C all-purpose flour
• 2 tsp salt, divided
• 1 1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
• 2 lb beef roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 5 Tbsp oil, divided
• 1 medium onion, sliced
• 15 oz diced tomatoes, drained
• 1 C beef broth, plus more to keep moist
• 3 Tbsp molasses
• 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tsp dried thyme
• 1 tsp celery salt
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
• 2 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1/2 C golden raisins

Combine flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp black pepper in a large bowl. Toss cut beef in flour mixture. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in large saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of beef and brown on all sides, remove from pan and repeat with 2 Tbsp oil and remaining beef. Remove beef and add remaining 1 Tbsp oil, add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, molasses, vinegar, garlic, thyme, celery salt, bay leaves, and remaining 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Bring to a boil, then add beef and boil for one additional minute. Transfer to crockpot, cover and cook on low for 5 hours or high for 2 1/2 hours. Add frozen vegetables, potatoes, and raisins and cook for an additional 1 to 2 hours, or until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaves and enjoy! Serves 6 to 8.

 

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Accounting Confessions of a Businesswoman, Part 3

 

I’m filling your screen with pretty home photos because I finished my extended 2016 taxes two weeks ago and I’m still recovering. Putting myself – and my accountant – through that mess only served to support my decision to move on to a more informed process, making this third post about using FreshBooks very timely. Up until this point I think I’ve taken for granted everything that’s going on behind the scenes after I enter invoices, receipts, etc., but now I’m very much looking forward to handing over a completely organized file on time next April.

 

 

But before I get into a few more of my favorite FreshBooks features, I wanted to share a few things I do to get in the right mindset for conquering my arch-nemesis: numbers. Math has never been my strong suit, and even though FreshBooks takes care of the actual calculating for me, it still stresses me out and I want to be as focused as possible when starting.

• Make a cup of tea or coffee, the ritual will help calm your nerves.
• Put on comfortable clothes.
• Light your favorite candle or diffuse some essential oils.
• Turn off the TV and turn on some music, I like classical when I’m working.
• Grab and snack and make sure you go to the bathroom beforehand to avoid interruptions.
• Try to conquer things during your most productive hours – for me it’s early evening.

 

 

Okay, now we’re settled and ready to rock.

As I dive deeper into everything FreshBooks offers, I’ve been using the Projects function that’s a godsend when working with a team or collaborator on blog posts or freelance jobs. Basically, you can invite others in to manage and share information, files and, updates so that you’re all on the same page and no detail gets forgotten. Employees can access the full project, contractors can see steps and invoice you when everything is complete, and clients can share feedback and track progress. I love that it’s a centralized place for files too, no more digging through long chains of never-ending emails!

Projects features: simple project management, collaborate with employees, contractors, and clients, share images and files, centralize conversations, current project overview

 

 

 

As we roll into Q4 I’m also paying way more attention to Design Crush’s profitability for the year. FreshBook‘s dashboard makes it plain as day where things stand so I can take a look at where I can improve or what’s going exceptionally well. Reporting takes care of calculating profit and loss statements and the other small business financial reports that I’ll need come tax time without giving me a panic attack. The numbers are all in one place and my accountant can put the Advil back in the medicine cabinet.

Reports features: clear breakdown of spending, filtered custom reports, summary of outstanding revenue, profit and loss report, expense report, invoice details report, the ability to download reports to Excel

 

 

Our final FreshBooks post will be in January, when I’ll spill my guts about how this past year has really gone financially. If you have any questions about FreshBooks I’d love to try and help get answers for you from their award-winning rockstars in customer service. In the meantime, you can sign up for a free monthlong trial right here!

This post sponsored by FreshBooks. All words and opinions are my own, as always. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep Design Crush creating fresh content!

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A Book That Takes It’s Time

 

A Book That Takes Its Time is one I’ve been waiting to get my hands on since the start of the year when I first learned of its upcoming existence. Finally today, thanks to the team at Workman Publishing, I’m able to share it with you on its release date!

Flow is a magazine celebrating creativity, imperfection, and life’s little pleasures and this is its first companion book. It also embraces the physical qualities of paper – its weight, texture, the way it takes color – and the formats and ways in which it can be delivered. Articles in the magazine mingle with bound-in or fold-out posters, stickers, pre-printed thank you cards from noted illustrators, and other “goodies.” In short, Flow has created a magazine best enjoyed in print form and A Book That Takes Its Time follows closely in its successful footsteps.

 

 

A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness (the full title) was penned by the co-founders and creative directors of Flow, Irene Smit and Astrid Van der Hulst. At it’s heart this tome is about doing, about experience, and about intention. It’s a book both about mindfulness and a book that literally inspires mindfulness while reminding readers to slow down, breathe deeply, and be present.

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m forever struggling to be more in tune with the now – maybe this year more than ever before. This book turned out to be a much needed balm, right from Chapter 1, that I can turn to when the days are especially trying or I just need a moment to regroup and regain focus. Make your way through its pages in order or skip around depending on what you need and when you need it.

 

 

Learn to appreciate and savor moments both large and small by punching out pages of decorative memory cards to fill out and save in a mason jar so you can revisit them when you need an emotional lift. Read about the benefits of clearing your mind and letting your hands lead the way, then use the provided images and words to create a personal collage. Snip, arrange, and paste them onto the fold-out blank canvas and see where your subconscious takes you.

 

 

Read about the advantages of slowing down, then put those lessons into practice with the removable Joy of One Thing at a Time Notebook. Tear out a postcard and snail mail it to a friend. Make a list to clear your mind and refocus.

 

 

There are lessons on how to shift your focus away from what you don’t have and focus on what you do have. On stepping back from your phone to take just one photo with a camera – and then let the gaps in an album tell the story. Even tips for breaking old habits that will get your wheels turning.

 

 

Not every page is an activity or lesson, some are simply filled with inspiring words that you may not have known you needed to read. Do you get it? It’s the kind of book that makes you take your time, one that you can’t just hurry through so like so many other things in life. It’s a book that makes you stop to savor, play with, and appreciate all the lovely and interesting detours that hands-on activities provide.

 

 

 

Readers will have the chance to learn hand-lettering, the basics of collaging, even how to meditate while running. There’s something for everyone, which is what I love most about this book that mixes reading, learning, and doing. It’s part creative therapy, part teacher, part self-help, part workshop.

 

 

 

 

 

This post sponsored by Workman Publishing. All words and opinions are my own, as always. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Design Crush creating fresh content!

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Moop Canvas Bags

 

Wendy Downs, founder of Moop canvas bags, is making things happen. Her shop turned ten earlier this year and she’s constantly looking for new ways to improve, from seeking out quality materials from tested manufacturers to making sure each super-versatile bag is as mindfully made as possible. Each one is handmade from start to finish in Moop’s downtown Pittsburgh storefront by her small yet mighty team, who do everything from design to shipping. I very much admire her commitment to thoughtfully creating Moop’s line of fifteen bag designs while looking towards the future of not only her shop but small batch manufacturing.

Shop Moop Canvas Bags

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stak Ceramics

 

Heather and Myles Geyman built a friendship, marriage, and business – in that order. Chances are you’ve seen Stak Ceramics‘ super functional slip cast ceramic pieces before, because they’re everywhere. (They’re also often ripped off, unfortunately.) Whether it’s the kitchen tablet dock, the sprout planter phone dock, or any number of other minimally beautiful creations made in their Pittsburgh studio, you can be sure that they’ll help you live well.

Shop Star Ceramics

 

 

 

 

 

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OATMEAL

 

Elise Birnbaum is a maker, skill collector, coveter of interesting objects, and founder of Pittsburgh-based OATMEAL. She works predominantly with clay and metal, creating pieces for both body and home that are inspired by simple things and made in a narrow, often neutral, color palette. I’ve been following Elise, and the creations she often shares on Instagram, for some time now and very much appreciate the way she doesn’t depend on color to make her pieces standout. (One of those knot necklaces is definitely on my birthday wish list!)

Shop OATMEAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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