Sprucing Up Our Bedroom with a Bench

Sauder Cottage Road Bench via @poorandpretty

Bedroom with Sauder Cottage Road Bench via @poorandpretty

Stan and I have been talking about designing our bedroom for over a year now, and I’m getting antsy. If it were up to me (and if this wasn’t a crazy idea), we would have been flooring and painting in the middle of winter. But because I realized this was a crazy idea, I contented myself with doing a little pre-spring cleaning and re-arranging. I didn’t do this with shelves or boxes. I did it with a bench.

Bedroom Before Sauder Cottage Road Bench via @poorandpretty

You see, Stan and I still kind of live like college students. Our furniture is mis-matched hand-me-downs, and none of the rooms look curated or put together. What kills me the most is our laundry situation. We keep dirty laundry in baskets on the floor of our bedroom. When we’re really lazy, we keep the clean laundry in baskets on the floor too, and jokingly call it “the floordrobe.” It just looks so bad!

Sauder Cottage Road Bench via @poorandpretty

So when Sauder (rhymes with “chowder”) asked me to participate in their Put Together Design Challenge, I leapt at the chance. Finally! A real piece of furniture that I could style like a real adult! We don’t have an entryway, so our new Cottage Road Bench went straight to the bedroom. It was super easy to assemble — no crazy undecipherable Ikea-esque instructions. Now, dirty laundry goes in one basket, tucked away neatly under the bench. And I’ve instituted a new rule for clean laundry: it must be put away within two days of washing it.

Bedroom with Sauder Cottage Road Bench clothing detail via @poorandpretty

The bench also acts as a space for me to lay out my outfits for the next day, which keeps me organized and eliminates that frenzied morning I-have-nothing-to-wear feeling.

Bedroom with Cottage Road Bench reed diffuser detail via @poorandpretty

Plus, I put a pretty reed diffuser (which will soon need refilling) on it to keep the room smelling fresh and lovely. The scent is Bella Sucre by Voluspa — I love their fragrances!

Sauder Cottage Road Bench as photography backdrop via @poorandpretty

Because our front bedroom gets really great sunlight, I’ve also begun using the bench as a photography backdrop. 

Sauder Cottage Road Bench as photography backdrop closeup  via @poorandpretty

You might remember this photo from my recent For the Makers catch-up post.

Putting on shoes on my Sauder Cottage Road Bench via @poorandpretty

And of course, I sit on the bench too! Especially when I’m getting dressed or slipping on my shoes.

Sami sitting on Cottage Road Bench via @poorandpretty

It’s not a total room (re)design, but it’ll hold me over for now. At least our bedroom finally looks “put together!” :) Check out even more room inspiration in Sauder’s Put Together Lookbook.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sauder. The opinions and text are all mine. You can read more about my sponsorship and affiliate link policies here. 

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Remembering Vivi, the Greatest Aunt

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Vivi

It’s never easy to let someone go, no matter how long you’ve had them. On Monday, my family said goodbye to my Great Aunt Vivi, and I’ve been battling with my grief and bouts of deep sadness ever since. At 1:00 this morning, I cried on the phone with my Aunt Kathy, who put it best: “She wasn’t just an aunt. She was another grandmother to you.” And she’s right. This feels like losing my Nana all over again. Vivi has been the matriarch of our family since Nana’s passing in 1998, but she was a mother and grandmother to us long before then. One blog post couldn’t possibly convey my love for her, but I’d like to at least try. So today, I’m raising a glass, sharing a few memories, and toasting to a life well and fully lived.

Erickson sisters

You may remember this photo from my Nana Tribute a few years ago. Nana (my paternal grandmother) is on the left, looking at her older sisters Ginny (middle) and Vivi (right). Vivi was the eldest of her sisters, and the last of her generation.

Joe + Viv

Viv was quick-witted and always said exactly what was on her mind. She and her husband Joe (who passed away in 2007) were the most hilarious couple I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. One of my favorite Joe and Viv-isms is a story Joe would tell about how Vivi farted loudly in bed one night and Joe said, “I don’t know how I’m going to explain to the cleaners how I got shit on the outside of my pants!” Ha!!! :)

Though they had no children, Joe and Viv loved all of their 17 nieces and nephews, 32 great nieces and nephews, and 23 great great nieces and nephews (wow!) as their own.

South of the Border

They had a special spot in their heart for my Dad — the youngest of his siblings — and later, Suzi and I. Above, Vivi is flanked by Suzi (right) and I (left) at South of the Border in South Carolina on our way to Disney World in 1992 or 1993. Joe and Viv didn’t like to fly, so they drove us down to Florida and back. They loved recounting the story of how Suzi and I thoroughly trashed the backseat of Joe’s Cadillac so that when we got home he traded it in for a new one.

McDonalds at Viv + Joe's

I loved visiting Viv and Joe’s house. They had a few toys and office supplies to keep me busy, but I mostly liked shining up the chandelier in their dining room (what a weird kid!) or putting on all of Vivi’s necklaces and clip-on earrings (she never pierced her ears) or pretending to sell them to Viv and Joe. Going to Viv & Joe’s almost always meant having McDonald’s, which was a treat for us as kids. I used to stay home “sick” from school sometimes so I could watch movies with my Nana, and Viv and Joe would always come by around lunch time with McDonald’s. It’s no wonder I played hooky so often! I was totally spoiled.

Christmas 1997

And speaking of being spoiled, Vivi would take me shopping every year for pretty dresses for Easter and Christmas, and sometimes back-to-school clothes. The dress above (I think this is Christmas 1997) is almost certainly a Vivi-purchased dress. Nana is leaning over to inspect a present on the left and my stepbrother Zach is admiring my skirt (or trying to make his way to the Hot Wheels). When Viv took me shopping, Joe would drive us to the mall and as we went off to Lord & Taylor (Viv’s favorite store), he would plop down in the chairs in the middle of the mall and take a nap. We’d wake him up when it was time to leave or grab lunch.

Vivi + Stan

I apologize for the grainy quality of this photo — my photography skills have improved a lot since this was taken in 2009! Vivi never commented on my boyfriends much, until I brought Stan home. She loved Stan. She would always make sure he sat next to her, and she’d hold his hand the whole time they were together, and she’d tell him over and over again: “I never thought anybody was good enough for Sami, except you.” ♥ She’d totally hit on him, too! But, then again, after Joe passed away, Vivi would vocally fantasize about being with a certain local Catholic priest too, so her love knew no boundaries. The below sound clip is proof:

My Dad, cousin Steven, and I are discussing the guest list for Vivi’s 90th birthday party, and he’s on the list! (By the way, one of her favorite movies was The Thorn Birds…)

The same day we recorded the above, Vivi questioned our motives for visiting her, the proceeded to gush about me, then my Dad:

The “big fat Italian” she refers to so lovingly would be Joe. Real nice, right? ;)

Vivi had an excellent memory, and was a great storyteller. Over the past few years, I recorded a few snippets like the two above, and I have another one I’d like to share, but it may be disturbing to young audiences. Vivi’s claim to fame is her excerpt in Steward O’Nan’s 2008 book The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy, a study of the Hartford circus fire on July 6, 1944. Here’s Vivi’s story:

The file is large, so it may take some time to load, and there’s some distracting background noise later in the file.

Stan and I visited Vivi for the last time this past Saturday. It was hard to say goodbye, but I leaned in close to her “good ear” and told her I loved her. She wasn’t very responsive, but I know she heard me, she knew I loved her, and I always will.

Christmas 2013

“The ones that love us never really leave us.” ~Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (I love this quote from the movie). Vivi will live on in us through her stories, wit, and love.

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Monarch Workshop + Free Printables

Monarch Workshop feature via @poorandpretty

Monarch Workshop 2015 via @poorandpretty

I took the day yesterday to let the weekend’s events settle over me, and I’m still coming down from the incredible high that was Monarch Workshop. There were so many wonderful, inspiring, creative women all in one room — it felt like home. It was home. Finally! I don’t have to travel to New York, San Francisco, or some other distance to find my kindred sisters.

Photo Booth - Monarch Workshop via @poorandpretty

It was two days of crafting, learning, yoga, networking, photo booth-ing (I’m with Melissa of the Haven Collective & Vintanthromodern Vintage and Bethany of Twenty Something Plus above), delicious food by Whisk + Brush, and lots and lots of hugs in Bananaland, Bridgeport. It was crazy cool women like Michelle Bablo who said “fuck this job” time and time again until she finally created her own kick-ass business as a “professional magic maker, gold fringe enthusiast & designer of colorful parties.”

Dream Team Q+A Panel - Monarch Workshop via @poorandpretty

And Katharine Marino of YogaKat Fitness, who is probably the most loving, calm person I have ever met. She taught us to love our bodies, shake out negativity, and be present. She had us all pick out little wisdom cards and think about how we can apply them to our lives. Mine said “do what’s simple,” which is kind of perfect because I overanalyze and overcomplicate everything.

Do What's Simple - Monarch Workshop via @poorandpretty

There was Nutritionist Debra Wolf who played us hilarious clips from Portlandia and showed us how to love our bodies from the inside out with healthy eating (and also: we consume far too much sugar).

Jennifer Paganelli of Sis Boom - Monarch Workshop via @poorandpretty

And crafter and textile guru Jennifer Paganelli of Sis Boom who left me with my greatest takeaway: own your path.

Monarch - Own Your Path doodle via @poorandpretty

Because my initial jot-down of this quote really doesn’t do justice to how much it resonated within me, I had to fancy it up a bit. I’ve designed it into two different printables/computer wallpapers:

Monarch-Own-Your-Path-wallpaper-1-via-@poorandpretty

Monarch-Own-Your-Path-wallpaper-2-via-@poorandpretty

Right click and save either image above to use it as a desktop wallpaper. You can also download higher resolution files to print and frame: download butterfly printable | download dots printable | download everything | these are large files and may take a while to download. :)

Photo Booth 2 - Monarch Workshop via @poorandpretty

I am so grateful to Jessica of The Confetti Bar and Latanya of Sprinkles & Booze for introducing me to this crowd of incredible creators. I’ve never felt so understood and accepted. I will be seeing a lot more of them that’s for sure! I’ve already begun to take what I’ve learned and work on myself and my future as a kick-ass entrepreneur.

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5 Ways to Relax at Home

5 Ways to Relax at Home feat

5 Ways to Relax at Home via @poorandpretty

I’ve been a little more frenzied than usual lately, maybe because Stan isn’t around to balance me out. (He comes back from his two-week trip to Israel on Thursday!!) I’m a fairly high-energy person, and I tend to juggle a lot of projects at once. One thing I have difficulty with is relaxing. Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep because I can’t shut my brain off. If you have this problem too, you’ve likely tried solving it by a weekend spa getaway or a massage, which do work, but they get a little pricey. Here are a few things that work for me, things you can do at home without spending any money.

Disconnect Your Tech

1. Disconnect your tech. I’m putting this first because it’s the hardest one to do! We are constantly connected — checking our email, responding to texts, tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking… and hey, I’m as guilty as anyone. But turning off everything — phone, TV, computer — for a few hours is just so peaceful. (That’s why I secretly love when we lose power for a little while.)

Meditate

2. Meditate or do Yoga. This one’s a bit more obvious, but it’s worth including. If you live with others, give them a head’s up that you need some quiet time. Go to your bedroom or any room that is secluded and has a door that can be closed — it can even be the bathroom. Close (and maybe lock) the door and lay out a yoga mat or towel. Light a few candles and turn off the lights, maybe put on some relaxing instrumental music or Enya. Go ahead and laugh, but her stuff is great for relaxing. Sit for a few minutes and just breathe, focusing on the rhythm of your breath going in and out of your body. If you want to do some slow, easy yoga stretches, go for it. But remember: your goal here is to relax, not to work out, so don’t push yourself. If you’d rather just meditate, I find that placing a candle in front of me and concentrating on the flame helps my brain stay present and focused. Try not to let it wander off into the realm of tasks and to-dos.

Read a book

3. Read a real book. Call me crazy, but I read actual paper books. I do not read books on my iPad, and I don’t own a Kindle (and never will). I love the feeling of immersing myself totally in a story and a big part of that for me is the literal turning of pages. Oh, and I’m a highlighter and margin-scribbler. When I read, I don’t want to feel like I’m using another tech product. It’s my anti-tech time. Plus, the white/blue light emitted by tablets and computer screens trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, thereby keeping it active (and making it hard to fall asleep). The soft yellow glow of a nightstand lamp or book light won’t do that.

Take a Bath

4. Take a bath. I’m all about baths. I can’t wait until Stan and I have a nice deep soaking tub in our bathroom (it’s on our wish list). When I need to relax, I fill our tub up with warm water, toss in my Lavender Bathing Salts, prop my head up on a folded up towel and just soak until the water gets cold.

Go for a walk

5. Go for a walk. I guess you technically need to leave your home for this one, but even if you just go for a walk around your neighborhood, it costs you nothing and it’s good to get outside and breathe some fresh air. If your to-do list keeps growing or you’re really stressed about a specific problem, it helps to walk away from it for a while and get a fresh perspective.

What are some ways you relieve stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

All photos are courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo. Every month, they email an assortment of beautiful high-quality photos they’ve taken themselves so that bloggers and other creatives have killer photos to use online. Isn’t that awesome? :)

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Be Inspired & Empowered at Monarch Workshop

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I have been hoping for something like Monarch Workshop to come to Connecticut for a long time. I live in a small state, sandwiched between big artistic hubs like Boston and New York, which constantly host cool creative networking/inspiration boot camp type events. Finally, we have one too. And until tomorrow at 3pm EST, you can grab Early Bird tickets for just $150. Regular ticket price is $225, so that’s a pretty sweet deal!

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Monarch is a two-day event (March 21 & 22) for women entrepreneurs, dreamers, creators, movers, and shakers. Whether you’re an already-established kickass small business owner or a creative lady looking for inspiration and kindred spirits, you’ll be right at home at Monarch.

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There will be crafting and DIY-ing with Latanya Barrett of Sprinkles & Booze and Jennifer Paganelli of Sis Boom

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Yummy treats from Whisk + Brush and confetti from The Confetti Bar

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Yoga lessons, branding and marketing tips, photography sessions, and so so much more. Get the lowdown here, and stalk the speakers here.

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I have serious love for founders Jessica Huizenga and Madeline Rhodes for putting together such an incredible event. Is March really two months away?!

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It’s all going down March 21st & 22nd at B:Hive Bridgeport, the coolest co-working space in the state.

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What are you waiting for?! Spots are limited so grab your Early Bird Tickets now! And I’ll see you there. (I may even contribute some goodies to the swag bags!) ♥

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