Intentional Living: Coffee Products.

Get to school on time!
Compromise can be ok.
Quick coffee to help.

In my quest for healthier, more sustainable living, I’m always on the lookout for products that will help me use less plastic, create less waste, add to my family’s health, and hopefully be cost effective. When I feel like I've found a winner, I'll share some of those time-tested favorite products with you. Today, let's talk about one of my favorite subjects: coffee.

My daily morning coffee routine has become more of a compromise than you might assume. Yes, I love our French press and Moka Express (I don't like pour-over), but on mornings that require school drop-off, I opt for a faster, single-cup option. The dreaded wasteful Keurig (or off-brand, as mine is) has come to my rescue, but I've found ways to feel more comfortable about using it.

I'll back track a little bit and mention that I tried to switch to a Nespresso machine. I was very excited about the aluminum capsules and their recycling program. And I prefer the taste of espresso to drip coffee. It was a clear winner in my mind for a fast single-cup option. My body, however, felt differently, and I developed a crazy rash. Right before we went to Hawaii. When I realized what was causing the rash and stopped drinking Nespresso, it cleared up very quickly. Then a few months later, I tried drinking it again, and the rash popped back up. I researched and could find no good explanation. It should just be coffee grounds in aluminum, so it's still a mystery.

I returned to finding a better solution to plastic Keurig pods and found San Francisco Bay Coffee Company's OneCup options! It's a single-serve coffee pod that is made from plant-based renewable resources. They are biodegradable, compostable in some systems, and shipped in a biodegradable bag and recycled/recyclable box. The coffee grounds are Fair Trade and have an organic option in Organic Rainforest Blend. I buy a 36 count box about every 5 weeks.

In case you're interested, I bought an off brand single-serve coffee machine because it is much smaller and has a better design. You can find it here, though note that the OneCup coffee pods don't fit perfectly in this machine. It hasn't deterred me from using them together for the past year, so it's just a heads up.

Whenever the time presents itself, sometimes for my second cup of coffee after school drop-off or on the weekends, I very much love slow-method coffees. Look for Part 2 about my favorite slow coffee setups soon.

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That Danish Life: Candles.

A flame lights the mood.
When all you want is hygge
Go make a candle.

Buying nice smelling candles is expensive. And if you want to be picky about the wax and fragrances, you’re going to pay even more. You can save quite a bit of money and feel accomplished that you created something useful and beautiful if you make them instead!

Let’s have a quick chat about your fragrance and wax. Most fragrance oils are synthetic. That means they’re made with chemicals, and when you burn them, those chemicals get into your lungs, on your skin, and coat your house. I use essential oils for any recipe that might require a fragrance. The smell will not be as strong, but I think it’s worth it. As for waxes: paraffin is most commonly used, but is a by-product of the crude oil refinement process (read: toxic). Beeswax is nice, but I honestly don’t want all yellow candles. It also has its own smell, which can detract from whatever scent you’re trying to make. Soy wax melts clear, dries a milky white color, and blends well with your oils. Therefore, I make my candles with soy wax and essential oils.

What you need:
Soy wax
Pouring Pot - I bought a 4 pound pot and it's far larger than I'll ever need. I recommend this 2 pound pouring pot instead.
Essential Oils
Wick Cutter

*I’m still trying to figure out the best routine for the wicks. I like using the foam sticker to keep everything in place, but it’s very difficult to get off when you’re ready to reuse your container and it creates unnecessary waste. However, using the traditional method of dipping the end of the wick in hot wax and letting it cool in place in the container simply doesn’t work. As soon as the rest of your hot wax hits, it melts and moves and bends. I'm going to try these wick centering devices next. Any tips are appreciated.
**You can use any jar, bowl, or cup as a container. I just prefer using these aluminum jars with lids. Though, reusing containers instead of recycling them is the best option.

What to do:
Place water in your pot and place it on the burner on high.
Using your intended candle container, pour two scoops (not heaping) of wax into your pouring pot and place on the pot of hot water to create a double boiler.
While you wait for the wax to melt fully, attach your wick.
Once the wax has melted, quickly remove from heat.
Set aside and wait about two minutes while the wax cools down.
Add 10 drops of essential oil per ounce of soy wax. (For my 4oz aluminum jars, I use 40 drops of essential oil.)
I usually just swirl the solution to mix, but you can also use a whisk, etc.
Place your candle container on a kitchen towel.
Pour your wax solution into your container.
Wrap the towel around your candle to slow cooling (this helps the wax solidify evenly).
Wipe out your pouring pot before the wax hardens.
After your candle has solidified, trim the wick ⅛”. I recommend using wick trimmers to help get the correct length, but you can try scissors as well.

There are several candle DIYS that will tell you to use a thermometer for specific wax temperatures, but I found that to be tedious. The only concern is that your essential oils have flash points, at which they will evaporate. If you wait and let the wax cool, just before it starts to solidify, to add your oils, you won’t have any problems with this. If you would like specific temperature details, the wax can cool down to 122 degrees fahrenheit, but should be fine up to 150 degrees for most essential oils. (There is a good guide to essential oil flash points here.)

You can always use a single essential oil for your candle, but if you’re interested in making blends, my favorites are below:

I buy my essential oils from Edens Garden. I also recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.

This post contains affiliate links. You can read the Amazon Affiliate disclosure in the sidebar. Please know I only ever post links I personally support and think may add value to my readers. Thank you for supporting the blog!


Home Renovations: Wall Shelves.

Shelves for books and looks
Paired atop a piano,
Music to my ears.

After our neighbor gave us a beautiful piano (yep, best neighbors), and it was given a prominent spot in our living room, we decided some shelves above it would be great. We mulled over the idea for a few weeks until David noticed some very interesting shelves at a local coffee shop, Good Coffee:

They were perfect and I knew I had to recreate them. My favorite part was the little alcove for a plant in the center. Yes, please. I immediately sketched out a blueprint, measuring the wall and noting the studs.

I used painters tape to create a mockup on the wall, which stayed up for quite a while.

Then came the research for what type of shelves to use. I didn't want to use brackets underneath because they compete with books or decor for shelf space. And I liked the clean lines of floating shelves. My first plan was to use steel floating shelf brackets (these can be pretty expensive for the heavy duty versions) and buy big 2"x10" solid wood boards and drill in the holes for the steel bars. I headed to Lowe's to check out the lumber, and their head guy talked me out of it. Mostly, it would be extremely difficult to drill a perfectly straight hole by hand. There was no room for error. I hated that he was right, but glad to contemplate some cheaper options. The two of us walked around the shop for almost an hour, and new ideas started percolating. I was back to the drawing board and went home to re-think my plan.

I ended up buying 1"x10" boards and adding a lip to the front and exposed sides. I also found some steel braces to use underneath that are mostly hidden (especially when painted to match the wood/wall).

The whole experience was quite a learning process. And very old school. I sanded and set every last finishing nail by hand. But for my first real woodworking project, it felt like a right of passage. (Though I definitely have an air nailer and orbital sander now.)

I also learned a lot about wood filler, wood glue, and trying to get even paint without using a spray can. I didn't want the streaks of a paint brush, and even the low nap that was recommended by a Home Depot employee had too much texture. Thanks to some amazing friends, I learned that high density foam rollers were the way to go. And I used a foam brush on the underside edges. The paint is Behr's Ultra Pure White (which we'll slowly be using on all of our interior walls.)

In the end, they're not perfect, but they're exactly what we wanted, and I'm quite proud.

Some links:
The brackets I almost bought
Similar braces to what I used
Nail Setter
High Density Foam Roller

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That Danish Life: Products.

Cozy head to toe.
In the house, grey and rainy
Forever I stay.

Let’s get hyggelit. Join the #1 happiest nation in the world and indulge in comfy and cozy moments. These are the things we find essential for hygge in our home.

Cozy slippers - I can’t recommend these enough. These felt slippers are made of 100% pure natural wool with a sole of soft calfskin. I recommend the open heel to slip right on, as I’ve read their other options require being pulled on. I want these for summer.
Cozy pants from Everlane
These chairs
Blankets (my daughter's blanket of choice); though The Citizenry has a beautiful selection
A hot cup of French Press Coffee
Candles (DIY to come)

We can't get enough of our weekend morning reading sessions. Let's do more of this.

This post contains affiliate links. You can read the Amazon Affiliate disclosure in the sidebar. Please know I only ever post links I personally support and think may add value to my readers. Thank you for supporting the blog!


Home Renovations.

You can make it yours,
Build stuff and get hands dirty.
Work is never done.

This past summer 2017, we moved to Portland, Oregon, and bought a house! We bought it from flippers who left it looking pretty, but after moving in, the 1955 birthdate started to show. We’ve had to redo pipes, do extensive waterproofing, and have plenty more to go. Thankfully, we get to mix in fun projects with the bad, and I have loved tackling everything from wiring new lights, to building shelves, to making and painting perfectly sized canvases for our living room. I’ll share my projects, discuss plans, and daydream over wishlists in this series. I don’t expect to have every detail of my renovations for you to follow to do it yourselves, but that might evolve over time. As always, never hesitate to ask a question!


Minimalism: Books.

What is it you really need?
Books can help us learn.

A year and a half ago, I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo at the library. I joined millions in the pursuit to declutter and organize my stuff and my life. I talk about my journey on The Practical Minimalists' Podcast, so I won't recount it all here.

Around the same time, I was reading about the human brain and how it gets programmed in specific ways according to how we're raised and the habits we form. About how it takes a lot of effort to make changes and reprogram, but it can be done.

I've always had a tendency toward materialism and shopping addiction, so a life of decluttering and then buying less was going to be tough. It took reprogramming. I started with Kondoism and was intrigued, but knew I would need more to stay on the path. So I kept reading and over time, it got a bit easier for my default setting to change from "I need this" to "Do I need this?"

Honestly, I could use some more reprogramming recently. My brain rewiring has taken a big hit after buying a house in Portland. I've saved money here and there by doing projects myself, but I'm still constantly tackling new projects and buying the goods needed to do so. And in my quest for a well organized home, if what I already have isn't the perfect picture in my head, I'm likely to bring something new into the house that is.

I feel good and bad about this. Our home brings me a lot of joy, but my wish list is usually long, and I find myself wanting more. I think it's time to take a break from the Hygge Reading List and get back to being happy wanting less.

After Marie Kondo, I went on to read my favorite book on the topic, Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle. Her blog and Instagram are of the few that I consistently read. I don't have the constraints of a tiny apartment, but her advice always feels relatable.

Next was The Joy of Less: A Minimalst Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify by Francine Jay. The biggest benefit of this book was reinforcement for that brain reprogramming. I also used it to help guide me through my house room by room.

I bought Make Room for What You Love: Your Essential Guide to Organizing & Simplifying by Melissa Michaels, but honestly it is still on the shelf with a bookmark not very far in. I will probably revisit it some day, but Melissa's perspective is very tied into her religious path, which just wasn't what I was looking for at the time. If that's what you're looking for, you'll likely love it.

Finally, I read Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner. This one has a similar perspective as Michaels' book, but feels more like a conversation in pursuit of inner peace. It brought the minimalist considerations beyond stuff, to self.

I just picked up Remodelista: The Organized Home by Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick at the Amazon Bookstore the other day. It's filled with practical advice and beautiful images. But I'm in need of another Boyle-esque book to get back on track. Remodelista will be lovely, and I'm sure it will instill all kinds of organizing ideas that have me sneaking off to the Container Store. Do you have any suggestions to reinforce the "Do I need this?" training?

Note: The painting in the background of the photo is by Emily Jeffords.

This post contains affiliate links. You can read the Amazon Affiliate disclosure in the sidebar. Please know I only ever post links I personally support and think may add value to my readers. Thank you for supporting the blog!


Film Photos: Dubai 2017.

Once my profession,
Now a hobby to enjoy.
Time to share photos.

Though it's no longer the purpose of this blog, I would still like to share some of my film photos with you from time to time. I'll start with our trip to Dubai in March of last year.


That Danish Life: Books.

Enter hygge world.
Get cozy with piles of books.
Then nevermore leave.

I am 100% on the Hygge bandwagon. Enough so to start a series about it. First up: books.

Have you read The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking? If not, you should. It's the perfect start to a basic understanding of hygge. From there, I went on to read The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl. The chapter on no ultimatums is the best parenting advice I've read in years (seriously check out pages 116-120.) I'm currently finishing The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. Some chapters, I'm ready to pack my bags and move to Denmark; and others, I settle that a trip will suffice. I’m expanding my Scandinavian reach and The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen is up next on my bookshelf. I even grabbed a copy of Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting to study in preparation for using our fireplace next winter.

Others on my wishlist include: Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life by Niki Brantmark; Nordicana: 100 Icons of Nordic Cool and Scandi Style by Kajsa Kinsella; Live Lagom: Balanced Living, the Swedish Way by Anna Brones; Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break, with Recipes for Pastries, Breads, and Other Treats by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall; and Tasting Hygge: Joyful Recipes for Cozy Days and Nights by Leela Cyd. I'm sure there will be plenty of overlap amongst these titles, but I truly don't mind some repetition with this genre. A bonus is all of these books make quite a beautiful shelf.

I’ll post updates on my reading list from time to time, and you can always catch my current read in the sidebar.

I’m all in and am very much rooting for a 2019 Scandinavia expedition. I better get back to my Danish lesson on Duolingo!

This post contains affiliate links. You can read the Amazon Affiliate disclosure in the sidebar. Please know I only ever post links I personally support and think may add value to my readers. Thank you for supporting the blog!
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