504 Main by Holly Lefevre: write
Showing posts with label write. Show all posts
Showing posts with label write. Show all posts


My 10 Day "Cut Through the Chaos" Experiment

I needed to take a teeny-tiny break.
Over the last three years...
my family has been on a roller coaster...
living apart...
living apart...again...
now moving (soon!) to another state.
Image credit: pixelsaway / 123RF Stock Photo

During this time, I have lost sight of a lot of things.
I have been happy and angry and just plain pissed off.
And had a lot of late night pity parties.
I have embraced some changes and hid from others.
I have had the support of some really amazing people in my life,
but I cannot rely on anyone to stop the ping pong balls of life
that are bouncing around in my head.
I need to do it without any unnecessary distractions.

During this time, everything in my life has suffered....
I have had health scares.
I am flat out exhausted...I think I run on coffee alone.
I "snap" at the kids.
I "snap" at my husband.
I just "snap."
And that is not working anymore.

I need to get my house in order.
I need to help my kids with some things.
I need to go back to appreciating what I have.
I need to take care of myself.
(I did a detox and felt amazing...
but my bad habits overtook the good ones...again)

I have decided to take 10 days off to Cut Through the Chaos in my life.
Why 10 days...I have no idea...it just sounded right.
I am really good at starting things.
I have developed a lot of good habits.
Then promptly developed a lot of bad habits to counteract the good ones.

In the next 10 days I will focus on some house issues,
some kid issues, prepare better meals, exercise more,
focus on why my mind is filled with chaos, and get back on track.
And hopefully emerge with a better attitude and a clear head.

I know we all have buys crazy lives.
I am no different than anyone else.
I used to be able to keep it all in check...
But after ignoring the signs for too long,
I know I need the time.
I have not been able to pull it all together.

I want to be a good mother.
I want to be a good wife.
I want to accomplish my dreams.
I need to clear my head.

Fresh air, family, and friends will help.
I want to draw with my girlie.
Watch my boy play baseball.
Take walks on the beach...
collect some sea glass to take to Texas.
Listen to the ocean from my deck
(a sound I will soon not hear anymore on a daily basis).
So, thank you for listening, for reading, and being supportive!
You are awesome!
See ya next week! 
(I can't stay away!)
If anyone has any tips and tricks to share on getting your act together
go ahead and share them hear...PLEASE!

Be sure to visit Meegan this week as she will be hosting Tickled Pink on her blog!


This post is written and created at 504 Main by Holly Lefevre


StrongMoms Empower: A Tale About Breastfeeding and Judgement

When I had my first child, I had grand plans
and many ideas about what motherhood would be like.
After giving birth to my first child, the days wore on and on,
and I all too quickly discovered that my vision of motherhood was about 95% wrong. Motherhood is the most amazing experience in this world  - period!
But motherhood is a daily challenge,
a daily exercise in patience and understanding,
and a lifelong commitment to creating responsible, caring individuals.
StrongMoms Empower

Since becoming a mother, my days have been filled, as I am sure every mothers have, with life changing experiences. We say things, do things, and experience things we never imagined. Being a mother is powerful, but as we travel this path, it cannot be denied that motherhood comes with judgement - from family members...from friends...from strangers. This story is about one of my biggest challenges, disappointments, and the judgement I faced as a new mother (both times). 

I had a hard time after the birth of my son. A slight case of postpartum depression was my co-parent and I did not even see it at the time (and neither did my husband). To top it off nothing - not one thing about parenting came close to what I planned or dreamt about, other than the love I felt for this baby - that is the one thing that did exceed my expectations. I daydreamed that once I brought this heavenly bundle of joy home, we would spend our days at the park, reading, napping, and we would bond and everything would be beyond perfect.

I have never been more wrong.

I had put so much pressure on myself to be this perfect mother that I barely remember anything good that happened. The biggest disappointment accompanied breastfeeding. I had so desperately wanted to nurse this sweet baby and it was not working...I was not making milk, not enough anyway...and there were other problems as well. Days and days of a screaming hungry baby...days and weeks of lactation consultants, pediatricians, and trip after trip to the health store to buy vitamins and supplements that were supposed to make the milk come in. You name it...no one could help the issues we had. I had assumed that nursing would be a piece of cake, no issue at all...but it was not. They tell you it might be difficult, but they never really say how difficult. 

Infections and engorgement and a multitude of other not so pleasant experiences led to days spent frustrated and crying - me and the baby! I made the decision to pump...and was absolutely scrutinized by many of the mothers in the baby groups I joined.
"Why wouldn't everyone breastfeed? It is so easy. "
"Mothers who do not breastfeed are selfish."
"I cannot believe she isn't nursing that baby."
I could hear them. I hated listening to them. It hurt. It hurt bad.

Of course they had no idea that the milk in those bottle was breast milk - precious breast milk that had to be coaxed and cajoled to come out of my body. They had no idea that I slept about 3 hours a night because the process of pumping, cleaning, and then feeding a newborn the baby and starting all over again was laborious, tedious, and took a lot of time.  The peaceful image of a mother nursing her newborn in bliss did not exist in my house. But I did it because I believed in breast milk and breastfeeding and wanted to do everything I could for my baby. (For the record...I did eventually have to supplement with formula. As my son grew I could not keep up with his needs. I pumped for about one year.)

StrongMoms Empower

Fast forward 6 years...and a new baby girl entered our lives. I was much more prepared for the fact that things may not go as planned this time, but it did not make it any easier. There was still disappointment and frustration as I encountered the same problems with nursing. I refused to bring this baby home and live in a fog of screaming and pumping and utter devastation and disappointment in myself. I also had another child to care for and could not lose myself in the despair that followed my son's birth. 

At the hospital, I made the decision..I was going to ask for the "F-Word" - Formula - to supplement the breast milk. In the area I live in, formula truly is the F-word and I was scared to ask...the nurses encouraged me to keep trying and tried to avoid my requests (in a pleasant and encouraging way). Finally I worked up the nerve to ask our wonderful pediatrician. She understood, and it took her to finally get me what I needed...what my baby needed.

I wanted to enjoy this time. I regret the moments I missed with my son, and I did not want to relive the experience - the angst and the crying and the beating myself up. I did still want to breastfeed. Again I visited pediatricians lactation consultants and read everything I could...and again, ultimately I found myself "tied" to the pump. I had come to terms with what I was and was not capable of...but I again was devastated by the lack of decency and understanding of other mothers.

Snide comments, whispers, not-so-quiet discussions were all too common at Mommy and Me. No one would sit by me, no one would talk to me because I was not able to whip out a boob and feed during circle time. And again, they had no idea that I had slept only a few hours each night so that I could pump maybe one beautiful, precious bottle of breast milk to feed my baby. They assumed. They judged. And it still hurt.

Being a mother is no easy task and there are so many ways to be a good mother. What leads us to criticize other mothers, other women for the decisions they make. 

I have many, many (many) opinions about what I will allow or not allow my children to do/see/watch/participate in/behave. As a mother that is my job to determine what I feel is appropriate and right for my children and my family. If another family chooses otherwise...fine, but I will chose to not let my children participate. I am not judging that family but I am making the best decision I know for my own kids...that is my job.

And...surprise, surprise I do not agree with everyone I know about how or what they chose to let their children do...BUT that is their choice, and as long as their children are not in danger and they are being cared for that is their prerogative...EVERY FAMILY, EVERY MOTHER has the right to make the best decisions for her family
StrongMoms Empower

I am not a perfect mother - far, far from it. So, in the interest of full disclosure...I will admit the following...(I am sure there is much more I can admit to...but for now this is it)

  • I have been that mom at the park on the phone.
  • I have been that mom with the screaming child at the grocery store.
  • I have (I am) that mom who lets her little girl wear sundresses to school even when it is cold outside (with a jacket in tow as well).
  • I have handed my toddler a frozen pancake while in line at the grocery store as everyone looks at me in horror. 
  • My kids are all too familiar with the phrase, "Just a minute."
  • I believe in the 5 second rule. 
  • I have let my kids drink soda and processed foods.
  • I chose to go back to work.
  • I chose to not work.
  • I chose to breast feed.
  • I chose to not breast feed.
  • I yell.
  • I am honest.
  • I tell white lies (but for the good of the family!)
  • I make mistakes.
  • I give myself time outs.
  • I apologize.
  • I admit...I have judged other mothers...
...but I have also learned, and come to understand that we all have our own way, and we are doing the best we can for our own situation. It is not for us to judge what another family needs or chooses to do...and now when I find my mind heading down that path, I try to catch these thoughts - to remember that I have no idea what is going on with that family, what their situation is, what has happened earlier in the day, what phone call they just received, what their life is like. All I can do is be the best mother for my own kids, and be there to support and encourage other mothers if they should need and ask for it.

How about joining the movement of encouragement and help us moms unite by taking the Strong Moms Empower pledge

Take the StrongMoms Empowerment Pledge
This post is written and created at 504 Main by Holly Lefevre
I am participating in a blog campaign with One2One Network. I have not received any payment.
All opinions are my own.


The Trouble with Tooth Fairies

3:30 am...
"Moooommmmyyy! Moooommyyy! The tooth fairy didn't come yet?"

Eyes pop open...I look at the clock.
Whew...3:30 am. HAPPY DANCE!
Yep, I was happy it was 3:30 and not the real "time to get up" morning.

I pop out of bed and head to Jules's room.
She is distraught.
"The tooth fairy didn't come yet! The tooth fairy didn't come yet! Maybe she is not coming."

I am exhausted but have to get myself out of this...I created it.
Image credit: svinka / 123RF Stock Photo 

Just a few days ago Jules lost her first tooth...
and the next day promptly showed us another tooth was also loose...
and quickly became OBSESSED with this second tooth falling out. 

She was incessant, insistent, and persistent all day about getting this second tooth out. It was not ready...almost but not quite. I could not take it anymore...I had literally told her that the tooth was "still there, and the tooth fairy is just waiting" 100 times!

Finally in an effort to divert her attention, I suggest she write the tooth fairy a note or draw her a picture just to let her know you are excited to see her again soon. This excited her...but then it turned into an obsession.

By bed time she had decided that the tooth fairy would be receiving one beautiful original piece of art (by Jules), one pink swirly bouncy ball, one penny, and one dime, so that the Tooth Fairy would not forget about here.

Under the pillow the treasures went,
and she sort of went to sleep, tossing and turning all night...
until 3:30 when she woke up, distraught.

And when Mommy realized she forgot to tend to her duties.

Once Jules was settled, I snuck into the garage, found some scrapbook paper,
a length of ribbon, and a pretty embellishment and
sat down at about 4 am to craft a response from the Tooth Fairy.
Just what I wanted to do at 4 am!

I quietly entered Jules's room and swapped out her gifts for
the Tooth Fairy note and went back to bed.

In the "real" morning she was ecstatic! She carried the note with her all day...
and around 6 pm started preparing another offering for the Tooth Fairy (yeah!).

Well, three days later that tooth is still in her mouth,
the Tooth Fairy has now collected:
2 Tootsie Pops,
a note that says "I love you Tooth Fairy,"
a flower button,
and fifty cents
(to add to the first night loot of a bouncy ball, penny, dime and picture).

She is much happier than she looks!

So, this is what I do as a mother...I come up with creative solutions to my kids obsessions and  problems and, in turn, create, more work for myself...but to see their eyes light up and to hear them tell the stories over and over...there is nothing like it.  It is a good reminder of the simple, sweet and magical moments that make you thankful you are a Mom!

(Now I must go write Note #3)

What crazy things do you do as a mom?


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Mama’s Losin’ It


Things My Dad Taught Me...2012 edition

Happy (almost) Father's Day to all the dad's out there!
I originally posted this in 2010 for writers workshop,
but thought I'd share it again!
Anyway, this is about my Dad! He and I are a lot alike - good and bad. I am pretty sure that is where I get my impatience, my eagerness, and my competitive spirit.

My Dad was a police officer for 20+ years. I am proud of that and always was. He worked funky hours, but it was a good life. He was often able to come home with his partner and have dinner with us. And then other times, we wouldn't see him for days due to his schedule. Sometimes I would get up at 1 am {or later} when my Dad got home from work.  We would eat PB&J on Saltine crackers and watch Planet of the Apes or a weird caveman movie.

When I was younger, I was fascinated with Wrigley's Spearmint Gum. All the police officers chewed it {they all had mustaches too}. I thought it was special...and I thought {or was told} that you had to get it from a policeman. Every night {or day} when my dad came home from work, if I was "good" he would give me his special Police Gum and I was in heaven. I am not sure when I realized everyone could buy Wrigley's Spearmint Gum...not just police officers!

Of course, Police Gum was the invention of the man who, while we were vacationing at Lake Powell, had me convinced that the holes about 50 feet above water were fish houses, and that the yucca plant was named that because it tastes awful {yuck-a!}.

Now, life at my house was not all fun and games, my Dad takes some things very seriously....like his lawn and his baseball hats!

Oh you think I am joking...NOT! He is obsessed with his lawn. He cannot go on vacation for too long because his lawn will grow too tall. We joke that he measures it daily to see if it needs to be cut...and cutting is an all day event...and, remember we live in coastal California...we are not talking acres!

Baseball hats are my Dad's signature item, placing just ahead of shorts - no matter what the weather. As for baseball hats, they must be worn correctly {bill to the front, unless you are in a boat, then it is acceptable to wear it backwards}. The bill must also be bent - just so. I am sure my Dad has a special tool for doing this somewhere. You know what is scary...I find myself repeating this to my son when he screws around with his baseball hat!

Both of my parents were supportive and gave it their all for their kids. They were always coaching our teams, or sitting in the stands cheering us on as we got older. They taught us a lot and let us grow into who we are.

So to end this,
I want to say a big thanks to
my Dad for teaching me...

...how to take care of myself - but that did not mean he didn't ask the police to drive by my apartment when I moved out and lived on my own.
...someone, usually a police officer was always watching - stay out of trouble.
 ...how to NOT throw like a girl. And with that, I played Little League with the boys until I was 12. I even once pitched a no-hitter shut out - who says a girl can't throw? 
 ...how to drive a stick shift, which I still prefer.
...how to drive a boat
...how to water ski (on one ski...and I still can).
...how to ride a dirt bike.
...how to ride a regular bike!
...how to wash a car properly {I do not always do it, but I know how to!}
...that you can never have enough bungee cords or zip ties.
...that Peppermint Schnapps does not taste like a candy cane. 
...how to be the last person to leave a party.

Happy Father's day Dad!
And Happy Father's Day
to all the dad's out there!

What did your Dad teach you????


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Mama’s Losin’ It


So You Think You Can Write? I Didn't...But I Do!

This is the post that appeared on my agents blog back in October 2010, and, partially, here in December of 2010, but it seem to be relevant again...so here goes!
Over the last few months, I have seen a lot of posts about writing books and "how to" and "what to" and "why to" all over the Internet, facebook, and discussed at various conferences I have attended.

I have also had a number of people tell me (in person) or email me that they were surprised to see that I actually write books.
Me too!
I still am not sure I consider myself to be a writer -
it was never in  my plans, never even a thought,
but here I am, 7+ (non-fiction) books later,
and I am going with it.

Last year, my agent asked me to share the story of how I parlayed my area of expertise - wedding planning - into writing books.

While my area of expertise maybe in weddings at this particular time, I do have other projects in the works...but most importantly, the basic plan of how to write a non-fiction book is essentially the same, so this topic applies to many, many people.

I have thought about writing an ebook, but really it is easier to put this information I have in a blog post or multiple blog posts (and focus on finishing my own proposals).
If you all are interested I am happy to do a few more posts covering topics of:
Finding your niche
How to write a book proposal
How to find an agent
What to do after you sell it!
Or other various topics that I just may know something about.
Feel free to leave any questions of topic ideas in the comments.
"Can You Write?"
I am a planner….that is what I do. I went to school and landed my dream job as a fashion designer…I was set…I had it planned out. I knew my path. Writing was NEVER a part of my plan. I never had any intention of writing anything. It found me.

In fact my first foray into the publishing world was an accident of sorts…a 7 am phone call from an acquaintance jolted me out of bed with the simple question  “Can you write?” To which I carefully replied…”I got an A in English.” Little did I know this phone call would send me down a path I never expected.

In an instant, I became an accidental author. My very first book deal was as co-author of a book titled “The 100 Careers in Fashion and Modeling,” and I solely got that gig because I was in fashion, was knowledgeable about the business…and could write. It did not happen because I was brilliant. It did not happen because I got that A in English. It happened because I parlayed my expertise in my career into a tangible idea.

Soon after this writing experience, I married and used my status as a recent bride to explore a new area of expertise. This led to a second book, one about wedding planning from a bride’s perspective.  Taking this all one step further, I veered off my plan again and switched careers. I was now a wedding planner. I embraced all things wedding and set out to parlay my experiences and knowledge of weddings into writing. I had already seen what happened when I presented my self as an expert in one field…this same idea could easily be parlayed into another field and into subsequent books.

So, how did I do this twice? First I established myself as an expert in my field…and yes, that meant volunteering for some things….I spoke at bridal seminars, I worked as the editor of a local bridal publication, I wrote small articles (for free), and I made myself available to professional organizations to speak and to be a part of their professional meetings. All of this helped spread my name and establish me as a go-to wedding gal. Not only did this help my “new” career as a wedding planner, but also it strengthened my role as a writer, and subsequently author of multiple wedding books.

Do I mean go out and volunteer and give your precious time away for free, not for the long haul…but you have to plan and work to establish yourself as an expert in any field and to gain the credentials you need to make the publishers believe you are the one who knows the most about your chosen subject. Find professional organizations that cater to the client, the reader you want to reach and offer your knowledge.

Of course you may not be the only looking for this route to authorship, so you also need to know who else is out there writing books in your market – what are there credentials? Are they better than yours? Do you need to improve yours? Continuing to educate yourself in your field, as well as making yourself available and accessible to those who can benefit from your particular field of expertise will establish you as an expert and just may lead to the many opportunities that are out there waiting for you.
So, that's it...my story.
These are my books
(The links to the books are affiliate links with Amazon)

I am inspired, still, to write about weddings to reach out to brides and offer my expertise and insight. I am also inspired to write about what my daily life consists of now - kids, cooking, crafts, whatever! I truly want to dive into the fiction realm - that stretches my comfort zone, but it makes me question my talents - but I want to, need to, give it a shot.

So...have you ever considered writing a book?
Feel free to leave any questions of topic ideas in the comments.


We Know How to Make a Mess

Since I began blogging I have been a member of The Secret is in The Sauce (SITS).
I have learned a lot and made some great friends because of SITS. They provide us bloggers with networking, education...and some FAB opportunities! Right now they have one happening in conjunction with the Clorox's Bleach It Away Program. 
One of the perks is the chance to win a Canon Rebel T2i! 
Oh yeah...mama needs a new camera!
Mine has been painted, dropped, and all in all been "worked!" 

To get in on the deal, we simply had to write a post based on this prompt:
"Spending time with friends and family can lead to fun and memorable moments, but also some very messy ones. Tell us about the messiest moments that you’ll always remember!"
When I first became a mother a little over 10 years ago, I was filled with feelings of overwhelming love, and I'll be honest there was a lot of frustration and uncertainty in those first few months - possibly years even.

This little boy of mine was the light of my life and pretty much spoiled beyond belief. After all, he was the only boy - the only heir to the "family name."

I was very guilty of buying him new toys and gadgets and pretty much taking him any place I fancied would strengthen our bond, teach him something, or open his eyes to a new experience. Most of the time, things worked out as planned...but sometimes they did not.

Try as I might, my boy was not "that interested" in drawing or painting or doing artsy projects. Oh the horror! This mama could not have that. I tried just about everything. Finally I discovered what would be the "thing" that changed his mind...bathtub crayons.

What could go wrong? He loved his baths. I loved art. Now I would simply marry my love with his love and we would both be happy...and hopefully this new found love would extend beyond the bath.

And guess what...it did.

I was in the kitchen.
He was in the living room.
I heard "Mama, come see! Mama, come see!"
I hurried into the living room...

And there he was standing in front of the freshly painted, once-blank wall with crayons spread all over the floor. I looked up and I saw that I finally had it - a gorgeous piece of art...all over my white walls. 

So, yeah, my little plan, it worked...just not as I expected. It was gorgeous and I just had to admire it. He did exactly what he was told to do...just not quite where he was expected to do it. The joy of children!

This was not the first mess we made together. Nor was it the last. In fact I always say half of the fun is in making the mess. That is where the fun begins and the memories are made in my house anyway!

What's your messy moment?

I received information about Clorox’s Bleach It Away campaign and am sharing my messy moment for the chance to win prizes from The SITS Girls. To learn more about the messy moment program, check out www.BleachItAway.com.  Sharing your story on the Clorox fan page gets you entered for the chance to win $25,000 and daily prizes, and you can grab a coupon for Clorox® Regular Bleach.



Fab Finds! Gift Gloss - Wrap In a Snap!

Did you all have a fun Halloween?
For us, surviving Halloween was a breeze...now comes the hard part!
However, I am taking a new approach to the holidays this year,
(at least that is the plan!)
and trying to plan and prep so I can really enjoy the days ahead.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of my favorite ideas for holiday-related "Fab Finds" (sorry - that is the best phrase I can come up with in my candy induced coma - I should have never bit into that 100,000 Grand bar!).

I am trying not to get ahead of myself with theholidays,
but for me this is something that covers a lot - gifts, goodies, and ideas -
whatever I LOVE and can help us through the holidays!
All of these items I have tried, used, or created.
A few have been provided to me,
but I do not blog about what I do not love and use.

I won't even lie to you and tell you there will be a schedule -
that is setting myself up for failure.
(especially since I am computer challenged at the moment)

This first fab product is GiftGloss.
Awhile back the creators of GiftGloss sent me their product.
They must have known I was wrapping challenged.
I gave this product a try and have used the GiftGloss Kit
for wrapping gifts and goodies.
(be kind...remember I am wrapping challenged)

I wrapped a bottle of wine,
accented with my enamel tags for a birthday gift. 
I also threw together a baby shower gift.

Additionally, at many bake sales and other functions, our baked goodies
must be wrapped individually - GiftGloss is food safe - perfection!

So, there ya have it...a little bit about how I have used today's Fab Find!
Now go on and read more about GiftGloss!!
Everyone LOVES a pretty present, right?
Creating that perfect presentation (for me) can sometimes be daunting....until NOW!
Can't we all use a way to simplify our wrapping, especially with the holidays coming up? 
GiftGloss has the solution!
GiftGloss is a "slide n' tie" sleeve that was developed by the FoofQueens.
No need to mess with rolls of unruly paper or cellophane.
 GiftGloss is the answer.

GiftGloss is a unique gift wrapping product that allows you to create beautiful presentations in a snap!

Oh, and think of the possibilities for shop owners and small (or BIG) business - a beautiful and fun...and EASY way to package your product.

GiftGloss is also food safe...oh yeah...
"Hello holiday baked goodies...meet your new friend!"

You want to know else something else that is really cool...GiftGloss is compact enough to fit in a drawer - no need to worry about storing bulky rolls or anything else...put the GiftGloss in your drawer and you are ready at a moments notice!
If you want to try this system out,
you can get 20% the GiftGloss Kit using

So, are you wrapping challenged?
If not, do you have any tips to share?


A GiftGloss Kit was provided to me for trial purposes. See my full disclosure policy by clicking "Disclosure" in the top navigation bar.


Create A Fall Oasis with HGTV.com Contributor Dan Berger

I adore being outdoors.
Perhaps because I am a native California girl, and have always
been spoiled with good weather year round.
Where I live now, Fall is actually the best time of the year.
So we are soaking up every second of our gorgeous Fall weather, and also taking this opportunity to "gussy up" the backyard so we can enjoy
our little piece of heaven a lot more.
(I wish this was my house and garden..its not...it's Dan's work!)

Now, while I love the outdoors, and live in an area blessed
with amazing weather...I am guilty of neglect.
I just keep telling myself I like that natural overgrown look...but NO MORE!

I was already anxious to begin the process of transforming our backyard and deck into our personal oasis, and then I was presented with the unique opportunity to interview Garden Designer and HGTV.com contributor Dan Berger. Dan's unique and creative approach to garden design has landed him appearances on over 25 episodes of HGTV's "Landscape Smart." He has also worked with This Old House and been featured in Sunset Magazine, in addition to numerous features in newspapers and other publications. Dan, a fellow Californian, is the owner of LandPlan Landscaping.
After chatting with Dan, I am even more inspired to get my own plans in action. He has some great advice for everyone  because no matter where you live there are steps you can take to enjoy the great outdoors this Fall - in any way you choose, from gardening to reading under a canopy to relaxing in a hammock - you can create a personal oasis.

The questions I asked Dan were definitely inspired my my own "issues," BUT they can help us all! Dan was great and so full of information. We covered everything from some very basic plant do's to creating a fabulous space in your own yard...or deck...or patio.

Some of you may be saying I don't have the money or the time to create a new space...but the space does not have to be entirely new or cost a lot of money. You do not have to cut down the trees to make way for a new patio or build a waterfall or redesign the entire property. You just need to create a space that feels warm
and inviting not only to you but to your guests.
In fact, one of my favorite things Dan said was
"It is about the people not the money."
Now let's get to it!
Oh yeah, and enjoy the GORGEOUS photos of Dan's work along the way!

An outdoor room or oasis is special. It connects you and your guests with nature and each other. As you create your space use natural elements - gorgeous cedar, water features, etc. to facilitate that connection to nature. Make your space inviting and people will be drawn outside and you will create a sense of camaraderie.
1. Create a space for you...for something you enjoy all the time. If you read, create a magical place to read, if you knit, do the same...if sitting and listening to the birds or the waves crashing helps you relax after a long day...if hosting dinner parties al fresco is your forte...do it - make the space work for that and your life.

2. Find and determine a good spot in your yard/deck/patio...then decide what it needs...a fire pit, a covering, "walls" for privacy, etc.

3. Start small and let it grow. You do not have to tackle the entire project all at once, especially if it is a major transformation. If you do, the whole process can be overwhelming and an oasis should bring joy...not stress.

4. Decide on the type of space you want: Is it for the kids (if you can call that an oasis!), is it for entertaining, is it a private space for you (or you and your spouse to relax)...for you to paint or create? Once you make the distinction of the type of space you are trying to create, your plans and the space will come together.

5. Define the function of the space and determine how it relates to what is happening inside the house. Select a spot that has a relationship to that. Think of the outdoor area as a room - an extension of the home, but don't forget about practicality. If your entertaining space is 200 yards from your kitchen, will it make a lot of sense (or be easy/practical) to serve a meal there regularly. It does not mean you can't but maybe it make more sense to serve lighter fare (coffee/cocoa and pastries or mulled wine and cheese) in the space.

For this season, as the air begins to chill, comfort is key...and that means warmth is essential. If you are cold or uncomfortable you will be distracted and not enjoying the space you create.

Warmth can come in a simple form...a cozy blanket or comforter or it can be a beautiful fireplace or even a portable fire pit.

Support that feeling of warmth with the food and drink you serve as well as the colors, music, and decor you add to it.

In colder weather, you may need to consider some type of an enclosed structure to protect yourself from the harsh weather and temperatures. At first it may seem a little "much" but when you think about the peace and joy that space can bring you it may be well worth it in the end.

Additionally, you may be thinking there is no way my guests are going outside...it's cold. Entice them...draw them out there. Create a space so inviting and magical they simply cannot resist. They can't help but venture outdoors to explore your oasis...and then they may not even want to leave!

If you are thinking what I was thinking...here's your answer. I am a mom...I have a play house a play structure..most of my outdoor area is for the kids...BUT I should be able to claim a space for myself. As a mom (or dad) we need a spot for us...stake your claim.

Think about what you do and who you are and use that to inject personality into your space. Dan emphasized, ""Whatever you can do inside to distinguish and differentiate your space you can do outside."

For example one photographer created a wall..and in essence it was a gallery wall. He blew up some of his photos and hung them outside. It was beautiful, enticing, and he could easily change out the art when he wanted. What a unique way to display art and bring yourself into your space.

If you practice a particular craft, such as beading or pottery, decorate the outdoors with your work.

If you are not a "creative" person, add a collection to the space - bring your milk glass collection outside for awhile. Create a nook to show off your tea pots and serve up some fancy teas! Create vignettes to showcase pieces that are so very you and make your space an extension of that.

If you are a cook/baker/chef - whip up your special cookies and make your signature coffee beverage and serve it in the oasis. An amazing afternoon treat.

Little things like this will bring your energy and personality into the space and guest will feel the warmth...and they will know it is yours.
My first thoughts when we scheduled this interview was to grill Dan on plants. (This may not be my strong point) So, for those of us with a black or brown thumb, I had to ask what type of plantings we should be looking for. Here are some GREAT tips.
  • Dan suggests to look for low maintenance plants. The trick to is get them established, but once you do that, you will have success.
  • Be sure to also make sure you purchase plants suited to your climate.
  • Create seasons with your plantings (especially in a place like CA where the seasons are not as distinct).
  • Use the colors and type of plants that are available to create a new look and palette for each season.
  • Buy varying heights, widths, and varieties.
  • Concentrate on perennials. Perennials are an easy and inexpensive way to spruce up the outdoors - you can grab small containers for about $2.50 each. Many perennials also flower and do well in shaded areas.
  • Remember it is OK to buy a plant for a season. Let it bloom and thrive and when it is done compost it.
Sometimes getting the plant to grow and flourish is a matter of soil - the right soil is a must, and plants can fail just because of the soil! Take time to use the right soil mixture, and do not overlook the use of pots and containers grouped and placed through the yard. You can even dig a hole and plant the entire pot - this is a great way to ensure the plant has the right soil and it blends right in. (I LOVE THIS!)

When you purchase plants/flowers, look for plants that have buds or are just beginning to bud. The full gorgeous blooms may entice you but the plants life cycle is shorter for you to enjoy when you purchase a plant in full bloom. "Everyone at the nursery may have already enjoyed the plants best moments. Instead buy that plant that has yet to flourish and get the most out of it. (DUH! I never even thought of that!)

CREATE "People Space"
If plants are not a strong point for you (or you cannot grow them at this time due to weather) concentrate on elements that are not plants/living/growing in the outdoors. A non plant/floral focal point is the key. Let the plants be the backdrop not the attraction. Wood structures, water elements, iron ornaments - whatever you love helps define the space as well.

I have to say a BIG thank you to Dan for taking time to talk to me
and sharing his advice and wisdom!
Check out this site where you can get 
"how to build" tips and view more photos: http://www.wrcla.org/  

So...what do you think?
Are you ready to create your oasis?
I took Dan's tips to heart as I designed my Harvest table the other day
and I am so inspired to get in the yard, and enjoy every minute I can outside with the waves crashing and the birds chirping and the squirrels playing in the pines.

All photos are copyright and property of Dan Berger.