bag love

Here is the latest: a Cynthia Rowley bag

Yes – I’m a bag lady! Handbags, that is. And also the little organizing bags that go inside. I have to say, being a bit OCD that I am, I am always on the lookout for the perfect bag to keep me organized.

Isn’t this amazing? I love the rustic leather, the sturdy zippers, the cross-body strap and the outside pocket (great for my cell and easy to get to when the phone rings while you are out and about). I can also fit the handles on my shoulder, making it secure in crazy, crowd situations where you want to watch out for pickpockets – my husband appreciated this feature!

I have a few rules for my handbags:

Rustic leather details

It must have a great leather – I love the texture and patina of old leather bags, plus they last so well that it seems you really get your money’s worth out of them. I have some bags that I have had for a really long time that I still pull out sometimes – they seem to get better with age!  The truth is, you can spot a quality material in a bag from a long way off and I think that everything you are wearing looks better when you have a great handbag (a bit like great shoes too!)

It must have good hardware – real metal zippers, not the nylon type. This is where you will see the difference in a handbag lasting a long time – good hardware lasts.

Quality hardware looks good and lasts longer

It should function. Really, this is the most important. And this can change or vary depending on what you are doing, where you are going, the time of your life and your role, and what you need to carry with you. Being a wife and mom, as well as a business girl, it seems like I feel that is is necessary to be prepared and I probably carry more than I need, but it is sure nice to have it when you do need it! Some bags are great for hauling, but you get tired carrying them. Some feel great to carry, but don’t fit all that you need. Some seem like they will do the trick, but then don’t hold up to the task. And sometimes, you just want to change up and not look the same all the time. That is why I have a wardrobe of handbags to choose from – and I will never quit looking for the next great bag!

For me, I avoid having names/initials/labels from the designer on my bag. If it is small and doesn’t advertise, but instead is like a signature on a piece of art, that is okay, but in my opinion, if you wear advertising, you should get paid for it. The handbag should enhance your look, not borrow style from someone else’s brand name.

The handbag should have a little attitude in the design – now this is a bit more subjective, but I like my attitude subtle, but a little edgy. Something in the design should be worth a comment – the color, the material, the shape or the detail. It is fun when people stop and comment on your handbag – it says a little bit about you in your style choice – fun or cool or bohemian, you make the call.

What’s in your bag? Here is my stuff . . .

Now, let’s talk about what is in your bag. This is a great feature that many bloggers write about, like this post at three pink dots.

My personal bag usually has a few other “bag bags” inside. I find that it is easier to clean up, switch handbags, but most importantly, find what you need quickly and easily, when you don’t have to practically empty it out to find the one thing on the bottom of your bag.

This is what I was carrying recently, but the hair-on-hide detail is a bit itchy on the arm in the summer

First is my wallet: I like the kind that has a good metal zipper (again, quality lasts) and I prefer one that is longer so you don’t have to fold up your cash. I don’t like having to take it all out in front of someone to see what I have or find the right amount. It should be like a file, that you can reach in and just get what you need. Safer too. It needs pockets for the money cards on one side and the “store” cards on the other. Now don’t get me started – why we need to have a card for every individual retailer on the planet frustrates me to no end! That can almost be another post in and of itself on how to work around this issue. But I do keep a few in the wallet, and the rest I put on my smartphone. But you do have to have room for those! So your wallet needs those pockets, but also room for some receipts and change. The hard part is being disciplined to clean it out each week – YES you do have to clean it up, either as you go or after the fact, but you will feel so much better when you do!

This turquoise Michael Kors is my spring season bag – a wake-up color for my look after wearing lots of black in winter!

Here are the other “bag bags” that I carry:

A cosmetic bag. Nothing is more frustrating then a melted chapstick, or broken/loose bottle that leaks all over and ruins your bag. I keep one zip-top cosmetic bag that has a water resistant material for these items. Mine has hand sanitizer, neosporin, band-aids, chapstick, ibuprofen, inhaler and a hair clip. When I was gone longer portions of the day, I used to carry some makeup items, but I don’t use them much anymore since I have better products that I start with in the morning, so I guess this is a bit more of a “first aid kit” but it does get a workout with having a family.

Quality is always in style – can you believe that I have had this Coach handbag for over 15 years. My teenager is begging me for it!

One for “girl stuff”- Supplies are a fact of life, so this bag has a few of each, a little travel brush/mirror, as well as tissues and a Tide stick (you really gotta love this thing!). I use the mesh bag from Container store – I can see what’s inside, but it isn’t too obvious and embarrassing, and it keeps everything clean and usable.

Mesh Bags from Container Store (also come in other sizes)

One for my techno stuff (another mesh bag, different color) . I keep a spare flash drive and memory card with me, sewing kit, an extra phone cord and charger, sharpie pen, tape measure, and my handi-dandi swiss army knife (a girl’s best friend I say!)

A glasses case – I usually wear my sunglasses, so I don’t keep a separate case for them, but I do have one that will fit both my eyeglasses and sunglasses when necessary, with a cleaner cloth of course!

A trio of fold-up shopping bags. Mine are the 75 cent ones from Ikea, but I like the simple style and that they weigh almost nothing. And if I have them with me in my bag, I will use them (I never remember to get the ones out of the trunk). I like that these fold into their own little pocket too and are not too complicated. Did you know that you get a 5 cent discount for each bag you use at Target? Hopefully more retailers will do this to reward those who are prepared!

Don’t want to take your good leather to the beach? How about a little nautical inspired stripe in canvas – classic and no worries!

One last zipper bag for the coupons. Some stores have discount coupons and it is handy to have them with you. Not all retailers can take the smartphone coupons yet, so I keep these with me (not the grocery ones, those are a separate trip!). My bag is a small pencil bag and I am so glad not to have those coupons in my wallet anymore!

This little Francesco Biasia bag with braided handles is not a “run around” bag, but is great for going out and professional image days.

That’s it – when I want to switch out bags, or clean the miscellaneous clutter out of a bag, it is easy to take these few items out and consolidate. Also, I have gotten used to how these little “bag bags” feel and can find what I need without looking – bonus!

So I shared with you my philosophy about choosing a handbag and my handbag organization methods.

But overall, a handbag is something a woman carries for a few reasons: the way we dress does not give us the pockets to carry what we need; our being ladies often requires more supplies than men carry, and our familes and lifestyle usually require someone to have more than just a wallet.

A canvas hobo bag. Packable and bleachable, a good travel choice.

That being said, a handbag is part of what we use all the time to accomplish our busy lives; it serves as our home-away-from-home for us. So you should be mindful of choosing something that serves it’s purpose well for you and enhances your life. It should be something that makes you happy every time you use it. And since you use it so much, it should be an expression of you too.

So go ahead. Check out what you have been carrying around. What does it say about you? Does it work for you?

It’s all about bag love.

PS: I love to browse the handbags at Marshall’s – many of my most recent finds have been from there.


the million glass march . . .

It seems in our house that the glassware was always the largest category in the dishwasher – and we had to own sooooo many glasses to keep up with the demand, that when they were all clean at the same time, they didn’t fit in the cupboard! Plus, it seemed like I was always finding them left somewhere (and the said culprit said it wasn’t theirs because LOOK I have one right here!). Thinking caps on . . . remember the wine glass charms . . . anyway to make this work for regular glasses . . . cheaply . . . wander the aisles in the craft store . . . IDEA!!!!

GLASS CHARMS!!! These are tags for your glassware that fit most size glasses, comfortable enough while holding your glass, easy for anyone (especially kids) to use, and best of all, there are so many options on how you could make this look, that the possibilities are . . .!!!! What else that I like is that no one really is sure what the tags are made out of unless they are a shrink art plastic/crafty person, and so it sure is an inexpensive way to impress the friends and family. Did I mention that this is a cheap project?

monograms, without the mono

So here is how to make your very own glass charms (sounds like magic – maybe they are – not so many glasses to wash!) I think that this idea can be adapted for lots of uses; I see tags in my linen closet (yes, the dream linen closet, not the way it looks now, yeccch) or baskets of craft items . . . oh, I digress.

So here is what you need:

shrink art plastic

pony tail elastics

  • new pony tail elastics (from the hair care aisle) I used different colors for each person, but you get to customize this part
  • jump rings (from the jewelry findings aisle) – large size (3/8″ diameter or so – enough to attach the label to the elastic
  • shrink art plastic (you might have to ask where this is)
  • Pens and/or computer printer
  • scissors
  • hole punch tool
  • two pairs of pliers (preferably jewelry pliers, since they won’t mark up the jump rings)
  • cookie sheet/spatuala
  • oven

Next you will be using either your computer printer, or being artistic with marker pens to create the names on the shrink art plastic.

You can purchase clear or one-side-frosted (works better with color pencils), but either way, remember that whatever you draw or print must be 3 times larger than the finished size. I just stuck with simple names in black ink thinking I was going to do monograms, but duplicate letters required full names to accomplish the goal of identifying the glass! I was able to run the shrink art plastic through my printer, but if you can’t do that, print out and trace over the printout with your pens. The shrink art plastic will let you use pens/pencils since the shrinking process seals the print onto the plastic. Let it dry thoroughly so you don’t smear the print, then cut the names/words out. I used my paper cutter for fast, even cuts. but a scissors is needed to round out the corners – this is important, since sharp corners get sharper when they are shrunk. Leave enough space to punch a hole (a regular hole punch works great – the hole will shrink too).

Next follow the directions on the package for shrinking your labels – mine was 375 degree oven for 2-3 minutes.

ready to shrink

I cut a paper bag and spread it out on the cookie sheet, and spaced the labels pretty far apart – you don’t want them touching as they shrink.

they go quick!

Now call the kids to watch – it is pretty fun to watch how the plastic suddenly starts to shrink and curl, and then straightens itself out (most of the way).

If they don’t flatten out themselves, you have about 5-10 seconds to flatten them when they come out of the oven – I used the flat back of my solid spatula, but use what you have (use more paper bag pieces to shield your fingers from getting burned if necessary). Let them cool.

you only have seconds to flatten them

Almost done! Now take the jump rings, and while using one pliers to hold it, use the second pliers to open the ring up enough to get the label and the pony elastic on and then close up the ring.

jump rings and pliers

your magic glass

You are done!!! The magic of the Glass Charm is yours!

This is a project that can be as quick or time consuming as you decide to be artistic. Hey, I just thought of wine bottle labels, gift tags . . .

Just so you know, over time, the elastic will stretch out and you may have to get new elastics (just open the jump ring and change it out).

Just another ingenuitygirl day – go make these and let me know how yours turn out!


The ugly stuff . . .

Having a beautiful home and living beautifully is not just about the furniture and design of your home. Having a clean a relatively clutter-free home contributes so much to the quality of your life and can save you money too.

When was the last time you wiped down the fronts of your kitchen cabinets, or consolidated the way-too-many bottles in the bathroom cabinet?

Cleaning carryall

What about the bit of mold in the bottom crack of the windowsill that condensation creates (yes I saw behind the blinds – it’s there), or how about that junk drawer (No, despite the name, it is not supposed to be junky)? No matter who you are, the dust will fall and gather in, on and under everything, and it will look sooooo much nicer when it is cleaned up!This weekend was old-fashioned cleaning-house-time for us.

I was lucky to have a mom who required her girls (no brothers or boys would have been included too) learn how to clean house. We certainly didn’t like it much at the time, but I am ever so glad to have been taught. For anyone who has not had that “lucky” experience or simply wants better methods, there is a great book out there called “Speed Cleaning.”

It details the tools, products and methods to make these dreaded tasks faster and easier. Who doesn’t want that?

Being organized is also part of a beautiful life and home. I find it depressing to search for something I know I have, buy it again because I can’t find it, then later find it and wish I had it the first time without the extra trip to the store and the money spent (so many other things I would rather spend money on!) I find in my life, that certain places are problem zones on a consistent basis and require a look at the process of what makes them that way in your life. Usually it is I-don’t-know-what-else-to-do-with-this-so-I-will-leave-it-here problems or I-don’t-have-time-to-deal-with-this-right-now issues, or the worst – this-doesn’t-have-a-place-but-I-have-to-keep-it nightmares.

Sorted and Stacked

My bathroom cabinets were one of my problem zones. The cabinet is 24 inches deep, meaning that you almost had to put on a lighted helmet and go spelunking to find anything in there. But despite the depth, it seemed like we didn’t have much room and I had items stored in many other spaces in the house. So that meant it was difficult to know what we had, what we needed, and we often ran out of important supplies (not something you want to do with a houseful of girls!!) So this problem needed thinking out. We couldn’t change the cabinet, but we could make it easier to find things by storing them better.

A couple of years ago I undertook the project to get organized in this area; I measured out the cabinet and found some straight-sided storage containers that came in several sizes to help organize all the medicines and toiletries we needed to store. Straight-sided helps use the space more efficiently, and since the cabinet was 24″ deep, all the little things were getting lost, so these allow us to take out a storage bin and look through it in the better lighting, as well as maximize the height of each shelf storage. Then the messy part of the job began – I emptied the cabinets and grouped the items by type (cold medicine, cotton balls, swabs, etc.). Then once I figured out how much in each group, I matched up my containers to the size of the pile and filled up the containers. I also had one larger bin on the bottom shelf where taller items needed to go. Here is where I ended up with a large recycle pile of cardboard and plastic – no need to store everything in their original boxes, as well as a pile of trash (lots of expired stuff). I pulled out my labeler (oh, how I love a good set of labels!) and presto! Labeled storage containers of our bathroom stuff – not one husband or teenager can say that they can’t find it!! Did I mention that organization saves YOU time?

I mentioned that I did this project a couple of years ago – so this weekend, I had to go back and update – toss the expired, get rid of the extra cardboard, go through the bin where extra supplies got tossed in a hurry and put them where they belong. Don’t feel like your process failed when you need to do this, it is part of the reality of living and this is normal to have to go back and get things back in order (and re-commit to the process). This process was much less work, and paid off in finding that extra bottle of sunscreen we didn’t have to buy for one of our daughters. And a clean and organized cabinet!!

So lots of cleaning and organizing and then celebrated with going out for some great food with my husband on Saturday night. So good, that it inspired me to make some on Sunday at home with produce from the garden – I will put together a post on that next!

By the way, here is an update photo on the garden beds that we built last year – amazing amount of produce already. I already have had lots of lettuce, swiss chard, romaine, kale, radishes, parsley, cabbage, green tomatoes (who says you have to wait until the end of the season for fried green tomatoes?), basil and thyme. I also have squash, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers and pumpkins on the way. Plans for a better fence situation are in the future, but for now, this keeps most of the bunnies out (except this little guy). He snuck under the fence and luckily only ate the clover this time, but we need to get the fence staked down in the back until we do the “real” one when time and money permit.

I’m thinking a style like this (dream garden from “It’s Complicated” – did everyone have a “moment” when they saw this or was it just me?) with gravel between the beds. Oh long-term dream with lots of work, that will be a someday goal, but for now we have vegetables.

More soon, have a great Monday!