Not your grandma’s wallpaper (but so easy, your grandma could do it)

What follows is a post I started months ago, and kept putting off finishing. I guess I was waiting for the right time- a time when what I wrote seemed to be relevant. Oh, how I wish recent events didn’t have to lead to this. On the other hand, however, perhaps this is a bright spot- a chance for a clean slate we’re all looking for.

Life- real, normal, everyday life unhindered by our collective fears as one world- has ground to a screeching halt for so many people. Many of those fortunate enough to still have jobs have been forced to find a way to work remotely, or maybe are working remotely on only certain assigned days of the week. This leads to one more question, one more logistic to work out (albeit, one that’s certainly far less on the list of priorities than so many others…but also, one that many of us find great joy in…and who can’t use an extra dose of joy in these trying times?):

Where in your home do you set up work? (That is, if you don’t already have a designated home office space.)

The dining room or kitchen table works as well as anywhere for a lot of people, and maybe it forces you to clean up at the end of the day before sitting down to eat. The living room is another good, central location- particularly if you’re the only parent at home with children needing a watchful eye. A little nook in the corner of a bedroom will do the trick as well. But if you’re looking for a more permanent way to keep your home organized for both life AND work, this post may be for you.

I’ve had this fantasy for a long, long time now friends. Years ago I never would’ve thought this would be on my bucket list, but here we are nonetheless. Perhaps it’s a sign of age, but I’m so excited for this.

Wallpaper, my friends.

Yes, I fantasize about wallpaper. Whatever, I never claimed to be anyone’s definition of normal.

Since I decided to move forward with trying to navigate entrepreneurship as an interior designer and writer (before the world crashed and burned around us), I had dreamed of having my own space in which to work and create. I’ve planned and edited said plan. I’ve thought of where in our home would work as an optimal space for me to do all of the things I dream of doing. Not long ago, I wrote a blog post about what that space could be. And now, my friends, I can tell you that I’ve taken that idea and ran with it. My office space is mostly finished and I’m dying to share it with you.

Most of what I do happens on my laptop, which is obviously portable; I can work from anywhere. (Literally, as I type this, I’m sitting in the bed of Ryan’s truck in our driveway, watching my boys bike and play soccer in the sunshine). But I wanted a space to organize my fabric swatches, paint samples, art supplies (including a library of sketchbooks), catalogs, and inspirational momentos. I wanted a desk in a room where I could escape occasionally and be inspired to create beautiful spaces and put together words. I needed a little bit of feminine in a house that’s occupied primarily by males.

Before we get to the big reveal, I wanted to show you what this space looked like before I started. Not because I was proud of it, but because the transformation is, to me at least, huge. This space is a walk-in closet off of what is now our guest bedroom. When we first moved here, nearly eight years ago, that room and closet were the dumping grounds for all of the boxes we moved here, while I was sorting, organizing, and putting things away (ok, I was nesting because we were expecting our first baby. Whatever.) Anyway, while I was home alone during the day, I would work at unpacking boxes and getting us settled in our new home. And when August arrived and our first son made his appearance, I gave up and moved whatever didn’t have a home into that closet along with the brooms, dust pans, Swiffer, vacuum, and floor steamer. That closet became cluttered with overflow for as long as we’ve lived here, and I was ready for some order in our life- particularly now that our boys are beyond the baby stage.

I was almost certain I’d taken a photo, but since I’m such a hot mess, it seems I either didn’t, or I lost it. Hard to say which.

Anyway, with so many of us working from home now, or finding ourselves spending more time at home with spring looming and therefore, maybe finally time to do some sorting, organizing, and regrouping to keep busy, now seems like a good time to share some ideas on putting together a home office. Best news is, everything I did to my space- beginning a year ago- I was able to do without shopping in a physical store. I sourced everything online and had it shipped to my door. The joys of the modern world are legion, my friends.

I started by shopping for a desk that had to meet my criteria: I wanted a secretary- style, because I wanted to be able to close it and hide my mess if I needed to. This became a huge bonus when the desk arrived months before my office area was ready for me to move into, and thus, I set it up and let it sit in a corner of our dining room. I almost miss having it there…almost. I wanted the style to be mid-century modern. And the footprint had to be SMALL. I searched every crevice of the internet looking for exactly the right thing, and the image in my head didn’t match anything I could find. Until finally, finally, I found this gorgeousness from Target. On sale, no less. It was meant to be. And so, it became. I ordered two: one for me, and one for my friend San, whose office plan we were just beginning to work on at the time.

Once I had the desk I wanted, it was easy to build the rest of my design around it. Knowing I wanted to experiment with peel and stick wallpaper, and knowing the color palate I wanted to work with (I had to find something with some orange, since that’s the wall color of the bedroom my office is adjoined to, and I had to have as much pink as I could squeeze in), finding the paper that fit my vision was really pretty easy. Again, Target came to my rescue.

The last thing I did was to wrap the shelf in the closet with a marble- look contact paper I found at Walmart. I stacked my design books and my collection of I Love Lucy memorabilia, along with some other momentos, and now my haven is almost complete. Eventually I’ll replace the flooring, when I find “just the thing,” and my next purchase will be a clear, acrylic desk chair, to take up less visual space.  Something like this, methinks…

While my office space isn’t perfect, it’s my vision, my space, my area to do with as I choose. My husband isn’t so lucky; he was left with a corner in the basement as his work from home space. It’s cold down there (there’s a fireplace if it gets too cold). The boys play down there (as long as I’m here, I can keep them upstairs while he’s working). It’s not always clean down there (I do my best). My point is, we’re all doing the best we can right now, and maybe an update to your work from home space is just the right pick-me-up.

Tell me about your work from home space friends! Are you proud of how you carved out your own office area in your home? Or does it need a little help?




With all this new “free time” on my hands, it seems I should have plenty of opportunities these days to post something…anything… preferably not something to remind us all of the crisis and chaos going on all around us. I don’t do heavy and serious, friends, and I know you know that if you’ve been around here for any time at all.

Sadly, friends, the crisis is at our forefront. It’s a tightness in my chest that I feel from the moment I wake up in the morning…hell, last night it hovered as I slept… as I watch my husband shower and dress to leave for work. Outside our home. In a hospital. Until he finally walks through our door at night, looking exhausted and defeated. It’s then that I can breathe again, for the next 14 hours or so (on a good day), until we get up and do it all over again.

I see so many shout-outs and acknowledgements for our doctors and nurses. They, in addition to first responders and truckers and teachers and farmers and all others who are working tirelessly and without complaint to keep things running and to keep us all as safe and comfortable and educated as possible, deserve all of our respect and gratitude at this time.

Do you know who ISN’T getting thanks and recognition? Our IT professionals.

My boys have had the good fortune of being entertained endlessly this week. We’ve attended a drawing class conducted by Elephant and Piggie author Mo Willems. We’ve had storytime with Pete the Cat author James Dean. We had music class with our favorite local musician Lori Burke. We watched a multilingual cooking lesson live from the kitchen of one of my favorites, Michael Buble. We have access to Facebook live videos from zoos all over the country. We have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, made possible by our educators- both on a local level and nationally. We can Facetime with friends and family to keep in contact. My boys have not had time to be bored this week, because so many amazing folks have stepped up to help out.

Guess who makes all that happen, folks? Technology professionals.

And while some could possibly, maybe do their jobs from home, many of them- particularly those in the healthcare field- don’t have that option. They have to be on-site to be sure the emergency plans are in place. To be sure the systems they have can handle an influx of patients. To be sure those doctors and nurses have the technology at hand to do their jobs efficiently and accurately. To step in and do whatever job needs to be done.

While the word “isolation” is such a huge part of our vocabulary right now, and while we all respect the six-foot rule, it’s not lost on me that most of us are not really all that isolated. I spoke with four different neighbors yesterday- from a distance of greater than six feet. We Facetimed with my sister and my nephew, who’s with her and my mom while his parents are both still working. We had virtual access to normally quiet and isolated authors who are coming forth to help us keep our littles entertained. So that for a little while, while I keep going about my normal, everyday routine with half of my heart missing and trying not to let our boys know how hard it is to breathe, I can focus on the mundane tasks of keeping up with the state of my home with all three boys here.

We are attempting educational work while we’re home, as much as possible. I know it’s been advised that we just spend time together, have family time, and have fun…and we are. We’re digging out science projects that we’ve been too busy to do before. We’re playing math games, writing silly stories, blowing up vinegar and baking soda laden with bright colors and glitter (y’all know how much I detest glitter, no?). Not because it’s really necessary, but because it’s a schedule, a routine, a constant in a very inconsistent world. My boys have figured out, by the end of week one, what’s expected of them and what they can expect of me. And they look forward to it. They’re getting to use our home computers for the first time to access educational sites. They look forward to a science experiment or two each day. The structure is working well for us, for our family. Not that every day is easy. I still have three boys stuck at home, in one house. But we’re making it work, as everyone is.

I love the reminders to check in with the elderly. I love that school districts are supplying to-go meals for families who are in a tougher-than-normal financial position right now. I love that I’ve had offers from friends, family, and neighbors to get what we might need from the store while I’ve been home this week with sick twins by myself. This morning, the best social media post I saw was a reminder to breathe in and breathe out. It literally brought me to tears. It was exactly what I needed. I love that, because of social media, we have an entire support system at our fingertips. To lift each other up, to make each other laugh, to push each other forward. All thanks to the technology professionals who have made it possible.

I want to believe that this crisis will bring us as a people closer together. I want to believe that the pooling of resources, the thinking of those less fortunate than ourselves will not end when the bans are lifted and we go back to our post-crisis lives. I want to believe that more people than not understand that right now, we all have the chance to take care of one another simply by taking care of ourselves and our own families.

And I’m begging you, friends. Please, take care of yourself and your own families. For me, for Ryan, for our boys. PLEASE. Take care of you and yours so you can take care of your neighbor and so that my husband can come home to us, and I can breathe again.

Stay safe, my friends.



Fresh looks for a new year

The Christmas decorations are down and packed away. The house looks…drab. Normal, back to the way things always are, but just in need of a little perking up.

Who’s with me? (To my very best friend, who texted me last weekend to say that it’s time for a refresh and therefore, she started “spring cleaning”- in JANUARY, with a ten-month-old daughter in tow, days before leaving for vacation…this one’s for you, sister!).

A few weeks ago, I posted pictures on my social media of all the 2020 magazines and catalogs that have been rolling in lately. Ballard Designs, Pottery Barn , Williams Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, Crate & Barrel Kids, even Better Homes and Gardens are featuring fabulous spreads in cheery shades of pink and blue. Pinks in every shade ranging from pale, petal pink to blush to lipstick pink to coral, contrasted with bold, masculine blues in shades of navy to electric blue to soothing baby blue. Pink is my all-time favorite color, and it makes me happy to see it presented in such updated ways, and the blue shades with it tone down the femininity just a touch, and add a bit of calm to the cheery. It’s a perfect balance

Now, I’m not telling you to go out and paint every wall in your house pink…that is, unless you really want to . You do you! Likewise, you don’t have to go out and buy gallons of blue paint. While paint companies advertise their “Color of the Year” every year around this time, you don’t have to repaint your entire house in order to keep up.

If you love painting and want to refresh your walls every year or so, go for it! But there are so many ways to keep up with trends without going through the mess and stress of emptying rooms, taping, patching, and painting when you don’t really need to.The first way to update your decor in current colors is to introduce some throw pillows and blankets in the color you’re looking to include. Bonus points if you want to change up your wall art to tie in the old and new. For example, if you’ve fallen into the grey movement and your walls are moody and neutral like the sample below, try introducing some pink pillows (have fun with it! Mix and match shades and patterns and textures- stripes with florals, solids with geometric, velvet with leather with fur), throw blankets to drape over the sofa, bring in some wall art with shades of pink and blue together, some pretty pink flowers (peonies, roses, tulips, Gerbera daisies- pick your favorite from the silk flower selection at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, or pick up some fresh ones from the market or the florist until you can pick them from your own garden!) or a bowl of pink fruit: dragon fruit, pomegranates, or pink lady apples. Edible accessories are the best, amiright?

Here are some neutral color schemes with ideas on how to incorporate trendy colors while still keeping it subtle. You can be as bold as you want to be, or keep it dialed back, too. It’s your home, it’s your call. Decorate with what feels right to you, with items that fit into your story– Pottery Barn doesn’t live here, you do. Use meaningful articles- the quilt your mom made, the sip’n’paint picture you made on girls’ night, that souvenir beer glass from your first date- whatever surrounds you with love and happy memories- and incorporate it into your space, to help tell your story.

Another budget-friendly way to introduce trend colors is to collect objects in the colors you’re looking to add and set up a vignette. This could mean a grouping of pink glassware set up on a bar cart or buffet- or even on the kitchen counter- on a nice tray; it could be a collection of blue pottery displayed on shelves in the living room. Perhaps you’ve inherited some vintage glassware in these colors, or found a great deal at a thrift store or flea market. This is another opportunity for one of my favorite pastimes: shopping your home! You could even spray paint some dollar store or thrift shop knick-knacks in a shade of pink or blue coordinating with your space: picture frames, candle sticks, a vase, a platter (as long as you’re not planning to serve food directly from it). A collection of different sized pink candles in mercury glass or brass holders could be warm and inviting on a mantel or console table (think pillars, tapers, votive candles, down to tealights.) Or pull a stack of hardback books from your shelf to stack on a coffee or end table in shades of blue or pink, and accent with a jar candle and a small succulent. Your imagination is the limit here; have fun with it!

Of course, if you want to go on a shopping spree, who am I to stop you? Go for it! You could find some decorative spheres in shades of blue or pink to display in a bowl on your coffee table, dining table, or kitchen island. A pretty pink rug in front of the kitchen sink, in the bedroom, or in a hallway adds a pop of color AND a soft treat for your feet.

You could also line the back of a bookshelf or built-in with a great patterned peel-and-stick wallpaper: a bold stripe, floral , chevron, or geometric pattern would be a great choice to use in a small dose. Maybe you’ve been thinking of doing an accent wall; this is a great opportunity to add interest, color, pattern, and texture as well. Check out this one for a modern and neutral yet fun pattern. Don’t want to commit to a whole wall? Buy a roll or two of paper and a couple of prepped canvases from an arts and crafts supply store. Stick the paper to the canvases (wrap around the back like a present) and, BAM! Custom art! This is a great option if you don’t own your home, and don’t have permission to make changes to walls.

You can even spruce up a bedroom or bathroom easily. I love duvet covers from IKEA; they’re inexpensive, they’re durable, and they come in awesome colors and patterns like this one, this one, and this one. These are only examples; there are so many options. If you’re really crafty, you could even sew together two flat sheets (they can match to be the same on both sides, or coordinating to be reversible) in a color or pattern that speaks to you. For the bathroom, change out your shower curtain and add a stack of colorful new towels to freshen things up.

What I want to show you, through all of this, is that trends will come and go, but the important thing is to follow them in a way that allows your personal style (and your family’s lifestyle) to shine through…if that’s your thing. Just have fun with it. Do what works for you.



The Mom Reel

So many people say to me, “those boys must really keep you on your toes,” and “I bet your house is always busy,” and “you sure have your hands full!”

All true. My toes are fine (albeit, not very pretty; they’re not even currently polished); my house is a constant flurry of noise and little voices and tripping over Legos, Matchbox cars, and Transformers); and my hands are undoubtedly full…but my heart is so much fuller.

I often share snippets of our conversations on my Facebook page, purely out of a genuine desire to share some of the joy and laughter these boys bring to our lives…ok, and maybe a little bit because I love when these little conversations pop up in my “memories,” and I can look back and remember some of their best antics. My good friend Angela keeps a “laugh book:” a journal where she writes her favorite conversations with her three boys and the funniest things they say which I think is a brilliant idea.

This week, I’ve been just a little bit behind, and haven’t taken the time to share the highlight conversations and antics that have brightened my week. And I’m not sure what the weather is like where you are, but today is a wet, dreary Friday here. We’re having rain that’s melting the snow, and it’s just pretty depressing. For that reason ,I thought I’d share some sunshine with you.

This week, the twins went back to preschool after Christmas break. It was a fairly easy transition for them; they were ready to return to school, with their friends and their teachers and their routine…and they may have even been ready for a bit of distance from their mama. We had a nice break together, but they had been with me almost 24/7 for about 3 weeks, and I’m not sure if you know this or not, but…I can be a lot to take sometimes (that was sarcasm, for those of you who aren’t fluent). Anyway, their days at school are short- only two and a half hours- but they look forward to their time there immensely. Which is why I was a little surprised on Wednesday when I picked them up to have the littler twin singing me an Ed Sheeran song on our way home. The specific lyrics he highlighted in this serenade were, “I can’t wait to go home. AND I’M ON MY WAY!” While he’s definitely our musical child, and it’s not uncommon for him to spout random lyrics throughout the day, I can’t help but assume there was some significance to his choice on that particular day.

Last night after dinner, the twins were working on flash cards they’d brought home from school with letters of the alphabet printed on them. They need to be able to identify the letters in the box, and we were quizzing them. When the letter “W” came up, their big brother chimed in to “help,” prompting them by repeating the “wa, wa, wa” sound. Then, he continued with, “wa, wa…WAYFAIR!” And so, on that note, my parenting work here is done.

Hope your week ends on a high note, friends!




Ringing in the New Year

For years I’ve been teasing you with promises to share stories and recipes from our annual New Year’s Eve party. This is the year, friends!

New Year’s Eve traditions are a big thing in my family. My parents have been ringing in new year after new year with the same friends for the last 30-plus years. There’s no longer a need for an invitation; my mom makes snacks, prepares hot dogs and kielbasa and sauerkraut in the crock pot, and her famous Slush drink (for adults only), and their friends come over. It’s a small, causal gathering, and it’s special because that’s the one time of the year they’re sure to see these friends.

When I was in college (and for years before), my aunt and uncle hosted New Year’s Eve, with my other aunt and uncle and a few of their close friends attending. Ryan and I joined them every year, sometimes with Ryan’s parents. Since my aunt also hosts a large Christmas Eve dinner and cooks a big Christmas dinner, after we purchased our home and had more space (and a child), Ryan suggested we host New Year’s Eve to give my aunt a break and also to be able to keep our son at home near his own bed on a night we’d be sure to be up late. After the first time, it became the new tradition, and one I look forward to all year long. Each year, I begin looking for menu ideas months in advance. This year, Ryan woke me up on Tuesday morning by delivering a cup of coffee to me in bed and and announcing, “It’s time, babe! This is the day you spend all year looking forward to!” He knows how much I love planning and hosting and entertaining in our home, and that cup of coffee was such a perfect way to start my day.

Preparing for this event is a science I’ve gotten down to a two-day process: day one is grocery shopping and preparing make-ahead recipes, and then setting the table. Day two is cleaning and last-minute food prep. I haven’t changed the dinner menu much in the past eight years: we have a traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner, with mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato and apple casserole, mushroom casserole, and a couple of vegetables. I almost always serve green beans, and then the other veggie changes from year to year. This year, I realized a day later that I’d forgotten to cook the green beans. We’ve had brussels sprouts in various forms, roasted radishes…something a little different, usually whatever I can get my hands on that I can find a good recipe for. Where I play is with appetizers and desserts. I’ve served a pretty wide variety of different appetizers, and different desserts almost every year: stuffed potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, shrimp cocktail, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, raw veggie plate, meat and cheese plate…whatever I’m inspired by from Pinterest, cookbooks, magazines, and my mood. My aunt always brings her famous bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, which disappear really quickly.

This year’s menu utilized some tried-and-true favorites: Ina Garten’s Tomatoes Roasted With Pesto; Joanna Gaines’ recipe from her Magnolia Table cookbook for “Beck’s Crackers;” a selection of pepperoni and salami with Havarti, Gouda, and Colby cheeses; some olives and pickles; assorted crackers…and a new addition this year, Lobster Dip Crostini, from my David Venable cookbook, “In the Kitchen with David: Back around the Table.” (You may know David as the food guy on QVC. Those who grew up in the part of Pennsylvania I did may remember him from his days on the local TV network WTAJ

When I’m planning a menu, I try to find recipes that utilize similar ingredients so I’m not purchasing every single ingredient for every single separate recipe. First of all, it’s tedious; secondly, it can get expensive, if you can only purchase a large quantity of an ingredient you need a tablespoonful of for one recipe. A great example would be the tomatoes with pesto appetizer, even though pesto is not an expensive ingredient, it’s also not something we use regularly at our house. The little bit it takes to make the tomatoes leaves 3/4 of a jar to sit in my refrigerator and gets thrown out. So I found this recipe for pesto twists to use the remainder of the jar. It helps that the pesto twists also use fresh Parmesan, which I’d used on the tomatoes as well. I often add the twists to our appetizer menu, but this year I put them on the table as the bread to serve with our meal. A third reason to look for recipes using common ingredients is to cut down on the margin of error while grocery shopping for your event. Nobody likes getting home with bags of groceries and realized they forgot something; it’s so much worse when you’re under pressure and preparing for guests.

I like to prepare as much of our dinner the day before our party as I can. Much of what I serve can easily be done this way, and refrigerated overnight. The lobster dip was easily prepared ahead and kept well chilled until just before our guests arrived, and I toasted the crostini just before party time. The tomatoes are best made fresh, but they’re quick and easy and don’t require much cleanup.

Most of the dinner sides recipes I make ahead, including this apple and sweet potatoes dish; the apples compliment the pork nicely, and the sweetness of the dish is the perfect contrast to sauerkraut. The best part is that my boys fight over finishing the leftovers. This mushroom casserole has been a favorite in our family for years, takes only minutes to make ahead, and is perfect to reheat just before putting on the table as well. It’s rich, creamy, cheesy, with a bit of crunch from the toasted bread crumbs on top (don’t put those on until just before baking) and it’s super easy to make. Don’t be surprised if there’s none left; if you like mushrooms, this one is a star.

I mentioned I’ve used several different recipes for Brussels spouts. A lot of the time, my recipes take the direction of a certain ingredient I have on hand, or a flavor I know my family likes. One year, I roasted Brussels sprouts with some fingerling potatoes as a potato dish for two of my aunts who aren’t big fans of mashed potatoes. But the majority of the time, I find Brussels sprouts and bacon to be a wonderful pair. This year’s Brussels sprouts side was another Joanna Gaines recipe, this one using bacon (which most everyone loves), sugared pecans, and a balsamic glaze (one of our twins is a huge fan of balsamic). While my husband typically passes on Brussles sprouts, this year as the dish passed his plate, he commented, “I’m going to try some of these since my beautiful wife made them.” (When I asked if the same principle applied to testing the mushroom casserole, he politely declined. Can’t blame a girl for trying…)

The dinner table, New Year’s Eve 2019

In order to have enough room in the oven to finish heating all of the appetizers and side dishes, I always cook our boneless pork loin roast and couple of bags of sauerkraut in my electric roaster in the basement. Not only does this free up my oven, but it also keeps the sauerkraut smell from overpowering the other kitchen aromas. Ryan and the boys bought me a Ninja Foodi for Christmas, so some year I may cook the meat and sauerkraut in that, but until I’m confident in my use of a new appliance, I’d rather not ruin a meal when I’m hosting a group of our family and friends.

Finally, once we’ve gotten our fill of mixed drinks (I set up a mini bar on a kitchen counter, setting out glassware and providing several bottles of liquor and soda mixers, bottles of wine, and beer, plus ice and glasses, where guests can mix their own drinks and mingle with me as I put the finishing touches on appetizers and dinner) and appetizers, then dinner, we take a break to digest and then we start on dessert. I typically offer two different options: one is usually a cake or cake roll or cheesecake; the other is often something served in individual cups. I’ve served Bailey’s chocolate mousse, creme brulee, homemade ice cream… this year we enjoyed this Hershey’s Pot de Creme recipe. Traditional pot de creme has a custard base, but this is a fast, easy, four-ingredient alternative that provided the perfect sweet finish to our meal. The other dessert this year was Peppermint Bark Cookies and Cream Cheesecake, from the Philadelphia cream cheese recipe I’d seen in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. You really never can go wrong with cheesecake, and I dare you to argue with me about that.

And that, my friends, is our New Year’s Eve spread, in so many words and not so many photos, because…well, I’m nailing procedures but I still have some work to do at efficiency.

I hope your holidays were merry and bright, and surrounded by love, peace, and joy. Wishing you and yours all the best in this New Year…




The Countdown

Are you still with me, Mama?

We’re down to less than a week until Christmas. It feels like it’s coming too fast. It always does. We keep consoling ourselves with the fact that we’re a week shorter between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to most years. Truly, we are rock stars, simply for surviving. The truth is, I’d still be behind even if we had an EXTRA week, rather than one week less, but that’s neither here nor there.

Every year I’m unprepared. I take the Christmas season day-by-day, and somehow most everything still gets done- even with a seven year old and two four year olds who are literally bouncing off the walls with excitement and anticipation for the Big Guy’s arrival (no matter how many times I threaten that he’s going to miss our house, because are we really parents if we don’t threaten to cancel Christmas if they don’t settle down, even if we would never follow through?).

I’ve been accused of being a perfectionist, a little Type A. I can neither confirm nor deny these allegations, but I can say that I freak myself out over the smallest of holiday details, regardless of whether or not there is a fat man with a beard dressed all in red and covered in coal dust scheduled to visit my house in less than a week.

The trees are up, the decorating is done, the shopping is mostly finished, wrapping is caught up, cookie baking has begun, and we spent this week purging old toys in order to make room for what is inevitably an influx of four times the amount of stuff I just got them to part with. I’ve been on a cleaning frenzy, despite the fact that the twins are on break from school already and they can hurricane through a freshly cleaned room more quickly than twin tasmanian devils. This week I’ve decided that the ceiling paint needs touched up, the cobwebs need knocked down, the appliances must all be moved to be cleaned under and behind, the bedding must all be changed…and on and on and on. I’ve focused a lot of attention on small details that the *average* visitor would never take notice of. And we don’t get many visitors during the holidays anyway.

I’ve spent too many evenings when I should’ve been putting finishing touches on some Christmas preparation, binge-watching Virgin River on Netflix, or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, with a hot toddy or some spiked hot cocoa in my hand, and you know what? It’s good for the soul. When I’m feeling tapped-out with holiday prep, a little unwind time isn’t going to make much difference in the grand scheme.

And you know what? My kids (and yours too, I’m certain) won’t notice what doesn’t get done. They won’t care if there are still cobwebs in the chandeliers, or if you only got two batches of cookies baked compared to your usual 10, or even if Santa gets Oreos and Chips Ahoy this year. They won’t care if there’s one or two lights out on the Christmas tree, or if the Christmas morning breakfast is store-bought cinnamon rolls instead of a big, elaborate, homemade spread. They may not even notice if they don’t get everything that was on their lists to Santa, because if your kids are anything like mine, the list changed four times between the beginning of list writing until the time the list(s) went into the mailbox, and half the items on said lists don’t even freaking exist. They don’t care how many “likes” your gingerbread house pictures get on social media or if the whole thing falls to crumbs before you even finish it anyway, because all they want to do is eat the candy off of it.

You know what your kids (and you) will remember? They’ll remember you being there. They’ll remember the family events, riding around in the car looking at neighbors’ lights in their pajamas. They’ll remember picking the candy off of the gingerbread house and sneaking the pieces into their mouths. They’ll remember the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning with the whole family, having a cup of cocoa and opening gifts together. And, spoiler alert: a lot of kids learn very early that it’s better to give than to receive, so don’t be surprised if yours are more excited to watch you open the gifts they picked out oh-so-thoughtfully (I spent four days shopping with elementary school students last week, and was continuously in awe of how selective these little people were about the gifts they chose for their family and friends) than they are to open their own gifts.

This holiday season is a time of struggle for many I know, and for some I don’t, or don’t know well, but whose stories have reached us and touched us, and I’ve spent a lot of time during my Great Christmas Time Race reflecting on how unimportant many of the items on my to-do list really are compared to a lot of families’ struggles. I’m trying to slow down and remind myself that the perfection of it all is more in the eye of the beholder, and Hallmark movies are for entertainment; it’s not real life. That’s not to say that true Christmas magic doesn’t exist! I wholeheartedly believe that it does. But to my thinking, Christmas magic is in the good we do for one another.

So offer yourself a little grace during the season when we are so generous about extending grace to others. Let’s remember what’s really important- family, love, peace, and joy. There is much to celebrate and to be thankful for, and the details are all just…well, details.

Cheers, friends. May peace and love surround you and yours this season.



The Best Laid Plans…

Sometimes you think you know just where life is going to take you. You plan it out in your head, start to lay the groundwork for how life is going to play out because you took the time to make the plan. And then? Well, sometimes that’s just not how things go. And yet, somehow, I’m a firm believer that we end up where we’re meant to be anyway…sometimes the path to getting there is just lined with a few more life lessons than we ever planned on experiencing.

My client, San, was a teacher at my boys’ preschool, though she’s since retired to focus on her career as a novelist. She contacted me in the spring after seeing a mood board I’d posted on Facebook. I had put it together just for fun, based on a color palate I’d been inspired by and some super fun mid-century modern furniture. My original mood board was a living room, but she asked me to help her to adapt it to a home office/ writing space, using her daughter’s bedroom after she left for college (we were keeping it flexible, with a daybed and trundle so her daughter could still use the space when she came home on school breaks).

The inspiration board that started it all…
…and its evolution to a home office

Over the summer, the plan changed, moving the office space from the bedroom to an upstairs loft space. Because the rest of the house has a masculine, rustic/cottage feel, and the loft is open and visible from the front door, we had to tone down the very feminine plan we had started with in order to keep the flow of the home. We still needed to introduce some more feminine elements though, and what piece of furniture screams “FEMININE” more than a chaise lounge?

The loft space isn’t large enough for a full sofa, and the sloped ceilings wouldn’t allow for anything with a high back and arms, so this Juliette chaise from Wayfair was the perfect choice. The blue velvet upholstery is soft and feminine enough, and the chaise will offer extra seating, be a great place to sit and curl up with a book and a cup of coffee, and even offer a place for an extra friend to crash overnight. The fluffy pillow adds more texture and a more feminine touch, and the equestrian pillow is a nod to her daughter’s favorite past time. San has the chaise angled so she can sit and see out the balcony doors; she’ll have a perfect view when our region’s notorious record-breaking snowfalls start.

Wayfair Juliette chaise lounge

San also wants to be able to use her loft space as an entertaining space; as a creative-minded individual, she wants to have a space where she can collaborate with other creatives to brainstorm ideas or just get together for a glass of wine and some good company. The chaise adds seating, but we wanted to provide some occasional tables to sit drinks or books. These nesting tables were a great solution, because they can stack together to save space (very important in such a narrow area), or they can be spread out when needed.

Tommy Hilfiger Berkshire nesting tables via Wayfair

The desk was the first piece of furniture we purchased for the space, way back when we were planning on using the bedroom. I found it when I was shopping for myself, and San loved it so much we each ordered one! It’s a secretary-style, so when it’s not in use, the lid closes to hide all the “stuff” that accumulates on a desk. We found some desk accessories at nearby antiques shops to add personality- a pottery pitcher to serve as a pencil cup; a stationary organizer for envelopes and notepads; and a beautiful set of heavy antique (we think handmade) horse head bookends. The chair, lovingly dubbed “Lydia,” (actually the “Rissa” dining chair from Pier One) has a similar texture to the chaise lounge, and provides great support for when San is spending endless hours writing.

The decision to use a round rug was inspired by the round nesting tables. And because the loft space is, architecturally, very angular, the round rug and tables (in addition to the pattern on Lydia) softens the angles and emphasizes the beautiful round knots in the wood on the floors and ceiling.

The colors in the space were all inspired by pottery from a local artisan who creates beautiful pieces in all shapes and sizes. This piece was one San already had and wasn’t using downstairs. She has a beautiful collection of vases and serving pieces displayed above her kitchen cabinets; this is one way to tie the two spaces together while keeping her sanctuary truly hers through the furniture, fabric, and accessory choices we made.

Campbell Pottery

While the design for San’s writing space didn’t turn out the way we envisioned it when we started this process, I have no doubt it came together exactly as it was meant to. A conversation she and I had during one of our meetings was about how your home is not meant to stay as it is forever. When she and her husband purchased their home, they were in a very different phase of their life, with two young children and a lot of life to juggle. They wanted a small, cozy home to keep them all present in one another’s lives, without too much space to spread out and separate.

Their children are teenagers now, one a freshman in high school and the other a freshman in college, and while the concept of keeping close remains a priority, the way they use their home now is vastly different from when they moved in all those years ago. It was my job to help them to achieve the same closeness in an evolved way, and I’ve been so honored to have had the opportunity to help them to do so.



Best Life, Blessed Life

Did you ever have one of those moments where you look around and think, “Damn. This is my life. Look how it’s all come together”?

I often get so caught up in obligations that I forget to look around and see how incredibly fortunate I am. But man, when I look around and think about it, the blessings are enough to take my breath away.

A couple of weeks ago, after dropping my boys off at school, I met with the former preschool teacher who had worked with all three of the boys and had asked me to help her to convert the loft to her home writing haven. A special added bonus to our meeting was an invitation to preview her premier novel, before it’s been sent to a publisher. “Honored” and “humbled” are words that don’t even scratch the surface of how I felt to have been asked to take on both of these projects. Rolling two of my greatest life passions into one meeting was one of the most fulfilling professional experiences ever.

After returning home from this meeting, I escaped to my own home office to work on installing an experimental portion of peel and stick wallpaper (more on this in a later post). As I was hanging wallpaper, I had to literally stop what I was doing to take a moment to process how incredibly fulfilled I am by what I’m working on right now. Hands on hips, I literally turned around in a full circle and thought, “holy crap, this is my life. How lucky am I?”

I’ve been afforded the unbelievably good fortune of being home with my boys full-time since they were born. I’ve been with them more than almost anyone else, and I’ve had the privilege of being available for every event, every appointment, every sick day, every milestone since their birth. I haven’t had to balance sick time/personal time/vacation time, haven’t had to weigh the cost of staying home with them during illnesses, as I would have with a full-time job outside of our home. Instead, Ryan has encouraged me to soak up every minute, being with them and watching them grow. Being available for school drop-offs and pickups, chaperoning field trips and school parties, all of it. I don’t ever forget how lucky I am to have married a man who knew better than I did that these precious moments don’t come around twice.

And so this Thanksgiving season (because yesterday we ate well, but today I’m still thankful. And I will be tomorrow as well. And I will try to remember to be every day until Thanksgiving Day comes around again), I’m most thankful for living my best, most blessed life. For a family I love, and who love and support me and my dreams as well. And I hope you and yours are as well.




Comfort food for these cooler fall days

Fall is officially here, hard as that is to accept. This summer felt like it passed far too quickly; typically, by August I begin to long for football, soup, sweaters, and jeans. This year, however, those days seemed to arrive before I even had a chance to miss them.

The sudden change in seasons still has me reeling; I never finished my fall cleaning, we just closed the pool, the sweaters made a reluctant appearance last week, and I am struggling with what to put on the dinner table these days because I’m not ready to be finished with grilling season, but a) my propane tank is empty and I keep forgetting to get it refilled, and b) it’s too cold to walk out on the deck in my flip-flops to actually do the grilling.

I’ve had a harder time than usual this year making the transition between warm weather food and comfort food. My family seems to be on the same page; my presentation of comfort foods on the dinner table over the past few weeks was met with far more grumbling than usual. I’ve struggled with ideas and patience and ambition. My annual rush to use all of the pumpkin in all of the things seems to be missing. (Not to worry, friends: I’ve still consumed a healthy amount of PSL’s. Gotta keep Starbucks in business!)

Perhaps it’s because of my lack of enthusiasm for the change in seasons, my enthusiasm for dinner preparations has been lacking in much the same way. I’ve used my tried-and-true comfort food recipes, hoping to be lured into the season by stick-to-your-ribs, hearty meals, but so far it’s been to no avail. I’ve served meatloaf, roast beef and potatoes, cheeseburger soup, chili, chicken noodle soup, cream of mushroom soup, pork chops, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and more. But it seems my boys were not interested in my attempts to ease us into fall gracefully. And, honestly, nor was I, until just this past weekend, when we finally settled in and welcomed fall with a friend’s delicious pot pie, a batch of clam chowder, and some chili on Saturday; and on Sunday, leftover soup for lunch and a “game day spread” for dinner, consisting of crispy oven-baked chicken wings and a roast beef crescent roll ring with some raw veggies.

Cooking for five, you’re always guaranteed to have one person who’s unsatisfied with what’s on the table. It’s a law of parenthood. But most of these meals are typically the tried-and-true in our house, so the general lack of interest has led me to believe it’s more seasonal adjustment than rejection of my meal plans. I’m hoping to get my dinner prep mojo back soon, and get ahead with freezer meals that allow me to have a backup plan on hand for those nights when I really don’t have any idea what to cook.

I love making new meals from the leftovers of another meal. For instance, roast beef presents a couple of options: roast beef is a great addition to vegetable soup- just dump in a bag or two of frozen mixed veggies, your leftover beef, and some beef stock. Or, my personal favorite was the recipe of a friend of my grandmother’s: shred the beef in a food processor and add a bit of chopped onion and mayo. And, BAM! sandwich spread. (I love to toast my bread, top with some swiss cheese, and pop in the toaster oven for a minute).

Last weekend we smoked a whole chicken on Ryan’s electric smoker. On a night last week when we were rushing out the door to make it to Sesame Street Live, I pulled some of the leftover chicken off the bone and sauteed it with cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. I sprinkled cheese over flour tortillas, added the chicken, and served chicken quesadillas with sour cream and salsa. After the show, when everyone needed a little extra something, I sauteed sweet peppers and onions with the same seasonings, added in the chicken, and gave Ryan fajitas for dinner.

The last time we made the same smoked chicken, I pulled the leftovers and put them on a flour tortilla with Buffalo Wild Wings Parm Garlic sauce and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese to make a wrap.

We aren’t big leftovers fans in this house, so being creative with what is leftover and making new meals from it is one of my most fun challenges. I don’t love throwing food away.

When we get close to the end of our produce (either it’s getting close to its life expectancy, or there’s just not enough left to use for much of anything,) Ryan and I are huge fans of a stir-fry. Broccoli, carrots, zucchini, peas, peppers…whatever. And of course a bag of frozen stir fry veggies works just as well, or even better on a time crunch. Toss it in a pan with some chicken or beef, (you could definitely use shrimp or pork if you have it, or go totally meatless) and drizzle with a stir fry sauce (either store bought or homemade with soy sauce, water, garlic, and ginger and a tablespoon of cornstarch). Serve over rice- or cooked pasta- and you have a quick and easy meal. Of course, that plan crashed and burned terribly at our house tonight when all three kids refused to eat it, but most nights they will at least pick at it.

Send help and your best recipes, friends.




Running around in circles

I was recently dashing through the local superstore, on a tight schedule but in need of ingredients for dinner, when I noticed some cute clothes in the ladies’ apparel section out of the corner of my eye. Since I was in a hurry, I didn’t take the time to look very closely, but the colors and the styles caught my attention, so I slowed from a hustle to a brisk walk to inspect more closely. It was then that I realized I was eyeing up workout clothes.

Friends, workout clothes are not my friend. My body does not do any favors to tight-fitting anything. Even before two pregnancies resulting in three babies, I was too self-conscious to embrace what I had to feel comfortable with every flaw not only on display, but amplified.

My mind working as it does, this is the thought process that followed:

“Wow, those are some really cute workout clothes! I should work out so I can wear the cute workout clothes. But, wait, I’d need to lose at least ten pounds before I could even consider putting on body-hugging spandex so I could work out. But…how am I going to lose weight so I can work out if I can’t work out until I lose weight?”

Clearly, that battle was lost before it even started. Therefore, here I am, still not working out, or workout ready. What can I say?

It was a crazier than normal summer around here, and we still haven’t slowed down much yet. Unfortunately, sometimes my hurrying leads to disasters. Take this week, for example: I dropped the twins off at preschool on Tuesday and had two and a half hours to squeeze in some desperately needed grocery shopping before I had to pick them up. Travel time for the good stores is about 20 minutes both ways, and I wanted to make a quick trip to TJ Maxx for a really cute outfit I’d seen there last week, and a buffalo check table runner, so I can practice what I preach. That left me with an hour and fifty minutes to do all I wanted to do. A Starbucks PSL was waving from the finish line.

I was perfectly on schedule leaving Sam’s Club, and was patting myself on the back after loading the car with enough food to feed a small army…or, three little boys…for the next couple of weeks. I closed the back of the car…and immediately that pat on the back turned to a kick in the ass. Because, after all these years of being absolutely diligent about knowing where my car keys are at all times when traveling with kids, the one day I didn’t have the kids, I locked the keys in the car.

My first text was to my mom. This, of course, is completely illogical, since she lives two and a half hours away, but they don’t say “Keep Calm and Call your Mom” for nothing, right? Next contact was with Ryan, who had just texted me to ask how I was doing with shopping. Bless the man, he left work to come sit with me in the parking lot. He couldn’t have made it home to get the spare keys and get back to me in time for me to get home and pick up the boys. And so, my final contact was my aunt, who left a pedicure in order to rescue me.

Obviously, I didn’t make it to TJ Maxx or the Starbucks drive thru- but I was on time for school pickup, so it wasn’t a total fail.

Time just keeps moving, and most of the time I’m just running around in cuticles. The good news is, maybe that’ll be how I lose enough weight to flaunt those cute workout clothes.