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.
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…)
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…
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m kind of in love with the pattern I’m seeing everywhere this fall: Buffalo Check.
This pattern has a polished country feel, perfect for this time of year. It reminds me of a worn flannel shirt: comfortable and familiar. It’s your guy’s shirt, enveloping you in his warmth on a crisp fall night at a bonfire. It’s your dad’s shirt, the one he wears to rake the leaves in the fall. It’s the blanket your mom gave you to wrap up in for the homecoming game. This pattern is love.
I’ve seen color variations of navy and white, beige and white, red and white, gold and white, grey and white… the possibilities are endless,and you can use the color that makes you happy and works with your space, but my favorite is the classic black. This fall I’ve seen it on everything from furniture to curtains to lighting to kitchen textiles to throw pillows to decorative pumpkins- and beyond.
I see the black and white transitioning to Christmas and beyond; some Christmas red would also look stunning against the crisp black and white, so a little splurge now can make a bold statement for the next couple of months. Consider changing out your lamp shades for a splash of pattern (the check would coordinate beautifully with a floral or even a stripe in coordinating colors.)
Here are some of my favorite finds, for a quick fall refresh:
I was pregnant with boy #1 when we bought our house, a little over seven years ago. We were moving from the furnished, 3-bedroom 1-bath ranch rental where we’d lived for seven years, to an empty 4-bedroom, 2 and a half bath 2-story contemporary house, and we didn’t have much furniture. (We would be moving in with a sofa, papasan chair, and entertainment stand for the living room; two sets of bedroom furniture, and a large, L-shaped desk for the office)
We made selections we knew were mostly temporary; because we were starting our family, we knew that most of our purchases would take a beating from the little person(s) we would be bringing home. We found a “buy the room” package for the living room that included a sofa and love seat, matching throw pillows, two end tables, two lamps, and a coffee table. We found a “kitchen table in a box” that we loved- a pub height number constructed of dark wood, and four chairs.
As an interior designer, part of my job is to make sure I’m making selections that are suitable for the people inhabiting the spaces I’m designing. Ryan is over six feet tall, so I try to consider his height where there’s an option to make life more comfortable for him. The pub-height table, in addition to being a style we really love, is a great way to accommodate his longer legs. An added bonus, we found, was that the height of the table was perfect for pulling high chairs up next to us. I had been a bit concerned about kids falling from the higher chairs, but my boys did very well; we never had a major incident of that sort.
Now, my math leaves much to be desired sometimes, but I’m sharp enough to be aware that four chairs is one less than we need for five people (granted, we really hadn’t planned on having twins; they were an extra special bonus). Once we got past the twins’ high chair stage, there was a brief period where the five of us shared four chairs. Moms, you know how it goes at mealtimes, when we often don’t get to sit anyway, between forgetting to put the ketchup on the table, forks get dropped, drinks need refilled, the salt did’t make it to the table…someone is always needing something. For awhile, I didn’t really notice that I didn’t have a seat. Ryan did, though, and often complained that I was standing for my meals. That is, when he was home at dinnertime. His job often requires he spend extra hours at the office in the evenings. Pair that with baseball and soccer season, and the result is only a few evenings we even missed an extra chair.
Regardless, I eventually bought another stool to put at the table so we could all sit at the same time- particularly as the boys are getting older and are less needy. Looking at my kitchen table, it’s obviously seen better days. When I don’t have a table cloth or place mats on it, the battle scars show through. There’s the series of circular marks where I once cooled red velvet whoopie pies on a tea towel rather than on a cooling rack and the steam left stains. There’s a mark in the center of the table where a candle dripped during our New Year’s Eve party one year and melted the finish from the table. There are small scratches where our oldest would hit his silverware on the wood in anticipation of dinner. Our table may be aging prematurely, but I can say from personal experience, children tend to have that effect.
They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and ours is no different. Our kitchen is our gathering place; it’s where we go as soon as we walk in the door from the garage. It’s where we have meals together, talk about our days, entertain guests. Our kitchen is home to impromptu dance parties, it’s where all the messes happen. And the table has been extra seating for birthday parties, has been the appetizer bar for our annual New Year’s Eve party, has been the gathering place for countless events and moments over the past seven years. Silly conversations, sad conversations, serious conversations, and many, many cups of coffee later (with an “adult beverage” thrown in here and there), our table can always make room for one more.
We’ve talked about upgrading, and while I’ll never turn down the opportunity to shop for furniture, the table we have is sort of a member of the family, holding memories and symbolizing our growth as a family. And I’m ok with that.
*Title credit goes to my friend and sounding board, the amazing Lori Burke. Check out her podcast, Love Notes, and find her on Facebook @LoriBurkeMusic
I’m not sure how it happened, but summer is drawing to a close. This topic is probably worn out by now, and I’m pretty sure I lament the close of warm weather days every year, but despite its inevitability, the sting is always the same.
The back-to-school displays are getting cleared out, fall decor has debuted, and the temperatures here have dropped about 15 degrees in three days.
Today is the final official day of summer vacation for our Big Kid. Since this summer disappeared all too quickly, between poor weather and a list of daily obligations that seemed never ending, it feels kind of like our summer never really started.
Sure, we squeezed in as much fun and as many memories as we could: days at the beach, afternoons in the pool, play dates with friends, a couple of trips to the movies, bike rides (and teaching the twins to ride without training wheels), walks, blueberry picking, and lots of weekends at the go kart track. We ate on the deck; we had a full week- albeit a busy one- with my sister while she attended a summer class at the college nearby; and we went out for ice cream. And still, it flew by in a blink, and here we are, staring at the beginning of another school year.
Today we celebrated the last day of summer break filling our summer to-do list leftovers. My boy had requested that he and I take one day to scout antiques and go out to lunch. Since I’m a procrastinator by nature and always wait for the “perfect” day (which probably stared me in the face a dozen times without my realizing it), we got to the very final day of summer vacation before I obliged. So this morning, we made a date to meet his beloved kindergarten teacher for lunch (where he insisted on buying iced coffee for both me and Ms. K), followed by a stop to visit one antiques dealer by the side of the road, and one stop to a local antiques restoration shop, where he found and purchased a book on war planes. When we got home, he braved the chilly waters of the pool to get in one final swim (though I’m sure he’ll be in a few more times before we close it, he wanted to be absolutely certain he squeezed in every ounce of fun he could.)
This summer was a hectic one, and my kids were mostly patient with me, and the rest of the time, they were kids just doing what kids do. It wasn’t always easy, and there were days I couldn’t wait for the day to come when I could send them back to school, but now that it’s really over, what I really want is a few more weeks to soak this all in. Because when this time rolls around again next year, I’ll be sending all three.
Stay tuned, friends. I’m considering a follow-up to this post where we’ll discuss all of the things I learned this summer. It could be quite a list!