Cheers to Fall- Not an ending, a time for reflection

One of my inspirational lifestyle leaders, Joanna Gaines (you’ve heard of her, right?) is very open about her love of fall; in one of her recent Magnolia newsletters, she talked about how fall is a time to reflect on all we’ve accomplished for the year and set goals before the year ends.  

This fall, I’m reflecting on the baby steps I’ve taken toward reaching personal and professional goals. With my boys returning to full-time in person learning this year, I’ve had a little more time to focus on some of the stuff that slipped when the little guys were here with me… from the time our oldest was born in 2012, through two more newborns, kids in preschool and then one in elementary school and two in preschool, to everyone being home fulltime during pandemic restrictions, to them being here half days last school year.

I was secretly glad- for about the first semester- to have had them home half days last year. I had been dreading a suddenly empty house after having them around for so long. As the year wore on, however, I found myself realizing a) that I was ready for them to be in school full-time, and b) what an adjustment it would be when they returned to a normal schedule.

One of the questions I was asked most frequently prior to the start of this school year was, “what are you going to do with all your spare time once they all go to school?”

I had answers to that- I had been planning how I’d ideally use my free time for years. First on the list was fall cleaning. Within the first two weeks, my house was finally clean. Not just clean, but cleared out. I sorted clothes to donate. I started the pile for next summer’s garage sale. I tore apart light fixtures, heating vents, appliances- if it could be disassembled to be cleaned, I was all over it. Ryan told someone that our house had never been so clean.

Once I was satisfied with that, I moved on to preparing for a few trips we had lined up- a weekend adventure to an antique tractor show and flea market; a camping weekend in elk country; our last go-karting trip of the summer; a beach vacation… because I’m less of a “pack a bag and go” kinda girl, and more of a “methodical, overthinking over-packer with OCD about leaving my house spotless before we go somewhere.” (Because, seriously, who wants to come home after a relaxing few days away to have to deal with a dirty house?)

I’ve been quite productive in other ways too; I’ve taken time to eat lunch a few times, caught up on some of my shows on Netflix, and had the freedom to make a phone call or two without the boys fighting in the background.  I’ve been writing articles for a publication in Punxsutawney, interviewing interesting people within the community and learning more about my hometown.  And I’ve been involved with a couple of interior design projects because it keeps me sane to create.  One of those projects follows…because, obviously if you’ve been around here before, you know there’s a story here:

This past spring, I received a message from a high school friend, asking for my help in designing an office space for her new wellness practice, a venture she’s embarking on in Pittsburgh where she’s a self-love coach.  The budget for this project was an absolute shoestring, which can be fun because it forces extra creativity to accomplish the goal look without spending top dollar.  Not only did it force creativity, but with the recent delays in shipping, we were able to avoid lengthy waits for brand new furniture deliveries. Jenni, my friend from high school, scoured the internet and bargain bins, and took on several DIY projects to find and create items similar to the ideas I had set out for her in my plans.  

And we did this all without ever meeting in person, by the way.  She sent me pictures and measurements, all through virtual means.  And in the end, we created a space that brought to life her vision of a relaxing beachy/boho/midcentury space for her clients to feel welcome and calm and find their best versions of themselves.  

Jenni’s new practice, Sunflower Wellness, focuses on empowering women by teaching them to love themselves first, in order to deal with feelings of anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief. 

Jenni’s beautiful new office (Sunflower Wellness, LLC)  is based in Pittsburgh, PA, but she is able to meet patients virtually.  Look her up on Facebook or Instagram @sunflowerwellness21 and @sunflowerwellness.llc.  

Above is a rendering I created to help Jenni visualize the space. We made a few minor revisions as we went, but overall, everything came together as we had initially discussed.

Above is a photo of how the space came together. Jenni and her husband found local driftwood to hang above the sofa, and the dreamcatcher is one she made herself.

Beginning this practice was a huge leap of faith for my friend, but life has shown her that she’s got the experiences to relate to the women she wants to coach. Her purpose is, “I believe that self-love is the pathway to freedom from anxiety, depression, and grief to self-acceptance. I believe that everyone deserves to feel accepted, and the most rewarding acceptance comes from within.”

My greatest hope is that this office becomes a place where many women find themselves, learn to love themselves, and find themselves overcoming negative emotions. I hope that the love and attention to detail that went into planning this space manifests itself in those who spend time here. And I hope that my friend thrives in her new venture.

Cheers, to fall, to new beginnings, and to accomplish all that we set out to do.

xoxo,

~d

A Shoutout to all the Mamas

My husband asked me a question awhile ago that sparked an ongoing inner dialog  I just couldn’t shake. I stewed on it, I started a blog post about it, I left the post in my drafts folder for about 14 months, but it keeps nagging at me as something worth discussing. It came up again last night in conversation, and now here we are…

On the surface, at a glance, I’m not what you’d consider a “deep” individual.  On further inspection, one could even assume I’m a little dense, ditzy…a real hot mess.  I’m left-handed and right-brained: my strengths lie in words and creativity, not so much in analytical, cerebral thought.  That is, until something strikes my emotional thought and sparks an intellectual response. But this doesn’t happen often friends, so when it does, it seems it might be worth sharing.

The question he asked me came after a great deal of thought on his part as well.  Not in the question, per se, but in the way he approached me with it. Poor guy was desperately concerned about offending me in the way he assembled the words to seek my insight.  He wanted to know… what it’s like to not have to wake up and report to a 9-5 job every day. He clarified in the way he phrased the question that he was not insinuating that I don’t work; he knows what I do takes more time and attention and energy than a full-time job.  On the other hand, he’s worked with a lot of women who have homes and children and the same responsibilities I do, in addition to a full-time office position. He was looking, I think, for my input on how different our life would look if I was busy with a full-time job: how that would change his role in our family, how different my role would be, how our schedule would differ. 

Once upon a time, three little boys ago, I did work outside of our home full-time.  I worked in some capacity from the time I was almost 15 until right before we started our family, through both high school and college and after.  I worked different jobs, juggling work and school, then juggling work, school, and managing our first home together. Through all of that, while my roles and schedules changed, his have stayed far more consistent; when I was in college, I worked as a waitress, an interior design intern, and a classroom aid while he worked at his first professional after-college gig.  After I finished college, I took a retail position selling furniture, hoping to work my way into the design/buying department. The schedule with that position wasn’t much better than waiting tables; I worked until late in the evenings and on weekends. We didn’t see much of each other in those days. And while my schedule was often hectic and unpredictable, his changed very little (with the exception of occasional overnight installs and updates). 

When we decided I would stay home to raise our family, I worried I’d be bored.  I worried I wouldn’t be content to stay home and “do nothing,” as I’d once assumed was the role of a stay-at-home mom.  So when our first son was born, I adapted to my newest job as one would any new position. I looked at my roles and responsibilities and set a schedule to keep myself on task both with household jobs and with spending quality and educational time with our child.  I structured our days around maintaining cleanliness and order in our home, while keeping our son’s needs at the top of my priority list. I really thought I had it all figured out then. And then we had twins, and all of my carefully planned order and structure went out the window in favor of keeping three children under age three alive and relatively content.  My priorities had to shift again, and my capacity for perfection lowered because, y’all, twins ain’t no joke. Also, three boys are not for the faint of heart. The job I do for my family is one I take very seriously. Raising three boys who will grow up to be good men- men like their daddy- has to be done right.

These days, the boys are all big enough that I have some free time again.  But this circles back to his question about not having work outside of our home.  Who determines how I use my time? And this is the beauty of it: I DO.  I get to decide my schedule, my plans, my goals for the days and weeks.  If I want to work, I get out my computer and write a little something or start laying out floor plans or color schemes for myself, for friends or family, or just for fun.  If I’m in the middle of a good book and want to spend the day on the couch reading while the boys play in their PJ’s…I have the freedom to do that. If I want to volunteer at the boys’ school, I can make sure I’m there….when that becomes a possibility again.

People in my age group have been branded in a way that doesn’t always seem overly positive, and I don’t think it’s completely accurate or fair.  So many women my age pursued higher education, earned a degree, and got a kick in the pants from a failing economy. As a generation who were denied jobs because we had no experience for the jobs that were available, we’ve had to be creative in how we mesh our professional life with a family life.  Daycare isn’t cheap, and working for only enough of a paycheck to pay someone else to stay with our kids isn’t always worth it. Obviously there are exceptions. Many women are the majority or only wage earners in their families, many have to work if for no benefit other than health insurance, most single moms have no choice…there are so many different scenarios, no two are alike, but it all comes back to this one idea: in my experience, our generation of women is pretty damn amazing.  We may depend on the internet more than we probably should, but it’s a tool that allows us to wear more hats than just “stay at home mom” OR “working mom.” We can be both. We can be boss babes, mom- trepreneurs… We can invent our destiny, steer our future in whatever direction works best for us, our families, our lives, without being penalized by a higher up for taking too much time away from the office.

The bottom line is, I get how incredibly privileged I am to have the opportunity I do, to be at home with my boys while they grow, to be available for all of their school events and activities.  I don’t have to miss any of it, and I have my amazing husband to thank for all of it, because he encouraged me to seriously consider staying home rather than trying to return to work. It’s thanks to him that I can be at home right now, juggling momm-ing and wife-ing; blogging and freelance writing; and accepting as many design jobs as I want to. He gave me a gift that far exceeds any price tag, even though it took me awhile to see it that way.

I missed Mother’s Day by a couple of days, but this post really is a shoutout to all of the moms who do all of the things. It’s a shoutout to the moms who have found creative ways to pursue passions while keeping the ship afloat. It’s a shoutout to the moms who are doing what needs to be done to keep things moving along.

Cheers,

xoxo,

~d

Play Ball!

Covid shut down last baseball season before it even started. Our twins were almost 5; it was the first season they were eligible to play tee ball, and the big kid was ready for his second year of instructional ball. Our oldest son had started open gyms, and was gearing up for his third season when everything shut down. 


This year looks a little different than what we’re used to (doesn’t everything?) but we are glad to be back. Our big kid started open gyms in March, and we’ve had outdoor practices for the last two weeks. The twins will wait two more weeks to start, but it’s been incredible to see my biggest boy back on the field with his team where he belongs.  Despite missing a whole season on a team (don’t worry- we still played plenty at home last summer!), his skills are brushing up nicely.


I didn’t realize how much I’d missed hanging out at the fields, sitting on the sidelines for practices and games, making small talk with other baseball mamas, until we got back after spending so much time away from it. Last year was a chance to slow down on extracurricular activities, which just left more time to keep busy at home. I had forgotten about the calm that comes when you force yourself to sit outside on a spring or summer evening watching your kid do what they love. I’m not always great at remembering to slow down and enjoy my kids; I’m guilty of being in a constant rush of “doing:” cooking meals, cleaning up, focusing on my own list instead of enjoying time with my boys. And while I’m writing this from a cozy spot next to the ball field during practice, I’m still paying attention to what’s going on on the field.  I can hear the coaches encouraging him, pushing him to reach his full potential, showing him how to fine tune his form. I can hear him calling a popup his to catch, shouting encouraging words to his teammates, breathing heavily after a few laps around the outfield. And I can see the elation on his face as he finds his place on the field, doing one of the things he loves and does so well.


This little taste of normal makes such a difference after a year that took so much from us. Some of the kids might be a little rusty, but their love of the game is shining through and warming this mama’s heart.  So, while you might hear me grumbling about what I’m going to cook for dinner on a night when we have to be at the ball fields at 5:30, please know that underneath my exterior crabby persona, I’m excited that my boys are all interested in the same sport…for now, at least. Which means, if you need me, I’ll be spending my spare time crafting this wreath I’ve been coveting for our front door.

image via Pinterest

And if you ring our doorbell and we don’t answer…

…check the ball fields.

Cheers!

xoxo,

~d

I have a confession

I have a confession.

Those three little words often make my husband break out in a cold sweat. It usually means I’ve gotten myself into some kind of catastrophe, or I’ve spent too much money. Either way, the words generally make him a little nervous, but he’s pretty good at keeping his cool while I’m owning up to my misdeeds. And more often than not, he doesn’t see my confessions as being as dark or ominous or catastrophic as I do anyway.

I’m hoping you’ll be as forgiving as he is, friends.

See, usually around Thanksgiving time, I go on and on about how Christmas can wait while we pause to be grateful for what we have, and how I get super annoyed by the rushing of the Christmas season- even though Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I try to be mindful of the reason for Thanksgiving, and make Christmas wait until the day after.

Typically, we spend the long Thanksgiving weekend out of town with our families. This year, Ryan wasn’t able to get extra time off work, so we stayed home and cooked our meal here. When we’re traveling for Thanksgiving, it’s kind of our tradition that I set up at least one- sometimes two- of our Christmas trees before we leave home for the weekend. It’s a welcome sight when we come home to see the tree twinkling, sparking the beginning of the rest of the Christmas decorating. Maybe it makes me a bit of a hypocrite, but I’m still steadfast in my refusal to take down the fall décor until Thanksgiving has passed.

This year, however, I went a little farther in my hypocrisy. Because 2020 was such a crapshoot, we’ve struggled to find some joy in these parts, so when my boys (all four of them) started asking to put up Christmas trees right after Halloween, I gave it serious thought. Typically I shoot them down until the day right before Thanksgiving, but this year it seemed fitting to adjust our traditions just a bit to allow us to enjoy our favorite season a little longer. I managed to hold them off until the weekend before Thanksgiving, when we busted out the six artificial Christmas trees, ranging in height from 9′ down to 1′.

That was as far as I was willing to go until after Thanksgiving, but by Black Friday, we were decked out, and all six trees and all of the decorations were displayed. Everyone was happy.

As always, Christmas came and went far too quickly, and I’ve found myself reluctant to un-deck our halls. Early in January, I did begin to take down a few things. I’ve left the snowmen out; we live in an area that will have snow, most likely, through April or May, so I don’t feel like it’s out of season to keep them displayed a bit longer.

That leaves us with the trees. While the boys have asked to have the trees in their bedrooms removed, I’m just not ready to take down the bigger ones yet. The entryway tree will most likely stay up until at least Easter, if not beyond. It’s currently decorated in snowmen, and I have St. Patrick’s Day and Easter decorations to put up as those holidays get closer. The tabletop tree in the guest bedroom is ready for Valentine’s Day. And the main 9′ tree is still bringing so much cheer that I’m hesitant to take it down as well. It still makes me feel so calm and peaceful to turn off all the lights after everyone has gone to bed and sit by only the light of the Christmas tree and the lighted banister behind it. Same in the basement- I love seeing the lighted tree next to the fireplace while we’re downstairs watching TV. There is such a rush around the holidays that I don’t feel like I fully appreciate the beauty of the decorations.

The year my sister was born, I remember my mom insisting that we keep the Christmas tree up until she had arrived in order to get a photo of the new baby under the tree. My sister turned 18 on January 12th, and it seems fitting that this be one of those years we honor my mom’s insistence that the tree stay up a little longer- to honor my sister’s official entry to adulthood. My mom texted me last week to let me know that she’d given in and taken her Christmas tree down, and while I’ve thought about it several times, I’m still not 100% convinced that I won’t regret it in a week or two.

Our eight year old told me last week that at the beginning of January, I told him I’d take it down in a week. It’s been a month. And I have zero regrets that it’s still up.

On my way home from picking up takeout Chinese food from our favorite place in town last weekend, I noticed that our decorations are not the only ones still up. As of last week, from our front door I could still see outdoor Christmas lights in our neighborhood still lit.

And that, my friends, is how I am confessing to you on this Groundhog Day, 2021, that we still have four Christmas trees up and lit. As the snow continues to fall outside and with the news of Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow and the forecast of six more weeks of winter, I’m just going to grab my warm slippers and fleece lined leggings and continue to enjoy the warmth of the season for just a bit longer.

Stay warm, stay safe, stay sane.

xoxo,

~d

Come, Sit at My Table

One of our twins has entered a “picky eating” phase where he’s basically refusing anything with nutritional value, and consuming way too much processed junk

Friends, I’m a relatively healthy cook. We eat full, balanced meals almost every night including meat, starch, and plenty of vegetables (typically a salad and one or two cooked veggies). And this child will not eat most of what I make. It’s gotten to the point, in fact, that he won’t sit near the foods he doesn’t like.

One night recently, for instance, his twin had requested meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and a salad for dinner. I had a few asparagus spears that needed to be used, so I steamed those as well. Sounded like a good meal to all of us, except my picky boy. When we sat down, he had some salad and a slice of meatloaf on his plate. He refused corn, and threatened to leave the table when the bowl of mashed potatoes was placed on the table next to him.

It was all I could do to not snap at him. I admit it. I was frustrated and angry that I’d put the time and effort into creating a meal for our family, and one of my own children was unwilling to be at the same table as a dish he doesn’t like.

I was able to keep my temper in check as I realized that…well, he’s five. He needs a little guidance on how to politely decline a side dish he doesn’t love, while still remaining at the table with his family, but, well, he’s five. We have time to work on shaping his personality and I’m certain he’ll be fine if we set a good example now. And Ryan and I do try to set good examples at the dinner table when something is served that either of us isn’t fond of. I, for example, am not a huge fan of sloppy joes, but the guys all like them, so I prepare them from time to time, and I’ll put a small serving on my plate and eat some without comment. When there’s something on the table Ryan doesn’t like, he politely declines and we move along without incident.

Some adults, however, do not have the maturity to dine at the same table as another person who doesn’t share their same beliefs. With Thanksgiving being tomorrow and my annual reminder to be thankful for all of our blessings- even amid a year that has forced us to seek and find joy in the simpler things in life- I am going to say it again for the people in the back: BE. THANKFUL.

Be grateful for the people in your life, even those whose opinions differ from yours. Be forgiving. Forgive those whose beliefs differ from yours. A difference in opinion is how we learn. Be empathetic. Look at the world through a different lens; try to picture where other opinions come from, and remember that sometimes it’s ok to agree to disagree. Your reasons for believing a certain way may have no weight in someone else’s life. And that’s ok. We are all in this together, we are all here to learn from each other. My heart breaks a little each time I hear someone say, “if you can’t see why your opinion is wrong, your life means nothing to me and we can’t be friends.” Opinions aren’t wrong, folks. Opinions are opinions, based on personal conviction and life experience. The beautiful thing about life is that we all have the freedom to believe as we wish. Doesn’t make us right- or any more right that the person next to us- it just makes us human, which is the one thing we all have in common. So why can’t we just treat one another that way, hmm?

This year has been anything but easy. This year has been trying and frustrating and just HARD. Hard to find the joy on some days. Hard to breathe with so much weighing on us in so many different ways. Hard to parent in a positive way when there is so much negative to address. Hard to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. Hard to be at home, perhaps, for some who aren’t safe at home. Hard to live without a living, for those who have lost their livelihood through shutdowns. Hard to see the good when there is so much bad. But I promise you, it’s there if you squint hard enough- even if it’s just a tiny speck.

Find something to be thankful for, and find some peace this Thanksgiving. Even if for one day, let go of everything else and be present. Let go of what you can’t change (like other people), fight for what you can, and know that you do make a difference. The world can be an ugly and hard place, but it’s also beautiful. And if anyone tells you any different, there’s always room at my table…right next to the mashed potatoes.

xoxo,

~d

Feedin’ the Soul

Those who know me know how much I love to feed people. For a girl whose parents feared, when I was a child, that my future family would starve because I couldn’t boil water, I’ve found the kitchen to be my haven since moving out on my own.

It’s been a long, hard road, and I’ve had a lot of help from my mom;my granny; and my aunts; Ina; Giada; Rachael; Paula; and the Taste of Home cookbooks. Ryan has eaten his fair share of kitchen experiments gone wrong. My kids are adventurous eaters because I like to try new recipes, and they’re good sports when my brilliant ideas don’t always pan out as planned. Over the past couple of months, we’ve designated my kitchen, “Mom’s Chopped Kitchen: COVID Edition.” Basically, when pandemic restrictions kept me from running to the store for what I needed, we got creative. We created meals from ingredients I had on hand, and we tried to make it work. It was like opening the mystery ingredients on the Food Network show Chopped, and trying to make a cohesive meal from it. Sometimes we claimed epic success, and sometimes…well, not so much. But when everything else in the world has been so uncertain over the last six months, the one constant is that I have three little boys who have been here for three meals a day and a million snacks in between. And while there were times when I’ve been at a loss for ideas, and at a loss for ingredients, at the end of the day, I love filling people’s bellies.

My Peanut is a senior this year. When she was in elementary school, she was assigned the “Flat Stanley Project” in school, where they read the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown and mailed their own Flat Stanley to an out of town friend or family member who then had to take Stanley on an adventure. I remember a Facebook post I made around that time, asking me if I’d weighed Stanley when he arrived and again when he left because she knew how much I like to “fatten people up.” She always makes me a list before she visits of what she’s hungry for while she’s here, and I am always more than happy to oblige.

Feeding people is kind of my MO. Come visit me; I look forward to preparing your favorite foods. Not feeling well? I’ll make you soup. Had a baby recently? I’ll bring you a meal. Death in the family? Lasagna, coming right up. If I cook something I know you love, I’ll drop some on your doorstep. If an experiment goes well, I’ll share a taste. If I have to borrow an ingredient from a neighbor, I’ll send a sample of the finished product. My oldest nephew loves zucchini bread; there’s almost always a loaf in the freezer for him. I love feeding people.

I especially love feeding my family. Of course it’s a bit of a chore sometimes, when I’m working around the kid who wants spaghetti and hot dogs for every meal (the same kid won’t eat anything on a bun or sandwich bread; nor will he eat mashed potatoes or any form or rice that isn’t drowned in hot sauce) and the kid who complains when I cook chicken too many nights in a row. There’s only one who rarely complains about what I cook; if he’s not feeling it, he’ll try a few bites then quietly excuse himself from the table without much of a fuss. Regardless of the complaints, I often look at dinner as a chance to fill my guys’ bellies and I challenge myself to find meals that have at least one component to satisfy each of their individual tastes. I’ll be honest, friends: sometimes it feels like a completely thankless job. There have been nights I’ve put the meal on the table and excused myself to escape complaints. But most often, dinner is when we all sit down and eat together.

The other night as I was tucking the twins into bed, my mama’s boy- who, since starting kindergarten last week is proving to be more insightful and observant than I’ve ever realized before- said to me, “Mommy, I really appreciate you cooking for us. You cook from your heart. And I can feel it in my heart and in my belly. Thank you.”

There is nothing I can add here, you guys. To hear such a keen observation from someone so young made me question what other tidbits of wisdom he’s holding onto in his ever-working brain. I felt almost stripped bare, and definitely choked up; it took me a moment to be able to respond to him, to confirm how correct he is in his assessment.

So, while my kitchen prowess is questionable sometimes, it’s a labor of love I’m happy to keep learning, to keep trying, and to always make sure those I’m feeding know that what I’m cooking comes from my heart.

Cheers!

xoxo,

~d

Silver Linings

Y’all. 2020 has handed us such a crapstorm of weird and terrible, I don’t even know where to start. Wildfires in Australia, bedbugs in Walmart; the loss of a beloved family member; Covid; murder hornets (I’m still wondering if anyone actually saw that episode or if it was just a teaser); Tiger King; losing our geriatric golden retriever- our sweet Clohe girl; homeschool; socially distanced preschool graduation; twin quarantine birthdays; and so many other hurdles. Every day we survived is a victory.

And yet… you guys, the year is legitimately more than halfway over now. We’re more than halfway through. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Because we are over halfway through a year we’ve all had enough of.

(Yes, I recognize the blatant overuse of the word halfway. I’m trying to make a point here).

But what if , despite some horrible and unimaginable losses and hurdles, we look for the silver linings? What if we find the results of all of the bad stuff that brought us real, pure joy? Like…

When grocery stores started to experience shortages, our family decided this year was the perfect opportunity to grow our first garden. We started with a small box garden that Ryan built into the hillside behind the house, with plenty of room to expand if we choose to, but small enough to experiment with for starters. (By small, I guess I’m speaking in terms of someone who grew up a farmgirl). We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, broccoli, sweet peas, green beans, green onions, lettuce, spinach, kale, and radishes. And guess what? Despite snow the week after I planted (and my feeble attempt at keeping the seeds warm with our electric blanket…and, no, I did not plug it in), our garden has produced, well, real produce. We’ve had sweet peas, plenty of green beans, and some radishes. I’ve harvested lots of kale, some lettuce, and spinach. I’ve picked a few cucumbers, with more on the way, and there are lots of green tomatoes on the vines.

Our boys actively participated in this activity, and have learned about how plants grow, where vegetables actually come from (hint: a lot goes into getting them to the produce section of the grocery store!), and hard work. They help to water our plants (sometimes with squirt guns), they help me to pull weeds, and they love to check the progress of our plants’ growth. They’ll look outside while it rains, and instead of resenting the bad weather, they understand that nature is taking care of their veggies. My aunt passed along my uncle’s lucky Celtic stepping stone, which we placed right next to the garden box, and we’re convinced that our garden is thriving because of the luck he left for us in that stone. We placed our pup not far from the garden, so she too can help ensure our crop is bountiful.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 61515091320__4d83a3fe-fc96-4249-9305-8d3bdb5d776a.jpgBasil, waiting for the tomatoes to be ready so I can make fresh bruschetta with homemade French bread

A weekend staple in our house is a vegetable plate. I put out a spread of raw veggies with ranch for dipping, and the whole family goes to town. It satisfies everyone’s need to snack, and it’s the best kinds of food, keeping us healthy and strong. And we can’t wait until our veggie plate is from our own garden, because nothing tastes better than a true labor of love. Ryan enjoyed a cucumber sandwich from our own backyard just two weeks ago (a long winded history of why cucumber sandwiches are significant to our family can be found here and here).

Another silver lining to the craziness of the past year is the opportunity to take it slow this summer and really enjoy the break from our normal, crazy summer schedule. We’ve been to the beaches, cautiously met a couple of friends for play dates at the playground, had pool time, rode bikes, taken walks around our neighborhood, and have spent as many hours outside as possible.

For the first time ever, I took my boys to the beach in search of beach glass this summer. Our local beach has an area specifically known for being a spot to find it, and I’ve been wanting to go for years, but have never found the time or was too nervous to take three little boys on my own or…there were always a million reasons why just getting there was an idea but not one that fit our reality. These days though, I try to look for reasons why not. This summer, I’m trying to say “yes” more, instead of “we don’t have time.” Because we all need a little joy. And we left the beach with the beginning of a nice little collection of beach glass that I’m hoping we can add to as the summers go on.

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Another silver lining is the extra time we’ve gotten to spend with family. While many of our normal activities have been cancelled or put on hold while the world heals, the guys have continued racing their go-karts, which means we’ve spent many weekends in our hometown. My boys have gotten to spend time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In June, we celebrated our youngest nephew’s first birthday, complete with family, love, cake, and shotguns. (It really is fun being a part of my family sometimes, friends!)

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Also this summer, we reunited with family on Ryan’s side that we haven’t seen in far too long. Our boys got to play with his cousin’s girls, and I sat on his grandmother’s back porch watching the kids chase each other around the yard, his youngest cousins (now teenagers) helping the little kids catch fireflies, and I remembered a similar scene from not so long ago when his cousins’ kids who are now grown up did the same with me. My heart is full knowing we’ve been in town enough lately to get to see many of the faces we don’t on a quick weekend trip.

This summer, we spent Independence Day back in our hometown, making more memories that may eventually eclipse the hard times our kids endured in the first couple of months of the year.

Last week, the shaved ice truck stopped in front of our house, and my kids made a beeline for it.  It was before they’d had lunch, after a trip to the playground and a bike ride.  Friends, when I was a kid, there was no ice cream truck that stopped where we lived, so I figure this event alone is enough to qualify their childhoods as pretty darn good, even amid a pandemic. They got their treats and one more positive memory was made.

This weekend, I got to reconnect with a high school friend I haven’t seen in a few years.  Sitting around a campfire with her parents and her aunt and uncle, surrounded by their family pups, deer grazing the orchard, drinks in our hands, some classic rock from Pandora, and a million stars sparkling overhead while we entertained one another with our favorite quarantine memes made for one relaxing and entertaining evening.

From where I’m sitting, friends, life isn’t looking all that bad right about now. And I hope, in spite of the days we all still struggle, you can say the same.

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Cheers!

xoxo,

~d

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?

xoxo,

~d

Breathe

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.

xoxo,

~d

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.

xoxo,

~d