The Best Laid Plans…

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

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

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

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

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

Wayfair Juliette chaise lounge

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

Tommy Hilfiger Berkshire nesting tables via Wayfair

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

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

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

Campbell Pottery

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

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



Best Life, Blessed Life

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

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

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

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

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

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




Comfort food for these cooler fall days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Send help and your best recipes, friends.




Running around in circles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




This fall’s must-use pattern

I’m kind of in love with the pattern I’m seeing everywhere this fall: Buffalo Check.

Laila Black Buffalo Check chair, Pier One Imports:

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:

Happy fall, y’all!




Have a Seat, Mama*

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 Can’t Quit You, Summer!

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!

Cheers to a successful new school year!



Blueberry Pickin’

As children, we begin to make associations between each season and its traditions. For many of us, spring is a time we remember picking flowers for our loved ones; summer is filled with memories of water play and sunny days; fall holds the memories of choosing pumpkins and picking apples; and winter is a time those of us in the north remember playing in the snow.

For me, some of my best summer memories are from the berry patch. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and red raspberries- we lived in an area where we had easy access to all of them. In fact, within walking distance of my grandparents’ farm was a very large strawberry patch, and a blueberry patch so extensive I’m not sure I ever reached its limits in all the years we spent picking there. There’s no end to the stories I could tell from strawberry picking- like the time my mom went to pick dressed as an old lady because she was convinced that the elder clientele were directed to the most bountiful areas of the patch. And the much less amusing time she spent bent over the berry bushes in the hot sun for so long that she had a sunburn that blistered between the line of her shirt and shorts.

But my fondest memories are from picking blueberries. The couple who owned the blueberry patch across the road from my grandparents’ farm were so sweet, and would deliver patrons to the best part of the berry patch via golf carts. Mom would always tell us she was going to have us weighed both before picking and after so she knew how many berries we’d eaten so we could pay for them (clearly she never did). Regardless, we would always sneak a couple, because…blueberries.

In the years since my grandparents have both passed away, the family farm remains, and a high school classmate of mine has built a home where the cherry trees once stood next to the blueberry patch. A high school classmate of Ryan’s (and a former coworker of mine, from my first job as a convenience store clerk when I was 15) lives next to her. It’s funny how things work out when you get older- passing acquaintances become forever enmeshed in our past, somehow making them an integral part of who we are.

I don’t think I’ve picked blueberries since the summer before I started college, a decade and a half ago, though I stop often at the patch near our house and buy the already-picked ones. For a long time, I couldn’t find time between school, work, chores, and life. Then it was because I had three babies in three years and that was a lot to manage. But a couple of weeks ago I finally decided it was time. The boys and I got up early on a Wednesday morning and headed off to the berry patch. I was not optimistic that we’d have a positive experience, but I really wanted to go and pass on the nostalgia that I tend to associate with these summer traditions, so we did it anyway.

Man, did I underestimate my kids (not the first time, folks, and certainly won’t be the last). Armed with a one-gallon ice cream bucket (for me) and three half-gallon buckets, my boys and I hit the blueberry bushes. For one solid hour, my friends, my three boys and I picked berries, and sang songs, and laughed, and there was not one fight or negative word the entire time. They listened, they followed directions, they didn’t wander off- not even my wild child. That hour was probably the single most peaceful block of time in our entire summer, and it resulted in two and a half gallons of blueberries, which have since been frozen, turned into blueberry muffins, baked into blueberry scones and eaten by the handful. One of my brothers has a favorite blueberry cake that I usually make only once a year (my oldest son asked if that meant it’s a “seasonal item”) that we may make again with our bounty.

In the end, we left with probably way more berries than we really needed, but they’ll last us past the season. And so will the memories.



Nobody Burned Down your She-Shed, Cheryl

Our area was hit by a hail storm in April, and many of our neighbors and others in our area are filing homeowners claims through the insurance companies to help recover losses caused by the storm. Our home sustained some damage- nothing terribly major, but enough to require some attention and repairs.

We’ve spent most of our summer planning repairs, speaking with insurance adjusters and claims specialists and our agent, and meeting with our contractor to coordinate all of the work we need to have done. This week, we had the roof replaced between thunder storms. (Let me tell you, my friends, there are few things in life as unnerving as a man’s shadow crossing next to the window of your second-story bathroom.)

Incidentally, one of our twins loves the State Farm she-shed commercial. At four years old, he shakes his head and mutters, “nobody burned down your she-shed, Cheryl.”

I think it took my boys awhile to comprehend what a she-shed is, and why one could possibly be necessary. After all, in our home, they’ve completely taken over every possible square foot of space. They feel perfectly comfortable showering their toys all over our home- their bedrooms, OUR bedroom, the guest room, the kitchen, living room, dining room, basement…heck, it’s not uncommon to find Lego’s and other small toys littering the floors in the bathrooms! The idea of Mom or Dad needing their own space is a little foreign.

The more the boys take over, the less space there is for Ryan and I. Even Ryan, though, has claimed his corners and crannies in our home for his work and hobbies. I guess you could say I have my domain too, if the kitchen, littered with everyone else’s stuff, counts. And my closet where I’ve hidden my I Love Lucy collection, because, pink. And boys. And I have my wall in the dining room where my desk goes, to collect my project supplies- paint decks and samples, reference materials, sketch book, etc. Maybe I’m a bit spoiled, thinking I need more…

I’ve tried to make our house homey and welcoming without being over-the-top feminine. I don’t use a lot of floral prints in fabrics- though our living room rug is maybe a little more feminine. It’s balanced with solid grey furniture, black and white accent pillows, and a warm gold on the walls. I did request purple on the dining room walls- it’s a deep, deep plum color that’s brightened by the sunlight that floods in through the ceiling-high window angled to the vaulted ceiling. The purple is accented with a more masculine, dark wood hutch, table, and chairs. I can bring in more feminine touches with how I set the table- a centerpiece, a collection of candles, some interesting accent pieces, dishes, napkin rings, etc. I live with four males; I’m doing my best to strike a balance between masculine and slightly glam.

Since I brought up the idea, my boys love shopping for she-shed necessities. They’ll point out pre-fab plastic shed displays in Sam’s Club and ask me which one I want. Our oldest will point out accessories and furniture and lighting and tell me, “Mom, you need this for your she-shed!”

They’re really indulging in this fantasy of mine.

And so I dream of my she-shed. I dream of my own girly space, where I can have white furniture, white walls, some glam lighting, a fainting couch (a lifelong dream of mine), as much pink as I can cram in (tastefully, of course), and plenty of wine storage. I dream of a space for my most creative moments to happen- both in writing and design. I dream of a reading nook, surrounded in bookshelves, a desk…and maybe more pink.

And I hope to never have to call the insurance company to file a claim on my she-shed. My little guy would take too much pleasure in telling me that nobody burned down it down.



Moms’ Night

Ladies, if there’s one valuable piece of information you will ever find on this blog, I hope this is it. And I hope it doesn’t take you nearly as long to heed my advice as it took me.

For the past several years, I’ve been chatting up fellow moms in our community, moms I cross paths with at the elementary school, the preschool, the library, extracurricular activities, the playground, field trips, birthday parties, the grocery store…it’s a small town; we share space regularly.

Anyway, I’ve had the chance to chat with these moms many times, and we never fail to get into a conversation juuuuuuussssssttttt far enough that we’re starting to get to know one another by first names rather than “That kid’s mom” when one of my kids starts whining and throwing his shoes at peoples’ heads, another starts picking up random merchandise and putting it into my shopping cart, and the third has to go to the bathroom.

About two years ago it occurred to me that I’d love to have the chance to have a real mom conversation, uninterrupted by kids. It was a completely foreign thought (at the time I was probably sleepwalking through life with a four year old and two two year olds), and I brushed it off as an impulsive desire bred of spending 97% of my time in the presence of all these boys.

After the initial spark of thought, however, the idea kept nagging at me. It nagged to the point of mentally choosing dinnerware and glassware and picking out recipes for both food and drinks. It nagged to the point where I’d chosen linens and dishes (when I purchased new appetizer plates for our New Years Eve party this year, “Moms’ Night” was also a determining factor in my selection). And I kept talking myself out of it. My boys- what would my boys do while I filled our home with women who desperately needed a night off? I couldn’t justify it.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I fought my need for a night with the girls, afraid it was too selfish, it would be asking too much, it wasn’t fair to kick my husband and children out of the house for a night…a hundred excuses, all of which Ryan immediately squashed, assuring me that he was happy to help me to bring my vision to life. I had a mental guest list, so as soon as he agreed to help me out and we discussed dates of weekends he was free, I sent out invitations.

Of course, we’re moms and it’s summertime, so roughly half of the ladies I invited couldn’t make it, but I’m hoping we can do another soon; it was an evening that should not be limited to once in a lifetime.

My theme for the evening was, “relaxed, casual, and classy.” I wanted a simple menu, so I could relax and enjoy my evening too. Also, it’s July, and the evening of our party was a perfect one for a light, simple selection and dining on the deck. We joked that the menu was perfect for the ladies, because any of the men would’ve asked where their real dinner was. One of the ladies I’d invited recommended a cheese plate (find the inspiration recipe here), with each guest bringing her own ingredient to contribute and assembling at my house as everyone arrived. Additionally, I made an olive oil dipping blend to serve with French baguette, and a friend also contributed a delicious kale salad with sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and a lemon poppy seed dressing.

Photo credits to my incredibly talented friend, graphic designer, and photographer Angela Glass, at Angela Glass Creative. Find her on Facebook @angelaglasscreative

For our drinks, I provided rum, vodka, tequila, and mixers to invite everyone to mix their own signature cocktail. I also mixed up a pitcher of this tropical rum punch and served it from my beverage dispenser. Finally, I offered red and white wine. And for dessert, we had this California Lemon Pound Cake– the perfect refreshing, sweet treat for a summer evening, with some homemade vanilla ice cream as an alternative.

Sometime around midnight, we looked at the clock and realized we’d chatted and laughed through the entire evening in a blink.  I think we all agreed that the evening was a success and that we should definitely get together again, sooner rather than later- especially for those who were unable to attend.

My hope for you mamas who are feeling burned out, alone and isolated, and starved for adult interaction, will consider doing something like this with your mama tribe. Choose a day or evening and just plan it. It could be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like to plan- order a couple of pizzas and buy a case of beer, make a big dinner, do an appetizer party- whatever your taste is, just please take the time to do this for you and your closest mom friends. You-and they- deserve it.