Ringing in the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dinner table, New Year’s Eve 2019

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

xoxo,

~d

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Video Killed the Radio Star

We live in a social media fueled society.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, I hear over and over how important it is to use social media to broadcast videos, making me “more approachable, more familiar,” to my target audience. This is a difficult practice for me to embrace, as someone who prefers to be behind the camera more than in front of it. I’m every photographer’s nightmare- my smiles are tentative and self-conscious; I’m the subject who’s always finding a taller person to hide behind (not difficult when you’re barely over the five foot tall mark). I’ve always preferred to be behind the scenes; I feel more comfortable making the scenery pretty without being a part of it. I helped to coordinate a good friend’s wedding in the fall, and I was more comfortable running errands, heading off problems before they happened, and coordinating the details than I ever could have been in a more visible role. Of course, I’ve been more visible several times, and I’ve been honored to take on the roles assigned to me, but I just don’t love the spotlight.

In high school, I was a flutist in the band. We performed often and as a group. I grew accustomed to performing even if I never grew to love it. For me, the band was always more about the friendships I formed.

I don’t remember what year it was, but it was sometime between 2001 and 2003 that we performed a field show that included the Chicken Dance. Part of the show included one of our color guard members dressing in a chicken costume, face concealed, and running around the football field while the band played. During one particular competition where our band was judged against other high school bands, our chicken was unable to perform. Our director asked for volunteers and somehow I ended up in a yellow feathered suit. Face and identity undisclosed, I hit the field and danced and engaged the crowd as I’d never have had the guts to do if my face was showing. Sounds cowardly, I know, but I felt free that day. I remember the strangest details about that performance. It had rained all day, and the field was muddy and slippery under my rubber chicken feet. I almost wiped out several times. But I kept it together, chicken dancing, spreading my arms and “flying” among the members of our band, keeping the audience engaged. When we came off the field, members of other bands were cheering, “We love the chicken!” and begging to know the identity of whomever was crazy enough to act as I had so publicly. But I’d been able to do it anonymously, with only members of our band knowing it was me…and they all knew me well enough to know I could be little (ahem, a LOT) crazy behind the scenes already.

Here’s another example: years ago, when I got my first iPhone, I hung up on my first FaceTime call because I was horrified and freaked out to see my own face on the screen when I picked up the phone to answer. My best friend and a few others have invited me to use the app, Marco Polo, to send video messages. While I love receiving videos of others, I feel absolutely ridiculous taking videos of myself talking. I don’t even do selfies, either. Sure, with the kids to be silly sometimes, or with a fun filter that adds makeup and dazzle to send to my husband or sister, but very, VERY rarely do I sent them. Yesterday, ironically, was an exception, when I sent one to my sister and then to my cousin from the front seat of my car while I waited in line to drop the twins off at preschool. Both were shocked to have received it. It may be another decade before it happens again.

I guess it’s a little like that show, the Masked Singer. I didn’t watch much of it, but I saw a few episodes and was able to sympathize with the performers and their freedom to sing their hearts out in a way that didn’t make them completely vulnerable to judgments and scrutinizing eyes. They must have felt very much like I did that day all those years ago in my chicken costume: free. Liberated. Not judged. And maybe a little more secure in knowing their insecurities were buried beneath a blingy and embellished exterior, faces and expressions hidden from a harsh and judgmental public at large.

My point is, I chose to follow the interior design path (and, I guess if you’re reading this, also the path of writing- at least as a hobby) because I can do the work behind the scenes, baring the parts of my soul I want to share through color, design, images, and words- without showing my face. Even those who have never seen my face have a good sense of who I am, based on stories and images I’ve shared. And I’m guessing, if you’ve been around these parts for awhile (this blog is heading for its ninth year, y’all!), and you keep coming back, you’re not doing it to see my face. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. For being here, for coming back, for encouraging me to keep doing this.

I’d love to hear from you on this. Anyone else feel this way- and put yourself out there anyway? Any advice you can offer me here?

All my love,

~d

Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m an Adult Now

Well, it’s official, y’all. I think I’ve finally become a real, mature adult.

It’s taken a few decades to get here, but I can honestly say that I truly recognized my maturity on this Valentine’s Day.

Ryan came home from work yesterday, a little freaked out after talking to other females he works with and hearing their expectations for Valentine’s Day. They asked him what he had planned for his wife, and he told them he didn’t have an extravagant plan. (He failed to mention that last weekend he had been trying to line up a sitter so we could sneak away somewhere for a little getaway).

My husband is really amazing that way. Valentine’s Day has never been a real thing for us. When I was younger, inexperienced in life and love, I wished for romantic Valentine’s Day surprises. When I was about 12 or 13, I decided I wanted a Valentine’s Day wedding because I thought it was the most romantic day of the year. When I discussed this plan with my aunt Sharon around that time, she pointed out that when you marry the right person, ANY day is the most romantic day of the year. So that plan fell by the wayside. Still, I sent Ryan telepathic Valentine’s Day messages that I wanted all of the wine and roses and chocolate and jewelry I could get, but never vocalized my desires because I wanted him to know all on his own what I wanted. He’s always delivered a small surprise: always chocolates, sometimes a small piece of jewelry, sometimes flowers, sometimes all of the above. But he’s notorious for surprising me with spontaneous romantic gestures on random days throughout the year. He doesn’t need a calendar or a big-label greeting card company to tell him when to extend a romantic gesture.

This morning I made my trip to shop for valentines for my family while they were at school and work. For Ryan I had decided on candy and frozen pizzas. Sounds weird, I know, but he’s been asking for pizza all week. So I thought if I bought frozen pizza, we could have a romantic pizza snack to ourselves after the boys went to bed. I bought the boys each a little box of candy- more than enough to supplement the sugar highs they all brought home from school- and called it a day on my shopping.

I was in the kitchen making a very non-exciting dinner of oven-fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and homemade mac and cheese when my tall, handsome valentine walked in the door laden with grocery bags, a liquor store bag, and… a premade deli pizza.

I bust out laughing. He was so confused until I pulled his “valentine” out of the freezer. We congratulated ourselves on thinking so much alike, and he handed me the liquor store bag with not one but two bottles of my favorite wine. Then he started to unload the other grocery store bag. When he pulled out three miniature boxes of chocolates identical to the ones I’d purchased for the boys, we both started to laugh.

Friends, that moment- the moment of knowing that celebrating Valentine’s Day in the simplest way, with my four guys who piled on top of me yesterday morning and declared me their “Princess,” my favorite wine, chocolates, and frozen pizzas on the same night Grey’s Anatomy is on, is the only way I care to celebrate Valentine’s Day, ever- that moment was so clarifying.

I became a real adult today.

And it feels damn good.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends.

xoxo,

~d

Don’t Forget Thanksgiving!

It’s still fall, y’all.

Doesn’t look much like it outside, what with the white stuff covering the ground (already.  Again.  So soon after it went away.  Sniffle).  But seriously, it’s still fall.  That’s what the calendar says, anyway.

You can’t really tell from the store displays, either, or from the TV commercials and Hallmark movies and the Hallmark Christmas station on my XM radio.  But seriously, we still have four days till Thanksgiving.   Seriously.  Still fall.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  I love it.  It’s like a Farewell to Fall event- the opportunity to get together with family and sit around the table and just be thankful, before the full-blown chaos of the Christmas season sets in.

Fall decorations are my favorite.  The colors, the natural elements; you can decorate your home for fall almost exclusively from nature.  The changing leaves, the bare twigs, the pinecones, the assortment of squashes: pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash.. you can make a centerpiece from all of these things for super cheap!

My grandmother had the prettiest Thanksgiving dishes.  We used them every year, and seeing them even today makes me think of our family gatherings when she and my grandfather were still alive:

Blog- friendly villiage dishes

Friendly Village Dishes by Johnson Brothers.  Image via Google Images

 

Since we don’t typically host Thanksgiving, I don’t have holiday-specific dishes.  However, I do have enough versatility in my collection that I was able to round up a few ideas for you, in case you’re looking for simple ideas to set your table beautifully enough to keep your kinfolk gathered round (while the men do the dishes, amiright?)

Disclaimer: my decorating style is a little quirky.  I love mixing up different styles to add elegance to simplicity, a dash of modern to the traditional, or some country to the urban.   I guess that’s just me- a juxtaposition of contradicting ideas and styles.  Obviously, any of the ideas here could be changed around to include what you already have and to suit your own style and the mood of your gathering.  Play with it.  Have fun.  SHOP YOUR HOME! (or, as previously mentioned, your backyard.  Or your pantry.  Or your neighbor’s…with permission, of course).

 

 

I guess I should also add that in our home, almost everything has a story.  The plates in this setting, for example, are locally crafted near our town.  The candle holders are place card holders- leftover favors from our wedding.  And the turkey centerpieces and pumpkin napkin rings are ceramics my mom painted for us.  The glasses with the spiral design are vintage Libby glassware, inherited from the attic of a family friend.

 

This setting makes me think, “urban rustic,” with a more formal place setting (a discontinued pattern from Pier One, my favorite dishes), made modern with my favorite wine glasses- a prekids purchase from Crate & Barrel.   The absence of a tablecloth softens the formality of the dishes and brings a bit more rustic to the table. The tall candlesticks are also from Pier One, and those leaf candles were from the head table at our wedding.  The centerpiece is a collection of random items I collected from around our house- the candles, again, are from our wedding (a decade ago), and the plate was a gift that I’m too afraid to serve food from in a houseful of boys.  Under the candles and ribbon I’ve buried potpourri; this centerpiece is often on my dining room buffet.

 

 

I tend to think of this last setting as being more “traditional,” with the plain, solid color dishes and traditional stemware.  Mixing the styles of the plates- the round with the square- adds just a subtle enough twist to make it fun.  The pumpkin and napkin rings, again, are ones my mom painted for me.

 

There are so many ways to make your table inviting and pretty without purchasing special…everything.  Do any of these speak to you?

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  May your holiday be full of food and love.

 

xoxo,

~d

Reason #408 why motherhood just may kill me

Wanna know how I spent the twins’ naptime today?

Putting clean sheets on the boys’ beds.

Seriously, the whole hour was consumed by putting sheets on three beds: twin bunks and a full size bed.  AN HOUR, friends.  Well, 50 minutes.  To put sheets on three beds.  The actual breakdown is probably closer to 45 minutes for the bunk beds, 5 minutes for the other one.  Still, there were a lot of other things I could’ve accomplished in that time.

Ever consider where bunk beds came from?  I have.  I’ve also pondered his painful demise.  Yes.  His.  Because it was certainly a man who invented those blasted things, knowing full well it’d be woman who would be changing the sheets the majority of the time.

We’ve had bunk beds in our house for almost a year, but we just stacked them two weeks ago.  I’ve changed the sheets three times now.  Every time I’ve damn near died.  The first time was a near concussion, lifting my head too fast while trying to raise the mattress to tuck the sheets.  The second time was the same day, when I came one step closer to a concussion by bashing my head off the ceiling while repeating the same process on the top bunk.  (Yes, I’m aware of the definition of insanity.)  The third time my socked foot slipped on the ladder while I was trying to smooth the wrinkles from the sheets and blankets and return all of the fuzzy friends to their happy home in the bed.

Repeat every week until the end of time.

To be fair, I totally get the functionality of bunk beds.  I’ve toured a few war ships in my day; I get that sometimes function and practicality has to be a priority.  We have three boys; space in our home needs to be used wisely as well.  Aesthetic be damned, I guess.  And, it’s a fun hideaway for all three; they’ll be entertained for hours, climbing up the ladder and hiding in the top bunk.  So, it’s kind of a no-brainer and a necessary evil.

We kept their beds separate and both close to the floor for as long as we could, until they started asking us weekly how long until we could bunk them.  It made sense to stack their beds; they’re getting bigger and they’re playing in their room more and more, and they need the floor space.  And they’re doing really well with the change.  Clearly, changing sheets has no effect on their perception of the intricacies of making a bed without headroom.  What do they know?  They’re three feet tall.

Just make sure my tombstone reads, “it was those damned bunk beds.”

 

xoxo,

~d

Goodbye, Summer…until we meet again

It’s been a busy summer.  A trying summer, with two 3 year olds and a 5 year old at home all day every day.  My patience has been tested, and the guilt-meter has been off the charts, knowing every trying day is a day I’ll regret when they all go to school.

We’ve purchased three backpacks.  We’ve attended orientation for one, scheduled the other two, and fulfilled three school supply lists, gone school clothes shopping, and have filled the pantry with lunch and snack-packing supplies.

One week ago, my firstborn baby headed off to his first day of kindergarten.  Four days ago, he turned six.

He was calm, and he was ready for Kindergarten.  Way more ready than his mama.

He offered to get my camera ready for our traditional first-day-of-school shots.  He made his bed, made his own breakfast, brushed his teeth, dressed himself, and kissed us goodbye in the garage.  And then, when the bus came, he turned and gave me one last kiss and said, “I love you, mama,” and got on the bus without looking back.  That moment alone nearly killed me.  Each day since has gotten incrementally easier, but next week the twins are off to preschool and the cord-cutting process will begin all over again.

I’m sad to see summer end.  I’m sad to have to say goodbye to the warm days and sunshine and afternoons in the pool.  I’m sad to see the end of the last summer before all three boys are in school.

But I’m satisfied by what we accomplished this summer.  Our oldest boy is confident in his swimming abilities without his life vest.  The older twin is an independent swimmer with his life vest on.  And the littlest one isn’t far behind.  We played mini golf, spent a few days at the zoo, took a beach trip and visited a new aquarium and a battleship and a cave.  We squeezed in a few date nights, checked out a hot air balloon festival, spent several Sundays watching Ryan race his new go-kart.  We had play dates, took walks, hikes, and bike rides, and spent a lot of time in the pool.  Through all the tough and trying days of being at home with a five year old and two three year olds, we made a lot of memories this summer.

And now that they’re on their way back to school, I’m wrapping it up by fulfilling one last summer goal that had, until today, gone unmet: I’m sitting on the back deck, fresh out of the pool with a cold drink and my laptop.  I’m planning to focus more time on some exciting ideas: a new look for the blog is coming soon.  I have TWO secret projects under wraps, and I’m working on some new design projects that I hope to share on the blog in the coming months.  Stay tuned, friends.  Mama’s got free time on her hands, and it just might be fun…

 

xoxo,

~d

This Never-Ending Winter and my need for a change of scenery

We here in the northeast are experiencing the winter that won’t end.

It feels like it hasn’t stopped snowing since Halloween.  It feels like we’ve been trapped inside, staring at the same walls day after day, week after week, for half a year.  In a Facebook group I’m a member in, someone from Alaska commented last week that winter here has lasts for too long.  Alaska, people.  Let that sink in for a minute.

We’re trying to stay busy.  We’ve walked and been outside as often as we can, but sick kids and exposure to freezing temps aren’t always the best combo.  We planted seeds for veggie plants a few weeks ago.  The boys have a hockey net in the basement and can use that space to run off some extra energy.  T-ball season has started and we’re beginning to see a day or so a week that is suitable to be outside.  Regardless, we’re all tired of being inside. One day last week, upon returning from our errands, the boys filed out of my car and made a beeline for the driveway where big, fat snowflakes were beautifully, gracefully, tauntingly falling from the sky.  The three of them ran around in circles, arms spread wide, catching the flakes on their tongues.  It was heartwarming and beautiful, and I was so fulfilled to watch them, and yet…I’ll be just as fulfilled when I can sit in the grass and watch them roll up and down the driveway on their bikes, draw pictures on the concrete with sidewalk chalk, build castles and mountains in the sand, and push weeds from my flower beds in their big trucks while I soak up sun and heat.

But that’s just me.

In the meantime, I’ve stayed motivated by changing and reorganizing basically every room in our house in the last month.  I sometimes feel more energized when I rearrange things to change the flow and the way the light hits different aspects of a space.  That, in turn, gives me an idea of what accessory items are working for us and what we could maybe replace.

In our living room, for instance, I  played around with a completely different layout that seems to work really well for us.  What I noticed, though, is that we needed a new, larger area rug to tie the space together.  The rule of thumb for a rug is that it should touch all the pieces of furniture in the space to make it feel cohesive .  The rug we had isn’t big enough to do that; far too much of the floor was bare, which is not only an aesthetic problem, but a traction problem for our 12-year-old golden retriever.  She’s having a hard time getting up from the slippery floors after she’s been lying down.  So last weekend, we trooped into town, the five of us, for a family trip to Dick’s.  And I played the “Oh, but I’m the only girl, and can’t we please, please, PLEASE go to a fun store for me to look for house stuff?” card.  And we left with a rug.

I travel with the paint swatches we used on every wall in our house.  This way,  when I’m out and about, I always have the colors on hand to compare.  So, I pulled the swatches out of my purse in the middle of the store to check, and my three super manly boys and my one super manly man each grabbed a spot of the rug and trooped it to the checkout for me.

Another thing that I’ll be addressing in the living room is the blank wall above the sofa.  I’m currently searching for some artwork to frame and hang to make that more of a focal point.  My problem is deciding on what I want.  Because your space should tell your story, I don’t want something to just “put” there; I want it to be personal, have significance, and to tell a story about our family.  I have family portraits on the wall going up the stairs, so I’d like to do something artistic or inspiring in the living room.  My top ideas right now are to frame some photos of our town or from our travels and have them made into canvases, or blown up for large matted frames.  Because the sofa and curtains are neutral colors, I’d like to bring out the colors of the rug with the art…and then possibly repeat those same colors with some new throw pillows on the sofa and love seat.

I’d love to hear from you; does anyone else get suffocated by their surroundings when the weather keeps you confined in the same spaces?  How do you deal with it?  Are you painting?  Tackling a renovation project?  Replacing furniture or accessories?  Leave me a comment!

 

xoxo,

~d

 

 

Busy

It’s a word that gets thrown around often.  Not just with me; we all use it.  Busy.  We’re ALL busy.  Caps, bold, italics.

“Sorry I never got back to you; I’ve been so busy!”

“How’s your summer?” “Busy!”

Me, personally?  It’s never occurred to me to keep track of how many times a day I say it, hear it, think it.

Any time I take my boys (three of them, all under age five) out in public?  At least one casual observer will offer a grin and a sympathetic “I bet you’re busy!”

When my husband reluctantly asks me to do a favor or take care of something household related because he works pretty crazy hours anymore?  “Babe, I know you’re busy enough already, but if you get a minute during naptime or whatever, could you…?”

When I look at the stack of library books on my nightstand or on the end table in the living room? “Ugh, if I wasn’t so busy, I’d be through those already!”

024

A lot of my busy-ness is of my own making.  Apparently I took Aesop’s Fables a bit too literally as a child, because every time I ignore work to do something pleasurable, I’m reminded of the Grasshopper and the Ant.  Remember that story?  The ant worked and worked, never taking time off, while the grasshopper, all “Carpe Diem!” played and forgot to prepare for winter.  So when wintertime rolled around, the ant was warm and full, while the grasshopper died a cold, hungry death.

That must be it.  I hate being cold.  And hungry.

So I stay busy.  Not always particularly productive, but definitely busy.  And when I say busy, I pretty much mean in the sense that I start 349587348962 projects and approximately 2 get done.

Take, for instance, this spring.  I found an ant infestation in my spider plant (here we go with the ant theme again). So I carried the plant to our back deck, where I drowned those suckers out, then gave them a nice, healthy dose of old coffee grounds to show them I meant business.  Apparently, ants hate coffee.  So maybe I’m not as much like an ant as I thought.  Anyway… my spider plant.  I didn’t want to bring the ants back inside, so I let my plant sit on the deck for a couple of days.  It was still spring, and we weren’t finished having frost then, so a few leaves on my plant were sacrificed in the effort.  When I pulled them to make room for new growth, I put the dead leaves on top of last summer’s hanging basked from the deck, my Mother’s Day petunia from Ryan and the boys, which I never emptied last fall.

Fast forward to late July.  This past Saturday morning, Ryan took the boys with him to run an errand while I stayed home.  After they left, I wandered back to the deck to pick up yesterday’s swim suits and towels, and decided maybe it’s time to finally clean out that hanging basket.  What I found when I moved those dead spider plant leaves took me by surprise.

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My point is, yes, I’m busy.  We’re ALL busy.  Caps, bold, italics.  It’s not exclusively a parent thing, or a student thing, or a career thing or a sports thing or a…well, you get it.  Life is hectic, and messy, and crazy, and unpredictable.  And sometimes, under all that busy-ness, there are surprises budding that we aren’t expecting.

And aren’t those the best?

 

xoxox,

~d

 

Could Not Be Fuller

Holy crap, guys.

It’s been way longer than I thought since I last posted here.  I haven’t posted anything in nearly a year and a half.  Do y’all even remember me?  Do you know what’s happened in a year and a half?  Obviously not much, if I haven’t been around to tell you about it, right?  Except…

The last time I was here, I was the mother of one amazing, beautiful, perfect little boy.

Today?  Today, I’m the mother of three amazing, beautiful, perfect little boys.

Yep, you read that right.  Three.  For the next two weeks, three under the age of three.  Boys.  Three. Boys.

My heart could not be fuller.

I always said I wanted three kids.  I come from a large family (I’m the oldest of five), Ryan comes from a small family (he’s the oldest of two); three seemed like a good compromise.  You should’ve seen our faces when, at a six week ultrasound for my second pregnancy, the tech announced, “There’s one.  And there’s two.” (Actually, I would’ve liked to have seen our faces.) Obviously, she was telling us we were getting twins, but we were a bit slow on the uptake.  It took us both a moment to catch up.  Um, ok, it took us quite awhile to catch up.  In fact, we spent the next few hours in almost total, shocked silence.  Until one of us would say, “Holy crap, twins.”  Or, “Wow.  There are TWO of them,”  Then we got in the car and drove two hours to tell our families in person.  Some days I think we’re still a little shocked.

Granted, this was not a total surprise.  My dad is a fraternal twin.  My maternal grandfather had fraternal twin siblings.  But because I always joked about how cool it would be to have twins, I think I had talked myself out of the possibility.  Mentally.  I think I had a gut instinct though that they were twins.  Because this is what happens to someone who has the perfect singleton pregnancy first time around, breezes through the whole nine months and labor, then wonders why people get so stressed out about infants.  Life hands those people two more at the same time, in conjunction with the terrible twos/ threenage years.

We’re managing.  In fact, we’re more than managing; I think we’re doing really well.  Our days are not nearly as stressful or as chaotic as I had envisioned.  I can still get all three of them out the door before 10AM without help.  Everyone is fed, bathed (at least every other night), wearing clean clothes, and getting individual cuddle time.  I can still get a hot, cooked meal on the table at least three nights a week, and Friday is still always pizza- homemade, more often than not.  This week I baked two batches of cookies, homemade pretzels, and a batch of zucchini bread between naptimes and diaper changes.

Of course. it can get stressful.  One can be stressful, three (without ever experiencing two) has, admittedly, brought me to my knees a time or two.  But it’s the best kind of stressful, and there’s nearly always humor to be found in the midst of it all.  “Twin B” has a tendency to wait until his diaper off to show off his ability to impersonate a fire hose.  This has earned him the nickname “Squirt” (he was also a full pound smaller at birth; he was such a little squirt!)  “Twin A” is often on his third outfit of the day before 9AM.

I used to judge stay-at-home moms.  I never understood how a person could sacrifice a career that they’d worked their tail off for, to stay at home.  To trade analyzing data for analyzing the color of the substances within a diaper; to trade dressing up for yoga pants and a ponytail; to trade business lunches for being on the receiving end of launched pureed peas.  I didn’t get how giving up a paycheck made sense.  Now I get it.

This isn’t about me.  It’s not about my climb up a corporate ladder, or breaking any glass ceilings.  It’s not about whether my boys are wearing Burberry onesies and riding in a $4,000 stroller.

New classic check Check Cotton Twill Shirt - Image 1

(Image from Burberry.com)

It’s about them having me at home because we can have it this way, spending time and making memories and learning from one another as we navigate this road as a family.  I used to be embarrassed, when asked about my career, to admit that right now, I don’t have one.  I’m still working on my education- and I’m damn proud of it.

I’ll have lots of years to go back to work, to build my career as long as it works for our family.  For now, I’m trying to savor every second I can with these precious gifts, stockpiling the love and the snuggles they give so freely for a day when they’ll be “too big,” or “too old” to show Mom affection.  For now, my job- my career- is Mom.

And I couldn’t be prouder.  My heart could not be fuller.

xoxo,

~d

One-Month Check-In (A.K.A. the monster has been released)

30 days into our home-owning experience, and I have to say, things are starting to look and feel like home around here.  Most of the boxes have been unpacked, most everything has found its own place, and we’re falling into a new routine.  And best of all, the interior designer in me is indulging and reveling in the decisions I’ve been making for the past many years, preparing for this house, for this moment.  The home I’ve been planning in my head is finally becoming our reality, and, since this is (kind of) a blog where I like to brag talk about decorating and design and such, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek of the befores-and-afters.

We started in the living room.  Obviously, besides the kitchen, it’s the room that gets the most use.  And since we needed new living room furniture, we kind of got to start from scratch here.  The funny thing is, we actually decided to keep the same wall color we used in our rental when we painted last spring, so we weren’t really starting from scratch- just kind of.  Being consistent in the wall color has definite benefits though; for example, the stuff I had on the walls still works.  And the wall color really brings out the warmth of the wood floors and the banister on the staircase.  And finally, the contrast between the living room and dining room wall colors is really eye-catching.  Wanna see?  (Obviously, if you don’t, you probably aren’t reading anymore.  Which means I’m basically talking to myself.  Moving on…)

So, we can start with our living room at our little house, to really add the element of contrast:

Our living room at our "little house," after our spring face-lift last year

Living room in our new house: before

Living room in our new house: after

So, yeah, maybe I was being a little facetious about the “contrast” between our old living room and our new one.  There are some definite similarities, and the wall color pronounces them in a big way.  Oh, and the angle looking into the dining room:

The living room, however, is literally the only room in our new house that bears resemblance to our old house.  Take the kitchen, for example.  I thought the kitchen in our small house was huge.  And, compared to the rest of the house, it really was.  Remember that room?  We just painted it in October:

Here’s our new kitchen (before I made Ryan slave with a paintbrush and roller to splash my color of choice on the walls):

…and our new kitchen, post move-in:

…and, looking into the eat-in area:

Finally, I’ll show you the master bedroom.  We love this room- it’s really, really big compared to our little house.  This room posed some major design problems that we didn’t realize until after our closing.  See, the previous owners had put up wallpaper that they later painted over, and decorated with a chair rail.  Our plan was to remove the chair rail and paint (we didn’t know we would be dealing with wallpaper).  So when we got in here and started trying to remove the wallpaper- both by peeling and using a steamer- we discovered that it wasn’t going anywhere without taking the drywall with it.  We decided to paint over it (again) and hope that our color covered the dark stripes that were showing through the paint job that was done previously.  Here’s the “before”:

And, (from a different angle), here’s the after:

And for now, that’s kind of it for our improvements.  For being one month in, I don’t think we’ve done too badly.  We Ryan still has some painting left to do, but he’s been a real trooper (even though he’s opened at least two of the paint buckets and thought that his wife had completely lost her ever-lovin’ mind).   Our weekends, for the next, well, couple of decades, will be filled with projects and items from the honey-do list, but we’re comfortable with what we’ve accomplished so far, and we’re excited to continue making this home our own.

 

Cheers!

xoxo,

~d