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.





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!”


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.



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?





Somewhere Over the Rainbow

This was spotted outside my front door earlier this week:


As far as I’m concerned, this is a notable enough event to warrant a blog post because where we used to live, there were far too many trees to ever see them when they occurred.  And, optimist that I am, I do still believe that rainbows and butterflies are magical and beautiful symbols of good things to come.


That’s all.



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.





Where to Begin?

I know, I know.

I made my way back here last week on my normal Monday and Wednesday schedule, but somehow Friday slipped away from me.

Perhaps I was realizing that my days with my little brother were quickly slipping away.  Coming home from volunteering today, it made me lonely to see what was missing from the pile in the garage:

Cory’s visit last week kept me busy- catching up on life on the farm, as well as keeping up with the kid’s appetite.  He’s a football player, and if by no other distinguishing factor than his appetite!  It’s so much fun to cook for Cory, since he so thoroughly enjoys almost any food imaginable.  Plus, he has an awesome sense of humor.

Anyway, we wrapped up his visit with a bang…

...or maybe just a flame...

making mountain pies (moon pies?  camper pies?  I’ve heard so many names for them!  Is there proper terminology?)  Regardless, Wednesday night was our first campfire of the year, and it was the perfect night for it.

Thursday was the first day of the local annual motorcycle rally.  Since Cory had never been before, we drove downtown to watch the motorcycle parade roll in.

Our town shuts down several blocks for the bikes to park.  This was a side street, not the street where most of the motorcycles were parked.

The main street that was blocked off was parked four bikes deep- one row per curb and two in the middle of the street

This guy attends every year.  And every year he leaves his “girlfriend” on the motorcycle while he parties.  She sits there patiently waiting for him.  Always in a different outfit.

He brings the same "date" every year, and she's always dressed differently

Meanwhile, I scoped out the best place to find a cold drink.  This looked like a good option.  Sort of like the Adult Ice Cream window, no?

Yes, beer window. What more could one ask for?

Friday we drove to a nearby steam engine show.  Cause you can take the boy out of the country butcha can’t take the country out of the boy.

I know nothing about this piece of machinery, except that it's old. And probably steam-powered.

And we learned how chain saws have evolved in their design over time.  I was genuinely surprised when nobody jumped out at me wearing a bloody hockey mask and carrying one of these things…

Chain saws. Creepy.

Finally, we had to leave to get Cory home.  Much as I loved having him here last week, he was very much missed at home and my parents are glad to have him home again.  The weekend was crazy and busy and fun- and I have enough stories from those two days for a whole other post, so I’ll leave it at this for now and promise you that if you tune in Wednesday, I’ll fill you in on the rest.  How about you?  What festivals and parties does your town celebrate?

Till then,



As American as our Traditions…Whatever They May Be

Hm.  I missed Monday again.

I tried; I really did.  I wanted to post some cute little patriotic memo yesterday about how lucky we are to live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  I wanted to talk about cookouts and family gatherings and fireworks and mosquito bites and baseball games.  I wanted to talk about drinking beers and margaritas and Pina Coladas and Kool Aid for the lil’ ‘uns.  I wanted to talk about Cornhole and Bocci and flashlight tag and croquet.  Never mind the fact that baseball bores me to tears, beer gives me a bellyache, margaritas and pina coladas are too much work for one person to drink from them, and I have never in my life played any of the four games listed above.  Never mind all that.

(Ed. note: as I worked on this blog, I was interrupted by a conversation that went something like this:

R: Can I show you something that I know doesn’t interest you?

D: Sure.  I can tell you’re excited about it; show me

R: (proceeds to show me a clip from a baseball game involving some bad call, and the coach’s irate reaction to said call.)  See?  This is why you gotta watch baseball.

D: Um, but is it really worth watching three hours’ worth of a game for that two minutes’ worth of conflict?  Isn’t that why God invented SportCenter?

R: …I guess…)

Because regardless of what traditional, um, tradition says we should do, the beauty of July 4 is that we are all free to do what makes America home to us.  So Friday while Ryan was at work, I made a pitcher of Sangria, using this recipe.  I stocked up on hamburger buns and pork chops and cheddar-wurst for the grill.  Friday night, after watching “The Social Network” from our Netflix queue, I challenged my far-more-athletic-than-me husband to a competitive round of mini golf (“competitive” as it might have been, we both did terribly enough that we didn’t bother to tally the score.   We both would have been mortified, I’m sure.).  We took the motorcycle, and when we got home, he installed the window air-conditioner in the kitchen while I grilled cheddar-wurst and assembled some boxed mac’n’cheese for dinner.  Gourmet, I tell you.  We are 100% gourmet in this house.


Saturday, Ryan packed up his RC gear and went out to race for the day, while I prepared for a “girls’ day” with my newlywed friend Nicole…

photo from Nic's wedding-day arsenal...

and Saturday night was spent at home, dining on some grilled teryaki-marinated pork chops and rice, with corn on the cob and fresh green beans.

Sunday, Ryan made a suggestion I don’t believe I’ve ever heard from his mouth before: he suggested that we ride the motorcycle to the local wineries and stock up on our favorites.  It’s been awhile since we went to the wineries together, so it was a special treat to share with him some of the newer ones I’ve discovered with my friend Bekah and her fiance Kasey.  We made a day of it, biking from place to place; he kept a careful eye on my consumption to be sure I didn’t become so inebriated that I might fall off the back of the bike, and he sipped very little.  Still, it was a fun and (for us) different way to spend a summer weekend afternoon.


In turn, I succumbed to the idea of attending more late-model races Sunday night, but when we got there the place was packed, so we turned around and left.  We settled instead for heading to the local amusement park for a funnel cake and some people-watching, but we both were so frustrated by the decorum of our local demographic, we left before the fireworks we had gone to see in the first place, had started.  We got home just in time to see the sunset from our front yard in the most gorgeous array of perfect sunset colors…

And Ryan stole my camera insisting we needed to add a photo of me to the photo collection.  I disagreed, so here’s my compromise:

Pink and orange...coexisting peacefully like the sunset.  Yup, that's us!

Happy Independence Day, friends.

Yesterday, for the fourth, we started the day by going out for breakfast to our favorite weekend-morning breakfast place.  Later, we met up with friends of Ryan’s from high school for dinner and fireworks.

And finally, today was back to the grind.  Ryan returned to work, and Clohe and I headed to the library to volunteer.  We came home to this surprise in the back yard:

And so, friends, I hope your fourth of July weekend was filled with all those wonderful things that make America wonderful for you.




Life in the Twilight Zone

I sort of feel as though I’m living in the Twilight Zone lately.  And, no.  I’m not referring to the Team Edward/Team Jacob Twilight Zone… though, if you must know, I am Team Edward.  All the way.

Breaking Dawn BD1 560x315 THR: Breaking Dawn First Look Gallerry alice cullen

No, by living in the Twilight Zone, I mean it’s June, but this week has felt more like September.  We haven’t had a thunderstorm in over a week, but we’ve had two power outages since Monday, each lasting over an hour.  Monday it happened in the middle of the afternoon, and was mercifully restored by dinner time.

Tuesday night’s sunset was beautiful…

but the sky overhead was ominous

and all week the trees have been turning almost violently in the wind, reminding me of my Granny’s warnings that the leaves showing their under-sides foretell storms.

Yesterday, it happened that we experienced another power failure just as I had put the pasta in the pot to finish our spaghetti dinner.  Fortunately, the water stayed hot long enough to cook the pasta to perfect al dente status, but it was so odd to be without electricity on a beautifully sunny, albeit chilly, June evening.  We had been anticipating the finale of The Voice all week, me rooting for Javier because I adore Adam Levine and their rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” moved me to tears.  Ryan, on the other hand, has become enamored with Dia and he was hoping to see her take the title.  Circumstances (aka, our electricity situation) prevented us from seeing the whole show; instead, we tuned in just in time to see Dia and Miranda Lambert sing a duet of “The House that Built Me.”  And, hell, if Blake Shelton and Carson Daly are gonna get misty-eyed on national live TV, then I’m not gonna feel guilty about shedding a tear or two in the privacy of my own home.  Of course, I’m sharing this detail with you in confidence, friends.  It’s not like my tendency to be a teary little tart is a secret or anything.  Of course, my tears may also be attributed to the fact that I missed Pat Monahan of Train on the show, too.  Of all the nights for our power to go out.  Sigh…

Ryan’s been working long hours this week, so perhaps that’s contributed to my feeling of the days dragging on for years on end.  He’s been leaving a full hour earlier than normal in the mornings and being two hours later in the evenings for the past few days.  I haven’t yet established enough of a routine for his normal work hours, let alone these three days that he squeezed another full workday into.

Tonight, finally, my husband was home at a decent time, dinner is over and the dishes are done, and we’re settled into a quiet evening at home.

In the Twilight Zone.




Weekends in the Country

It’s Monday.  Another weekend past, too quickly for me to have completed the post I began on Friday.  I’m really sorry, friends.  There just aren’t enough hours in a day.  So…pretend, if you will, that it’s still Friday.  Just don’t forget that tomorrow is Tuesday.  K?  Thanks friends!

Last Friday, I was relegated to the outdoors, waiting to move back into our house before Ryan’s parents came to visit.  I was sort of freaking out a little when Ryan got home and we set to work to get everything put back together.  After some hard work and half a bottle of wine, (and a loooonnnnggggg shower!) I was restored to some resemblance of sanity, ready to take on the weekend.

Saturday morning, Ryan’s mom suggested we go look at dresses to wear to Kevin and Lindsay’s wedding, which is rapidly approaching.  I had tried a few things on earlier in the week without making any decisions, but I at least knew where to find some good sales, so we chose one local bridal shop and dragged Ryan and my father-in-law in with us.  I left with two options (two, because I found a really awesome sale and couldn’t decide between the two.  Husband said to get both, and well, who am I to argue?).

Since the men were so patient while we ladies tried on, spun in front of mirrors, and scrutinized every little detail of each dress we modeled, then good-naturedly  surrendered their plastic to pay for our finds, we had no choice but to return the favor.  We told them that they could choose our activity for Saturday evening- anything they wanted to do.  Anything.

Their decision was to go to the dirt track to see the late-model cars race.  This weekend activity is something special Ryan has always shared with his dad, brother, and cousin.  In the area where we grew up, and in the area where we live now, it’s a huge part of weekend life.  It’s a traditional way for men to spend their weekend.  In fact, where we live now, most weekends see three days’ worth of racing in three different states, all within an hour’s drive from our house.  Ryan loves it, and I avoid it like the plague.

It hasn’t always been like that.  In the summers before Ryan and I started dating, I used to work the concession stands at the race track with my friends Katy and Kayla.  The three of us, um, entertained our co-workers and patrons alike as we danced and laughed our way around the concession stand assembling cheeseburgers and cheese fries.  Katy and I even convinced Kayla to try her first hot dog ever.  No joke.

So, you see, I actually find the races to be quite entertaining…as long as I’m not watching the races.  If I’m there and keeping busy, I’m perfectly happy.  But to go and sit and watch the cars go around the track, I can’t justify the lack of productivity it forces upon me.

And so, last Saturday night as I sat watching the cars go around in circles, I picked up my camera and began compiling this very blog post in my head.  Complete with photographs.  You’re welcome.

Because Bud and Racing go together like peas and carrots

One of those "All-American" sports; can you hear "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!"?

This is the part that scares me; I hate seeing them wreck!

So, see?  Even when I’m not fully engaged in those activities my husband is so entertained by, I still find a way to keep myself busy.




Wear Sunscreen

Tomorrow (or, by the time this post hits the ‘net, it’ll probably actually be today) my “little” brother- the third born in our family of five- will join the class of 2011 in receiving his high school diploma.

He was born during the last week of school the year I was in second grade.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, and my Granny picked Derek and me up from school that afternoon, telling us that Mom was having the baby.  We spent a few hours with Granny and Pappy, but eventually we ended up with my great aunt (affectionately known to us as Aunt) and great uncle (Hud) for the evening.  That night there was a terrible thunderstorm, resulting in widespread power outages.  They brought him home the following evening, dressed in a little white sleeper that was covered in different-colored footprints, and I held him for the first time.

Brandon and I were never super close, but we’ve had our moments.  He has a mischievous sense of humor and endless stores of energy; he’s always doing something.  When he was three or four years old, he once entered my bedroom and proceeded to pee in my trash can.  I retaliated by dressing him in girls’ clothing and documenting it in photos.  (These have since been misplaced.  Maybe they’ll show up at a very convenient time…like the night before his wedding…)  I probably changed a good 30% of the child’s diapers, and when he would wake up crying in the middle of the night,  I would pick him up out of his crib and take him to my bedroom to calm him down so Mom could get some sleep and so he didn’t wake Derek.  I read bedtime stories and sang bedtime songs, and let him watch the Home Alone movies and The Santa Clause on TV at night.  And one morning, he and Cory sneaked into my bedroom carrying Mom’s two freshwater turtles and placed them in bed with me.  He’s spent weeks with us during the summer, raced RC cars with my husband, and has in almost every way, grown up right in front of me.  As his sister, I’m feeling a kind of pride that’s a little unfamiliar to me, because I remember almost every event and every special moment since the day he was born.

Tomorrow, Brandon will join his class for the last time and receive his right of passage into adulthood.  He will move into the world prepared with the lessons he’s learned in school, and most importantly I hope, from his family.

I wish I had some words of wisdom to pass along, but when I try to form some useful knowledge, it all falls short of Baz Luhrmann’s address to the Class of 1999.  And so, my friends of the Class of 2011, please accept the following as the best advice I can provide to you for the future.  It may have been addressed to a class of  twelve years ago, but the message is still clear: Wear. Sunscreen.

Congratulations, seniors.   May you all be blessed in your future endeavors, may you always find where you’re meant to be, and may you always land on your feet when life throws you a curveball.