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…





Something to Read

Can you believe I’ve been posting here for over a year already?  This whole blogging thing still feels so new to me sometimes, even 120 posts later.  In some ways, I’m still searching for my blogging identity.

This was going to be a blog about interior design and decorating; that’s where the “unsolicited advice” headline came from.  That led to posts about food, recipes, and entertaining. Somewhere along the way, I also found reason to share anecdotes about life and love, family and my magnetic attraction for accidents.   And now, in this blog post about blogging, I’ve found that this is just a place for my mishmash of all that makes me tick- my greatest loves in life.

One great love I have yet to discuss is my love of literature.  Strange, huh?  That is, coming from a girl who admits an addiction to her Kindle.  This girl who admits a love of reading and who obviously enjoys writing (hello, 120 posts?)  I’ve never shared with you what’s on that Kindle, but today seemed as good of a day as any to disclose what I love to read- both on my literal bookshelf and my electronic one.

My first disclosure is the fact that I inherited from my mother a passion for, ahem, passion.  In the literature I appreciate, that is.  If you were to get your hands on my novel collection, the majority of what you would find is romance.  Danielle Steel, Karen Robards, VC Andrews, Nicholas Sparks… I’ve read most everything by each of these authors.  It’s a guilty pleasure.  And since I’m just following in my mom’s footsteps, it’s clearly not my fault.

I’m not all romance and fru-fru though…just mostly.  I’m also a collector of the classics (read: they’re on my shelf, waiting for the day I feel intellectual enough to pick them up and attempt to- a. understand them, and b. be able to discuss them intelligently.)  On my shelf, waiting patiently for the day I wake up smart, are Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Feminine Mystique, The Count of Monte Cristo, several of Dickens’ best, some Jane Austen, and of course, Shakespeare.

I love poetry by Walt Whitman, but I’m also a sucker for Shel Silverstein.  The Giving Tree is one of my favorites ever, and a college roommate once bought me the Where the Sidewalk Ends collection.  I recently came across Everything On It, which is my most newly coveted piece of literature.

Recent bestsellers that have been made into movies are another weakness, but only under the stipulation that I’ve read the book before I can allow myself to see the movie.  I’ve devoured Eat, Pray, Love; The Time Traveler’s Wife; My Sister’s Keeper; Charlie St. Cloud; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Water for Elephants; One Day; Marley and Me; Sarah’s Key; Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, and The Lost Symbol; and probably most notably, the Twilight series.  Sadly, the last few weeks have been filled with a countdown to the theater release of the latest Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part I.  It’s a sickness, really.

Every once in awhile, I’ll pick up a biography.  The first one I ever read was Dolly Parton’s autobiography, a book my Pappy received half a dozen copies one Christmas.  He was one of Dolly’s biggest fans, and when he ended up with some extra books, he loaned a few out.  This was several years before he passed away, so I was probably in fourth or fifth grade when one of those happened to fall into my hands.  My favorite biography, though, is Lucille Ball’s Ball of Fire by Stephen Kanfer.  Shortly after finishing the book, my husband took me to visit Lucy’s hometown of Celeron, NY, a suburb of Jamestown.  I was starstruck the whole day.

It may not seem like it today, but cold weather is coming.  The days have grown impossibly short already, and before we can blink twice, we’ll be watching the snow fall.  Since I recently discovered the amazingness that is the stove-top espresso maker my mom bought me for Christmas a few years ago, I’ll be siting inside where it’s warm, drinking homemade salted caramel mochas and devouring whatever genre of literature catches my attention.

What are your recommendations, friends?  What do you like to read?  Have you picked up anything intriguing lately?  Please share!




Getting Out

Sometimes getting out of the house is much more difficult than it should be.  It’s after 6:00 in the evening and I’m not even out of my pajamas yet.  I cannot take a shower because there is a woman on a ladder outside our bathroom window.  In fact, I can’t even use the bathroom, since there’s a woman on a ladder outside the bathroom window.  Who’d have thought I’d ever have to worry about someone peeking into the bathroom window in our house in the country?  And I had somewhere I wanted to be in less than an hour.  So I pour myself a glass of wine, and I blog.  Because, really, do these sorts of things happen to anyone else?  Yeah, didn’t think so.

Besides, you know, this girl’s had her share of fun in the past week.  I’ve actually been out of the house, fully dressed, with hair and makeup done, every day for the past five days.  That’s a new record, friends.  I attended book club; I enjoyed dinner and the symphony with book club friends; I enjoyed a romantic lunch date with my husband before hosting a gathering at my house.

Yesterday I woke up early and spent most of the day puttering around the house while the lady (who is at this very moment dangling from my roof) power-washed my house.  When Ryan got home, we went to my Auntie’s house to fix her laptop, and we ended up staying for dinner.  And this morning, finally motivated, I proceeded to haul out my own ladder to wash the outsides of the windows that were streaked from yesterday’s power-washing.  I needed some way to keep busy while I wait to hear from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law as to whether I’m going to be having a niece or a nephew in February.  The suspense is getting to me here.

Meanwhile, this barefoot klutz stepped in some broken glass last night.  Have you ever injured the bottom of your foot?  While the cut wasn’t that deep, the sucker just wouldn’t stop bleeding because, well, I couldn’t stay off my foot long enough to let it.  Fortunately, it happened late enough that I managed to get the bleeding stopped and then went to bed; by the time I got up this morning, it seemed to have stopped.  Still, it’s making the simple act of walking into quite the challenge.  Well, I should say more of a challenge than it is on any other day.

Finally, I’ve had several requests recently for more frequent posts.  I’m working on it, I really am.  I’m just sort of at a loss for new material here.  My creativity is waning, but I’m trying.  I’d love to hear from you to find out what you like to read about!



Happy Birthday! to…Everyone

Ah, September already?  (I say that every month, don’t I?  Seriously, this time I mean it.)  Give me a second while I try to figure out how it’s already Labor Day.  Summer got away from me again.  Where the hell did it get to?

September is a pretty busy month in these parts.  In fact, the first two weeks of September are kind of flat-out ridiculous for us.  And it sort of just keeps going through the end of the month.  My family has celebrated four birthdays in the last three days: my Momma’s was Saturday; Daddy’s was yesterday, and Ryan and my Aunt Sharon share a birthday today.  Wednesday (technically not an event, but I still kinda look at it as one) will be the eight-year mark for Ryan and me being together; Aunt Sharon and Uncle Don will celebrate their wedding anniversary on Friday, while my friend Sarah will tie the knot with her longtime love on the same day and our friends Dave and Andrea’s firstborn has a birthday party that day as well.  Sunday is Mom and Daddy’s anniversary as well as my brother Cory’s birthday, and Uncle Tom has a birthday on Tuesday.  That’s just the next eight days, friends.  I’m exhausted already, just thinking of it.

With all of these birthdays and anniversaries this month, I practically live in the card section at the store, first of all because there are so many to think of buying, and secondly because I can’t ever find one card that says what I really want to say.  This year, I think I’ve finally made a breakthrough.  A real genius move, on my part.  And, well, it’s not really an original idea, so I can’t take credit for it.  I’m just proud that I’ve finally caught on.

See, I think the greeting card industry has gotten sort of ridiculous.  First of all, a simple birthday card, wedding card, or thank you card is unbelievably expensive these days.  I mean, to find a decent one that doesn’t scream, “I CAME FROM THE DOLLAR STORE!” is borderline $4.  For something most people throw away the week after the event anyway!  (Not me; I have boxes of old greeting cards-birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, graduation, whatever.  I’m sentimental like that.)  Anyway, I love the idea of cards and as much as I love technology, nothing says “I care about you” like sending a real card in the real mail.  In fact, several years ago, my good friend Bekah sent me a letter.  On paper.  Sealed in an envelope and shipped via the good ol’ USPS.  We both have email, we communicate regularly via Facebook and text message.  But receiving that letter from her was such a cool event.  Of course we receive thank-you cards and birthday cards and whatnot in the mail, but this was just a letter.  Just because.  And it was awesome.

Um, ok, so back to my point: I am transitioning to buying only blank-inside cards.  Because as far as I’m concerned, the people who write the greetings inside greeting cards have gotten lazy.  I used to think being a greeting-card-phrase writer would be a fun job.  I thought I could be good at it.  Anymore, though, I don’t think I have enough cheese in me to keep up with it.  So there’s my plan, friends.  Buying blank-inside cards and creating my own greetings.  It’s sort of a step up from construction paper and crayons (which, I’ll admit, I’ve been tempted to do on more than one occasion) but still allows me to say what I want to say, not what some sap in a cubicle thinks I should say.  Heck, if I can blog (over 500 words at a time, typically), I should be able to come up with enough to fill the inside of a greeting card,  right?

What do you say, friends?  Do you panic over how eloquently the greeting cards you send are worded?  Or do you just pick one that addresses the proper person (Mom, Grandma, Husband, brother)?  You won’t hurt my feelings by telling me that I’m a total freak about this whole deal.




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.




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.




London: A Fairytale City

A funny thing happened on Wednesday.

I got a message from Ryan in the middle of the day that read simply: “Guess what I found.”

Assuming he had something to share with me about hockey, or racing, or hockey players racing, or some computer-related something that would be completely over my head, I played along.

“What’s that?”  I responded.

What he said was so unexpected, I nearly spit coffee all over my keyboard: “Your London photos.”

With today being the Royal Wedding, it seemed a perfect time to take a walk down Memory Lane and reflect on this amazing city and the incredible opportunity of having visited.  I’m torn between wanting to go back, and leaving it as a precious image in my mind (and now on my blog) and moving on to other places I would like to visit, some day.

I visited London during spring break of my first year in college in 2003.  Since then, we’ve weathered enough computer meltdowns that I had given up hope of ever seeing the digital photos again. Fortunately, I had taken some film with me, and I have those prints in an album in my closet.  But the digital photos were of mostly architectural landmarks like London Bridge:

and the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster (often referred to as “Big Ben” after the bell within the tower):

And Westminster Abbey, which I remember as having reduced me to tears as I walked through.

Kensington Palace- very likely one of my favorite places of everywhere we visited, with displays of scores of the Queen’s hats, as well as many, many of the dresses that Princess Diana wore:

and the Tower of London, home of the Crown Jewels and cruel punishments,(“back in the day”):

And then, there was the Victoria and Albert Museum, with this beautiful glass sculpture that hangs from the ceiling:

And, of course, the famous London Eye:

And the people!  Oh, my lawd, the people!  One could become immersed in the culture of London by merely sitting on a bench and watching people pass by and listening to the fabulous British accents all around.  At one point during our trip, as we were walking through the Tube station to get back to our hotel, a lady stopped in front of me, and asked me for directions!  The look on her face was priceless when I opened my mouth and spoke in an “American accent” and told her that I was not familiar with the city.  Looking back, I often wonder if I should have tried out my British accent, just to see if it would have fooled her.  Unfortunately, I have two facts of nature working against me: 1) I am a horrible actress, and 2) I’m just not that fast on my feet.

I distinctly remember there being NO wind on this day. Even if I was jet-lagged.

NOT a statue. Promise. I checked multiple times.

Finally, the last photos I have to share with you are the fascinating modes of European transportation, and those adorable London phone booths.  Someday, I think I should have one in my home.  (Please, honey?  Pretty please?)

Because you can't go to London without photographing a double-decker bus

And I want a cute little British car, to put in our garage. Just to look at.

Want one. WANT one. Waaaaannnnnnttttttt onnnnneeeeeuuuhhhhh!

Catherine Middleton married her Prince today, and I wish the Royal couple all the best.  But I don’t envy them, because I found my prince a long time ago.  The little girl in me believes in fairytale love and happy endings.  For everyone.  We may not have royal riches and jewels, ladies-in-waiting or countless chambers in a house bigger than some towns, but we have each other.  And for me?  That makes me the richest woman alive.

A Loss for Words

My friends, I am failing you.  I came back from a hiatus last week, promising not to let you down again, and yet here I am- clueless as to what to say to you next.

I considered cheating, even, and filling a couple of posts with photos of signs of spring around here, but unfortunately, a) I haven’t had my camera nearby for photo-ops lately, and b) signs of spring have been temporarily camouflaged by another of Mother Nature’s temper tantrums.

Early last week, I gave you a list of my downfalls.  While this may have seemed a bit harsh to some, I’ve taken on a project lately that has acquainted me with extraordinary women throughout the community.  When faced with what these women have accomplished, it’s hard not to ask my self if doing everything I can as a human being.  Am I too self-absorbed?  Too preoccupied by my own life and problems to see the bigger picture?  Or, worst of all, do I get overwhelmed by it all and exhibit avoidance behavior and withdraw so I don’t have to deal with it?  These ideas are swimming around in my brain, and I’m working through it, little by little.

Whhhhheeeewwwww, it’s getting heavy here.  Lighter subject?

Call me crazy, but one of my favorite spring activities is spring cleaning.  I think that’s a project on my to-do list for the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to get to it.  Spring cleaning is one of my favorite activities; the cobwebs are becoming overwhelming, and I’m anxious to air out the house and let the breezes blow through to make everything fresher.

So there you have it- on my agenda for the remainder of 2011?  Clean my house and save the world.  Probably in that order.  I’ll think of how I intend to change the world while I’m cleaning.  Because cleaning is therapeutic like that.

Have a wonderful week friends.  This time, I promise I’ll be back.  Promise.