Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today's Letters Is Fun

When I came across the blog, Today's Letters, I was immediately struck.  

I have quoted their subtitle thingy before, "There are many things that can change a life...a letter is one of them."  Wow.  So very much true.  Many times letters have changed lives and changed history.  See: the Bible, anything exchanged during and before the pony express, and all those letters that we each have saved and tucked away from people we love.  

Tim & Em, the Today's Letters people.

I talk about letters sometimes.  I do this because I think that there are so many important things that are left unsaid.  Cute stationery is great and all, but nothing is better than putting important, encouraging thoughts and feelings down on paper and sending it off to someone that means a lot to you.  

Another thing that immediately struck me was that their About Me section ended with "Holla."  Anyone who knows the correct way to spell holla is solid in my book.  Also, it was sign that being silly and goofy was an element of their blog and their letters.  I love me some silly and goofy.  

Every Friday, they have Fist Pump Friday where people from all over the world give their best fist pumps and leg kicks.  Sometimes they present a challenge: this week fist pumps in front of your favorite local pizza joint.  If you're from Chattanooga, then you know that there was only one option: Lupi's

So, my small friend Patty and I did it.  We went there and got our pictures taken with one of the employees who has been working there since I've been eating there-somewhere back in high school-15 years ago.  Lupi's was one of the first cool places in our downtown, they play their music loudly, they used Christmas lights all year round before everyone else did, and they are the home to where John and I fell in love.  Over calzones.  Lurv them.  

So, enjoy this day.  
Write that letter that you want.  
Do something quirky and silly.  
On the streets of your downtown or not.
It'll make ya smile.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Laundry Closet - Before & After

I'm sure that everyone has been staying up at night wondering just exactly was the beauty behind the laundry doors.  Yeah.  I'm sure.

First, let's just take a little reminder of the before and after transformation:

That transformation in itself was enough to have me singing praise songs and skipping to do laundry.  I've seen amazing laundry rooms that are large and well organized, but something struck me while facebook stalking a couple of my friends:  I saw where people were hanging pictures above their washer and dryer and I thought, "well, now if that isn't smart to make something cute to look at while they do the laundry shuffle!"

My version of that was to paint the back wall a fun color.  I went with an aqua color that is not too blue and not too green and it pretty much is my favorite thing about this room.  If you come over, then I'll walk you in there and point to the wall and hope that you Ooo and Ahh over the beauty of this color and how fun it is!

Then, there are the shelves!  Oh two glorious, long, sturdy, aqua shelves that I can pack full of house necessities!  Be still my heart, because I'm a happy housewife.  I feel so good that I'm considering laying rose petals down on my path to the laundry closet.

No fancy appliances.  No large organizational spaces.  Just a painted wall and a couple of shelves to make me feel like I have the luxurious-est laundry space.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One Good Eater

There is something about Burl eating that I think is just adorable, precious, and pitiful all wrapped up into one.  He eagerly accepts every dish with anticipation.  He dives right in and eats.  He has no idea what it's going to taste like, feel like, or how it's going to go down.  Most of the time he doesn't know quite how to eat it either.

Except for breakfast.  Every morning he has a bowl of broccoli and an egg.  It's a big deal.  He gets wiggly and excited as I walk towards him with the bowl of broccoli.  

Broccoli is not a normal breakfast food, I know.  However, when he went through a picky stage, a friend told me to introduce vegetables into breakfast, the time of day when they eat the most.  I started with veggie omelets and it evolved into a bowl of broccoli and a plate of eggs.  I've just kept it that way because it frees me up to be loose for the rest of the day.  Lunch at a fast-food joint, being spoiled with food by all the grandparents, etc.  It's all good.  He's already had some greens.

It's all pretty awesome.  Having a kid who loves to eat.  He enjoys edamame.  He picks the sauteed spinach out to eat first before the pasta.  Snacks won't spoil his supper.  He's a great eater.

However deep and wide his variety of foods are, I don't want him to think that I'm proud of him for eating all these foods.  The policy has always been (for the most part), take or leave it, but it's all you got.  We never force him to eat.  

Instead, I want him to enjoy as many foods as he can, because God gave us lots of different foods and taste buds to enjoy them all.  He gave us different textures and different colors to enjoy. He also called us to eat together.  And I want Burl to learn that.  

I want him to know that food is something to enjoy in all its varieties and meal time is a great time to spend with people.  It's a time to stop what we're doing, eat at a table, and spend time talking and enjoying.  If he uses his silverware along the way, that would be great too.  

But for now, we just enjoy meal times with him and whoever joins us.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Den: Before & After

I so wish that I was one of those "don't own a TV" or "never have time for TV" people, but truth be told, I love TV.  It's not on much during the day, but at night John and I love to crash on the couch in front of Survivor, Modern Family, 30 rock, NOVA on public TV, or Lord of the Rings for the 100th time.  

Our den contains our TV and laundry room, so we spend a good bit of time in there.  Up until this summer we sat in there with a big weight on our shoulders.  A weight of not doing what we thought we would do.

We thought that our den would be the first room to redo.  Oh no, it took over 5 years for us to pull up our boots and get it done.  When we finally started on the project, I snapped some before pictures.  Here is the view from the kitchen:

Carpet + paint do an AWESOME job.  Carpet.and.paint.  We went with the Martha Stewart line at Home Depot for our carpet.  First, let me say that the people at Home Depot (every single employee) were the best to work with.  They were nice, knowledgeable, quick, and very, very helpful.  I even wrote their home office telling them about my great service.  

Here are some tips that we learned:

1. If we bought the Martha Stewart line, installation was only $37.  For a whole house or for just room.  $37 flat.
2. If we paid Home Depot to install it, then the transaction became a service, making everything tax free.  The labor, the carpet, the pad.  Everything.
3. Originally, we were going to go with a cream-ish color on the wall.  However, Martha Stewart (herself, I assume) has pre-selected her paint colors that coordinate with her carpet colors.  All we had to do was look for the symbol.  Our symbol was an apple, so I took that to the paint department and found that Pure White was the coordinating color.  I'm usually all about picking it myself, but I had to trust Martha on this one.  She was right.

Another thing that we did was talk to my aunt who is a decorator by nature and profession.  She gave me some pointers about the layout and where to focus my money.  

See that big white TV cabinet in the before picture?  I love it and I'm an avid believer of being able to hide a TV during its downtime.  Well, she told me that the cabinet was too close to the ceiling, which made the ceiling seem lower, then making the room feel smaller.  So I changed it.  I (and by I, I mean John and a neighbor) switched some den furniture for some dining room furniture and just like that it made the room feel bigger, the window was more exposed, and all my problems just melted away.

The layout that she suggested sounded great, but once we had it set up, it just didn't feel right.  So, we moved things around until they did-which was pretty much the original layout.  

Another big project was the laundry closet.  Whoever built this little closet did not have the same hopes and dreams for a laundry closet as I do.  It was L-shaped (unable to fit doors), had a drop ceiling, and the most random storage space above.

John ripped it out and built us a closet where I can hide the washer and dryer.  It pretty much rocked our world.  Come back later where I give more details of the beauty that is behind those doors.  (It's my favorite part of the room!)

And that's our den.  Our new den that makes us relaxed and happy and just giddy to be in there.  These pictures are all labeled "after" but really, they should be called "during" or "almost done" or "just about there."  We have some trim work to finish, we're going to paint the metal on the windows, and let's not forget about accessories.  I'm so excited about making and adding some pillows and such.

For now, the new carpet smell is gone, we can function in there, and we're just enjoying the refreshing feeling of finally doing what we had planned on doing first thing, five years ago.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

This Week's Menu

I'm trying hard to change it up when it comes to food.  Healthy eating paired with variety can get expensive though.  I know it doesn't have to be, but for me, I haven't figured it out.  It's appalling how fast my weekly grocery budget disappears.  I don't coupon when it comes to groceries (now, clothes and crafts, I'm a master couponer).  Any advice is welcome! This week, we're eating some of my favorites.  Repeats, but favorites...

Lasagna (best recipe ever-which involves layering the sauce on top instead of cheese, a brilliant idea so that the cheese stays moist instead of getting dried and crusty)
Grilled chicken sandwiches, grilled squash and zucchini
Bean and sausage soup
Tostadas topped with smoked pork butt, corn
Brown butter tortellini with wilted spinach

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cooking Club At My House

Tuesday night was Cooking Club.  I hosted.  Here's how we do things: 

Once a month-ish we pick a night that all works with our schedules.  It might be a Thursday or a Monday, but it always changes.  We usually meet late-7:30, which means dinner is at 8 or later. It works out best this way.  Whoever is hosting, picks the theme.  There are 8 of us, so we have several courses:

2 Main Dishes
2 Sides

Drinks.  The host is in charge of the drinks seeing as it's hard to transport beverages.

It's all really fancy and a ton of food and we kind of get dressed up-or at least put on a fresh coat of makeup.  

Last night was no exception.  The food was great, our talk was fun, and we just focused on our common bond of food.  For our theme, I picked Local.  We could make anything, but at least one ingredient had to be local-from our garden or purchased locally.  

We had eggplant from someone's garden, local honey, local bacon (for the brownies, yep bacon in the brownies), cheese from a local farm, etc.  It was all very fun.  Andy VERY YUMMY.

One of the fun parts of the night for me was the hour that I had to get ready.  John and Burl left the house for a calzone at our favorite, LOCAL, pizzeria, so I was alone. In the house. By myself.  The house was clean, the drinks were made, so I focused on the important things like candle lighting, dancing around, and setting the table.  Girly things, oh how I love you!

I even busted out my Emily Post Etiquette book to figure out where the salad plate went and remind myself for the 400th time which way the knife blade faces.  Important things, I tell you.

Things that I remember:
BMW: From left to right, the order is Bread-Meal-Water.  Bread (or salad plate) on the left-Meal in the center-and Water (and other drinks) on the right-not pictured.

Silverware is set up working from the outside-in.  We had soup first, so I included a soup spoon on the far right.  We had salad next, so it's further away from the center (aka the dinner plate).

The knife blade faces the food because that's what it does-it likes to cut food.

And I'm pretty sure that the napkin can go wherever it wants to.  Traditionally, it went under the forks.  Then, we got fly in the 80s and turned it into random things like ducks, then the 90s hit we had to bundle it up in a napkin ring-the creative the better, and now we're keeping it real in the 21st century.  We like it casually laid down.  I slapped mine right on the plate.

All girly things.  All fun, girly things that don't matter in the grand scheme of things but are fun to do when we have the house to ourselves.  Plus, it's always good practice, because we never know when the President is going to show up for dinner.

After the table was set, candles lit, and music on, the girls started to arrive and I got busy talking and didn't pick up my camera again.  The white plates were decorated by mother nature's finest: a rainbow of colors, textures and flavors that kept us eating until we were stuffed.  It was fun.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flurry of Activity

A flurry of activity is what I'm calling this little stage in our lives.  We're not quite at "snowing" and I definitely can't call this a "blizzard."  Flurry sounds about right.

With #2 quickly approaching, we are quickly trying to get things accomplished.  Also, Burl has dropped his first nap for the most part, so there is more awake time to spend with him-or sometimes figure out how to occupy him.  A trip to Home Depot becomes an adventure where Burl gets to sit on the riding lawn mowers and play.  Making drinks for cooking club becomes Burl gets to cook time.  And so on and so on, 

Because more than most times, he's right there with us, helping us.

Since my taste and desire to decorate doesn't quite match our budget, we find ourselves in the world of DIY.  Do It Yourself.  In preparing the nursery, we have to clean out a room-relocate our office area, so naturally I get John to build a desk and my brother to build a bookshelf.  

It's how we roll. 

We're also learning to roll with the punches.  Burl draws on the wall, and we laugh, take pictures and get excited because now we have our "remember that time he drew on the walls" story.  One day, we can put it with the "he gave himself a haircut" story." Seriously, joke's over now.  That spot has grown.  Burl has turned a one-time-oops into a regular go-to spot whenever he gets a pencil or crayon in his hands.  

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me several times in the past week, well, that's just sad.

For all the work we're doing, I'm trying to match it with fun adventures for Burl.  We revisited the duck pond.  The one from my childhood.  The one that now has a Walmart across from it.  

Things didn't go too well this time.  We stepped in way too much duck poo and found the wildlife to be a bit aggressive.  

I showed up with our regular dose of bread to feed them, and they got way too close for comfort.  Eventually, we packed it up and left.  There's something uncomfortable about being surrounded by Walmart-ducks trying to fight for the next piece of bread-only to find myself holding Burl and quacking back while continually stepping on a ripe pile of crap.  Literally.  

Not cool, mother nature. 

One day we had Burl's cousins over for a bit which is the same thing as Burl Heaven.  He was stoked.  We went to a new playground just two blocks from our house where we found a slide perfect for Burl to do solo.  Wild, static hair and all.  

For the record, we walked there.  Me + 2 toddlers + 2 kids + one single stroller = adventure.

My Bob Revolution held up nicely.  It could handle all four, but did best with just two toddlers and just one kid.  I can only imagine the sight we were walking down the street.  It was the most exciting two blocks of my life.

Group shot.  I told them to do silly faces and this is what I got.  Doesn't it look like an album cover?  Or maybe they are about to pop into song and dance and a big yellow bird is going to jump out from behind the tree and tell the what words start with the letter "m."

Now, it's Burl's nap time, so I better get back to work on project #8590231.  Wait, is that my lower back talking to me?  Guess I'll have to rest for a bit instead...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Free Printables

I love when I get a text that says, "go to my stationary pinterest board and look at what I just posted."  Well, I did, and here is what I found:

Before you go there, brace yourself:
Turn on the printer.
Load the card stock.
Get ready.

There are 101 free downloads of cute things to print.  From cards, to stickers, to bookmarks, to wrapping supplies, to envelope liners, it's amazing.  I skimmed through and picked out a few of my favorites.  I've linked every picture to the original website, so feel free to click on the picture to take you to it's birthplace of cuteness.

My absolute favorite are the camper note cards.  Adorbs, right?  That's how cool people say adorable...or is it how valley girls say it?  Either way, I'm throwing it out there.

I use to dislike fill-in-the-blank invitations, but they've really grown on me.  I think it's cool to do for something casual, like a girls' night in or something.  It's a combination of everything I like: parties, paper, mail, and writing stuff with a pen.

I love these stickers and I've got a million and one ways floating in my head on how they can be used.  John's going to come home one day and see everything labeled with cute little round stickers.  And I mean, everything.  From the linen closet, to spices, to our children.  If it has a name, I want to label it.

Tutorial for envelope liners are a bit much, but too cute to pass up!

Bird tags - so hot right now.

Since I love to wrap things cutely, a whole download of stuff is the bees.knees.

Not sure how I would use the vintage post cards, but I'm sure I can find something to do with them.  They combine two great things: vintage with mailing supplies.

Cute bookplates are so fun.  Wanna know what a bookplate is?  They're so important that Wikipedia has defined them.  They are "usually a small print or decorative label pasted into a book, often on the inside front cover, to indicate its owner."  They are usually hanging next to the pocket protectors.  Nerd and cool all wrapped up into one.

Last but not least, a little gift tag/bookmark that resembles Orla Kiely.  Lurv it.

Again, I linked the website for each to the picture.  Click the picture and it will take ya straight to its home.  Then, the printing is yours!  Enjoy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

This Week's Menu

Every Friday is grocery day.  Sometimes it becomes Saturday.  Sometimes it even bleeds over to Monday.  Before I get groceries, I have to make my list.  Before I make my list, I make a meal plan.  Every Sunday night, I post it on my blog.  Just for fun.  Just for a record.  Just so I can go back and see what I've made, as well as have a place for links to online recipes.  Here goes nothin'

Grilled burgers & tots.  Impressive, I know.
Homemade pizza
Tilapia with lemon caper reduction, brown rice, asparagus
Rigatoni with red sauce

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Come On, Baby!

Two babies.  Two.  It's a little different than just one.  The first one went pretty well.  Having Burl seemed to improve our lives-make it better, richer, and somewhat easier.  It helped that he was just about the easiest baby ever.  Slept through the night at 5 weeks, hardly cried, nursed like a champ, had lots of family to help-all the good stuff.  

He just came out laid back.  Anymore laid back and I would have expected him to throw a peace sign up and asked where the incense was.  He taught me a thing or two about chillaxin'.

With baby #2 just six(ish) weeks away, I'm thinking about life with two.  

can I do it? 
will I ever have alone time again?
will I walk around like a zomby?
what will Burl do while I nurse?
how will I handle anything harder than Burl?
how fast can I get a runner's body after birth even though I didn't have one to start with?

When those questions roll around in my head, all I hear are the discouraging things people have told me-I'll never have a baby as easy as Burl, going from 1 to 2 babies was the hardest adjustment, there will never be time for napping, Burl is going to lose his mind with jealousy, and losing the baby weight after 30 is not the same.  And some of those or all of them, might be very true.

But, as I see pictures of Burl as a newborn, as I feel her move inside me, as I unfold these concerns to John, I'm reminded of the complete and utter joy that comes with the miracle of birth.  Of having another one!  I'm clinging to the truth that my friend (Juli A.) told me after I met her #2, with tears in her eyes, all she felt was ABUNDANCE.  She kept saying that word over and over.  I'm clinging to the fact that I know that having babies is just plain awesome.  Complete miracle.  Complete Gift.  And I'm ready to receive it.  

When I get overwhelmed, the Lord sends people in my life like John and Lauren and others who affirm me beyond belief.  I'll remember those times-

That pregnancy meltdown I had a few weeks ago, where John hugged me and reminded me that I had the same concerns before Burl and look how great that turned out.  All that needed was this song playing in the background.

That email exchange with Lauren where I told her all my fears and she replied back telling me that I was going to make it and I'm going to do great.  It rivaled this speech for the award for most compelling.

Then, there are those friends who remind me that God shows up big time to give us strength and grace to do it.  To make it.  Even though sometimes "the truth bats last," (words from Anne Lamott's Grace Eventually) I'm going to try and focus on that.  I'm going to cling to the reality that I can't do it, but I've got help from Someone who has the strength, the love, and the grace to get me through it.  


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Some Good Ideas

Recently, I was scanning my favorite tumbler, Suziebeezie, and came across several cute pictures.  The pictures struck me as clever, cute, and just plain wonderful.  Here are ten little pictures that I'm calling Good Ideas:

Any good picture of indoor plants makes me swoon and reminds me that it really looks stunning to maintain house plants.  I just have to remember to water!

Then, I see the picture above of several herbs in a planter and am reminded that they don't have to be expensive or grand.  Potted herbs can have the same effect as big plants.

And how cute are those pots?  I'm not a fan of those fabrics, but I could find some that I like and make my pots super-cute.  Directions HERE.  Note to self: add mod podge to the Walmart list.

Speaking of lists, how cute is this meal plan board?  I love it!  I might not make one as cute, but I can sure as heck get a wicked excel spreadsheet going.  That would make meals easier to plan!

Then, there is something about an organized, labeled, pretty cabinet that makes me happy.  

I spend so much time opening and closing cabinets, closets and drawers.  Why not take a little extra time to make them pretty and organized to look at?  One day.

Once my ninos get a bit older, I'm sure that I'm going to need this much gear to make it on a road trip.  Cute much?  Indeed.

This last picture is my favorite.  Lots of white, plus a splash of colors is soothing.  It's just enough color to make me feel wild, but not too much to make me feel crazy.  And how easy would that be to make?  Maybe for baby #2's room...