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One Year Later!

We're celebrating our one-year anniversary since the big move from New Jersey to Illinois. We moved into this house on Dec. 16, 2011. Hooray!
A lot has happened since that exciting and exhausting day.
The girls have started school and made friends. Dave has made big contributions to his projects at work and I landed a full time job.
I learned that we function best when both parents are working full-time and the girls are in structured school settings. And that I'm a hopeless stay-at-home Mom. Maybe it’s just not in my DNA.
I painted six rooms, mostly by myself, learning tricks and making a few mistakes.
I've enjoyed planning and decorating. There's nothing better than the feeling of visualizing an idea (Flor carpet tiles! Homemade curtains! Raised beds gardens!) and following it through. 
It's great to have the space to make home improvements. To start projects, to stretch out and make a mess and to close the door of the office or leave it all on the dining ro…

In Nana's Kitchen

There's nothing like sitting at your Nana's island being fed and watching her cook zucchini bread.

Happy Hanukkah

Lots to be excited about in these eight nights of Hanukkah. Alice finally got the Rapunzel dress and hair she put on her " list" months ago. And Leah is getting a sweet pair of rollerskates tonight. She might pass out in excitement.

Tears, Oh the Tears

This week I had parent-teacher conferences with the teachers of both girls. It just worked out that way, scheduling-wise. Both girls are doing well. Both have things we need to work on. (Alice doesn't eat at lunch. Why? She’s a picky eater and she chats too much and runs out of time.) I learned a lot about their days in the classroom and how I can help them succeed. But most of all, I learned that parent-teacher conferences is now a task that belongs to David.
I cried.
I’m not sure why. When I started while talking to Alice’s teacher, the topic was mundane day-to-day things. But it somehow made tears sprang to my eyes and I couldn't stop them. It didn't take much to turn into full-on weeping. 
I got a tissue. I attempted to keep the conversation flowing. The teacher really likes Alice. She’s a great kid. I swell up with pride and weep some more. 
Leah’s teacher was via phone, thankfully, and I was able to keep the tears at bay, though I felt the bubble in my throat a fe…

Rockettes and Going Back to New Jersey

What is it about the Rockettes that make me teary?

Thanksgiving morning I'm sitting on Lauren's sofa watching the parade. My girls and Lauren's kids (Heather, who is a day younger than Leah) are running around, screeching and playing. The Rockettes are about to go on and I'm yelling for the kids to come over and watch.

They are beautiful. Graceful. I think about how they were once little girls watching the parade, too, telling their families they were going to Rockettes someday. And the commitment and work and rejection they endured to get on the squad. To be out there on Thanksgiving morning, high-kicks in a line. Call me sentimental. But, I find myself tearing up. Clearing my throat. Go girls! Go!

To be honest, I'm an easier crier. I was nearly in tears the night before over a coffee commerical. It's why waterproof mascara is for everyday, not just to weddings or whatever normal women do.

Later today, we'll go to Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws. It wil…

Hello NY! Goodbye Girls

I tagged along with David this weekend on a work event in NYC. We took advantage of Nana being nearby and enjoyed our first weekend away together in a very long time. 

It's weird to think of NYC as going home, but getting back to the familiar after a year of learning my way around a new place felt just like that. I had a list of people to see and places to visit.

No. 1 on my list: SLEEP IN. Dave's company put us up in the Waldorf Astoria in Midtown. A gigantic hotel perfectly located with incredibly comfortable beds. And with no kids for the weekend, I wasn't getting out of the bed until I was absolutely ready.

We met up with a bunch of friends, and all had stories of Hurricane Sandy and the snow storm. We walked, we shopped, we ate some great meals (though, no pizza this time). We felt lighter without the kids. And it's been a long time since we had a full day in NYC with nothing to run home to, no meetings to attend and a hotel in the City to collapse in at the end…

A Look Back at the Garden

I woke up this morning to a thin layer of frost on the patio furniture. Which, I guess, officially marks the end of the outdoor growing season (unless I had a snazzy cold frame, which someday I might feel confident enough to explore).

Anyway, it got me nostalgic for the garden and my first year here at the new house. I had some triumphs -- the basil, sunflowers, baby carrots. And I had some set-backs -- lettuce, tomatoes, chives. But overall, a good harvest. And I learned a bunch!




Already starting to plan next year's garden. Would like to try more cutting flowers, maybe a fruit or two, and solve when-to-harvet-lettuce mystery I was dogged by this year.

Instagram Gallery Project

I've been loving the filters I can use with Instagram. Recently, I found a service that will print them in Polaroid-like squares. It took a few weeks for them to arrive, but when they did, they were better than I expected.

I'd been brainstorming how to display them -- but finding frames in this small size isn't easy. And they are lo-res, so the smaller, the better.

As a fan of the clothesline minimalist look, I finally got around to hanging them in the dining room. It came out great!





Related posts:
More Dining Room stories

Project: Dining Room Shelves

I've been staring at this wall in my dining room for months. And, after a lot of browsing through design books and websites, I narrowed down my goals to these:
More storage for serving piecesNot another large piece of furnitureUse wood matching the dining room table So, it became obvious that shelves were what I wanted.  A few trips to all the hardware stores over the last month helped me narrow down available supplies, so when I was ready, here's what I shopped for:
Three pine boardsPre-Stain"Classic Gray" wood stainSanding blocksSix shelf brackets (in a stainless steel)Lug screws - 18 (extras just in case) I was able to keep well under my budget on this one (under $100) -- which just puts more cash into my dining room curtain budget. Yay!

Here are the steps:

First, stain the pine shelf boards from Home Depot with pre-stain, then "classic gray" wood stain that matches my table. And a few coats of poly (water-based, my favorite product).

In between coats, I hu…

Going Gray

When Liza and Eric were visiting last weekend, Liza suggested a moody gray for the dining room/living room. And I thought "why didn't I think of that!"

(I might have even said it aloud.)

It will look great with navy and green (my overall house colors) and show off the black frames and the white buffet.

In a word: genius!

Got all the grey paint chips today to compare and hope to have a large test on the wall by Monday.

Now to figure out if it's "gray" or "grey."



Related posts:
More dining room plans

Reused Salsa Jars

I've been saving glass salsa jars because they are just the right size and shape for markers and pens. One night I got creative with labels (thanks to Martha and Avery.com).

They came out cute!

Coffee Table - My New Idea

I've been struggling with the idea of a coffee table for months now.

I need two coffee tables. One that is sturdy, medium-sized and can be slightly destroyed for the family room. We can put popcorn and drinks on, jump off of (though, not encouraged) it and can be tipped over when the Giants lose. And one for the living room that has two levels and that I can feature books on and put my feet up on when reading on those comfy sofas.

In both cases, I'd prefer something used and made of solid wood -- so I can paint, strip and/or restain it as needed in the future.

I've been haunting craigslist and a few thrift and antique stores in my neighborhoods and have continued to come up empty.

Lately, I've started to go through catalogs and tried to put my desire to buy used aside just to find the perfect solution. But it's mostly veneers -- unless I want to pay a small fortune. Veneers just don't last.

Another concept I'm playing with in home decorating is reusablilty.…

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman Book Review

Bringing Up Bebe By Pameal Druckerman
I’m currently listening to Bringing Up Bebe on my commutes into work. I’ve been curious about the book ever since its release but decided I missed the boat, as my kids were already born. But to satisfy my occasional Francophile itch (my copy of Amalie is MIA) I grabbed the audiobook from the library and popped it in. And I’m happy I did.
My conclusion: Parisian mothers don’t have it all worked out (glad to affirm that we’re all floundering) but they view some parenting concepts in much different ways.
For instance, they embrace day care – mostly because it’s government subsidized and the care givers are practically pediatricians. They often say “the perfect mother doesn’t exist.” And they don’t believe in over-scheduling children but allowing them freedom to discover on their own, or “awaken.” Independent play is hugely important. Their kids sleep through the night at 3 months (mine did too) and are good eaters – though I suspect the latter is du…

Fall Excitement

This fall features the release of a smorgasbord of books from my absolute favorite authors. I’m so anxious to start reading!  Here’s the line-up:

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr: Wicked Lovely was one of my favorite series. No matter how deep into the fairy world it got, Marr was able to ground it for me. This new series sounds more mad-capped and romantic. It’s getting rave reviews. (Out now.)

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor: This is a sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which featured twists I didn’t see coming (I’m crazy-good at spotting twists) and Taylor’s excellent writing. Karou’s entire world is literally falling down around her, so I gotta know where this is going. Excerpt here. (Out Nov.)

The Kill Order by James Dashner: I wasn’t even hoping for this one, but BANG, here it is. The Maze Runner prequel is said to be a nonstop ride that ends with (get this:) Thomas entering the Maze – how cool is that?! I’m breathless just thinking about it. (Out now.)

The Raven Bo…

Caffeine Test: Part 2 (Much Needed)

I thought I was done with this caffeine test, but I was wrong. After a long night with Alice refusing to sleep, I'm trying a new form: White tea!

It's got antioxidants, no milk and I can control the amount of caffeine I get by how long I steep the bag. It's a good start, at least.

Wish me luck!





Related posts:

More of my Coffee journey

Alice's 4th Birthday!

My baby is FOUR today!! What a big girl!

She got a tennis-player Barbie and pink convertible for doll to drive around in. Leah picked out a Blueberry Muffin doll (which was her Halloween costume last year) and Dave picked out a microphone for her to play with.

It was a happy morning.



Relate posts:
More more and more Alice

Alice at Four

With this monumental 4th birthday -- she's not my baby anymore -- I wanted to document a little about our Alice.
Alice's short hair is mostly blonde and mostly curly. She doesn’t hate to have it brushed, but she prefers to keep it wavy -- especially the front pieces she can see. She loves to polish her nails.
Alice has a pink blanket with satin edging that she strokes to fall asleep. Currently, she’s inexplicably unwilling to fall asleep in her bed. A phase that I should have seen coming, as she’s always been a reluctant fall-asleeper.
Alice says “Lellow,” instead of Yellow. And, if you’re really funny, you’re “kilarious.” A few months ago she was trying to think of a name for her toy and came up with “Cermencho.” Leah swiftly vetoed it.
She’s got crazy core strength, left over from years of doing baby crunches on the changing table. She hated that diaper changing had to be done prone, and tried to sit up each time. We send her to gymnastics on Saturdays and she’s excited ab…

Ready for Ballet Class

Nana took Leah out for new ballet clothes. Her first class is on Wednesday.

Hello Stranger

I've been thinking a lot lately about caffeine.

Why? Because I've been avoiding all caffeine (other than chocolate, obviously) for the last 15ish years. It doesn't go well with my stomach issues -- and I'm over-sensitive to it, gives me major jitters.

Also, I'm not so much a fan of being addicted to a food (except chocolate, obviously) and I've met friends who "come off of coffee" with different results. Not for me.

But recently, I've been feeling a lot less productive. There's so much I want to accomplish in a day -- at work and at home -- and I'm not crossing enough off my list to feel satisfied. I lose steam. My mind wanders. My eyelids droop in 2:30 meetings.

... What was I saying? *yawn*

Dave says I should be exercising more to increase my energy level -- which is an altogether different post. But I only see that solution as another ADDITION to a to-do list that is already out of control.

I've read a few studies that have come ou…

Crazy at Camp

Just got back from a great labor day at camp in the Birkshires. All five granddaughters were there. We all had too much fun.

Good morning Alice

A little Alice for your Monday morning.




Related links: More Alice pictures Check out that Family Room! 

Meet My First Grader

This week marked the end of summer and the first days of 1st Grade for Leah!

First, I can't believe summer is already over. And I can't believe Leah is already in 1st grade! I remember first grade. Mrs. Evanson at Widsten Elementary. I sat near a boy named Joey. Carol was in a classroom down the hall.

On Tuesday, I took the day off to take advantage of the elementary school "sneak peek." We got to drop of all of Leah's supplies, ready her desk and meet her teacher Mrs. Enquist. We were amazed by the numerous bins of books along the wall.

Leah was pretty brave about the whole thing, even though it was overwhelming. The school is large and a maze of hallways. Her major worry was how she was going to get from the school bus to her classroom without getting lost along the way. 

Since I had the day off, we also went shopping for a new outfit to wear on the first day and shoes. Plus, Leah had a dentist appointment. Big fun. Then, it was off to Tuesday nigh soccer pra…

Chaos Reigns

Nana and I worked on a project for Ever in the living room. With help from the kids of course. It looks like a small tornado came through. 

School Registration Day

Public school is no joke, people.

I had no idea what I was getting into until I pulled up to the middle school last night where the large school district was attempting to register somewhere around 13,000 kids -- in three days. We live in a massively huge district.

Upon entering the middle school, I was given a map that would direct me to multiple stations. First, I had to prove I was a resident. Then, I got Leah's class assignment, bus tag and other information I have yet to fully read. Then, transportation and school nurse, which I was mercifully able to bypass (though next year there are more vaccines for 2nd graders). Next was a room for school lunches, paying for registration, waiving registration payments and other special needs.

Last, it was into a room with class lists (I took a picture of the list of Leah's new classmates -- since they didn't have them for take-home). I also picked up an absolutely huge supply list (six glue sticks!). There were also a ton of t-sh…

Career Day

... This week the girls had a "what do you want to be when you grow up?" day at camp.

Leah: I want to be a ballerina (leotard didn't fit), a soccer player (didn't want to wear her jersey), a photographer. Upon further questioning, a photographer of animals in the jungle.

Alice: I want to be a tennis player. Done. And she wants us to watch her win the Piston Cup. And maybe a gold medal. But definitely the Piston Cup.

Score one for Mom: I created and cut out props for both girls so they could show off their future careers. No other kids were as prepared. Thank you.

I'm An Idiot

So maybe not an idiot ... because the first day of school is always, universally, the day after Labor Day. Minnetonka started after Labor Day, Dave's school was after Labor Day and in New Jersey where Leah started Kindergarten, too. Like Election Day is always the first Tuesday in November. So, maybe I just assumed the same was true here in Illinois.

I was wrong.

The first day for First Graders is Aug. 22. Does that strike anyone else as just a random date? School in August? It's sacrilege! It's crazy! Are we going to voting in Oct., too?

Anyway, idiot that I am, I didn't check and now Leah will miss four days after only being in school for four days to hang out at the camp.

But I have to think other people make Labor Day travel plans, right?!

Doh!

My Baby

Just looking at some old photos of my baby while putting together her birthday invitation. Fourth birthday!?! Where did my baby go?

The Best Sandwich

Ham, turkey bacon, provolone, chipotle mayo, fresh tomatoes and onions on a piece of nan bread. Sure I can't get good pizza but this sandwich will do for now.

Welcome Everett Wittenberg

We've been on pins and needles all day! But, finally, news from the hospital:

It's a GIRL! 7lbs, 8 oz. 19 inches long. 

We just can't wait to meet my FIFTH niece: Everett Hope! 


Congrats Liza and Eric! 

Photo for a Monday Afternoon

Glamor girl!

Minnesota Weekend

"If you find yourself a tourist in the town you grew up in..."

So I'm back in Minnetonka and I realize I can't remember the highway names and stores that were once there are no longer there. It's been 16 years since I was last a resident, so I guess the memory lapse is understandable.

We had a great weekend. We rented a minivan for the 6-hour drive through Wisconsin. The Mall of America is not the cheesey destination of my youth, but an upscale family destination where we had an awesome time.  Then we went to Uncle Bob's to play in the pool, jump on the tramp and rides around Lake Minnetonka on a motor boat. Fantastic time.


The Lamp Project

This lamp was left in the house when we bought it. Kinda funny looking and no shade. It was set to a timer and it's purpose was making it look like someone was home while the house was empty and on the market. Not one for tossing out a perfectly functional lamp, I turned it into a project.

I started by sanding and power-washing the dust off. Then I set up a spray painting center in the garage. I was going to paint it several colors like blue and yellow, but it looked silly. So I sprayed it all white.

The shade I found at Target for $20.

Meet Mr Darcy and Ms Lizzy

Arn't they cute?
Let the decorating ... and reading ... begin!

Hooks Are Always the Solution

The Problem: When walking in through the garage door, I'm usually weighted down with bags from school, shops and my purse.

Sometimes, they make it through the back hallway and land in front of the wall once known as the gallery (see post below for the before photo). When they do, it looks messy and awful -- dragging in dirt and messy stuff. Or, like in this before photo, they end up on the floor and get kicked and tripped over.

Now that I've painted the back hallway green ... it's time to find some solutions to that. And my best solutions usually include HOOKS.

So, a trip to Anthropologie netted some cool, iron hooks that I'll scatter around the wall in a arty-fartsy-yet-functional way.

The Finished Look: Four hooks now stand ready to take on the bags of our lives. A round mirror that hangs above them are merely temporary -- as I look for something dark and iron-y to add even more flare to this utility space.

Living Room Before the Sofas Move In

Here's a good look of the living room before the sofas arrive.
It's pretty much an open space of possibility. The corner table is staying and will be separating the love seat (under the red picture) with the sofa (centered under the windows). The doll house is going, of course. And a vintage coffee table is still waiting to be discovered at a local thrift or antique mart.

Two designs dilemmas exist:

1. Wall color. Right now the beige wall looks similar to the new beige sofas. What color should I paint the walls? The green from the hall? Blue? Gold? I'm accepting any and all input.

2. Window Treatments. What am I going to do about those odd, high windows in the room? I'd love to put drapes on them, to soften up the squares and add texture to the room but how? I think they'd look like silly because they are so high and square.


After picture, with the sofas and maybe a wall color, coming soon! 


Related posts:

More dining room plans

Guest Editor: The New Sofa

Hello, I am the New Sofa!

Jessica allowed me to post a quick introduction of myself on her blog. She got me and my little brother Love Seat at 50% off -- with free delivery -- at my store's Independence Day sale (early, I guess) this weekend. Which was a pretty good deal because I'm awesome. I'm a mix of mid-century modern (did you notice the slope of my arms?) and modern chic. Yes, that's orange on my pillows. Rad!

I'm excited to be leaving the warehouse and going to live in their fancy living room, which is nearly empty. I'm told I'll be used mainly for reading books, naps and entertaining guests who don't want to sit in front of the TV. I'm beige, so I'm guessing Jessica's going to want to paint the walls around me pronto. Right now those walls are beige, too.

The best part is I'm getting delivered on Saturday! Six days after she picked me out. Well, actually, she found me 4 months ago, but she wanted to shop around. Guess she liked …

Goodies From the Queen

David has a colleague in London who is my supplier of all things Royal Family related. He was just in Dublin, meeting with her, and brought me back these souvenirs from the Queen's Diamond Jubilee -- which I watched and read about all weekend. Sigh.

I'll add this to my collection of tea cups from the Wills and Katherine wedding and mug from Charles and Camilla's wedding. Hell, I think I'll now need a shelf to display my Anglophile-goodness on. Yippee!

And the cookies in the tin weren't too bad, either. 

Sophie's Wedding - A Few Photos

We went to Sophie's wedding a few weekends ago and I'm finally getting around to uploading photos.

The girls had an amazing time with their cousins, as usual.

 I ate something wrong and was throwing up the night before. Not fun. But I rallied and made it to the ceremony and reception ... and ... aww ... I just love a wedding. *sniff*


The bride looked gorgeous and was sincerely glowing. GLOWING. And the girls were the most popular bunch on the dance floor. We left at about the time Leah was throwing a fit because she wanted one of the bride's maid's bouquet.