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Showing posts from July, 2013

Treasures in an Alleyway

I got some bad news yesterday at work, so I decided to go for a walk around Evanston. I was pretty pleased to discover this row of pastel cars. Delightful, no?

The Garden Update for End of July

It's late July and here's the news from my veggie garden.

The good: We started harvesting cucumbers (yum!) and we've gotten a second harvest out of the lettuce, likely to be one or two more! I'm starting to pull the onions out of the ground and am fascinated by the "curing" process.

The bad: The beans just withered up and died and I'm not sure why or what happened. I never even got a decent yield out of them. Also, not sure what to do about this broccoli. Where are the little trees?

Updates: I added a pepper plant to each garden last weekend. I'm also noticing the few cilantro plants I left after harvesting is starting to come back. I was told to pull the entire plant after the first harvest. Next time, I'll leave them and see what happens.

 More photos ...

Pom-Pom Wreath is Finally Done!

I started this pom-pom wreath as part of a playdate for Leah and her friend. The glue wasn't working on the Styrofoam very well, so they got bored with it fairly quickly and found something else to do.

Then, I sat there for another hour, wrestling with glue and getting pom-poms everywhere. I eventually gave up and packed it away.

This was in December.

Ever since, it's been sitting on my desk in the office half-done and taunting me.

I bought a hot glue gun in April, with the intention of finishing it, but I never got around to it.

Until this week!

I only had to dedicate 30 minutes of my time, and the tender flesh on my thumb and pointer finger (that gun was HOT), to finish it. But it's now done!

Happy dance!!

Landscaping Project See Progress

Dateline: My Backyard

Good news to report from my backyard, the landscaping projects I kicked off earlier this summer (read the planning stages) are now underway!

Leah and I have been buying up little perennials like coleus, stonecrop and other low-maintenance plants and with a chilly (61 degrees!) morning, today was the perfect time to get dirty.

Mom came over and I assigned her the task of moving the black-eyed Susans from one side of the yard to the other -- to make way for more lawn (late fall project ... more later). Meanwhile, I cleaned out the area around the struggling lilac and planted and planted.

As you'll see, I need to buy A LOT more mulch to cover more garden. But will save that for another weekend. For now, I'm pretty pleased with the progress.

My Entry into Cosmetics

A year ago, I started to wear eye makeup on a daily basis.

This statement might seem strange, as it was my 36th birthday when I made this resolution. And not, say, my 16th.

As a teen, I wasn't really into makeup. I didn't think I needed it and I hated girls who wore too much and looked garish. Honestly, I didn't spend much time in front of a mirror.

But lately I've noticed my eyes are looking droopier, puffier and tired (which, I am). Plus, I have some red spots and burst blood vessels that make my cheeks and nose too rosy. (Thanks childbirth!)

So, enter my experiments into cosmetics.

I’ve spend the last year trying to figure out what girls in their teens usually discover. I recently learned how to apply eye-liner, something my older sister mastered in high school. (While driving and shifting gears.) I'm oddly proud of that accomplishment.

Lately, I’ve been looking for a decent lipstick and after a florescent coral disaster from Target, I decided to hit the Sephor…


Is it just me or does this happen to everyone? Every year or so my skin peels off from my hands. This year, it's mostly the tips of my fingers. 
It makes me think of a snake shedding its skin. Which is awesome. 

'Airborn' Audiobook Review

Audiobook: 'Airborn' by Kenneth Oppel
Read by: Full Cast
Genre: YA Lit, Steampunk

This was a bit of an unconventional choice for me -- mostly because it was a high-seas action (boy) book with zero chance of kissing, but I was tempted anyway because it sounded so much like the Leviathan, the steampunk trilogy I read a few years ago. And I was in the mood for an adventure.

Happy I tried it out, as this book was filled with excellent high-seas adventure. And I liked the full-cast performance (it was the first I'd come across) -- it really elevated my enjoyment of the story and the characters.

Matt Cruise is a cabin boy on an airship called the Aurora. In steampunk fashion, it's a Victorian-era ship (zeppelin) that flies the Pacificus to exotic ports of call. Matt meets Kate, a bold heiress and budding scientist out to prove her grandfather had found something extraordinary before he died. Matt joins her crusade -- amid pirates and shipwrecks.

Matt is certainly a worthy and…

I Feel Like a Woman

In my 20s I compiled a list of things adult “women” did that I wasn’t doing, according mostly to Sex and the City (which was big at the time) and all the heroes from my favorite romantic comedies. This is about when I coined my personal mantra: What Would Meg Ryan Do?

I thought if I mastered these skills or habits, I’d feel more grown up. Because even with a full-time job and a steady boyfriend, I still felt like a teenager. Maybe it was my Hello Kitty purse.

Here’s my list of the habits of Adult Women:
Drink coffeeWear makeup (not just chapstick)Wear matching PJ sets or nightgowns or lingerieOwn several pairs of high-heeled shoesOwn bras and panties in matching sets (and wear them together)Hang pantyhose to dry in shower (this is now obsolete, but made the list a decade ago)Gab on phone with best friend/sister/mother.Usually own small pet (mini dog or haughty cat)Have raging handbag fetish and will spend small fortunes on themDrink wine or pastel-colored drinks called cosmos/martinis…

I Like Me On Coffee

As I've mentioned, I'm often very tired. Working full time, taking care of my family and pursuing all the projects (most chronicled in this blog), keep me running around all day.

And I've also mentioned that my relationship with caffeine has been tenuous, at best. I'd get shaky, tremors and then hit a big low (nap!).

But, lately, I've been introducing my system to white and black tea -- rising my threshold for caffeine. And enjoying the extra jolt of energy I get.

So, last week, I got a latte.

And I loved it.

I didn't stop moving for hours, and I got SO MUCH DONE.

Yes, I like me on coffee.

Related posts:

More of my Coffee journey

A Prince is Born

It's well-known that I'm a bit of an anglophile -- I have commemorative tea set from Will and Kate's wedding on display in my house, for pete's sake! So, a new royal arrival, (third in line to the throne, no less) is a pretty big deal in my world.

I marvel at Kate's ability to be perfect. She looked gorgeous throughout the pregnancy, wore high heels into the last few weeks and, today, looks camera ready less than a day after giving birth. And she had a BOY the first time out! The Queen has got to be thrilled about that.

Now that's left is to find out the little Prince's name! My current name guesses are: Philip (for Will's grandfather, obvi), Thomas, Michael or James.

Anyway, congrats to the new little family. I wouldn't change places with you, but I'll sure enjoy receiving the commemorative birthday tea cups to add to my collection.

UPDATE: They named is George! All hail his Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge!!

Bruce and ME!

Last night, Dave and I saw the new Bruce Springsteen documentary made entirely by fans called "Springsteen & I." It was awesome!

All these people from all around the world sent in videos of themselves sharing memories, funny concert stories, and reasons they worship The Boss.

The film was a collection of silly fanatic confessions and awesome old concert footage of a young Bruce. My favorites were the emotional speeches about how his music had touched their lives; the songs weaved into their days. None of them had met the man, but they talked about him like an old friend.

We found ourselves shaking our head in agreement quite often. Yup, his concerts really are phenomenal. Yup, we've all had that moment when you feel like he's singing just to you -- even in the nosebleeds section of the biggest venues. Nothing beats the rush of singing along with 20,000 other reverent fans. That time when you become besties with the guy next to belting out "Blood Brothers.&q…

Two Punk Girls

Guess what we did today...
We also chopped almost 2 inches off Leah's hair.

** Don't worry, the color is only temporary.

Relate posts:
More more and more Alice

And You Call That a MiniVan?

Long story short: this young girl hit my Prius in the parking lot and put a little crack in my bumper. This resulted in going to an autobody shop and having it fixed, thus forcing me to rent a car for the two days.

 The rental place only had a van. He called it a “minivan” but there was nothing mini about this vehicle.

The kids loved it, of course, and I left work a little early to pick them up on the first day – so I could watch the joy in their eyes as they jumped in. “These people,” Alice said motioning to the other cars on the road, “think this is our car. They don’t know that we have to give it back.”

After two days of driving around I find it incredulous that people actually own these monster vehicles and use them on a daily basis. I didn't trust my blind spots, so drove slower. I had a hard time parking in urban Evanston. I lumbered around turns and there was almost no pickup when entering the highway. And I was so distracted by all the gadgets; running the DVD for the kid…

Learning to Lose

I wouldn't consider myself a very competitive person, but after years of playing games against my sisters, and trying to beat them senseless, it's hard to NOT want to win, even against my own little girl.

The summer before freshman year, my big sister Carol and I played card games until the wee hours of the night, perfecting our strategy and our shuffling techniques. Spoons, Speed, Uno, La Ronda, Gin, Gin Rummy -- we played them all. And winning was a BIG deal. But we wouldn't brag. We were good sports. We'd win, quietly celebrate (it was past our bedtimes) and choose a new game. Since, it's just ingrained in my brain to scheme, plan ahead, set myself up to win at these games.

So you can imagine now playing with my emerging little opponent, a 7-year-old who lacks the skills but gets upset when Mom beats her, is not an easy transition. I've found that I have to reprogram myself to lose. Or, and this is more difficult, set her up to win (without it being so obvi…

We Went Camping! (Sorta)

Part of our "100 Things to Do This Summer" list included a night camping. So I did some research and found a campground for "car camping" in Southern Wisconsin called the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

We got a late start, so by the time we found the park, drove to the site and pitched the tent, it was time to cook dinner.

Under the steady buzz of a million mosquitos, we ate, we explored, we sat by the camp fire. As it got dark, the girls hit the tent and spent about 30 minutes squealing and laughing -- excited to be in their sleeping bags and "sleeping outside."

They were finally ready to crash once I got into the tent, and the warm, happy feelings of sleeping out in nature quickly gave way to the reality that I was sleeping on the ground. With no pillow. On the ground.

So, yeah, I got very little sleep. Every attempt I made to get comfortable was accompanied by a loud SWISH of the sleeping bag that I was sure would wake everyone in the tent. I listened to…

The View of the Family Room: Then and Now

Here's a blast from the past. Remember this space? 
This was a few days after our furniture was delivered. I took the picture from the balcony that overlooks the bright family room. Maggie, my Mom and Dave are watching TV -- likely relaxing after slaving away over some task I set them on, unpacking or hanging something. 
And now, a mere 19 months later, here's the view from that balcony today. 
We made some good improvements here. A few new tables, the curtains (of course) and a far better rug -- though, from this angle, it looks too small. I'll need to add some tiles. (*Adding it to the list*)

That poor, sad little sofa is on its last springs, I'm sorry to say. And it's on the to-replace list for 2014. It has served us well over the last eight years.

Sometimes it's nice to look back at all we've accomplished in such a short time. Hooray!

The Kids' Closet Update

This project wasn't even on my list ... not even on my radar.

Then, last week at work I was thinking about the kids' closets (both semi-walk-ins) and how there's all this unused space -- and I just hate when I'm not optimizing every bit of space in this house.

I thought, wouldn't it be great if I added a few more shelves and get better use of those closets?

And the idea was buzzing around my head like a gnat all day, so I stopped at Ace Hardware on the way home and picked up two 4-foot closet shelves before giving it a second thought.

I started with Leah, where I had envisioned the shelf going along the left wall (the wall I'm facing in the "before" picture). Then, I could stack boxes of toys and stuffed animals -- hiding all that clutter away.

Here's the problem with not planning ahead: I didn't measure the wall. I purchased the shelves before I was even back at the house! So, guess what, the shelf didn't fit. And only by mere centimeters…

'Requiem' Audiobook Review

Audiobook: Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Read by: Sarah Drew
Genre: YA Dystopia

This is the third book of the Delirium trilogy. I had to rush out the library to get it right when I finished the second. And was so excited to see the audiobook waiting for me on the shelves that I nearly yelped.

And no, it wasn't the ending I was hoping for. It was a bit disappointing, actually. Is there any hope for a fourth book at all?

When I think of the word "requiem," I think of ending and death. This story had no ending. In fact, it felt more like a middle book in a series rather than a finale. It didn't pick up steam until the final quarter of the story, otherwise, it was just a lot of walking around and Lena wavering back and forth over which guy she actually loved. Good boy Julian, who's very shallow or Alex, who is dark, deep and mysterious -- I mean, Lena, is there actually a choice here? Wake up!

Big props to Sarah Drew whose voice continues to mesmerize me, even when the stor…

Photos of My Lovely Asiatic Lilies

I was out with the camera this weekend and got some nice shots of the Lilies in the perennial bed. They don't stick around for too long, so you got to grab them when you can.

It's Cilantro Time!

This weekend I harvested the cilantro from the garden. The books say not to let it get past 8-inches high, so it was time to cut them down. This was a bit of a success for me, as I'd tried to grow cilantro from seed in my garden in New Jersey, and never had any luck with it. Here, it grows like crazy. And very quickly, too. So pleased.

I begged Dave to make his famous guacamole for dinner tonight, with burgers off the grill. YUM! And I'm going to try making cilantro pesto. There is A LOT of it, so if you have any cilantro recipes (preferably something I could freeze), I'm all ears.

I should be able to plant a second batch this week and harvest before it gets too cold. It feels a bit brash, but I'll try it anyway. You never know!

The Family Room - A Tale of Two Walls

Since I posted the picture of my new Family Room curtains and mentioned their relationship to the blue wall directly across from it, I figured you might need a refresher on what the heck I'm talking about.

So, here you go:

Now, just imagine the beige walls painted a bright white! Perfection!

Related posts:
More about my Family Room

The Glorious July Garden

It's July in my two raised beds, and they're looking great!

Admittedly, I've been a little lax on thinning out the seedlings. This is something I'll need to remember next year when it comes time to sow the seeds. The carrots especially are right on top of each other -- meaning the seeds were more successful than we thought -- but I need to be more aggressive in thinning.

I'm confused about the onions. The books say to wait until the stalk dies, then pull the bulbs -- but that sounds contrary to me. I'll do more research.

The herbs also need to be harvested and dried. I'll attempt that this week -- how hard can that be?!

Related links:
More BACKYARD posts

They Read My Mind

I don't read my horoscope everyday ... some days I just skim it. Occasionally, though, it's so close to right, it freaks me out. Like today:

Today's Cancer New Moon highlights your 4th House of Home and Family, raising conflicts between your need to go back to work and your desire to focus on projects around the house. Being patient isn't your forte, but you might have to wait until you finish your obligations on the job before allowing yourself to indulge in domestic activities. Establishing a healthy balance between your professional and personal worlds now makes it easier to juggle your responsibilities during the next few weeks.  ( 

Um. Is someone reading my mind? Okay, yes, I'll finish the two small projects for work this morning before I tackle the around-the-house projects. Fine.

And I'll work on my patience. *deep breath*

Another Look: Dining Room Window Curtains

As promised, some "nicer" photos of that dining room window curtain. (Minus the dirty dining room table -- which I cleaned up, I promise.) Check out the chevron placemat -- got them around Christmas time, knowing someday they'd have matching curtains.

Alice Gets a Desk

It took three trips to an Ikea an hour away... but we finally got a desk up in Alice's room.

It's pretty plain, as desks go. Just a table with adjustable legs and a pink swivel chair that's just like her sister's.

We spent the afternoon cleaning up her room and then she spent another hour sitting at her desk working on her pink princess laptop and ... not sure what else.

Must. Have. This. Bench.

I was walking through the Crate and Barrel today and fell in love. Yes, I've seen it in the catalog and was smitten, but nothing like seeing it in person.

I sat in it and ... the world made sense again.

Happy, yellow bench of my heart, I will watch for coupons and sales, and you will be mine.  Oh yes, you will be mine.

Related posts:

I always have more goals

Strawberry Goodness

We took the family strawberry picking on Sunday. And I had every intention of bringing our fancy camera with us to take great photos of the girls working the fields. But, I forgot it. Doh!

We came home with four of these baskets filled with ruby red deliciousness  And have been eating strawberries at every meal since. Plus, we're frozen about half for smoothies. Don't you just love summer?

Family Room Curtains - More Awesomeness

Happy to report these curtains are finally complete! Huzzah!

These took a bit more time -- that's nearly 7 yards of fabric, people! But they turned out pretty well -- and look! They're the same length! Crazy skills.

I love that the navy blue "talks" (that's what the decorators on HGTV say, I'm totally a professional now) to the big navy blue wall on the other side of the room. Someday, if I have my way, this room will have white walls, instead of beige. And those curtains will really "pop" then. Little by little ...

There are two other lower windows in this room, that flank the fireplace, and I have a sneaking suspicion a certain husband of mine will begin asking for more coverage on those windows, once he realizes the later afternoon sun hits those.

But, for now, I think that will take care of my curtain-making career. I'm off to find other home project.

Family Room Curtains Are In Progress

So Dave has been campaigning for curtains in the family room since we moved in.

We love the room because it has a ton of windows, but they're not always ideal when you want to watch football in the middle of a Sunday -- with the sun streaming through the windows. (Poor guy).

Curtains are a lot cheaper than finishing the basement for his man-cave (waiting for the lottery to start on that project.)

As I mentioned earlier, I found thick, navy upholstery fabric at the Loomcraft outlet and after I had finished my glorious dining room curtains, I set to work on these.

I'm doing a hidden tab design using grosgrain ribbon as the tabs (as suggested by a blogger tutorial I found). I'm also making a rod pocket, just in case I change my mind.

I needed three panels, as I have three windows that go 119'' across the back of the room. Big space.

It's challenging to work with this amount of fabric. And it's heavy, too. At least I don't have to iron it.

The other nice t…

'Agnes and the Hitman' Audiobook Review

Audiobook: Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
Read By: Sandra Burr
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Full disclosure: I read romance novels. Another disclosure: I've read this book, twice. But when I saw it on the shelf, and taking into consideration it's summer and I'm looking for something light, I grabbed it.

And I was glad to find the story I liked translated well into audio format, forgiving a few corny production tricks.

This is a cute story about Agnes, a cranky food column writer with anger management issues who gets tangled in a 25-year-old murder mystery and a really crazy ex-mob wife. A nephew of a friend, who is a contract killer, comes by to protect her and get to the bottom of things. Romance, and a pretty high body count, follows.

Because there's a strange combo of Southern drawl and New Jersey mobster in this book, the reader had to be pretty proficient at a bunch of different accents. And she was good. There's some strange talking-into-a-tin-…

Awesomeness Are the Dining Room Curtains

I mean, come on! They are just too cool!!

It only took under two hours ... mostly because I was constantly interrupted. (Mommy! Mommy! It's a wonder I get anything done.) But these were simple. Pocket for the rod along the top. I tried to match the zig-zag pattern so it follows across the two panels. Hem the bottom. Boom.
(I need a better picture ... i know!)

Off to tackle the next project ... the family room curtains. Daunting!