Friday, January 31, 2014

This Week

I enjoyed the four fabulous home tours here. Even though I didn't know Whitney Port was from The Hills, I still liked her closet TONS. Not too surprising since she went on to live in The City with this fashion icon of mine.

This Warrior Woman shares how her fifth grader's math teacher helps kids. It is just brilliant! If only we could do this for all people...

A new book was released this week to help with kid-clutter. The digital version of Clutterfree with Kids is available for $2.99 for a few more days. Luckily, I found my Kindle (amidst some clutter) just in time to download it!

Are you on Gray Malin's Insider's List? He is giving his subscribers free iPhone backgrounds! I'm picking this one of the Amalfi coast. Isn't it dreamy?

I skipped the Grammy's so missed her performance with Carole King but this song is in my head. Brave! What a good thing to be! 

If you are headed out to a cocktail party this weekend someone might be talking about the situation in Ukraine. I love this WP series that explains world events for busy people. Isn't that a powerful photo?!

And, a cleaning plan and gorgeous cleaning closet from Little Green Notebook.

Finally, we will be celebrating Groundhog Day on Super Bowl Sunday. Hopefully that cute little groundhog will say spring is on its way. What do you predict??

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Polar Vortex

It is breath-takingly cold here in Michigan.

For the first time ever I am imagining a trip to Los Angeles. In fact, as I did a little research to ensure that "polar vortex" isn't a euphemism for end of days, I read this article in the LA Times. {Coincidentally, the Florida meteorologist from the article went to my high school. I think he graduated with my brother. Weird?!}

I spent yesterday indoors, wearing a sweatshirt from Marco Island, and thinking deeply about my happy place. Here are some photos to warm you up on the inside!
Anguilla via 100 Layer Cake
Read all about Jillian & Scott's honeymoon at this place including spa treatments... This is a two-part'er.

St. Lucia via Best Pro Photos
Sugar sand beaches. Palm trees. Sunshine. And interesting facts about the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

The Breakers-Palm Beach
The Breakers is a luxury resort situated on 140 acres of oceanfront property in Palm Beach. Read all about it, and make reservations, at the link above.

via Expensive Life
Soothing baths in Pamukkale, Turkey. Learn more about the "cotton castles" here.

Tory Burch
A dress to wear if exposing any bit of skin wouldn't result in nearly instant frostbite.

And a book to read as you lay by the pool (or under a pile of blankets). 

How are you surviving the polar vortex?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

It's no secret that I prefer styling to stirring in the kitchen. 


But, there is nothing like the smell of something cooking to make a place feel like home. 

There is also evidence that conscientious people live longer

So, all in all, I'm working on being more intentional with our menu plan for this year.


Chicken enchiladas

BIG Salad


Pizza Night

Stir Fry


Chicken Chili in Crockpot

Maybe someday I'll actually include recipes with my menu plan. Lots of times--like this week--I just wing it. If you need some recipe ideas, though, check out my meals board on Pinterest. Desserts and treats can be found here.

via Serena and Lily

And, if you are still fixated on design, you can get a counter stool similar to the one in the kitchen above from Serena and Lily's Riviera collection.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Good Stuff From This Week

"Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life." 
Rick Warren

Baked these cookies and they were amazing! Molasses and sea salt is my new favorite flavor combo.

My office got organized! I moved offices this summer but it wasn't until I visited my old office--and saw how put-away everything was--that I realized my space needed an overhaul.

Had tea with an old friend in my new house and tea with a new friend in her amazing house. I might even be inspired to paint something!

Was reminded of this absolute classic at the end of an episode of The Americans, my new favorite TV show. 

Saw my happy place (Naples/Marco Island) in the latest issue of Midwest Living. I love that it's just understood that even though cold and snow are my jam, everyone wants to get to the sun for awhile in February.

Heard a rumor that Batman was scouting our local art museum and that both Trader Joe's and Costco might be coming to our area! Now we just need an IKEA and an Anthro and my life will be complete! 

I'm reading Daniel Goleman's new book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. It's good but I need to find a novel and stop reading serious books! Any recommendations??

Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

#Un-Word 2014

Someday there will be a link-up where I am not the last person to add my submission. 

But not today. 

Fieldstone Hill Design / Nesting Place / Life in Grace / The Painted House

See, because it is actually Thursday and the link-up began on Tuesday? I knew that was when it would start. I even knew my un-word. Since it has nothing to do with procrastination, though, I will leave off on this tangent. Maybe "waiting until the absolute last minute, or beyond..." will be a goal for another year?

I knew that I wanted to write about my un-word as soon as I read about the concept. Because this year I have resolved to Let It Go. But also, to Do Hard Things and to Remember Who I Am. Very much my own Happiness Project, which is to be expected because I am literally a super-fan of Gretchen Rubin's. This blog even evolved from the idea that novelty and challenge bring happiness. But what am I "letting go?" What "hard things" can I do? And WHO am I?

Before I begin--and this is important! VERY important!!--if you need me to represent a certain ideal, stop reading here. If you will see me outside school or elsewhere in the world, and knowing this part of my heart will make it hard for you to look me in the eye, stop reading now. If you think you might read about someone else's deepest pain (mine) and be so uncomfortable that you say or think hateful, hurtful things, go away. For real. Just close your browser and move on.

But, if you think there might be something in my story that will inspire you, please continue on to the end.

It's hard to write this. Hard to acknowledge it to myself. Hard to put it out there. Hard to know how it will affect others.  

My un-word is grief.

I grieve that my children are not with me everyday. I grieve that I tried and tried (and tried), but still failed. I grieve knowing that I don't know what my kids had for dinner last night. I grieve because another woman claims them as her own. I grieve because I want to pick them up from school every day and tuck them in every night, but I can't. I grieve that I have lost a family. I grieve that this might be my only experience of motherhood. I grieve the time I have lost. 

And then I feel shame for even feeling grief. After all, there are parents whose children are never coming back. Lots of people get divorced. Why should this be so hard for me? Don't I deserve what I get?

The signs that I need to let go of my grief have been everywhere. The first episode of Downton Abbey, the magazine we get from our church with the headline "My Deepest Grief," and a little voice that I've come to know is God's that said I need to stop being such a mope. 

Because when the kids are gone (which is nearly half the time: every Wednesday and Thursday night and every other Friday and Saturday night during the school year; every other week during the summer), it is very very hard for me to do anything. It takes a supreme amount of effort to get up, to get moving, to feel joy. Some friends have suggested that it might be depression. But I don't think that's quite it. I think it's grief. It comes and goes, just as they do. 

When you can't change your situation, the only thing left to change is your perspective. 

And that's what I am trying to do. Routine helps a lot. Doing the same thing everyday, regardless of who is there. Building my support system. Not just to increase the number of people who love me, but to be able to give something of myself to others. Speaking my truth, even if it feels like I'm standing naked on a stage. Because shame only exists in the dark.

Besides what I have resolved, I have 15 actionable items. These are little reminders that work like mini-goals to keep me on track. Smile, connect, read, do projects. That sort of thing.

By working through the process of letting go of my grief, I hope to be more myself this year. Novelty and challenge still create happiness so I'll likely continue to share my story here. To live with beauty is uplifting, and I'll continue to post about how I interpret it for our home.

Do you have an un-word for this year? Please leave a link if you are part of this link-up so I can be sure to visit your blog. I haven't read any yet so as not to get scared off about hitting the publish button. This is Doing Hard Things.

I honor the light within all of you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wedding Cakes and Girl Scout Cookies

Anyone else feel like this week is kicking their behind?! 

It's the first full week back to school and work. Six a.m. has been hard (and it's more likely that I hit "snooze" a few times). But, here we are at Thursday, heading into a three-day weekend, and I think it's going to be okay.


I ordered our wedding cake on my way into work this morning. Isn't it so pretty?! The slogan of this bakery is "where butter makes it better" and their cinnamon rolls, which are a holiday tradition in my office, are to die for.

Getting something crossed off my wedding To Do list is giving me back some of the momentum I lost during our move. I'm also checking out menus and think this sounds delicious but perhaps not universally appealing: pistachio crusted whitefish with coconut bechamel sauce. What do you think? What's the best wedding food you've ever had?


Bela (and I as a co-leader) started Girl Scouts this week. Just in time to sell Girl Scout cookies! We are buying LOTS of Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and Trefoils. What's your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Do you need a hook-up? We are willing to ship!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Organizing Rewards

Getting organized is a reward in itself, isn't it? Having a place for your things makes it easier to put them away. Automatically making your space look better and saving you time (and sometimes even money).

The "Get Organized" sale this morning on Zulily made me extra happy, though. It's full of cute, stylish options for every area of your home plus helpful tips for how to be more organized in those areas.

Having nice hangers and colorful bins adds an extra incentive to do the right thing, the right way, every time! So here are a few of my favorites.


We actually have cubes like this in our front hall closet. They are great for corralling all the kids' stuff. Each kids gets a cubby on the floor for boots or rollerblades. They use the upper cubby for stuff they need to take to school or their dad's house.

The coat tree would be handy for the jackets we wear everyday so we don't have to open the closet a million times a day. It would also be helpful for holding extra coats when guests come over. 

The cord holder would be excellent in setting up a charging station for cell phones, iPads, Kindles, and game players. If you keep it in a designated spot near your entry,  you are less likely to forget it at home or to not charge it.

The tote doubles as an errand box: cute enough to keep out in the open to collect library books, packages to mail, or items to return, and then handles to take it with you on the go.


Velvet hangers are sturdier than the metal ones from the dry cleaner but don't bulk up the space the way wooden hangers do. Plus they grip silky items better than any other type of hanger. These are on my must-have list!

The over the door hanger is made for shoes but you can also use it for jewelry or toys in a child's room (I am planning to get one for Barbies in Bela's bedroom).
The bed buddy is handy if you have a bedroom too small for a nightstand or are using bunk beds in a kids' room.

The jumbo storage box in different, fun patterns is a great way to store off-season clothes in your closet or keep craft items neatly put away.


The green frog bin is great for collecting laundry, or storing toys. Fill it up with stuffed animals, balls, or any other large-sized items.

I honestly don't think you can have enough bins when it comes to toy storage which is why I also have the orange bin on this list and the bunny bin. It's best when you can sort the toys but sometimes you just need to fill 'em up and move 'em out.

This over-the-door hanger is a nice neutral and super cheap. If you don't fill yours with Barbies or action figures, consider it for your entryway and keep mittens or sunglasses sorted tidily.

The Lay-n-Go comes in a variety of colors but makes cleaning up tiny toys E-Z. It's a pain to step on Legos and Polly Pockets. Literally.

I love using something pretty to keep our stuff put away. Even better when I can shop for it on a coffee break and then some nice UPS person delivers it right to my front door. And, if you shop through ebates, you will get 1% back on your purchase. 

Happy shopping and happy organizing!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Color of the Year: The Also Rans

By now we all know that the Pantone Color of the Year for 2014 is Radiant Orchid, right? 

When I mentioned it on Facebook, I was surprised by how many of you were digging purple. And there are certainly loads of good inspiration out there for how to decorate with it if you are unsure. This one from Darlene is my favorite. 

via Design Taxi

But --and this is a big, Kardashian-sized butt-- there are some other colors that deserve mention. Something along the lines of the yellowy, in your face green predicted by the creative director of Reactive. {See the story from Design Taxi above}

I mentioned in my Design Inspiration post that I hoped to add a dash of citron somewhere in our new house. Citron is my name for that yellowy-green, sometimes almost neon, shade.

I was thinking a splash of it in our powder room.

It's used here for Elle Decor on silk panels in a dining area. Who needs coffee to wake up, right??

And, with a bit more subtle green, on the base cabinets in this small kitchen.

I even love it for fashion. These sandals are from Vaunte. When you join their site and make a purchase, I earn "cupcakes"-- yummy.

via FashionJot
This image merges citron with the second color--the big surprise color--that I am drawn to lately. A deep blue. Royal blue, almost. 

I love it most for fashion.

via Elle Decor
But there are plenty of ways to incorporate it into the decor of your home, too. My fingers are crossed for finding a gourd lamp (or pair!) in this color for our dining room.

What's your favorite color of the moment? How are you planning to use it in your life?

Friday, January 10, 2014


It's Friday and I know I should be happy about that, but I'm just not feeling it this week. Post-holiday winter blahs can do that to a gal, I guess. 

What to do? Find some things that make me happy!

1. The Cars Complete Greatest Hits downloaded to my iPhone. They're cool again since they played Lollapalooza a few years ago... Who am I kidding? I've always loved The Cars.

2. A story by Khaled Hosseini about Candlestick Park. Interesting sports article written by the author of The Kite Runner. You don't have to know anything about football to enjoy the way he strings words together.

via Pawley's Island Posh

3. Thinking about how to switch up my pantry to organize by meal like this one. Then make some healthy meal plans for the fam.

4. Some (new to us) cop shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a comedy, and Almost Human, which is set in the future with an empathic robot. Revolution is back, and they mentioned my town--East Lansing--this week! And, looking forward to the start of Downton Abbey: Season 4, waiting on my DVR. Gretchen Rubin has some points for how to not let TV ruin your life. As if...

Ashley Whittaker via The Glam Pad

5. Even though I would definitely say that snow is my jam, I wouldn't mind some warmer weather. Since I can't fast-forward to summer, Florida it will have to be, in particular the photos of Ashley Whittaker's Gulf Stream house on The Glam Pad.

6. Thinking deep thoughts about my own ordinary life.

Finally, I've had a fragment of a quote in mind for a long time about "growing strong in the broken places." I didn't know where it was from until this week. It's part of a passage from Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
Yikes. What do you have planned for this weekend? TGIF??

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The BIG Picture

A little thank you for putting up with all my wordy posts this week. Today's post is all about the Big Picture.

The look of large format prints has been really appealing to me lately.

Miles Redd for Good Bones Great Pieces
Scale is a very important component when choosing what to put on your walls. How the size of your art compares to the furnishings in your room is what defines "scale."
Digs Design Company via Home Bunch

I say be bold. Go BIG on your walls.

via The House Home
As you can see, it looks good!  

And even better when you can use more than one print... 

Charlotte Barnes via Georgiana Design
You can stack the prints in a high-ceilinged room.

Or create symmetry. Peek through this living room to the series of four large prints on the dining room wall.

via Madeline Weinrib?
This room uses six large format pieces above the sofa and more on the opposing wall. 

via Summerhill Still Life
Is this the same room?? Similar arrangement of art, lookalike chair... Methinks it is! I like the softness that the antique table and blue & white vase brings to the second photo.

via Pinterest
Takeaway tips:

1. BIG! For the rooms with groupings of prints, I would estimate the frame size to be approximately 24x36. The single prints are even bigger.
2. Mats. Using mats with the prints (regardless of the size) makes the prints look more refined, more like art. 
3. Fill up your space! In all the rooms the decorator wasn't afraid to go almost to the ceiling with the prints.

Do you like what you see when you look at the Big Picture? 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The January Cure: Kids' Rooms

We are on snow day #3 here, which has been a major extension to the holiday break. All of this time at home is a relaxing start to the new year. It would be nice if it wasn't so cold outdoors (0 degrees) and there wasn't so much snow (approximately 22 inches) but it's nice to have some extra time with my kids, where we don't have to go anywhere or do much of anything. 

via Apartment Therapy

As I mentioned in my last post I was inspired this weekend by Apartment Therapy's January Cure to organize not just one kid's bedroom, but both. I promised to share my tips so here we go...

1. trip the lizard

Before putting anything away or deciding where even one thing would go, I first had to overcome my overwhelm. This was by far the most important step.

Wendy Joy Hart of the Procrastination Cure says that our brains perceive a big mess the same way our ancestors did a hungry tiger: as a big-time threat. The trick for getting around that is to override the lower part of our brain (the "lizard") to engage the thinking part (the "wizard"). The lizard brain is where your fight, flight, or freeze response is activated and the wizard brain is where your higher reasoning comes in. 

You do this by taking a micro-step

In the case of Griffin and Bela's clutter-filled bedrooms, my micro-step was to simply identify three things that I wanted to do this year to make their rooms more functional. For both rooms, I wanted to create zones for the things they play with and use; get rid of toys they had outgrown or that were broken; and be able to see the floor.

I worked with Griffin in his bedroom while Bela took a bath--thus limiting the amount of time we had to work on the room. I engaged him in the process. And there was a reward at the end: he got to have a sleepover with his friend, which he had been looking forward to forever. 

Seeing the progress in his room gave me the momentum to tackle Bela's room, and it inspired her to want to do it.

2. use shelves & drawers

Both rooms have some similarities that are important, in my opinion. A desk creates a good workspace whether you are playing video games (Griffin) or drawing (Bela). Both have shelves for books and toy storage/display. And each has a garbage can to make maintaining order easier.

3. decide and label
In Griff's room, we sorted the toys into piles and then decided where to put them away. He has six drawers in his desk so that provides great storage for colored pencils, video games, and special little toys. 

Bela has a large bookcase in her new bedroom with six shelves. She decided what she wanted on each shelf and made her own labels. I think this had more of an impact than if I had told her where to put things. She has more ownership of the room and will take care of it.

I also used a big garbage bag for this process. Griffin was better able to identify things he didn't want whereas Bela (age 7) had to be guided a bit more. I tried to be sensitive: some things look like junk to me but to the kids are important little artifacts of a life well-lived.

4. one day at a time
You can see more pictures on Instagram. Their rooms aren't perfect but they ARE greatly improved and I for one think there is a lot of beauty in that.  :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The January Cure

This weekend a friend sent me a link to Apartment Therapy's January Cure. Have you seen it yet? The first assignment is to make a project list of items you would like to improve around your home. The instructions are to set aside an hour to walk around your home, thoroughly inspecting each area, and noting on your list what needs to be taken care of, but not actually doing any of it yet.

I like efficiency so I decided that an hour was way too much time, even with kids who can pretty much entertain themselves. I also like sitting on the couch, so I made the list in my head, using my "minds' eye" to scan each area of our house. We only moved in a month ago, so there's still quite a lot to do, and it's all pretty fresh in my mind. 

Please note I'm not trying to be rebellious but to show that with all things, flexibility.

I was able to easily identify three to five things in each area that I want to take care of. Here's a sampling:

1. Find a bigger rug for entry (at least 3x5)
2. Organize top shelf in closet
3. Hang art
4. Decide if we want double-hooks or a coat tree
5. Call to have clothing donations picked up

Living Room (playroom side)--
1. Un-decorate Christmas tree and put away box
2. Set up Barbie Village/babies/Lego table
3. Hang gallery wall of family photos and kid art above desk
4. Style bookcase

When I got to the kids' bedrooms, though, I felt a huge mental block. There is STUFF. In our old house, my attempts to organize their bedrooms had almost always ended in frustration: mine. But, by limiting myself to only 3-5 "to do's" and identifying what those were --mostly creating zones for the stuff they play with and use -- made the difference this time. 

I stayed on the couch awhile longer, alternately reading a book about shame by Brene Brown (I've decided not to have any, which is why I'm sharing all of this with you) and napping. Eventually, though, I went upstairs with Griff to organize his room because he was having a sleepover and there was no place for his buddy to sleep. Not only did we get through it with a minimum of whining (by me), but Bela and I went on to do her room, too!

I'll post tomorrow about how we organized it all and share some photos on Instagram. Very likely I'll also need to get that project list out of my brain and this is the most logical place for it... Happy Sunday!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Year of the Roses

Happy New Year!!!

I'm easing into 2014 gently. And I'm calling this The Year of the Roses. For the obvious reason that our home team won the Rose Bowl. But also in the same way that I thought of last year as Lucky '13. Positive thinking!

I've got lots of projects planned (including my wedding this summer!) and a list of resolutions as long as my arm. How could 2014 be anything less than rosy?!

Actually I know the answer to that one... There were times that 2013 was hard. Damn HARD. I still choose to see with rose-colored glasses, though.

Here are a few of my favorites from the end of lucky '13. 

I finally read Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities over the break. It was hard! But I can do hard things, and the story was engrossing. It was also humbling because Roddy Doyle, who introduced this edition, read the book when he was eleven.

Twisted Peppermint body wash and lotion from Bath & Body Works smells amazing and makes my skin feel tingly. If Santa didn't put any in your stocking, you will love the sale that they have on it right now. $4 a bottle!

I'm also--surprisingly--digging the eggnog-flavored squares from Ghirardelli. Surprising because I am not a huge fan of the drink. But not at all surprising since I am powered by sugar. 

What's new for you in the new year?



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