Friday, February 27, 2009

Balance - It's a good thing.

Melissa, over at The Inspired Room, has issued a challenge to take a step back and evaluate the level of connectedness in our lives and whether that connectedness is a good thing, or a...not so good thing.

Uh oh.

Here I was all eager to check out the weekly link-up challenge, which is typically something having to do with decorating and inspired, joyful living. I was not expecting to be faced with certain conviction over something I have already been wrestling with.

I have found myself frequently thinking that I spend too much time on the computer. And in theory, it seems like an easy fix. But in theory, everything seems easy. It's actually very difficult. I work from home and 90% of my work is done on the computer. I check my email a bazillion times a day, partly because I need to, and partly because, at this point, it's pure habit.

Then there's facebook. Oh dear. Here's the thing about facebook: I love the fact that it has allowed me to connect with people that I would not ordinarily be nearly as connected to. I love sharing mundane bits of life with my peeps. I love all of the nonsense. It's rather entertaining, but it's also a bit mind-numbing. It's one of those things where, if I am not careful, I will realize that I have spent an hour of prime kid-in-bed time doing absolutely nothing. Rather than spending my time doing something that makes me feel relaxed, at peace, renewed, I spend it aimlessly, and without purpose.

All I know is that I want my kids to remember my face more clearly than the back of my head. I want to never forget what it's like to read something on an actual page. I want to know that my friends will always be my friends, even if I go an entire week without writing on their walls. I want to remember that the noise in my life isn't always necessarily noisy.

I believe in balance, and I know that my blog brings me joy and an email from a friend lifts me up. But far more, the joy in my life comes from my husband, my children, my relationship with the Lord, moments of true quiet, nature, the simplicity of life.

These are the things that I have to protect and make room for.

Everything else is secondary.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A nightly tradition.

If you lived in our house, you would hear this, somewhere between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 p.m, every single night:

Me/Cory: Ni-night, Calvin. I love you.
Calvin: Don't make any loud noises or quiet noises and don't watch the news and don't brush your teeth and go straight to bed.
Me/Cory: (While walking downstairs) Goodnight. See you in the morning.
Calvin: Don't watch the news! Don't brush your teeth! Go straight to bed!
Me/Cory: I love you. Goodnight.
Calvin: And tell Daddy (or Mommy) not to watch the news!
Me/Cory: Goodnight Calvin!
Calvin: Ni-night.

For months and months he went the route of, "Be sure to watch the news and brush your teeth", but several weeks ago he spontaneously decided to mix it up a bit.

What can I say? The kid is quirky.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tortellini Soup

What I am about to share with you may very well change your life. I have never understood "those people" who can dream up recipes all on their own, but a few years ago, in a moment of pure inspiration, I came up with the best tortellini soup - ever.

Since that time, my Dad has taken to referring to The Soup as "his" soup. There are people being led astray all over the greater Miami Valley area, but I'm here today to set the record straight.

The soup is Mine.

Not that I'm a particularly greedy person. I'm not about to deprive anyone of The Soup. It's just not how I roll. I'm all about love and sharing and garlic.

And one more thing: it's the easiest soup to make. It's so easy that it almost makes me feel like the previous text may be a tad overblown.

Here's what you'll need:

OK, a quick word from the photographer: Sorry about the terrible lighting. I'm not sure what happened here. My Honey momentarily tried to trick me into believing that flash = the devil, but I'm wayyyy over that mentality now.

Now, let's get busy. Go and round up the following:
1 Package of cheese tortellini. (I used to use that Buitoni kind in the refrigerated section, but I've since then discovered the frozen Meijer brand. It's cheaper and it really does taste better. The Buitoni stuff made my teeth feel a little gritty. Gross, I know.)
2 boxes of chicken broth. You can even throw in an additional can, if you like it a little brothier.
2 regular-sized cans of diced tomatoes. (Sometimes I use regular, sometimes I use the kind with garlic and basil)
A bag of matchstick carrots. (I typically use about half of the bag. Shredded also works in a pinch.)
Minced garlic. Fresh is best, but I have obviously breezed through that gigantic jar pictured above, so I'm no fresh-garlic snob. And you can use as much as you like. I like mine fairly garlicky - a few cloves is perfect.
Fresh basil. Must. Be. Fresh. I use a decent-sized handful (the entire bunch from the picture), chopped.
Parmasean cheese. (The powdery kind should be a last resort.)
Fresh baby spinach. 2 or 3 big handfuls.

Only 8 ingredients and other than chopping the basil, there is zero prep. I'm pretty sure Sarah could even manage this one!

Here's what you do:
Pour the broth into the pot. Throw in the tomatoes (don't drain them). Throw in the carrots. Toss in the garlic. Bring to a boil. Throw in the tortellini. Boil until done. Throw in the basil. Simmer for a little bit. Throw your spinach in for the last minute or so of simmering. The heat will make it wilty and yummy and even healthier than it already was. Top with a little cheese. Serve with garlic bread, beer bread, biscuits, anything carby.

* Last week I made a batch and threw in some chopped scallions and sliced mushrooms. Yum.

Another bad picture...but I'm telling you, we NEVER tire of this. Please try it. And when you do, be sure to report back. Even if you don't like it. But you will.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lost and Found.

Remember back in the olden days when you would rummage through the junk drawer or clean out your desk and marvel over all of the things you forgot that you had? The ultimate find, hands down, was an old, undeveloped roll of film.

(Ha ha - Film! Remember film?)

Well, I found our "old" memory card a few days ago. Our camera conked out and we bought our new one so quickly that it just sort of got lost in the shuffle.

Granted, the pictures I found are not from 1989, but they are surprising and refreshing and just what I needed to see.

Let's take a stroll...alllll the way back to late August, 2008.

Aw, I miss my sunflowers. I've got big plans to grow several varieties this Summer.
They just cheer me up.

Look at my chunky, wild-haired gardening companion.
She was practically just a baby.

Two things:
1) I remember this day very well. This was the first day Calvin practiced writing his alphabet, all by himself. He first traced each letter and then took it upon himself to write each one beside it. I was so impressed.
2) I always kind of knew that he was getting a little "puffy" from his 'roids, but good grief! It's one of those things that you just don't catch when you spend nearly every waking moment with someone. Poor little guy. I'm so happy that he's off the junk and back to normal.

What would you do if you were hosting friends for a cook-out and out of nowhere, this guy swooped down as though he was going to make off with a small child? I thought I was in a movie. I nearly suffered cardiac arrest. We were in a big rush to capture this freak of nature, but trust me, he's taller than either of my kiddos.


Here's Sarah and I, doing our BC Alumni duty.
I'm sorry to report that this day was a major let-down. But, ain't she pretty?

Have I ever told you about Green Oak Antiques, in Rochester? If you go, you might find scrumptious barkcloth fabric, like this, for $3. I did. I also found this necklace for $1. As I was paying, the man checking me out said, "Well, that's certainly a (cough cough) statement piece!" I knew it was perfect for my flashy friend, Stephanie.

I don't plan to make a habit of neglecting my memory cards moving forward, but it sure was fun this once.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I heart eBay.

Deep and abiding is my love for eBay.
It has seen me through my Shabby Chic era and introduced me to the "chippy" category, which now more or less defines the philosophy of my decor.

For fun, I sometimes sit in a particular room of the house and look around, recalling everything in the room that was found on eBay.

I bought our dining table on eBay for $200 a few years ago and had it transferred back to Indiana via my gracious aunt and uncle, who were in the process of commuting from Ohio to Atlanta each week.

I once bought an entire case of Outrageous Hair Volumizing shampoo on eBay. It was my shampoo of choice in high school, but has since been discontinued. I missed its smell.

I could go on and on, but I'll spare you the tales of the 3 foot tall "U" (always read the dimensions) and the search for Cinnamon Crunch Crispix.

Instead, here's a more recent eBay purchase:

Pottery Barn duvet. New, in package. $30.

I'm now on the search for a green quilt. The duvet will be packed away soon (I hope) and the white quilt has seen its better days. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mudroom Re-do: Before and After

For most of my adult life, I have dreamed of having a mudroom. And a clothesline.

In our first home, I was stunned to see the washer and dryer shoved into an upstairs closet. Sure, it was better than walking down to the basement of the apartment building, but still. Sheesh. I hung my new "Fresh Linens" sign in the closet and resolved that our next house would have a bonafide laundry room.

Looking back, I think the mudroom is what first sold me on this house. Specifically, it was the sink in the mudroom. Incidentally, I just love the sounds of that word...Mudroom. Mudroom. A room that you are allowed and maybe even encouraged to track mud into.

I digress.

We bought the house and I quickly set my sights on re-doing the mudroom. The only qualifications were that it had to be cheap. And the end result needed to make my heart skip a beat or two. (That's pretty much a requirement of any home improvement project, otherwise, why bother?)

First, let's take a very quick glance at the before shot. Let me warn you though, it needs to be a quick glance. Trust me.

Our predecessors were knee-deep in moving, but somehow this is the only "Before" picture we have. Anyway, it's an important point of reference.
Please note the floor-to-ceiling paneled closet on the right. It was massive and sort of overtook the room. Please also notice the dreaded pink linoleum flooring. I actually found it somewhat charming, but it just wasn't meant to be, long-term. It was an angel, it just wasn't my angel.

Now, because I want you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, here's the final result, and then we'll dissect it a bit:

My heart just skipped a beat.

This shows the Before and After woodwork. The room (much of the house, actually) was paneled in this tongue-and-groove orange-y paneling. The good news is, it's real wood! And it's tongue-and-groove! All it needed was about 130 gallons of white paint.

After the painting, (Morning Fog, because I like it and I liked its name and because we had plenty left over from the kitchen) Cory tackled that monstrous closet. In an adorably quaint sidenote, inside the closet were many old hooks with names like Agnes, Rhoda, Harold and Timothy crudely written above them in pencil. I wish I could have somehow kept them, but again, not meant to be.

Under the pink linoleum we discovered icky brown linoleum which had been meticulously glued to the cement base floor. Just remembering the hours of heat-gun/chisel wielding scraping we (ok, Cory) spent removing it (in August heat and humidity) sends shivers down my spine. The bad kind of shivers.

I think the glue fumes started to diminish my brain functioning because I clearly remember telling Cory that I really liked the cement base flooring and that we should just keep it as-is. (Remember, removing the Brown Death ended up taking at least 10 times longer than we had anticipated and at that point, I fully believed that the mudroom would be finished just in time for us to ring in the New Year in it.) And what can I say, I'm extremely go-with-the-flow when it comes to my house. I'm not picky or particular at all. Not at all. Nope.

Cory's first tile job, which he did entirely on his own. As I've said before, he is a home improvement stud.

Our Pottery Barn knock-off bench and shelf fit perfectly.

The curtains! The $5 vintage bark cloth curtains! All they needed was some stringin' up.
I still count them as one of my luckiest finds to date. Those colors couldn't be better for this place. And they add just the right punch of color and pattern without impeding the view of the fish pond.

Ooh! This. I found this online and it screamed my name. "Various Kind of the Plants". I'm not sure which era popularized this style of grammar, but I know it wasn't this era, so this must be some kind of the vintage (reproduction).

Hi, Honey!
I found these old scoreboard tiles a few years back at one of my favorite Ohio antiques stores for $1 apiece.
This one was perfect, because I refuse to do laundry outside of regular Banker's hours.
And that metal thing underneath is a chicken feeder turned outgoing mail holder.
(Unfinished: vent cover in the sink cabinet and cabinet hardware.)

The blue cabinet was found at the Springfield Antiques Show and Flea Market. It weighs a ton and Cory hung it on the wall masterfully. I was very impressed.

Check out the chips on this most chippy of all cabinets. Chippy and blue. I didn't really have much of a choice, did I?

And last but not least, meet Rhoda, my gardening goddess. May she always send me sunshine and rain in just the right proportions.

So close...

Ruby loves to dress herself.

In fact, she insists on it. She doesn't want help. In her own words, "I do it self!"

It does seem to me though, that even if I tried to dress myself entirely backward, I would not be able to pull it off. I mean, it really requires a certain degree of dexterity and finesse.

How exactly does this work?

Hold the phone - you're going to blog about this?

In that case... Cheese!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Most Dramatic Sonnet Ever.

I know I put a teaser out there for a high-drama, ultra-deep sonnet, written during my Sophomore year of college. I know I did not deliver it during my Valentine's extravaganza. But trust me, I have my reasons.

It turns out that, upon further review, the sonnets I wrote back in 1996 are rather...dreary. They're sort of the opposite of love-inspiring. They're very full of themselves and make me wonder...what was I so gosh darn introspective about when I was all of 19?

Also, why did I write a sonnet about a guy being super into me? So unlike me, and...Did that ever even really happen? When I was 19?

I guess maybe I learned a valuable lesson back in Lambert Hall, circa '96. It's a lesson that I am only now fully realizing: when you write a poem it doesn't necessarily have to be about your exact life. I mean, I wasn't claiming to write my biography here, so don't go throwing the book at me, a' la James Frey.

It's called artistic license, peeps. It's called writing a sonnet about my favorite jeans being stolen from the dorm laundry room just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Without further ado, I give you:

“He Knows”

He tells her now and then that she’s a queen,

His words unnecessary to her ears.

She finds his love and faithfulness between

His fleeting, knowing glances when she nears.

He mentions that he knows he’s worth the chance.

She smiles, says “Perhaps”, and walks away.

He knows that they together make a dance.

She wonders why love does not work that way.

Patiently, he waits for her to notice

That through it all he’s been right by her side.

Alone, unchanged, she challenges his motive,

Still knowing his intentions could not hide.

One step behind, he follows her and waits.

She walks ahead, her conscience she berates.

-Shannan Garber


(PS - My five sonnets earned a check mark on a scale of "checkmark -" to "checkmark +", right smack dab in the middle, just in case you wondered. Who else agrees that I got robbed? Raise your hand!)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I feel sorry for boys.

Here's why:

To my knowledge, most boys do not regularly gather to cook meals for one another.
They do not collect vintage china and coordinating linens.
The would see no need for candlelight.

Last week I was invited to a dinner hosted by my favorite birthday girl, Sarah Jane.
This invitation is one that I never, ever turn down.

You've heard me talk about what a great cook she is.
See for yourself. She made this incredible fresh veggie and goat cheese lasagna and buttery, garlicky bread. I contributed a chopped Mediterranean salad.
Loey capped it all off with a Texas sheet cake. Holly and Kelly provided some wine and lots of laughs.

Ruby made the exclusive guest list this time around.

She brought her date, Lucy, and put her down for a nap before the meal.

Do those gals look like fun, or what?

As a special b-day surprise to Sarah, Holly had the idea for each of us to bring song lyrics that remind us of her. Anyone who knows Sarah knows that music (like goat cheese) is the way to her heart.
Lois started things off, and the waterworks commenced almost immediately.

Between the four of us, we covered the following artists: Griffin House, Martina McBride, Paul McCartney, Out of the Grey, and Rhianna. We're one eclectic bunch. No genre is too far from our reach.

I have opted not to post the picture of all of us sobbing, holding soggy tissues up to our eyes, etc... Trust me, it wasn't pretty.

But this brings me back to my original sentiment: Boys just don't understand the catharsis of sharing a big ol' batch of happy, nostalgic, time-trusted tears. And that's too bad, really.

Here I am with the birthday girl, both of us fully composed again.

This is really neither here nor there, but I loved this shot of her Anthro knobs. That cat peeking out makes it even better.

Thank you for the loveliest of evenings, my true blue Sarah.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Be Mine.

Happy Valentine's Day, friends!

My day is off to a great start, so far.

The kids love their Valentine treats from Mommy and Daddy - especially their foam pirate swords. After all, nothing says love quite like a foam sword.

Funky heart socks for Ruby, basketball wrist bands for Calvin and plenty of candy later and they are happy campers.

I made pancakes for the second time in my life (really and truly) and this time they actually looked and tasted like pancakes. It's amazing how much a decent skillet will do for you. (More on that another day).

I surprised Cory with his very own coffee maker. He's started down the path of getting headaches and becoming irritable and sullen when he doesn't get a cup of coffee on Saturdays and Sundays. As of today, he no longer has an excuse for the weekend grumps. I brewed him up a pot while he was still sleeping. Once I realized that the water does not get dumped into the filter, I was home free! It did smell very yummy - Starbucks Daily Horizons blend, straight from the Dented Can.

Now, we're off to run some errands and I have high hopes of hitting an antiques store or two. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm all aflutter.

Lucky is the girl who receives a Valentine as lovely as this:

Have you ever seen a craftier or more beautiful Valentine? It's stitched. And ric-racked. And vintage wall-papered. And buttoned. And addressed to moi.

It's so pretty, it's just going to have to sit out where I can look at it for a while.
I have the coolest friends ever.

I think the only thing that could beat it is this:

Courtesy of Mr. Calvin and his bad, artsy self.
If only I understood the mysterious code message...It looks like "ncAai". Thoughts?

Repeat After Me.

I love today.

No matter that it is 10:41 and I have not showered yet.
No matter that just the thought of combing Ruby's mop makes me want to weep.

No matter that my son saw fit to wipe up strawberry jam with the sleeve of his white shirt.
No matter that I just discovered that I would make the worst pre-school teacher in the history of the world.

I love today.
At least, I'm really trying to.

Happy Valentine's week Thursday!