Sunday, February 27, 2011

A little dose of change

Most of us are afraid of change. But, I believe it's the fear of change that paralyzes us when it could be the very thing we need to propel us forward.

Our kitchen has been decorated the same way for over 5 years. We have had plans to do a big renovation on our home, but now that I am staying at home with the kids, these plans have taken a hiatus. In the meantime, I've been daily using a room that I have fallen out of love with because it no longer defines who I am yet I have been too afraid to change anything about it. 

In Susan Jeffers' book entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, she states, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly...It constantly reminds me that you can drop an awful lot of excess baggage if you learn to play with life instead of fight it." 

Jeffers challenges the reader by saying that we can bring more power into our life by expanding our comfort zone. I mean, why do we keep our rooms the same exact way for years? Yup, its comfortable and the thought of having something "out of place" makes us feel uneasy. 

I'd been living in a room that I was unhappy with yet I was fearful of making any changes to it because, "what if I don't end up liking it?", "I'm not sure I'll have enough time to see it through", or "We're going to be renovating it down the road anyway." But, wait. This is what my little happies project is all about. Learning to relish the things that bring me joy. And, if the room ain't bringing me joy,  it ain't worth keeping it that way!!

Although I knew I didn't want to spend a lot of money on changing the room, one thing I did know for sure:  I wanted this room to reflect family whereas it had been defining the style of a married couple with no kids.

So, with the focus of my family on the brain I decided to sit down and type all of the words that came to mind with what I envisioned this area of our house becoming. After reviewing the words I came up with, there was only one way to title this soon-to-be-loved-like-no-other area of our house: LIVEing room because I realized, this room was meant for just that! LIVING!

I began taking some baby steps of change. I removed the country-style window pane doors from the kitchen cabinets. (I wish I had a before picture but, trust me, country.) Cost? Free! 

Ahhhh, it felt opening up your front door to welcome a nice, summer breeze. I proceeded to purge these shelves of what we didn't need and lined them with the dishes we loved. Not a huge endeavor but it was a start and it made me feel good!

A couple of months later while out shopping with my mom (note: do not shop with this woman if you are on a budget because she can make you see the importance of buying a tchotchke like buying an umbrella for a rain storm!) I came across this gorgeous comforter at Home Goods and, at that very moment I knew that this was going to be the focal point of our LIVEing room. The colors made me feel energetic, fun, love, family, gathering, and like a big ole' plate full of yummy delicious fried chicken with a side of rich, chocolate frosted cake. THIS was made for our kitchen and LIVEing room. Cost: $49.99. (And, yes honey, this IS a good deal).
(You may laugh at my new comforter turned tablecloth but it's
highly indestructible + kids = just throw it in the wash & a happy Mommy)

(The new table covering even matched
my Greek key covered chairs and woven rug!)

I needed to tie in the comforter colors to the kitchen. I was really feeling pink.  I ran down to the basement to dig out some fun wrapping paper I bought at Hallmark over the holidays. My mom and I proceeded to line the shelves with it. I wanted something to modernize the floral design so I ordered some fun pink and white Chevron material from etsy. Total cost for everything? $10 and I love it!

While I was busy snapping photos of my cabinets,
Emerson was watching. (And looking a little Nick Nolte).

I am totally, hopelessly in love with photos. I treasure being surrounded with the faces of people I know and love. Just a quick look at one will bring me a rush of warm feelings and memories.

I wanted to shake it up a bit with our photos having been inspired by the recent trend in salon style photo arranging so I went from this.....

(Look at my little guy in his Daddy's old childhood chair. 
I could eat him up!) this....

....and this....
(Yes, I know some are hung cock-eyed, but
we're going to fix that...)

So, in addition to a few 100 other projects I'm working on, I'm continuing to play with ideas for our LIVEing room and would love any input or ideas you have. In the meantime, guess what trend-forecasters just named as the it color for Spring 2011? Yup, pink. (I may not be rockin' my fashion director role anymore but I think I still got it. I'm just sayin'....)

"Change always comes bearing gifts." - Price Pritchett

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Afternoon Bubble Baths

I am reading this fascinating book entitled "Chasing Daylight" by Erwin McManus. It has moved me and I believe the book came into my life as this exact time not by chance but for reason.

The book focuses on seizing the power of every moment of our life. McManus reminds the reader that time never stands still and like the petals of a rose, moments fall to the ground once there is no life in them. He states, "moments are to be treasured. However mundane a moment may appear, the miraculous may wait to be unwrapped within in."

Why is it that we're always complaining, "if I only had more time I'd do x, y, z" or "once the kids are in school full time I'll do more of x, y, z" or "once I retire I'm going to x, y, z."

We DO have time. Why do we deprecate when we are the very ones who make our own schedule? We will make something happen if it's a priority.

I have tired of hearing myself say I want to read more, spend more time with friends, travel, become an amazing cook, get back in touch with my craftastic self, and cherish my husband more. So, as part of my little happies project, I'm doing MORE. More of the things I love and that bring me joy. Starting with....

More on this project later....

When I can steal a few minutes on the computer, I love catching up on my favorite girl's blog. Kelle has inspired me in many ways. One example is that she takes a bubble bath with her daughter during the day frequently. I LOVE bubble baths yet I never take them because "I'll do it when the kids aren't so little and running around."

I mean, what the heck am I waiting on? How do I know I'll even be around to take a bubble bath when the kids are older? So, on Thursday it was 4ish and big brother wasn't awake yet. Emerson and I were having a blast as you can see here.....

She has this new thing where she likes to hang upside down off my legs until 
she falls off onto the bed and then she laughs hysterically...which makes me
laugh hysterically.

I had pulled the shades in our room for her nap.
It was so peaceful in there with just a little 
sunshine peeking through.

Emerson wanted to sit between my legs so 
she could watch Columbus.

I think this is such a sweet picture. 
That little ray of sunshine on her face perfectly
defines what she is in my life.

Mommy and baby self portrait. 
Pretty good, huh?

As we continued to sit there enjoying the calm of the whirl of the sound machine and the comfort of the heat from the radiators mixed with the light breeze of the ceiling fan (shhh, don't tell Daddy!), I thought, "this is my moment" and we did it!

My girl enjoyed it as much as I did.
Wanna know how I know?

Because she literally squealed with 
delight the entire time!

She kept wanting to drink the bubble bath
hence her adorable bubble beard.

Watching the bubbles pop.

She saw a ball that she wanted in the basket....

...and she was going to stop at nothing to score it.
She literally hoisted her whole body up there to get that ball.

(Look how hard she's working!)
She won and I said, "that's my girl. That's
my strong girl!" because she is.

When I looked over my right shoulder, this is what I saw.

Now, if instead of the bubble bath I'd just done the typical read a book, start getting the kids' dinner prepared, I would have missed a moment. 

"The present moment is where the past and the future collide, and within a moment there is monumental potential. That's the mystery of a moment. It is small enough to ignore and big enough to change your life forever. Life is the sum total of what you do with the moments given you." -Erwin McManus

The moments we are gifted with are few. This is a moment, what are you going to do with it?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I heart Brunch

I do brunch. A lot. But still not as much as I'd like to. So, as part of my little happies project, I have vowed to have more brunches because you can never have too much of something that makes you feel warm-gooey-happy inside.

In my definition, brunch equates a mish mash of all of the following: time set aside from the hurriedness of life, relaxation, yummy food, lots of smiles, loss of the track of time, comfy clothes, and full hearts.

Yes, dinners are memorable, but you can't argue that probably every brunch you've had you walked away with a bigger smile, grown fondness for the companion you were with and a slight skip in your step. (And not because of too many mimosas!)

This past weekend was no exception. On Friday my friend Kim and I took some time away from our little guys to have brunch at an adorable spot right by the water. We feasted on stuffed french toast, eggs, fruit, bacon, tea and delicious coffee. (Full disclosure: I was the one who had the stuffed french toast and bacon).

Were we happy to have a break from the kiddos? Oh yes! But, who did we talk about the entire time? The kiddos. And, you can bet that when we left we were both excited to get back to them. Why? Because we had the small break and each other to remind us of just how good we've got it.
(Kim - Had a great time! I'll only think of you when I take things "bird by bird.")

On Saturday, my friend Allison drove two hours (!!!!) to have brunch with me. She won even more points when she ate two helpings of my Banana-Walnut French Toast Squares and tried mango for the first time.

Allison - beautiful, sweet and an amazing mommy!

We sat and talked and talked and talked with no concept of the time. (See? This is what happens at brunch!) We talked about working together at Gourmet magazine, how kids have changed our life, birthday parties, food, decorating and funny stories about our husbands. I'm smiling typing this and can't wait to do it again!

Then, (drum roll please) on Sunday I had brunch yet again with my friends Kiersten and Kim in the city.

I had the most marvelous baked eggs with ham and cheese along with a thick-foamy-yummy mocha latte.

When these arrived at the table I was feeling a lot of hot-diggity!

At this brunch there was no topic that wasn't discussed. We laughed....a LOT and I was reminded why I am so blessed to have these two girls in my life.

Kiersten - Gorgeous and sweet

Kim - As sweet and adorable as she is beautiful

Kiersten and Kim are both single and keep me in touch with my former self--that girl I was pre-kids. Dating, Fashion week, wine, traveling, good food AND they even listen to my post-kid stories about pacis and poop and act as if it's the coolest story they've ever heard (and yet I know it's so NOT). 

This brunch was so much fun that Kiersten and I took it well into the night and had our friend Steve (aka Syzcher) join us. 

We got a little silly

On the ride home I reflected on the weekend and my heart was full. Brunch with good friends is sometimes a much needed escape from the real world when we are required to be on a time clock, wear freshly pressed shirts and constricting ties, and eat egg whites with dry toast. But, if we didn't have those obligations, we wouldn't appreciate the warm-vanilla-stuffed-french-toast brunch days of life quite so much. 

(A huge thank you to Dave who was more than happy to keep the kids so I could enjoy this rare weekend where I got to focus more on my role as a friend vs mommy. And, as much as I'd love a brunch-filled-weekend every weekend, I have this wonderful hubby and two little guys at home that make the days I can't do brunch just as special.) 

"He expected pages and pages of bright pictures of pancakes of every variety shown in plain stacks, or built into castles or bridges or igloos, or shaped like airplanes or rowboats or fire engines. And pitchers of syrup to choose from -- partridge berry syrup, thimbleberry syrup, huckleberry syrup, bosenberry syrup, and raspberry syrup. Then there would be cheese plates and cheeses a la carte. Creamy cheeses, crumbly cheeses, and peculiar little cheeses in peculiar little clay pots."
Michael Hoeye (Time Stops for No Mouse)

And, what brunch post would be complete without a fantastic hot-diggity brunch recipe? These banana walnut french toast squares are delish and so easy to make.

Banana Walnut French Toast Squares:
3 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 medium)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 (17.5 oz) can Pillsbury Grands! Refrigerated Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup maple syrup
Banana slices
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch square (2 quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In large bowl, beat eggs, bananas and granulated sugar with wire whisk until well blended.
  2. Separate dough into 5 rolls; set icing aside. Cut each roll into 8 equal pie-shaped wedges. Gently stir dough pieces into egg mixture until well coated. Spoon mixture into sprayed dish; spread evenly.
  3. In medium bowl, mix flour and brown sugar. With fork, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in walnuts. Sprinkle mixture over dough mixture in dish.
  4. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until center is puffed and set and edges are deep golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix icing and syrup until blended.
  5. To serve, cut into squares; place on individual serving plates. Drizzle icing mixture over each serving; garnish with banana slices.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Champagne & Cookies

Anyone that knows me well knows that I love any reason to throw a party. And not just any party, but themed parties. My belief is that every memorable party has an interesting theme. 

Some of my favorite past themes have included:

Country Club Christmas - Everyone was decked out in attire ranging from gigantic pearls and up-do's to plaid pants and finely pressed white button downs to golf knickers and argyle. (I splurged a little and served caviar of course!)

Fried Chicken and Margarita Wig Party - In lieu of a birthday party for Dave and me, we asked our friends to come donning a fabulous wig and a donation of any amount to contribute towards the purchase of a wig for my mom as she was going through breast cancer treatment. We collected a whopping $600 and the best part? My mom had no idea! I made a collage of photos from the party, wrapped it up in a beautiful gift bag for her and clipped the check to it. She was beyond thrilled and, when she did purchase her wig, she totally rocked it!! (I'm happy to say her real hair is fully grown in and looks more beautiful than ever!)

The All New New Year's Eve Party - After having no luck scoring a sitter for New Year's Eve this year, we figured there must be other friends out there with the same challenge. As a result, our newest annual event was born. The invitation read like this:

Since every hour for us new parents seems like midnight anyway and it gets dark now at...oh, afternoon time, we are having the All New New Year's bash starting at 4:00 and the apple drops at 6 pm- so grab your favorite bottle of wine, throw the sitter's number in the garbage, and saddle-up to throw down with kids at the Menonis at the first annual New New Year's bash!!!!!!   (wording courtesy of my sweet hubby)

(Custom Printables provided the subway art style New Year's art. 
Definitely check out their site and then help them out by
liking them on Facebook!)

As part of my little happies project, I have vowed to have more parties to celebrate my friends and family. This past weekend I hosted a Champagne and Cookies party for my favorite girlfriends. I supplied the champagne and wine and they each brought homemade goodies. 

The girls all braved a sleet storm and an icy driveway to be here. 
I have good friends.

The girls!

You always need a good friend who knows how to pop a cork.

Watch out! These gals make some mean coconut cupcakes, Oreo balls and brownies.

My friend Sari. She has watched my kids while I've been sick, counseled me through Hunter's preschool search, and helped me through labor among many, many other things. I love this girl.

Teaching Hunter how to "cheers."

Once he caught on we couldn't get him to stop.

Dave won Daddy of the Year award (once again) when he offered to keep the kids in the back bedroom so the girls could hang out. Later we let him join the party.

He did; however, keep coming up with "emergencies" that required another visit to the kitchen. 
Ahem, cookie and brownie in hands, I think you can see why.

After everyone left, Hunter was happy to have his mommy back all to himself. 
(I used to mock a Mama's boy but now I see absolutely nothing wrong with it).

Thanks to the girls for continuing to remind me how fortunate I am to be blessed with your friendships. Looking forward to the next get together....which will have a theme of course.

"I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends."  ~Nancie J. Carmody


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Love is in the air

I love Valentine's Day. And I don't mean love like you love the movie you saw last night. I mean L. O. V. E. as in how you loved your first grade boyfriend, how you love your first cup of morning coffee, how you love an afternoon nap on the beach kinda love. The kind that makes you feel like you're getting a great big hug because just the thought of it feels that good.

I was the girl in 2nd grade who opted out of recess so I could sit on the sidewalk and spend more time making construction paper Valentines with my best friend Sarah because art class just wasn't enough time to accomplish the task. I mean, an enormous bag of construction paper, fuzzy balls, yarn and glitter to tell your favorite peeps that you adore them? There isn't enough time in a day let alone a 45 minute class!

I took this task very seriously then and, as anyone who knows me well will say, I do now. When it comes to creating a card or invitation at our house, the motto is "Go big or go home." (I fortunately have a super-uberly- talented brother who helps make my dreams a reality. See Exhibit A below).

(And if you think this is great, wait until you see Emerson's invite....) 

Needless to say, at our house, love is in the air. I was so inspired by some amazing mantle decor I saw online that I had to dress up ours as well.

I used unbleached coffee filters, cupcake liners, newspaper painted with pink acrylic paints, sheer pink ribbon and twine for the garland. I think all things need a little glitz so I drizzled some silver glitter glue on the rosettes which makes it very pretty with the lights at night. (The garland was inspired from the very talented Pam Garrison. Thank you!)

I painted wooden clothespins pink and clipped photos of our loved ones on ribbon. I then secured the ribbon to the back of our mantle artwork (painted by my wonder-FULL-y talented husband). The tea lights are baby food jars.

It's not perfection but it's love and it makes me smile every time I walk by it. So, I couldn't stop there.....

 (bear with the dark photos)
Grapefruit Izzes (my fave!) have a pink label which provided the perfect color for my kitchen windowsill display.

I was inspired by Kelle Hampton's blog. Kelle's mom prefers Perrier as her beverage of choice. She came to visit and Kelle turned her Perrier passion into decor by displaying the empty bottles with flowers.

If you haven't checked Kelle's blog out you are in for a treat. Her photos and writing are truly inspirational. And, that girl's got nothin' but L-O-V-E!

Other love projects going on in our house this week.....

Red Christmas lights and doilies from the Dollar Store

Taking photos of my favorite little happies.....


What makes you feel nothing but L-O-V-E?