Pretty thing of the day: Frame collage

I know my posts were sparse, and it may be lame to end a sparse week with a pretty picture. BUT I've been dying to have a collection of pretty framed things in my home.

AsI established last spring, I am not a crafty gal. And as with crafting, I struggle with implementation of design ideas. Most of the walls in our house are barren. Yes. Not just "bare." Barren, as in blank. This photo (from the sadly folded Domino magazine and posted last week by Young House Love) was an "ah-ha" for me. I love the mirror. I love how it's odd and geometric all at once.

But do all the frames have to be black? And do I like it because of the stripes? Hmm. Either way, it's going in that folder I promised to make.


Monday Moment: Dancing

I haven't posted a "Monday Moment" about the wedding in a long time. Nearing 10 months from the wedding, the moments in time feel more like memories. Our photos are growing more precious. One thing I am so glad that our photographer was able to catch is the dancing. It is so happy and free and celebratory! All ages and stages of love, all skills and styles of dance. The reception was a freaking awesome, sweaty, loud dance party.

I love to dance. I am not good at it. I do not claim to be coordinated (and seem to become more out of touch with the rhythm as years go by). But I love me some dance party. I love to watch people dance. I feel the joy of moving, of pumping fists and shaking hips and twirling skirts.
And these ladies breaking it down in their bare feet are women I grew up dancing with -- square dancing, jazz dancing, first-time slow dancing. With them, I learned to appreciate ballet and modern dance. There are so many fun photos. Among all of them, this shot of my Great Aunt Mary (who is in her 80s) is one of the most breathtaking. There are several photos of her dancing. She twirled and two-stepped and boogied with the youngest of us that night. Look at her eyes shining.

After last week's post about age, I think these photos confirm that youth is in the soul.

I can only hope Aunt Mary's true joy for living is hereditary. It's fitting that last week my mom commented on the "A tiny drop" post, "Growing older is, I will agree, something you can't stop and you shouldn't worry about because you can miss so much trying to be something (younger) that you are not. The best we can do is enjoy every day, laugh, love the people around us, try not to complain too much and sort of roll with it."

When you spend too much time worrying, you can miss all the good dancing music, all the things to celebrate.

P.S. I know I'll catch some crap for posting some of these photos, which are not at all flattering but altogether wonderful anyway. Stop worrying people!


Cohabitation: Let's play the quiet game

Remember that request? On long car rides or above a fit of rowdy shouting, parents and babysitters coo,"Ok, now, let's play the quiet game."

This Friday, I'm thankful for a spouse with whom I can be silent. Even after a good day, there are 15 minutes after returning home from the week's work that I do so enjoy the quiet game.




I laughed so hard at this post on An Inch of Gray about the lost art of the kiss. I was just thinking the other day about making out, and about how long it had been since we did (make out, I mean).

As blogger Anna writes, "What I didn’t realize is that once you have sex, kissing slips from entrĂ©e status to lowly appetizer. It gets demoted from flank steak and mashed potatoes to soggy mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce. It becomes a means to an end. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m just too tired, or bloated, or cranky to order an appetizer anyway."

Ha! So true! Lenten promise to savor passionate kisses and comforting good-night smooches with special appreciation? Well, ok, that wouldn't be much of a sacrifice.



Magnolias & possibilities

{photo via lovely morning}
This stunning photo of a budding magnolia tree jumped off of the computer screen, grabbed my little heart, squeezed it, and made it happy. I actually sighed out loud when I saw it.

Having spent a teeny-but-important time in Alabama fresh out of college, I reserve a tender place in my soul for the South -- for the magnolia and crepe myrtle trees, for kudzu climbing over everything and smoky-sweet-spicy brisket, for buttery drawls. It's a tad romanticized, but most nostalgia is.

Such affection have I for the magnolia's waxy oval leaves and large white blossoms that I actually gave my groom a tree as a wedding gift. It saw a rough little Midwestern summer and fall, but we've been nursing it back to life indoors this winter.

And that blush of a blossom you see may just be the reason I gasped so at the sight of Lovely Morning's gorgeous purpled branches. What is to come, little tree? Oh the possibilities!


'A tiny drop in the bucket'

{adorable image by rocpaper}
At a birthday dinner for my father-in-law last month, our niece asked Grandpa's age. "How old do you think he is?" we prodded. She guessed a low number, and so we started to move around the table playing the very fun game of seeing how young a second grader might think the adults around the table.

My turn: "How old am I, Maggie?"

"35!" she said with resolve.

A swell of laughter engulfed the table. A little high. To my niece, age is not really something tangible. Until recently, growing older felt outside of me, distant, like something to worry about some other time. Commercials, creams, wraps, bras, and all of the other hullabaloo hype about staying young-looking or anti-aging -- I've always scoffed at them.

"Wrinkles are just part of life," I've said, "So what if you laughed, got a sunburn, or furrowed your brow at some point in your life? Why pretend that all that living never happened?"

Patrick turned 30 this winter. My husband had no great panic or crisis about achieving a new decade. We celebrated in style with a weekend getaway, a surprise dinner, and couples massages. It was a lovely and sweet day. I, however, may have been a little freaked.

Naturally, watching loved ones and close friends reach milestones, it begins to seem possible that these same milestones will (gasp!) happen to me. When Maggie guessed "35," I admit I thought... "Do I look 35?"

I've started to notice myself noticing changes. I "found" a negligible line between my eyes that may or may not be a wrinkle. My mother laughed. Patrick squinted to try to find the offending crease. It bothered me.

Changes aren't just physical. Sometimes lately I catch myself imagining life goals in age-ranges. By 30, I'll do xyz. By 35, I'll be blahblahblah. It's strange and somewhat unfair to arrange these ultimatums with oneself.

I work at a Big Ten university and see students pretty regularly. I have siblings who are not yet 20, not yet 21. Some days, the clock ticks very, very loudly. The difference between 27-year-olds and 20-year-olds is acutely obvious.

However, it's an acknowledgment different from the feeling of "never wanting to go back to high school." I yearn for the freedom -- to study abroad, to skip a class or go to one, to eat every meal with friends. Yet, not one ounce of my soul longs for the insecurity and uncertainties that fade with age. I don't feel older. I don't feel "old." I just like knowing who I am.

I don't like my one wrinkle. (Yes, I swear it's there!) But I'm not content to stop growing. I don't plan to grow old or make myself promises in five-year increments. I just want to keep filling up the bucket with more precious drops, remembering that "young" is relative and intangible.


A word on Valentine's Day

I’m a little tickled. Much as I hate the commercialism of Feb. 14, I must say it was thrilling to be browsing the troves of pink- and red-enveloped cards, and then stop on the word “husband.” Lightbulb. I realized that I'm now able to choose a card for my HUSBAND for Valentine’s Day. Sweet.

Last year we were buying our wedding bands. On the front of this year's card are dorky pink, red, and purple hearts and just one word: "husband." Inside -- well, that's between us.

Have a "love"-ly weekend, readers. I hope your hearts are full and happy.


P.S. Meet Mr. & Mrs. Herb

A tiny postscript following yesterday's big reveal. One reason I adore my new windowsills is that they are the perfect width to accommodate these two little gems that I received as gifts this year. One holds parsley, the other basil. And, with the help of hubby-green-thumb (that's Patrick), I'll soon be seasoning suppers with fresh greens. Yum! Creative goal achieved, check!


DIY reveal: Operation Kitchen success!

It is my pleasure to share with you today the finished kitchen! As with most big projects, there were surprises and decisions made during operation kitchen (a la lost cabinet hinges, new oven hoods, and cabinet re-locations). But, in about 6 weeks (and just in time for the holidays), we transformed our country kitchen into a bright and cozy, traditional-modern space. You'll remember the OK-but-not-great "before" ...
And it's hard to imagine that the situation is improving at all when all of your pots and pans and pantry items are loaded on the dining table and the rest of the room looks like this.

But, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel soon shone down upon us. Now, I'm contemplating curtains (?), a table makeover, and maybe accessorizing with a few accent colors. Also, we're working bit by bit on painting all of the trim in the house the same color as our white cabinets, Behr's warm white Swiss Coffee. But, first things first. The reveal.Here's the rundown of new materials.

New countertops: Home Depot stock laminate in Butterum Granite . We didn't want to over-improve the house with a solid surface top that was too custom or high-end.

Painted original cabinets: Deep brown lower cabinets in Behr Sandwashed Driftwood and upper cabinets and trim in Behr Swiss Coffee.

Backsplash: Home Depot's subway tile in Bone was the best and most neutral option.

We traded the dingy off-white hood for a sleeker stainless look with a dimmer light and fan that goes with the (original) oven and spanking new dishwasher.

While we didn't update every appliance (a.k.a. we still have a white refrigerator), if we want to upgrade later, we'll now be able to go stainless without a mismatched dishawaher.

The island got a facelift as well, with beadboard and new baseboard trim to make it look more sturdy. I'm so lucky that my husband is a whiz at home improvement with the tools that you need to do things right. He has a gift!
For example, he outfitted each of the three kitchen windows with new trim and windowsills to match the style of the rest of our house. It's (strangely) my absolute favorite of the updates we did. The trim makes the room feel finished and less like an afterthought addition to an old home (which is how it looked when he originally inherited it). Oh lordy. How I wish I had "before" photos of THAT mess.

We also now have added storage over the fridge in the form of a restored cabinet (for which we lost the hinges for a few weeks... uh oh!) and a pair of deep storage baskets that hold linens and conceal the "junk drawer" of yore. We gained some utility as well, by trading out a pair of lower cabinets when we added the dishwasher. Those moved to the left of the stove, where a more narrow cabinet previously stood.

Speaking of the dishwasher. I must confess. I lied earlier. My HANDS DOWN most fave part of the kitchen is my dishwasher. Oh how I love thee, automatic washer of dishes. I now come home to clean sinks and clean dishes that only need putting away. With a long commute to and from work, I now gain back the time I/we used to spend cleaning up the kitchen. Glorious dishwasher! Hallelujah!

So there it is, folks. Accessorizing is next on the agenda. Maybe I'll buy some fake limes after all.


Pretty thing of the day: Springy sitting room

Ah yes, a bright and cheerful little room, courtesy of Newlywed Diaries. I love the botanical prints and the symmetrical grouping of six in the matching frames. You may have guessed that it's blizzard-ing again here today. Well, ok, not a blizzard. But it's really snowing again. Blah. For some reason, this little photo I had stashed away seems like somewhere in sunny So-Cal or another blessedly southern destination.


Monday moment: Honeymoon memories

Last night, Patrick and I had one of those inside joke laughing fits. You know the type. After the lights went out and we were almost asleep, I started with, "Remember when ..."

And we went back and forth laughing about our trip to the Bahamas and all of the crazy and awesome and funny things that happened that week, about how tired we were at first, about the romantic meals, the beach vendors, and the beautiful landscape. It was a warm set of memories to revel in as the biggest snowstorm of the season (so far) swept a white blanket over the state.


Heirloom love letters

It's snowing here. So a little online window shopping is in order this weekend. I stumbled on these really precious hankies from Anthropologie by Bird & Banner. Embellished with the phrase, "when this you see, this think of me," they are meant as Valentine's greetings. So sweet. Only thing about these is the pricey pricetag (duh... it's Anthropologie).

The darlings would have made absolutely perfect tokens for my something blue ladies last spring. Remember the hankies me and my mom had embroidered (below)?The Bird & Banner variety has that unique and antique look I was going for, and would be great for one or two special people. For a larger group, though, I think you could go a sweeter and cheaper way: google "vintage hankies" and find some cheap options for bulk orders. Then affix a fabric or paper tag with a similar "think of me" message using safety pins or a few quick stitches. The significance of the hanky becomes intrinsic, rather than obviously written on the material. For the something blue hankies, we found a local small business to stitch them for about $2 each.

Now, back to my browsing! Happy Feburary!


Pretty thing of the day: Gorgeous

I'm such a sucker for a boquet. I think 90 percent of my "pretty" posts are buds of some variety. Those peonies with the white speckling, though. Ugh ... just so pretty! I love peonies. The ghastly admission I must make is that it is pouring fat snowflakes and we still have a few more months of cold. Mr. Groundhog said so just this week. Blech.


Sh**ty first drafts

So, as part of my creative energy inititative, I'm reading again. I'm reading books and magazines that are not about marriage or weddings, but I found this particular chapter in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird to be absolutely hilariously and poignantly about marriage and weddings and life and perfection getting it "right" the first time.

In her chapter "Shitty First Drafts," Lamott writes: "In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts. ...The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later."

Ohmygosh. Oh. My. Gosh. If this isn't a sentence worth saving, I'm not sure I've read one. Patrick and I have been married 9 months now (holy matrimony!), and this first year is everything like a crummy first version of something wonderful. Lots of energy, excitement, let downs, etc. We're letting things just romp around and pour out. We'll figure them out later.

This is where I feel kind of sad for couples (and brides) who get so focused on the idea of the "perfect" day and the "fairytale" of finally marrying the love of your life. Now, friends, I did have that day and do feel like I scored the "happily ever after." But, I never thought any of it was going to be flawless. That's where a "child's draft" kind of fairytale seems pretty perfect.


'Kneading' things

At our house, new recipes don't always fly. (Think taco soup or the burnt-breakfast fiasco. But God bless Rachel Ray and a friend who really gets my hubby. I tried an awesome recipe for a beef-and-cheddar pot pie that knocked our socks off. The recipe calls for homemade biscuits that sit atop the casserole-like beef mixture (Delicious! You should try it!).
{photo from www.rachaelraymag.com}
I have also mentioned before that I'm no pastry chef. Baking terrifies me. But, I SO enjoyed kneading the dough for these biscuits. It felt motherly and comforting. Punching the floury goo into a ball, then pressing it out with my fingertips and palm was stress-relieving.

Now, I'm sure I wouldn't feel as fondly if I had to make homemade dough all the time. That lightning-quick Pillsbury dough is too ready-at-hand. But the flour all over me and the counter got me thinking: what are we missing in our modern kitchens with our pre-made biscuits and brownie mix? What else has gone away in favor of convenience?

I remember reading a snippet from a chef in a recent Real Simple magazine who "can't believe people don't make their own brownies any more." I thought to myself that day, "well, what's even in a brownie?" I hope that homemade won't one day be just for niche bakeries and old ladies.

OK, I confess: don't plan on finding me slaving with yeast or my rolling pin any time soon. At least I know how to make biscuits!


Monday Moment: All grown up

I traveled southward last weeked, but the Midwestern snow followed me. Tennessee got at least 6 inches of snow, and we spent an afternoon tubing and sledding. Because this part of the country rarely sees snow deeper than an inch, a sense of wonder settled over those Southerners as the snow fell .. and fell, and fell.

For the most part, I wasn't really amused or amazed. What amazed this lady was all the fuss. At one point during our snow play, I thought: "I am nearly 30 years old. I am a grown woman, giggling in the snow." Later, as my friends mother ladled homemade hot chocolate into ironware, I remembered snowdays spent sledding, hot bowls of chili and steaming cocoa, and frozen-red cheeks stinging from the heat of the indoors. Kind of like I wished for that gloomy Thursday last week.

Who says adult, married women can't whoop and belly-laugh and scream as they plow forward on a steep hill? Nobody.