it might be behind the door but that’s better than the counter

2014-03-17 14.08.37Wow, now that is a provocative blog post title. Far superior to the last one. First, let me tell you that I put the snow boots down in the cellar. I hope this is not like when the stupid groundhog sees his shadow and now we’ll get that once last March blizzard. If that happens, I apologize to all my fellow New Englanders. I just cannot stand to even look at those boots for one more moment. (My mother just told me that the extended forecast is suggesting snow next Wednesday or something. To be fair, that forecast came out before I put the boots in the cellar. Clearly I am not responsible.)

This has nothing to do with the stellar topic of this blog. I was just excited about the boots.

So, I tried to create a workspace for myself outside of the kitchen. I have tried this many times. In more than one house. But ever since I had kids, the kitchen is just sort of my place. I am okay with it. It doesn't even make me feel less of a feminist. I've even been barefoot and pregnant in my kitchen and still remained one strong broad. (I don't think I'm supposed to say that ... ) In fact, I reclaim the kitchen as a feminist stronghold! Anyway, I can’t ever get out of this room. I try. I can sometimes get about 2 or 3 feet into the living room. I almost make it to the easy chair every day. My forays into other rooms have generally been colossal failures, so I decided to just move back into the kitchen. I mean, I am allowed to sleep upstairs—in a bed, even. I'm talking about my workspace. I created a nice little spot in the “coloring room"—as my kids refer to it—right in amongst my kids' workspace. It was a lovely concept. Didn’t work. I couldn’t get out of the kitchen. I brought all my stuff back in here. (Yes, I am in here now.)

I started out at the kitchen table, but it was such a drag to have to clear all my stuff away every time we had to eat. So I ventured onto the counter, but trying to toast anything, or use the blender, or food processor, pour juice, cut up pancakes—do you get what I’m getting at?—became a hassle with my laptop in the way.

The solution? 2014-03-19 22.41.51

A shelf behind the door! AND I used materials we already had so all I spent was one dollar on this new pad of paper. Pretty, right? And only ONE DOLLAR!

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You would think that the door might bang right into the shelf, right? No! It totally doesn’t! The 2014-03-19 15.24.07red step stool stops it! How awesome is that? (Totally, right?) Now I have everything I need all laid out and pretty and organized. This will change my entire life and I will never be disorganized or stressed or overwhelmed again! (Not true. But toasting things will be a lot easier.)

Also, Steve (not his real name) says this is a very ergonomic set-up. It does make me feel very ergonomic and I'm not sure what to make of that. But I think it's good. I may never sit again. Which is pretty much my life, so it works out perfectly.

Happy Friday, everyone!


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still cleaning

2014-01-28 17.54.28

Putting things together hurts my thinker a little. (A lot.)

I am STILL cleaning.

Not really. But I did just finish up a few hours ago. To be fair, I accidentally moved from normal housecleaning mode to obsessive need-to-reorganize-the-socks-or-the-world-will-end mode. I never know how that happens. But it does. And it’s terrifying. I’m okay, though. I emerged and the house looks much improved, if I do say so myself, and there is no dust anywhere and if anyone dares to drop even a cracker crumb on the floor, I will have a fit. Just kidding. (No, I’m not.)

So, here are our assembled cubbies! I decided to put them in front of the window seat instead of under the work tables. Why? Who knows. I cannot be held fully responsible for what I do whilst in the clutches of obsessive need-to-reorganize-the-socks-or-the-world-will-end mode. It's like labor: you can pretty much say or do anything and get a free pass.

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2014-01-30 17.05.20

And look:

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only all this was left over! Also some glue may have been utilized that was not included with the hardware because these (non)directions

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I don't understand this.

are pretty much indecipherable and super-glue totally is—decipherable, that is. So I used the Force and I am certain these are fully operational! And completely safe! More than likely. These were probably just extra parts even though Steve (not his real name) says they never give you extra parts. And can I share with you the deal I got on the storage pieces?! Let me start by saying I went to Home Depot and Target and found some nice canvas cubes. But they were too tall. So I hit the Dollar Tree and grabbed some little bins. But I really wanted some baskets or canvas cubes, too. So I went to the Christmas Tree Shops and found all these things and they were insanely cheap! The boxes were $2.50 and the canvas cubes (which possess the PERFECT dimensions for these cubbies) were—Are you ready? NO you are not! It is a trick question as you never will be ready because it is so crazy amazing!—ONE DOLLAR A PIECE! I am still reeling. Could be an inner ear infection but I think it’s the crazy amazing deal.

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2014-01-29 13.40.07

ONE DOLLAR A PIECE! See—I was totally telling the truth.

So, I have been diligently working away at the short story I promised you. Or maybe I am totally lying and have instead been immersed in obsessive need-to-reorganize-the-socks-or-the-world-will-end mode. (It’s the second one.) But I will have that story ready for next week—this I promise you! Pretty much. At any rate there is at least a 50-50 shot at it. I never know when a thing like obsessive need-to-reorganize-the-socks-or-the-world-will-end mode might strike and I am still editing The Mosquito Hours, but I do promise.

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I might, however, be busy picking away at the outrageously sticky and ridiculously fall-apart-y stickers required to tell the pieces of the thinker-hurting furniture apart. Seriously.


Wanna see something? 2014-01-27 10.13.50

2014-01-27 10.14.00

2014-01-27 10.14.13

This is my house. There is this joke I saw on Facebook and it goes like this. A husband comes home from work and the house is a complete disaster. Dirty dishes are piled up out of the sink, toys everywhere, floors grime-covered, baskets overflowing with laundry, kids’ paint splotched all over the floors and walls, no supper on the table, filthy kids running wild. The husband finds the wife upstairs lounging in bed. (If it were me, there would be books. And wine.) He says, “What happened?” She says, “You know how you’re always asking me what I do all day?” He says, “Yeah.” She replies, “Today I didn’t do it.”

Here are some close-ups of the disaster.

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2014-01-27 10.14.44

I never realize how much cleaning up I do all day until I have a couple days of not doing it. I think I do the picking up and wiping down unconsciously, like a tick.

But believe me—I am not complaining this time. Because wanna see something else?

2014-01-27 20.39.01

My book! The proof copy came in the mail and I spent the weekend proofreading. And being totally amazed that I held my book in my hands. It was definitely worth the several days of cleaning I was sure to face afterwards.

Steve (not his real name) was a serious hero. He dealt with all the big issues: from Ponies to Nerfs to Minecraft to endless sharpening of colored pencils and even more endless requests for food. (You cannot imagine how often these people want to eat.) He even took the kids—and when I say that I mean ours and my sister’s—out for pizza and to the movies. He’s still twitching a little. So, in the spirit of transparency, this mess is worse than usual because it was committed by twice as many rotten kids. I choose the word “rotten” with utmost affection. And Steve (not his real name) is nothing like that guy in the joke. He never asks me why the house looks like a cyclone hit. He just cheerfully steps over the rubble. He’s one of the good ones, that Steve (not his real name). I do always feed him, though.

So, what is it like to read your own book? Pretty unbelievable. I hadn’t read this particular draft since July, so it has had a good long time to ripen. I started writing this novel in 2010 (I think ... ) and this is draft 8. Yeah—that many. And it will probably go through at least one more. Although, the heavy-lifting is done. Now it’s more of a gentle whittling. Tweaking. I could probably do this forever—every writer could. Obsess over a word here, consult the thesaurus over another word there. But at some point—when you know in your gut that it is tight and it has been edited professionally, I might add—you have to let it fly out into the world. But reading the novel now, I am so happy with it. It’s better than I remembered, to toot my own horn. Which makes it sound as though I thought it kind of sucked before now. But when you’re the writer, it can be difficult to focus on anything but the self-perceived flaws and worries about shortcomings. So this is a lovely, lovely thing—to read your book and feel excited and proud and ready to share it!

Believe it or not (if you’re a mom, you can), I am still cleaning. And I have several loads of laundry to fold. But toggling between proofreading my book and scrubbing the floor—my 2 vocations, homemaker/mom and writer—today I feel nothing but lucky!

glass bottles; good deals on cubby storage; the 90s

What a terrible blog post title. I’m sorry. When you can’t think of a good blog post title, you come up with a lousy one and just apologize for it. (There’s a nice blogging tip for you. You’re welcome.) But all that stuff is indeed included in this one blog post, so at least the title is perfectly descriptive. Let me start things out by saying holy crap I got such a great deal the other day! Which doesn’t make up for the terrible blog post title, but nevertheless, it was such a great deal. None of this correlates, but no one said I had to make perfect sense all the time. glass_water_bottle

One of my glass bottle water bottles. They have silicone sleeves in an array of rainbow colors.
They're like heavy, breakable Skittles!

So, here’s how the great deal happened. A while back I bought a 6-pack of refillable glass water bottles for my kids. No worries about BPA or phthalates or any of that junk—glass is about as inert as it gets! Brilliant. I am, I know. But do you know what happens to glass water bottles when you give them to kids? Yes. You’re right. They get broken. As of the other day, we were down to 2. I have more kids than that. Had I only had the 2 kids I meant to have we’d still be in good shape. But the egg split and so 3 we got. Also, guess who gets to carry all the water bottles? Yes. You’re right. Me. And them suckers get heavy. So, the other night I set out on a quest to find some nice BPA and phthalates and any other junk-free plastic, lightweight, unbreakable water bottles. But them suckers get expensive and I am cheap. Not cheap—frugal. Which is a more nuanced word for cheap. Anyhow, I thought I might check our local Christmas Tree Shops for a deal on some. If you don’t have one of these around, it’s like a mish-mash of weird stuff all in one place at very cheapie prices. Some of it is even useful. Most of it is the kind of stuff people buy impulsively because although they never needed anything like it before—had never even conceived of its existence on this great planet—suddenly life without it is unimaginable. And at those prices, who can say no? This never happens to me, by the way. That's not how I know about it. At any rate, I did not find water bottles, but I wandered into the furniture area and found some great storage pieces for our art supplies. But they had none in stock. Then, I spied this:


It was originally $129 marked down to $59. Pretty good. As I am contemplating it, a lady with a walkie-talkie saunters over and says, “Those have been marked down further. Let me get you a price.” Into her walkie-talkie she says, “Cathy-Cathy, what’s the price on these cubby storage units?” So Cathy-Cathy comes on and says, “Sheila-Sheila, they’re $26.97.” Totally random price, and they say each other’s names twice for some reason, but that was too good a deal to pass up. So I bought 2! Also (you’re not going to believe this) I had a coupon for 20% off an entire purchase which brought them down to (you’re not going to believe this, either) $22 bucks a piece after sales tax!


Holy crap!

Please examine the following pics to understand why I wanted some new storage to go underneath the work tables. You will see that it is too messy under there. I don’t like messy. I like tidy.



Note how the light is totally different in these two pics. That's because when I went to load them onto my computer I realized this one was totally blurry and hours had passed since I'd taken them so I had to turn the lamp on and snap a new one. But it was totally intentional. Note that there's a kid up there. I asked her to go on top of the table so she wouldn't be in the shot. Also totally intentional.

But now I have to put these damn things together and my time is already limited, so I am thinking I might serialize some short fiction again. Free up some of my time to build this furniture. I could do a few excerpts over the next few weeks. Shall I?

I discovered on my hard drive (do we still call it that?) an old story I started writing in my 20s. I am debating picking up where I left off. I thought of (another) novel idea the other day—I have, like, 7 going in various drafts—set in the 90s and this piece might be a good jumping-off point. Is it too soon to write a novel about being in your 20s in the 1990s? I have a nice little 90s mix in my Spotify account. Think I’ll go turn that on right now for inspiration. I have entitled the playlist “the 90s.” Good, huh? Perfectly descriptive. I also have a title in mind for the novel. Better than the mix one, I think. Can’t tell you what it is just yet.

(Oh, I love this Matthew Sweet song that just popped up in my “the 90s” mix! The 90s were awesome.)

I ended up getting the kids some very reasonably priced nice BPA and phthalates and any other junk-free plastic, lightweight, unbreakable water bottles at Target. Also, since I was there, I got a Starbucks. It was a stellar night overall.

So, want me to post the story or what?

turning toward a fresh new year

I have been so very scattered since Thanksgiving. Between the Holidays and my dad’s health crisis, I have been vacillating between feeling completely overwhelmed and a super-hyped emotional state. Every now and then I feel calm. Mostly when I am unconscious. To make it all just a little more interesting, my kids got a stomach bug in the middle of everything which they graciously passed along to me. And I felt kind of lousy for more than a week. Not wicked lousy; just lousy enough.


I know Christmas is a week away, but Yes, I DID begin writing this post a week before Christmas. Yes, it IS January 10th.



I hardly left this here easy chair for a week. It was Pep's and it's not pretty,
but holy dear La-Z-Boy is it comfy!

Can I tell you how happy I was when December 26th arrived? That makes me sound a bit Scrooge-y and I swear I wasn’t. We had a lovely Christmas—we busted Dad out of the rehab for the day and everyone had a great time. We didn’t travel anywhere this year and I never got out of my yoga pants and Grinch thermal shirt all day. But when the 26th arrived we sank into that wonderful in-between time of the year. You know that in-between time: the insanity of the Season is over and the new year (when you need to get your shizzle together) is still a week away. Steve (not his real name) was home from work all week and I let everything go. I cleaned when I felt like it (not much, that is), we ate leftovers and meals I had previously cooked and frozen, I sat in the easy chair and read books. Read books! (I had to say that twice, it was just that delicious.) It’s pretty much the only time of year (aside from our beach vacation) when I just stop. It is so good.

And I bought a new planner!


Oh, the joy and bliss and excitement a new planner bestows!

I have tried for many a-year to create the perfect planner—one that suits all my needs. I have tried spiral-bound ready-made planners, small-sized planners, homemade planners, but nothing quite worked. They were either too spirally, too limiting, too small, or too homemade. I wanted something in which I could add pages when the mood struck me and replace pages if I messed up (messy don’t work for me); something biggish wherein I could stash this and that with a spot for everything—the calendar, the daily planner, blog post brainstorming, writing idea note-taking, journaling, meal-planning. Then I found this! I love the free printables on this website and have been using them for quite a while. When I saw this, I suspected it might be the planner of my dreams!


It lives in a pretty 3-ring binder I bought at Target and I have pockets and folders and dividers! Oh, how I love my planner! It’s going to change everything and I will be 100% organized and nothing ever will go wrong and I will never be frustrated or feel like I am running endlessly on a hamster wheel strewn with dirty laundry! I will be perfect.

(Not really.)

Seriously, though, I needed this planner, people. When I think about it, I have been scattered for nearly a year. Making the decision to sell our house, getting it ready for market, the stress and tremendously (and surprisingly) time-consuming process of selling, moving, getting used to a new home. I simply needed to take control of SOMETHING. And this planner is a good start. I can schedule tasks rather than maintain an unwieldy and overwhelming to-do list, I can plan out homeschool and use the space to keep track of their progress and our activities. Everything is here in this one spot—meal plans, the family calendar, to-do tasks, and daily plans.

Organization is a lovely start to this new year, but the most important thing I am working on for 2014 is balance. I know we have all heard that word a trillion times with a trillion ways to achieve it. I’m not even going to try to fool you—I do not have the answer. But I am starting by trying to honor my needs. What does that mean for me? Honoring the fact that I am an introvert who needs time to decompress and renew my energy stores every day. That means making time for yoga. It also means honoring the fact that I need my evenings to rejuvenate. That is NOT the time to try to write, which is something I have been trying to force forever. I try and then get nothing substantial accomplished because I can’t really focus, then I feel badly that I am “not getting enough done,” and in the process I’m not only beating myself up but also not taking the time I need to refill the energy coffers.

No more!

How to remedy this? Get up earlier! I have been writing from 6:00 to 8:00am and then my evenings are free for whatever I want to do. Sometimes that means reading, sometimes a nice episode of Masters of Sex (OOOOH if you have Showtime, this is such a compelling show!), or organizing my planner. Or it can mean writing—if I want to. I am so much happier because I simply tuned in to what I needed. And I’m finding that I am spending quality, mindful time with Steve (not his real name) in the evening because I’m not trying to “get enough done” and staying up way past his early bedtime.

And I definitely feel more content! Is that what “balance” feels like?

I wish you much happiness in this new year! What are YOU doing to find balance in 2014?


2013-12-10 17.34.41 I intended to write about the plague of “busy” this week, but the recent events of my life call out for attention instead.

On Thanksgiving evening, my dad went to the ER complaining of terrible abdominal pain. What we thought was probably just a little bug turned out to be much, much more serious. His vitals went screwy, they rushed him to the ICU and by 2:00 am, he was intubated. My mom and I did not go Black Friday shopping that night as we’d planned—we instead sat by his bedside watching the monitor above him, praying his blood pressure would just go up. We were simply speechless with shock and worry. On Saturday morning, the doctor told us that he wasn’t sure how the treatments were going to go. He was very kind with his words, but we received the message—they were not ensuring us that Dad was going to make it.

But he did.

Thankfully, he is getting better and continues to make slow but steady progress. He will be leaving the hospital soon, not to come home, but to spend a little time in a rehab facility. Will he be home for Christmas? The kids (6 of them between my sister and me) are hopeful. I think they can’t imagine Christmas without him. I have a cold suspicion that he might not be ready by then, but I am holding out hope, too. If a week ago I thought we might lose him, it is not impossible to believe that he might be sitting in his spot by the Christmas tree handing out present after present to the kids. And if not, we’ll just have to bring Christmas to him.

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Last week we were in full-blown crisis mode and I couldn’t help but notice—was totally surprised, actually—how priorities fell neatly, concisely, and quickly into place. The stuff about which I would normally freak out simply fell away. Nothing mattered but being at the hospital, taking what burdens I could from my mom, making sure the kids’ basic needs were being met. (Thankfully I have my good husband for that—and he was a major anchor in this storm.) What I needed to do, and what I did not need to do, became entirely clear.

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Dad doesn't have a Christmas tree in his hospital room so the kids made him a
big paper tree and are working on some ornaments for it.

Now, we’re in semi-crisis living-by-the-seat-of-our-pants mode—a difficult state for us. As my mom said to me this morning, we are planners. Serious, hardcore, need-‘em-bad-in-order-to-stay-sane planners. Our plans right now are nearly hour-by-hour.

But this is about presence.

Maybe this post has more to do with “busy” than I originally thought when I sat down to write it. In a culture where “Good, and you?” as the response to the question “How are you?” has been replaced with an eye roll and a breathy “Busy,” being present is a challenge. But this week, I have witnessed first-hand how readily that which is truly vital can come into sharp focus. That might be the small blessing of this family crisis—the gift of presence and the clarity it brings. A reminder of what’s important. Simple lessons that sometimes take serious circumstances to penetrate the busyness of life.

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I am taking the kids to visit Dad this morning. He needs us right now. So what gets done will get done and what doesn’t just won’t. And that’s okay. My priority is presence right now and in that state, everything will be clear.

(Please come back Friday—I am going to post the final part of my short story, “Red Step-Stool.”)

things for which i am grateful

Happy Thanksgiving, all! Have you thought about everything for which you are grateful? I am grateful for Steve (not his real name), my children, all of my family and friends, my lovely little house (well, Mem’s lovely little house), not really my stupid van but I guess my stupid van. It runs well and hasn’t needed any major repairs in 87,000 miles. But it’s a stupid van and I am grateful for it. In all seriousness, my children are healthy and happy, we have more than enough to eat, there’s a lot of love and laughter, Mem is doing very well, I have wonderful parents, the best sister ever, beautiful nieces and nephews, solid senses of humor all around—I am truly blessed. I thought in this spirit of thankfulness I might take a moment to walk around my house and find random things about which I am grateful. You know, the little things that make life a little sweeter. Like pie. (Eat lots of pie tomorrow. I am grateful for pie.)

my new slippers slippers

I have freakishly narrow feet and my last pair of slippers were slide-ons. I know slippers are a little old-ladyish, but my feet are always cold, so that’s why I have them. Also, I don’t like the idea of my socks touching the floor. Even though I always keep our floors pretty clean since I really hate even the idea of crumbs and ooky food particles and dog ick and random grody things all under my feet. I’m not entirely certain what these things are but I am sure they are nasty. So that’s also why I have slippers. Which has more to do with the crazy than something more legit like freezingness. (Not a word. I know. I’m just too tired to rephrase the whole sentence so that real words work.) Anyhow, my last pair were slide-ons with no backs to them and my freakishly narrow feet did not grab onto those so well. The slippers were always slipping forward and then I would step down on the really painful back edge with my heel. Also I kept falling down the stairs since they slipped off my feet so easily. I know I am young enough that I would bounce back from a broken hip, but thought it might be wiser to avoid bone breakage. Also concussions. And those slippers were not warm at all. These are warm and they actually fit and I have not fallen once while wearing them! They were also wicked on sale AND I had a coupon for even MORE savings. Seriously. It was an exciting day for me.

our homeschool room homeschool_room1

I really love this room. I call it our homeschool room but only to you so you’ll know to which room I am referring. We don’t actually call it anything, I don’t think. Maybe the work room. I don’t even know. I made the window seat into a reading nook and we bought these long tables so the kids have tons of space to do their coloring, drawing, etc. homeschool_room2

The kids are finally old enough that I can put all kinds of craft supplies within their reach. Used to be that the twins would simply destroy and/or strew everything all over the joint which was no fun. For me. For them it seemed really fun but I don’t feel bad at all about denying a wee bit of their fun since they’re kids and their whole existence is about fun. And snacks. Which can also be a lot of fun. But not for me who is the one who always has to get up and get them. homeschool_room4


My work space. Don't you wish YOU were this organized?

Isn’t this room so tidy? It’s always like this. Ha! That’s total crap. It’s usually a DISASTER.


This is the pile of crap that was on my desk. I moved it to the floor. It's is still on the floor.
But did you see how nice my desk looks? Don't look at the floor.


Ironing board loaded with craft projects. I moved it out of the shot. Bloggers are big liars.

I took these pics when the kids were out with my mom and dad and weren’t here to mess up the room. They’re back now and it’s been returned to its typical disastrous state. Kids are so annoying.

my antique hutch hutch2 Right before we moved, I was driving down Main Street and out of the corner of my left eye, I spied this hutch. Peripherally, it looked like exactly the right size to fit between the windows in Mem’s kitchen. But I was going like 45MPH so I wasn’t totally sure and the tank was on vapors so I got some gas then made a U-turn and went back where I had seen it out of the corner of my eye and it WAS exactly the right size to fit between the windows in Mem’s kitchen! It was $75 and I said how about $50 and the guy said $65 and I said $60 and he said deal and Steve (not his real name) said I just paid $60 for a discarded old cabinet that was probably in someone’s barn for 50 years (I do consent that the smell suggested such a claim) and I said no it’s an antique and he just looked at me. Then I cleaned it very thoroughly instead of packing which was really what I should have been doing. Now it’s here and I keep my baking things in it so who got the last laugh? Ha! I thought so.


Sparkle Days and Every Autumn Comes the Bear kid_books

These are 2 of my favorite kids’ books. I have borrowed them from the library and read them with my kids for a bunch of years now. I’m not sure who likes them more—me or them. So this year I bought copies for us to have to enjoy every year. They were so excited to see Sparkle Days especially. If you are not familiar with Henry and Mudge, go right down to your library and check them out. Go. The library will be closed tomorrow, so run out now. You won’t be sorry.

nature table nature_table1

This is our nature table. When we find pretty things out on a nature hike or a playground or at the beach and sometimes on one of those islands in parking lots, we take them home and place them here. I think it’s really good to bring nature inside—it encourages the kids to be organically conscious (and I hope respectful) of our world. We decorate it seasonally and pay homage to the rhythmic changes of Earth. I think it helps them be mindful about nature, which moves a lot more slowly and steadily and predictably than a lot of other aspects of life. It’s grounding.


We keep a statue of a goddess and one of the Greek god Pan here which probably freaks some people out. But it’s just to connect the kids to divinity and the seasons. I swear we’re not drinking goat blood when the moon is full.

kitchen curtains curtain_fabric

I swoon for rick-rack!

Well, not quite yet. But this is a really cool tablecloth of vintage fabric I found in one of Mem’s kitchen drawers. She made it years ago out of what she would have called simply “fabric.” I don’t need a tablecloth, but I thought it could be sewn up into some really cool curtains. However it’s not quite big enough for the 3 windows for which I need curtains. So I bought this coordinating fabric and will use both to design some fabulous window treatments! I kind of hate phrases like that. Why isn’t the first word created to describe a thing not good enough after a while? Anyhow, I haven’t had time to make these yet but I will soon. I’ll show you then. Have some patience, will ya.

I hope you have a wonderful day with your loved ones! Hug them a lot and tell them why they matter to you!

Next week I will be talking about the culture of busy in which many of us participate—willingly or not so much—and also will post the final part of my serialized story, “Red Step Stool.”

a change of plans

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Messy homeschool room.

Had this really philosophically heavy couple of days—but in a good way. And my thinking is clearer now and I feel a hundred times lighter.

But that was precipitated by a bunch of crummy days.

Let me start off by saying I am fully aware that mine are first world problems. And now that I have gotten that piece of guilt out of the way ...

Lately, I have felt as though I am always—ALWAYS—2 steps behind. In every single area of life. My fiction writing, my blog, our homeschool, the tidiness of our house, cooking meals. Shaving. (Oh my word, shaving. Who the frick-frack has time for that?) Seriously everything. I am probably even forgetting something. Or several things. Bottom line—I have felt like I simply cannot get it all together.

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Pizza boxes on the chair. Empty pizza boxes. And a pile of dirty laundry on the floor.

Conferring with my sister, who also frequently shares this sentiment, was not helping. Usually it does—knowing she is out there also screwing everything up usually makes me feel better. But this time it did not. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that everything was off. I was trying to get my foothold in our new home and city (I am not so good with change, which is an understatement of enormous proportions) and our new homeschooling community and a book to be published in the spring and trying to achieve NaNoWriMo again this year.

In July, Katie Fox of The Art of Simple wrote this lovely blog post about grace—the everyday kind we take for granted. She called it “common grace.” And this idea pops into my mind now and again and whenever it does, it gives me pause. Because I think remembering the small everyday beauties might be the key to happiness. Not forcing, not fighting, not freaking out about everything that is not getting done. (Which is what I usually do ... )

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Right around the time I first read this blog post, I experienced just this kind of moment that she means. I can’t recall the exact circumstances now, but I was sitting on the floor with my kids and we were talking and laughing and they each naturally moved on and off my lap. I simply allowed them to move as they wanted, stealing hugs and kisses from each. Their happiness that I was being present with them in that moment was palpable. And it occurred to me that this was the most important thing I could do: BE THERE. That this was a big part of what they need to be happy right now in this their one precious childhood: ME. It occurred to me: I make them happy—I am so lucky. I need only to show them kindness and give them my full attention—that's all. It's so simple and so fragile. A huge responsibility, but also the easiest thing on earth. There is nothing to worry about if I can do this. And I can do this.

There is so much common grace if only I take the time to seek it. I have a really nice life—I am so fortunate. And allowing unnecessary worries to seep in (or work I don’t really need to do to stomp in) and cause unhappiness makes little sense.

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So, I changed my plan this month. I am dropping NaNoWriMo. Was I getting a lot of writing done? YES. Almost 20,000 words at the time I decided to stop. But was it worth the sacrifices to my time with the people I love and the stress I was feeling to get it done? Nope. I think the breaking point came last week when I found myself thinking, “I don’t have enough time to visit Mem,” and I that I didn’t have the time to go see some good friends we really miss on Thanksgiving weekend. No! I thought. Stop! No goal is worth these kinds of thoughts. So I let it go.

I set a new goal: finish a draft of this book by the end of the year. I can do that. In the meantime I will be with my kids fully and visit friends and do Christmas crafts and work at enjoying this one precious life.

I don’t have to facilitate the perfect homeschool—I just need to read and cuddle with them, sit on the floor and play games with them, do fun crafts with them and give them a lot of freedom to play and explore. I don’t need a “cleaning day”—I have been a very successful guerrilla cleaner for years. I don’t need to keep a strict writing schedule—I will write this new manuscript after the kids go to bed and while they are busy on the playground and at red lights. I will visit Mem whenever I want. I will keep it simple. Life is not organized—I have to stop trying to force it to be so. Ahhhhhh!

(I’m probably forgetting something. Oh, well.)

Please come back on Friday for part 2 of my serialized short story “Red Step-Stool”!

meet my new counter!

mems_house We moved into my grandmother’s house almost a month ago. We’re pretty much settled in and getting used to all the changes. The first week I spent a lot of time standing still, looking around with boxes piled around me, figuring out where everything would work best. I thought a lot about the places my grandmother kept her things.


This is my new kitchen—my grandmother’s kitchen.


The counters are a sort of cream color. My grandmother’s kitchen is a bit of a hybrid—old paneled walls and linoleum mixed with a counter and cabinet upgrade completed sometime in the 80’s. The cabinets were a warm honey color before, now a deep chocolate. I can’t recall the color of the old countertops. My grandmother—Mem we call her—was a meticulous cleaner, right up until she moved into her room at the nursing home. (By the way, she is happy there and very well cared-for, which is a great relief to those of us who love her.) She gives us her house in beautiful condition. I found some cool old stuff in the cellar, an awesome old tablecloth bordered with wide red rickrack (!) in a kitchen drawer, my grandfather’s dog tags from WWII in a small white box in the linen closet.


My DIY crate shelf in action!

I grew up next door, in the house in which my parents still live. Mem’s house holds a great many memories for me. My grandfather—Pep—who died 20 years ago, laid the wood floors with his brothers, built the laundry room, renovated the master bedroom with his good friend. His tools still rest on his workbench in the corner of the cellar. My sister and I used to sleep here most Saturday nights—buttered popcorn, Lawrence Welk, falling asleep to The Love Boat glowing from the portable black and white which had been moved to the bureau in the guest bedroom.


Virginia Woolf wrote a book, A Room of One’s Own, in which she extols the importance for women writers to have both literal and figurative space in which to write. She wrote this essay in 1929 when women enjoyed far less equality than we do now. (Not that the work is over, mind you...) I do have the support of a good husband who encourages my creative work, and even though I don’t have the kind of literal space Woolf wrote about, it is how I think of my kitchen.

Carving out a writing life, piecing my time together into some sort of quilted whole, amidst the busyness of my children, homeschooling, the care of my home, freelance work (when I can get it), this blog and my creative writing work is challenging on the most productive days and (most) other days entirely overwhelming.


The kitchen is very important to me. I rarely leave it for very long. That’s okay—everything I need is here. As I type this, I stand here at the counter and I prepare food for my family. I clean, I fold laundry, I make appointments with doctors, I answer emails. And I write. I have all my tools at hand: laptop and notes and notepads fanned out, my pots and big bamboo spoon at the stove, my cutting board and favorite knife, my crock of compostables. My ever-chattering radio. I begin each morning with great vigor and ambition and then, in the end, I do the best I can. I write in fits and starts. Scraps of paper, scrawled ideas, thoughts, lines, beginnings of chapters pepper my counter.

My domestic moments are miles removed from the writerly life I once imagined: a room of my own, money and opportunity flowing, big fat publishing contract, hours of stimulating conversation with other writers. An endless stream of unfettered time. But, even in my most frustrated moments, I am certain that’s not what I really want now that this good life has found me. I’m a mom, a home education facilitator, a homemaker, a writer, a reader. (And that’s only some of it.) This life I have now and the life I once imagined have blurred lines, not strong delineated borders.


Pep's hat still hangs in the entryway.

Before we moved in here, I worried that maybe this house would only and always feel like Mem and Pep’s house with us as intruders in their space. But it’s starting to feel like ours. The best thing is that our family life is not overwriting the lives that unfurled here—instead, like Mem’s kitchen, it is more of a lovely hybrid.

Mem loved (loves) this house well. This kitchen is very special to me. It is Mem’s and it is mine. I will feed my family here, fold laundry here, watch Felicity here. I will write in here.

A kitchen of one’s own—that is what I have.

(Parts of this blog post appeared originally in a somewhat different form on

painting with mike

170 This is Mike. Mike is my dad. (Welcome to the Internet, Dad! No, this doesn’t really make you famous. Sorry...) Mike is a very useful person—he loves to help out whenever he can. Which is one of the many reasons he is awesome. So of course he offered to help me paint some rooms at our new house... even though he doesn’t totally love doing home improvement projects. He is a really good guy like that.


This should in theory be a perfect paint color.

A brief aside: I went down to the paint store to get some paint chips and I found one called—I am not making this up—Green Tea Latté. I was desperately hoping it would work somewhere, but it wasn’t quite right in any of the rooms which is weird because I can’t imagine a scenario in which green tea latté would not be perfect. I guess it’s a little different when it’s paint. But still. I truly thought such a thing could never happen.

So my dad and I set out to paint the bedrooms the week before we moved in. The walls had been covered with old, peeling wallpaper over horsehair plaster—all of which is a nightmare to remove. Then my mom discovered paintable wallpaper. Problem solved! You put it up right over the old paper then paint with regular old latex paint! (Such a miraculous product fully warrants—demands!—the use of the exclamation point.) So easy, right?

No, it was not.

My mom and dad were the lucky ones who put the paper up. (I intend “lucky” sarcastically, as you will see should you choose to read on.) They tell me it was an enormous pain in the ass. Seams wouldn’t stay glued down. Bubbles erupted. It tore easily. But they managed to remedy these issues. Painting would be a lot easier, they reasoned. Was it?

No, it was not.


This stuff is a paint sponge. We used twice as much paint as we would have on normal walls. And it took FORever to cover them. Also it is patterned vertically. See?

Try painting across those lines. Go ahead. Easy, right?

No. It is not.



Yes, my son DID insist on 3 different colors.

We had 2 days to paint 3 rooms. No problem—easy, right?

(What do you think?)

I fully encourage you to tell anyone you would enjoy seeing really pissed off and frustrated to run out and buy this wallpaper. (You shouldn’t really do that, though. It’s not very nice. But if there is someone you absolutely MUST see really pissed off and frustrated, this would be an excellent option.)


The girls chose pink. I know... shocking, right?

So I was totally freaking out and planning on painting through the night because it was taking twice as long to paint as normal walls. And this HAD to be done before we moved all the furniture in. Catastrophe would ensue otherwise. (What catastrophe? Just the regular kind. But still.) I am sure my response to this painting crisis comes as a surprise as I am usually so calm in general. And am never ever a total control freak.

(Steve [not his real name] please stop guffawing.)

In the middle of a panic attack, my dad said, “Just do what’s right in front of you.” Don’t look at the whole thing, he said. Just do the thing right there in front of you.


If you were smart, you would apply this philosophy to other areas of your life. That’s my plan anyway.

(He’ll most likley need to remind me next time I am freaking out.)

In the end, we got it done in one and a half days. And it actually came out really nice. Especially in light of the fact that we fully expected it to come out really awful. Dad even took me and the kids to the beach on the second afternoon.

(Daddies are the best.)

goodbye leominster

empty_house6 We said goodbye to our home, our lovely neighbors, our sweet little city. (It’s “lemon-stir,” by the way. No one from out of state has the first idea how to pronounce it. And why would they?)


The rooms are cleared out. My kitchen counter has been reduced to a vast expanse of blue.


I’ve been putting off writing this post because I kept waiting for what I wanted to say to surface in my mind. But I think I simply don’t know what to say because this move was harder than I thought it would be. I was focused on prepping the house for sale and dealing with showings for months. Then when it sold, everything we’d be letting go suddenly hit me full-force.

This is a bittersweet move. While there are many, many positive reasons to make the change and I am certain we will be happy in our new home, there is so much we leave in our wake.


I think I am at a loss for the words that could capture how we feel.


We can take our stuff—our pots and bedclothes; our books and toys. But we can’t take the charm of this city and the places we love to go; the lovely neighborhood and wonderful people who fill it; the friends we have made. We can’t take the door jamb that has recorded our history through the growth of our children. We can’t take this house which we took from a shell and made into a real home.


All that remains on my counter is a welcome note for the new family.

I hope they are as happy here as we have been. I hope their tears are few and their laughter echoes through these rooms. I wish for my family the same in our new home—and I know in my heart we will have it. I mean, what is home after all but the people who live and love there?

it’s not what you thought

No, I’m not pregnant! (YAY!) But guess what?! SOLD!

The house, that is.

I’m not even kidding.


This is our adorable dog. She is smelly. Our smelly adorable dog. But isn’t she adorable? She can’t help being smelly. Or adorable.

(I have a point with this train of thought that does indeed connect with selling our house. I swear.)

Selling a house is a giant pain in the ass. People are so critical and it makes you go slightly nuts. Steve (not his real name) might debate my use of the word “slightly.” First we fixed the roof when people complained about it. Then we gave the kitchen a facelift when people described it as “dated.” I picked up stupid leaves off the front lawn with my bare hands so it would look Stepford-y, the grass was always mowed, the house was lick-ably clean (gross metaphor, sorry—but it totally was), it was "staged" and all personal offensive vestiges of our history and presence removed. It was pristinely tidy and the beds were always made (which is not the norm—I don’t give an everyday crap about making the beds). I seriously went slightly (or whatever word is more appropriate) nuts. We were a perfect family. I mean absently perfect—there was little evidence we lived in this house—at least I imagine from the perspective of the people coming through.

But for the “offensive dog odor.” It was most often described as a “turn-off.”

Seriously? Did these people miss that day in chemistry when they were supposed to learn about the volatility of odorous molecular compounds? (Maybe that is a little wrong—I suck at chemistry.) But I do know that smells dissipate since I am a human who has been on Earth for a while and have noticed that when you cook bacon your house doesn’t smell like bacon forever. Although it would be nice if your house did smell like bacon forever. Unless you don’t like bacon. Then also if you were trying to sell your house people who don’t like the way bacon smells would never buy your house. People don’t like the way my dog smells (it’s NOT like bacon or anything else that smells good) and I can't honestly hold that against them, but smells dissipate for those who missed that day in chemistry when they were supposed to learn about the volatility of odorous molecular compounds. Or something. I was there, I just don’t really understand chemistry.

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At any rate, I bought crazy powerful candles and smelly laundry soap and expensive cleaning solutions. I washed the curtains. I washed the floors with vinegar and then Mrs. Meyers lavender. (I love that stuff. I was secretly pleased to have an excuse to buy it since I am usually too cheap to lay out the cash for it. But I have decided life is too short not to buy simple stuff that makes you happy—it’s Mrs. Meyers from now on! See how I share life lessons? You’re welcome.) I washed pretty much everything.

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We washed the smelly couch and armchair—twice. Also an astonishing amount of Fabreze was absorbed into their smelly fibers. (It’s not their fault they’re smelly, either.) I hate artificial fragrance. I never use any product with fake odors. But fake smell is better than offensive dog odor. For most people, I imagine.

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Then it happened. A couple with an extremely dulled sense of smell who didn’t miss that day in chemistry when they were supposed to learn about the volatility of odorous molecular compounds (or something) who also possess excellent taste decided to buy it! Which is exactly what I knew I had to wait for in spite of the fact that I was acting slightly nuts. Dog smells, dated kitchens, a few errant leaves on the lawn—none of that was at the heart of it. Someone needed to love this place like we do. Their feedback: “This house feels like it could be home.” It is and as much as I am excited for our move, I am sad to leave it.

They came here recently to take some measurements and I commented that what they witnessed in the house right then—the mess of toys and markers and the dish rack out and the smelly dog in her smelly bed—was what this place really looks like. The woman said it was refreshing to see everything more “real.” And she described my kitchen (her kitchen, I suppose) as “charming.” I am so happy she thinks so—that’s the word I always use to describe it.

Now we go make a new home. I can hang the kids’ art again and put out the family photos and let it all go to chaos as it will.

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For now, I will enjoy every last moment here. Oh, and I am happy you tell you that my toaster is back on the counter—where it belongs.

vacation ends—what to do? more DIY!

2013-07-31 21.08.09 Vacation is over.


Okay, fine. FINE. Back to normal life and blogging regularly and—to quote Louis CK—the whole “spectrum of responsibility” that comprises life.

Oh, how I miss the beach. Just look at these photos.

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Don’t you miss it, too?

(You do.)

So, when one returns from vacation and successfully accomplishes the requisite 17 loads of laundry and misses the beach a little too acutely, the best thing to do is a project. Does one have time for this? No. Exactly.

Before vacation, I started to think about how I will manage storage in my grandmother’s—my new—kitchen. There is a lot less storage there than in my current beloved—dated-but-spotless—kitchen. I thought a nice little shabby-chic inspired shelf along the side of the refrigerator would be a good fit for mason jars and pretty serving dishes. I hit the consignment store and found nothing but bought 4 used books. In light of the fact that I already have so many to-be-read books did I need more books? Yes. I did. We need never question that. I found a bunch of totally cool but overpriced shelves. I mean, I am not spending $65 bucks on a shelf that is slightly but charmingly dilapidated and painted over with a pretty shade of paint. C’mon—what do I look like? So I dragged the kids around to some antiques shops and they LOVED it. No, they didn’t. They were just barely tolerably, as was I so it worked out perfectly. Also it was lunchtime. (I’m not a great mother.) But I suddenly was inspired by some old wooden crates. Wouldn’t they look lovely stacked together and lined with oil cloth? YES, THEY WOULD!


So, I found some old crates—for $45 bucks each. Are you kidding me? C’mon—what do I look like? Then at Jeffery’s Antique Co-op Mall I found a couple of crates for $5 bucks a piece! What?! Yes, I am totally serious. When I told Steve (not his real name) about my find, he said, “So, now you have 2 crappy crates you paid $10 dollars for.” He is just jealous of my expansive frugality and impressive originality with home decor. Also my vocabulary.


I already had a crate from Ocean Spray—Steve’s (not his real name) nonno owned cranberry bogs in Plymouth County and this was one of his boxes.


Although we have 27,000 boxes of nails, of course not one size was right. So, I took everyone down to Rocky’s Ace Hardware with the promise of squirt bottles all ‘round—because why wouldn’t that be an incentive?—and got me some nice little squat nails. (The second photo illustrates the use of the wrong sized nail. Don't do that. That is a cautionary pic.)



I nailed those crates together and voilà! Rustic shelf! And look how beautiful my green tea latté looks on there!


My local fabric store does not carry oil cloth, so I bought some pretty heavy cotton and whipped up some lovely shelf liners. This whole thing: less than $20 bucks!


Can you stand it?

(You can’t. That’s ok, though.)

Please share your (weird, or not) DIY projects. Maybe someday I will tell you about DIY sunscreen. (By the way, do NOT do DIY sunscreen.)

i am tired of hiding my toaster

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I think she likes hanging out with the wine.

Well, it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. Are you okay? I’m really sorry. I once promised I would never do this to you again. But I did. Now when I repeat this promise you won’t believe me. But I swear—I am nothing like that lying college boyfriend. I wasn’t flirting with those girls. I swear. See, you don’t believe anything I say anymore.

It suddenly occurred to me one day a couple weeks ago that I had completely forgotten to blog for like 3 weeks. I’m serious. I totally forgot to blog. How does one forget something like that? Then I continued not to blog for a few more weeks. But that was more like blatant not doing it. In my defense, this house-selling business is awful.


Did you know I have to put my toaster away every time someone wants to view this place? Also my dish drainer. If I don’t, the prospective buyers will not be able to imagine living here in a house where people actually toast things and wash their dishes. They don’t want to know we eat. Maybe it will make them buy this place if they think no one here ever eats.

Doesn’t this make perfect sense?

(It might have something to do with de-cluttering, but I can't remember anymore. It's probably about toast. I’m so tired.)

Additionally, this house-selling business is horribly time-consuming. And also stressful and distracting and rendering me incapable of thinking smartness. Or smartly. Or something.

I had a fleeting notion of writing a post about focus, but... Wait. What was I talking about?

Seriously. My brain is not able to hold coherent thought for any significant amount of time. Like around 2 minutes seems to be the max. Probably 2 minutes is a generous estimate.

This is what I am doing instead of thinking.

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overly elaborate cross-stitching

No, I’m not 80. I just enjoy the simple motion—all those nice little x’s. They relax me.

One of the worst parts of this house-selling business is the utter lack of planning that I can do. I am NOTHING without my plans. I am actually pretty crazy without my plans. Steve (not his real name) might use some other words to describe what I am without my plans... I have no idea when we’re going to move, when I can begin packing, when I can start really planning our new life. I cannot control how things will fall out.


(Sorry... I’m not yelling at you. I swear. You don’t believe me, do you?)

I have also been on deadline to complete The Mosquito Hours edits, a task that requires a great deal focus. (My brain hurts.) In spite of my throbbing brain, I did get those edits done. I have one more little scene to write and I send it off to my publisher. Then I go on vacation for 2 weeks to the beach. I have a ton of organizing and packing to do for that, which is good—I am channeling all that (crazy) energy that needs to plan.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain. Vivian Greene

I saw that quote recently and even though it’s a little cheesy, I couldn’t deny the value in its sentiment. I have been trying to relax and remember I actually possess very little control—that idea is just a nice little notion we want to believe is true. But it really ain’t. And I can't forget to enjoy the journey—kick around in those puddles.

So, yes, I’ll keep hiding my toaster. And I’ll even try to smile while I do it knowing in the end this will all work out just fine. It’s only a move, after all. You hang in there and keep hiding your toaster, too.

And I’ll never not blog again—I really mean it.

cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudel...

I totally, totally want to complain about the insane and/or dopey comments prospective buyers make after they’ve viewed our house. I totally want to complain so much, you have no idea. But I won’t because Steve (not his real name) told me to do yoga instead and bought me an annual subscription to FINE.

(But if you really want me to complain, I will totally unleash. Just leave your request in the comments. I am nothing if not accommodating to my readers.)

Carrying on...

...doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles!

No, it’s NOT a trip to the Austrian Alps—it’s a blog post of some of my favorite things!

(I can totally hear Julie Andrews’ voice in my head. If you read this with an English accent and I think it will enhance your experience.)

While Ms. Andrews liked some weird stuff—doorbells?—I, on the other hand, like only cool stuff! Come with me on this journey, won’t you?

2013-06-18 15.07.48 These are my kitchen shelves of jarred non-perishables. No, I neither grew nor canned any of this stuff. (I’m much too afraid of botulism for such an endeavor as canning. Oh—that could be the seed of a fantastic post: “things of which I am afraid.”) I did buy these things in bags and empty them into the jars. It makes me feel like a pioneer woman when I look at them.

2013-06-18 15.40.14 Here is my beloved green tea latté. My love of the green tea latté is not news here, but please allow me to expound. The green tea latté is not only delicious and refreshing AND a perfect mid-afternoon snack, but green tea is high in antioxidants. And honey (a crucial ingredient in my recipe) is a natural antibacterial, contains flavanoids, boosts the immune system, fights carcinogens in the body and can even contain probiotics! And I am ready to share my recipe. Once I hit 10,000 unique daily visitors! I average about 80 right now, so you should probably get to passing this blog around. I am terrible at math, but by my calculations this shouldn’t take long at all. You will be sipping this delicious nectar in no time. In the meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy them in great anticipation of sharing the joy with all who visit my blog.

(I cannot wait to tell you this recipe!)

2013-06-18 15.14.11 NEW TECHNOLOGY ALERT!

(Well, new to me at least and all the people like me who figure stuff out way after everyone else does. If that describes you, then get ready for a new technology alert!)

This is Evernote. Evernote allows you to create “notebooks” in which you can stash individual notes. Instead of having bazillions of random documents cluttering your desktop lest you forget all the important crap you'd better NOT forget and then have your life fall apart as a result, you can save them all in this one easy place. You can sort and search and accumulate more information than you could ever put to use. But at least it will all be organized. Also, Evernote most likely does way more than I even know since I am not good at exploring technology. If you discover anything you think I might like, please let me know. 2013-06-18 15.07.29 (Above is my uncluttered desktop. If I planned anything well and had a little foresight, I would have taken a photo of my cluttered desktop to show you the difference. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was a holy mess before Evernote.)

2013-05-08 15.04.09 Target steno pads. Love ‘em. Love ‘em, love ‘em, love ‘em. Like most writers, I have my preferred pad and pen. The pen I use is fine point blue ink from Bic. I am immovable on this. You will not move me. Go ahead and try. For many years, I have used regluar old college ruled legal pads. ‘Cause the thing with those is that you are always working from a fresh sheet—tear the top written-upon sheet off and you are left with a brand new, clean, glistening page. Good energy, people. But with a legal pad, as you tear a sheet off, you have to put it somewhere and risk it being lost or going out of sequence and no writer enjoys losing work. Just ask one. S/he will agree, I promise you. I dealt with it. Then I found these steno pads at Target. Wire-bound, people! Just flip the sheet over, and voilà! Brand new, clean, glistening page! Brilliant. And $2.99. $2.99!

2013-06-18 16.43.22 Cube bag. Do I even need to explain this one? It’s a cube. It holds its shape. Also it collapses down flat. Is there anything left to tell you? I really think I’ve said it all.

(And it was $4.99. $4.99!)

2013-06-18 15.16.32 This is the new (again, I use that word loosely) Gmail “default” inbox. Holy crap, this is awesome. The inbox I have always wanted. I am beside myself with excitement. I’m not even exaggerating. It is comprised of tabs wherein you can teach Gmail where to direct your emails. What? Are you kidding me? Now as the emails flow in, they go to the tabs wherein I want them to go. (And I got to use the word "wherein" twice!) Seriously. This is almost too awesome. It not only creates less work, but keeps me organized. When I am organized, I feel sane. For me. Which might not be saying much, but it’s better than nothing.

So, these are a few of my favorite things. (You totally just sang that in your head. I know you did.) Please let me know if you want me to complain about the insane and/or dopey comments prospective buyers make after they’ve viewed our house. I am totally dying to do it.

(I'll just go do some yoga now.)

why do laundry when you can dream up more diy projects?

2013-05-29 09.30.57 More DIY projects? YES! What in the world makes me think I have time for this? Exactly.

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When my son was 2, he took a Sharpie and scribbled all over the sweet little table I liked to use in the dining room. Who gave the 2 year old a Sharpie? That was me. But in my defense, he is my first child and you always mess up the first kid and/or do the dumbest things with them. I feel sorry for him, but it’s not my fault he happens to be the first.

Apparently Sharpie ink bleeds deeply into wood so stripping it would do no good. So I put the table in the garage. Then I almost sold it at the tag sale we had last fall, then I remembered how sweet it was once it was sitting in my driveway, so I put it back in the garage. Then we put our house on the market and I needed a small table to use in the dining room to replace the useful but ugly one that was already in there. (Are you following this?) Then I threw a pretty table cloth over it to shield potential buyers’ delicate eyes from the horrors of Sharpie on a table.


This is a pic from the gallery for our MLS listing because I didn't think to take a "BEFORE" picture. Duh.

However, keeping a pretty tablecloth on your table is not a long-term solution when you have 3 kids who slobber everything (everything) they eat and also think a tablecloth doubles as a napkin. I thought maybe I ought to utilize a few tablecloths I could simply rotate through. But seriously, these children are SLOBS and I would have to wash tablecloths every single day and the thought of how that might make me behave did not fall in the good mother category.

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Solution? Paint the table! But it was not enough to paint the table. I wanted to distress the table. Because I am always up for a challenge and titillated by learning new things! Or maybe because I can never leave well enough alone. It probably also has something to do with the general crazy. All of that. I’m very complex. At any rate, here’s how I distressed my table.

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My method was to paint a festive color over the wood and then a couple of neutral coats over the brighter color. Then I used sandpaper to rub away some areas of the neutral color and expose the brighter color. (That might be some of the worst writing ever, but you get the idea.)

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Here’s what I learned: the more sharp edges and details in a piece of furniture, the cooler the results will be. The areas where there are details on this table came out really well, but the smoother parts don’t really result in the same effect. Now I know how to choose my pieces! (Learning is fun!)

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Overall I am pleased with how the table looks and and I won’t have as much laundry to do and that makes me very happy. It will give me more time to run around distressing more furniture in my house.

Next up: this chest! Stay tuned!

2013-06-04 10.48.28

(You know you won’t be able not to.)

sometimes you just have to do it yourself

Sometimes you simply cannot find the stuff you want. It might be a natural food product or a weird pocketbook item that probably does not exist. So what do you do? Make it yourself! I promise—you can DO these crazy things. I know because I do them. You don’t even have to be crazy. Although I am. 2013-05-21 17.32.06

Isn't she so slumpy?

For instance, I have an old, ugly bag I bought about 10 years ago. I am very attached to this bag. Yes, it’s rather unshapely and dingy, unstylish and lacking in anything couture-ish, but it has useful pockets all around the outside and can fit lots of junk in it. The only drawback is that it does not have inner pockets for all the little things that inevitably fall to the bottom and get lost and difficult to retrieve and then when in an emergency I need a band-aid or a nip of bourbon, I can never get my hands on the required item quickly enough. My solution? Weird but useful pocketbook organizing thingy!

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Useful AND oddly shaped!!

One long mini-bag with separate areas for all those little things I need somewhere between always and never. But just because you never use something is not reason enough to stop carrying it around, right? Exactly.

Here’s the thing, if you have some need that must be fulfilled but you can’t conceive of its solution on your own, you can use the Google to find anything and then tweak it until it is perfectly your own. For me, that is quite often a food item because ingredients of a questionable origin or nature totally freak me out. So, the choice often boils down to eliminating certain foods from our diet or paying crazy high prices for the natural version. Then I figured out I could simply make those things myself! I know—brilliant! Here is a sampling for you.

2013-05-21 10.16.31

What is this? WRONG! It's vanilla syrup!

vanilla and chocolate syrups For milk! Or whatever. I won’t restrict you. I am generally really stingy with sugar, but a little here and there in reasonable doses makes them stop bothering me. And then everyone is happy.

chocolate syrup ¾ cup cocoa powder ¾ cup sugar pinch salt ½ cup water ½ teaspoon vanilla

Boil it all up (except vanilla) together in a pan on the stove or over a fire in a cave, whatever, lower heat and let simmer for a few minutes. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool, pour it into a jar and refrigerate.

vanilla syrup 1 cup sugar 1 cup of water ½ teaspoon vanilla

Boil it all up (except vanilla) together in a pan on the stove or over a fire in a cave, whatever, lower heat and let simmer for a few minutes. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool, pour it into a jar and refrigerate.

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waffles Yes, I could buy frozen waffles and save myself a lot of time and trouble. But why would I do that? Exactly. These are delicious and you can also make pancakes with the same batter. Make up a big batch of waffles, freeze then toast them for a quick breakfast. You can easily break this recipe in half for a smaller batch of batter.

2 cups whole wheat flour 1 teaspoon of baking powder ½ teaspoon of baking soda 1 cup of buttermilk 1½ cups of milk 2 tablespoons of salted butter, melted 2 eggs 2 teaspoons of vanilla

Whisk all the wet ingredients and add in the dry. Whisk until just blended. Make waffles and/or pancakes. (Did you really need this last bit?)

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ranch dressing Have you read the back of a bottle of ranch dressing lately? Go ahead, I’ll wait... Can you believe what all is in there? You can make some yourself that will take minutes and be so much better.

¾ cup of all-natural mayonnaise (Doesn’t have to be fancy and expensive. Trader Joe’s sells one for cheap and Cain’s, found in any conventional grocery store, is all-natural.) ½ cup of sour cream dried dill, to taste celery salt, to taste black pepper, to taste 2-5 cloves of garlic, minced very finely milk or buttermilk to thin dressing to desired consistency

Mix it all together in whatever bowl you like with whatever implement you like. (You could get really creative here with such loose instructions.) Keeps nicely in a jar in the fridge for a long time. I mean not years, but lots of weeks. Just eat it up and don’t worry so much.

2013-05-21 10.56.25

Obviously I need to make some more...

granola I’ve written about this before but it’s so good and an excellent example of the kind of thing you can make better yourself. And cheap, too! Here’s what you do: combine 3 cups of rolled oats, 3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut, a tablespoon of cinnamon and/or some raisins and almonds—toss the mixture with 3 ounces of olive oil and 3 ounces of maple syrup and bake at 250 degrees F for an hour. Throw in some flax seeds if you got ‘em. Or chia seeds. Or whatever you like. But not gummy bears or anything of that ilk—defeats the purpose of healthy recipes. Or maybe balances things out. I don’t claim to know everything. Do whatever you like—it’s a free country.

2013-05-21 10.25.49

Obviously I need to make some more. Clearly I don't plan out my blog posts very well...

laundry soap powder (Don't eat this. While I'm sure most of you would have that figured out, one can never be too careful when posting stuff on the webs.)

Yes, I DO make my own laundry soap. That environmentally good stuff is expensive and I love a bargain! This has no harsh chemicals or artificial scents and is super-duper cheap!

1 cup Borax 1 cup Arm&Hammer Washing Soda 1 cup baking soda 1 bar of natural soap (I use Kirk’s Castile), grated (yeah, with a cheese grater)

Mix it all together and use 2-3 tablespoons per load. Crazy cheap! You have no idea! I have never calculated it because I am no good with math, but Steve (not his real name) figured it out once and even though I can’t remember what he said, I remember thinking, “Holy crap that is crazy cheap!” So it must be since I have a really good memory. Except for the part where he said the actual amount. But the other part is crystal clear as though it happened yesterday.

2013-05-21 10.19.33

I'm not actually making this today. I am crocking (yes, that IS a verb) lasagna. Know what's going behind the crockpot? Homemade ricotta. No, that recipe is not included in this post.
I really don't plan well...

!!BONUS RECIPE!! honey garlic thighs This is not really in the same category of weird things I make myself or all-natural things I make myself, or non-food things I make myself, but it is tasty and my favorite new recipe. I am blatantly stealing this recipe from somewhere on the vast and great interwebs. I just don’t remember where and I truly apologize—it’s just so simple, I memorized it and now I can’t recall where I found it. Anyhow, make this in your slow cooker, boil up some soba noodles and some frozen broccoli, bung it all together and eat it. It’s delightful hot or cold.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon dried basil ½ cup tamari (or soy sauce) ½ cup ketchup ⅓ cup honey

Mix all the ingredients but the chicken in your slow cooker (Don’t have a slow cooker? Come on! Why on Earth not? Go get one now, okay?) then add in the chicken, coat it all around with the sauce, cook on low for about 6 hours, walk away and live your life to its fullest while your supper cooks, come back and shred the chicken, throw it together with the noodles and veggies. DONE.

I hope you found this post useful. Every now and then I like to share some stuff that does not simply leave you wondering why the heck you just wasted your sweet precious time reading it.

(You’re welcome.)

my kitchen cabinet renovation project OR why dante should create a unique circle in hell for people who promote DIY projects

2013-04-24 09.49.44

Cabinets BEFORE. I didn't think they were so bad, actually. I was WRONG!

The other day as the kids watched television, I tried to tell them something. (Yeah, I know... ) It was: “I’m painting cabinets in the garage and Daddy went out to get some food.” I said it twice and then paused the show and said, “What did I just say?” This was not a sociological experiment in child and television interactive behavior (Is that a thing?), it was simply me being deluded enough to imagine my words might have done anything but lap gently against the sides of their heads. Here is what they heard: the boy, “Huh?” Blank look from one twin and from the other, “Daddy went out for new shoes?” At least she gave it a shot. Once they understood what was actually happening, I returned to my cabinet painting.

So, this whole DIY ordeal blossomed out of a single word—the most highly utilized adjective prospective buyers use to describe my kitchen:


My beloved kitchen! One person described it as “dated, but spotless.” That’s right. Spotless. That was nice.

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Too bright! Oh, my blinded eyes!

So I decided that the least I could do to tone down the datedness was to spray paint the handles to take them from a glowing 80’s gold to a contemporary brushed nickel. Then Steve (not his real name) said, “Should we just paint the cabinets?” This would be unremarkable if I had not expressed this very idea—a near and dear desire—repeatedly over the years, at which he scoffed every time. Yes, scoffed.

(He will say this never happened. But it did. Repeatedly with repeated scoffing. You should see him scoff. It is something to see.)

Allow me to take a momentary aside from your mental image of Steve (not his real name) scoffing (I’m sorry) to clear some confusion. “Steve” is not the real name of my husband. It is a pseudonym I chose to use on this blog for his own protection. From what? Who knows, but most likely very bad things, which kind of makes me a superhero. You're welcome, Steve (not your real name). I wanted to mention this because several people have contacted me wondering what happened to the old guy I married and who was this “Steve?” Steve (not his real name) is the same old man I’ve been running with for the past 15 years. Confusion cleared.

2013-04-26 13.37.04

Our exposed food.

Back to kitchen DIY. Here’s a super-fun project for you! (Just kidding. It’s not fun at all. AT ALL.) You can give your kitchen a nice little inexpensive facelift by painting the cabinets. For my dated kitchen, I was shooting for a shabby chic/countrified (wow, according to spell-check, that’s a real word) feel.

Painting cabinets is super-easy. Ha! Not true! Well, it’s not exactly hard, either, but statements such as that imply super-funness (not a real word according to spell check) when really what you are more likely to experience is super-pain-in-the assness. (I knew “assness” wasn’t a word. Spell check did not have to tell me that.) First, remove all the hardware, then take the cabinets off the hinges, then remove the hinges (DO NOT get them all mixed up)—this will take so much longer than you think it will. SO MUCH. Use wood putty to fill any errant holes. Next, figure out where the hell you are going to paint these damn things. Rearrange crap in the garage and if you have 1,000 cabinets like I do (it totally does not look like that many when they are installed in the kitchen), also the cellar. This will take so much longer than you think it will. SO MUCH. Scuff all of them with fine sandpaper, wipe them with a damp cloth, roll on paint then brush with a fine paint brush to give it a finished look. Repeat last 2 steps. In between coats, scuff the cabinet boxes and roll on paint then brush with a fine paint brush to give it a finished look. Repeat last 2 steps. Put the hinges and doors back on, which will take so much longer than you think it will. SO MUCH. Also don’t forget (and this is a crucial step) to inadvertently fill in the holes that are supposed to be for the handles with wood putty so that you have to go through the extra step of knocking hardened putty out of the holes to reinstall the handles. This will take so much longer than you think it will.


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Here is me—unshowered day #3. Yes, I DID wear the same clothes for that amount of days, too.

You should definitely do this project (which is super-fun and easy) when under continued duress of possible house-showings and have 3 little kids you homeschool (they are always here—always). Don’t expect supper to make itself or the laundry fairy to make an appearance. She won’t. She is a selfish, selfish creature and I am starting to lose belief in her. So, all that regular crap will still need to get done—by you. (Don’t try to fool yourself.) Now (and this is another crucial step) go sew your own curtains. Go on now.

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Now that the kitchen is finished, I really am happy with the result. It is just the feel for which I was going. So, would I do it again? You bet! Why? Exactly. 2013-05-02 11.59.38

(How would you function without this blog guiding you with its bottomless well of logic and creativity? Tell me. You can’t, can you. I knew it.)

2013-05-02 11.59.26

where have i been?

You’ve been wondering, haven’t you? (You have. It’s okay.)

Well, here follows a pictorial explanation—accompanied by lively, quick-witted captions—of my absence along with a promise to once again grace this great cyberspace of ours with my presence twice weekly!

(You’re welcome.)


NOT the mascot of the service I used to create a newsletter service for this blog. But chimp-ish.

I have been attempting to understand and successfully implement Mail Chimp to this blog. It was slightly easier than labor without an epidural, which I've also done. If you've never endured labor without an epidural, go ahead and make the assumption that it's really hard and totally sucky.

2013-04-26 15.49.06

I wore those clothes for 4 days straight. They also double as jammies. This was not HGTV, people.

I have been sewing curtains and painting cabinets. Because when your house is already on the market and you have 3 little kids who you homeschool, nothing makes more sense than taking on a huge DIY kitchen renovation project.

2013-04-30 12.14.05

Is there any crime in BUYING curtains? Yes. You must do it all by yourself.
That's what the "Y" stands for. (Isn't that fabric pretty?)

2013-05-08 15.02.44

I have been landscaping. Although I think actual landscapers might take umbrage at my generous use of that word... Nevertheless, my meager attempts sucked up a lot of time.

2013-05-08 15.03.10

2013-05-08 15.04.09

My new favorite writing pad. And, YES, I will tell you about it in a future post!

I have been getting ahead on blogging. I cannot continue to slide on through cyberspace by the seat of my pants. I am going to write 16 posts and then I can breathe a little easier instead of rushing to get everything done. Then when 2 months have passed, I'll freak out and do it again. Wait...

2013-05-02 16.27.46

I have been playgrounding. We had some serious playground business to which to attend. Instead of blogging and worrying about Twitter (still don't really get tweeting...), we got in the car and went to the playground almost everyday. I don't regret those "lost" moments one bit.

Thanks for your patience and now that I have it all together again, you can look forward to enthralling posts detailing my kitchen renovation, my sisters' get-away, some new go-to recipes, updates on my novel, favorite things and random miscellany!

(I know—you can't wait.)