Thursday, August 25, 2011

my newest ikea want

Please tell me I'm not the only one who types "idea" instead of "ikea" every.single.time... Or possibly I am the only one and that's find fine.

Well from this master project list from the master bedroom of yore, I've been working on finding a new mirror. Or actually an old mirror to paint. I think I found just what I need! Now only if I didn't have to drive to Ikea in Atlanta to get it! I've pestered Goodwill and Craigslist, too, looking for a cheap cast-off mirror... But everything I find is square and I'm going for round-ish, remember?

This Ikea mirror is called "Ung Drill." But obviously it's not a drill. It's an "un-drill." That's how I shall remember from here on out.

the "un-drill"

Now take a look at these fun pix and I think you'll see where I'm going with this...

You guessed it! I'm going for COLOR with this mirror choice! Again, here's where it will go, in place of the frames:

This art above the headboard is still the main color inspiration for the room (along with the pillow!):

I'll probably go with orange or aqua. What do you think? Now back to Craigslist I go!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chicken Salad Cream Puffs

Well, I've been holding off on posting another recipe right after a recipe, because in no way is this a cooking blog! I'm more of a baker than a chef, if anything. And planning and cooking dinners aren't exactly my specialty.

However, no household projects have been done this week for me to blog about. Besides the laundry and bathrooms and dishes and endless picking up, but who really wants to read about the mundane?

So I'm gonna share my yummy chicken salad cream puffs. I've been on a chicken salad kick for the last couple of weeks. I made one batch that was too savory for me, but my hubby claimed to love it. He's so sweet like that.

My next batch was just about perfect. And he liked it, too. That's the one I'm sharing here. It's on deck to be made again for dinner tonight, as well, but with a few modifications...which I might as well share!

So this is more of a chicken salad saga than a recipe. And it might finally be out of my system for now.

Chicken Salad

boneless, skinless chicken breasts
dried cranberries
slivered almonds
salt and pepper to taste

I like to buy the large bags of boneless skinless chicken at Sam's. I buy the 5 oz. portions rather than the whole breasts. They're just a better size for me to cook with. They get done quicker and 4 of them are usually a perfect size for a meal for my little family.

So I mostly thawed 4 of the chicken breast portions, then boiled it. There are countless methods for "perfect" boiled chicken. Google it and you'll see! So just use whatever method you like. Keep in mind that over-boiled chicken can get tough.

I like to scrape all the fat and bubbles off the chicken, first, then I chop it into pretty small squares. (For the baby to eat with us.) But I like to shred it sometimes, too. For shredded chicken, just take 2 forks to it (one to hold it still, one to pull the shreds off).

Add a few tablespoons of mayo to the chopped or shredded chicken. Enough to make it hold together. Too much means mayo overkill and not enough results in dry salad. The mayo will soak in and seem to disappear the longer it's mixed with the chicken. So tomorrow's leftovers may need a little refresher.

Toss in a handful of cranberries and about as many almonds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep tasting it until it's to your liking!

Modification for tonight's chicken salad: fresh sliced grapes and fresh celery. I'm out of almonds, so none of those. And I'm kinda over the cranberries, so none of those, either. The fresh crunchiness of the grapes and celery are gonna be perfect!

Note: You'll want the chicken salad to be cold, so I recommend preparing the chicken (if not the whole mixure) a few hours before you want to use it so it can chill in the fridge.

Le Creme Puffs
(it just felt so French)

My favorite recipe for cream puffs is at my mom's house. I'm not sure why I haven't copied it down for my own collection, yet. But my mom wasn't home when I needed it, so I trolled allrecipes and found a good one! It looked pretty identical to mine/mom's/ours.

Here's the recipe I followed:

1/2 cup shortening
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sifted flour
4 eggs


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In medium saucepan, combine shortening, salt, and boiling water, and heat until entire mixture boils. Reduce heat, add flour all at once and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and add eggs, ONE AT A TIME, and beat thoroughly after each one. Continue beating until mixture is thick and shiny and breaks from spoon. 

(I was doing the mixing by hand and it got LONG... I enlisted my hubby's help, but then neither of us could tell if or when it got thick and shiny and "broke" from the spoon. It was thicker and shinier before I kept beating it, I thought. Anyway, no matter, apparently.)

2. Pipe or spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 20 minutes more, or until golden and they sound hollow when tapped. Cool and fill.

(If you take them out too early, they'll fall flat. I baked mine in a muffin tin this time so they'd be consistent. But I should have greased the muffin tin, I guess. They were pretty sticky in there and they aren't usually so sticky on a cookie sheet.)

Yield: 12 large puffs

(For mini puffs, make smaller scoops, obviously. But also cook them less. Keep an eye on it. Small puffs are fun for appetizers and bite-sized desserts!)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Turkey Pesto Paninis

I made these over the weekend for dinner... and they were requested again today for lunch! One meal, twice successful. That warrants at least a nod on the blog, I think!

Sandwiches are one of our favorite things around here. You really can't beat a meat-cheese-bread combo! Even the babies love their own simpler versions. (Although SweetP's front teeth don't touch, it's so cute to watch her bite it from the side.)

For these sandwiches, I used

  • Jewish rye bread
  • basil pesto spread (Classico brand)
  • sharp provolone cheese
  • thin-sliced deli turkey
  • mayo
  • butter or margarine

Start by heating your skillet on the stove to medium. I used my griddle pan with ridges to make the classic panini "look." If you have a panini press, this is where you would use it! If not, the griddle or skillet is perfect. While it's heating up, put together the sandwiches. 

Lay out two pieces of bread. Spread a very thin layer of pesto on one, and a very thin layer of mayo on the other. Then stack the provolone and meat. Close the sandwich up and spread a small amount of room temperature butter or margarine on the top of the sandwich. 

Place the sandwich, butter side down (channeling my inner Dr. Seuss) on the hot griddle. Press the whole sandwich down with a flat and strong spatula/turner/plate and hear it sizzle. You'll want to turn it when the grill lines on the bread start browning. Spread a little butter or margarine on the dry top bread right before you flip it. Once flipped, press it down into the pan, too. You'll flatten the sandwich and get nice brown lines on the grilled bread. Yum!

These got gobbled up so quickly, I wasn't able to stage a photo! But they do look good. Slice them diagonally and serve them with rice chips. Or any chips. Or veggies. Oh, yes.

This meal will be on our meal list again, so maybe I can snap a photo then. Meanwhile, bon apetit!

Do you have a panini recipe you love? Please share! Did you, too, receive a panini press for your wedding and have to return it because you needed the cash-ola more? Did you ever read Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book? Or am I the only one?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

talking trash

Let's be honest -- the garbage can is the most disgusting thing in the kitchen. Besides the toilets, it's possibly the grossest thing in the whole house.

And yet it's a necessary evil! We love it and we hate it. We need it in our kitchen, but we want it out of our kitchen. We need it to be easily accessible, but we never want to see it.

The kitchen is supposed to be where all good and clean and healthy meals come from, not germs and disease. Sweet-smelling breads and rotten rubbish odors cannot flow from the same room. (I may have just coined a proverb.) So how can we reconcile the two?

There are as many methods of tossing trash as there are sizes of trash bags. More, even. Some families have recycling stations: paper/plastic/tin. (Oh, to be that cool. And have that much floor space.) Some hide a small can under the sink. (Been there.) Some stash the trash in the pantry and out of sight. (Not a big enough pantry.) Some store their garbage out in the open in a stylish stainless steel step can with a lid. (Been there, too!) One can sure spend a lot of cash on a trash bin!

In our house, however, we are so much more posh. Posher. Not really. We are still using the ivory plastic 13 gallon receptacle we picked up from the big W-Mart the week we first moved in here. A year ago next week, to be exact. You know, the trash can with the swingy lid?

the new version

My only happy trash moments (if you can even have those) are when the bag is fresh and I can toss several small things in it without it looking full and disgusting, yet. Small plastic wrappings, the ring around the milk lid, or perhaps some crumbs that I just swept off the table. But that moment is always short-lived (that's why it's just a moment) because, inevitably, we discard a milk jug, a cereal box, 14 dirty pampers, a broken baby wipes dispenser, and a 2-liter coke bottle all before lunch. Overflow.

Ooh, that list pretty much convicts me that we really should be recycling, even if just to cut down on trash! But our weekly disposal service doesn't offer that option. Did I just hear a collective gasp from the Great (and Green) Northwest?? Yes, friends and family, it's a little different here. We don't even turn in pop cans to get our nickels back. I know, right?

I muttered to myself the other day (I find I'm the best one to complain to, by the way... Seeing that I seldom offend myself.) Anyway, as I was muttering... I said something like, "For goodness' sake! It seems we can fill a whole, fresh, empty trash can in 5 minutes or less and then spend the next 2 days trying to stuff it!" Maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was an epiphany to me.

I have been fighting with the swingy lid thing for a year now. Anytime I wanted to put anything in the trash that was bigger than the opening, I'd have to take the lid off (and set it where?) and work on stuffing things down and making the domed lid (domed, I said domed) fit on top again.

A few nights ago, as I was fighting with the trash, I started fighting with my husband. Well, just a little. He may or may not have happened to mention that it was disgusting and unsanitary to place the lid on the kitchen table while I struggled with the trash. I may or may not have taken offense at his obvious lack of concern for my feelings and strongly pushed said lid off the table and to the floor. He said he hated that lid. I said I hated the lid. And then we started laughing at how ridiculous we are.

But problem solved! We threw away the trash lid right then and there, and I've never been happier.

Being without a trash lid is actually okay! The stars didn't fall from the sky and we didn't get a sudden infestation of ants because of trash overflowing onto the floor without the lid to hold it in. Quite the contrary. The trash doesn't stink. (We do have a garbage disposal in the sink for food scraps.) We can see as soon as it's full instead of having a huge mess hiding just under the swingy door. We actually take it out more often, now, I guess because the process now has fewer steps! Without a lid, it's much more handy for me to toss trash from across the room or slide it off the counter. And without the lid, I have one less thing to sanitize. We even quelled a stupid argument with laughter. I love it when that happens. It was a win-win!

Granted, I would like to upgrade our rubbish receptacle in the near future. Ivory doesn't really go with our kitchen. Stainless is nice, but nothing else in our kitchen besides the toaster is stainless. White would be fine. But apparently our one rule is no lid. If that means taking out the trash every day, so be it.

Here are a couple of fun garbage bins to think about. Brand new never-been-used trash cans can even be pretty.

this is a small 3-gallon one specifically for reusing grocery bags!
this one makes me almost okay with a lid

Well now I'm drooling over this Vipp. At $350, I'll bet the pedal holds up pretty well.

So what's your dirty little secret to conquering the trash in your house? What size of trash bag works for you? Do you refer to it as trash, garbage, or rubbish? Or are you a house divided between the words like we are?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Master Plan

Okay, the first room I'm revealing on this blog is actually our bedroom. Probably because we're closer to done with it than with other rooms in the house... You might be wondering why anyone would post photos of their master bedroom (any room, for that matter!) before it's ready to be seen?

Well, good point. However. If I start blogging about it, I'll keep working on it. Cuz you all keep me motivated and accountable that way.

Let us not forget that we rent; we don't own. Therefore the huge things that we'd like to do, we really can't. Like tear up all the old builder-white carpet and lay hardwood. Or replace all the brass doorknobs with sleek brushed nickel ones. We have to work within the rental parameters and that's not always 100% satisfying. It's a bit of a trick to improve the home and decorate it when we really only have control over what we own...what we bring into the room. Not what the room is made of.

Thankfully, our landlords have okayed a few paint jobs. They're pretty easy-going as far as landlords are concerned, which is so nice! Up until last month, we weren't sure if we would extend our rental for another year, but now that we know we are here for a while longer, my house to-do list has grown!

We've even considered a proposal to the home owners that would allow home improvements (on the actual home: flooring, fixtures, etc.) to be made with some of the monthly rent and some out of our pockets. I wonder if an arrangement like that would work?

Back to the master.

First, the new beautiful art above the headboard: (drumroll, please!)

We both love the feel it gives to the whole room! It really is a fun piece.

Now for the work-in-progress shots... Here's the not-so-grand tour. It's good, just small.

When you stand at the door looking in the room, the wall to the left (we'll go clockwise) has 2 tall windows looking out at the front of the house. Except that we never pull up the blinds to look out because of the heat and the lack of privacy from the rest of the cul-de-sac. We desperately need the right window treatments in here. I'm thinking white faux wood blinds and floor-to-almost-ceiling sheer white curtains. Or possibly a tasteful print that isn't sheer. Orange chevrons, perhaps? We're going for more serene paradise than colorful circus, though, so any print would have to be subtle. I think.

Faux wood blinds would be the most economical and stylish way to go, especially since they probably won't be coming with us when we move again. We want to invest in the house, but not quite as if we owned it. The faux wood blinds would block more sun in the morning when we need it to stay cool. Then we could crack them for a little natural light later in the day. The curtains will be hung high and wide to give the appearance of even larger windows.

The next wall to the right is the headboard wall. We love our huge mirror in the corner and it really makes the room look larger than it is. Mirrors are so awesome that way for bouncing light and really filling up a space.

The bicycle print is definitely one of the inspiration pieces for our room. It oh-so-tastefully introduces a pop of orange and aqua to an otherwise ivory and brown palette. Like the new throw pillow! A sweet gift from my mom.

This is one of the rooms we painted. (Behr's Urban Mist) When we moved in last summer, it was a pistachio green color...and at 8 1/2 months preggo, it just wasn't doing it for me. Even though some green-yellows are just amazing, it's an easy color to mess up. It clashed with the carpet and it was atrocious with the brass doorknobs. (But most everything is more atrocious with brass doorknobs, yes?)

We built our reclaimed wood headboard last year, thanks to an incredible free DIY building tutorial from Ana White. Find the tutorial here. It pretty closely resembles this headboard from PB, but we made it for a fraction of the cost! We currently have a whole list of pieces to make using Ana White's plans...

Which possibly includes nightstands. We desperately need them! For now we're using these plant stands/end tables that I found on clearance at Target years ago. But we'd love matching nightstands with drawers. And once we find/build the nightstands, we can start looking for lamps! But who am I kidding? I've already got my eye on some great glass-bottomed lamps...

But besides the headboard, the whole bed needs a makeover. I'm perusing the internet for just the right duvet cover, shams, etc. I even want a bed skirt so we can't see what's under the bed. This bedding from West Elm is currently on my radar.

These double tall skinny latte doors lead to the master closets and bath. It's a strange T-shaped set up back there that isn't quite ready for a reveal. Maybe never. The doors used to be held closed by a little spring-and-ball system between them and the door frame. They apparently couldn't work out their differences. If we owned this house, the bathroom would get a makeover and those doors would just come off. But, alas. If we take doors off here, I just have a feeling they'd get warped or otherwise ruined in the attic and the owners may want them again. So we're stuck with them for now!

The ivory (not as yellow as it looks) parson's chair in the corner is a placeholder of sorts for a future chunky dark leather chair. That was the plan originally, but suddenly I'm realizing just how much dark espresso is in that size of room. It may need to be a printed chair, instead. But no less comfy. (Because the clothes we toss to the side deserve a comfy place to rest, right??) 

The personal photos on the wall are a little sparse, but at least they're up! The three on the right will migrate left to join the single one in some type of gallery as soon as I find the perfect round-ish mirror for above the Ikea dresser. My jewelry is on that dresser, so a mirror there would be just right. With all the natural light that would be bouncing around the room from the huge windows and two mirrors, that dresser just may be my new favorite place to put on make-up, too!

Here is the entrance door wall. BLANK. Except for an irritating cable which was apparently fed under the carpet from behind the door and popped out right where the owners had a TV. Yes, that did create a speed bump right at the threshold of the room. I'm not sure if it's a fix we can really tackle. It may leave more damage in its wake. Unless our wood flooring dreams come true and the landlords are willing to put some of the rent back into improving their house! That would be great.

The wall is a blank canvas just begging for art of some kind. Maybe that's where a photo gallery should go? I've tried a low-profile sofa table there, but there just isn't room to walk if any furniture is against that wall.

So here's the to-do list for the master bedroom:

  • faux wood blinds
  • curtains & curtain rods
  • something green on that wall - palm tree?
  • new bedding
  • bedskirt included
  • make or buy nightstands
  • table lamps
  • replace ivory corner chair
  • move trio of frames
  • round-ish mirror for above dresser (something with a soft shape is needed to balance all the square in there!)
  • tv cable removed / hidden
  • hardwood floors! (dream list, probably not actual list)

Do you rent and have to deal with issues like cables popping out in unexpected places? Have you ever made a home improvement agreement with your landlords? Have you built your own furniture? Or do you have plans to, now that you've visited Ana White's site?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

a bicycle built for our room!

The 5th anniversary - on the traditional gift-giving lists - is wood. We haven't followed them all the way through, but I always think about it! This year is a milestone of sorts. I mean, it's our first increment of 5. Those seem to be the big ones! Not like 3 or 8... So by way of a traditional milestone gift, we decided to buy an art print (paper which is from wood) and frame it (wood!) for above our headboard. A fitting anniversary gift. Cause not just anyone can buy you art for your bedroom.

Our art of choice (well, my choice, but my hubby - who gets veto power - liked it!) was a print of a bicycle built for two that I found on Etsy. I fell in love with it right away.

We've always sung the old song "Daisy, Daisy" to our girls. "But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two!" That and I've just started seeing tandem bicycles everywhere, even used as art for wedding invitations, etc. What a perfect depiction of two people riding through life together! I don't know why I didn't think of it before now. Adorbs. So...we had to have it. And the price tag confirmed it. $20 for this original 20x24" print! I love me some inexpensive art!

One day after it arrived, I piled the girls in the truck and, armed with Michael's coupons and the print (which only got a little beat up riding in the cart with the girls), we headed to the craft store. I started out with the idea to frame it using a white mat and espresso or white wood frame. I quickly realized that it would look best and not overdone without a mat at all. So with the coupon and the sales that were already on, I scored a 20x24" espresso frame (regularly $50) for just about $15! So $20 for the print + $15 for the frame = $35 and a very happy me!

Stay tuned for the master room art reveal and still-to-do list...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

the big 5

I have been married to the best man in the whole world for the last five years! I can hardly believe my luck. And what a journey it's been!

My favorite way to look back is through pictures, so here I go down Memory Lane! (Wanna come, too?)

2006 {we're engaged!}

{and married!}

2007 {he's deployed}
this pic is when he was home on leave

2008 {we're pregnant!}

2009 {we're a family of 3!}

2010 {we're pregnant again!}

2011 {we're a family of 4!} 
here we are with my Gramma in Oregon

And that was a quick trip down  Cassidy's Hairstyles  the Lane! I hope you enjoyed it at least half as much as I did. : )

This year for our 5th anniversary, Andrew planned a weekend getaway. Three nights. The Blue Ridge Mountains. Just the two of us.

My wonderful in-laws drove to town to stay with the girls while me and my groom ran for the hills! We really needed the break and are so grateful! We had never left the girls overnight before this. Nope, never. So I was a little nervous. But I was good! I only left 5 printed pages of instructions and schedules plastered to the fridge...which I'm sure they hardly needed. I'm just a little crazy that way. : )

Blue Ridge is a sweet little town in north Georgia. We rented a cabin, and a car, and did a lot of just whatever we wanted. We dined at restaurants without the usual "one highchair, one booster seat, please." We browsed antique and thrift shops (which is pretty impossible with our eighteen-wheeler double stroller). We sat at coffee shops for no reason but to sit and chat. I realized that I could finish a whole coffee and a scone all by myself. We slept in. I ate breakfast in bed! French toast with strawberries and whipped cream, no less.

We listened to our music in the car. We rode the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and actually almost got bored. Haha! We bought chocolate and fudge. Both. We sat in rocking chairs on the deck - or in the hot tub! - and just stared out at the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was peaceful, laid back, stress-free...amazing. Of course we missed our girls, talked about our girls, and kept thinking how much they would love whatever we were doing! (They were blissfully having the BEST time with their grandparents back home, I might add.)

Thank you, Andrew, for a wonderful time. Not only in Blue Ridge, but for the last 5 years! I love you more today than yesterday. And I'll keep loving you for, like, ever.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

tomato play-dough

It's hard to be creative and cheap at the same time. I can think of all kinds of creative things I could buy or do if we had the extra moo-lah on hand... and don't get me wrong, we love to do that when we can! But actually finding new, creative, and free things to do with my 2 1/2 year old can be a bit of a challenge. I totally understand using DVD's as babysitters. Believe me.

It's a challenge because creativity takes time. It takes thought. It takes effort. And Heaven knows we're already spending most of our time, thought, and effort on being homemakers!

But I am convinced that making your home by building up and nurturing the ones who live in it is the most worthwhile form of home-making there is. Though I believe this with all my heart, I've yet to perfect the balance.

Proverbs 14:1 says that a wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands.

Lord, please let me never sacrifice my home to build my house.

The other day I came upon a recipe for playdough and it suddenly occurred to me that my daughter didn't even know what that was! Well, I had the ingredients on hand, so I decided it was time to introduce her to the joys and funny-feeling hands that come from playing with the colored, mushy, salty stuff. (You didn't know it was salty? Well, you obviously never tried to eat it. Hrm.)

I loosely followed the tutorial from here.

Here's what went down!

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 3/4 cup water
  • food coloring

I started with the water in a saucepan on low-medium heat. I squeezed in some red gel food coloring until it looked right...I was going for a nice pink (but of course!) and guessed that really red water would be diluted by the soda and starch and be perfect. So I squeezed in a little more. Well, my estimation was a little off, as you'll soon see.

Once the color was dissolved and water warm, I added the dry stuff:

And cooked it over medium heat for a while. I only paused from stirring to snap a quick pic or two.

I was supposed to be waiting for it to turn into a ball. So I kept stirring. It definitely looked like a way-too-bright tomato soup.

And there we go! I popped it out and kneaded it about 10 times while it was still warm.

Then it wanted to pose with its ingredients.

Here's SweetP checking out our tomato-orange creation. It was still warm and fun and she loved it! It had a silky smooth feeling because of the corn starch. She didn't even care that it was making her hands kinda dry and chalky...and she's usually pretty concerned about anything sticky or dirty. : )

A couple of changes I'd make: I needed a little more water, I think, to help it hold together better. It was pretty crumbly. And next time, I'll go way easier on the food coloring. It turned our hands (and everything it touched) a reddish-orange which made me panic at first, but it washed right off. Unlike the red velvet cake balls I rolled. And made my hands feel smooth, too! Not the cake balls. The playdough.

After playdough time, I saved it in a ziploc. She's playing with it as I publish this, days later. It apparently saves well. I wasn't sure.

So it was fun play, cheap play, and even though it made a mess for me to clean up, it was so worth it! I love playing and learning and with my girl.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Locked Out

By the title of this post you may think I'm referring to that fateful Sunday morning, not so long ago, when my husband was in the ATL for the weekend and I got the girls ready and in the car to go to church only to realize that I had just locked the front door and didn't have the house key to get back in after church. At least I didn't lock one of them inside, too! Oh, horrors.

Oh. No? Probably cuz I vowed never to tell anyone about it. But there you have it.

No, today's lock-out addresses a year of frustration in this rental house. Frustration and annoyance. All because of a few small plastic pieces. And when I say few, I mean a hundred. Of something like this:

Our well-meaning landlords installed these on almost every. single. cabinet. in the kitchen and both bathrooms. Really, there's nothing quite like jerking a door open only to have it jerk your arm out of its socket when it only opens one child-proof inch. Or when I finally got the hang of pushing the latch down, first, all the top-of-the-hand scratches were really awesome.

Lord forgive me, I used to be a little judgmental and eye-rolling about child-proofing. And now I'm worse. On the receiving end, it feels more like parent-training! My hubby and I were the only ones in the house being stopped by these little critters.

Our SweetP was so easy in this respect. I never baby-proofed one thing when she was learning to get around. Well, we did plug some of the more accessible outlets with the plastic covers. (Equally as annoying.) We just taught her that some things were no-no-touches and she was pretty great! I gave her one drawer in the kitchen that was okay to play with - full of plastic lids and such - and she was happy as a clam.

At her grandparents' house, we taught her to climb up and down the stairs and practiced with her and she never fell! So far they have 5 grandchildren and we've never needed a baby gate. Yes, it does take extra time and attention. But that's not hard to come by at Grandpa & Nana's.

Maybe LittleGirl will prove to be more of a challenge. She already can't seem to stay away from cords and cables. (This girl grabs the charger for the dirt devil, sticks the business end in her mouth, and gets a little shock that makes her fuss. Then she does it again! Yeah, she may be more challenging in this area.)

Back to the point of this post. A couple weeks ago, I got fed up with jerking my arm out of its socket and getting cabinet scratches on my hand. (It took a year. I obviously have the patience of Job. Ha. More like procrastination.) Anyway, when we came to the decision that we were going to rent here at least another year, sorry landlords, but those child-proof locks had to go.

So armed with a Phillips screwdriver and 5 or 10 minutes, I removed all of the little hooks and arms from every low cabinet door in the kitchen. Each one had 4 screws! Apparently they were there to stay.

Oh, the freedom! I proudly waited for my hubby to notice the huge improvement. But I don't really have the patience of Job, so I had to tell him. "GuesswhatIdid!Tryandopenacupboardinthekitchen!No,thatone!See?It'sbetterright?" Something like that.

It was SO.MUCH.BETTER! I still subconsciously brace myself for the shock of being stopped short whenever I reach for the dish detergent or a fresh kitchen towel. But I'm pleasantly surprised every time. The doors just open for me!

Now to the bathroom cupboards. I nearly kill myself every time I try to open the drawer for my toothpaste.

Please tell me I'm not the only one to live with a frustration for at least a year before dealing with it!

P.S. Lest any of you readers think I'm a bad mom for unlocking hazardous cleaning supplies within reach of my children, please know that they NEVER (so far) even open those doors. SweetP is old enough to understand. And the other is never out of my sight long enough to get to a forbidden place. She can't open doors quite yet, either. I suppose soon I may be replacing those locks if LittleGirl turns into a wild thing when she starts walking... But until then I'll revel in the freedom of doors that open wide.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

a mug fetish

I have a thing for mugs. But not all mugs. Just my favorites.

When you open your cupboard and your eyes don't light on a certain mug, and suddenly you're re-thinking whether you really wanted that cup of coffee/tea/cocoa/milk that you were so keen on a second ago... That's how you know you play mug favorites.

Why is this? It's obvious! The mug makes the drink. It's at least half the fun. If I look in the cupboard and don't see a fave, then I'm really not that thirsty.

I'm not one of those who - bless their hearts - don't care what vessel it is as long as it's filled with their morning fuel. Pronto. I know people who'd count themselves lucky to drink cold coffee out of a muddy hoofprint... No. That was True Grit, not real life.

On the contrary. My drinking habit (not that kind) is based on beauty and emotion. Just like a girl.

My husband has favorites, too. Lucky for me, his aren't the same as mine! He has a couple Civil War mugs, you see. You know, the Mort Kunstler painting ones? They make him happy to drink from, so I know at least he will understand this post! My soulmate.
(See the poor faded one in the back? That was all my fault. We always hand-washed it until one day I threw it in the dishwasher... Ah. So that's why. My apologies, Mr. Kunstler. Sorry, General Lee.)

I like mugs that have stories. I like mugs that have meaning. I like substantial mugs, pretty mugs, classy mugs, awesome mugs.

Several years ago (when I still lived with my parents!) my mom began revamping her mug collection. Garfield had to go. Randomness had to go. Mugs with chips and glued-on handles had to go. Cheesy definitely had to go. We began to refill her shelf with mugs that had to adhere to just one stipulation: they must be all white. Any shape, any size, any pattern, any texture.

Now that, my friends, was classy. I loved setting up a coffee service at her house! The mugs matched, but didn't match. And it sure was fun and easy to shop for stocking stuffers, Valentines, Mother's Day, etc.! My favorite one she currently owns is one that I bought her. Shocking. I can't remember if it was this past winter, or even longer ago, but Starbucks sold one that was textured like a cable sweater. Gah! The best of both worlds! Coziness in a cup.

My brothers have a great one at their apartment. It's a plain white round mug, but the handle is a pistol handle. A gun handle mug. All white ceramic. I always hum something about "number one with a bullet...loaded gun complex" when I see it. I can't help it. I'm a creature of habit.

Well, I've yet to become that classy in my own home. I started out well, though, by registering for way too many place settings of my Pottery Barn dishes and the mugs to go with. Sadly, those are the mugs that get the least usage. They're too boring and not unique enough for me, apparently.

image from here

My first favorite mugs (in chronological order, not order of like) that we owned in our own home were a couple that I'd bought when I worked at Starbucks. I sent one to my then-boyfriend-now-hubby, and kept the matching one with me. Now they've been together for 5 years and still going strong!

My next favorites were a wedding gift from my Granny. What could be cooler than a set of Fire King jadeite mugs?? Not. Much. These mugs are also famous movie stars. I just happened to notice them in Secretariat the other day and got all smug that I knew what they were and, in fact, have 4 in my cupboard. (Did you notice the word "mug" is in smug??)

I just saw on Ruby Lane a set of 6 of my exact mugs for almost $200!! I was a bit in shock. Still am.

I love this light blue one that I have. I think my husband bought it for me as a prize once upon a time.

I dislike a couple of blah Goodwill and Walmart ones that we picked up when we first moved cuz we needed them. I guess we felt like we were camping so it didn't matter?

My new favorites are these. Understated elegance. Starbucks had them in every size: 12, 16, and 20. The "talls" were the best for home use and at only $5 a piece, I grabbed 4! I'm pretty sure they're my hub's new favorites, too. Seeing as they're never in the cupboard, always in the sink. I'm glad I got 4! I did just happen to see online that they also have a small 3 oz. one. Maybe when Paisley turns 3 and needs a big girl mug for her egg-knock.

Oh, and I must give at least honorable mention to some great Christmas mugs I picked up last winter on clearance at Crate & Barrel. Honorable mention only because they haven't even been test-driven yet! Can't wait to pull them out this year! They may just take the cake. Er, the eggnog. The hot cocoa. The peppermint mocha.

Yes, mugs make me happy. Do you have favorites? Did anyone notice most of my faves were from Stah-box? I can't really explain that.

P.S. Nope, Starbucks doesn't know I'm writing this. It's not for them, just for me. And you! Just better make that clear. No payments or free stuff from them. Or Crate & Barrel. Or Ruby Lane. Or Mr. Mort Kunstler.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Feedburner Changes

I know many of you have subscribed to this blog in the past and may still be getting updates from In Love & War.

Well, I've tried to log on to Feedburner to change the name to Harper's Bazaar, but it's been a while and they've now become part of Google's family of products. I canNOT figure out how to login with them in order to change old info. All my super secret combination of email addresses and passwords aren't working. Poo.

Here's what I suggest: cancel your feed subscription from In Love & War. (When you get an email update, there will be an option to unsubscribe somewhere on the email.)

Then re-subscribe, but to Harper's Bazaar here on the margin >>>

That should fix it! If it doesn't, let me know and I'll try to get my geek on again.

Monday, August 01, 2011


Our family celebrated a couple of pretty great milestones on July 16th this year...

1. The 16th was our 5th wedding anniversary! (I shall blog about the highlights soon. This post is more about #2.)

2. The 16th was Andrew's last day as a Soldier.

Yes. After 8 years of service in the U.S. Army, my husband hung up his dog tags and became a civilian. Here are some highlights of our time in service:
(click the highlighted words for the flashbacks)
  • He joined up in May of 2003.
  • Went to basic training that September.
  • 3 years & 5 duty stations later, he courted me, proposed to me, and married me.
  • I moved to Georgia with him.
  • 2 weeks later, he had to attend field training for 3 weeks.
  • He passed the board and was promoted to Corporal.
  • 3 months after that, he deployed to Iraq for 12 (actually-we're-extending-it-to-15) months. 1 year and 3 months, folks.
  • R&R 8 months into the deployment.
  • April 3rd of 2008, he came home to me!
  • He was promoted to Sergeant.
  • When it was time to decide about re-enlistment at his 5-year mark, we went with whatever would keep him home since we had a baby on the way!
  • So instead of re-enlisting in the regular Army, he joined the Oregon National Guard and we moved across the country to be near my family as we started ours.
  • In 2010, he was offered a contracting job in Georgia, so we moved again. This time with baby #2 on the way.
  • He transferred to the Georgia National Guard and drilled and trained with them for the last year.
  • Until July 16th.

I've laundered my last uniform and he's had his last military-issue haircut. It's an amazing feeling, not to be owned by anyone, anymore! We're honestly not sure what to do with ourselves, but that's also the beautiful part -- anything we want.

Some have asked us why we wouldn't just stay in and go career since it would be just 12 more years? It's a good question, and we do have some answers. The main one happens to be "because this is the way God directed us and this is the way we are wired." But we know full well that what's right for us might not be what's right for others.

Back in 2003, Andrew was confident that there was nothing God wanted him to do more than join the military. And at this time, we are equally sure that God didn't want us to stay in! We aren't even halfway through to the 20 years for retirement, anyway. In 12 more years our girls would be 15 and 13, and how many deployments would they have to miss their daddy for? And he them!

Life is unsure, it's true. But it's even more unsure as a military family. And, honestly, we knew we needed to be done. Some wives are wired differently than me. Some husbands are wired differently than Andrew. And for some, career military is definitely a life calling. We were called to the Army for a while. I joined Andrew in his calling when I married him. And now we're ready - we believe God's ready - to move us on. And I know we're pretty fortunate to have only had 1 deployment (monstrously long though it was!) to deal with.

And so, as we close the military chapter of our lives, we look back in awe and wonder at what God brought us through and how He refined us and shaped us through it all.

To Him be all glory.
Daddy with SweetP, fall 2009

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 
For 'who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?' 
or 'Who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?' 
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. 
To Him be the glory forever. Amen." 
Romans 11:33-36

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