Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Little Intentional Accessorizing

It's been a long time since I've had spaces, places or reasons to accessorize.  In fact, when we moved almost one year ago, I simplified and got rid of almost all of the stuff we had accumulated in our 10 years of marriage. Apparently a lot of folks want to simplify too - my tips to simplify post has had 52,000 views in the past year alone!

It feels SO good to minimize your belongings people. Looking at the same stuff year in and year out gets BO-RING.  Extra stuff makes you feel, well, STUFFY.

When we moved, I vowed to take my time bringing things into our house. LAYERING, it's called.  Before something finds a home here, it needs to meet one of the following criteria:

1) It needs to be functional, yet beautiful.
2) It needs to be meaningful.
3)  I leave the store and can't stop thinking about it.  And since I don't "shop" often, this is usually something REALLY special.

While I was picking up the VITTSJO shelves at IKEA last month, I saw and loved these white Kardemumma plant pots in different patterns and sizes. But since I was man-handling those 60 lb. boxes, I didn't have arm space for more than what I planned to use in the bathroom.  

And while at Trader Joe's the other day, I picked up a couple spring plants with boring green pots to help me mentally through a couple April snowfalls.  Thinking of those pots, I later returned to IKEA to pick up more of those pots to put them in. I love the white against the fiery orange lilies! And I can reuse them with other flowers or even to holster pencils and markers in the future.

This fushia cyclamen pops in the afternoon sunlight near the kitchen sink.

Also from IKEA - a last chance item - are these Kassett magazine holders in this pretty mint color.  I like little silver details and pulls much better than the dollar spot orange ones I picked up at Target.  Especially at $4.99 for a set of 2!

Another inexpensive multipurpose accessory favorite of mine are these different sized Anchor Glass Jars from Target.  The smaller ones are perfect for coffee pods in the coffee nook

It's been a long time since I've had enough counter space to have large canisters to hold sugar, chocolate chips, and flour!  It's nice to be able to access them quickly versus pulling items from the cabinets one by one.

And they look pretty too.  If only there was a way to keep the kids from eating all the chocolate though.

 I found these large Threshold Artisan Glass Jug Lamp Bases on clearance at Target in February for only $11.98 each!   They are a better height for the living room, so I swapped out the sliver bases which I will later put into the boys bedroom. 

You gotta love those online return price cuts!

Tell me your favorite go-to accessories!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Birthday Celebrations & Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

Just about every person in my family was born in April. 

My twin brothers.
My Mom & my nephew. And he gets extra April credit for coming exactly on Grandma's 60th.
My brother Chris.
My ginger niece.

July is the month for romance, eh?

I remember when I was pregnant with my second baby, and it was the end of April. I was in the stirrups at my midwives office. "Good news!" she says, "You're 5 cm dilated! Next stage is active labor! Baby should be here anytime!"

Baby was due MOTHER'S DAY! 

Any other mother would have been delighted to hear that she would be pregnant two weeks less than she thought! But in my anti-Aprilness, I crossed my legs tight and waddled out. I went into labor a couple days later at 11:30 pm on April 30th. And just four short hours later, my son was born on May 1st!  A wonderful gift in so many ways!

We spent the morning celebrating those aforementioned April birthdays with my extended family.  But later that afternoon, I asked my boys to take me....roller skating!

And yes...roller rinks do still exist!

The last time I did that was probably 8th grade, and everything is still the way we left it. Right down to the skates.

Next came sushi and a margarita, then gifts. My husband put a special touch on them by wrapping in Jack Bauer paper.  Someone's excited about the return of 24, are you?

The day before, my boys and I whipped up a birthday cake in my favorite combo of flavors.  We used a dark chocolate cake mix and they scattered, but mostly ate, the peanut butter chips across the batter before we baked them. Then we made this AMAZING frosting by the Pioneer Woman, except we added 1 cup of creamy peanut butter. I frosted the cake and the boys decorated with chocolate chips.  Only a fraction of those made it on the cake too.

The frosting is just about the best thing I've ever ate. Seriously.

The birthday finale was right outside my back windows. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Adding Ballard Design's Triple Beadboard Entry Cabinet

I get  really REALLY excited for mail.  And it's genetic, 'cause all my kids do too.

Letters, magazines, small packages.

Imagine how we felt when THIS was delivered!

I nearly fell over and died.

First off, these boxes are huge. Huge! And second of all, after a little box removing and major Styrofoam recycling (did you know that you can recycle Styrofoam at most environmental centers?!?), our winter gear went from lying on the floor to hanging like this:

Of course, I had to hang it, because that would be too hard for three boys who prefer to toss everything on the floor. It's easier, right? But however it gets there, I say money well spent! 

And despite a 10-inch snowfall on Friday (in APRIL!), spring has arrived and melted away all of the snow here. Just look at the precious square footage that is saved not only when you hang things up, but when you can finally pack away your winter gear in Minnesota!

Hellooooo flats!
Helloooo light jackets!
Hellooooo soccer balls and baseball mitts!

I even hung my ornate golden Goodwill mirror, you know, to check for food in your teeth as you head out the door.  It looks much better here than in storage in the basement, don't you think?

You can see the bead board detail that lines the back of the cabinet, thankfully of which, is still white.

I can't wait to find a use for these drawers! Shoes? Seasonal gear? Kids papers?

So many options!  

Sadly, right now they are empty because they reek of paint.  (The drawers, not the shoes.)  In fact, my only beef with the cabinet is the fact that it arrived still reeking of paint. Once we recycled the Styrofoam, we realized the cabinet itself wasn't' so bad, but the drawers are STIN-KY!!!  Even after I tried to air them outside for 48 hours.  Why won't manufacturers just use low to no VOC paint already?!?

I know, I'm a paint hater.

At any rate, I'm a happy camper with this purchase. Perfect fit, perfect look, and pretty storage solution for our foyer! 

{This cabinet was NOT given to me to review from Ballard Designs, I only wish!}

Monday, April 7, 2014

Don't Mind Me, I'm Parenting Alone Today - My Messy Beautiful

After a long night of adding fractions with my third grader, that even I didn't understand, I find myself completely wiped and drained, sunken into the couch.  My other two boys practically put themselves to bed, though I did pop in for good night kisses and hugs. But now I'm eating ice cream and watching DVR'd Dancing with the Stars, questioning my late night snack choice as I watch the dancers. My husband is in Dallas today, Kansas City tomorrow, San Francisco next week. I play over and over in my mind how the night went: was I patient? was I kind? did I show them enough love? Tonight wasn't too bad, I decide, though we forgot to call Dad before bed. I'm terrible at remembering that.

I've been procrastinating this essay, though I've been wanting to write about this particular topic for a long time. It holds near and dear to my heart, as I have many friends who parent alone - whether it be single parenting or solo parenting. I fall into the solo parenting crowd - jobs that include traveling, military families, opposite work schedules, or even those of us whose partner or spouse is physically present, but just not PRESENT.  There are more situations that apply here, but you know who you are.

My husband has worked for the same company since we graduated from college. They are a wonderful extension of family and treat him with a great amount of respect, for which I am grateful.  But as with many companies, his job has evolved and changed over the years to include traveling. It works for us, after all, they are the reason for our many blessings.  Ironically, this travel became part of our reality almost the nanosecond we had our third son, leaving me, at times, to parent three kids under the age of five, utterly alone.

I remember one particular night when I was rather new to solo parenting.  At the time, it was rare for my husband to travel all week, so I thought I was doing a good job holding it all together. I had gotten the baby in bed, and I was cleaning up the kitchen while the boys colored at the kitchen table in their pajamas. But as I stood up from grabbing what might have been the last crumb in the kitchen, I smacked my head hard on the island counter and hit the floor, sobbing.  Not gentle sobbing, but loud, sad, crazy sobbing. The boys stopped chattering and coloring, only looking up long enough to say, "Hum, I wonder if she's dead?" before returning to their work.

I expected them to run over, check on me, and even ask me if I was okay. Physically AND mentally. But they were 4 and 2. Kids that age are empathetic, but not THAT empathetic. What I was really sobbing were tears of defeat. It's something I often feel at the end of a the day when I go it alone. I lie awake and ask myself these questions over and over:

"Was I patient enough?" 
"Was I kind enough?"
"Did I love on them enough?

There was another time in the dead of winter when I ran out of milk. However I let that happen, I had to drag a very unhappy 1 and 3 year old into the car and head to the grocery store. The wind was blowing, the snow was falling, and finding a spot in the parking lot was an absolute nightmare. I hurriedly plunked the baby into the front seat of the shopping cart, and put the toddler in the front. Without fastening buckles, I pushed my way through the snow towards the door. My son held onto the front in delight until I hit a lip in the sidewalk outside the doors. The cart came to an abrupt stop, my hips slamming into the metal, tipping the cart over. I grabbed the baby as he fell out onto the snowy sidewalk, while my other son did some sort of graceful tuck-n-roll out the front. I pick them up, head inside, and snap at a lady who is trying to help me wipe DIRT off of the baby who HIT HIS HEAD ON THE SNOWY PAVEMENT. She was trying to be nice but I thought her to be irrational in the situation.  He seemed okay, but I was rattled and could only think to call my husband and ask him what to do.  I flipped a cart after all. His response was not what I was expecting for his gentle demeanor. "WHAT? CALL AN AMBULANCE! YOU FLIPPED THE CAR ! WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME INSTEAD?!?"  A scary miscommunication for him.

Not one of my finest solo parenting moments either.

What I've learned in all these years, besides not running in parking lots with a cart full of unbuckled kids, is the key to keeping our family relationships strong, loving, and positive is communication. Just like when we were working on fractions tonight.  I must have used the word frustrated about 1,000 times.

"Adding fractions is frustrating..."
"Finding common denominators is SO VERY frustrating..."

And such are the words my husband hears often:

"I need to leave the house..."
"I need to be away from the children..."

Solo parenting is not always easy. But it gets easier with time and with practice. And just in case that's not believable, the good news about solo, single, and even dual parenting is that no matter how you answer those questions in your head at the end of the night, you'll always get a fresh start in the morning.  I even tell my kids that. "Last night, I was crabby and frustrated because I was feeling tired and worn down.  Parenting all of you when I'm alone is hard work. But no matter what, just remember that together, we can do hard things." 

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

White Chocolate, Blueberry, & Acai Quick Bread

{I received complimentary vouchers for the mentioned Sambazon products.}

Sometimes fresh bread is scavenged by the males in my household before I can turn a camera to it. 

Case in point: