Monday, September 14

*There is potential in this old house*

Sorry everyone, I was trying to email these to a few people, but it wouldn't work, so if you want to see some of the fun that is unfolding in the next week or two, enjoy. If not, no worries. PS- you might just get motion sick. Enjoy!

Monday, September 7

*The Game Plan*

Ok folks, I do best when I have some sort of accountability so here is my to do list

Today since I got off work early for the holiday and have admitted to slumming around lately I get to complete the following:

Make homemade clam chowder ( I made corn chowder yesterday but it wasn't as creamy as I like it to be)

Do two loads of dishes

Hang up the current laundry piles

Do two loads of laundry

Change the sheets and make the bed

Wash the fabric to make the table linens for Kelsey's wedding

Iron Linens and sew table cloths and napkins

Choose the ribbon for each set of linens

Whew! Well I will check in later and let you know how I do. Today has been a cleaning day both at work and now at home.


Ok, it is now 11:15 pm and I have completed the following:

Three loads of laundry, three loads of dishes, washed the fabric for making linens, incredible clam chowder (roughly the third thing I have ever made that Brian said is good!) changed the sheets on the bed, hung my current laundry piles. Whew, a good night and I even got in watching waaay too much of my new obsession on television, Bones.

Sunday, September 6

* I am unfortunately an open book*

Here is a little bit about me. When I am tired and stressed, a few things happen. First, no people are invited over. My home gets overwhelmed and dishes pile up on all surfaces. It starts to smell like cats, and their hair seems to follow wherever I go. My clothes stop getting hung up and instead get piled on my closet shelf. I stop changing my sheets every few days, and making my bed every morning. I start going to sleep later and later each night, and on the rare day that I don't work, rather than spend time with friends or working on projects, I sleep.... all day. One day I woke up at 1, today I got out of bed around 11, but then ended up taking a four hour nap in the evening and missed seeing my sister and her children for dinner. I stop cooking and doing the laundry. My car fills with bags of what should be happiness while at the same time, my refrigerator becomes bare. I have now recently added a new symptom to my list... I stop writing.

Right now, I am blessed in many personal ways. I love my husband. I love how he knows what is best for me, even when I hate him for being right. Fine, it is true that it is better for me to go bed to read and and get drowsy before he comes in. Yes, I am crotchety and toss and turn for the first hour at night, but by the time he comes in to blow out the candles, I am snugly and sleepy. I love that he has navigated the subtleties of my needs, and is supportive by allowing me to simply be without complaint.

So what is bothering me? I suppose that we all know that we become more vulnerable to stress from time to time in our lives for various reasons. Sometimes this is due to finances, family, or work. Currently, it is all of the above. It seems that the outside forces are more oppressive that I have been prepared to negotiate and of course, all of this happened to coincide as I thought it was an appropriate time to get off of my anxiety medication. Hmm... perfect recipe for disaster.

So how does one get past this phase when work will most certainly become yet even more stressful and difficult, when a family member has chosen to continue to indulge their absurdities causing pain and isolation, and to cope with it all, I fell off the wagon for a short time financially trying to buy some peace and happiness? I don't know. Tonight I decided that perhaps the thing to do was to simply chose to move on. So, tonight, I write. I have nothing to say except that I choose to rejoin the human race and I hope that you will indulge my rusty attempts. So, here is to cleaning, to budgeting, to writing, to forgiving, to managing, to cooking, to working, and to smiling. Wish me luck, and lets end this quarter in style.

Monday, August 10

*Signs of the times*

As I drove home through my regular route, I noticed a cute college age girl sitting on a darling picnic basket on a billboard with scrapbook writing. It was darling. Vaguely interested, I read the caption assuming that it was for one of the local housing communities offering bliss and a happy home starting in the 200s. Not quite.

"Birth control makes all other choices possible"
- planned parenthood

Creepiest billboard ever!

Sunday, August 2

*P.S. I Love You*

I love it when you search my eyes. I love feeling you breath on my ear. When I hear the steady rhythm of your heart, I am daily grateful for the simple fact that I am in possession of it. I marvel at the way I fit into your arm nook, and that though we have been snuggling for thirteen years, each night we drift towards each other in our sleep, and each morning we find our arms and legs twined together as if they are only comfortable when colliding. I am the one with whom you have chosen to share your heart and hopes since we were children and I am learning to be a loving steward of those dreams. You are the most gentle man I know, and I am sorry that I have been the cause of callouses in your heart. I pray for our marriage to be the completion of our joy in this life. Thank you for accepting the fact that though I may be perhaps a touch dramatic, I attempt to use that gift to issue dramatic and true apologies. Thank you for being mine for the last seven years. Happy Anniversary.

Wednesday, July 29

Brad and Carli, simply the most lovely couple I have ever met

Berries in cream

Sea shells in the bathroom look good again

*Gilding the Lily*

Some things are encased in God given beauty. My friends Brad and Carli are so stunning in their wedding photos, I described it as a perfect ad for a life insurance commercial, you know, protect the ones you love? Guess what, she wears a touch of make up anyhow. I have young ones around me whose glow in their cheeks are like strawberries in cream. They
still are dressed well. I love my bare feet. I still get pedicures. I have heard it said that God is truly an artist. Anyone who may doubt this need only look at his color palate and creativity to confirm the statement. And yet, he has given us Barb. Like any artist, she has only one name like Cher, Madonna, or Martha. Barb is an artist who has taken the beauty and simplicity of a shell given by God, and then gilds it, literally. She has taken the tacky out of shells on a bookshelf or the bathroom and has left little painted miracles in her wake where ever she may go. Forget less is more, sometimes, MORE IS MORE! This teal and gold conch version is mine. If you want your own, invite her over and perhaps the muse will strike again~

Facing the bed: a vintage fan replica, Annie's art, and my jewelry station (note the red accents)

Our bed:his side with the Japanese print with red pops, my side with the photo of our feet with red again on the bed.

On his side of the bed I have some oversize pillows that we are just waiting on a basket and my collage I made of tender things of our relationship with a red backdrop. I know, collages are silly, but mine rocks!

My dresser top with the old mirror, candles, and perfume. I feel like an adult when I have some lovely perfume on my dresser.

*My bedroom project phase 2*

Last time, I showed you my latest home improvement project when I installed wainscoting in my room. Today, I used Suzanne's great eye for arranging accessories (something which completely eludes me) and we went to town! It started with a trip to my accessory shop in the basement where we pillaged for candles, depression glass, a retro fan, and all manner of lovely things to pull together the space. Then, with the power combined genius, we started hanging mirrors, paintings, chandelier, and the like. All I am missing now are photographs of us blown up and cleverly arranged, my new silver sage rug, and a french market wire basket to hold my oversize pillows at bedtime.

Ah, the thrill of fabulous~


My father traveled to Asia on a fairly regular basis when I was a child. I recall that though it was tough to see him go, it was always tempered with the satisfaction that when he returned, he came bearing gifts! I lived for these sorts of physical evidences of his love for us. A souvenir was his way of showing us that even when he was across the globe, we were there in his thoughts. I recall him bringing home paper fans, seaweed candy sticks (also known as yucky I taste like death sticks) and mega pumped up business class travel kits. I loved it when it was my turn to get the little black travel bag stuffed with mini toothpaste and toothbrush, sleep masks, floss, etc. This is something that I still look to see as an adult. Brian learned long ago, that when he goes on a trip, I delight in seeing (and have sadly come to expect) a token of his affection upon his return. In high school after a trip to Mexico, he came back with little rocks he collected over the week in every color of the rainbow. I would have never known it was possible to find a blue rock, or a yellow one let alone a perfect pink rock. After we were older and married, he went on a business trip to a work convention and knowing how obsessed I am with quality ink flow pens, he brought me home, to my utter glee, two gallon sized Ziploc bags of nothing but quality pens. It is now roughly 6 years later, and I still have an enormous box full of them, even after allowing a few sisters to raid my stash. Now that I am taking trips on my own, I have elected to continue this tradition myself. I have come bearing chocolates, books, and then most recently, a gecko.

Don't worry, you read it right. I returned from my latest romp to the humid land of Houston, and marvelled at the little critters that I just don't see in Utah. I was wooed by the lush grass, completely forgetting that in Texas, the grass fights back with an invisible terror-chiggers. I remembered that I was once again in the land of the cockroach and lizard. When I know that though I am in their territory, it is a temporary situation, I am able to enjoy the exotic nature of their existence. After returning home to my dry life in Utah, imagine my utter amazement then when I opened my suitcase two days after getting home, and something odd caught my eye. Right there, on top of my patent leather stilettos was an actual living creature. A gecko just ran onto my shoe and watched me, likely just as amazed that he had made it through the non-pressurized stowage cabin of the airplane as I. When I finally determined that I was in fact lucid, and this creature was here watching me, I went to get a glass to remove the new found friend. Returning just a moment later, he was gone. He may be in a nook of the still untouched suitcase, or perhaps scurried off to create a home for himself in the living room, maybe is is now fast friends with Mary Morey. Ooh, poor thing. I have a house of four bored kitties who love to chase flies and bugs.

*My only thought to my new house guest is good luck buddy*

Monday, July 27

*This I Believe*

-Marriage is a process, not an event.
-The twilight series rocks! If you deny it, it is because you either haven't read them yet, or like to lie.
-Never eat the last bite, all the fat is in the last bite.
-Wickedness sometimes IS happiness.
-Yes, your voice really sounds like that.
-If you think that it is a hassle to shave your face, don't ask us to shave our legs.
-If it looks that good on you, get it in all the colors!
-Shoot, you want a boob job, satisfy your bliss.
-I love my body, learn to love yours.
-It is only money.
-Never hold a compliment.
-Fine, I admit it. I am hard to buy gifts for.
-Hitting on someone at their job is just rude, after all, they are being paid to be nice to you.
-Ohio, Iowa, and the Dakotas just don't count. No offense.
-Just like you find fault in my family, and think I have it rough, I am thinking the same thing about yours. The good news is, we get to live our own lives, not each others.
-A photograph lasts forever so... yes, those pants do make you look fat.
-If you keep having problems with coworkers from one job to the next, YOU are the problem.
-Go ahead, you deserve it!
-Church is too long.
-Give until it hurts.
-Have you ever meet anyone who arrogance or cockiness look good on? I haven't.
-Running is for gerbils on an exercise wheel. We have adopted it, and that's cool, but lets not forget who it is made for.
-It is exhausting to be charming all the time, so give us a break.
-The better you dress, the better you are treated. So do not go around wrinkled.
-Fish and house guests start to stink after three days.
-Never trust a skinny cook.
-The "Not to be rude" game is the greatest game of all. Watch! Not to be rude but that shirt looks great on you! Or not to be rude but I love having you around. No matter what, it is rude!
-Crazy is OK so long as it is unintentional and you rock at apologies.
-If your apartment is ugly, blame the landlord, if your house is ugly, blame the owner.
-I'm cancelling my subscription to your issues. (thanks Ram)
-Not all babies are cute. Some take your breath away, and not in the good way.
-People are nicer to your kids if they are dressed well.
-Though advice is fun to give, it may be wise to hold it in. It can create scars.
-Smoking is tacky... I don't care how cool you think you look, you smell.
-Cheap perfume is never worth it. Your budget punishes the rest of us.
-For you to ignore a family that loves you is your prerogative, but keeping your kids away from family that loves them, makes you evil.
-If I keep calling you a cute pet name like love or sunshine or sugar, that means that I don't know your real name.
-Reality TV allows us to be a voyeur in a socially appropriate way.
-Being constantly late means that you value yourself more than others.
-The more you horde, the less you have.
-I am a bad neighbour, and I like it that way.
-Cookies and cream ice cream solves essentially all of life's issues.
-Not all children are loved equally.
-Just because Bush was a total moron, doesn't mean that Obama rocks. I know, lets keep spending monopoly money! But Bush was horrible, yeah, and?
-Often old people are abrasive so that we don't overlook them. Squeaky wheel, right?
-All that is tacky is housed in Florida. Google eyes on seashells, Miami airport, really?
-Men really do want a women to be home and take care care of them. A hot dinner isn't that out of whack. Maybe June Cleaver knows something.
-He with the most friends on Facebook wins.
-If you choose to have kids, they deserve to have you raise them.
-Blogging makes us feel that what we have to say is somehow important.
-I love my nieces and nephews that I see often, not those whose names I don't recall.
-I like to be superficially superficial.
-The more righteous you claim to be, the less I believe you.
-Overdrafts are because you are bad with money, not because the bank if out to get you.
-This post is slightly abrasive.

Monday, July 20

*Listening is an act of love*

Yesterday I chose to sit quietly and just listen. Shutting the world out, I luxuriated in omniscience. I spent hours with voices filling me with the most beautiful confessions of love, sickening recounts of ignorance and hatred, and anecdotes of the splendor of decades past. I welcome you to one of the truest forms of love for our fellow man, StoryCorps. This is a project I came across through NPR (National Public Radio) which documents moments of every day Americans' lives. Those seemingly trivial moments and memories which slip away with age, illness, and pain. These are three minute excerpts of interviews between individuals who know each other intimately. I listened in on mothers and children, parents and teachers, sisters and neighbors, laughing with them, sobbing, and learning from them. One of the many that I repeated over and over again is a simple one called "Mom teaches Son That "Love is What You Do." It is from March 5th and the whole episode is about 2 minutes. There are a few things she said to her eleven year old son that were so beautiful to me, I thought almost instantly of how important it is to share them with you. I bring you a reply from a Florida mother to her son's query of her happy and hard times with her husband.

"Marriage isn't always pretty. I think sometimes we act like children and we need to be more mature about it because it is a privilege to be married to somebody and you need not to disrespect it like that, like sometimes we get angry and we do. . .I think your dad has taught me the meaning of love. Love is as much a feeling as it in an action. . . to love somebody is not just how you feel about them, but what you do also."

I am sure it may seem silly how moved I was but these few phrases, but I was struck with images of my own marriage of seven years. How over the years, truthfully, we have not changed. In our actions towards one another for the most part we are the same as we ever have been, but rather now, we have found peace and love through our treatment of one another.

At work, I chat. Clients come in to discuss their personal finances, and because of that, we often diverge onto other matters of importance in our lives. We begin a true conversation of the battles we face "choosing in" to this life day after day. One such conversation was held last week with a stunning and loving client Lillian. Lily is married to her second husband, and she wants passionately to be well matched. She loves him. She wants to be with him, and yet, she often feels a sense of lacking. I shared with her a similar time in my own marriage, and how I was able to escape that empty feeling towards my spouse. I told how there was a time when I just decided to pretend that Brian was the man of my dreams. I pretended that we had a well suited partnership, and that I wanted nothing more than to be in our home together, and treat him as the man of my most intimate prayers. I shared with her that as I treated him as my supreme match and love, eventually, I forgot that I was acting. Despite the years of pain, sorrow, and loneliness, he became that ideal match for me. As I treated my spouse, so he became in my eyes. It isn't that he has changed himself, only that I chose to shift my focus to those divine qualities he possessed rather than those I found fault in. How magnificent to be in a relationship with someone who chooses to see the perfection in us, rather than the failings. After all, that which we seek, will always come true.

Please enjoy listening to this beautiful interview which caused me to contemplate what love looks like in my own life as I am sure it will cause you to do with yours.

StoryCorps website states, "StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening."

Wednesday, July 15

*A new year , a new method of shopping*

This year, as you know, I am on a budget. I go grocery shopping with a list, and I have stopped going to many of the stores that I had been known on a first name basis previously, and all in an effort to save money. To prevent shopping for inspiration, I have begun instead shopping online. To begin, I go to my favorite online stores and register for their emails and mail coupons. After I get my discount coupon, I shoot over to my favorite stores, click the sale section, choose my size, and then order each of the items I am thinking about. This past time, I ended up ordering about 8 pair of pants to my home to try on in my own space. Here, there is no pressure, good lighting, and the rest of my wardrobe so that I can see how it fits with what I already own. Of the eight or so pair of pants, three of them looked really great. What about the rest? Simple, I can either drop if off at the store, or to be even easier, I can just throw it back in the mail for a return. Et voila! I don't even get tempted by the new and expensive items, I don't distracted by that giddy feeling that comes along with filling a dressing room with lovely items, and I don't think that the sales girl is as concerned about my budget as she claims to be. I worked in retail for years and it always happens when they have a few full priced items that they would just feel horrible if they didn't show me, after all, it is simply fabulous! So, the result of this latest shopping spree, only 3 pair of amazing trousers, not one of which is over $3o. Yeah, this is sweet.

Tuesday, July 14

*I just can't help it, she is so cute*

*Fly lady's zone 3- the bathroom and one extra room*

Ok everyone. He is the latest detailed cleaning list from the fly lady. Make sure to check her out at and see how her simple steps can eliminate CHAOS from your life. (Cant Have Anyone Over Syndrome)

Bathroom Detailed Cleaning List
4. CLEAN SHOWER STALL/ WAX (not the floor!)

and then chose your next room!

Extra Bedroom Detailed Cleaning List

Children's Bathroom Detailed Cleaning List

Children's Bedrooms Detailed Cleaning List

Office Detailed Cleaning List

Laundry Room Detailed Cleaning List

I know that it looks like a lot of work, but remember, just do 15 min a day and eventually after rotating each of the rooms, you will have deep cleaned your home in no time!

Monday, July 13

*Little stay-cations*

This is a recession folks, and so we need to cut the fat. I chose to generally not participate in the financial woe and act like business as usual except for one thing: I have a newly found love of stay-cations. I am working on one corner of my world at a time to dress it up, and make it a place that I can relax in right in the comfort of my own home. My favorite place at home this week is my bedroom. I love to come in at the end of the day, turn down the covers, turn on the bedside lamps, and cozy in for an hour or so as I turn the pages through another great book before I go to sleep. There is such comfort in these simple routines, and the cozy nests that we have created for ourselves. Where is that little place in your home that you love to escape to? What about it makes it so special? Want to share any pictures? I would love to see them!

My writing nook with the requisite kitty

My favorite little chair in the world

* What a difference a day makes*

Ladies and gentlemen, if you know me than this next statement will not surprise you. I am not a hands on home improvement guru. Though it is true that I at different times have hired people to do my yard, my lighting, my repairs, my landscaping, my cooking, my painting, my cleaning, my decorating, and my errands, that is not to say that I do not enjoy doing those things myself! I adore learning to do new things! I learned only a few weeks back the pleasure of spending an afternoon in the garden weeding, and now eagerly look forward to those days where time permits such activities. I loved the few months I took before starting my current position when I spent the days organizing linen closets and working through Julia Child's baking bible. The issue arises that though I love these things, I often lack expertise in proper execution, tools, and time to do them myself. This past weekend, I struck upon genius!

I asked about, and ended up hiring someone I know well to "assist me" with the installation of wainscoting in my bedroom. It was perfect! He knows that I talk incessantly, and take pride in doing things myself. He also was, in a former life, a contractor managing all sorts of individuals and therefore had the needed expertise and management I sought, and he is a father to two boys, thereby able to tolerate my questions and insistence on stepping in to "help."

So, the day arrived. He came over to my home on Saturday at 8 am and we headed off to Home Depot to collect our supplies. I got to sift through roughly 80 types of trim and make sense of the scores of boxes of nails with his guidance, and then, for the rest of the day, he allowed me to be his "little helper." Yes ladies and gentlemen, a reasonably intelligent 10 year old could have done the jobs that I was assisting with, but I got some valuable on the job training and had a total BLAST in the process. I look at it as hiring a home improvement tutor of sorts. This sounds reasonable of course, right? Listen, how else am I to learn how to properly and safely utilize a table saw, or a circular one, or a reciprocating saw? How would I have even heard of all of these items on my own?! I came to master a brad gun, learned the true importance of measure twice, cut once, and came to the conclusion that caulk is God's little magic eraser. After just a few short hours, I was able to transform the space. Now that there is the added bit of architecture in the room, it makes the space seem larger as the eye takes its time traveling the room. My bedroom now seems taller, and more substantive. All in all, it is perfection!

Now just to be clear, I have not yet completed this room, but I do adore instant gratification, so I will post pictures now and add updates later. Day one, I installed the wainscoting, and then day two, I patched, primed, sanded, and painted it. I am still waiting on the silver sage floor rug that will float midpoint at the foot of my bed, as well as an incredible chandelier I ordered to replace the current version, and the large mirror will go horizontally across the then CLEAN dresser. The dresser has new pulls awaiting instillation, and the new switch plate covers will be here shortly. Whew! Ok, y'all enjoy now!

Wednesday, July 8

*time to panic folks*

Grrreat, I just found out on facebook that I have a 10 year high school reunion in three months. Sigh, how on earth am I to drop ten years worth of stress eating in just three months! Anyone out there have any miracle cream or a plastic surgeon on speed dial?!

Monday, July 6

*Histories delicious mysteries*

Everyone knows that all families keep secrets, those little things that they go to the death to protect. Some things are just so terrible that little ol' ladies will boldly lie to family and friends faces, to their last breath if necessary. Some of these things are personal histories, some are serial killer aunties in foreign lands, more shockingly still, recipes! My family's dark little secret falls into, well, mainly the latter.

We are proudly Croatian. We hoot and holler as we watch Croats flying down the slope at the Olympics, we go to the mother land to serve missions for our church, and we even terrorize little campers as we take over massive reunion sites with hundreds of people. That is when we are at our best! We have take an entire lamb carcass, rub it down with herbs, and slowly cook it on a spit for hours, basting with a brush made of herbs. Yes, some people were really freaked out. Give me a break though, if you cant stomach to see where your food came from, you deserve to be a vegetarian! Sigh, sorry. Of all of this though, we have one thing that we have hid, cheated, and lied about for decades! Well, we may be a rather loose term. Those in my immediate family haven't had proper Croatian baking training to be in on the real secret, so it was not until my grandfather was passing on, that I got my first lesson in baking Pogacha and saw just how tricky the ladies in my family can be.

I went down to spend time time with my grandparents, and for the first time, I was really submerged into a mass of genuine Benac women who had been raised just outside of Chicago where my Grandfather was brought up in a Croatian neighborhood with his fellow Croatian immigrants. So, massed together I saw for the first time, the true power of generational recipes.

There is something so incredible to see how they are shared and passed on from mother to daughter for generations. My Aunt Liz got this particular recipe after taking my Great Grandma Sabina's hand measurements of flour, yeast and so forth and quickly scooping them into traditional measurement devices time after time to get a realistic recipe put together. She has now passed this on to the next generation. I did start this with telling you there is a really big secret. I know. This isn't me sharing my family history. Just wait one moment.

Ok, so back to when I was at my grandparents' house... my Aunts Liz and Ellen took me under their wing and did their part to Croatianize me. One night, in the midst of the worry and care, and we got together as girl friends in the middle of the night and cooked pogacha together. Grandma participated with delight as Zara (her sister-in-law and some sort of cousin) watched on with almost giddy anticipation, she wanted to be on the inside our our tightly held secret and she knew that if she just watched close enough with her 80 year old eyes, she might actually determine what it is.

You see, Grandma Sabina was known for her beautiful pogachas. They were a stunning yellow color, and family and friends always asked how she prepared it. They would watch the ladies in our family bake these over and over again, and yet still the mystery remained. The true question is, how with such scrutiny were we able to keep this secret to the golden hue? Simple, we lied. The bread is not such a lovely yellow because we added extra egg yolks. Though this is a favorite line used for decades, no matter how hard you try, add a dozen extra yolks, it won't make a difference in the world. After this sort of legacy, how was I, a novice, to keep it in the family without Zara witnessing our little slight of hand, after all, she had something to prove to her mother. We danced around the kitchen aid a flurry of flour and shortening, waiting for that one millisecond that Zara got distracted. We caught it at the same time, Grandma winked at me and I added the Benac family secret ingredient. . . 4 drops of yellow food coloring! Best part, after it all, Zara was none the wiser. The pogacha came out as golden as ever, and once again, we were able to gloat as she fumed that our bread is just better! I'm sorry, its in the genes.

Why do I share this now? Well I suppose it is because the rivalry seems to have belonged to a previous generation. That was a generation where neighbors would compare their breads, taking pride in the subtle nuances between them. Now, I am fairly certain that those older generations have all either passed on, or haven't the slightest inclination to search the blogosphere looking for buried treasure. These newer generations will have none of it. Why my own mother doesn't appreciate our tightly held secret! Oh, and not only does she not appreciate it, she pities Zara and the others finding it somewhat cruel that we even at that time of farewell, we found such pleasure in dear Zara's frustration. Well, fine. We may be horrible, we may be liars, but guess what? It is a bit of MY family history. It is something that actually brought my grandmother and myself closer together. I hadn't really enjoyed spending time with my grandma like that before, but in that one night as we baked with stealth and joy, our dirty family secret kept up together, the two of us against the world! Long live the new generations family secrets, I will defend you to the death!

*Oh, and the serial killer auntie... well to be fair, the town only speculates that she killed her husbands, and she lives in Croatia*

Sunday, July 5

*Fly lady and me*

I come from a home where I did not have to worry about things like cleaning bathrooms or bedrooms, ironing, and so forth. Occasionally my dad would have enough of it and call us together on a Saturday to pass out garbage bags and make us follow him around the house on a cleaning death march. Years later, I still have not adjusted to the idea of making my bed daily, doing the dishes, or the real purpose of mopping floors. I purchased and read several home cleaning encyclopedias, worked on making time in my crazy schedule to a cleaning routine, and got desperate enough to hire myself a maid. What? The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

When getting on the Dave Ramsey plan, I tried to cut costs where possible. After a blissful several months of coming home to a sparkling home courtesy of my "house fairy," I had to take matters into my own hands and get a cleaning routine that fit. Enter the fly lady.

Marla Ciley started Fly lady for those of us who need a bit more guidance in basic housekeeping 101. She has a series of routines that ask no more that 15 minutes a day to keep your home in order. Check her out. The nicest part for me was not having to hide in the living room when unexpected guests came to the front door, but instead I would let them in knowing that I had an orderly home that I could be proud of.

This week Fly lady's, her focus is on the kitchen. Here are a few of her simple kitchen steps. Go to her website to get the daily routine, and my ultimate favorite tool of hers, the weekly home blessing hour.

Ok so here is this weeks list detailed list. Not everything needs to be done every month, by on a rotating monthly schedule, everyting will be completed. Enjoy!

9. SCRUB DOWN CABINET FRONTS (only a few at a time)

Saturday, July 4

*Happy Birthday Liberty*

I know that many of you were out celebrating today in style: parades, BBQs, fireworks and general family togetherness. All I have to say is, WHY NOT? Today is a day to celebrate Liberty! We join together and think of why is it so important to each and every one of us? The answer is simple in my eyes. Today I am grateful for the beautiful balance between art and science that Liberty gives us. The truly gorgeous perspective that she shares with us all. Her unique sense of style, her appreciation for the traditional mixed with contemporary elements. So today, we as a country salute you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARY ELIZABETH LIBERTY !

Friday, July 3

*A different kind of lesson with Penelope*

Some people teach children how to count, others teach them colors. What does Penny learn when she is here? Well, this last time we went over all sorts of important skills. My little chef stood on a stool and learned how to properly hold a chefs knife, how yeast works and also why it is that an oven ought to be preheated when working with it. She learned how to stack sage, roll it, and then create a lovely chiffonade, and appreciate great fragrances by wafting the smells from the oven or stove safely towards her nose. Not too shabby since she did potty training just last year. The next important lesson? If only I can get her to appreciate not just the smell but the taste of great food.
I heard her ask her mom if she knew that she would one day be a chef. Later when she burned her arm on a jelly roll pan, as we held it under cool water her tears where somewhat soothed when she sighed and agreed that chefs likely had to get used to that sort of thing.

Wednesday, July 1

*Mexican chocolate cake*

Here is a recipe that I found about 8 yrs ago that I loved so much that I used it for the groom's cake at our wedding. I had never eaten anything quite like it with the cayenne pepper, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon and the like. The result though is a bevy of dynamic flavors that is the furthest you can get from a bland cake. Try it out! It takes no time whatsoever, and is fun for kids to assist with as it is a dump and stir type of recipe. Bon appetit!

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa (I use dutch processed)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or ground Mexican chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c cold water
1/4 c canola oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Chocolate glaze:
1 c confectioners sugar
1/2 c cocoa
6 tbsp water

10 fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350* Lightly coat an 8" cake round with cooking spray

To make the cake, simply dump all of the cake ingredients into a mixer and mix until smooth. Pour into a pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the cake pan for 10 min on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely. (Note, I like to flip it out onto a piece of parchment paper to allow it to cool)

When the cake has cooled, whisk together the first three glaze ingredients. Dip each strawberry into the glaze and set aside. Pour the remaining glaze over the cake and arrange the strawberries on top. Set aside to dry, about 30 minutes.

*Variations: Sometimes I chose not to do the dipped strawberries, and sometimes I do them with alternating white and milk chocolate and instead of arranging them on the top of the cake, I circle the base of it. Today I chose to skip the strawberries alltogether and double to recipe to make 2 cake rounds that I split and made a 4 tier chocolate cake with the frosting in between each layer and then sprinkled powdered sugar over a lovely cake stensil for decoration. Simple and delicious!

*Charlie in sunglasses*

Yes, she is a total diva. . .

and she knows it!

*The morning after*

Tuesday, June 30

*Ladies after my own heart*

Tonight the ladies and I:

Made dinner from scratch
Set a lovely table
Tidied up the kitchen
Made smoothies
Went clothes shopping
Bought jewelry and various accessories
Loaded up on classics at the bookstore
Rearranged furniture to create lovely spaces
Snuggled up in down comforters and pillows to read books
Ate truffles
Took a bath before retiring

*All in all, a perfect night*

Sunday, June 28

Pretty Penny with the cookbooks

Looking up in the craft room

A fun nook in the girls' room

*Images of home*

An arbor in the back yard covered in roses

a pretty place in the laundry room

Gigi playing in the garden

My new cherry tree springs to life

*Penny and Charlie come to visit*

PJ and Charlie came over today with Sarah to play at my home. I had some of their fun little things down at their eye level and then just watched them. We went outside and cut fresh roses, made lunches, played in the garden, and gave each of them digital cameras to take pictures of whatever pleased them. One thing that I loved watching is how Penny took my entertaining glassware and added it to the shelves in her room. All in all, a great day.
I love having the girls come to visit.

Friday, June 26

*Whats cookin'*

Today was another day of my vacation and my goodness, I love it. I set up many of the trinkets I found for the basement bedroom, read, talked to friends, and then decided to indulge. It has been overcast and somewhat stormy this afternoon, so I pulled out some of my favorite recipes and chose to make a rich french onion soup. This is a recipe that I got when taking a cooking class at Sur La Table and I had never realized that the true key to a marvelous onion soup is taking absolutely ages to caramelize the onions. So if you want remarkable onion soup without too strong of an onion flavor, go low and slow. My pot full of 4 large onions took an hour and a half or more to reach their golden potential. By this point, the bay leaves and thyme had fully permeated the onions. Later I tried my hand at a lemon meringue pie. Yummmm! Go ahead and try out the soup recipe and tell me what you think!

French Onion Soup

2 lbs medium onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced lengthwise.
3 springs fresh thyme (if you use dry as I did, just know that it is more potent)
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick butter
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp all-purpose flour
3-4 cup dry white wine
4 c reduced sodium beef broth
1 1/2 c water
1/2 tsp black pepper
6- 1/2 in slices of french bread
1 1/2 pieces Gruyere, Comte or Emmental
2 Tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

6- 8-10 oz flameproof soup crocks or ramekins

Cook onions, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, and salt in the butter in a 4 to 5 quart heavy pot over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and deep golden brown. At least 45 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in brother, water, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350*

Arrange bread in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and toast, turning over once, until completely dry, about 15 minutes.

Remove bread from the over and preheat broiler. Put crocks in a shallow baking pan.

Discard bay leaves and thyme from soup and divide soup among crocks, then float a piece of the toasted bread in each. Slice enough Gruyere to cover tops of crocks, allowing ends of cheese to hang over the rims of crocks, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remember that the longer the onions caramelize and the soup simmers, the better. This recipe is easily doubled to keep half until later.

Thursday, June 25


There is something so magical about decorating. The best part of designing a room is the creation of something out of nothing, so today, I spent the day in a wonderland of my own making. I headed into a local design shop (Alice Lane) and spent hours invisioning the possibilities. It is a special time in a gals life when trusty and somewhat rusty Ikea couch and other and furniture disappear, and a feminine couch with sinuous-springs and kiln-dried hardwood take its place.

To decorate a space, first I go ahead and find an inspiration piece. When Mamie and I decorated Lucy's room, we started by taking a darling spode plate and pulled the colors into the rest of the space. Then, we threw together a basket full of items that "seized" her, and after pulling together a large pile, we began to see a theme emerge. After getting to her home, we just went nuts! We turned a wire wreath frame into a darling floral mobile above the bed, took old curtains and pulled them apart to line silky pink new ones, we swapped out the toddler bed for an cleaned up antique twin that Mamie grew up sleeping in, and created some beautiful spaces where Lucy could thrive. I had so much fun working to pull together that room and delighted in seeing how a newly created space could add such pleasure in a home.

As I have pulled together my own finances, I have seen what possibilities a debt free lifestyle can afford. I have pulled together files of inspiration photos for months and a week ago, the decorating stars aligned. Finally, I found a kindred decorating spirit out here. It can be hard though to come into my life and offer suggestions. Yes folks, I am aware. I know what I like and I have no interest in paying someone to come into my space to infuse their personality and taste. I have my own style that I love and am comfortable and confident in. What I am looking for is more of a consultant than a designer. I want someone to show me options, which rug companies have better prices than others, what textures to consider, and then have them step back as I pull it together myself. Suzanne does just this for me. It is amazing what life can be injected when someone comes into your space for the first time. The way they are able to see things dispassionately, and suggest a fresh perspective on furniture placement is so intriguing! She sketched out quick ideas of rooms for me to play with. I have taken these sketches and am now matching up pieces of furniture to the pictures in my head.

To start, I took my own advice and brought in a pillow from a crib bedding set I bought years ago that I absolutely adore as my inspiration. It was important for me to have each of the rooms in my home relate to each other as my house is small, and besides, I have a budget! I need for everything that I bring into the home to relate so that if I grow tired of a look, I can reach into a closet or another room and switch it up! So today, I polished off the look I want for my bedroom, and found the perfect touches for the girls' room in the basement and began my decorating binder. I will post some before and after pictures so that it ends up a bit of a collaborative effort. What about out there? Are any of you doing spaces that you are particularly proud of? Feel like sharing?

Thursday, June 18

* I am. *

Daily, I get the opportunity to express who I am to myself and those in my sphere. I find it remarkable though, how often I seem to forget to magnify that. Today as I took a rare opportunity to garden and care for my home and space, I thought of an old quote, but a good one.

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Marianne Williamson (often attributed to Nelson Mandela)

So when this came to mind, I chose to remind myself of who I really am. So often, I allow myself to downplay who I am, as is so common with many of us. I went through an exercise in a class I attended a year ago when they challenged us to verbalize what is unique about us, and to determine who each of us really is and why we each are here. Here is what I found for myself:

I AM a beautiful, powerful, inspiring, loving daughter of God.

Through beauty, power, inspiration, and love, I bring forth honor, assistance, empowerment, and healing, creating a world of passion, light, liberation and compassion where all of God's creation live in abundance.

The challenge is to never forget our purpose despite the daily activities. So, I feel it important to really share not only who I am, but ask my peers to do the same. Please feel free to share who you are.

Monday, June 15

*Brilliant things I have really heard at the bank*

1)I don't understand how I am overdrawn $800! I kept checking my balance and the more I took out, the more it said that I had!

Hmmm.... How do I explain that there is no magical ATM fairy that adds money to the account the more you take out of it. Oh, a world with no pesky negative signs to obsess about.

2)My account is positive now, but for some reason, the overdraft fees have not been reversed! My husband said that now that we have brought it positive you had to do it. So hurry up and reverse all $600 of fees, NOW!

*Well, I will start by saying, I was willing to go ahead and be
super generous and reverse half of the fees. I get it, life happens. I informed the client that this is a one time customer service courtesy. My thanks? Oh, she actually yelled at me as she informed me that all other banks reverse all overdraft fees automatically when accounts are no longer negative. Yeah, I encouraged her to go ahead and call around to compare me to anyone else. I know I'm more amazing than anyone out there. Well, she spent the next month checking with every bank and credit union in town, only to then return still yelling to demand the half I originally offered, and you should know that I never got a thanks either.

3) I will hunt you down and
kill you if you don't reverse my fees!

* This threat while delightful over the phone at work, picked up significance when the client called the customer service number hours later to let them the now detailed plan of my demise. The good news is that I got a paid day off while the police got involved and the local preacher man went to visit the jail.

and my favorite comment in general because it is so often said and yet so rarely true:

4) I didn't authorize that charge!

* My job is to take these charges seriously and begin a fraud claim, but the fun is to milk the time to watch the
interaction between my clients. It is amazing how long many spouses take to fess up to their spending money as I sit there very slowly filling out the many pages of forms. Yes ladies, he did sign up to and get that free trial offer, and gentlemen, those are her clothing charges to her favorite store. Thieves don't usually have such similar tastes. Eventually, through small talk and light banter, our little chats typically end with each of the clients making their confessions while sitting across from me at my desk. Ah they joys of playing marriage counselor. It's ok! I was in one of those couples last year too! There is hope for us all.

*The sweet life of a banker*

Saturday, June 13

*Julie and Julia by Julie Powell*

From time to time, I get so excited about reading a book that I rush out to buy it thrilled at the prospect of coming home to dedicate myself night and day to its pages. Last weekend I felt the familiar pang when looking to get some Julia Child DVDs and the book Julie and Julia kept popping up. It is a story based off a depressed temp who decided one year that the best way to get her life put together was to throw herself headlong into a year of passionate cooking. She determined to do all of the roughly 560 recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking with brains, liver and all. What is not to like? Stories of a woman in Queens learning to butcher meat, extract bone marrow and all sorts of delightful ingredients! So, I made up my bed with the most lovely sheets, turned on my beautiful crystal reading lamp, and burrowed in. It was exactly what I did NOT want it to be. The prose was clumsy, course and reminded me of a teenager who was overly excited about swearing without getting in trouble. There was far too much discussion of her politics and conversations of how Republicans (her former employers) were the scum of the earth. Occasionally she focused on the experiences of actually bumbling through recipes, but often those were glossed over for trite observations and lewd dialog. Towards the end of the book, she actually talks about a interview she held with a reporter from The Times and Julia Child herself discussing the author's Julie/Julia project. She wept as she talks of how in the interview, it became apparent that Julia Child hated her. Julie sobbed and has a chapter of her grief at discovering that her idol considered her a twit. I knew I was in good company! I think she is a total twit too! So, it almost killed me, but I went ahead and finished the book last night so that I could get a new book today and move beyond her terrible, terrible book. So, if the book is given to you as a gift, you don't mind reading a thinly veiled poser's self indulgent journal, enjoy! I just have one thing to say. . . NOT IT!

Thursday, June 11

*We are kickin' it into high gear*

Ok folks! I have had several people ask me about our progress with kickin' debt out of the house. I have gone from the greatest spender on earth to the gal who just had to call my husband in the middle of his dinner with some business buddies absolutely giddy to let him know that I just hit "send" on the final payment on his credit card! (Let's be fair, his name is on the card, but my clothes, furniture and necklaces are on the bill)

So lets do a debt count down:

Last year I had essentially maxed out the following-

1-a car loan
2-an Ann Taylor card
3-a Lowes Credit Card
4-my personal Chase Credit Card
5- CompUSA Credit Card
6-Brian's Chase Credit Card
7-a Bank of America Credit Card

All totaling over almost an annual salary.

They say that the number one cause of divorce is money fights and money problems. Please allow me to personally vouch for that. In November, I went ahead and decided that it was time, as an official adult, to act like one. (Yes, this may have something to do with the fact that I had recently started managing a bank and spent all day, every day teaching others that it is in fact a poor choice to spend more than they make) I finally decided to bid farewell to those days of buying everything I had ever seen, telling Brian that it had simply grown in the closet, or one of my mother's favorite lines, "Oh, I have had that for YEARS!" It turns out that it is even more gratifying to have a happy husband than delightful accessories. So, much to Brian's disbelief, I lined up each of our debts and began shooting them dead one by one. As of tonight, we have paid off all but the Bank of America bill!

It is time to finish strong and not lose focus. So where do we go from here? Well, I work for praise and rewards so I decided that was important to have the last credit card paid off by the end of August as my anniversary gift to Brian. I will pay off our second mortgage as a Valentines gift to us both, and then I have hired a designer to pull together some finishing touches in my house as my birthday present to me. Don't worry. Both she and the furniture will be paid for in cash up front! Sound like a plan? Yeah, lets see if I can keep up the momentum for another 8 months. . .

*Wish me luck*