Tuesday, February 25, 2014

the final goodbye (and a trip to the emergency room)




Hello friends.

I’m still here… moving through these final, whirlwind days before our relocation and I thought I’d give you an update.

This past weekend was officially our last time together—as a family---before we leave this home. And wouldn’t you know it?  In addition to a lot of happy moments, it included an unexpected trip to the emergency room, which added one more memorable story to our life in this house.

Our plan was to have both boys come home from school for a quick visit; we wanted to celebrate Michael’s 19th birthday and take the video camera around the house so we could all share some of our favorite memories together. And for the most part, this is what happened.

Only ever since last October when we began this process of moving to another city I’ve been reminded that nothing ever goes as planned. And even when I think I’m in control, I’m not.


Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

-  Lao Tzu


So on Friday night, I had my camera ready because I wanted to get a picture of each kid coming through the door one last time. (Sorry for the fuzzy photos, but I forgot to change my camera settings in all the hoopla)


Here’s Stella. She can hear each car drive up and she waits at the door.




Michael gets home first from the airport.


And here’s Patrick after his long drive. It was the first time we saw him since his injury and Stella couldn’t wait to get way from those scary crutches.

Did I tell you? In the middle of all this transition I got a phone call two Saturdays ago and heard Patrick’s voice on the other end. Don’t you hate calls that begin like this?

“Mom, I have some bad news. I think I need to go to the emergency room.”

It turns out that he had broken his left foot and as I write these words he’s still waiting for his final walking cast.

But my point about sharing Patrick’s injury is this recurring lesson for me about letting go. And it’s an experience that seems to be everywhere these days.

Having your college kid be alone in an emergency room hundreds of miles away, dealing with prescriptions, doctor appointments and insurance information is an instant reminder of the free-falling feeling that comes with backing away. Giving up control. Accepting vulnerability. Managing one’s worries.

Are you good at letting go of control and practicing the art of surrender?

For a woman (yours truly)  who likes to pretend that she can keep bad things from happening by focusing on all the details that could go wrong, it’s very uncomfortable. But I’m getting better.

In fact, do you want to know how much raising boys has warped changed my perspective?

I actually felt relieved that Patrick didn’t fall on his head and get another concussion. (and-hooray for no more wrestling with friends on concrete sidewalks. Another sigh of gratitude)

Which leads me back to this past weekend.

One minute it was life as usual.  It was Sunday and Jim was narrating over his video camera while we added our funny stories. There was the usual talking and texting and laundry and loading Patrick’s car and getting ready to take Michael to the airport.

When suddenly I hear a chair screech on the tile and I see Michael sinking straight down to the floor with a strange look on his face.


waiting in the emergency room with Michael


And this is what I’ll remember in the end.

What I’ll remember most about this special weekend is what happened during this scary period when everyone realized that something was wrong with Michael only we didn’t know what.

I’ll remember watching Patrick bend over his brother and ask him quietly for information about his recent weight training. I heard him ask about his pain and his symptoms which were in his lower back, and I saw them both calmly use their cell phones to search for forums and answers while I called the hospital and their Dad phoned the airlines.

Funny what you recall during crisis moments. Your mind grabs at random details like the fact that he had no tingling in his legs or fingers. And that he could still move all his limbs.


And I remember hearing Patrick say, “Mom, calm down.” when I began to over-react to Michael moving prematurely and I recall feeling impressed by their composure. And the sudden appearance of sensitivity and kindness in a stressful situation.

Later, after we moved Michael gingerly to the car so that we could take him to the hospital we all stood in the sunshine and hugged goodbye.

Patrick’s close buddy Matt, had arrived by now because he was riding back to school with Patrick. And he hugged me and told me he had wanted to come over to say ‘bye’ to our house too. Apparently, there was a funny story about Matt jumping into our fountain after a high school party that I’d never heard before. And we all laughed, including Michael.



Six hours later when we returned home from the hospital with medication and a likely diagnosis ( a muscular tear with some possible bleeding) we were all exhausted. Michael was drowsy from his IV with pain medication and went to bed immediately. And I felt stiff and tired when I sank into our bed.

I asked Jim if he’d seen the scribbled note that was left on the chalkboard by Matt.


the kitchen chalkboard

And we both smiled in the darkness at Matt’s message.

Then I had to find out if Patrick had made it safely home.



And once I got this text message I remember sinking into my pillow and having one of those, Life-doesn’t-get-much-better-than-this-kind of reactions, the kind of pure gratitude that washes over you after a relieving visit to a hospital.

The kind of  gratitude that helps you appreciate all the little things we so often take for granted.



By the way….

We signed our papers yesterday and it’s official.

Our house is sold.










I’m linking this post up with these friends:


Saturday, February 15, 2014

my vintage-inspired Valentine dinner party


Hello friends.

As most of you know we’re getting ready to move shortly and my blog posts have been scanty these days because there’s so much going on. But last night we hosted our annual Valentine dinner party and I thought I’d share some pretty pictures with you.



I think this Valentine dinner is such a fabulous idea; each year we celebrate the occasion with our long-time friends Mary and Dave, Kirsten and John and Tracey and Andy. We rotate homes and alternate cooks. One year the wives cook the meal for the guys and the next year the guys cook for us and we dress up and basically have a blast.

The first year we bought the husbands matching heart covered ties

(“Mom did the guys wear those dorky ties again?” “Yes, Michael they sure did.” )

and we wear lots of red and have so much fun cooking our gourmet dishes together.

This year I was happy to host it at our house because every gathering we have here….now takes on such special meaning. I even decided to add an old-fashioned vibe to the decorations because these days I’m in a downright sappy mood.

I started with the place cards…


Do you remember those simple, brown paper sacks we decorated in grade school for our class Valentine parties?

Remember how excited we were to have these be our ‘mailboxes’ for all those store bought Valentines from our classmates?


Well…when I saw these miniature bags at Hobby Lobby I thought they’d make adorable place cards so I decorated them with white doilies and slipped a box of candy hearts into each one.


I used red chargers and my Christmas napkins trimmed with white stitching.


I bought a piece of red fabric and folded it down the center of a white tablecloth.

For drama I stuck to a monochromatic theme and used red tulips down the center with red rose petals tossed on the table for texture.





I tied five red tissue balls with fishing wire and hung them from the ceiling.





And I added little mason jars sprayed with a can of gold paint and dipped in glitter. I wish I had a picture of these at night, they actually sparkle.




Oh-and I did spend a ridiculous amount of time on these Valentine Cootie Catchers for the husbands. (But it was worth it).

Because I thought that any old fashioned Valentine party had to have a Cootie Catcher, so I made this version. Only instead of using colors and numbers, I chose images from romantic movies. The opening line is, Which Leading Man Are You? And in place of a fortune at the end, I had a trivia question having to do with Valentines Day and romantic movies.

Honestly, the funniest thing was watching the husbands try to open and close their Cootie Catchers. I never realized how much coordination it took.

Do you want to know how I made these? I promise to show you in another post.


For the dinner I was in charge of making a cheese board, the salad, and these home-made sugar cookies.



The dinner was wonderful. Kirsten made a wild mushroom Risotto, Mary made the main course, a Macadamia-crusted Halibut with a Blood Orange Beurre Blanc Sauce and Tracey made the green beans and the Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes.

And like all cozy dinners we drank good wine, reminisced about old times and don’t ask me how, but at one point we even sang the theme songs to the Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan’s Island.…TV shows from our childhood.

It was simply magical, one of those evenings where you sit back and relish the joy of being together with the same friends that once stood outside the kindergarten classroom with you. And waited for those baby-faced six year olds that are now an amazing twenty-one years old.


It was also a night with gratitude in the air.

Tracey had been at the hospital that day while her Dad underwent a successful surgery and I was so relieved to find out that morning that Patrick didn’t have to have surgery for his broken foot. Oh yes…Patrick’s broken foot. That’s a story for another post.

In the meantime, I just keep counting my blessings.









linking up to these parties:


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Before and After

If you’re a follower of my blog you know I tend to paint first, and think later. Sometimes I’ll see a pretty picture and it’s enough to inspire me to paint something. And I don’t spend a lot of time agonizing over the perfect shade either, I’m too impatient. My attitude with mistakes is always, “oh well, it’s just paint.”

I originally had white French doors in our entry. Then I painted them black which I liked better with all our white woodwork. But then I thought this little chest and mirror looked too dark.

DSC_0320 copy2


Don’t you love looking at Before and After photos?  

I think there’s something so optimistic about looking at the After shots, because no matter what someone decides to change, I think it’s admirable to see the result of one’s hard work. You end up thinking, “Hey, I could do that.”

Plus, I think DIYers appreciate all the hidden elbow grease and time that’s behind any home project…


Now back to the French doors. As you can see one paint job led to another and….


..the white frame was definitely a keeper.


But even though the Anne Sloan’s Emperor’s Silk Red was especially pretty during the holidays, I discovered I’m not really a red furniture person.


I thought it was “too much” with my floor tiles.

So the day before our last Open House, I went out to the garage and spotted a leftover can of AS French Linen and right in the middle of all my cleaning… I stopped and re-painted the chest.

Yep. Even when Mr. M. walked by and said, “Les, do you really have time for that right now?”

I kept painting.


And here’s the chest now in a more subdued, softer paint shade.


The minute I finished it I literally sighed with relief.

DSC_1092 (2)use

I prefer this color next to the black doors, and it actually feels calmer in our entry now.

Funny how a shade of color can influence the mood of a room. Does that make sense to you?



Oh, and here’s another quickie, inexpensive project.

See how plain this bedroom window looks?

Well I didn’t want to go out and buy a window treatment since we’re moving soon. But this empty space really gnawed at me… until suddenly I remembered my old window treatment from the kitchen.

DSC_1347 (2)use

For awhile I had moved this valance from my office to the kitchen.

I had it taped inside this wood section over my window. And ever since I took it down, it’s been folded inside my cupboard just waiting for me to see THIS creative project.

After I saw that window treatment, I purchased some burlap and hooks from the Hobby Lobby for under twenty dollars (love them coupons) and using no sew fusible tape, I made a piece of burlap the would cover the back side of this valance, allowing the trim to show.


I purposely left the cream and black damask side alone, in case I decide to use this again.


Once I fused the burlap ends, I glued the entire piece to the valance with my hot glue gun.

But I was careful to use a thin line of hot glue to avoid puckers in the fabric.



Next, I hot glued black ribbon to the edges for a more finished look. And cut and hot glued pieces of black ribbon ties for the top of the valance.


I spray painted the hooks white…


…and thanks to my Dad, we got the valance measured and the hooks spaced properly over the window.



and here it is!

My no-sew burlap window treatment. I wish I had more photos to show you but it’s raining today and too dark in that room to take good pictures right now.

But I hope this DIY project reminds you to look through your stuffed cupboards again.



Because these are the kind of surprises that make me happy.




I’m linking this post up here:



Monday, February 3, 2014

great ideas for your kitchen island

I don’t think I’ve told you yet about my one, brief experience house hunting in Huntington Beach have I?

Well don’t worry, because I can quickly sum it up for you in four easy words:

“Are.You. Kidding. Me?”

At least this is what Mr. Moss tells me I kept repeating throughout our time with the nice realtor. I don’t remember, but I think I can blame it on shock.

  Let’s just say I’ve been spoiled for a loooong time and I didn’t realize it. But my current kitchen with its big, lush island will be a thing of the past unless we win the lottery very soon (hard- to-do-since I don’t play), or we stumble into an incredibly rare situation.

Every kitchen I saw in our price range was very small although

(once I got over that sinking feeling in my stomach),



…I could feel my creative juices start to churn.

So today I thought I’d share some unique ideas for adding counter space to your kitchen because not everyone is lucky enough to have a built-in island.

And while I’m not sure these all work for tight spaces, they sure
inject some fun and personality into a boring kitchen.


my kitchen today

Sigh, so goodbye to my huge kitchen island…

and hello to all you eclectic, free-standing possibilities




Let’s see. How about

an antique baking table with Pottery Barn baskets…

in a very cool color?


Or an island painted in Paris Gray by Anne Sloan Chalk Paint.  I honestly included this one because I love how this antique dealer transformed her Sonoma, California home.



I wish I knew more about this creative island. But source is unknown….



…Hmm…the reason I should keep going to flea markets and antique shops…what a great find.


Very pretty, wish I could see the back side though…


…in Country Living’s 2013 House of the Year

they used this affordable table from Cost Plus’ World Market.


And here’s a simple idea…

putting your butcher block on casters offers more flexibility in a small kitchen…



I like that shelf below for added storage…



…included this because it’s my favorite turquoise colored island ever.

By-the-way, would you ever paint your island in a bold color?



Here is a late 1800s Belgian butcher’s table paired with Carrara marble counters…

in case you’re wondering what materials can go nicely with Carrara marble.


and for all those DIYers out there…

this is a basic chest that has been transformed to fit against a kitchen wall. Click HERE to see this impressive tutorial.

(You can see the back side too)


And oh look. An impersonation of me.

In my slightly-crazed, emotionally exhausted mood after house hunting.

It’s ok friends…don’t worry,  I’m better now.

(me thinks)

 BTW--Which island was your favorite? 




…sharing this post with these friends:


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