Thursday, January 30, 2014

Just call me Billy Mays

I can't help myself - every time I use this stuff, I want to host an infomercial.

You should be impressed by this amazing stuff, and also by the fact that I figured out how to take a picture NOT on automatic mode!

It is seriously so, so awesome.  There have been many an instance when I think there is permanent damage or corrosion on a faucet and then I remember I have this stuff and with a few squirts & a few minutes of elbow grease it's as good as new.

My infomercial would obviously be much more effective if you saw the dismal state of this faucet before....but that finished gleam should win you over.  In true it's-the-little-things style, cleaning the gunk out from around the faucet joint has made my day, and probably my week.  It definitely helps that there's bright sunlight streaming in through the windows, and that it's a balmy 20 degrees outside today!  (It's been so cold it seemed like Anna would get frostbite just looking outside the past few days, so needless to say we've been a little cooped up).

Since I didn't do a 5 Favorites post yesterday, and I'm in infomercial mode anyway, I'll share the other amazing discovery of this week.

Did you know you can turn off the notifications on a specific picture or comment thread on facebook?  Maybe I'm the last person to realize this...but I was always hesitant to add a "congratulations" to an engagement announcement or pregnancy announcement because then I'd get 35 emails over the next week telling me that Susie So-and-so I never met also commented. that little "turn off notifications" button on the specific picture, and you can gush your excitement for your friend's big news without being flooded with everyone else's gushing.

Life changing, I tell you.

Did you know life could even get this exciting?

Oh, no that's right, because I haven't given you your daily dose of Anna sweetness.

Boom.  It doesn't get better than this.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What I Wore Sunday: how low will it go?

As I got dressed for church this morning, it occurred to me that this was the first time I've worn pants to Mass in several months.  (Of course related to the fact that the wind chill was a toasty -15 degrees and it seemed like all of the warm shirts that matched warm skirts had disappeared from my closet this morning).  I've been wearing more and more skirts and dresses (even at home during the day), and I've appreciated feeling more feminine - and perhaps surprisingly - more comfortable & able to move freely.  So, naturally, at the pinnacle of the week, going to Mass, I've been pants-less (but skirted/dressed!) almost exclusively.

Technically, I'm still wearing a dress, or at least what used to be a dress before my (cold-water, no-dryer) laundry routine still managed to shorten this one!  Or I had a growth spurt, one or the other.

But whether you're a die-hard skirts wearer (even in today's weather!) or you wouldn't wear a skirt if someone paid you, I propose to you these thoughts (heavily influenced by hours of recent exposure to Downton, of course) as a socially interesting observation.  I'm not writing this post to convince anyone (I'm not even sure 100% I understand my own opinion yet) - so take it for what it's worth: things I've been thinking about recently.

Watching Downton Abbey, I've been so interested to see the recurring theme of societal change/progress, and how it's perceived by different generations.  That's a common theme of humanity, at essence.  The younger generations crave the progress and want to move forward, leaving the older generation shaking their head in disappointment as their "old-fashioned" ways are cast aside for something that - to them - doesn't seem like an improvement.

People who get carried into Mass with blankets wrapped around them can still wear skirts in this weather!

Each generation takes a little more liberty - a few inches shorter on the hemline, a little less attention to detail, etc, etc.  I can remember arguing many times with my mom about whether or not (I said not) I needed nylons or a slip with my church dress.

And maybe those little changes doesn't make a big difference.  Will women's bare legs under their dresses cause society to crumble?   No, it's falling apart in more ways than a pair of nylons can fix.  But take those little changes, together, generation by generation, and look how far we've gone.

From an era of class, where people changed from their (lovely dresses) to be presentable enough to be seen for dinner - to an era of wearing gym clothes everywhere but the gym.

50 years ago, women wouldn't be caught dead in church wearing pants (and most likely, without a hat and gloves, too!), and now it's almost the exception to be wearing a skirt, let alone something that isn't denim.

Her hair-do is my favorite part of her outfit, even though she kept taking out the bow on her ponytail.

It's alarming, I think, how quickly these changes have come.  Justin's great-grandmother passed away last fall, and her (amazing) 102 years of life spanned both the time frame of Downton Abbey and today.  One lifetime, all that change.

And I don't mean to pick on fashion - it's societal norms in general.  It struck me one Saturday afternoon recently when we walked around an antique mall - admiring all of the beautiful glassware and elegant table settings and clothing (many not more than a few generations old) and imagining all of the lovely dinner parties that used these treasured belongings - followed by a dinner at the local Chinese buffet.  I couldn't help but feel sad at the contrast, as I watched people clad in pajama pants piling mountains food onto cheap melamine plates.  Certainly, as we've de-emphasized meals or clothing as trivial things that don't matter, this has affected the important things they represent - family, friendship, respect in general.

As we sacrifice each little change for "progress," do we know where we're going?  Or will we all be struck - as many of us have - by a totally foreign lifestyle depicted in Downton Abbey, and yearn for so many things that we can never have back?

Like our temperatures today, so I ask you about our societal expectations and norms, our sense of propriety:  how low will it go?  Am I the only one nostalgic enough to wish the rate of change would stop, or at least slow?

Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday.

Anna's sweater: Gymboree (hand-me-down), skirt: homemade / My dress: Kohl's (a great find by my mom!), pants: TJ Maxx, Necklace: Target

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

5 Favorites: More random things I like

This week's random assortment of things I like!  (Don't forget to hum "My favorite things..." as you read along, and check out more favorites at Hallie's).


January, and being back in routine.

I didn't realize how important my routine (and general discipline) was important until it was totally abandoned for a month.  After Thanksgiving, we had a nasty cold, then Christmas preparations, then travel, then recovering from traveling, and it feels like I am just now feeling at the point that the house is not a (total) disaster, I'm getting things done, and I feel so much better.  (Who would have guessed that throwing exercise, healthy eating, and normal sleep out the window for a month could make a person feel so lousy?, not to mention living in a constant state of disarray!)

Sometimes, I think we (especially moms) can feel guilty about doing things that are important for our own physical and emotional well-being.  Or, we feel that making our homes run smoothly or look nice is superfluous or even selfish.  I've definitely struggled with that from time to time, wondering if I'm going down the wrong (selfish) path by trying to discipline myself physically (taking time to exercise, going to bed on time, refusing another scoop(s) of ice cream) and in terms of housekeeping.

The other day, though, I read this quote in the Magnificat (daily prayer book) that really hit home:

All creation sings praise to God simply by being fully what the Creator intended.

I believe that God has asked of me to be a good wife and mother.  It's not selfish to take care of things within this realm, it's the appropriate response as caretaker of the gifts I've been given, including my own body.  Surely, I could take it to a selfish end and ignore the needs of my family or the larger world by focusing too much on these internal things...but the basic care and upkeep - of body, mind, home, etc - is a living out of what God intended me to be.  I think being off-schedule (and not feeling as well emotionally or physically as I would like) after that crazy month has hit this point home - living to our full potential, being fully what God asked of us is a much better way to live.

My posts always get philosophical when I least expect on to more shallow favorites of the week!


My mom and I found these nifty gadgets during some after-Christmas shopping, and I'm loving it!  I had a more standard garlic press, but I often just resorted to garlic powder because I was annoyed by having to clean the press (despite its "self cleaning" reverse press) and by how much garlic got wasted.

With this one, you tap the garlic a few times to get the skin loose, then pop the peeled cloves in the center, twist the two sides together, and it's neatly minced.  It all comes out, and it's easy to clean.  It makes me feel like a gourmet chef to be back using real garlic!

A French Whisk

"If you Give a Mouse A Cookie" style, that favorite reminded me of another must-have kitchen tool

When I received this as a wedding gift, I had never seen it before - and I'm surprised by how many friends or family have been over for dinner and wondered what it is.  I seriously don't know how I would cook without it.  A regular whisk is so much bulkier, for one thing, and this whisk also has a flat bottom, so when you're making a pan sauce, or mixing up pudding, or any other number of things, you can effectively scrape the bottom of the pan while you're whisking.  


After I caulked the seam between the wall and the trim in Anna's room, I've been going from room to room and fixing all of the seams.  I was trying to remember back to when we renovated each room, and I can't remember if I didn't know you were supposed to caulk, or if I just skipped it because we were so excited to get the paint done and carpet installed so we could move upstairs.  Things might have looked so much better than the "before" that I didn't even notice the slight imperfections until we were out of the house honeymoon phase.  Most likely, I just figured I'd do it in a few days (which turned in to years!)  Either way, it has made an amazing difference in the house looking finished, or as Justin says, from making it look like it was renovated by someone other than two kids who didn't entirely know what they were doing.

Before (see the gaps between the trim and the ceiling, and in the corner?)

After (I had trouble making it look as impressive on camera as it does in real life; but walking into a room and no longer having 20 spots and cracks calling for your attention looks SO much nicer!)

If you have an old house and you want an instant (and pretty easy) fix-up, definitely go for the caulk!  Preferably now and not 3 years from now, so that the crazy seams don't have to taunt you every day.

This spot needs some touch-up paint, but isn't it already so much easier on your eyeballs?!

Toddler activities

A friend of mine recently posted a link on Facebook for Productive Parenting, which is a website that is full of fun (and simple) activities for kids.  You can browse right on their website, or you can also enter your child's birth date and receive daily (or weekly) emails with a quick idea for what to do that day.  Usually, reading sites like this make me feel either vastly inferior (for not concocting a new playdough recipe every day) or really bored (do people really have to be told that reading books is a good idea??)  There have been a few days where the daily activity has been something I thought to be really obvious, but generally they've been fun and simple things that I could do with Anna, like making a path of string and having her follow it, or focusing on "stop" and "go" all day long and calling it out when we stop and go in the car or when she's walking around the house.  (Probably I could  have thought of those, and might have eventually, but getting a quick email each morning makes it easy!)  I especially like that they're tailored to Anna's age, and that you don't need complicated supplies (I've only come across one so far that requested something I didn't have in the house).  Worth your few clicks to check it out, I'd say.

I'm also just loving that Anna is growing increasingly able to focus on an activity, and playing with her feels more like we're, well, playing together and less like I'm trying to grab her attention by shaking a toy while she runs off to dump a different basket.

We tried her new paints (a Christmas present) for the first time yesterday, and it was lots of fun!  I see lots of crafting in our future (although Anna's preferred medium is solidly stickers, and not paint!)

** Bonus favorite to my new camera, which makes blogging a lot more fun (even though I think I have a ways to go, I no longer feel the urge to add a PLEASE IGNORE MY PHOTO INEPTITUDE disclaimer under each picture!)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The halls, decked

I took these pictures yesterday of Anna's new favorite activity (She's a bit more effective with this than the caulking).

I realized that posting those pictures would give away the fact that our house is still entirely decorated for Christmas.  If it weren't for the whole needing to impress people thing, we'd probably just call it a permanent fixture, we love our tree this year so much.  But, the neighbors will start to wonder, so we'll probably take it down sooner or later (yes, it's dropping a few needles, but that's been generally taken care of by my cleaning lady who, when not swiffering, picks up individual tree needles and either tries to put them back on the tree, or brings them to me).

But hey, we're still less than a month out from Christmas, and plenty of other people have trees up for a month (nevermind that's usually December, not January, but you know we bucked that trend!)

So, enough caveats, I'm just going to embrace it, and post all of my favorite pictures!  New camera practice, you know ;) 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Signs that our next renovation will have new challenges

The renovations in our current house were almost completely finished before I was expecting Anna.  Now it's obvious that renovations in our next house (yes, we're crazy enough to do this again) will have some new challenges!

Justin snapped this shot with his cell phone today while I (or, shall I say, Anna and I) were doing a little caulk touch-up between the trim and the wall in her room (yes, to get ready to sell).  I told myself all along that we wouldn't leave little projects like this until the last minute, and that we should do them early on because making it nice for ourselves is just as important as for others.  But, you know, we still have a laundry list of little projects before we list the house in March!  

Good thing we have a helper ;)

Friday, January 17, 2014

The long good-bye

From the very first time I opened our front door,

June 18, 2010
I knew I'd one day be closing it, too.

Justin is a graduate student, and he'll be graduating in May.  I will update more later about our future plans, but suffice it to say that he has been offered his dream job, and it's an amazing opportunity for our family.  We're grateful for that opportunity, so excited for the new community, looking forward to finding our new home.  But none of that makes this any easier.

We met with our realtor yesterday.  We've started saying the long good-bye to our house.

You may think I'm just overly sappy.  Especially if you've just been reading in the past few months when I've gone all mom-blog and philosophical, you might not understand why I call this house my "first baby."  We have seen this house through from a neglected, broken building.  We have put thousands of hours into making it our home.  This transformation came with our literal blood, sweat, and tears.  We have refinished (or in many cases, completely replaced) every wall, floor, and ceiling in the house.  We chose every color, every finish, every faucet, every everything.

We hold the ideal of home in high esteem, and consider this our sanctuary from the world.  But to sell a house, you have to open it up.  Let strangers traipse through, let them look in your closets and wander through your basement.  Convert it from a place where we live (and sometimes leave our laundry on the floor) to an exhibit, a pristine showplace.  We must let them in - with all of their opinions - to judge all the work we've done and the choices we've made.

But they can never know, as they wonder about whether or not they want an orange kitchen,

that seeing that kitchen was literally my dream come true after I spent more than a year cooking like this:

and then more than a month looking something like this:

And walking upstairs to the bedrooms will never feel the same as it did for someone who lived in the kitchen:

or who did "carpet angels" the first time we could go upstairs to do anything but hard physical work:

They'll wonder if they like the amount of storage, but they won't know that the closet was a Christmas gift or how many times I had to go to work with paint spots on my arms before the bathroom closet was finished and the special primer finally washed off after multiple days worth of showers.

They won't know which floor tile I was laying when one of my best friends called to say she was engaged.

They'll see a house that looks decent these days, but won't know that by comparison it looks amazing.  They'll find things to criticize, I'm sure.  I find things I wish looked better, but most of the time they have some happy memory.  I see the things we learned, the pride of accomplishment, the friends who helped with each room, the things that were happening in our lives as each thing was done, not the imperfect drywall or the slightly crooked tiles.

You leave any space with memories.  Last night as I was falling asleep, I felt like a sappy commercial as images flashed by of all the happy times we've had in our house - parties, dinners, quiet evenings as a family.  I hope and pray that someone decides to buy our house who will be as happy here as we were.  Someone who will love this place - despite its faults - just as much as we have.

And as we prepare for it to be their home and not ours, we start the long goodbye.  As we start to pack up some of our personal decorations and move things from the basement to storage, it slowly becomes less ours.  Slowly becomes less "home" and more "house," until we hand over the keys this summer and we have to say our final goodbye to all but our memories.

I could add all sorts of caveats about knowing of all the "hellos" that are to come, about knowing that it's just a house, not a person who's died.  About knowing of all the other people who move all the time, and have loved their houses just as much.

But I don't need to write about all that today.  I know it's all true.  But goodbye is never easy, and we've started the long goodbye.

P.S. Some more "before" and "after" (although it hasn't been updated in a while) here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

By way of excuses...

To ensure the arrival of a few last minute Christmas gifts, I signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime - and along with the shipping benefits, you can also stream movies and TV shows for free.  Justin and I decided to take this opportunity to catch up on Downton Abbey.  "Catch up" is of course used loosely because while I had watched the first three episodes a few years ago, he had never seen any of it.  So, we've been watching two or three episodes every night for the last week.  I think we have at least 7 or 8 left before we have to cancel the free trial at the end of the week, if we're to be caught up enough to watch the current episodes.

All blogging, sewing, and other evening pastimes have naturally been put on hold (not to mention reasonable bedtimes).  And yes, naturally, I absolutely love the show.  And it has inspired me to want to find plenty more "former glory" in my life - let's start with the hats, shall we?

I'll likely be back to blogging soon once I have a Downton-sized hole in my evenings!  Until then, we can talk about how awesome it is (but remember, I'm only in the middle of season 3 - no spoilers!)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Further proof: the small stuff isn't worth sweating

I'm considering framing this picture:

I love the sweet look - pure joy, pure love - on Anna's face.  

But beyond that, it's a reminder to me that everything works out in the end.

The late arrival of this baby doll wasn't the only thing that in the last few weeks that has caused me to declare "everything ruined."  The red velvet cake get a tiny bit burnt for our Christmas dinner.  My new amazing camera started to freeze up when taking pictures.  You know, the small things that we all sweat.

But time and time again, everything worked out in the end, and the only harm done was the time I spent worrying (or maybe crying) about things.  (Or maybe a few family members had to deal with a grumpy/stressed Emily).

Our Christmas dinner was still lovely (and we had so many cookies that no one was even hungry for red velvet cake).  The camera shop was super kind and helpful and is doing an exchange since the problem persists.  And Anna's love for her new baby was worth a two day wait.

New year, new resolutions - and that picture is a reminder for a new attitude to not let little things ruin my day, or even 5 minutes of my day.  Slowly digging myself out of this holiday-prep sleep deprivation is helping :)


And because Rosie told me to, I'm going to start to include plenty of the other shots I've been able to get with the new camera (I'm amazed by the quality of pictures I'm able to take, even with the problem this specific camera has.  I can't wait to get the new one and start to learn how to do something besides shoot in automatic mode!)

She never took a pacifier, so she's not really sure what it's all about.

Maybe this is right, Mom?

Baby + baby in the crib.