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February 2011
Next month:
April 2011

buy a book. help japan.

today only, f&w media is donating 50% of profits made from sales in its bookstores to the relief effort in japan.

what can you buy?

well, there's always this little number, which i highly recommend ...

... don't let the "clearance" and "2008" scare you away: everything in this book is still totally relevant. except maybe some of the patterned paper.

but if you don't WANT to journal your family's memories and history (ahem), there are other great options, too:

twisted stitches

i felt awesome

scrapbook secrets

the big book of scrapbook pages

collage discovery workshop

organized simplicity


and pages and pages of other options.

so go forth ... buy something new and inspirational and instructive ... be a part of helping japan ... feel good about yourself!


need to figure this out and get it out of my system already.

the sofas.


are you sick of this topic yet? i am. i don't like being in an indecisive place. hate it. i like to be sure of what i want and then make it happen; wrenches are not welcome in my works.

i've mentioned before that the vision all along in my head for the house is white on white. white slipcovered sofas, white walls, feeding into the white walls of the dining room, which opens up onto the white walls and white cabinetry in the kitchen. with accents of olive (the island), brushed stainless (the island top), bluish-gray-black (the soapstone counters), warm wood floors, leftover soapstone or khaki-green glass subway tile on the fireplace surround ... just little touches of neutral in a sea of white.

open, airy, bright, white.

i've mentioned my obsession with white.

so why on earth would i let marc lead me off reservation and into the territory of something not white?

when we went back to restoration hardware on friday to once again sit on the sofas, we talked about it and decided that if we get these sofas, gray was the way to go. durable army duck, easy to clean, dark enough to hide spots and spills. see? gray would be pretty:

Fog kensington
but would it look right with the idea in my head? with the pieces of inspiration i've been collecting? would it be as flexible as white??

so i got onto pinterest (do you pinterest?? if so, how awesome is it?? if not, why aren't you?!) and went through my pinboards to look at all the pretties i've collected to see if gray would be a good neutral for what i have in mind. granted, i love gray ... always have ... but a-nine-feet-long-sofa-or-two love gray? or a-little-goes-a-long-way love gray? and i discovered this:

gray is, indeed, a running theme in my world.

even if i choose to go with warmer colors in different accents and accessories, gray is still there.

seeing this makes me happy.

(behold, the power of pinterest.)

so now i'm thinking that if we go gray on the sofas, their darkness will be balanced by the dark of the countertops, the dark of the wood floors, but then i don't think i would want dark on the fireplace surround. and even the soft green is iffy. so ... what?

then last night i was watching a tivo'd candice tells all, and she did a room for a couple that was white with a charcoal gray accent wall and a lighter gray sofa, and the fireplace mantle and built-ins were white, and the surround was hexagon marble tile. like this:

it was very subtle, but very light, while still making sense of the gray.

i liked it.

on the other hand ... is it too formal? i'm not normally a candice olson fan. her rooms are too full and too sparkly and too "designed" for my taste. the sofas would already be formal enough on their own, and my personal taste trends toward simple with pops of whimsy and humor. but maybe with a soft rug ...

a little bit of blue on the windows to hint at what's in the tv room just off the great room ...

Quadrille china sea reverse aqua
(quadrille fabrics cirebon reverse in aqua)

and lots of funky, colorful art and objects, i can pull off comfy/casual/open/arty yet grown up.

we need to decide in the next month what we're going to do. why the timeline? because the sofas are on sale until the end of april. we'd save a significant amount of money if this truly is the way we want to go, and that makes it worth doing sooner rather than later. the timing of custom ordering them and having them delivered should run right into when the house is finished ... which seems serendipitous to me and marc. while we're deciding, i also need to seriously keep in mind whether i would even want to mess with slipcovers and white. do i really want to be taking off and putting on and washing and spot-treating, blah blah blah ... ?

then again, the tv room will need a sofa ... maybe that's where i go white. and slipcovered. and cheap. to offset the gray. and upholstered. and not cheap.

what do you think?

best spring break, like, ever.

today is the last day ... officially. friday was the last day for real, though. saturday was spent in the car for 10 hours, driving to wisconsin to pick up the kiddos. today, kiddos are home, henry needs to spend a little time on a project that's due this week, things are back to normal.

but we all had a great week.

the kids had a blast with the grandparents, much more fun than they would have had here with us, trying to clean and purge and pack around them, telling them "not now," "in a minute," "you need to wait." trust me when i say they had a much better time being banished.

truth be told, so did marc and i.

the amazing thing is that as of this past thursday, we have officially been together 18 years. next year will mark the point at which half of our lives have been spent together, and the other half was spent trying to get to each other. (have i ever told you that our paths crossed four different times, from the late 80s to the year before i started college ... and marc grew up in south america? the universe definitely wanted us together!) every year from then on will just be us showing off.

we discovered this week what we suspected all along: we'll kick butt as empty nesters. we LIKE each other. we are best friends. we work well together, and laugh, and chat, and make out, and enjoy each other's company. possibly more now than ever before in our relationship.

we got engaged in the middle of my senior year of college. we attended pre-marital counseling with our school's chaplain and had to take a myers-briggs personality test. at the next session, the pastor sat down in front of us with the results, and before going over them he said, "are you two really committed to making this relationship work? you need to decide that now and stick to it." marc and i looked at each other, giggled, looked back at him and said, "of course! why?" he pulled out our results and told us that in all his years of counseling, he had never seen two people whose personalities were more opposite. on top of that, marc's numbers were so extreme that, the pastor said, if anyone in the relationship was going to be flexible to keep the peace, it would have to be me, because my numbers showed more ability to move.

(now that i think back on it, we went to school at a small, church-sponsored college in a small, conservative indiana town. the pastor could have been blowing smoke up my ass to challenge me to take on a more "traditional" role in the marriage, since up to this point i was pretty clear that i view marriage as an equal partnership. i wasn't going to be fetching anyone's slippers.)

anyway, i have to say that over the past 18 years, we've BOTH changed. we've worked together to pick up slack where the other person couldn't, take the lead when the other person needed it, say what we mean without being passive-aggressive (me) or oblivious (marc). we challenge each other and encourage each other and support each other, and in many ways, being so different at the beginning has morphed into meeting in the middle and becoming quite like each other now. for better or worse.

case in point? on one of the days of our "spring break" marc declared, "i'm taking you to the range."

uh ... what?

he packed up his gun and targets, pushed me into the car, and off we went. i've never been to a range in my life. i've never shot anything more powerful than a nerf gun in my life, i'm a *liberal* ... but there i was, in ear protection and safety glasses and pink striped socks, gun in hand, being instructed by my soulmate on how to load the clip, hold the gun, shoot. a real bullet.


the first shot scared me to death. i had no idea what to expect. but amazingly, i hit the target ... and within the limits. then marc told me to relax and breathe, and i realized that shooting a gun is like shooting a camera: you aim, prepare, mentally zone in on your target, plant your feet and hips, exhale ... then shoot. and the rest of the clip was emptied into the black zone of the target, albeit quite slowly.

i rocked it.

then marc moved the target about 40' farther out and filled up the black zone in rapid fire. so much for my little victory.

but it was fun, sharing something he loves and trying something waaaaayyyy out of my comfort zone. i shot three rounds, then sat back and watched him go at it. and despite those darn liberal tendencies, watching my 6'4" husband shoot a gun while wearing camo cargos ... head freshly shaven, face not shaved for days ... is seriously hot. holy cow.

and the best part? after we'd gone through the boxes of ammo and were walking to the car, marc said, "let's go grab thai and sit on the sofa again."

and we spent half an hour talking to the design person at the store about the sofa, measuring and looking at fabric swatches. and we had just as much fun doing that as we did shooting.

that's what 18 years give you, baby: the ability to shoot guns and talk sofas, without either person rolling her eyes or looking at his watch.

but now our week is over. the sun room is full of packed boxes ...

we met with the stager and were told that we are in great shape, we have a great house and shouldn't have trouble selling. and now april looms: with many work trips for marc, much house-prep loose-end-tying-up for me, the contractors coming out to do the insurance work, a little trippy-poo on red hat's dime to this amazing place for president's club ...

and then we start digging in our dirt. finally. one year after buying the lot then waiting and saving, and two years after first eyeing the lot and feeling like we'd found our "home."


and we enter this month of insanity refreshed, ready, happy, and eager with anticipation of what's on the horizon.

and that we're getting there together.


let's talk about sofas

my dear husband led me astray last night, and now i'm left reeling, reassessing, wondering what to make of my life.

he made me fall in love with a sofa i have no business loving.

the kids are with the grandparents this week for spring break so marc and i can use our days purging and packing and fixing, without interruptions by things like work and driving back and forth from schools. it's been ... am i allowed to say ... heavenly. we get along so well and work so well with each other that even though we're crazy-busy all day long, we're having just as much fun as if it were a vacation on a beach.

which is a little nuts, now that i say it out loud.

anyway, we reward ourselves for a day well spent by having a nice dinner and doing something fun in the evening. last night it was dinner at cheesecake factory and then i said, "let's run to crate and barrel to get fabric swatches for the bed and sofa so we can make sure our white paint choice is a good one."

so, off to the galleria we went.

we wandered through crate and barrel and doubled-checked that we liked the bed (oh yes indeedy, we do) and sat on the sofa. okay. got the swatches ... and the sofa is a warmer white than i was planning. hmm. okay ... well, let's swing into pottery barn and see if their white slipcovered sofas are more white. so we went there, sat on more sofas, got more swatches. their white is more white and linen-y, but i didn't like the lines of the sofa as much as the crate and barrel one.

here was my dilemma: the vision i've had in my head forever is two sofas, narrow square arms, comfy and slipcovered in white, casual goodness. sofas that look timeless and appropriate regardless of season.

something like this:

after leaving pottery barn, i told marc i was going to have to think about the sofas. we were right next to restoration hardware, and he suggested we look around while we were out and about.

we went in, looked at some tables, marveled at the drab, institutional uniformity of everything in the store (where did the retro charm go, restoration hardware??). we asked an associate a question about a table and she led us to a vignette to answer our question. we sat down on the available sofa to talk, and once she was done and left, marc stayed. he rubbed the leather. he settled in. he said, "THIS is the kind of sofa we need."

now, i need to explain something here: marc has no opinion of furniture and style and color and shape and form. none. could not care less. he is all about function and feel, and that's it.

and he did not want to leave this sofa.

my immediate reaction was, "yeah, it's comfortable. but it's brown. and it's leather. so, no." then i realized how huge the thing was and had a sudden desire to lay down on it. so i did. and giggled.

"i feel like a midget on this thing!" i said.

"you look like a midget on this thing," he replied.

nine feet, ten inches long. that was the size of this sofa. but it was brown. and leather. so we pulled ourselves off and kept walking. then i hear:

"what if it was in fabric?"

there was the sofa again. in a belgian linen. sort of sandy-gray-oatmeal in color. tufted. a chesterfield, restoration hardware-style.


nine feet, ten inches of gorgeous.

he sat down at one end. i sat down at the other. i stretched out my legs. they weren't even close to touching marc.

the. most. comfortable. sofa. ever.

but seriously ... not white. not slipcovered. not casual. not streamlined. not square.

this sofa is large. curved. tufted. tailored.

one of these bad boys costs as much as our budget for two of the other kind.

and marc doesn't care.

we had to pry ourselves off of that sofa. we were quiet leaving the store. we were quiet on the drive home.

"that was a really great sofa," said marc.

"it would change every plan and every vision i've had in my head for years," i said.

"it was really comfortable," said marc.

"i would have to rethink the style of the entire main floor," i said.

"do you think the 9' one or the 10' one?" asked marc.

i said nothing.

i would NOT fall in love with this sofa. it was the wrong style. wrong size. wrong color. wrong vibe.

we sat on our couch at home, watching "chicago code." i found the restoration hardware catalog on the coffee table and flipped to the sofa. i saw "fabric options" were located on page 240. i flipped to it.

lord help me, it can be ordered in white army duck.

Rh kensington

i'm sunk.

"it's still too big," i said.

i pulled out the ipad, tapped on the floor plan app (yes, i have a floor plan app. whatever.). i typed in our great room dimensions. i selected "sofa" and typed in its dimensions. i added a second one.

whether we go with one or two, 9' or 10', they would work in our space.

lord have mercy.

at this point i was still all NO. not what i have in mind. not gonna work. i want slipcovers. i want casual. then marc and i talk more and i realize that while i was growing up, my grandparents had a large great room with two long sofas. and that's where the family hung out and sat and talked during holidays. those sofas flanking a coffee table and set perpendicular to the fireplace were THE spot when the family got together. and today, my parents have a home with a large great room and a large fireplace, and they have my grandparents' long sofas and coffee table, and those sofas are STILL where the family sits and snuggles and gathers to talk. it isn't the small accent chairs. it isn't the peripheral cozy chairs by the lamp. it's those long sofas. we sit close, we stretch out, someone naps while three other people sit and talk. they are the most versatile, memorable piece of furniture in the room.

and i realize at this point i have just emotionally sold myself on these sofas.

"they are so expensive," i tell marc.


"but we'd have them forever," i finish.

he gives me a side-eye glance and smiles.


happy birthday to my baby girl

she's six today. actually, she was six at 4:07 a.m. this morning ... a fact she made sure she had squared away before going to bed last night, so she would know if she *was waking up six* or *should wish herself a happy sixth birthday at some point later in the day.*

for real.

that's how she rolls.

she's a nut. she's a goofball. she's witty. she's impetuous. she's quick to change emotions - one minute is status quo, the next is tears, the next is giggles. she's drama. she's impatient. she's short-attention-spanned. she's super sweet. she's flippantly polite. she's smart, but she's always got something better to do than sit and go over something more than once. she's dreamy. she's girly. she think she's an eleven-year-old boy. she's got such an old soul sometimes. she has a look that takes my breath away with its beauty and sincerity. she could sit and watch "little bear" and "miss spider's sunny patch friends" for hours. she says she wants to play her gameboy, but what she really wants to do is hold her gameboy while she watches her brother play HIS gameboy. she loves mushrooms, seafood, edamame. she won't eat a hot dog. she can take me from exasperation to laughter in mere seconds. she ruins just about every mealtime and has, consistently, for six years. she's long and leggy and lanky and gorgeous. she can make herself burp on command and wants so badly to learn to armpit fart. she is learning to read, but would really rather supply her own words for the story than read the ones on the page. she looks so, so much like her dad, but those cheeks are mine, and the hairline is all her own. she's amazing. she's a blessing.

she's perfect.

and i will do my best to instill in her that she's perfect. not in that "i can get away with anything i want because my mom thinks i'm perfect" way, but in the "i'm enough, and no one can ever tell me i'm not" way.

i want her to be stronger and surer of herself than i ever was. i want her to be able to tell me anything, bring all her fears and sadness and happiness and questions to me. i want to protect her, and i want to build her up. i pray for her safety and her happiness. i wonder about the world in which she will grow and become a woman.

i tell her she can be anything she says she wants to be: a beader, a fisherman, a dress designer, an oyster diver, a chef, an artist. i tell her she can marry, or not. i tell her she can have kids, or not. i tell her she can live next door or move to hawaii. i tell her the future is up to her and there's really no wrong answer, so long as she's smart and follows her sense of right and wrong and god.

i hope she has few regrets. and many happinesses.

this post was supposed to be a recap of her lovely birthday and her lovely party with her lovely friends ...

but the truth is, the only important thing i have to say about her birthday is that it was the best day of my life. it was the day i was complete. i needed this girl. my family was amazing before she was born, but it was perfect after. she was the final piece of the puzzle. and everything that she is, all the good and all the not so much, is a gift that god gave me. i don't ever get religious on my blog - i consider my faith to be personal - but there is a verse that has meant so much to me for six years, and it will be written on harper's doorway as the new house is being built:

1 samuel 1:27: i have prayed for this child, and the lord has granted me what i asked of him.

happy birthday, sweet girl.

hello, pretty house.

i like you.

back up:

on tuesday, marc and i had our first official "we're really doing this, and the clock has started on the project, so we need to start from the REAL square one" meeting with our builder rep and the firm's architect. we took in the original bid plans from a year ago, when we first bought the lot and expressed interest in a particular plan. we also took in the photoshopped modifications to the plans that i had obsessed over for the past ... well ... year so that we could discuss changes we wanted to see if we could make, needs that we had that the house didn't suit, etc.

diana, our rep, had told us long ago, when we first got the plans, that the house we started with on paper would likely in no way look like the house we would end up building.

after tuesday's meeting, i'd say that's pretty close to the truth.

while there aren't too many sigificant changes to the revisions marc and i had made on the original set, the exterior changed dramatically. as we sat talking to teresa, the architect, i expressed my desire for a farmhouse - a white home with a large porch and a simple, clean look. she made some very quick sketches and said we'd have the new plans by the end of the week. unsure of what to think of the whirlwind (yet incredibly productive) first meeting, marc and i left the meeting giddy and somewhat apprehensive. we weren't sure what was going to come back to us.

well, today at noon diana stopped by to drop off the new plans - her arrival stirring me from my three-hour cnn-fest (poor japan. my heart just breaks for the whole country.), and when i saw the new exterior, a huge smile broke. it's adorable. it's gorgeous. it's better than i imagined.

feeling the need to immediately cement the image in my brain, i started playing with photoshop.

the plan for the house went from this, last march:

to this, today:

good golly, miss molly, it's CUTE.

we still have a few questions and issues to resolve with the changes to the floor plans, but for now i am totally encouraged by where we'll be headed in a few short weeks. (eeee!!!!! weeeeeekkkssss!!!)

and on that front, i picked up about 40 moving boxes for $20 today, thanks to craigslist. awesome.

i know what we'll be doing on sunday.

sunday, because tomorrow is harper's birthday party ... and i'll be spending the morning trying my hand at this cake:

(may the force be with me. i'm gonna need it.)

getting antsy.

antsy is a really, really bad feeling when you are sooooo close to something, and yet sooooo far away.

april is our go month. the month we start to sell. the month we start to build. the month we start inching toward our new existence. in some respects, march is FLYING by. in others, it feels like we aren't getting enough done to reach our goals and deadlines and i can't imagine actually making it to april and being ready.

but we will. we WILL, dammit.

because we have to.

marc says we don't, and i know we don't, but by golly we WILL. if i have to pull all-nighters, i will. if i have to ignore children and tell them to eat dry cereal and cheese, i will.

this week i will get boxes, tape, bubble wrap. i will dismantle much of the kitchen. i will clean out every closet and drawer. i will be ruthless in harper's room. this weekend we will finally get going on the entryway tile.

the to do list awaits some serious attention.

and now, now this entity, this "moving," has a face, and we've seen it, and it makes both marc and me ready beyond words to just. get. on. with. it.

because two weeks ago we were invited to a neighborhood party to meet those would will live next to, near to, and close by us. two nights ago we attended that party.

and it was amazing.

it was a literal house full - people packed into most of the main level of this lovely, large home, and everyone had fun. and enjoyed each other. which was amazing to us. we've lived in our current house for more than six years and we haven't met that many people in all that time here! astounding.

we met the people who will live right next to us. and right next to them. and four doors down. and our former/future neighbor and his wife were there. within an hour, we had formed a little group with the four successive houses next to ours. it was amazing. we found out three of the guys work from home. three are in technology. all have kids near in age to ours. three of the wives' names begin with a T. there's talk of joint-venture snowblowing and monthly poker games.

we haven't even broken ground yet, and we already feel more a part of this new neighborhood than we've ever felt in our current one.

and that gets our little hearts thumping.

even marc was impressed. i think he's now seeing what i've seen all along: the peace factor. the quality of life factor. the happy factor.

we, as a family, can be happy anywhere. but this place will give us PEOPLE, and we haven't had PEOPLE in 14 years in minnesota.

this might actually be the place that makes us feel at HOME for the first time, like we belong to a community outside of our own nucleus, that there are people who are glad we're here.

can you understand why i'm so antsy??

five months can't go fast enough.


harper and i are reading a chapter of "ramona's world" before bed each night. ramona's mother is urging her to stop using the word "stuff" as a shortcut, and to start using better words to express herself.

right now, "stuff" is all i got.

there's too much stuff ... too little time ... too little conjunction between everything ...

it's march. which means:

1. it will likely start to thaw soon.

2. it will likely snow one more time.

3. currently, the weatherman is hinting that 'snow' may be next week.

4. the kids have spring break in a couple of weeks.

5. the plan was to offload said kids on grandparents for the first time ever so marc and i could pack and fill up temporary storage and get extraneous stuff out of the house.

6. before marc could ask for pto for that week, he found out there is a work meeting for his region in dallas all week.

7. i may have had an internal hissy fit.

8. marc's boss sent out an email saying that he'd been notified that many people have spring break the week of dallas, and wanted to know who all would be affected by that.

9. marc replied that our spring break is that week, but he didn't say anything because dallas came up before he had a chance.

10. his boss responded that family comes first.

11. i would like to kiss his boss.

12. remember those ice dams we had last month? that melted into our house? the insurance guy came out, documented the damage, and we're going to get $5,000 worth of work done in repairs.

13. which means a) stuff will be taken off of my to do list, b) including stuff i wanted to do but couldn't justify the time, and c) they will be doing this work the week after spring break.

14. and the week before we're targeting to go on the market.

15. partly because of the above (and partly because of a much-needed girls' night), i journeyed to the liquor store the other day and discovered a new wine.

16. it might be my new best friend.

17. because of my new best friend, i may have ordered 11 cds of singer/songwriter music from the 60s and 70s from time-life at 1 a.m. over the weekend. i was so enthralled by the effects of the wine sounds of my childhood that i may not have used the best judgment.

18. and that's okay with me.

19. because right now i need stuff that will soothe and de-stress me.

20. like singer/songwriters.

21. and wine.

22. because in four weeks a sign goes in our yard, a big hole gets dug in another yard, and everything will start to change.

23. and right now there are still feet of snow everywhere.

24. and today it was 12 degrees.

25. and it's march.


in other news, marc got another migraine the other day.

he had a good run for a couple of months where he didn't really have one. well, maybe one, but it was so small that it barely qualified as a migraine. then, within the last two months, they are back. and the one on tuesday was a doozy.

and it just happened to come on the day that i was tired because i'd been up in the wee small hours of the morning, reading the most heart-wrenching story of love and faith and loss. and couldn't stop crying. then to have him down with yet another migraine ... i worry about him. i worry about his head. and that worry on top of my emotional state reading about the poor, dear koops was too much. i was a little distracted the rest of the day.

then today he hopped a plane to boston. so, i guess, we're back to normal.

and i'll try to not worry about him and to just trust there's a plan beyond my own and what can you do.

and tonight i'll have another glass of my friend, watch something tivo'd, pray for the koops, then snuggle into a cold bed, once again cursing my lack of flannel sheets and wondering why i don't just buy some to use when marc's out of town.

maybe that will be my next red velvet-induced early morning impulse buy.