NYE ’14

After years of staying home on New Year’s Eve, this year we got a great invitation from my friends J. and B.two sisters-in-law who are totally fun – to spend the evening with them and their respective spouses.

J. and B. have an in at a local restaurant and secured one of the hottest tables in town for an NYE blow out.

And they invited us to join them.

My initial reaction: Yes! Yes! Yes!

And then I remembered the children.

Miracle of miracles, we locked in a babysitter (I will pay her handsomely, I swear) and we’re planning to celebrate in style.

Even though this year is a departure from our usual pre-11 PM turn in, I loved these tips for hosting a New Year’s Eve party from Parade magazine.

  • Dress up! Even in your own home. Festive dress, is, well, festive. It sets the mood for a fun night.
  • Make champagne cocktails. How about a Kir Royale? Champagne plus creme de cassis is pretty delicious. A classic champagne cocktail is also delicious; add a bitters-dipped sugar cube to champagne for a cool effect. Big impact!
  • Serve impressive, retro appetizers. Shrimp cocktail. Crab dip. Caviar.
  • Stream Frank Sinatra.

And my favorite tip: send guests home with hangover kits containing ibuprofen, eye masks, coconut water and lip balm.

Personally, I would add Cheetos to that kit.

Or do what my parents always did when I was a kid: serve up a huge 3 AM breakfast feast for revelers still in play. 

Happy 2015!





Bedroom Re-fresh, Part Deux

Yesterday I posted that I wanted to bring some spring into our (somewhat) dreary master bedroom.

To re-cap, the room is painted a dark charcoal gray and I wanted to add some bright yellow accents.

Initially I tried to find a yellow throw and shams, but I quickly realized I was delusional to think that this Toms collaboration striped throw would be available at our local Target store.


Apparently it sold out everywhere, right away. In November.

What I *did* find, though, was a set of yellow jersey sheets on sale for $20.

(The online price still says $40.99, but they were half off in store).

Here’s what they look like:


End result:

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The Tiara Pillow is from the W Hotel Store and was a witty Christmas gift from Spouse to me. He knows me well!

Less than a minute after trying to style and shoot these photos, here’s what happened:

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Trixie (5) decided the bed was eminently jump-able.

P.S. Here’s a picture of the small reading area near the bed. I usually sit there and sip wine, read magazines and “supervise” the kids while they take showers at night.





Bedroom Re-fresh

With winter in full swing, I decided I wanted to bring some color and brightness into our master bedroom, which is painted a deep, matte charcoal gray.


Similar color from Lowe’s website

For Christmas we received a new duvet set from Spouse’s parents:


Photo from Overstock.com

The color is a lot lighter in person.

We have an oversized print of this Slim Aarons photo hanging in our room that also gave me inspiration:


Yellow seemed like a good color to pull out of this and use as an accent.

Placing a throw across a bed is a great way to create a hotel style look. Here’s the idea:


I want to find a throw with yellow in it, and I hope our local Target still has one of these in stock:



A few extra pillows and bright bowl or tray might be all I need to bring in some spring.




100 Day Self-Improvement Project, #2

Last fall, I completed my 100 Day Self-Improvement Project.

Since the goal was improvement, not perfection, I didn’t hit all the marks every day, but there were several habits that just became part of my lifestyle.

To recap, my 8 daily goals for Project #1 were:

  1. Weigh myself every day
  2. Drink at least 8 8-oz glasses of water
  3. Do 25 sit-ups every day
  4. Do 10 push-ups every day
  5. Record the food I eat
  6. Exercise
  7. Avoid alcohol
  8. Reach out and connect with a friend every day

For Project #1, I hit 100% for the sit-ups and push-ups. Next best was the daily weigh-in, where I only missed a small number of days when I was staying in a hotel without a scale in the room.

Water consumption was also a high scorer, about 90%.

I did well with exercising, although I purposefully had a nearly a week of rest before and after running a marathon in October.

The two worst: recording food and avoiding alcohol. Yet these were the two habits that I felt the best about and really made a difference when I was consistently ticking the boxes.

For me, staying motivated usually involves having an external goal, which is why I decided to start a second 100 Day Project.

And with peaking motivation, I decided that there was no reason to wait until January 1st to get started, so I made yesterday Day #1.

Using what I learned from Project #1, I modified my goals slightly for #2:

  1. Weigh myself every day
  2. Do at least 20 push-ups a day
  3. Complete 2 60-second planks every day (I got into planking this fall)
  4. Do at least 25 sit-ups every day
  5. Drink at least 8 8-oz glasses of water
  6. Exercise
  7. Diligently record the food I eat and stay within a budget (this rolls the food and alcohol into one)
  8. Connect with a friend

Let me know if you make your own project!



Your Ideal Holiday

After a whirlwind sub-24 hour holiday marathon where we went from one Triple F to Another (that’s a Forced Family Function, in case you’re wondering), Spouse and I had to ask ourselves what the holiday season is about. For us.

Since we’re Unitarians, sometimes it’s hard to explain to the kids where our beliefs fit into the mainstream picture.

On our way home last night, Trixie (5) had a series of questions:

  • Is this Jesus’ Birthday? (Me: Well, a lot of people think so).
  • Does Jesus get 100 presents for his birthday from Santa? (Me: Probably not).
  • What is Jesus like? (Me: I think he would be one of the nicest people you could ever meet).

You get the idea.

At least I hope you do.

It seems like every year, we barely keep our heads above water and rush, rush, rush to meet External and Internal Obligations, usually with mixed success.

One of our best Christmases was a very simple one, and it was mostly the two of us.

My intern year – 2001 – I was on call Christmas Eve.

Spouse stopped by the hospital with a plate of homemade cookies; sugar cookies cut into pig and dog shapes because they were the only cookie cutters he could find at our apartment.

It took him hours to make those cookies. They were fabulous.

He also smuggled Frenchie, our toy poodle who was the love of my life back then, in for a visit inside a duffel bag.

Call was relatively un-eventful (a Christmas miracle in itself), and in the morning I headed home for a nap.

I woke mid-morning and we opened presents in our PJs.

In the afternoon, we gorged on a retro 70s recipe crab dip – so budget busting back then – with two of our friends and drank wine while watching “The Muppet Christmas Carol.”

I realized it even back then: we were happy. Christmas felt right.

I’ve tried to capture that ever since.

Which brings me back to the question: what would the ideal holiday season look like?

For me, venue is important, but I think it could take many forms. Most of all, we would be warm and comfortable.

People would be there, family and friends, but the key would be that everyone wanted to be right there, right then.

The food would be good. We’d probably even have crab dip.

There would definitely be wine.

We would laugh a lot.

There would be Muppets.





‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

Holiday Stress was in full force last night.

Cards went out on Monday (after a marathon stamping/addressing/envelope licking session on Sunday).

On Tuesday, I was able to wrap and distribute gifts at work (after a frantic wrapping episode on Monday).

Last night our kids’ babysitter graciously agreed to stay an extra hour and help wrap gifts. (I was begging).

That hour went a long way, and with her help, I finished up on my own with all the gifts by about 10 PM.

(A glass of zinfandel helped, although the quality of the wrapping deteriorated afterwards).

MGM (7) would not go to sleep and was bouncing off the walls, even with multiple threats that Santa was watching.

Everyone was generally unhappy with each other when we went to bed at midnight.

I woke in a panic at 2 AM and remembered that I forgot to get two gifts to participate in the Yankee swap that my extended family does every year. Ugh. I hate that event. I decided to let it pass without participating this year.

Ditto the Christmas Eve potluck, which we will likely miss since we have to drive nearly two hours after work tonight to get there and are always the last to arrive.

My To Do List was circulating through my head when the alarm went off this morning. 

Spouse and I agreed that we don’t really enjoy Christmas in its current iteration, and it just seemed like a series of stressful events that culminated in Never Doing Enough and somehow failing to meet External Expectations.

I brewed coffee and silently grumbled.

Trixie (5) came downstairs unprompted at 7 AM with a smile on her face. “Good morning, Mom!”

She went on to say that she was so excited for Christmas and then asked, “Is Santa Claus really real?”

I paused before answering. “What do you think?”

Trixie: “Yes! Real! And I even saw him twice! Once he was at Pet Smart (side note: This was the worst fake Santa ever. He looked to be about 17 and was there last year to take pictures with pets. We were there to buy a new leash) and once I saw him at school!”

Her parting words: “I just love Christmas.”

I’m going to go with that sentiment for the next few days. Thanks for the reminder, Trix.

Christmas Wrapping

Last night, I started wrapping the mountain of gifts we have to distribute.

More than half of the pile was actually for school and work, and I zipped through those presents in about two hours.

Except that left everything for our families still unwrapped.

This morning I expectedly woke up at 4:30 AM and decided to make the best of the situation, so I was up to my ears in paper and tape with “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” as company.

(Don’t judge. I know).

I was also very surprised to find someone sleeping on sofa instead of his bed.


Waiting for Santa?

I always wrap presents in paper that is decidedly non-Christmas-y.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been doing this for about 20 years.

Often I use plain brown craft paper with fancy ribbons.

This is my favorite style from this year:



Other papers I’m using:

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Tip: Spend a little extra and get the nice, heavy paper.

It’s so frustrating to try to slide a pair of scissors along a roll to cheap gift wrap and get a crumpled mess instead of a clean cut. The nice stuff also tends to have a grid on the reverse side that makes cutting straight lines easy breezy.

Here’s one finished pile from my A.M. project (massive cup of coffee not visible in photo):







One More Time With Feeling

Within 2 frantic hours, Trixie and I solved a majority of our holiday shopping dilemmas on Saturday.

I think we did okay.

On Sunday we tackled our holiday cards.

Our friends S. and K. are amazing photographers who annually capture our personal zeitgeist.

Spouse and I did the cards while Trixie (5) licked envelopes.

At one point, she retracted to the background and then began to loudly hum “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Ok, this was nuts.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was basically the soundtrack to my sophomore year of college and takes me right back there every time I hear it.

For a five-year-old, her vocals are surprisingly good.



I love that she loves Nirvana.

Hopefully, I can blast some Pearl Jam and get wrapping help tomorrow night.




Merry Christmas (To Me)

Did I mention that I needed to start my holiday shopping?

Spouse and I made a list last night of all the people we needed to gift, plus what we’d already accomplished.

Summary: The list spanned more than 50 people and the fait accompli section was a mere 20%.


Yet, despite all of this, the same this happened as does every year: the accounting showed that I had purchased some pretty sweet gifts for myself.

Seriously, the deals this time of year are impossible (for me) to resist.

(I know, I know).

I spent a portion of last night opening the mountain (yes, fair descriptor) of packages piled at the front door of Fancy Pants Ranch and discovered two items that were just for me.

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The first was an ice-blue cashmere scarf from Banana Republic that I got for 40% off and the second was a tee shirt from Bombas with a motivational message.

Since my resolution for 2015 is to be authentic, this shirt hit home with me.

Bee better.

So true.