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28 Candles

27 Sep

Like (self-involved? silly? smart?) high-school girls, I usually commemorate my b-day with a week-long celebration. And this year I especially feel very lucky to be so thoroughly honored by my friends and fam. (I’m talking a wonderful b-day date, surprise party, flowers, amazing chocolate baked goods…the list goes on) So I thought I’d “give back” (sorry, no monetary value) and call out the people worthy of celebration in my life.

Ike

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Ike gets top billing because he’s the BEST.

Confession: I always feel a little bad around b-day (and V-day and Christmas) time because I’m a celebration person and thus prone to grand dreams and inevitable disappointments, aka a man’s worst nightmare. Somehow Ike has stuck with me through 7 years of special events, and for that I’m truly grateful. This year he went above and beyond with a surprise party (the 3rd he’s planned for me:)!

Lately, he’s been putting me to shame by nesting more than me! He’s hard at work painting the crib (and ALL the spindles.) I’ll share the final look soon!

Our Families

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I’m really excited for Elliott to meet his eager grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins! I feel like they are constantly showering him with furniture, clothes, toys, books, quilts and custom art. He’s a lucky little man!

Plus, they like me, too! The Peters treated me to a wonderful dinner last night, and my mom, sister and Nana are currently on their way to town (yay!!) to help me with my nursery and attend my church shower.

Small Group

Formed shortly before the grand crash of ‘12, this supportive group of friends has been crucial through my recovery (thanks for trying to teach me how to knit, Amber!), career ups and downs, moving into our house and, now, hosting my shower to celebrate Elliott. I don’t deserve you!

Is this post getting too mushy? I’m sorry! I just have to say that I’m so happy to have you all in my life. Done.

Silver City

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Warning: Shameless Plug Ahead.

Being involved in Silver City has been a rewarding/challenging experience. It takes me out of myself and my (ever-changing, but constant) list of worries, and helps me focus on building a relationship with a very special little girl, Aubryanna.

Although it is yet another thing to add to our weekly to-do list, I think that being involved in a regular service is a great way to keep perspective on what’s important. I really missed that guidance over the summer, and I’m so thankful that it has started up again!

Sorry for all the gushing! There are even more people that I could write pages and pages on (sweet co-workers, awesome college friends), but I’ll just have to save that for another day (lucky you!!)

Have a great weekend! I’ll be back soon with maternity pictures, nursery and church shower updates! Be excited.

 

Work Shower: Hostess Gifts & Elliott’s New Ride

30 Aug

This Tuesday, Baby Elliott was showered with lots of “we care about you” vibes from my generous co-workers at Dillards.com. I’ve been lucky enough to work at Dillard’s for over 2 years, and I’m so thankful for the relationships I’ve built there.

Elliott got a diaper motorcycle, how cool is that?

Elliott got a diaper motorcycle, how cool is that?

There are writers who have challenged me to tighten my style for stronger, better copy, shoe team leaders who have guided me in how to seamlessly link copy and art and of course, a talkative lunch bunch who have let me vent, share life stuff and just be me every day.

My co-workers stayed true to form when they honored my boys (love saying that!) and me this week. With a bottle drying rack, steamer, penguin baby tub and full line of Johnson & Johnson products, I think I can safely say that Elliott will have clean bottles AND a clean body (whew).

There was even one group who pooled their hard-earned cash and bought us the fancy stroller that I got it into my head to register for – the B-Agile from Britax. It’s just so cool. You can drive it with one hand, fold it up in seconds and carry it without breaking a sweat (even if you have spaghetti arms like me).

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Ike on Dad duty!

The only creature who didn’t seem to approve was (you guessed it) Buster. Hater of bikes, scooters and skateboards, Buster showed consistent disdain for the sporty B-Agile. But we took him and it out on a spin Thursday morning and he didn’t growl or try to attack it once, success!

And final thanks go out to my sister-in-law Katie, who came to my rescue with super-cute tags for the hostess gifts. I love how after a text from me, she was willing to dive into Pinterest and her scrapbooking supplies to produce such a great product!

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Baking is my love language: so my hostesses got some sugar cookies!

My hostesses also get a big thanks. I really appreciate all the work (and cookies) they put into the event. I’m lucky to have such great friends!

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That’s it for this week. Don’t be jealous, but I’m spending the Labor Day weekend at the BEACH!! Let’s hope it is just not a literal “labor day” for my 30-week pregnant self:) I’ll be back with stories and pictures soon.

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5 Years and Counting, plus places to stuff your face in Fayetteville

23 Aug

Amongst all the gushy declarations made on our 5th anniversary adventure to northwest AR, I think my favorite came from Ike: “At this point, we’re stuck with each other.” I couldn’t have put it any better myself.

Big smiles before our big dinner at James at the Mill.

Big smiles before our big dinner at James at the Mill.

After 5 (glorious) years of marriage, I’m left wondering what my life would be without this man. He’s the person who spends extra time in the morning making me a separate pot of decaf, the guy who buys me flowers when I have to get excessive blood drawn and that special someone who helps me with freelance projects when I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Eagerly awaiting our food.

Eagerly awaiting our food.

We wake up talking, spend all day im-ing and then discuss our days on the way home. He’ll even come with me shopping.

I guess my life would be a decaf and flowerless wasteland filled with too much work and not enough talking? Bleak.

Not to say there haven’t been bumps on the road. We’ve dealt with our share of job loss with a special side serving of long-term hospitalization. We even get in fights now and again, and he holds the special honor of being the person I can get most ridiculously mad at. He’s seen me at my worst, but doesn’t resent me for it. And he can guide me gently out of those behavior ruts that make me feel guilty.

Picturesque view of the inn from James at the Mill.

Picturesque view of the inn from James at the Mill.

Even on our love nest weekend, we got in a spat over where to eat on Saturday night. We had made reservations to try out Tusks and Trotter. But after our fabulous 5-star dinner at James at the Mill (with a 5-star price tag to match) the night before, I was starting to doubt our choice. This Tusks place had a lot of large, meaty entrees for over $20 a pop.

Even the bread was fancy. Didn't stop me from eating it, though.

Even the bread was fancy. Didn’t stop me from eating it, though.

I just couldn’t imagine feeling good about a heavy meal with a hefty price. So, on the way to the restaurant I started to drop those subtle wife hints. “Are you sure you want to eat at this place?” “I don’t know what I feel like ordering there” and so on. Yes, I know. Even after 5 years, I still forget that being upfront is the best policy in a man-woman relationship.

My fancy chicken meal at James at the Inn. I really dug the risotto.

My fancy chicken meal at James at the Inn. I really dug the risotto.

Perceptive man that he is, Ike soon realized I wanted to ditch our reservation. At which point, I immediately reversed my position, and kept repeating, “No, it’ll be fun, let’s do it.” To which he emphatically refused.

We finally ended up in a McDonald’s parking lot at a “where should we eat standoff.” Ike knew he couldn’t have fun at a place I wasn’t going to enjoy, so (to my protestations) we picked another place.

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Really fancy chicken fried steak!

The night ended with seriously good grilled cheese sandwiches at Hammontree’s and apple pie at a local coffee shop. A sweet and savory conclusion to what could have been a disastrous evening. A testament to our maturing relationship? I think so.

Other trip highlights:

Our cozy room at the Inn at the Mill. I think we both enjoyed the robes more than anything.

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The aforementioned 5-star dinner at James at the Mill. Banana cake finished our feast.

The waiter said it was the chef's grandma's recipe. This lady knew what she was doing.

The waiter said it was the chef’s grandma’s recipe. This lady knew what she was doing.

Of course we ended up here on Saturday morning.

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From Washington to Warhol, Crystal Bridges did not disappoint.

They also have a cool Washington exhibit going on until September 30th, lots of hand-written notes and such.

They also have a cool Washington exhibit going on until September 30th, lots of hand-written notes and such.

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And seriously, why didn’t I think of an entire restaurant built around grilled cheese?

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This: an amazing cookie sandwich from Rick’s Bakery. I don’t think I can die completely satisfied with my cookie consumption without another one.

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Don’t want to forget the fancy crepes we had at Arsaga’s (like seriously mine had chocolate ganache, swoon).

I adore sweet breakfast. This definitely hit the spot.

I adore sweet breakfast. This definitely hit the spot.

Before we headed home, we got lost in a huge used book store! Elliott won the day here. I got two baby-centric books and that’s it.

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Enjoy your weekend! I get to spend mine celebrating my new baby cousin, Corinne. I should be back soon with more, thrilling life updates. Until then!

28 weeks. Hello 3rd trimester.

28 weeks. Hello 3rd trimester.

Current Thoughts: Homemade Granola & Natural Childbirth

9 Aug

The ramification of February 16, 2012 – our wreck – still likes to rear its not-so-pretty head every once in awhile. Case in point: not only did I learn I was slightly anemic and had to take the 3-hour glucose test at my last appointment, but my doctor told me that the anesthesiologists at our hospital wanted me to come in and talk to them about my back surgery/epidural potential.

Whew. Talk about an intense 15 minutes. It led up to a movie-worthy break down during breakfast. I think I scared poor Ike as I ripped up the instructions for the glucose test outside of Chick-Fil-A (yes, unfortunately this DID happen) and spitefully refused to eat my hashbrowns.

My prize for sucking it up and taking the 3-hour test. Ike is the BEST.

My prize for sucking it up and taking the 3-hour test. Ike is the BEST.

Thankfully, Ike still loves me AND I passed the glucose test (yay for eating ice cream in the 3rd trimester!). And in an effort to add more iron in my diet, I changed prenatal vitamins (no more chewies for me), bought a ton of spinach and attempted to snack on pumpkin seeds and dried apricot.

Unfortunately, baby E thinks pumpkin seeds are disgusting. So I only ate about 3 of the 1/4 C serving before giving up in disgust. But I didn’t want to waste the entire bag of treats or the iron potential, so I went to the internetz for a pumpkin seed solution.

After a few minutes, I had a lightbulb moment: homemade granola. If I’m honest with myself, and I like to be, granola bars are my very fave snack. So why not incorporate iron rich foods into something I already like?

The finished product! Click here for the inspiration blog. Thanks The Naptime Chef!

The finished product! Click here for the inspiration blog. Thanks The Naptime Chef!

I knew I found a winner when this recipe had pumpkin seeds AND dried apricots. I’ve been snacking on the bars all week, and I have to say, they are pretty yum. My only critique? A little too salty. Next time (and there will be a next time), I’ll back down from a 1/2 tsp for sure.

But the rest of the concept is great, especially the peanut butter/honey/rice crispy combo. Plus, they were super easy to make, stayed together much better than I thought they would AND disguise the taste of the dreaded pumpkin seed. Success!

If I get adventurous, I may try this delectable sounding pumpkin granola from skinny taste:

This looks yum!

This looks yum!

But it takes more fancy ingredients than I was willing to risk for my current projects. But along with homemade salad dressing, homemade cereal could be a fun upcoming project!

Ok, now back to the natural childbirth musings. After talking to an exceptionally helpful doctor, I was assured that despite my spinal fusion, I’m very likely to experience a “pain-free” birth with an epidural.

After seriously considering natural childbirth (by force, but still), I still think I might go for the drugs. Although The Business of Being Born (yes, that is how I spent last Friday night) makes a compelling argument for the beauty and even safety of natural childbirth, I just don’t know if I want to be in so much pain. And that’s my right.

Watch it, but be warned, you get to see ALL of Ricki Lake.

Watch it, but be warned, you get to see ALL of Ricki Lake.

As far as birth plans go, I would NOT like to be induced and to NOT have a C-section, and I’m really going to try and hold out for as long as possible on the drugs, but I’m not going to feel like a failure if (when) I go for relief.

My mom had an epi with me, and I don’t blame her one bit. I don’t have any weird disorders, and I’d say we’ve bonded pretty well over the last 27 years.

Bottom line: I want a healthy baby! So even if this rudimentary plan is derailed, the outcome will still be wonderful if we both come out healthy and happy.

Here’s the details on the granola if you want em:

Mix all of these in a bowl:

Dry ingredients, so healthy, I think.

Dry ingredients, so healthy, I think.

1/4 C sunflower seeds (I think I bought some salted ones which could have contributed to my problem)

1/4 C unsalted roasted peanuts (oops, on the salted again)

1/4 C raw pumpkin seeds

3/4 C Rice Krispies

1/4 C sliced dried apricots

1/4 C dried cranberries (I skipped this this time, but I’m sure it would be great with them)

1/2 tsp sea salt (start with less!)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

The BEST part.

The BEST part.

Microwave these two in a big glass bowl for 30 seconds.

1/4 C peanut butter

1/4 C honey

Add your nutty mixture to the honey/peanut butter. Press delish gooey mixture into a waxed paper-lined loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and gently press down so your mixture spreads evenly. Finally, cover again with plastic and stick in the fridge. Let it firm up for at least 2 hours. Cut into (nearly equal) bars.

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I keep mine in the fridge and just get out what I want for the day. I think they’ll stay better formed that way.

I’ve taken up enough of your time, so I’ll say goodbye and have a great weekend!

Must-Watch Shows of Late: Undefeated & New Girl

19 Jul

After examining and reexamining our post-baby budget, I’ve decided that the monthly $8.71 that Netflix magics out of our account each month is totally worth it.  Case in point: Undefeated and New Girl.

Undefeated

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Ike KNEW he had to watch this documentary when his pal Eric told him something to the effect: “You have to have no soul NOT to be moved by this movie.” He was right. This 2 hour documentary chronicles the final season of volunteer coach Bill Courtney at an inner city high school in North Memphis.

If this were a feature film, it’d basically be the Blind Side (e.g., cheesy, but heartwarming all the same). But, the gritty reality of these kids’ lives and the incessant support of Courtney and his staff is not ONLY heartwarming, but inspiring!

Ike and I take a small part in the mentoring program at Silvercity Church at North Little Rock, and this movie got me pumped for the school year to start again. Even though mentoring is not always easy, I think this movie proves that dedicated time in a kid’s life can make a huge impact and I’m honored to take a part.

New Girl

NewGirl

Ok. This one is not as life-changing as my previous recommendation. BUT I will say, I haven’t laughed as hard or as consistently at a TV show in a long time. With The Office, 30 Rock and Parks and Rec all past their prime or over, I’ve had to struggle through shows that I used to LOL at a lot.

The premise seems familiar or even silly: 3 late-20s/30-something guys let a pretty girl move into their LA loft when she breaks up with her boyfriend. But after the first few episodes (and I did have to work through several to really start enjoying the show), I started falling in love with each of the character’s quirks and their dynamic as a whole.

And if I’m honest, other than the whole single thing, this show is about people my age dealing with “WHAT NOW?”. Which seems to be the theme for life after college (in my experience).

So if you like to laugh and you’re on the brink of a quarter-life crisis, this is probably the show for you.

This is the part where I tell you to have a great weekend, so I won’t disappoint! Have a good one, I’ll be back soon.

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Here’s a pic of The Coasts playing Midnight Oil in Searcy! Mixing it all up with a White Stripes cover.

Just Plain Good Carrot Cake

14 Jun

I’ve recently discovered that baking may just be my love language. Not only is baking cathartic, it also produces a delicious, sharable treat (aka a win win). Last Sunday, I showed my love to my father-in-law with an early Father’s Day present: Carrot Cake.

As the title suggests, this is a no frills (e.g. no nuts, no raisins, no other stuff that ruins cakes) recipe. The proportions of ingredients are even simple. No 3/4 cups or 1/8 teaspoons of anything. Just a cup of this and a cup of that. I love it.

It also works perfectly for Ike’s dad, who favors cookies in packages labeled “Cookies.” Get to know your audience, people!

Don’t get the wrong idea — this cream cheese icing-topped creation is unassuming, yes, but also truly decadent. Make a cup of hot coffee or grab a frosty cup of milk and eat it right out of the oven.

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First, I need to give credit where credit is due. I got this recipe from my mom who got it from this old-school Better Homes & Gardens greatest hits-type book.

The Prep:

  • Grease you desired pans. You can make this a 2-layer cake, but I’ve found nothing makes me more nervous than getting cakes out of pans (I know, I need to get out more). Plus, I like to ice this one while it’s hot, so I always go with a 13×9” sheet cake.

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325.

1. Gather The Dry 6: (could be a rad group of villains in a novel, maybe?)

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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

2. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Yes, it is really that easy.

3. Gather the second wave of ingredients.

  • 3 cups shredded carrots

  • 1 cup cooking oil

  • 4 eggs

4. Mix them in with the dry 6. When combined, keep mixing about 2 minutes more on medium.

Love my KitchenAid! One of the best Christmas presents ever!

Love my KitchenAid! One of the best Christmas presents ever!

Carrot Tips

This may sound dumb, but I’ve found that 3 cups of whole baby carrots actually equals 3 cups of shredded baby carrots. I don’t know why I would think shredding would make it more or less, BUT I was an English major, right? (bum dum crash)

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And in other carrot news, I always use my food processor to achieve finely shredded status. Remember I’m anti-chunky cake.

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5. Now, just fold batter into greased pan of your choice.

6. Recipe suggests baking for 50-60 minutes. I usually set my timer for 40 or so and start checking. Nothing is more sad than a dry, over-baked cake (yes, I know that I need more hobbies).

7. Meanwhile make the cream cheese frosting. Don’t skip this step or you will regret it for-ev-er.

I seriously thought I had blogged cream cheese icing before, since it’s such an important fixture in my life and all. But alas, I can’t find my version of it, so here’s the Better Homes & Gardens recipe for you.

6. Now, all that’s left for you to do? Get the cake out of the oven when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Then Ice, Ice Baby.

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8. Enjoy with friends and family!

Have a sweet-treat filled weekend! See ya soon.

And that’s curtains for me….

5 Apr

I don’t know about you, but when my mom comes to visit I get a lot of fun house projects done. A few weekends ago, she (along with my aunt and Nana), spent a couple nights and POOF! I had curtains in my dining room and kitchen!

Now, I’m missing one, but I’m visiting the rents next weekend, so I have a good feeling my collection will soon be complete.

 The Inspiration

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I really liked the idea of having 2 coordinating fabrics, a geometric of some sort and floral, to give my curtains more depth. I wanted the colors coral, green and teal for sure.

 The Plan

I wanted floor to ceiling curtains for the big kitchen window and dining room, and really simple reversible roll-up shades for the smaller kitchen windows.

 The First Purchase

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I fell in love with this fabric from Hobby Lobby and went ahead and bought enough for my two smaller kitchen windows. After weeks of searching for coordinating fabric, I started to get depressed. Maybe I bought fabric that coordinates with NOTHING. Like that skirt you buy and you think it goes with one of your shirts, and it doesn’t. And then it just sits in the back of your closet, collecting shame dust.

 The Discovery

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That weekend, with my trio of expert shoppers on the case, I once again hit the shopping circuit. We struck gold at Hobby Lobby again! This lovely fabric is so happy and fun. I don’t think I’ll tire of it anytime soon.

 The Results

The dining room:

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We decided to take the red geo-print fabric into the dining room for even more continuity. I love the statement it makes right when you walk in the front door. Plus, if all goes well, I can use the coordinating fabric for a runner. Now I just need to find fabric to cover the dining room chairs.

The kitchen:

And here are the big windows. I love the dramatic color it brings to the room. I’m thinking bamboo shades to finish the look.

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The first roll up shade! To avoid making holes in my back door, I bought heavy duty velcro to secure it.

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Only one window to go! Unfortunately, I was hosting small group that night, so my guests had to leave before the last shade was done. I think I’m going to love it!

Thoughts on the dining room chairs? I’m thinking teal for some reason. Countertops? Would butcher block still look good in here? Bamboo blinds?

Thanks for any thoughts! Enjoy your weekend:)

Drink It In: Why Vampire Dairies is Perfectly Entertaining*

15 Mar

*Yes you read that right.**

** No, you haven’t accidentally stumbled on some teen, fan-fiction, vampire-obsessed blog. You are exactly where you want to be. Believe it.

As cable-less adults, Ike and I have only Netflix and Hulu to rely on for a little after-work TV (poor us, right?). With Hulu, I get my fix of Bunheads and with Netflix we tackle slightly older shows with tons of episodes.

Enter Vampire Diaries. Honestly, the word “Vampire” or “Diary” is enough to turn me off of a show, but VD has taught me not to judge a show too harshly by it’s title (sorry, Carrie Diaries, you’re still out).

Here’s 3 reasons why you should fill your next empty 45 minutes with a little visit to Mystic Falls.

 Mile-a-Minute Fun

Do you hate shows that belabor plotlines, will-they/won’t-they relationships and stupid minor character action? Then stop watching them and start watching this vampire-filled roller coaster. This show resolves fun mysteries at a thrilling pace, no waiting for the finale for cliffhanger thrills here.

 Solid Support Cast

Stefan and Elena, the show’s central lovebirds, are great. But like many of my favorite shows, Vampire Diaries has a rich cast of supporting creatures to share the spotlight. My 2 faves are Damen, Stephan’s narcissistic older brother, and Caroline, Elena’s overachieving friend.

 Escapism at its Best

I love literature. Over Christmas (brag alert) I finished Anna Karenina. But sometimes, I like reading Stephen King novels. I just need some good, page-turning fun in my life. So sure, I like watching hard-hitting documentaries or thought-provoking dramas, but after a long day at work, sometimes I need some mindless yet engaging programming.

Let me know if you check out Vampire Diaries. You won’t be sorry! This is the part when I tell you to have a good weekend. Have a wonderful one!

Swimsuit Hunt

8 Mar

It is human nature to want what we don’t have. (Pretty deep opening line for a swimsuit post, huh?) Lately, I‘ve wanted it to be spring. I even tried boots, no tights on Tuesday. If that’s not wanting spring, I don’t know what is.

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I like the color combo on this collection. AND I’m pretty sure you don’t have to have a strange expression when wearing it.

For the most part, I got my wish. This week has been filled with clear skies and plenty of sun. Ok, there was also a healthy dose of chilly wind, but who’s counting.

All this weather talk (sorry) leads to my spring shopping mission: find a swimsuit.

Right now I have retro swimdress from Target. I love the style, but I’m not comfortable with the…lack of coverage (I’ve had a few indecent exposure close calls). And with the whole having to strip down to go to the bathroom issue, one-pieces are out.

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Love the color and the flattering shirring on this one.

And with my wonderful 8” scar and (ok, ok) my age, bikinis are also out.

That leaves me with tankinis.

Flattering points to look for:

KCR_Swim top

  • for the “smaller” ladies such as myself, ruffles and embellishments add flattering volume up top

AM_Swim top

  • for the paler (read: ghostly) demographic, look for corals, teals or neons to enhance whatever sunkissed glow you can muster

KCR_SwimBottom

  • for those of you self-conscience about your…lower back area…check out skirted bottoms, a fun new trend I saw cropping up on Dillards.com
  • for chic sun protection find a floppy hat, shades and flowy caftan for poolside cool

I’ll let you know if I ever pick a lucky suit. Until then I’ll keep hoping this beautiful weather lasts. Have a good week!

Countertop Conundrum

22 Feb

Confession Time: I have a new obsession. Along with coffee and shows created by Amy Sherman Palladino, I can’t tear myself away from my Houzz app. This new fixation springs from my thirst to update my kitchen.

We’ve already repainted the walls, trim and cabinets and I’m in the process of picking fabric for curtains. See?

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Before: The Red Era

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New Green walls, creamy white counters and kitchen curtain fabric. Can’t decide if I need a coordinating fabric yet. Decisions, decisions.

Now for the major decisions — countertops and floors.

I’m thinking some sort of light neutral tile for the floor. Something that doesn’t show dirt but also keeps the room bright and happy. We could also take the wood floors into the kitchen.

At the countertop decision, I come to a complete stop. I want to upgrade my laminate, but I think granite might be too cold for the look I’m going for.

So my 2 major considerations are white marble and butcher block.

I’m not sure if I have a white marble-worthy space. It is pretty, but not like grand. And I don’t really want it to be. My palette tends to be more casual with green, yellow, coral and teal.

I’m actually leaning toward butcher block. It is light, warm and goes with my palette. For the backsplash I’d like to price white subway tile or beadboard.

This is where the questions start.

Will buyers hate it?

Should I really care about buyers when I haven’t even lived in my house for a month?

Does it require too much maintenance?

Can it handle my blow-up-the-kitchen cooking style?

So what do you think? Any suggestions will be much appreciated. I need some sleep!