Last year, I visited the Mediterranean for the first time in my life.  I’m not an experienced world traveler, but I’ve seen a few bodies of water in my lifetime and there is nothing like “Mediterranean blue.”  Depending on what part of the sea you’re in, the water moves from a deep, bright, royal blue to a clear, crisp, turquoise green.  My favorite shade of blue is the one I see when we’re deep in the “Med” sailing the winds and moving from island to island.  It’s a dark blue I rarely see replicated anywhere else in the world and one that is truly beautiful in my eyes.  It was hard to catch that kind of blue in my photographs, but here are a few pictures of the water to give you an idea of it’s many shades.

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Here’s a quick picture from my trip to Turkey when we had tea with a Turkish man that we met on hike one early morning.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how this man lead such a quiet existence on top of that hill: making wooden spoons to sell to tourists and gathering sage to be sent to Istanbul to make tea.   I knew that just a week later I would be in front of my computer typing emails and battling rush hour traffic in Seattle.  Our contrasting lives still boggles my mind.

sage tea in turkey

Here are a few of my favorite links lately:

 

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Since I was a child and started packing up my side of the backseat in my parents’ car for roadtrips, I knew that I loved traveling.   It is exciting to go to a place in the world and finding myself somewhere that I never knew existed – a Hungarian citadel on a hill, a rocky beach in Nicaragua, a 14th century Greek castle built by the Knights of St. John, a swamp in the middle of south Georgia, a trail in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula that leads to a beach inaccessible by car.

Whenever I travel, I love to bring back something from the places I’ve visited. I recently traveled to Turkey and made a mental list of some things I would love to bring back: pottery, rugs, fabrics, and spices.  I knew that I wouldn’t buy everything, nor did I really want to bring back a lot of stuff to unpack. But I wanted to get something special that I could remember my time in Turkey.

I traveled with my boyfriend and his parents and during our trip we spent some time in Fethiye, Turkey walking in the market near downtown.  I found a great shop with floor to ceiling carpets with an unassuming salesman who never once pushed me to buy a rug.

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Phil’s dad is great at bargaining and helped me navigate the waters when I was ready to buy. Usually I’m a pretty decent negotiator, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it since I really wanted the rug. Deep down, I knew I wasn’t willing to walk away from the sale, which is crucial when negotiating in Turkish markets. So I did the shopping, Phil’s dad did the talking and I walked home with two fantastic rugs: one for me, and one for my mom. I sent pictures to my mom via email on my phone when I first stopped by the shop early on in the trip and she wrote back that night with her top choices. I absolutely love my new rug and my mom is thrilled about having her own as well.

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Finally, here are a few tips I have on how to shop for souvenirs while traveling abroad:

  1. Look for something unique to that culture: pottery, fabrics, clothes, prints, paintings.
  2. Make sure you’ll use it/ wear it/ show it.  I’m often feeling pretty adventurous when traveling and exotic patterns look amazing at the market.  I’ve learned to stop and make sure it will go with what I have in my house or wardrobe once I get home.  I’ve ended up with lots of great things that never see the light of day after I get back simply because “it’s not really me”.
  3. One great investment piece can be better than a handful of smaller, cheaper items.
  4. Find items that tell a story.  While in Turkey, I bought some hand carved spoons made out of olive tree wood from a man I met while hiking up a hill with Phil and his parents.  We had sage tea with a Turkish man, met his son, and watched him carve the spoons and tell us about his life on Fethije Bay.  It was one of my favorite memories on the trip.
  5. Buy authentic.  Knockoffs are usually cheaper, but much poorer quality.  I will say that the knock-off designer bags in Turkey were some of the best I’ve seen.  So while this isn’t a hard and fast rule, I definitely adhere to it more often than not.
  6. Do your research.  Know what’s cool in that area and where to find it.  I read up on buying Turkish rugs before I went and it paid off when it came time to shop.

Happy travels.

 

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Over the weekend, Phil and I spent some time with my folks on Amelia Island, Florida.   We had a much needed break from the Seattle rain hanging out with my parents, relaxing on the beach, and eating great food.  What could be better than mom’s cooking, bottomless sweet tea, and east coast seafood?

Not much.

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There’s a lot of buzz about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In and I’ve been curious about her perspective on women’s issues for a few weeks now.  I took her book with me as my beach reading for the trip and have been inspired by her work.  I’m nearly finished with the book but I really appreciate her perspective on the barriers women create for themselves with regard to their success.  In her book, she acknowledges the external factors that keep women from succeeding in the work force, but as a psychology grad I find her thoughts on how women hold themselves back the most intriguing.  She writes: “In addition to the external barriers erected by society, women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves.  We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” (Sandberg, 8).

I strongly recommend her book.  Beach optional.

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I have yet to publish The List 2013.  It almost feels silly doing it since it’s almost May but I have a friend that reads this blog who told me a few weeks ago that she’s waited for that post for a couple of months now.  Soon, dear friends.  Soon.

I can tell you that one of my goals for 2013 was to make time to read more.  Growing up I was an avid reader, but graduate school pretty much snuffed out any desire to read for leisure by the time I graduated.  When I went to Greece last summer and unplugged from my life in Seattle, I was surprised to find that I read an entire book from cover to cover in less than 24 hours.  I thought about how I wished that I could do something like that when I got back to Seattle.  When we returned to the “real world” I soon found myself busy again — but the desire to read stayed with me.

For 2013, my goal is to read one book a month – cover to cover.

In order to do that, I knew I had to make time in my schedule.  I am often amazed to hear how my co-workers find time to do the things they love — many of them lead much busier lives than me with spouses, children, soccer practice, in-laws, and demanding careers.  So when I thought about how I didn’t have time to do this in my current schedule, I realized that I had to cut some things out of my life that prohibit me from accomplishing the things that I really want to be doing.  It made me think of a post I wrote over a year ago where I realized that while I can’t do everything, I can make time to do what’s most important to me by being a bit more intentional with my choices.  So, I started making some decisions that reflect the deeper desires of my life.  By cutting down on mindless internet surfing, online celebrity stalking, and reality television watching, I suddenly had more than enough time to read a book a month.  In other words, by the time Sean proposed to Catherine on The Bachelor, I was five books in and already ahead on my goal for 2013.

It’s amazing what you can find time to do if you make it a priority.

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It’s been a while.  There’s really no other way to start this post other than to acknowledge it and move on gracefully from there.

I travel a bit more with work  these days and have started a little tradition of trying to visit at least one local business before I leave town.  My days are usually packed with meetings and events, but there’s usually one spare hour somewhere in my trip where I can hop a cab to someplace cool in the city.  I do my research before hand, usually from Design*Sponge’s city guide list and find one place that I want to see.  Usually it’s a hidden restaurant, a cool bar,  a quirky home furnishing store, or a trendy boutique with interesting threads.  In Denver a couple of months ago I took a taxi and paid a quick visit to Lulu’s Furniture and Decor after picking it out of the Denver City Guide.  I walked around the store and loved a lot of the furniture.  I instantly fell in love with the mold of a ceramic glove.  I’ve sworn off all “knick knacks” until I reupholster a chair in my studio but I told myself this is art, not a knick knack.

This is my new favorite spot in the apartment thanks to my amazing find in Denver.  Tucked in with some of my favorite quotes and an empty bottle of perfume that Phil gave me, I feel inspired by the tall hand reaching up from my desk.

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Ten years ago I spent 6 months in Eastern Europe doing humanitarian/mission work with an organization.  While I was there, I picked up a few souvenirs and brought them back to Georgia with me.  Many of them have long been broken, used, or thrown away.  But a few have remained with me over the years.

I remember thumbing through a bin of prints one afternoon at the top of the Castle area, desperately trying to pick the perfect scene to remember my trip.  I spent a lot of time sitting out by the water, looking at the Chain Bridge.  I found one that spoke to me and loved how small the print was in comparison to the size of the paper it was on so I grabbed it and carefully kept it safe for the remainder of my trip.  I brought it back to Georgia but never framed it despite wanting to do so.  Last month, I finally did it.

 

I think I was waiting for the perfect frame, to be honest.  I wanted to take it to a framer to be done professionally but hesitated at paying so much money to do it right.  And then one day, I decided to just pick up a basic frame and do it myself.

I think it turned out quite nice.

 

My kitchen table is a constant source of design frustration for me.  I purchased it for $5 off of Craislist, slathered on a couple of coats of “New Penny” orange paint and first used it as a desk a few years back in grad school.  I was so proud of it and thought I’d finally “arrived” in the DIY world.

Today, it’s a bit large for the breakfast nook in my current apartment and I often wish that it was a bit smaller so that more folks could fit comfortably in that area.  It has, however, been a great table for DIY projects and for cooking since my kitchen has very little surface space in it.   Recently, the paint has started to scratch off of the table and I’m growing disenchanted with the brown chairs that once seemed so cool.  My boyfriend claims I will never stop fixing things in my apartment.  He’s right, I’ve been designing and fixing things since I was a young girl.

I recently read in a design magazine that if you buy one quality piece of furniture a year then in five years, you’ll have five great pieces of furniture to last a lifetime.  Rather than spending money on cheaper items, invest in the bigger items, this designer said.  They will carry you much further than any Ikea brand item or knock-off brand that you find elsewhere (though I use Ikea often to fill in the gaps of my apartment).  I would love to replace my living room chair, get a new console table for my tv, find a new rug for my living room, buy an amazing armoire, and replace my kitchen table.  The current items that I would love to replace are not terrible, but they aren’t the kinds of things I want to have with me in five years.

At any rate, I’m not terribly annoyed with my kitchen table, but this is the best its looked in months.  Here’s to a great 2013.

 

Three years ago on New Years Eve, I adopted Stells from the Bellevue Humane Society.  Today is her birthday and I’m so grateful to have this little fur ball in my life.  Sometimes I get a little frustrated with how needy she can be – she’s a vocal cat and requires a lot more attention than I am used to in comparison with other cats my family owned while growing up.  But then I remember how much I love coming home to her greeting me at the door everyday and I am thankful for her.

If you’re ever in the market for a pet, I really recommend getting one from a shelter.  They can make the best pets and you’re helping to give a home to an otherwise lonely kitty or pup.

 

 

I have a slightly embarassing confession.

When I go home to visit my parents in Georgia, I walk around their house from room to room looking around and asking my mom if I can have various things in her house.  What kinds of things, you might wonder?  Rugs, frames, plates, pictures, paintings, and vases, to name a few.

It’s tacky and a bit selfish to do it.  But I like to think of it as my own personal antique shop from which I can barter, beg, and bug my mother until I can take something back with me.  Instead of raiding my mother’s closet, I raid her entire antique collections.

This trip I scored a gold frame for my apartment from the desk in the living room.

I have loved this desk since I first laid eyes on it during my last visit in April.  My parents received this antique from my uncle, who used it for decades in his feed and seed store in a small south Georgia town where my dad grew up.  My parents had it refinished and it’s probably my favorite piece of furniture in the house.  I love how my mother has filled every nook and cranny with some kind of trinket or souvenir.  There’s the small Herend china dish I brought back from Budapest, the vase she purchased at an estate sale, the glass pheasant I gave her for Christmas one year, and the picture of me posing for a sketch I brought back for her from Paris in high school.  That sketch is hanging just to the left of the desk.  The entire scene is intriguing and beautiful.

If you look in the image above, there is a picture frame on the right side of the desk that also has a twin frame laying down beside it. My eyes locked on it immediately and when I found out my mother didn’t want it anymore,  I snagged it for my trip back to Seattle.

I did a little rearranging on a side table near the entry way and added a picture of me with the beau in Greece this summer.  I like how bold the frame is in such a small space.  Perfect.

 

I hope you and yours had a wonderful New Year’s last night.  Phil and I stayed in, cooked dinner, and watched a movie — our second year in a row doing this.  Midnight came around, we clinked our glasses of Prosecco, and then it was bed time.

I think we might have a tradition.

I have a post coming with “The List 2013.”  Until then, best of luck with your goals for the new year.

 

 

 

Materials needed:

  1. Mirror or frame to be painted (I purchased mine from Goodwill for $9.99 minus 20%)
  2. Blue painter’s tape
  3. Gold paint (I used Deco Art Dazzling Metallics in Glorious Gold)
  4. Sponge brush
  5. Sandpaper (if it needs to be prepped)
  6. Time for multiple coats

Step 1: Sand down the edges if it’s already painted or lacquered.

Step 2: Prime the wood

Step 3: Paint the frame, adding several coats if necessary (I needed 3-4 to cover the primer.  Also, note that my workshop is shared parking spot in the basement of my building.  We do what we can in the city.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4: After the paint dries, hang on the wall and enjoy.  (I took many pictures of this mirror in an attempt to make it look cool.  The photo doesn’t do it justice but I was proud of my project.  Very easy, cheap, and great bang for your buck.)

Idea generated from Apartment Therapy’s post on painting gold frames on a budget.

 

 

Sometimes my job takes me to some really fun places.

A few months ago I was asked by a director in one of our east coast firms if I would plan an overnight event for his office for the holidays.  I said yes, not knowing that it would lead to a weekend away in New England — an area of the country my precious travels have never taken me.  Flying in late one Thursday afternoon, I watched as we passed over the expansive mansions overlooking the Atlantic and thought: I could totally summer here.

To make a long story short, pretty much every office in my company hosts a retreat once a year.  It’s not like any business retreat I’ve ever heard of — all you can eat, drink, and play for you and a plus one.  It’s a weekend away to a resort in appreciation for all of our hard work throughout the year.  Occasionally, I am on one of the teams that manages the event and for this retreat, I was the lead planner.  I had lots of help from other folks throughout the weekend but I was proud of the event since it was my first baby.  Without bragging too much, I thought it went really well and I was pleased with how it all turned out.

My coworker Lacey helped me with some of the execution for the event.  Before we left for Newport, I did a little research on the area to see what the two of us could do on Sunday after the event.  I found an adorable glass blowing shop called Thames Glass and set up appointments for us to make ornaments and paper weights to remember our trip.  It was the perfect post-event activity.

 

Our glass ended up taking a few days to cool so we paid to have it shipped to us in Seattle.  We’re expected to have them arrive any day now so I’ll post pictures when it’s complete.

What cool activities have you planned when away for a weekend or trip?

 

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved to stock up on things…face wash…quarters…socks.  So, it seemed quite apropos that I would get on a kick in the kitchen where I make a batch of something and then freeze it for later to stock up for future dinners.

Enter Ghiradelli’s chocolate chip cookies.  They are absolutely perfect for this.  I tried chili earlier in the month and over the weekend I made shepherd’s pie.  Before that my mother made her homemade spaghetti sauce in October when she came to visit.  Thus, I’m pretty much set until the new year.

Want to come over for dinner?

 

When I went to visit my little brother and his girlfriend in DC, they took me to my first speakeasy in the city: The Gibson.  Little did we know that this visit would start a trend for my drink orders from this day forward.

I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but I enjoy a cocktail or two — maybe three if I’m feeling frisky.  Wine and beer aren’t really my thing unless it’s a Reisling or a cider.  So, unless it’s sweet, I’m not one to drink it.  I’m just as fine going weeks without any alcohol, and did with out it for most of my twenties.  But when I was in DC, my brother’s girlfriend encouraged me to ask the bartender to make me a drink.  “Give him the ingredients and see what he makes,” she said.

“Bitters, ginger and make it sweet,” I said with confidence.

“What base?” she asked.

“No tequila and no gin,” I said.

“Alright,”  she said.

She brought me back the best drink I’ve ever sipped and since then, I ask all the fancy bartenders in Seattle to do the same.  I’m instantly their favorite customer.  Nothing compares to the drink I had at The Gibson in DC, but it set the tone for all other cocktails.

Delicious.

 

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A couple of weeks ago (literally the weekend before Sandy hit the East Coast), I flew to DC to see my little brother and his girlfriend for a couple of days. I made it out of town on one of the last flights at BWI and was sad to hear about all the damage that New York suffered.  Such a shame.  My trip to DC was a whirlwind (no pun intended) and included a visit to the Holocaust Museum, The Gibson (a speakeasy), Ben’s Chili Bowl, and Georgetown.  We had a great time and I loved seeing my brother’s cute place in Tenley Town.

Now, if I can only get them to Seattle.

 

 

 

I have created the loveliest hostess gifts in the last couple of weeks.

To be fair, it’s not a project I came up with solely on my own.  Terrariums are kind of a thing right now so if you’ve paid attention to the style blogs lately, I’m not doing anything that the big girls haven’t already posted about online.  But these are super easy and offer a big bang for your buck.

 

 

Ingredients needed:

1 succulent

Extra soil (I just used what came with the plant)

Charcoal (Break them into pieces the size of peanut M&Ms — used to soak up the excess moisture)

1 glass jar (Goodwill often has them for .25 each)

Moss (Check out the home and garden center of most large grocery stores)

Card (Mine was long so I tucked it in behind the plant and into the ribbon.)

Ribbon

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Directions:  Layer the following “ingredients” in a glass vase/jar in the following order: handful of rocks, 1 layer of charcoal, soil to cover the plant, succulent, moss.  Tie a ribbon around the vase.

Perfect for hostess gifts, housewarming presents, thank you plants, or “I’m sorry your purse was stolen” pick me ups for a coworker.  All four have been used in my life during the past week and a half.  Do not be surprised if you receive one from me as a gift for the holidays.

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There is a point in every woman’s life when she must grapple with the fact that she no longer has the body of her twenties.  With love and grace she must gently admit that buying her favorite skinny jeans in the next size up is the kind thing to do for her abdominal circulation and that she must learn to love her body as it shifts, moves, and expands further into womanhood and life.

On my 33rd birthday, I wrestled with this greatly.

Both my boyfriend and I celebrated our birthdays last week — mine was first on Tuesday and his followed on Sunday.  We spent my birthday eating Chinese food on my couch while watching Law and Order on Tuesday.  I was exhausted, and it was exactly what I needed.  On Friday night we had a special date night to a small, Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill in Seattle.  And on Sunday we ate dinner with his parents and spent the evening at a nice Ethan Stowell Restaurant in Ballard.

Though it was a low key birthday this year for me, I am usually the one who wants fanfare, photographers, and a guest list.  Not so this year.  It was a celebration fit for an introvert.

It was lovely.  It was quiet.  And I made my wish with Phil on a reindeer candlestick.  What more could you want?

 

For every one picture I show of Stella on the internet, there are 30 more in the “trash bin” of my laptop.  Pets, children, and my boyfriend do not understand the importance of sitting still for a photograph.  All three are cute, regardless.

 

On Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I both decided that instead of running errands, we were going to lay on the couch, order Chinese takeout, and watch Clue, the movie.  It was heavenly.  I ended my day with a massage, watched  the Huskies get pumleed by Arizona and was asleep by 10:00.  I firmly believe you need a day like that every once in a while.

I decorated my kitchen table with a ghost pumpkin (only .89!) and some left over pinecone ornaments from last Christmas.  I’m not much for holiday or seasonal decorating (except for Christmas) but I thought it was pretty cute and flowed well with the rest of my house.

I haven’t done a link list in a long time.  To be honest, I don’t bother reading through them on other people’s blogs so I assume you won’t either.  So, I narrow it down to three and hope you find them interesting.

  • Prapal Gurung has quickly risen to be one of my favorite designers.  This interview (for an article in the September 17th issue of Time) is what tipped me to his greatness.  He is intelligent, graceful, socially conscious, and supports the graceful aging of women like no other designer I’ve met.
  • Is it bad that I am more interested in Banana Republic’s launch of their Anna Karenina collection than I am in finishing the book before the movie comes out?  Movie trailer here.
  • It’s Seattle Restaurant Week and I have reservations at a delicious venue for date night on Wednesday with the beau.  I love planning date nights.

Happy Monday.

 

I bought a new flash for my camera yesterday.  I dimmed the lights really low and took this photo of Her Royal Highness as she was bathing.

She did not like being disturbed by the paparazzi.

 

This weekend, fall fell.

The anticipation of fall has been an interesting experience for me this year.  When the sun continued to shine well past our coveted month of summer and into September, I almost couldn’t speak of fall for fear that I’d jinx it for the entire city.  And then, like that, it all changed last weekend.  Like clockwork, the rain fell and the leaves followed suit.

Hello rainy season.

 

My sweet momma from Georgia flew to Seattle a few weeks ago to visit me and it was the best girl’s weekend we’ve had in years.  She met Stella.  We saw King Tut.  She watched me stiff arm a linebacker in a flag football game.  She cooked my favorite meal and made a double batch of sauce for me to freeze for later.  We went on a tour of Pike Place Market, ate dinner with Phil’s family, and we went shopping (oh the shopping!) for a few things to help decorate my apartment.  Yay for moms that can cook and decorate.

We played Table Topics Family Gathering Edition and it was the best game for our nightly pre-bedtime routine.  It was a fun way to get to know my mom better and we probably laughed more playing that game in one night than we did the entire week.

I took my mom to my favorite restaurant on Saturday night and unfortunately it was a very “off” night for the kitchen and its staff.  I snapped this lovely photo of my mother, however, and we felt very fancy with our cute outfits and hairdos.

Some family friends of ours cancelled a trip to Seattle and sent me their pre-purchased tickets to Savor Seattle’s Pike Place Food & Cultural Tour.  I will admit I was a bit embarrassed at first to play tourist for the morning but within the first 5 minutes of the tour, I was highly impressed with our whitty guide, the historical knowledge we learned about the market, and the tasty food we sampled along the way.  We had the best time with our guide Santino and I can’t recommend this tour enough for visitors or local city-dwellers.

Side story: The floor of the market is scattered with tiles purchased by donors who raised money to help re-floor the market years ago.  A mathematician once bought a grouping of tiles and engraved them with prime numbers.  He later met a woman who happened to love math as much as he did and they were later married in the market on top of the spot where his numbers were placed on the market floor.  I thought it was sweet.

My mom took me shopping, a past-time we’ve shared together since I was 15 and my hometown opened a T.J. Maxx.  We found a wooden bowl for my coffee table made from the roots of a teak tree and a framed Seattle Ork poster for that bare wall in my kitchen.  Our favorite finds were this lamp (from Ikea!) and mirrored frame (1/2 off at West Elm) for my desk.  It completed the spot well, I thought, and it was fun to celebrate an early birthday with my mom.  Even at 33, my mom is still decorating my room.  At least she has good taste.

My mom stirred up some homemade seasoning and vinegars for me.

We did touristy things like take a walk past the Space Needle.

We shopped for vegetables at Pike Place Market.

And we walked through downtown.

I think she needs a vacation from her vacation.

 

 

 

 

Could there be a better shot in New York City?

 

Sometimes, when the vacuum gets loud enough, you just need to burrow in a duvet and call it a day.

 

 

I found this gorgeous vase at ABC Home and Carpet two weeks ago in New York.  At the request of a friend, who coincidently shares the same name as me, I visited the store and fell in love with everything in it.  My eyes were set on a new leather purse during my trip, so I was not on the prowl to invest in much in the store but this vase caught my eye.  I’ve scoured the interwebs to give you a link to the vase, but I can’t seem to find this particular piece: it’s the Hudson3 by Chive.  Happy hunting.

 

 

A few weeks ago, I was in Whistler (Canada for my east coast readers) for a work event.  We took over one of the resorts and the team I work with executed one of our most flawless events to date.  A few photos from the great weekend.

 

 

 

 

Here are a few of my favorites from my visit to MOMA on Sunday that will inevitably end up as the wallpaper on my iPhone at some point.  If I hadn’t been in such a hurry, I would have taken pictures of the summaries for each piece to identify each artist’s work.   I know there were some Pollack’s, a Rothko, some Picassos, a Frankenthaler, some Monets, a Kandinsky, a Matisse, and finally a Wyeth.  Another time, I’ll remember them all.

I left feeling completely inspired to tackle this somewhat intimidating abstract art DIY project.  Perhaps I’m ready…yeah?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve fallen for another city.  It feels so cliche to say it…but I loved New York City.  This past weekend was my first real visit to the city.  I went in fifth grade with my classmates on a school trip to Philadelphia and NYC — we drove through the city, took a boat to the Statue of Liberty, and then left on a train back to south Georgia.

I kind of don’t count it as a visit.

Twenty one years later, I went back and finally met this amazing place on my own terms.  My boyfriend’s good friend from college was getting married so while that was the foundation and reason for the trip, I made no waste of our spare time.  We arrived fresh off of a redeye at JFK on Friday morning and hit the ground walking by 8 AM through Times Square and down to Lower Manhattan where we visited our company’s New York office and his old company from when he worked in the city after college.  We walked six miles on less than 4 hours of sleep by lunchtime and while he took a nap back at the hotel, I raced down to 5th Avenue to do what any fashion loving woman in New York would do.

Shop.

Intimidated by the price tags, I walked in the front door of Bergdorf Goodman and out the back in day old Lulu Lemon and Nike running shoes worn on my flight.  But finally at Henri Bendel, I found my annual replacement purse – a gray Pour la Victoire leather hobo.  I walked quickly back to the hotel to get ready for the night. I ate one of the most amazing Italian dinners at Babbo, took a romantic walk down The High Line, and finally rested my feet at the end of the night watching reruns of Friday Night Lights with my beau. On Saturday we went walking through Central Park and played some chess, attended the wedding with a reception at a gorgeous venue overlooking the city in Queens, and then woke up on Sunday to take took a stroll through the Museum of Modern Art before boarding our plane to head back to Seattle.

My sweet, very laid-back boyfriend dates an event planner and he takes it like a champ.

I haven’t been this affected by a city since I visited Washington, D.C. almost ten years ago.  Seattle was a different kind of affection, one that involved intense heartache and the need for a fresh start.  New York was different.  Flashy, big city, and an intense energy that I’ve never felt anywhere else in the world.  I never moved to D.C., but we’ll see where this new found love for New York takes me.

Here are some photos from the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Three and a half weeks ago I walked into Spencer and Graham’s rooms for the last time, leaned over their beds, gave them my last good night hug, and told them good bye.  As I tucked them in, I told them:

Mommy loves you.  Daddy loves you.  Your brother loves you.  And, I love you.

For four years I walked into their rooms, tucked them in, and told them good night.  Three years into my time with them as a babysitter, I started telling them the part about how we loved them.  Last month, they packed their home in Green Lake, said goodbye to their extended family, and moved to California to start a new chapter of their lives together.

The babysitter(s) stayed in Seattle.

Graham and Spencer’s mother, Dana, has a smart vegetarian food blog where she chronicles both her tastiest dishes as well as the lives of both of her boys.  And their father Randy, a equally smart business man, mentored me during many conversations concerning my career.  Randy just accepted a new position in the Bay area and as expected, he took his family with him.

Telling you that I will miss them is an understatement.  As I hugged Randy and Dana on my way out of the house, I turned back and told Dana that it felt like I would be back to babysit in a couple of weeks.  Knowing that the move was final, I still struggled to grasp that this wonderful family would be leaving Seattle.

Those of you who have followed my blog through its many changes remember my 30th birthday party.  Randy and Dana graciously allowed me to host it in their home as Dana catered the party with hors d’oeurves and wine.  When I was nearly homeless, they offered their basement room to me until I could get my feet on the ground.  And when I spent Thanksgiving away from my family one year, they welcomed me to their dinner with family and friends one cold, rainy, November night.  I will miss them dearly.

See you in San Francisco.

 

People often ask me if Georgia peaches are actually better than any other peach in the country.  I look at them, flash my prettiest southern belle smile and tell them as bluntly as a Yankee, “Yes.”  No other explanation is needed, in my opinion, and I can’t help but feel indignant that such a question is even thought appropriate of a Georgia Peach about her Georgia peaches.  If they push me with the question why, I simply tell them “They just are.” End of story.

Since moving to Seattle, I have thrice attempted to eat a Washington peach in an effort to satiate my mouth of the sweet nectar I’ve since left behind in Georgia.  All three tries were met with sadness, and a swearing off of all peaches outside of the Georgia state line.  They just couldn’t compare to the plump, juicy, warm, sweet, peaches I grew up eating as a child.  The kind of peaches where the juice runs down your neck faster than your teeth can finish sinking into the skin and popping its soft, fruit flesh into your mouth.

It’s divine.

The other day, I saw flats of peaches at Metropolitan Market in Queen Anne and walked over to survey what I thought would be a pitiful attempt at growing such a glorious fruit.  I picked them up.  I gently squeezed them in my hand.  I thought, let’s give them one more try.   My boyfriend told me that I probably hadn’t had a peach that was in season yet.  Peaches are in season for most of the summer in the South and for the state of Washington, our summers rarely start before August.  Respecting his conjecture, I bought two and took them home to try.  Hesitantly, I picked one up after I got home that day and took my first bite.

And as I wiped my chin with the back of my hand from the juice that ran down my face, I found it to be quite lovely…not divine…but lovely.

 

 

A few weeks ago, I visited the Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island and enjoyed dinner at the inn’s restaurant.  It was a multi-course meal: starter, bread, shellfish, seafood, chicken, beef, a fruit dessert, and a chocolate dessert.  The dishes were just the right portions to give you a quick taste of the dish but still left room for the next one.  In between the meals came a handful of palate cleansers, or intermezzos as the chef called them, so I lost count with how many dishes we were actually served.  But it was a gorgeouse scene: the food, the place settings, my date, and the ambience of the small room that was just big enough to seat 30 people comfortably with an open kitchen.

Lately, I have struggled to find a healthy balance between enjoying a moment as it is happening and mentally writing my next post for this blog; it’s a curse that lifestyle bloggers face, I suppose.  I didn’t take my iPhone with me when we went to dinner that night with the intention of being present at the meal.  And, I was present.  But I couldn’t stand not sharing at least one detail of the night.  So I took this quick photo with my boyfriend’s phone to show you our place setting at the dinner.  It was simple, yet elegant.

 

As I thought about gifts to give my beau for our one year anniversary, I started brainstorming if there was a way to print out my favorite instagram photos from my iPhone.

Turns out there is.

I realized that though I wasn’t a frequent user of instagram in the last year, most of my photos were taken during random moments in my life where he’d been a part of them — or even better, when I was thinking about him.  There was the picture of our feet as we waited outside of the Paramount to hear President Obama speak.  And then, the picture of my coffee cup from the morning I had brunch with my girlfriends when I first told them about this new boy I was madly smitten with from my softball team.  Then there was a picture I took while watching him play flag football at Memorial Field with the Space Needle in the background.  All of them were snapshots of the past year — many of those memories forgotten, until I scrolled through my phone looking at them and remembered.

It was a sweet stroll down memory lane and I thought the result turned out quite nice.

 

Five years ago today, I drove into Seattle with all of my belongings crammed into a 2006 Honda Civic.  I checked into my hotel, drove to sign a lease, and started unpacking my belongings, one by one, into my new apartment with my dad.  My window looked over the garbage cans and the carpet looked like it came out of a doctor’s office.  I was happy and hopeful, though my apartment left much to be desired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fours years after that (and one year ago today), I nervously sat across the table from a cute Jewish boy at a Mexican restaurant on the top of Capitol Hill.  After four hours of talking, and multiple refills in our water glasses, our lunch ended and I walked away with the sweetest smile on my face.  I even snapped a picture of our table that day to write about on my blog.

We’ve been together ever since.

Happy anniversary Seattle, and happy anniversary Babes.  Here’s to many more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a month or so, my mom is coming to visit me in Seattle.  I took a look around my apartment and realized I need to do some tidying up.  Here’s what’s on the list.

Linen curtains for the living room

If you notice, I have curtains on one side of my apartment, but not on the other side.  It’s time to even the place out.  Of course I’m drawn to the most expensive curtains at Ikea.

Paintings over the headboard

I love my DIY headboard.  Love it.   It was one of my first projects together with my beau that we did very early on in our relationship.  We learned a lot about each other that night — to trust my decorating instincts while leaving the drilling to him.  Side note: the Dwell Studio pillow was a gift from him for Christmas last year.  It’s one of my favorite accent pieces in my apartment.  At any rate, the wall above the headboard needs some help.  I might try this DIY abstract art project.  Could be great — or a complete disaster.

Revamp the kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I really need to explain myself?  This kitchen needs help.

Turn the bulletin board into a chalkboard.

I’m scraping up some old photos of my apartment for this post.  The desk that’s under the bulletin board looks nothing like the one in the picture nowadays.  I’ve streamlined that look.  Nonetheless, the board has got to be replaced.  I’m hoping it’s as easy as some chalkboard paint and a staple gun.  I’ll be channeling this project from Jones Design Company.

We’ll see.

 

Last year I attempted to make Coca Cola cake and failed…miserably.  It tasted okay, but the icing was a powdered sugar crumble mess.  A year later, I tried the recipe again.

Much better.

(Recipe here)

 

A couple of weekends ago, two of my girlfriends and I met in Denver for a girls weekend away.  Over the past several years we have traveled to Phoenix, Vegas, Charleston, Atlanta, Clinton (Iowa), Destin (Florida), and St. Simon’s Island (Georgia).  Who knows where (or when) we’ll see each other next but when the time comes, we are willing to make the effort to see each other somewhere in the world.

The three of us are tyipcally pretty organized about most things in life but for this trip, no one seemed to take the lead on planning anything specific. Over email, we came to the conclusion that all three of us wanted the same two things: good food and time to catch up.   We stayed at the Hotel Monaco (gorgeous), shopped at Cherry Creek (cha-ching), and ate at Tag & Osteria Marco (yum).  On the way to the Denver airport to pick up Robin, I realized that every other sentence with Kristy seemed to start with “did you know that I…”   It had been far too long since we’d seen each other last.  Though I don’t see these girls as much as I would like, I usually know two things: we have the kind of friendship where we easily pick up where we left off and we always have a great time together.  I miss these girls but am grateful for the time we spent together.  All three of us have been through our own ups and downs over the past couple of years so it was good for me to see them, listen to their stories, and give them a hug before parting ways again.

Until next time, ladies.

Hotel Monaco

French toast at Syrup

Yummy apples

“Hiking” in the Rockies

Dresses for a night out on the town

Barbeque

Peach fried pies

A night out on Larimer Street

Looking up at Hotel Monaco

 

The beau won something at work, which meant he got free tickets to a Seattle Mariner’s game with a plus 1 last night.

Glad I was his first pick.

 

Meet my funky glasses and a not yet faded tan from Greece.

 

 

Stella has this habit of sitting on my bed and meowing loudly until I open the blinds of the window next to me. Most mornings I try to ignore her so that I’m not reinforcing bad behavior.  She usually wins.

 

Earlier this month, I returned home to Seattle from a vacation with my boyfriend after a week of sailing in the Dodecanese Islands in Greece.  It has been a dream of mine for years to do this, and to be honest, it seemed like such a far fetched idea for me to ever do so.  I am fine traveling to foreign countries and while I know a lot about being out on the water, I do not know very much about boats or sailing.  When my boyfriend invited me on this trip with his parents, all of them being avid sailors, I was both elated and incredibly shocked that I was being given this incredibly opportunity.  A week…on a sailboat…in the Mediterranean.

We had a great time.  I ate a Greek salad every single day.  In Tilos, I lounged on a rocky beach and read an entire book cover to cover in 24 hours.  One night, I fell asleep in the middle of a crystal clear bay while anchored off of Podamos Beach on Chalki, gently rocking back and forth in the water as the waves slowly rolled under our boat and onto the shore.  I rode scooters all over the entire island of Nisyros, holding onto my boyfriend as he quickly learned how to safely maneuver our vehicle around hairpin turns and dodging fallen rocks in the middle of the roads.  In Kos I asked my boyfriend to walk through nearly every jewelry shop in the heat of the day until I found the perfect ring to take back with me.  We spent hours on the boat talking with each other and I can honestly attest that if you want to get to know a person well, spend a week on a sailboat with them and then you’ll know them, and yourself, well.  My boyfriend’s parents were gracious hosts and showed us many places we would have never gone to on our own.  And towards the end of our trip, I walked among 4th century BC ruins overlooking the Mediterranean Sea while watching the sunset after hiking 3 miles uphill to the castle.  It was incredible.

Please enjoy these photos and if you get the chance, go to Greece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The weekend I had brunch at the boyfriend’s best friend’s house.  In the dining room sat Cardboard Man, complete with fully rotating joints.  It was a fantastic piece of art.  Read the story here.

 

By far one of my top three favorite meals in Seattle is the 8 oz Mishima Ranch Wagyu Sirloin at Smash Wine Bar in Wallingford.  Anytime I make plans to go to this restaurant, my mouth waters the entire day at the thought of letting this delicious steak melt in my mouth.  Last week I had dinner with an old grad school friend and awkwardly asked if I could snap a photo with my camera.

She obliged.

 

Last Friday night I cooked dinner for two and decided to pull out some table linens for the meal.  My cousin Stacy gave them to me years ago and this was the first time I actually used the table cloth.  I loved the scene and quickly snapped a photograph of it while making my mom’s infamous French Onion Soup.  It was a peaceful evening and a great start to our first weekend home after being on vacation in Greece.

We were asleep by 10:00.

 

Last week I returned from a relaxing week of vacation.  It’s official and I can attest:  There is nothing in the world more relaxing than spending a week on a sailboat in the middle of one of the most gorgeous bodies of water, the Mediterranean Sea.  Pictures to come, but before I share the full vacation post, I wanted to give you a taste of one of my favorite subjects from my trip, the blue doors of Greece.

The last picture was taken late in the day after an uphill climb to a castle on the island of Halki.  I was hot, exhausted and very disappointed that our climb prematurely ended at the top of the stairs.  According to the guide books, that door was supposed to grant access to the castle onto of the hill but for whatever reason, it was locked when we arrived.  Have no fear, my boyfriend found an alternate route and within minutes we were rewarded with panoramic views of Rhodes, Tilos, Turkey and Halki.

 

 

 

 

 

Adorbs.

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the most adorable DIY wedding with my boyfriend to see his best girlfriend from high school marry her med school sweetheart.  It was a gorgeous ceremony, held on a family friend’s private property on Bainbridge Island, WA (a small island just a short ferry ride away from Seattle).  I won’t go into long details about the wedding, but it was touching, personal, and intimate.  I cried throughout most of it.

The reception itself was an DIY masterpiece.  Let me give you the quick rundown:  The dishes, mason jars, and place settings were tastefully mismatched across the tables and all items were purchased on “sale” at the end of the month at Goodwill. The bride calculated that she could buy her own dishes for less than what it would cost to rent them (at 77 cents a plate!)  The father of the bride, a master sailor, sewed the bunting flags, table runners, table clothes, napkins, and party favors (small zippered pouches made from old sails from their boat). All linens were hand dyed by the bride’s mother.  The groom drilled votive sized holes into birch tree pieces for table settings. Wild flowers were effortlessly placed inside of painted mason jars (see how they did it here). And as if that wasn’t enough work, everyone pitched in to cook shish-kabobs, pies, and the side dishes all before the wedding that afternoon.  I was in awe of how gorgeous the entire event looked.

It completely renewed my interest in doing an DIY event at some point in my lifetime.  Enjoy the pictures below.

 

 

 

 

 

A dear friend of mine, and reader of this blog, suggested I start a series dedicated to fun spots around Seattle for folks looking for something to do in the area.  I’ve mulled over the idea for a while and thought I would take the plunge to start the series.  Though there are plenty of city guides on the internet, perhaps mine will inspire you to explore, visit , or in my case move to this beautiful city.  Introducing: around seattle

Saturday was one of those unexpected days where you leave your house at 9 AM with very little understanding of what the rest of the day might hold.  As a Type A planner dating one of the most laid back men I know, I have learned to appreciate the days that don’t go according to planned — or that have no schedule at all.  Those days have created some of the most serendipitous moments and have made the best memories together.  What started as a brunch at Cafe Press with one of our favorite couple friends turned into an afternoon on a rooftop Mexican restaurant overlooking Broadway, then a stroll through Cal Anderson Park, and a happy hour at Oddfellows.  Sprinkled in was a quick rip to Elliot Bay Book Company and a chance to meet our friend’s brother and adorable nephew.  The sun was out, we were in great company, and the food & drinks were delicious.  Capitol Hill is a great spot to stroll around if you’re looking for an aimless afternoon of relaxing.

I had a great time and very little of it was planned, or controlled, by me.   I will admit that Capitol Hill has traditionally not been my favorite area of Seattle.  It took meeting a great guy with a convincing argument, and a Zone 4 visitor parking permit, to show me why this area is worth the visit.  While it’s been a slow process, this popular area of Seattle has found a special place in my heart.

A few pictures from our day:

 

The Croquet Madame at Cafe Presse is arguably the best in the city.

 

Olive and nuts at Odd Fellows were amazing with our drinks.

 

Good libations at Odd Fellows: Amaro Cooler and Cherry Lemonade

 

Hope your weekend was fantastic as well.  Happy Monday.

 

 

 

Much of my exploring in and around Seattle has been at the suggestion of Seattle Magazine and I have it to credit for most of my knowledge on where to go in Seattle.  For the past 3-4 years I’ve wanted to go to Neah Bay, an unassuming, but very recommended coastal town on the Olympic Peninsula.  After reading about it first in Seattle Magazine, my plan was to stay at Hobuck Beach Resort and then take a hike on Shi Shi Beach (pronounced like the word shy).  I’ve literally thought about doing this for three years and after years of wishing I could go (it was event on The List 2011), I finally went this past weekend.

Hobuck Beach Resort is certainly not a resort, but it’s on the beach and has the basic necessities you need to spend a weekend away from the city.  The cabins were fairly new, super clean and well stocked for bringing your own food to cook in the kitchen.  We ended up with an incredible view and I was pleased that the experience was exactly as advertised.

Shi Shi Beach was quite the hike — 8 miles roundtrip — and included 1.5 miles of boardwalk, 1 mile of muddy bogs and an impressive bluff to climb down to the beach.  After we finally reached the beach, I was exhausted and very tempted to just sit for an hour or so before starting the long hike back to the car.  After a short rest, and encouragement from my boyfriend, we hiked the final two miles down the beach to Point of the Arches, one of the main attractions on the hike.   I will say that  it’s not worth making it down to the beach if you don’t make it to the arches — so make the treck.  The hike is long but walking around the arches at low tide is amazing.  If you consider going, these directions were excellent.

The sea wildlife was amazing and the views were incredible.

 

 

 

On our way out to Neah Bay, we stopped on Hurricane Ridge to do a short day hike up Hurricane Hill.  Gorgeous views.

All in all it was a fantastic trip — very happy I can check this off the list and that it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

 

I swear I’m not a cat lady, but this little critter warms my heart so much. She has developed the quirkiest personality lately — pawing at the blinds so I open them and dive bombing the side of my body as she falls down beside me to pet her. I don’t know what I’d do without her sometimes.

 

Twice a year, my girlfriends and I try to go on a girls’ weekend somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.  There have been talks of San Fran, the wine country in eastern Washington, and even a jaunt down to Portland yet it never seems to fail that we end up taking a Seattle ferry over to an island on the Sound and spending the weekend laughing, crying, cooking, singing, dancing, and gossiping.  We have hilarious stories on each trip and though we aren’t always able to see each other during the months between trips, it seems like we’re always able to pick back up right were we left off on our trips.  This weekend we spent Saturday afternoon in an outdoor hot tub overlooking the Sound, ate Delaurenti pasta and greek salad for dinner, made smores by the fire overlooking the beach, and talked about the exciting engagement of Erika to a boy we all love.  It was as magical as it sounds.

As I type this, I am literally less than 30 minutes away from Seattle yet I feel like I’m light years from home.  I think there is something about taking a ferry and moving across a body of water from one landmass to another landmass that changes the way you think, feel and interact with life. Sitting by the fire last night while eating Theo chocolate smores, I told my friends that after many, many years of work, my body finally knows how to relax, enjoy a moment and not worry about the million things that seem to go through my mind in a given day.  Wherever you are, I hope you learn how to do the same.  And if you can’t do it alone, I hope you’ll be brave enough to let someone help you.

I’ll share a few photos from our weekend — it was really great to finally feel like I know how to handle my camera.  I just wrapped up my photography class this weekend so of course I brought my camera out to document the weekend.  One of my friends on the girls’ weekend is actually a professional photographer, so she took a few photos with my camera as well.  She taught me a few things about “blowing out the light”which creates a nice effect on a photo by making the image brighter than the meter says is normal.  We’ll see if folks like them.  Basically all images are mine except the ones you see me in — those you can credit to Talitha Bullock Photography.

Happy Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All images copyright mysundrymusings. Please give credit if reposting elsewhere online.

 

Help.

I own more magazines than I have time to read and instead of feeling excited about siting down to go through them, I feel like it’s one more thing I need to cross off my list of things to do.  As renewals are rolling in this summer, I think it’s time I give up a few and opt in for a more realistic reading list.

Figuring out which ones to give up is the hard part.

I recently gave up Vogue and had a hard time doing so.  It’s smart, popular and covers a wide variety of topics from literature to social justice and women’s lib.  But, it just wasn’t doing it for me.  I’ve been a subscriber of Harper’s Bazaar on and off for 9 years and I must say I enjoy their magazine more than the benchmark fashion publication everyone else seems to enjoy.

Elle Decor is next and if I can cancel Town and Country, I might just keep my list right at three.  We’ll see if I can do it.

With that said, what are your favorite magazines?

 

I read a really intriguing article about social jet lag on Saturday morning.  Ironically I was laying in my bed wishing I could go back to sleep and not attend my photography class as I read it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my class.  But lately I have been busy and a weekend to sleep in would be nice.  Lots of things are happening (mostly good) but I could use some down time to just sit…and think…and drink a Coke…and ponder life, love and the pursuit of happiness.  I’m very much looking forward to Memorial Day weekend where I can aimlessly drive the Olympic Peninsula with my beau and do absolutely nothing for three days straight.  No cell phone.  No email.  No class.  No Excel spreadsheets (no matter how pretty those event budgets look).

Friday night I introduced my beau to Rosie Thomas, my favorite singer/songwriter in the world.

 

This was my fourth Rosie concert and I was ecstatic that she was back in town.  Rosie moved to NYC a couple of years ago and I was so bummed to miss her last concert in Seattle — a house show in an acquaintance’s own living room.  Her music is haunting, simplistic and beautiful.  It has soothed my soul many a days when I needed it.

I was finally able to hear her play Wedding Day live — listen to the album version here.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you’ll remember my trip to Maui two summers ago.  When I took the Road to Hana…the long way around Haleakala…I rolled down the windows of my rental car and sang this song while weaving in and out of the coastline.  It was completely magical.

 

 

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It’s still daylight outside in Seattle, so I’m not too late, am I?  Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who taught me everything I know about fashion, food and furnishing a home.

Thirty-three years later she’s still telling me how to adjust my bonnets.

 

I wanted to take a minute to show off some of the photos I’ve taken over the past couple of weeks in my photography class.  Each week we have an indoor class on Saturday mornings that goes over the mechanics of the camera and then a field trip on Sunday afternoons where we practice our newly learned skills.  To be honest, it is a bit more time consuming than I originally anticipated.  But, overall it’s an investment well made.  It’s a great class and I highly recommend it.  Here are some photos from my latest adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

Slowly but surely the days are warming up and I find that I need my heater less and less to keep me warm in the evenings. Growing up in the South, the thought of opening my window seemed completely absurd. Met with hot, sticky, humid air, I never understood why my father enjoyed opening the windows each spring, but he did.  It wasn’t until I moved out West that I learned to appreciate the feeling of cool, fresh air.

Stella loves open windows and if I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I let her perch on the ledge of my window sill while I take down the screen and water the flowers. She has this penchant for nibbling on plants and it prevents me from keeping  very many in the house. The minute my window is open, she jumps to the perch and begins gnawing on a stem.

I am learning so much in my photography class over the past few weeks and the more I become familiar with my camera, the more creative I feel with my shots. I highly recommend learning how to use your camera on manual — my professor strongly suggests that you never use the automatic functions, unless you are handing your camera off to another person for a group shot that you will be standing in as well.  This class has made all the difference in my photography skills and I can’t wait to start working on them some more.  Later this week I’ll share some photos of a walk I took on the University of Washington campus for a field trip with my class.  After living her for almost 5 years, I finally took a stroll on their campus and was quite impressed with the architecture.  For my fellow UGA grads, the UW architecture undeniably rivals our campus.  It was gorgeous.

 

Finally.

For almost 10 years I wanted to take a photography class that taught me the basics of SLR cameras.  I’m in the middle of a 4 week class that meets on Saturday mornings and after the first session last weekend, I understood more about my camera in those two hours than I had in the entire timespan of owning an SLR camera.

On Saturday, after the game, I spent some time outside near Lake Washington and played around with the settings on my camera a bit. Turns out the sensor or the lense is a bit dirty, don’t you think? I purchased my Canon 20D used from a photographer friend two years ago so it’s probably time we scheduled a little tuneup on the camera. Regardless, it was a gorgeous day and I now shoot all photos on the manual setting on my camera. Go me.

Wasn’t the mountain gorgeous on Saturday?

 

I think Steve Kelly from the Seattle Times said it well:

This was a day that couldn’t be anticipated. There was no feeling that this was a must-see moment in Seattle sports. No “SportsCenter” countdown.

Though I know very little about baseball in terms of statistics and records, finding out that I might be watching the 21st perfect game in MLB history certainly piqued my interested on Saturday.  We were at the game to celebrate the 30th birthday of a dear friend from grad school and I dare say he got a once in a lifetime gift.

For those of you who, like me, need an explaination on a what constitutes a perfect baseball game — this occurs when one (or multiple pitchers) pitches a minimum of nine innings in one game and no player from the opposing team reaches a base.  Prior to Saturday, this was accomplished only 20 times in the 150 year span of baseball history and I had the honor of watching Philip Humber achieve this record as I sat in Row 5, Seat 12 of section 194 in the centerfield bleachers.

Basically, that means my ticket will be worth something one day.

These are the days when I love life’s little serendipities.

 

 

 

The weather in Seattle has been gorgeous the past few days and I have done nothing but take advantage of it.

A gorgeous walk down by Elliott Bay with my beau.

Rooftop view of downtown from Capitol Hill.

 

At work I have a large, red, spiral bound notebook where I scribble down notes from meetings to make lists — endless lists — of to dos for events, projects and people.  It is the lifeline of my job and without it, much would fall apart.

When I started my new job over a year and a half ago, I made a list of goals that I wanted to achieve in the next three years.  Some of them were career oriented, most were personal, but I wanted to write them down. Psychologists, life coaches and successful people collectively agree that if you have dreams, desires or aspirations for your life, the best way to make sure these things won’t happen is to never write them down.

In an age where many of us keep our address books, calendars, and most forms of communication in some sort of electronic device, the argument remains that something different happens in us when we sit down in front of an empty sheet of paper, pick up a pen and begin to create something on a blank canvas before us.  The act of creating words on a paper spark us to remember more, be inspired and think outside of the box.

In my Project Managment class we went over what makes a successful manager of projects in an organization.  Almost every project management book lauds the benefits of writing down goals.  If the purpose of a project and its measurements for success are not communicated clearly to the team, then it will increase the likelihood that a project will run over in time, scope or budget, thus significantly altering the success of that group’s goals.  As I studied the various ways of keeping a project on task, some the authors I read recommended using the S.M.A.R.T method when creating and keeping your goals.  Successful goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.  Your best bet is to do a little reading about them here and here.  It changed the way in which I look at achieving something in my life.

Basically, for a goal to be S.M.A.R.T, a person starts by asking the following questions:

  • What is it that I ultimately want to achieve?
  • How will I know when I have achieved it — how will it be measured?
  • How can this goal be accomplished?
  • Is this worth my time?
  • Can I achieve this in the time I have allotted?

The best way I learned how to use this tool was when I began thinking about paying off my credit card debt.  For years I’ve felt discouraged because I couldn’t acheive the level of success I wanted —  I wanted it all gone, and quickly.  My goal was simply (and proudly) this: Pay off all debt.  I had no timeline and if I did, it was completely unrealistic given my salary and the standard of living I wanted to keep while paying down my debt.  Furthermore, I never identified which debts I wanted to pay off and in what order I would start.  The goal was certainly worth my time but the expectations I set for myself were completely out of whack.  Now I have the goal: Pay off American Express by August 2012 by using income tax refund and X amount of monthly payments through the summer.  I know how I will do it, when I will complete it and that it is achievable based on my spending habits.

It’s important to make both broad and specific life goals that reflect the short term and long term thoughts you have for your life.  My 3 year plan is halfway over, yet it’s hard to see the end unless I break it down into bite size chunks.  I finally decided to start doing this at the end of 2011 by setting Quarterly goals for myself.  I touch on several areas of my life: personal growth, living in Seattle, aspirations with my career, interior decorating, leisure reading, beauty & fashion, financial plans, my blog, travel and health & wellness.

It might have become a bit out of control.

But, it’s been great.

I made a few rules for myself which involve glancing over them weekly, not beating myself up if I can’t complete one in the given time frame and pushing myself to work on one or two a week in an effort to stay the course.  Q1 ended swimmingly with me finally accomplishing two things that have been on my mental to do list for months: working on some tech issues with my blog and finally getting my Keep Calm Carry On poster framed.

To give you an idea of the goals I write down, here are a few from each category for Q2:

  • Personal: Call someone I owe an apology to
  • Seattle: Start visiting the farmer’s markets again on the weekends
  • Professional: Complete my Project Management class in June
  • Decorating: Figure out what to hang on my bedroom wall
  • Reading: Finish The Help
  • Beauty & Fashion: Find a hair stylist in Seattle that trained with Bumble and Bumble
  • Financial: Pay taxes, if owed — pay off American Express if refunded
  • Travel: Buy ticket for vacation this summer
  • Health & Wellness: Start exercising at least twice a week.

I acutally have more for each category — a personal minimum of three — but I’ll leave you with those to ponder.  I am a visual person so I keep them on a funky, oversized clipboard on the coffee table in my studio.  I’m sure guests find it bizarre to look down and see so much of my life planned out, but I love looking down and remembering that bit by bit, I am meeting the goals I set out for myself.  And that, my friends, makes me a happy woman.

 

All inappropriate comments aside, I thought these were hilarious.  I’ll let you guess which one I received.

 

 

Last night I got home from work a bit late and decided to take advantage of the milder weather and start planting flowers in my window box planters.  Yellow daffodils, red and yellow speckled tulips and blue hyacinths were the bulbs of choice for this year.  It’s difficult to keep flowers from dying in a small window box planter, especially when the roots have nowhere to grow.  So I feel a bit guilty knowing that these will most likely not make it past July.  Nonetheless, I used to dream of having window box planters and alas, I am finishing up year one with them in my studio.  They are quite lovely.

The sunlight is dwindling later and later each night and it reminds me of why I love Seattle so much.  Nothing captures my little soul like experiencing spring in the Pacific Northwest.  After a long, cold, dark winter there is something so magical about experiencing the gradual increase of sun as the clouds roll away and the days grow longer and longer.  In Georgia, spring is rarely a slow, progressional season.  Usually I’m met with a quick warming of days and a hot rush of humid air.  Not so in the PNW.  It’s a gradual unveiling of better days to come and a great tease for those who anticipate what summer has to offer.

Hope you’re enjoying your Spring, wherever you might be.

 

While things have been quiet on the blog front about Stella, they have been far from silent in real life.  Miss Stells had quite the time a few weeks ago with a visit to the emergency vet, a less than attractive bout with a parasite and a misunderstanding between her owner and the groomer on how short is “short” when trimming her gorgeous, but long, fur.

Stella is doing quite well now that the vet put her on “free feed” with her food — this is the equivalent to an all you can eat buffet for felines.  Basically, I never let her food bowl go empty.  Stella lost 3lbs in 4 weeks, which is the equivalent of me losing 30lbs in a month.  We’re still not sure what’s wrong with her, but for now Stella is quite calmer with a full belly.

I waited until things settled down a bit to share a photo.  They say her fur will grow back in another three months.

Thoughts?  (This is the before photo, for those of you who might not be familiar.)  

 

I’ve heard many times that it’s pretty common for those who are interested in interior design to get bored with their surroundings pretty easily.  No sooner has the paint dried on the kitchen walls or new furniture been placed in the master bedroom and an interior designer can find herself already imagining the next makeover for the living room.  I absolutely love my studio.  It’s small, humble, historic (i.e. a bit rundown at times) but I am enamored with living here.  However, occasionally I do get bored with this space and want to do something new. Never mind that I just bought a white couch last summer, or that I finally finished my headboard this fall or that someone gave me the Dwell Studio pillow I wanted for Christmas last year.  There’s always something I want to change up and I can never seem to be satisfied.  Instead of succumbing to an entirely new project that will take weeks to complete, or money I shouldn’t spend, I’ve found that changing up a few smaller things sometimes does just the trick.

My kitchen is still a work in progress — one that I think will be a slower paced project than some of the others I’ve tackled thus far.  But while walking around Crate and Barrel over the weekend, I found this petite butter dish, perfect for keeping butter out on the counter during the day.  I instantly brought it home to replace the less than attractive container I currently use to store butter out of the refrigerator.

Side note: Until moving to Seattle a few years ago, I had no idea you could keep butter out of the refrigerator for several days.  I love doing this — it spreads onto toast so much easier!

One of my favorite details about this studio is the built in shelf in my bathroom.  Every couple of months I rotate out a new set of oddities on display.  It’s an easy way to switch things up and often I can do this with little to no cost.  This weekend I finally decided to print out some pictures on my computer and frame a few of them in the apartment.  In college I was quite the picture frame collector so in Seattle, I’ve taken a bit more of a minimalist approach with regard to displaying photographs.  It was time for an update or two so I found this sweet matted frame at Pottery Barn on Friday.  It fit perfectly on the shelf.

If you’ve ever wondered who would pay $18 for a vintage lightbulb at Anthropologie, look no further.  I purchased a hanging light fixture from Ikea over a year ago but never liked the shade that came with it.  After later taking the shade off, I actually liked the look of a bare bulb hanging down from the ceiling and thought it added an interesting touch to the living room.  It was my homage to hipsters everywhere in an modernized twist to my usual style.  Adding this vintage bulb only accentuates the look and adds a nice touch to the space.

Flowers are a great way to brighten up a place quickly, and cheaply.  These daffodils were mere buds when I bought them at Whole Foods on Saturday.  They bloomed throughout the night and I woke up to a gorgeous bouquet Sunday morning.

Hope this gives you ideas on how to think outside of the box with decorating.  Often you only need a few small things to give your place a new look.  Happy decorating.

 

A few thoughts I’ve collected from some of the fashion greats before me on how to build a wardrobe:

Purge the items you don’t wear, that are uncomfortable or that make you feel bad about yourself.  If you haven’t worn it within the last year then chances are you will never wear it again. Keeping it around only reminds you of why you aren’t wearing it, which is usually something negative.  No one needs emotional baggage when opening up their closet in the morning and chances are you won’t miss it once it’s gone.

Know what makes you look good and wear it.  Just because it looks good on someone else, doesn’t mean you should be wearing it.  Red isn’t a great color for my skin tone, even with my dark hair.  Capris look really goofy on me despite my propensity to continue buying them.  And wrap dresses have never, ever looked flattering on me no matter how many times I’ve longed for one to do so.  I’ve read that fashionable dressers know what looks best on them and learn to bypass the things that don’t — no matter the current fad or how much they want to wear it. If you need help, see a stylist or ask an honest friend.  Read the “what not to wear” sections in fashion magazines.  Then, stick to it.

A stylish closet is an investment — it takes time.  As ridiculous as this sounds, creating a wardrobe is much like building a career or a retirement plan.  It takes time and patience but if you make small investments and take calculated risks, eventually you will have stored up a closet with fashionable and classic, “go-to” pieces that never fail.  So go slow, and invest wisely.

Quality, not quantity.  It took me years to learn this lesson.  After watching  almost all of my clothes cycle from the store to my closet and out to Goodwill in the span of 2-3 years, I noticed that only a few pieces survived what seemed to be a viscous cycle repeating every few months in my closet.  Those pieces that survived my closet purges were usually the well tailored, but much more expensive, items.  I learned that cheaper clothes usually don’t last, and the cost to replace them often ends up being more than what it would have cost to buy the more expensive item up front. While it’s harder to pass up a great 2 for 1 deal at the cheaper boutique, sacrificing for the better tailored pieces makes great gains in the long run.

Lauren Hutton for J. Crew | Image credit: J. Crew

Fasion fades but style is eternal. That is a quote from the great Yves Saint Laurent and while it took me a few years to understand, I only recently understood what he meant.  Fashion changes with the seasons, and while a stylish person plays with the popular items, he/she knows when to invest and when to pass.  This can only be learned through trial and error by investing in outfits that quickly become outdated and tossed aside.  It’s a hard lesson to learn, but when you get it, you’ve got it.  Watch people who look timeless and classic but fresh and modern — the ones who never seem to go out of style.  Those are the people who get it.

Know when the label doesn’t matter.  More often than not, the most fashionable people have learned how not to get caught up in what label is on a shirt.  Instead they find quality, well-made pieces that stand the test of time.  They know when Kate Spade matters and when she doesn’t.  That, my friends, is a hard lesson I have yet to learn.

Let yourself make mistakes.  One of my favorite sections of fashion magazines show the biggest fashion flops of the month by A-list celebrities.  I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I also think that we learn from our (and other’s) mistakes.  Taking risks with your wardrobe means later finding that the shoes didn’t quite make the outfit, that the pants weren’t as flattering as you hoped or that the hue of the threads didn’t quite bring out your best coloring.  These are teachable moments that help us realize our best style moments and aid us as we work creatively on the things that adorn our bodies.

Discover your own personal style and be known for it.  I once read in a magazine that Coco Chanel was known for having a signature look: black threads with a strand of pearls.  Create something that makes you unique and sets you apart.  There is a fine line between playing it up and overdoing it.  Find the balance and go for it.

I believe that great style is mostly learned, with a heavy sprinkle of intuition.  Yes, the are those who just make it work.  But for the rest of us, I find that it’s an acquired skill that takes a strong eye and lots of time.  Hope you enjoyed this post — it’s some of what I’ve been pondering with regard to fashion as of late.

 

When I moved into my first house after college to begin every graduate’s rite of passage (paying my own rent and living hand to mouth), I bought this soap in a small boutique in Florida to christen my new place.  The honey almond scent was intoxicating and I was hooked the moment I smelled it.  Eagerly I watched as the shopkeeper wrapped it up in tissue paper and patiently waited the day I could use it in our kitchen when I got home.  While I’ve always loved this scent, I actually never purchased it again despite seeing it in numerous home decorating shops across the country.

Until this weekend.

A few months ago in a flurry to make my redeye back to Georgia for Thanksgiving, I knocked over my favorite glass bottle of handsoap, Savon de Marseille off of my sink and into my tub.  The shattering glass was enough to send my anxious traveling heart over the edge and from that point on, I decided that no more glass would grace that perilous ledge.  I purchased another bottle and today it sits by my kitchen sink.  It’s pretty much a staple in whatever home I live.

 

In a search for an adquate replacement, I decided to go old school and use bar soap in the bathroom.  Every month, I choose a new scent and it t makes a mundane activity like washing one’s hands a new and invigorating experience.

I hope your soap buying is just as exciting.

Tagged with:
 

While visiting my parents in Georgia a few weeks ago, I sat down at my old piano and played the remaining three peices I knew from memory for my boyfriend.  After ten years of piano lessons with Dr. Scully at the local university, I was able to peck away at Bach, Beethoven and one old church hymn.

It was a sad concert indeed.

Tucked in a book of Beethoven was the sheet music for Yann Tiersen’s Comptine d’un autre été.  I have longed to learn this piece.  And with my current level of piano playing, it is the perfect sheet music with which to return to the piano.  Now, I just need a piano.

Watch it played here: Yann Tiersen – Comptine d’un autre été by Mike Lew

 

 

 

When I originally wrote that I wanted to ride a mechanical bull, the thought was that I would find a few friends, grab a bite to eat, sip a couple of drinks and go somewhere with a lowly lit room and loud music where no one would recognize me. I did not imagine myself flailing about in broad daylight at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Azalea Festival in front of my mother, father, boyfriend and half of my graduating class.

I think that some things happen just so we can tell the story.

 

 

 

I’m really excited about this week at work.  There is a a great event I’ve been working on with a co-worker and it looks like it’s going to be a good one for the attendees.  Crossing our fingers everything goes smoothly, as expected. This weekend I had a few hours of work to do and decided that if I intended to get any of it finished before Sunday, I might find working in the office to be more productive than sitting at my kitchen table.  Given my penchant for being easily distracted, I’m less apt to go on a redecorating spree with my co-worker’s desks than I am somewhere in my own apartment.  So, I headed down to the office and walked up to my desk just as the bagpipes were playing for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

This was the view I saw as I prepared to leave on Saturday night.  Gorgeous.

 

…seeing one of your besties for lunch while passing through Jacksonville on the way to south Georgia.

 

In case you haven’t noticed this yet…

 

I purposely show you this less-than-attractive picture of my kitchen sink to tell you that I must do something about this area.  Generally speaking, it’s out of control.

Ideas, please.

 

I’m on the downhill swing of my fifth winter in the Pacific Northwest.  Winter in the PNW means rain, sunsets at 4:30 PM and more rain.

While this winter proved to be one of the driest we’ve seen, it’s still a relief to feel the change of seasons just around the bend. Saturday I rode with my sunroof down and sunglasses on while running errands. I think it’s safe to start dreaming of better weather.

Saturday night was date night. Tickets for two at the Museum of Flight.

Then, dinner for two at an unassuming restaurant in Wallingford.

And, finally the season premiere for two of Downton Abbey on Netflix on the couch.  It was a great weekend.

I’ve heard of people doing a “Gratitude List” to remind themselves of the things they have to be thankful for in their lives. To be honest, I found it quite cheesy until recently when I became preoccupied with some concerns in my own life. Remembering the advice of others before me, I decided to sit down and make a list of the things I have to be thankful for in my life right now.  I share a few of of favorites with you today. Feel free to share a few of yours in my comments below.  I am sure I’ll enjoy reading them.

  1. taking the boy to Georgia this weekend to visit friends and family.
  2. working with people I really like
  3. getting a clean biopsy from a procedure done a couple of weeks ago
  4. a haircut by my favorite stylist in GA on Friday
  5. new running socks and washcloths from Target

Happy Monday.

 

Go out and leap…jump…

Picture by Steve Jeter, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WA

It’s just not fair to be sick over the weekend.

Or the week, really, when you’d much rather feel more productive and in healthier spirits during the 9 to 5.  Friday night was spent curled up on my couch eating grits (soft, easy on the stomach) while watching my latest Netflix obsession, Gossip Girl.  Intermittently, I spent an embarassing amount of time washing the impressive number of dishes spilling out of my sink and onto the kitchen counters.

 

What do you do when you run out of clean water glasses when heading to bed?  Use a martini glass, of course.

Saturday was couples night with a friend from high school that recently moved to Seattle with her husband and new son.  It was our turn to cook dinner so we took Sheppards Pie a shopska salad (from my days in Eastern Europe) and Chocolate Delight.  Sadly, no pictures were taken.

Enjoy these links:

 

I have waited and waited and waited to publish this post, mostly because I didn’t feel like what I had to talk about was interesting enough to share with my faithful, but few, readers.  Despite feeling this way, I decided to go ahead and publish this post, more for myself than for anything else.  Hopefully you feel inspired. I couldn’t do it all, but I traveled to the places I could see and had a wonderful time when I did.

Each year of my life, I make a list of goals for the new year.  I shared last year’s list here, and to keep with the tradition, I thought I’d post another tab up on my blog to keep me accountable for this year’s goals.

The problem, if you can call it that, is that I don’t feel like my ambitions for this year are good enough.  I’ve had some cool bucket lists in the past, starting with the one I made as a senior in high school.  Just before graduation, I sat down in my room and made a list of all the things I wanted to do in my lifetime.  Most of them involved traveling, which should be no surprise, but that particular list was birthed out of the perspective that the world is mine to play in and the last thing I wanted to realize in my old age is that I wasted it not taking advantage of what my life might have to offer.

I’d like to think that passion still remains today.

While I have yet to complete everything on that sheet of paper from high school, I’m proud to say that I’ve been able to slowly cross off some of those wishes on that list.

We are well into the new year, if you can even call it new anymore, and while I’d hoped to have my New Year’s goals posted earlier last month, I will share them with you now, weeks after I first put pen to paper.

Enjoy.

Create a travel budget and use it.

I had high hopes of making it to San Francisco last year…and New York City…and Washington D.C.  To be honest, I already know that when I write down my goals, not every one of them will be acheived.  Life happens, interests change and we aren’t able to complete everything we hoped to do in a given time frame.   So while I didn’t make it to every place I wanted to go, I will still keep making lists of places to visit in an effort to encourage myself to never give up on my passion for experiencing new cities.  While I didn’t make it to those US cities last year, I did make it to the Bahamas and had a relaxing vacation while I was there.

So instead of putting down a list of places I want to go in 2012, I have decided to take on a different approach to my travel goals this year.  Budgeting is not my forte, yet over the past year at my current job, I had to work on this skill set weekly with the events I plan.  The fruits of my labor are spilling over into my personal life and I’ve decided to try to keep a better budget this year with my finances – starting with making room for something that’s important to me, travel.  Stay tuned for how I used the funds, but for now, know that it this new budget formally exists and is intended to be used.

Reupholster my living room chair.

My goals for 2012 would not be complete without at least one decorating project for the next 12 months.  This chair holds more sentimental value to me than any other item in my apartment and if I ever had to pack my car up and move back to Georgia quickly, I would somehow make room for it in my Civic.  With that said, it desperately needs to be refinished and recovered.  Stella has used the chair as her scratching post more than once and I feel that with a new look, and some disciplined squirts from the water bottle, I might be able to reclaim my stake on this piece of furniture.  Just one block down and around the corner sits an upolstry shop that specializes in refinishing old pieces.  All I need is an estimate and a spot in my budget and the project is complete.

Take photography class.

How long has this been on my list of things to do?  Since 2003 without exaggeration.  I’m proud to say I just signed up for a Continuing Education class at a nearby community college.  Classes start in April for Saturday mornings.  It will be an early wakeup call, but well worth the sacrifice.  I’m excited to finally sit down and learn f-stops, shutter speeds and apertures.

Pay off American Express card.

I paid off a small amount of debt in 2011 and it felt good…real good.  Here’s to checking off a big one…again.

Ride a mechanical bull.

It must be done.

Hope

And this, my friends, is a serious one.

One of the amazing things about having a master’s degree in counseling-psychology is the multitude of friends who are therapists that stay with you long after graduation.  Like the rest of the world, even therapists need a little help and can also feel clouded when trying to make sense of the world around them.  I can’t tell you how many therapeutic conversations I’ve had on chat where a friend has talked me out of sabotaging something good in my life or where a broken heart was mended by a kind word or where I was gently, but honestly, told something that was difficult to hear.

My good friend Selena texted me the last week of December and asked me the following question:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I first told Selena “hope” my stomach instinctively churned.   In psychology, we called that a visceral response, which can mean that our bodies are telling us that there is more to be discovered in what has just happened.

But I can tell you this: Hope is not one of my most favorite of the “inspiration” words.

I guess you could say that historically speaking, I’ve had a hard time with hope in my own life.  While I’m carefree and pretty spirited at times, I also find that life can be really complicated.   The desire to make sense of these things is what drew me to psychology and counseling…maybe if I study the human mind really hard, I can understand life enough to make sense of it for myself.  Three years later I understood less about how to make sense of everything and more about the freedom of letting life happen as it should.

But hope?  That’s still a tough one for me.

I had a really nice ending to this section of my bucket list but when I sat down to edit it again for you just now, it didn’t really feel true to where I am with this conversation I had with Selena.  All I know is that I continue to ponder this word and will probably do so for the next ten months.

So with that, I leave you with my goals for the new year: travel budget, new chair, photography class, less debt, bull riding and the word hope – Let’s see where this takes me in 2012.

Happy New Year (a bit late) and as always, thanks for reading my blog.


 

I’ve shown this project before, but I had to share it again.  Grace from Design*Sponge originally taught me how to do this and I love sharing this DIY project: an incredibly easy way to cover the lids of random jars.

 

Every once in a while I meet someone that from the minute I see them, intrigues me: What is that person’s personality like? What are their hobbies? Why did they play the bassoon in middle school? What does their closet look like? Why did they move from the midwest? What made them fall in love with their significant other? For me, one of those persons includes my friend Blaine.

Have you ever met someone like that?  Male or female, young or old, friend or stranger.  I think it happens to us often if we are engaged in the world around us: in graduate school, at a bus stop, in a board room or at the grocery store.

Blaine was a couple of years ahead of me in graduate school. I knew he was an artist and his work was respected in our community. He was a friend of a friend and like most small schools, we knew each other in passing, but certainly not well. Upon graduation, Blaine moved to Chicago and married his love, Margaret, after one of the sweetest proposals I’ve known. I keep up with him through his blog and always enjoy knowing what’s next for him. He is eclectic, no doubt.  An actor, an artist and a writer, Blaine is the Creative Director at Willow Creek Community Church just outside of Chicago.

Cultivating creativity is his schtick and on his blog I enjoy both his honesty and his perspective on continually creating engaging material. Blaine is in a position where he must constantly create — whether that’s from something new or out of something old, Blaine’s job is one that many of us dream of but few are capable of maintaining. Like most artists, he struggles with the normal ups and downs of working in an area where it’s easy to get stuck just as common as it is to create a masterpiece.

Three things I’ve admired about Blaine: his amazing wedding photos (featured on the landing page of this photographer), the red walls he painted in his new Chicago apartment years ago and his fearless determination to put himself out there at all costs. When I feel like my dreams for this blog are foolish, unattainable and boring, he is one of several people I reference to keep going.  He’s experienced writer’s block and somehow, kept writing, painting, dancing and creating.

When I think of Blaine, I immediatly want to think outside of the box. Blaine wrote an aptly titled book, Untitled, about his thoughts on the creative process. It’s at Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble and I agreed to share my thoughts on it, if he agreed to be interviewed for the people i meet.

When I think of Blaine Hogan, I think of a plaid button down shirt — and not the kind you find on the sale rack at American Eagle (which I’m not knocking, by the way, since I own one myself.) A very trendy, well pressed, sharp looking plaid shirt with jeans and some really cool shoes. Why is that?

Because it’s more than likely true!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that said, I am more than certain your closet has more than just a plaid shirt. Where do you go for style inspiration and what do you feel most comfortable in — styles, labels or fabrics.

As I’m getting a little older, (turning 32 at the end of January), I’m starting to settle back into my Midwest roots – having grown up in Minnesota and now living just outside Chicago. There was a time while I was bouncing around the country doing theatre gigs, that I had very little sense of “place.” I find that my sense of place is beginning to define my style more and more. There is a heartiness and simplicity that I’m attracted to and that I find most comfortable. Which means on most days you can find me in a good dark pair of jeans, a plaid or denim pressed shirt, and my Frye boots. Also, because of my age, and maybe it’s because I just became a dad, I’m wanting to buy things that aren’t too trendy but are much more classic. Can you recommend some new stores to me?  [But of course, have you heard of my favorite store J. Crew?]

If I had to peg your style (this time, non-fashion), I would probably say you are more of a modernist. Post-modern hipster, maybe? Either way, you are pretty forward thinking with your style and that’s evident in the way you dress, create art and engage design. I would consider myself somewhat trendy but am drawn to more the classic, timeless looks in my creative outlets (fashion and interior design) because of my fear of looking outdated too soon. What draws you to stay modern and in what ways do you combat the ever changing tides of style?

I like the cleanliness and uncluttered feel that modern lines bring. Like you, I am more drawn to the classic as well, so I lean toward the post-mid-century-modern arena. I don’t try and fight the tide too much, but I do this by looking back at history. My grandpa’s wardrobe, for example. The tough thing is, grandpa-wear is really in, isn’t it!? Oh well, what’s a guy to do?

Would you share a few of your favorite quotes?

You cannot take anyone farther than you’ve gone yourself. – Dan Allender

We need radical imagination now more than ever – to conceive of some better, alternative, hopeful future. – My wife.

Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I’ve never been to Chicago. Ever. If I had one weekend to hang in your city, where would you tell me to go?

Breakfast at the Donut Vault
A walk through the modern wing of the Art Institute
Lunch at XOCO
Ferris wheel ride on Navy Pier
Dinner at Longman & Eagle in Logan Square
Late night show at Second City

Other than your book, of course, can you name a couple of resources that you find helpful on the creative process?

The Creative Habit & The Collaborative Habit, Twyla Tharp; The War of Art, Steven Pressfield; Beauty Will Save the World, Gregory Wolfe./

We graduated from a school that placed an emphasis more on learning how to “be” rather than figuring out how to do. Yet, in the creative process one cannot complete an idea without some form of doing. How do you find balance in both: vision and execution and what do have to say to those who lean more towards the “being” than the “doing?”

Seth Godin calls “doing,” “shipping.” I’m of the belief that if you don’t ship, if you don’t create, if you don’t eventually do, some part of the gift you have to offer the world is being wasted.

In your book, you wrote about how going for runs often helps to get your mental gears working around a new idea. What artists or songs are often found rotating on that playlist?

Passion Pit, The Naked and the Famous, The Brilliance, Jon Hopkins

As I read your book and thought about your words around setting goals and meeting deadlines, I couldn’t help but think about the ideas I’ve often heard about letting go of control and letting things evolve — that life is better lived this way. I do not disagree with you that constraints are needed and that deadlines are helpful but just this week I heard someone say (in a business setting, nonetheless) that our best work is often done during non-commissioned time. You speak of the tension of constraints as being fertilizer for some of our best creative work. Can you push back against the idea that goal influenced work creates less valuable results?

Very good point and I would agree. So much of our best work happens during that non-commissioned time and yet I think nothing gets accomplished unless you are intentional with said non-commissioned time. The point for me is intentionality. Whether it is a deadline or simply saying that I’m going to use my free time well, we must be intentional. I also am a big believer that unless I do the work of sitting down (or whatever the best place is I ideate) the non-commissioned time just turns into wasted time.

In 3-5 quick steps or easy one liners, give my readers encouragement on how to overcome their failures and continuing in their passion, creativity and life.

You are not your failures. If all of life is seen as creative, it takes the pressure off needing to get something from the creative project you’re working on. Wholeheartedness should be your endgame.

To play off of my last question, do you work with goals? How do you set them and in what way do they play a part of your life both in the short-term and long-term?

I work with goals when working on big projects, only because I know I’ve got a deadline and I know I need to break the project up into manageable bits. Additionally, I almost always work backwards. I know how I want the story to end and now I need to break up my time to figure out how to get there. However, if I don’t know how the story ends and I’m just beginning a project, or idea, I make a goal for having a certain number of words written per week or day as I’m trying to free-write the idea.

What would 31 year old Blaine tell 11 year old Blaine?

It’s all going to be okay (and one day you won’t need to wear that t-shirt when you swim).

Almost every creative man has a gadget list. What’s next for you?

Indeed. My most recent and favorite acquisition was a gift from a good friend – the iphone wallet from Hard Graft. It is so beautiful! Gorgeous leather and wool felt. It’s the perfect midwest wallet. Next, I have my eye on a new lamp for my office, possibly from West Elm.

In your book, Untitled, you wrote about the process of “scratching” for ideas — an idea you first found from a favored artists, Twyla Tharp. I’m sure you’ve heard of some interesting ways in which people search for new ideas, can you share a few?

One friend sets an alarm on his phone and every time it goes off he writes down a new idea. It can be a color, a phrase, a song he’s listening to. This process creates a cache of mostly terrible ideas, but the habit is set, and somewhere in that pile is some greatness. Two starter questions I find helpful when looking for new ideas is this, “What do I need to say?” and “What do people need to hear?”

You and your wife Margaret just welcomed your first baby, Ruby, into the world. How has this changed you and in what ways do you dream of cultivating opportunities for her creativity?

First off, I have to admit that Ruby is the best thing I ever made. Ever. When Margaret and I got married, we vowed, quite literally in fact, to devote ourselves to the business of making things. We would make dinners, a home, (if we were lucky enough) a baby, along with the usual suspects like art. When I think of creating opportunities for Ruby’s creativity I think want her to hold the value that all of life is art – all of life is creative. I don’t want her to be able to separate the creativity of living life from finger painting.


Remember my DIY project earlier this fall, a DIY fabric headboard?  Well, finally, I finished the project with this accent piece, Dwell Studio’s Batavia Azure pillow.   It was a gift this Christmas from zee boy, and it brings me such joy each morning to plop it on my bed as the last finishing touch before I leave for work.  I chose muted blues and grays for my bed this time, something soothing to calm my soul before heading off to bed.  I’m in love with the entire ensemble.

Do you have an accent piece you love?  Please share.

 

 

 

 

 

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A very dear friend of mine sent me a card in the mail last week with this picture tucked away inside.  It came on a day that I really needed a pick me up and I was grateful for both her words and thoughtfulness in sending.

 

 

Looking at this image brings back so many memories: my friend Christine on her wedding day…the day after her wedding spent floating in the pool with Colleen talking about relationships…meeting these two lovely ladies in graduate school…growing up in the south spending hot humid summers under pine trees.  Somehow, amidst the humity, the sweat and the coordinating a wedding, the three of us paused to take one of the most stunning pictures I’ve seen in a while.  I absolutely love it and am captured by it.

Happy Monday, friends.  I’m back in the blogosphere.

 

 

I have the most severe case of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced for this blog.  Sitting in my queue are six drafts waiting to be edited and nothing left to give for many of them.  I’m tired of writing and yet I feel like if I don’t, my blog will be swallowed by a black hole filled with HTML and hacked email accounts.

The best way to cure a block of creativity is to just start.  Create.  Make something.  So to break the silence, I thought I would share a photo from my time indoors last week during the big snow storm here in Seattle.

I’m sure you heard about it.  Everyone did.  It was disappointingly anti-climatic.

Since I can work remotely, I spent most of my time sitting on my couch bundled up in my pjs answering emails and working on projects.  It was a delightful change in an otherwise predicable routine and I was grateful for the chance to get ahead while staying inside for four days.

Over the week, Stella had the habit of finding the warmest spot in the room, even if it meant standing so close to the space heater that the blocked air overheated the coils, setting off the safety switch to shut down the fan.  It was hilarious and I had to share.

Have a great week, more to come.

 

How were your holidays?

I realize that as the world turns the corner into 2012, Christmas is a distant memory in the minds of most of us.  We’re at the gym…cleaning our closets…heads down into a new project with a deadline that knew of no holidays.  Even so, I’d like to do a short recap, so thanks for your patience.

This year, the holidays were a bit different for me.  And while I was grateful that I had someone special to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with, I missed my family and our annual holiday traditions.  Nevertheless, I created some new traditions for myself and enjoyed a Christmas dinner with some people I recently met this fall.  If I couldn’t be home for the holidays, this was a great way to spend it otherwise.  So in an effort to contribute to the rather large dinner I was invited to attend, I agreed to help bring two desserts for Christmas dinner.   Eagerly, we agreed to bring my infamous caramel cake and ambitiously decided to attempt a southern pecan pie from scratch — pie crust included.

At noon on Christmas Eve, the baking began.  The pie turned out perfect.  But by Christmas morning, I stared through angry tears as my third batch of failed caramel was scraped into the kitchen trashcan.  My mother’s words from the night before were right, you cannot make homemade caramel icing when it’s raining outside.

It’s meteorologically impossible.

With most grocery stores closed on Christmas, and most of my remaining baking ingredients sitting in the trashcan beside the stove, I pulled out my favorite cookbook, A Taste of Georgia, and searched for something that I could make to cover the two layers of yellow cake still waiting patiently on my kitchen table.  Almost immediately, I found a really easy chocolate frosting recipe.

The frosting was delicious.  No, it was perfect..  It was exactly what I needed to save a disastrous attempt at baking my infamous caramel cake from scratch.  Eagerly I walked over to my cake and began to spread the chocolate frosting onto the bare, yellow cakes.  The frosting dripped…it slumped…it slid everywhere I didn’t want it to go…it looked terrible.  While my grandfather would say that the ugliest cakes on the table were the best tasting ones at the dinner, there was there was no way I was taking that cake to Christmas dinner.  In a moment of passionate frustration, I ceremoniously dumped the entire bowl of icing on top of the cake and walked away, resolved that my attempts were met with the finality of disaster.

My patient boyfriend, bless him with his impeccably perfect timing, waited until the storm clouds were cleared and gently invited me to revisit the disaster that sat so ceremoniously before us.  Who knew that once the icing dried a bit, I could scrape the excess frosting away and smooth the remaining icing around the cake into a presentable creation?

Literally five minutes later, the cake was ready to go.

The cake was a hit, I learned two valuable lessons with frosting cakes and I now have a knock-out chocolate icing recipe to carry with me for years to come.

Happy baking in 2012, y’all!

____

CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1 stick of margarine or butter

3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed

2 heaping tablespoons cocoa

1 shake salt

1/3 cup water

2 cups powdered sugar

1.5 teaspoons vanilla or rum extract

Mix the first five ingredients and bring to boil.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring.  Remove from heat.  Beat in sugar, then add extract.  Quickly ice cake before frosting cools. Recipe doubles with good results.

Mrs John P. Woods, Jr. (Elizabeth) in A Taste of Georgia

 

 

 

Merry Christmas, my friends.

I have a weekend full of baking, card writing and cat snuggling to do for my very first Christmas away from my family in Seattle.  I won’t pretend that it’s been a bit hard to think about being away from traditions that I’ve kept for almost 32 years: Christmas Eve candlelight communion at First Methodist, gorging on my mom’s lady finger cookies in the same Tupperware bin she’s had since I was eight and racing my brother down the stairs to the Christmas tree to claim annual bragging rights for the first one down on Christmas morning.  I will even admit to listening to Manheimm Steamroller on Pandora for a few nights this past month to simulate being at home with my Mom who plays their music on repeat day in and day out for the entire month of November and December.

I will miss being in Georgia this year.

I chose to go home for a week at Thanksgiving this year due to exorbitant plane tickets in December and scheduling time off at the office.  It was half the price and double the days if I went in November — pretty much a no brainer when you’re looking at spending two days of traveling just to hop to the opposite coast and back.

I’m grateful for an invitation from my boyfriend to his family’s dinner on Christmas.  And I’m grateful for creating a few traditions of my own: putting up my first Christmas tree and finally splurging on my favorite Christmas candle: Thymes Frasier Fir.  It makes the entire room smell like a Christmas tree and there’s nothing like a good smell to ease a homesick heart.

Peace to you and yours this Christmas.  I will be offline next week, prepping  the blog for a busy new year.  Stay tuned for a post in 2012.

Happy Christmas.  Best in 2012.

 

 

 

 

It’s been a while since I wrote a link list post.  To be honest, I kind of shy away from them because I’m really not one to read them on someone else’s blog.  Therefore, I think no one reads them on mine.

Please tell me if you do.

I like pictures of pretty things, of people wearing interesting clothes and of far away places that I can dream of traveling to some day.

Words with hyperlinks don’t do it for me.

Yet being the information guru that I am, I love passing on fun things.  So with that, I leave you with a few new things I found on the interwebs over the last few weeks.  Enjoy.

 

One of my most favorite past-times since I was a kid is to send handwritten letters and cards through the mail to my friends and family.  I’m fairly certain this love of letters all started with my great-grandmother, Grandma Mae.  Every month I could count on a letter, a card, a booklet about Jesus or some kind of message written in her wobbly, cursive penmanship, sent with love.  Daily, I would wait by the mailbox, eager to see if she would respond.  Days felt like weeks and weeks felt like months to my nine year old self as I would wait eagerly, sometimes the same day I sent the card, to see if she happened to write.   There was something so grown up about writing a letter and something so exciting about anticipating a response.  From that point on, I was hooked.

As I sit to write this post, I don’t think I can count the number of pen pals I have written over the years.

There was the girl in Kansas I met through a magazine pen pal program who wrote me twice and never again.

Then there’s Louise from Michigan who I met on a a mission trip to West Virginia when I was twelve.  I ran across her letters last Christmas in an old box of mementos and looked her up on Facebook.  There she was…grown up, single and smiling in her profile.  I wonder if she even remembers me.

Anna, my good friend from elementary school, moved away when we were young adolescents.  Somehow admist high school graduations and her marriage to the man she loves, we found each other, reconnected and for years sent each other letters and cards when I was in my 20s.  I actually think I owe her a return letter.

Then there’s the German girl I randomly met through a friend one weekend in south Georgia.  In my attempt to send her a letter written in German, a language I knew nothing about, she responded back: “You write is funny.”  Tell me about it.

I think it’s the connection to people that I love and it’s the surprise that occurs when something whimsical, something interesting, or something special comes in the mail.  Over the last several weeks I’ve found an assortment of cards that I’ve sent to various people in my life.  I thought I’d share them with you.

Happy writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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While home for Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago, I did a little “shopping” at my parent’s house. It was quite the spree, let me tell you.  I have some vintage clothes to show later in the month.  But for now, let’s go with home furnishings department.  There was quite a sale happening the week before Thanksgiving.

Staying in my old bedroom, I noticed a rug on the hardwood floor that my mother bought at an estate sale a couple of years ago.  It was a lovely rug, but has always looked really mismatched against the dark salmon pink walls and floral bed skirt my mother used to redecorate my old room a couple of years ago.  It’s one of those pieces you absolutely love, but try as you might, it just doesn’t flow with the rest of the room…rest of the house…rest of your style.   Last Christmas, my mother offered to give me the rug, to which I turned her down.  Why, I have no idea.  But this year, my apartment was in a place where the rug would go perfectly on my hardwood floor.  Maybe it’s the new sofa, the desk or the final decision to stick with my current color scheme, but I took one look at it and had to have it.  So without hesitation, I asked my mother if she still wanted to keep the rug.  Graciously, she let me pack it up to bring back with me to Seattle and with that, it was mine.  Crossing my fingers through Delta’s weigh in at the ticket counter, I checked my bags and somehow brought it back on the cross country trek.

So with that, I cross off one more item on The List for 2011.  Next up: karaoke, a steak at the Met and maybe I can fit that trip to San Fran before the year’s up.

Maybe.

I really can’t remember if I’ve share this on my blog yet but I think this was a clever idea for creating a DIY side table.  A year and a half ago a friend of mine knew that I was intrigued by the idea of stacking shelves together to create a side table.  The architecture firm she worked for was replacing an old drafting table and built into the table were amazing wooden drawers that could easily be taken out of the unit.  Elated, I said yes when she called and happily took them home with me before my big move last summer.  With some Murphy’s Oil Soap I was able to clean off  the old pencil marks in some of the drawers and stack them next to my favorite chair in my new studio.

Viola, a side table.

If you’re looking for a unique way to create storage in small spaces, try stacking a few drawers at side angles.  I keep Christmas decorations, linens and crafts in the spare space and it’s perfect for creating a side table while functioning as space to hold my miscellaneous household items.

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I wrote not too long ago that when I’m rocking it at work, dirty dishes runneth over in my sink.  When my car is a mechanical disaster, my social life is one that rivals any woman on the red carpet.  When my diet is healthy and robust, my dry cleaning sits on Denny Way for weeks.

I haven’t quite figured out how to have it all…yet.

I had a busy couple of days a few weeks back.  Stella suffered a UTI and was on antibiotics for seven days.  Like her momma, Stella is quite demanding needy whiny pitiful when sick…meowing non-stop and somehow finding an opening to snuggle her way next to me in the bed in the middle of the night.  How can I be worried about cat fur all over my new white duvet when she’s crying for her mommy and purring nonstop next to me at 2AM?

While nursing a sick cat, I successfully helped execute my largest event at work (to date) and had a great time doing it.  Filling in for a co-worker, I happily stepped up and learned a lot in the process.  The event turned out well, thanks to a lot of help from my team, and I was proud watching all of our hard-work and planning come together for a great quarterly meeting with my company.

Since then my schedule has been quite full.  I’ve had a busier than normal social life and am trying to manage a continuing education class I’m taking at the University of Washington on project management.  In November, I took salsa classes with someone and for the last part of the month I left Seattle to go back home to Georgia for over a week.

I’m happy with most everything in my life, do not get me wrong, but I am frustrated that I’m not able to do everything I want to do.  The frustration has me wondering a lot lately about having it all.  Is it even possible for a person to “have it all?”  A successful job, good friendships, time to work out, a substantial savings account, enough cute clothes, a manageable Google Reader queue, time to read books, time to pack a lunch, time to talk to East Coast friends, time to write a blog post, time to take your car to the mechanic, time to take your cat to the veternary ER, time to complete a DIY project…on and on and on.

Over the last year I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would choose to spend my post-graduate free time.  I know, I’ve been out of grad school for a while now but after three years of living my life working off a flexible schedule with large chunks of shifting free time, it has been a bit harder than I originally imagined working out the rhythm of a 9 to 5 schedule again  There is only a handful of time left in each day to divide among the countless acitivites that I would love to participate in: cooking homemade dinners, working out, writing blog posts, reading books, dating a boy, watching shows and participating in ballet class, salsa lessons, happy hours and book clubs.

I absolutely can’t do it all.  And I wonder, should I even be able to?

My first realization of this epiphany occurred when I admitted to myself that my graduate school relationships could no longer maintain the same level of consistency and intensity that they previously held during my three years in school.  Study sessions, reading groups, research projects, clinical practicums and downtime between classes provided a breeding ground for cultivating friendships, yet as soon as we all graduated, those friendships scattered across the city and throughout the country.  It became clear, very quickly, that if I wanted to stay in touch with people, I would have to be intentional with contacting them…and picky with those I chose to spend time with.  Somewhere between conference calls and commutes, happy hours and work outs, Facebook and dinner parties, I had to make time for friendships that were formerly built into my schedule.  I feel haughty saying this but I believe it to be true.  At some point, we have to pick who we want to be friends with at the end of the day.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to go around a classroom…a boardroom…a dodgeball team and while there are many lovely people in the world, we must choose the ones who we want to be closest to us.

Who do we want to share our lives with when the day comes to a close?  Who do we want to celebrate our greatest moments with when we sit down at our birthday table?  And who do we want to go through the trenches in life with when things become too difficult to bear?  I can’t have, do or be it all.   At the end of the day I have to choose and I have to decide what is most important to me.

It is important the I find meaning in the work I do and that I enjoy doing it.  It is important that I am surrounded by people who love and care for me and that whether or not they understand or agree with what I’m doing, they support me just because they accept me unconditionally.  And it is important that I cultivate creativity and spirituality throughout my life.  Those things I know to be true.

My therapist once said something to me that I will never forgot.  Well, to be fair, she’s said many things to me that I will always remember and be grateful for hearing.  But I received one of those golden nuggets that comes long in counseling every once in a while and stays with you years after the session has ended.   She told me that when I say no to one thing, I’m really making room to say yes to something else.  Simple truth, and probably not that hard to think through, but by showing me that my life can be a series of choices, she changed the way I engage my decision making process.

When I say no to one friendship, I am really making time to develop another one.  When I turn down one book to read, I give myself space for the one that’s been waiting on my bookshelf for months.  And when I say no to one dinner out with a friend, I’m really saying yes to a few more dollars towards achieving my financial goal of being debt free.  It’s the ebb and flow of decision making that helped me realize that I have choices admist trying to have it all.

So back to my question, can you really have it all?  Yes, and no.  My favorite financial blogger says that we can have it all, just not all at once.  I can have it all, but I am limited to what I say yes and no to with each choice.  Yes, I will take a continuing education class.  No, I will not have extra free time on most Sunday afternoons for 9 months.  Yes, I will write for my blog.  No, I will not cook a homemade dinner tonight.  Yes, I will stay out late with someone I care about, no I will not get up early to work out.  It’s a give and take, a push and pull that we must navigate for the rest of our lives.

In the midst of being overwhelmed with not being able to do everything I want to do, I am learning that I have choices.  And for whatever reason knowing I have choices helps me let go of the things I decide to not engage in.  As we approach the busiest time of the year, the holidays,  I hope you find happiness and choices as you decide when and where you will spend your time, money and energy.

Have a great day.  See you in December.

 

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I’m back from a luxurious week off in south Georgia with my family.

No, I’m serious.  It was luxurious.

I slept in.  I worked remotely for just a little bit from the comforts of my pajamas in my childhood bed and I found the ultimate rocker themed outfit for our company holiday party. I worked on my continuing education class, I read all 15 of the magazines I’ve neglected since August and I ate my mother’s home cooked meals at least once a day.

It was luxurious.

One thing I miss about Georgia while living so far away is taking a drive on a flat, open country road.  On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving I went to visit my old college roommate at her parent’s house about an hour and a half away.  The drive was just what I needed and I loved sailing through the cotton fields in my mom’s car while listening to the radio, contemplating life, love, faith and happiness.

Later that night we sat out on the front porch of her parent’s newly rennovated farm house to watch the sunset while catching up.   It was quiet, save for the sweet laughter of her adorable sons and the sound of the wind blowing softly through the pine trees across the field.

I felt like I was in a movie.

My best friend is the second youngest of five grown siblings.  Translated, her family needs a minimum of 18 plates, forks, beds, towels, cups, chairs and other miscellaneous sundries whenever they get all together.  They are a fun family, but they are a large family.  Three of the five live out of state and all of them have active and full lives.  To accomodate all of them at once, my friend’s parents came up with the genious idea to take an old antebellum house, relocate it to a secluded part of their property in the county and furnish it for all the children and grandchildren when they came to stay overnight.  There were rooms with two double beds each, a large living room stocked full of spare chairs, a grill shed big enough to accommodate everyone under a screened in porch and acres upon acres of woods and fields for the children to get lost in while playing.  It was a gorgeous home, decorated with finds from garage sales, Goodwill and rummage bins.  I was jealous of every room and marveled at the ingenuity of the idea and clever use of resources.  It’s a dream home away from home for grandchildren and I secretly wished that for just a moment, I could go back to being 9 again.

I hope you had a meaningful and relaxing Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful everyday for friends near and far and for a full life that I love and cherish.  Have a great week as we jump head first into the holidays.

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It has been the rage among design communities as of late to make your own fabric headboard. I can’t take much credit for creating this idea on my own, I defer to the talented Grace of Design Sponge for the large stepping stone from which I launched this project off of several months ago.  But I’m proud to show my version of how this project was completed.

Over the summer, I decided I wanted to revamp my bedroom. While I loved my Dwell Studio for Target bedspread, I’ve since grown tired of the pattern and was searching for an update. I’ve been drawn to all white beds for some time and felt confirmed with my decision to go sans color when I read that few design choices could be classier than the elegance of an all white bed.

The color of my headboard was an easy one, though I agonized over what shade of blue I wanted to use.  This was mostly due to the fact that the shade of turquoise I wanted most was going to cost me an additional $50 a yard.  In the end, I settled on a great velvet fabric in robin’s egg blue.  I’m more than pleased with all of my decisions

Tools: plywood, foam, batting, fabric, french cleats, drill, spray adhesive, dry wall anchors, staple gun, staples, extra set of hands

Total cost: approximately $175, including new drill

A few things to note before you get started:

  • Get an extra set of hands.  In my excitement, I stapled the fabric to the back of the board by myself one afternoon and later had to gently pull it off the board when I realized that it wasn’t taut to the headboard.  A second set of hands proved invaluable and gave me a much better look.
  • Drill with caution.  I watched my father use a drill for years, but I never really learned the ins and outs of how to hold a drill, how much pressure to use when drilling and when to change drill bits.  It wasn’t that my dad didn’t try to teach me, it’s that I didn’t find it relevant.  Boldly I waltzed into Home Depot and bought my first drill with confidence that I could do this project alone.  Luckily, I had help the night I decided to mount the headboard to the wall.  I learned a lot watching my handyman drill into studs and push drywall anchors into my 1920s building.  If you haven’t drilled before, I would advise finding someone who has to watch and learn from in the process.
  • Consider shopping from the remnants section of the fabric store first.  I saved $50 a yard on a piece of fabric but using the leftovers from someone’s project that they didn’t need.  You can’t beat that!
  • Unless you plan to create designs with your headboard, like Grace did, you can save a lot by going to Home Depot to have the wood cut into a rectangular shape.  I paid $3 for my piece of plywood and they cut it to my measurements for free.  Easiest part of my project by far.

Perhaps you will not need as much time as I did with the measurements outlined on your wall, but I spent a considerable amount of time deciding if this was the size headboard I wanted.  After two months, I felt I settled on my answer, yes.

Place the batting on the floor with the foam and plywood on top of them.  Staple the batting to the plywood.  I do not have a picture of the prior step before this.  However using a spray adhesive, I attempted to glue the foam to the plywood.    It didn’t work for me, but those were the instructions that were given in the tutorial I aimed to follow.  After spraying the foam to the board, then attach the batting to the board.

Staple the fabric to the headboard.  This part was a bit difficult since the batting created a thick covering over the plywood.  There were several places where I couldn’t staple the fabric to the plywood if the batting was already in place.  In retrospect, have your batting stapled closer to the edge so that you can pull the fabric over the batting and staple it to the bare board instead of through the thick layer of batting.

I ended up carefully cutting the excess fabric to help with folding it over on the edges.  Emphasis on carefully.

I knew that creating a straight baseline on the wall from which to drill the holes would be difficult for me.  This is where I was glad to have the help of someone smarter than me to measure and draw the lines.  It turned out perfect on the first try.

By using dry wall anchors, the headboard is mounted more securely to the wall.  This part was a bit tricky as we had to drill through some of the studs in the wall.  If you live in an older building or are worried about the weight of the board pulling away from the wall, then these should help give the board support and ease your fears of a separation in the middle of the night.

French cleats were added to the back of my headboard and the back of the wall.  If you plan to hang your headboard to the wall and not prop it against the wall,  I was actually advised to use french cleats to secure it to the wall rather than drilling direction into the wall.  The first independent hardware store I tried wasn’t familiar with french cleats, but Home Depot was able to help me.  When placement is done properly on both the wall and the back of the board, you should be able to connect the board to the wall by gently sliding the board down the wall and into place.

Clearly I need to do much more to the wall behind my bed and add some decorative pillows.  And this is not a really great shot of my duvet cover.  In time, dear readers.  Until then, ignore the upward curving corner on the top right corner.  I prefer to think it adds character.  I’m more than proud of my project and grateful for the help I received.  Good luck to you and feel free to ask questions if you’re thinking about doing it!

 

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Blog poll:  If your birthday lands on a Sunday, is it acceptable to celebrate all weekend?

I would say yes and extend it for a week.

November is my birth month and it strategically falls just before the holidays kick off.  It’s like my birthday marks the beginning of six weeks of celebration and before I know it, I’m counting down to a new year.  Birthdays have always been a big deal for me — I love to celebrate them in a variety of ways.

Each year, I have something specific I want to do.  For my 30th, it was the blowout of the decade.  For my 31st, I preferred a quite night among girlfriends.  And this year, I wanted a night of Mexican food and dancing with a small group of close co-workers and friends.

My wish was granted.

We had a fantastic night.

Later in the weekend I celebrated again at a new restaurtant in Belltown called The Coterie Room.  Opened by the founders of Spur Gastropub, this restaurant grilles one of the best Wagyu Beef Briskets I’ve tasted in Seattle. Topped off with the cinnamon fritters in caramel apple sauce and I knew I’d be craving this meal again.  In addition to the great food, our waiter was more than gracious in offering us an impromptu wine tasting so that we could choose the glass we wanted most with our meat.  By the end of the night we felt like rock stars, and lushes, with all of the wine glasses lining our table.  It was quite an evening.

By far my favorite present of the weekend was the perfume I’ve “oo-ed” and “ah-ed” over for months, Gypsy Water by Byredo.  The intoxicating smell of vanilla mixed in with notes of lemon, sandalwood and evergreen have haunted me since I first caught a whiff of it on a passerby in downtown Seattle.  Of course I asked her what she was wearing.  I was beyond thrilled to find that not only did I now own my own bottle to spritz and spray at my leisure but that it smelled as heavenly as I remembered weeks ago.

Hope you’re having a great November.  I’m home for the week, in Georgia that is, and enjoying every cup of sugar, butter, and salt that’s baked my way.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Hi, I’m Natalie, and I blog about my happenings, inspirations and favorite things over at Natty Michelle. Like Catherine, I’m a girl from the south, and there are some southern-inspired traditions and habits that are hard to shake, no matter where you live when you grow up. Catherine asked me to explain what I think makes me a uniquely southern gal, and this is my list:

The southern girl in me…

…knows it’s not “acceptable” to wear white after Labor Day, but knows it’s ok to bend the rules sometimes — for the chance to wear this white blazer ensemble, for example.

…will spare the calories if fried green tomatoes are on the menu. Every time.

…lives for tailgating and college football. It’s the chance to catch up with friends, watch the game and have a big tailgate party.

…bakes mini pound cake loaves for new neighbors (it’s a nice way to break the ice and get to know new neighbors, too!)

…loves to send friends and family birthday cards and thank you notes — even notes just because — whenever possible, especially on pretty stationery, like this pretty mermaid notecard by Rifle Paper Co.

…thinks there is no such thing as too many yard sale, estate sale or antique stops on a Saturday morning. The early bird gets the most beautiful treasures!

This weekend I had the honor of attending the Boyer Children’s Clinic Annual Auction at the Seattle Fairmont Olympic hotel in downtown Seattle. The is the second year I was invited to attend by a family that I babysat for when I was in graduate school.  My friend Erika first introduced this family to me when she couldn’t babysit for them one Thursday afternoon in the spring of 2008 and from that point on, I was Erika’s “back-up nanny” for the days she couldn’t be there.

Over the years, this family has become a second home to me in Seattle and I am humbled to have them in my life. They’ve offered their guest room to me when it looked as though I might be homeless for a month, hosted my 30th birthday in their living room for 20 girls two years ago and when I was applying for my current job just over a year ago, the father generously offered to write a recommendation email to his contacts when I was interviewing.  I still laugh to this day when I remember the casual conversation we had as he wrote my check at the end of a night and discovered that I was applying for a job at a company where he knew the founder.  Sometimes the world is just too small.

I have loved watching their children grow up and as we sat around the table after dinner Saturday night, Erika and I laughed as we went back through the years with Dana and all of the memorable stories we had while caring for their two sons. Their oldest son received services at the Boyer Children’s Clinic a few years ago and as a thank you to the people who have been involved in the lives of their children, Dana and Randy purchase a table or two every year at the auction and invite their family and loved ones to sit with them to dine in the beautiful Spanish Ballroom at the Fairmont.  Last year was my first year to attend with Erika and we were honored to be invited.  Sitting next to Dana this year, I was reminded of how grateful I am to have them in my life.

Each year the event has a local celebrity to host the evening, an auctioneer for the fundraiser and one person who speaks to their experiences of being the parent of a special needs child.  Last year I listened intently as a parent shared one of the most honest stories of what it was like to be the father of an exceptional child.  I am genuinely intrigued by people and the stories of their lives and I am even more captivated by the ones who are able to honestly and articulately convey both the beauty and heartache of what it is like to walk this earth.  So when author Sherman Alexie took the stage for the second year in a row, I put down my fork and turned to listen to what words he would have for us again this year.  Over the past year, I have thought often about his story from last November and on Saturday night I was moved, again, by his words on being the father a special needs son: “My wife and I learned to love the child we were given and not the one we had hoped for.”  The beauty of his honest admission continues to tighten my throat and will haunt me for a while I am sure.

Boyer is a clinic filled with story after story of parents who came looking for a place to bring their children when nothing else seemed to be working. Offering services related to speech, occupational and physical therapies, the clinic addresses not only the physical needs of the child, but the emotional health of a family learning to live with an exceptional child.  No family is ever turned away because of an inability to pay and it is the camaraderie and community of these people that moves me most.  I was honored to attend and wish the clinic well as they continue to meet the needs of families in my community.

Happy Monday, my friends.

 

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In ten short days, I will celebrate my thirty second birthday.  Thirty and two.  That’s a substantial step into my thirties and I must say, I’m still loving every minute of it.

I came across this picture the other day and it made me smile.  It was my 7th birthday and my mom met me at the bus stop with four of my friends who rode home with me to attend a small birthday party at my house.  I’m not sure when my love of fashion started, but I’d be willing to bet it began with the purple trench coat I received that day.

Clearly the excitement rivals that of the Tory Burch incident.

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This weekend I finally experienced my first Tom Douglas meal at a restaurant that I frequently dreamed of dining at when I was in graduate school.  I would often pass by it on my way back from Pike Place during lunch breaks and would wish that I had the time, and disposable income, to enjoy a happy hour with friends at what seemed like a happening place down in the market.

Four years is a long time to wait.

Last night I had a fantastic evening using my Groupon for Century Ballroom to take salsa classes, and then dining at Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Lounge in Belltown.

Twice in three days.  I’m on culinary cloud nine.  I loved the lanterns hanging from the ceiling of the restaurant and my favorite part of the meal was the first of three courses: WSU’s Cougar Gold cheddar, bruleed figs, marcona almonds, watercress.  I am continually amazed at how well certain foods taste when paired together: bruleed figs and cheddar cheese.  Delicious.

Check out Seattle’s Restaurant Week.  It’s worth the $28, for sure.

 

 

Let there be no doubt, rainy season hath arrived.

Weekend recap: Went to Lakeside rummage sale and found adorable ornaments for my tree this year. Ate salmon at my first Tom Douglas restaurant with an old friend from undergrad who was in town for a seminar.  Took Stells to the emergency vet for a UTI infection and enacted a newly created tradition called “Power Hour.”  Basically you manically run through your house and attempt to clean, wash, launder, change and complete every thing that needs to be done in your apartment.  But the catch is, you only have an hour.  Made doing chores bearable with a definite end time.  My results included: clean laundry, newly planted window boxes, collated mail and Stella’s clean litter box.

Try it.  You’ll love it.

  • Seriously considering getting these pants to wear for a benefit in November and the company holiday party in December.  Not sure I’m up for another final sale, no refund purchase.  Worked out last time, but it feels a little dicey.
  • Heard this song played at the end of SATC episode in Season 6.  Forgot how much I love it.
 

 

Friday.

It’s here.

Stella’s excited, she just doesn’t know it yet.

If you’re in Seattle this weekend, check out the Lakeside School rummage sale on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve never been but I hear it’s the cat’s pajamas.  Some co-workers and I will be stopping by after walking a charity 5K and eating brunch.

I’m sure there will be a post of my finds.

 

On Saturday afternoon, I sat and watched a friend play in a flag football game at Memorial Field near downtown Seattle.  As I looked up across the field, my eyes glanced upwards as I noticed the Space Needle shooting out from behind the roof of the opposing team’s side.  I’ve lived in Seattle for four years this past August and everytime I see the Space Needle, I can’t help but feel a little giddy inside.  The base of the landmark is actually in my neighborhood, lower Queen Anne.  So not a day goes by that I don’t pass it in traffic and notice its tall stature among the smaller buildings as I weave through the neighborhood and over into downtown just blocks away.  I’m not sure that the novelty of living in a city that hosts a popular landmark will ever rub off of me.  But I love looking up at it and thinking that this is the icon that most of the world associates with my city.  So as I glanced up at the odd, white, space-ship looking disc, I couldn’t help but feel proud that somehow, I’ve made it through four years in a city that couldn’t be any farther, or different, from my hometown back in Georgia.  I’m a happy girl.

It was a pretty uneventful weekend save for helping a friend with a home project and attending a co-worker’s birthday party at a new Capitol Hill night spot.  Pictures and a write up to come from that.  Have a great week — winter hit Seattle last week and it’s jacket and wool pants wearing weather a little earlier than usual.  Rainy season hits this week and before you know it, it’ll be Thanksgiving.

Happy Monday.

 

I recently moved my mood board away from my bedroom and over my desk in the living room.  I love the change and it keeps my inspiration front and center in the studio.  Lately I’ve had a lot of J. Crew on the pins.  Not sure what’s going on there, as I love to put other fashion pieces on the board, too.  At least I’m consistent, eh?

I showed a tutorial on this a long time ago but creating the mood board was a cinch.  Basically, I took an old picture frame that was gutted out of the glass, picture and backing.  I used a staple gun to staple strips of ribbon across the back of it and then hung it on a wall. Like me you probably expect it to be a cheap project.  The frame was free on the side of the road, but the ribbon cost a whopping $50 at Joann’s Fabrics for all of the strips.  I went with multiple colors, fabrics, sizes and styles. Maybe you can find the ribbon cheaper or on sale, but it was a great project.

 

 

 

This weekend I marked something off my 2011 bucket list: visit Discovery Park.  A dear co-worker friend saw the list on my blog and invited me to do a couple of things I’ve wanted to do this year. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and the views were incredible.  It is wild to think that these trails are just 15 minutes away from my apartment, are free to the public and offer some of the quietest retreats from the city.  It’s Seattle’s version of Central Park, if I may be so bold to claim.  I am grateful to cross off one more thing on my list and have been inspired to work a few more.

Sadly I don’t think I can read enough books to get #1 taken care of, but that’s what 2012 is for, right?

  • I love this girl’s blog and dream of having coffee with her in NY one sunny afternoon on a veranda…somewhere.
  • Downloaded this song after hearing it on reruns of Friday Night Lights Season 5 this weekend. No need to watch the lyrics.  Just put it on in the background and keep reading your morning blogrolls.
  • Marshall will be famous one day.  I called it first.
 

I think I will always remember the moment that I heard about the death of Steve Jobs.  I gasped aloud so abruptly in the salon that most of the patrons turned and looked at me.  My heart sank as I listened to the news anchor confirm what I didn’t want to believe.  While there have been many famous deaths over the last 2-3 years, few have touched me quite like that of Steve Jobs.  He was a visionary, a creative genius and his determined, eccentric personality captivated me with every story I heard.

I don’t know of a greater inventor to have died in my lifetime and his loss was felt deep inside of me, though I’ve never met him.  I have been inspired by his words, his life and his perspective.  I encourage you to watch his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech.  It’s phenomenal.

 

Am I really this behind on the week?  Tomorrow is Wednesday and I have yet to post my weekend update.  Nor did I give you a “what i wore” post earlier in the week.  Where does time go, really?  My weekend was a fantastic,  to say the least.  And, I’m dying to share the pictures.

Is this not a great view?  I have about 2 more weeks at this window before I move to a new floor in our building with my team. Nonetheless, I spent Friday afternoon taking glances at Elliott Bay while on a call, amazed at the large ship slowly sailing by my window.  Here’s to hoping view #2 is a good one.

On Saturday I went shopping with a dear friend from my hometwon that just moved to Seattle (pictures to come of the new jeans).  I’m thrilled that this friend is now in Seattle and absolutely can’t wait to spend more time with her husband, her adorable dogs and newborn son.  At any rate, we stopped by Anthropologie just to look and saw this creative display of a gorgeously decorated bed under a tent.  I want it.

On Saturday night I went to one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a while: Boys II Men.  One of the fun things about living in a big city is the combination of these three things in my inbox every morning: LivingSocial, AmazonLocal and Groupon.  I probably buy at least 1 a week and last week, I bought three.  I purchased two tickets, took a friend and we sang along to just about every song you would know by the group: I’ll Make Love to You, On Bended Knee, Water Runs Dry, Motown Philly…the list goes on.

I’m not kidding when I say it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a while.  Imagine thousands of people who are your age, together in one arena, singing along to a group that all of you remember dancing to at your middle school dances.  To add to the excitement, the person I took with me had connections to ground level seats and I scored one of the best views in the house.  It was a blast.

And finally, I had the opportunity to go to my first NFL game on Sunday, thanks to a vendor of our company that was invited by one of his vendors up to their suite at Century Link.  Bottom line: VIP passes to an amazing room where it was all you can eat and drink while sitting in plush seats to watch your new hometown team gets squashed by your old home state’s team (Seattle Seahawks v. Atlanta Falcons).

This will probably be my last eventful weekend until my birthday.  Stay tuned.

A few links for your Wednesday.

 

November will be two years since I celebrated my 30th birthday.  If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you know it was a night I planned for months and one that I blogged about for even longer.  One of the things I loved most about the night was hiring a friend to take photographs of the party with 20 of my friends and almost family in Seattle.  [See her blog post about it here.]  My best friend Sara even flew out to be with me that night and I was honored to be surrounded by such wonderful people.  Prior to the event, I sent over short list of photos I wanted Charis to take throughout the night but the one picture I looked forward to the most was a candid photo of all of us gathered together at the party.

I couldn’t have asked for a better picture.  I’ve waited and waited to have it framed and to be honest, if I do it the way I want, it will be well over $300 to have it custom framed.  So, I improvised, enlarged a photo and cut it to fit a standard Ikea frame.  The entire process cost about $50 and one day, someday, I’ll do it right to include the full picture of everyone.  But until then, this will have to do as I cross of yet another thing on The List 2011 and say cheers to turning thirty and two in a few weeks.

Happy Wednesday, we’re halfway there.

 

Let’s do a recap of the things I completed this weekend:

  • Finished DIY headboard…just need to mount it on the wall.  Pictures to come.
  • Saw the President.
  • Finished SATC Season 5.
  • Babysat for one of my favorite kids ever.
  • Repotted my window plants. (Pictures for that as well.)
  • Ate copious amounts of pizza.

The dishes on my kitchen sink remain unwashed from the week prior.  I leave you with this picture, SG and HS, in honor of our quarterly house meetings on Aurora where I ranted about the lack of dishwashing during our tenure as roommates together.  Thank God you loved me through my projection.

A few links for your Monday:

  • Letterpress calendars for 2012.  Yay.
  • I’ve used my old J. Crew laptop bag for an entire year now and I’m certain the handles are going to snap in half any day now.  It’s time for retirement and I’m salivating over this one, now.  Final sale, anyone?
  • Do you read this blog?  The visual inspiration from other people’s homes (think MTV Cribs sans the tacky nouveau riche rocker look) is amazing and I love to get ideas from the details of other people’s homes.
 

It’s finally here.

I have one goal for the weekend: to do absolutely nothing I don’t want to [double negative] and everything that I do.  Some of those actions that I would like to participate in will include finishing up my headboard (yay!), reading the ever growing stack of magazines next to my couch and finishing up Season 5 of SATC.  Somewhere sprinkled in there I get to babysit for one of my favorite kids, have brunch with a friend and see the President at The Paramount on Sunday.

Should be fun.

Last night I went to my favorite chinese restaurant, Uptown China, in Lower Queen Anne.  Mongolian beef and Chicken Lo Mein always hit the spot and it was fun to just sit down and enjoy a meal.

Plus, my fortune wasn’t so bad either.

Have a great weekend.

 

I absolutely cannot wait for this weekend so that I can work on my blog, sleep in until 8 AM and read the ever growing stack of magazines next to my couch I never sit on anymore.  Two days and counting…cause you never count the day your already in anyways.

Yes, that is Vogue’s August issue.  I’m that far behind.

 

Have you ever had one of those times when you find yourself in a design rut?  Nothing seems to make you happy no matter how many new arrangements you create or how many new accent pieces you seem to find.  You finish one project, and you’re off trying to figure out how to complete the next one — never really pausing to soak in the satisfaction of a job well done from your previous endeavors.  Out with the old.  In with the new.

Enter my entire apartment.

Over the summer I had two projects I wanted to complete: purchasing a new couch and revamping my bedroom. The couch was a cinch and involved one of the best purchasing stories of my decorating life.  Until I wrote that last sentence, I completely forgot that I scored such a great deal on something I’ve wanted since the day I left my home in Georgia for the move out west.  I am a little disturbed by my lack of enjoyment with that process.  It was a great story and yet all I can think about is how my bedroom is still unfinished.

After growing tired of the same look I’ve carried for four years in my bedroom, I decided this summer that I would redo my color scheme to incorporate an all white theme that would be accented by a large blue headboard created by yours truly.  However while in the process of redoing my old bed, I ended up in the allergist’s office and suffering through three sets of allergy tests to determine that my nonstop sneezing is due to the fact that I’m allergic to both dust mites and a common type of mold found in many damp, old buildings.

I live in a historic apartment building (dust) in a city where it averages 71 sunny days in downtown Seattle (rain).  I’m pretty much done for when you think about it.

Bottom line: The cost of my bed revamping project doubled the original budget predictions.  In the world of project management, we call that scope creep.  Do you know how much it costs to clean and protect your bed from dust mites?  I could have gone to Hawaii for the same price…twice.

All that to say, my headboard project has been on hold for far too long and I’ve grown inconsolably discontent.

Yesterday I drove to the store to pick up the large piece of foam and batting I ordered two months ago to start my project.   Today I go to pick up the wood for the headboard and if I’m feeling really brave, I might decide on a fabric at the upholstery store conveniently located across the street from the lumber company.  It’s the latter part of those errands that has me most discontent.  The fabric I want is a plush, dark, turquoise velvet and it looks as elegant and sophisticated as you could imagine.  I simply can’t afford it.  With the kind of taste I have, (expensive), I already resigned myself to the fact that I will have to look in the remnants section for something reasonable and much more affordable.  To be honest, I know it will turn out just fine and that the alternative fabrics will be just as nice as the one my heart has been set on for months.  Even more so, I expect the final product will still turn out fantastic and that I will be thrilled to finally finish my long awaited project.

So why can’t I just be content with what I have?  For years, I longed to live in a big city in a historic apartment with hardwood floors, lots of charm and solid red bricks lining the outside walls.  I have my dream, window planters and all.

I wanted  a real couch to replace my wooden futon.  Done and done.

And now that my headboard project is headed towards complete, I’m already staring at my favorite square chair that I scored for free from my favorite coffee shop and wishing that I could afford to reupholster the seats and strip/stain the legs.  I’m increasingly discontent with it’s color.

It never ends.

I share this little internal struggle to ask you, dear friends, how do you handle the push and pull of wanting things, desiring to complete new projects and living within your perfectly sufficient means?  What do you tell yourself to find contentment with what you have and simultaneously fulfill your desire to create new things?

 

 

 

Happy Monday dear lovelies.  This weekend I spent four days on a resort in the middle of the mountains with my company for our annual retreat.

It was fantastic.

I’m pooped and completely drained of any creative or artistic expression, save for sharing a really great photo I took from our dinner on Thursday night.  My team helps direct the entire weekend and before the madness starts on Friday afternoon, we sit down for a lovely dinner to celebrate our hard work together.  Just one year prior to this weekend, it was my first week with the company and my team was off to execute one of its largest events of the year.  While my team is open and accepting of anyone who joins them, I still felt the awkwardness of being with a group of people who had been through the event planning trenches for many years together.  I was the newbie and I felt it.

This year I sat with people that I now call friends and whose lives have become such a part of mine each day at the office.  We’ve celebrated engagements and pregnancies, moving in to new homes and moving away to New York. As I sat around the table, I looked out and realized how much I love my company’s desire to cultivate a community that celebrates each other.   We work hard and we play hard and we’re not afraid to celebrate and reflect on what matters most to us.

It’s how I believe life was meant to be lived.

Have a fantastic week.  Will write more later.

 

I’m not sure when the food truck frenzy first hit Seattle but I’m pretty sure it’s been going on for a while now and I’m just behind on the times.  There’s just about anything to satisfy everyone’s tastes and I’m sad to say that I just indulged in my first food truck lunch run a few weeks ago.  Usually disapointed by BBQ outside of the south, my smacking lips and fingers dripping with sauce enjoyed every bite at my desk when I got back from my errands.

Try it: Maximus Minimus, usually at 2nd and Pike in downtown.

 

I knew when I purchased my white couch that I was asking for trouble.  Owning a long haired cat with a finicky stomach and penchant for hairballs meant that my couch would be the target for many accidents and an excellent testing site for various stain removal products.

Let’s say she’s christened it twice already and that Woolite stain removal is the winner.

After visiting the organic pet food store and pleading with the clerks to please help me figure out a way to get my cat to stop throwing up on my white couch, (their looks were priceless), I was given probiotics for Stella to try for the next week.

Magic.

I also decided that if I’m going to let my cat and a white couch coexist in an 800 sq foot apartment, I will have to let some things slide.  Namely, her presence on it.

Fortunately, she prefers her cat beds to the couch.  But if it’s a Sex and the City night, you better believe the girls are all about sharing some Ben and Jerry’s and cuddling up to watch Carrie make the biggest mistake of her life by letting Aidan go.

 

When I was growing up, my father had his own mailbox in town were he received various communications related to his business transactions.  I always thought it was the bees knees to ride with him across town, be handed the key for box # 3436 and walk in by myself to gather his mail for the week.

It was there that I fell in love with the concept of sending and receiving mail.

For several months now I’ve had a few pictures of my apartment that I’ve wanted to share with you so I decided to start with them one by one over the next few weeks.  It’s no surprise that I love where I live, a vintage 1920s building in lower Queen Anne.  It’s the dream apartment I always wanted as a single woman living in the city.   I love the small, quirky details that make this place so uinique to me and am constantly grateful that I get to live here: leaky kitchen sink and all.  One of the things that I love so much are the vintage mailboxes just outside of my apartment door in the foyer. I love the labels with our last names stuck to the glass fronts and the squeaky noises each one makes before snapping shut every time someone closes them.  When I come home from work each afternoon, I head straight for the mailboxes to see if I happened to receive anything fun.  I pause, open the mailbox and then quietly listen as I hear Stella meowing at the door for her afternoon snack.

She knows my footsteps well.

 

Happy Monday to you.

This week is a week of all sorts of busyness for me.  This weekend is our annual company retreat.  It’s a no work, all play, eat – drink -be merry weekend where we celebrate working hard and playing hard together.  Two of my teammates run the entire weekend so it’s all hands on for the rest of us– it will be a blast.  Even more exciting is that on Tuesday, I celebrate my 1 year anniversary with my company.  That won’t really contribute anything on the list of to dos that I need to accomplish this week, but it’s worth noting in the mix somewhere.  An old college roommate and I used to say to each other “A year ago today…” and then we’d pause and try to remember where we were that day just one year prior.  It was a fun game and one that I keep doing every so often to check in with myself: where have I come from and where do I want to go.  Often, if I can’t remember what I was doing on that day just one year prior, I can at least tell you what I was doing or where I was going at some point during that week.  It keeps things into perspective quite easily.

A year ago this week I was settling into my new apartment, still coming off of my high from spending a week in Maui alone and nervously anticipating the start of my first full time job in three years.  My company was my first choice out of all of the ones that I interviewed with and as I settled into my first week of work, I quickly realized that the learning curve before me was a bit steeper than originally anticipated.  I love a good challenge in life and this job has certainly fulfilled that desire.  Even more exciting for me is that I work with really amazing people and am grateful to be with a company that places an equal amount of importance on the bottom line as they do cultivating an amazing company culture.

In a nutshell, happy anniversary to me in a job I like.

Over the weekend a friend helped me cross off a major “to do” on my Seattle bucket list: swim in Seattle.  We are surrounded by water in this city and until Saturday, I have not had the opportunity to even dip my sweet little toes into anything liquid outside of my bathtub since moving here in 2007.  Bravely, I held onto an inflatable noodle, slid into Lake Washington and immersed myself into some of the coldest water I’ve ever encountered in my life, save for the Itchetucknee River in Florida.

I even dunked my head underwater once.

Have a great week.

Before the plunge

A few links for your Monday.

  • Cool storage ideas.  Thanks, Mom.
  • Recently purchased this dress for the company retreat.  Last week it was 30% off and they honored the price post-sale to give me a refund.  Yet another reason why I love this company.
  • I have always wanted to look this effortless at the beach.  After many failed tries, I have yet to nail it.  For some reason, the sweat, the humidity and an overall desire for plunging myself head first into the waves prevent me from keeping this look but somehow, there are women on this earth who can do it. One day, I will join them.
  • As expensive as my taste is, I have little desire to live in a large, spacious home, though I appreciate them and am fascinated by what people do with such large spaces.  Give me something manageable to maintain on my own and I’ll take the rest of the savings and put it towards investing in my closet.
 

I am a terrible lover. The anniversary of my move to Seattle came and left without so much as a peep from me last week and I am mortified.  How can I ever make it up to my city that I love so much?

Four years ago my father and I began a seven day journey from my small hometown in Georgia to Seattle so that I could start graduate school one week later.  It was a decision I made just four months prior and while it made no sense at all, I knew it was the right thing to do.  I talked earlier last month about my desire to take more road-trips years ago and this one was quite the bucket list accomplishment. I’ve share enough about my move to Seattle over the course of my blog so I feel a bit foolish repeating myself yet again.  But it was an unforgettable trip.  As we drove into Seattle and promptly met my new roommate at my new apartment on Greenwood Avenue, I had no idea that the next four years would be enough twists and turns, ups and downs, to make me more than happy to say goodbye to my twenties and eagerly embrace the next decade.

I absolutely can’t believe I am now entering my fifth year in this city.

Seattle and I, like most relationships, have had a lot to work out. It was love at first sight for me.  I was attracted to its beauty, its openness (of the mountain passes and the perspectives) and of the possibility of a new experience that might be amazing if I would just rid myself of most of what I owned and moved 2,902 miles across the continent.  Not once have I regretted this decision.  I have, however, struggled with Seattle’s flagrant disregard for wearing white before Easter and its inability to RSVP properly for any given event.

Maybe one day we will see eye to eye on these details.

I love Seattle and the things I have experienced.  While an Iced Venti 7 pump Classic Black Tea from Starbucks will never, ever be a real sweet tea, I have come to appreciate that this city has wooed me with its charm.  I love that each neighborhood has its own library, farmer’s market, favorite breakfast spot and corner grocer.  I love that though this town is far larger than my hometown in Georgia, it never fails that it is possible to run into someone you know or to be networked in with someone you need to meet.  I love that the summer sunsets are still dwindling at 9 PM and that happy hours have some of the best ingredients for a theological discussion with friends.  I love that while I might not agree with everyone I meet, there is tolerance for those opinions to exist and a chance that I might need to hear what the other person is saying.

I love the fresh salmon, the bouquets of flowers at Pike Place Market and my favorite pizza parlor on Alki Beach that overlooks Elliot Bay sunsets over the Olympic Mountains.  I love that I’ve never been out on the water in Seattle, that my body has never worn a bathing suit in this state and that these two things combined only fuels my desire to one day cross that off my Seattle list of things to do and then write about it on this blog.  I love this city and am blessed to be here at this time in my life.

Happy Thursday.

 

 

I had a fabulous weekend.  Fabulous.   I don’t know if I’ve had this much fun in a long, long time.  I hung out late, slept in and ate great food — it was a much needed break in my busy schedule.

Bruch with girlfriends with one of the best lattes in Seattle at B & O Espresso.

Ray LaMontagne at the Key Arena for Bumbershoot 2011 with a friend.

Playing tourist at Pike Place Market with a friend from a wedding years ago.

Grabbing the last summer flowers while out on a sunny Labor Day.

Taking a walk around the block with the twins I used to nanny.

House sitting for the most adorable dog ever

Anything fun for you this weekend?  Until then, a couple links for your morning coffee…juice…Coca-Cola.

  • Gorgeous headboad ideas that keep me inspired to finish my bedroom.
  • Proof that my expensive taste is by nature and not by nurture: I smelled the most wonderful perfume on a girl Saturday and immediately asked her what she was wearing.  Of course it’s from Barney’s and obviously it’s $250 a bottle.  Why can’t I just like things from Walgreen’s? 
  • Great tips on living in small spaces by one of my favorite bloggers.
 

Happy Monday!  Ever have one of those really fun weekends where you need another weekend to recover from it all?  I haven’t had one of those in a long time.  I spent time out with co-workers and friends on Friday night and then danced my little fanny off until very, very late Saturday night.  My sunny Sunday afternoon was spent recouping on the open patio of a mexican restaurant — it was a great weekend.

Have a great Monday and get ready for the long weekend!  Five days and counting…

It’s a short list today:

 

About a year and a half ago someone gave me the infamous Keep Calm Carry On poster that Great Britain designed as a morale booster during the days leading up to WWII.  I’ve loved it for years and watched as it gained popularity among many interior designers a couple of years ago.  The day I heard a blogger claim that it was one of the most overused posters in the design world, I was indignant.  Clearly she didn’t know a classic when she saw one.

Whatever her reason, it wasn’t until this summer that I finally framed it. Part of the reason for the long wait was that I couldn’t find a frame that fit the European size poster.  The person who got it for me bought it from the source, of course.  Where else would you get my Keep Calm poster?  Certainly not in the States.

I searched high.  I searched low.  I went to Ikea.  I went to local framers.  I could not find a frame, unless I had one custom made for a fortune.

Then I got the brilliant idea…why not put it in the frame I already had for it and buy a mat?

Yeah, it took me this long to figure it out.  I have a coupon I’ll use next weekend and make it a Labor Day project.

Happy Thursday.  It’s the best day, you know.

 

 

It’s official: Lame post week.

I have been in such a design rut lately that I haven’t been able to come up with any posts to talk about for my blog.  I’m mostly discouraged at how over budget I am with my headboard and feel like I can’t do anything else until my bed is complete.   It was supposed to easily cost no more than $200 for the entire project.  At $78 a yard for my number one fabric choice, a teal velvet, I have come to a standstill.  Hopefully I can remedy this soon.

Until then.

Isn’t it funny, though, that I just bought a new couch and now I’m already on to the next thing?  It’s like I can’t enjoy one project without moving on to the newest project.  Maybe I should work on that…

Until I find some new projects, I’ll leave you with a Stella update.  Stellars has been unusually vocal lately, but seems quite taken with her new summer hairdo at the groomers and is looking great with her new weight-loss regime.   I took some pictures with her this week and thought I’d share.

Stella absolutely hates to be held and was taken back to the Humane Society twice for “aggressive outbursts” with previous owners.

She behaved for the first picture.

Not so much for the second.  She swatted at my face shortly after this.

I’ll stick to patting her head and feeding her three small meals a day.

Have a great Wednesday.

 

I am asked often if I will ever move back to Georgia.

I talk about home, about being southern, about how we do it different were I come from to the point that someone told me at the wedding last weekend that he was really surprised that I didn’t move back to the east coast after graduation last year.  The truth is, I do miss it a lot sometimes.  And I often wonder why I have those feelings so strongly because I have found it to be just as true that after a week in the South, I am ready to board my plane and head back Seattle, the place I now call home.

I was driving home from a walk around Greenlake on Saturday and couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wish I could have gone home for a week this summer.  There is something about being in hot, humid heat in the summer and I miss it so much here in Washington.  Seattle’s staunch summer standoff at a average of 60 degrees with little sunlight for two years in a row has really gotten to me.  My first two years in graduate school I went down south for a week…or two…each summer and after my third year, I took a trip to Maui — which wasn’t home, but certainly gave me my dose of hot sun, gorgeous sand and endless water.  The psychologist in me can’t help but analyze why I think and feel the way I do right now.  And the conclusion I finally came to reminded me of what one of my favorite professors used to tell us in graduate school: that not matter how difficult our childhoods may have been, we will always long for home, the innocence of childhood and the moments in our life where we experienced peace or contentment.

For me, those times were during the summer where I remember the smells of Coppertone sunscreen, the feeling of sticky popsicles from the Schwann man melting faster than I could eat them and the sound of cicadas so loud that they drowned out the noise of any midnight creaks in the house.  I miss the summers of my adolescence when my church youth group spent a hot Sunday afternoon at the lake and feeling like the ultimate cool kid while taking my friend Carrie down Ashley Street to the DQ drive-through for a tart, purple Mr. Misty slushy.  Most especially I miss the summers of my 20s where we had the energy to drive the three hours to St. Simons Island and back all in one day for the 4th of July, the feeling of warm tanned skin after a day of laying on the beach in Destin with my boyfriend and long drives on country roads with the windows rolled down on a hot night — AC blasting — and music turned up loud.  While I miss those things of the past, I know that I am where I am supposed to be right now and really do love the place I now call home.  But sometimes, I just wish I could go home for a Sunday afternoon to sit by a pool and dip my toes in the cold, blue water.

So in honor of the summer I didn’t get to have, I thought I would round up links to my favorite country songs from the past few months and list my favorite lines from each.  Turn up your speakers, or plug in your headphones, and enjoy a little background music as you sip your morning coffees and tackle your Outlook inboxes.

Happy Monday.

Oh, and since most of you just want pretty pictures anyways, here’s a few from my Friday night at a concert that Holly, Talitha and Naomi played at Street Bean in Belltown.

 

I was telling some co-workers this week that Thursdays are my favorite day of the week.  I remember very clearly the night I realized it in undergrad as I sat down to watch ER one Thursday night in my apartment.

I sighed and thought “The week is over.  I made it.”

If you can make it to Thursday night, you can make it to Friday.  And since Friday is pretty much the weekend already, you might as well start it the night before on Thursday.

That’s my reasoning.

Last night I went to a quick happy hour with some co-workers and got to know some new people.  I think what I have loved most about my first year out of graduate school is the feeling of falling in love with this city all over again.  I see a new side of it now that I’m not cramming in papers between babysitting jobs and trying to keep my head above water managing classes, studies, internships and a small, very humble social life.

I almost don’t know what to do with myself.

It was a gorgeous afternoon and the ambiance was really fun.  We sat on the Hard Rock Cafe rooftop at Pike Place and watched the sun set as we debated the age of a hot lawyerly looking guy standing in the corner.  In a wild moment, I nearly abandoned my southern roots to walk over and hand him my number.

Then someone said he looked like he was 24.  Not happening.

Happy Friday.

 

 

Recently I was going through an old folder of random papers in my file basket when I came across a partially completed list titled “100 Things I want to do.”  Written sometime around 2003 or 2004, I almost threw it in the pile to be recycled when I decided to glance over the list one last time.   While I only wrote down 28 things, I was amazed as I read over what my hand had written almost 7 years ago.  Over the years, I forgot 80% of what was written on that list yet I had completed 6 of them in the last 4 years.  It’s funny how life works that way.  When I wrote the list, I was desperately looking for a new job and it was a very difficult time in my life.  I couldn’t figure out what I was doing and life certainly wasn’t going the way I had imagined it would at that age.

I was astounded to be looking at what I wrote.

Some of my favorites:

  1. Move away from my hometown
  2. Own a gray, fluffy kitty
  3. Learn to be happy/content/settled
  4. Go to Lake Ohrid, Macedonia again
  5. Own a small, “homey” brick home
  6. Take road-trips a lot.
  7. Buy a Jeep Wrangler

While I haven’t forgotten that I wanted to move away from my hometown or my dream of owning a red brick home with a white porch to sit on in the summers (front, back, wrap-around — doesn’t matter), I did forget that that at one point in my life, road trips were merely a dream for me.  And I laugh to think that when I found Stella at the Bellevue Humane Society, I had wished for a gray kitten years before as a broke college graduate trying to make her rent of $265 a month.

Yes.  You read that correctly, $265 a month.  My landlord was a Godsend.

Since I was in high school, I have read thousands of pages on how to live life and live it well.  Some call them self-help books, I prefer to call them by their titles.  When reading those books wasn’t enough for me, I found someone that I could pay to tell me how to do it.  And when I got desperate, I got a degree that studied other people’s ideas of what a good life looks like.  Changing, evolving, creating and being are things I have spent my entire life learning how to do.

Life is really difficult.  Really difficult.  And for my own personal reasons I choose to leave much of those parts of my life off the internet for now.  But I will acknowledge that beyond the cute couches and new J. Crew outfits and fun little posts about my Seattle happy hour adventures, I have things that hurt, that ache and that don’t go the way I planned for them.  Perhaps one day I will engage them online and use it for something greater than myself.  Yet while life is hard, I do believe that beauty can come from those difficult places.  When I go through a difficult time, almost always there is something good that grows from that place and I have finally learned to be grateful for what I am taught, though I do not believe it means the bad things were supposed to happen to me.  In the midst of death, lost friendships, break-ups, moving and sadness, I have learned that even in my loss and pain, there is hope that something redemptive will come from it.  So sitting on my bed on Alden Avenue in a small town in south Georgia, I had no idea where my life was headed.  I had a college degree, six months abroad as a missionary and no prospects for a job except for part-time work as a babysitter and front desk receptionist at a fitness facility.  While I knew I was created to do more that those two things, I had little direction or conviction for what was next.  So I wrote a list to help me dream.

I am grateful beyond grateful to be where I am today: mostly happy, very healthy and feeling the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in my own skin.  I still have difficult times, unfulfilled hopes and dreams that feel like they will never come true.  But I am mostly content and grateful to have experienced the things that have happened to me in my 20s.

Psychologists, executive coaches, financial advisers, artists and wild dreamers all agree on one thing: There is something that happens when we write down our goals, dreams and ambitions.  Whether you are writing down a debt repayment plan, your career goals, your broad life ambitions, places you’d like to travel or things you’d like to own — there is something that happens when we take it out of our thoughts and into the concrete pen and paper.  Something changes in our psyche and we are suddenly aware of how those things are already happening in our life.  So you write down a random desire to travel to Africa.  Next week a random friend hands you a travel book on Kenya.  Reading the book at a coffee shop leads to a conversation about another patron’s recent trip to South Africa. Exchanged email addresses with that person lead to a new friendship.  And that friendship leads to a travel partner two years later for an African safari to stay at their aunt’s place for free.  Things happen when we write them down.  And I believe it because I’ve seen it happen in my own life.

Tell me, what is it you wish to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver

 

It’s been a while for this series and I must admit, though it’s one of my favorites, it does take the most thought when crafting my my next post.  I love this blog regular mainly because I get the chance to interview people who intrigue me, inspire me and challenge me. Whether it’s their zest for knowledge, love of etiquette, a natural penchant for hosting great barbeques or effortlessly lighting up a room when they walk in, I am drawn to the people I interview and want to share with you what I see in them.  They choose to eat well, dress well, decorate well, read well, listen well…they live with intention, with creativity and with zeal for life.  I love being inspired and in turn, inspiring others with what I am moved by in life.  When I get to do this, it gives me a kind of meaning and purpose for why I am on this earth.  I find joy in connecting our souls with the beauty this world has to offer.

So to kick my series back off, I thought I would start with Katie.  Katie was in high school when I was the middle school youth director at my home church.  There’s a bit of an age difference between us but it continues to amaze me that she’s really an adult now.  Her infectious smile, gorgeous blond curls and vivacious laugh from her high school days have always stayed with her and it’s a joy to see her every Christmas Eve at Candlelight Communion.  She currently lives in New York City, is an assistant buyer for a large department store (sigh) and has a gorgeous apartment that would make any SATC fan jealous.  With that, I’ll pass it off to Katharine to give you a taste of what it’s like to be fantastic, young and living in NYC.

I will never forget the day you told me you were applying to NYU. A ping of jealousy (the good kind) pricked my little heart as I longed for the opportunity to study at such a prestigious university…and in such an amazing city. What was it like coming from south Georgia to New York City? What were your favorite parts about studying there?

I remember move-in day Freshman year at NYU. I felt like a science project. Everyone kept staring at me and all the young guys were in awe. On the elevator up to see my dorm room for the first time, I had a group of people who asked me to stay with them for a while, because they just wanted to hear me talk. They just wanted to hear me speak, of anything, about anything, for any duration. My sweet southern accent was something of amazement for them. I just thought everyone was out of their minds.

My first day of work that September, I used the expression “Yes Maam” to my boss and referred to her as Miss Annette.   “Do not ever say that to me,” she instructed.  She was disgusted. Apparently I just added thirty years to her age without realizing it. New Yorkers are appalled at the phrases “Yes, Maam”, “No Sir”, and the added “Mr.” or “Miss” to their first name, whereas back home, my parents would be appalled if I didn’t use those phrases in their presence. Actually, I would probably be shut out of town in south Georgia if I didn’t use those terms of cordiality.  In Georgia, smiling, waving and saying hello to strangers is expected. In NY, people do not accept this gesture, instead they clutch their handbags and hold their children close out of fear, possibly thinking “Is this woman crazy?”

Needless to say, the transitions were never smooth nor quick. However, the endurance and perseverance proved golden when I soaked up my new NYC opportunities-studying in Central Park on Saturdays listening to men earning coins in their top hats from playing ancient New Orleans Jazz songs on their saxaphone, having class in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and having late night study sessions in Greenwich Village with the most eccentric group of 18-22 year olds you could possibly find in America.  Being odd was the norm.  Looking outrageous was never outlandish.  And the Devil Wears Prada was not a movie, it was your everyday existence as every college girl in NYC had the most sought after fashion internships.  Bazaar, Vogue, Donna Karan, this was not your normal college experience. This was a dream.

Like me, you live in a part of the country that is vastly different from where you grew up. What do you miss most about the South?

The people. I recently went down south on vacation and was reminded of the sweet voices, the polite nods, the gentlemanly hands that held open the door, and oh, that southern drawl.  In the south, respect never goes out of style.  And, the food.   You simply cannot resist the sweet taints of the perfect peach pie on a summer’s afternoon, the best fried chicken you can get your greasy hands on, and the staple of hospitality.  Southern hospitality means being polite, but hospitality is a word that is equivalent with food.   Everyone is always baking and cookin’ up something good for their friends, family and neighbors.

I once saw a picture of your apartment pop up on my Facebook page and my jaw literally dropped. How on earth do you finance such a gorgeous place? I must know your tricks.

First, having a good apartment takes time and patience.  I refuse to allow something in my apartment unless I fall madly in love with it.  I will have an empty corner in my living room until I find something fabulous to put in the space.  I don’t believe in “Oh, that’ll do until we get something better.”

Second, it takes good vision and never deterring from that vision.  My current apartment evolved from a beautiful teal color etched in a tea set I found in London during my time there.  I thought it was the perfect pop of color when I found it and from there had everything revolved around that color.

Third, get creative and be bold! I painted one wall of my living room that perfect pop of teal and created a coffee table by cutting glass and laying it over a zebra trunk.  In addition, knowing your own style, and your own personality, is key.  Your home should reflect who you are as a person.  I personally love decorating my place with little things I pick up from my travels abroad. It always provides a backdrop for great stories and reflects a bit of my eccentric personality.

Lastly, don’t be a décor snob.  I will pick up a fabulous piece because I love it, no matter the store it comes from –Target, Pier One, and yes even Ikea.

I would die to do a studio swap with you…me to NYC for a weekend and you to Seattle. I would certainly leave you a long list of places to visit. Since it would basically be my first real trip to NYC, where would you tell me to eat, visit and play?

First, I would tell you to come to NY in October.  Autumn in New York is magical.  I would tell you to eat, play, and visit places that tourists have never heard of.  The worst thing you can do when you visit NY is follow the Frommer’s guide to NY and most importantly, never find yourself in the middle of Times Square.

My favorite thing to do in NY is to wander throughout the various neighborhoods.  Watch the locals.  Buy a good book from one of the last locally owned bookstores in the West Village, head to Washington Square Park and read by the fountain watching the NYU students intermingle.  Take a shopping detour through SoHo, walking its cobblestone streets.  Take a vast long run around Central Park’s reservoir, watching the sun set as the famous West Side luxury apartment towers cast their lofty shadows over the park.  Eat at the MOMA’s Modern restaurant, as you peer out the windows to the famous sculpture garden. Sit on the steps of the Met and cross over to Lincoln Center for the legendary Swan Lake (my favorite!).  Enjoy brunch al fresco in the Village at Extra Virgin or the many other lovely cafes on West Fourth Street.  Put on your favorite heels and LBD for the Lower East Side or Meatpacking, order a dirty martini, and let the city that never sleeps fill your night with surprises, because every day in New York brings on a new unexpected companion and unforeseen adventure.

How do you choose something to wear? Are you influenced by color, trends, labels, cut or something else?

I refuse to live by labels.  I believe that finding clothes that flatter your figure is essential.   Choose colors, shades and styles that accentuate your best features and also add flare to your personal style.  Are you a skinny or flare jeans girl?  Are you a scoop neck or v-neck?  Do you like dresses that pinch at the waste or ones that make your hips dissolve like the uber 60s shift?  Do you look dashing in pink? Or, is a blue hue your best friend?  You should be able to answer these questions wholeheartedly.  Choosing your clothes should all be dependent on your own personal style.  Figure out what that is for you!

My own style would be described as very romantic, ladylike and feminine.  This works for me because I hues of plum, lavender, Bordeaux (reflective of ladylike luxury!) all work well with my skin tone and hair color.    I love to accentuate my hips and waste (think of 1950’s party dresses) because those are the cuts that work best with my body. Anything with lace, ribbons, bows, ruffles, or floral has my name written all over it.  However, I pull it off by trying to pair something modern with my ultra feminine pieces.  I can always be found in heels (no matter the walking distance) and I LIVE by color. NY is a dark cloud of noir, so I try to stand out with my colorful pieces. I hardly own any black at all! It’s just too depressing.  If I had a label that fit me, it would be Christian Dior!  It shows off a historic opulence and freedom of expression all while befitting the most ladylike woman.

What is it like working as an assistant buyer for a large…and very popular…department store?

In my day to day job, I wear many hats in many different roles.  An Assistant Buyer will attend market, visiting various showrooms in the Garment District to choose and select the upcoming season’s merchandise.  We have to pay very close attention to trends- watching what people wear on the streets and studying what was on the runways, so we can ultimately give men & women the luxury they desire.  We place trends in the market to give consumers that little bit of happiness when they stand before the mirror feeling like a new person, all because of a dress, bracelet or shoes.  That is the fun part, but there is much that goes on behind the scenes:  we decide what price the merchandise will be sold for, we decide when the merchandise will go on sale and get marked down, we play a significant role in marketing and advertising the products, and most importantly, we analyze the business to see what styles are selling.  We have to decide what colors and styles will sell in certain areas of the country.  What sells in Atlanta, GA is very different than what sells in Santa Monica, California, so we take that into consideration when we choose which styles (and how many of each style) get allocated to each store.

For my own division, we design and create a lot of the merchandise ourselves, because it is private label.  We choose styles, cuts, and colors, and like a puzzle piece, put all sorts of inspired ideas together to create a line that our customer wants.  This involves lots and lots of samples going back and forth!  We also pair very closely to the sales associates in the stores.  I love to help put merchandise on the floors and interact with customers when I have a free moment in a busy day.  It is very fast paced and sometimes  stressful, but it is very rewarding when you see girls on the streets of NY wearing the clothes you are putting into the stores.

You can take a girl out of the South but you can’t take the South out of the girl. What pieces of “southernness” have you held onto after moving to NYC and why?

I refuse to lose my soft spokeness (no matter how many times it goes against the grain of aggressive NY) and I refuse to let go of my manners even if it makes me appear naïve.  Most importantly, I have to remind myself each day of the “Steel Magnolia” I have inside of me.  Because in NY, you have to fight to survive. And all southern women know when to whip out their steel magnolia when its needed!

If you could visit any three cities in the United States, where would you go and why?

  1. Cape Cod- It’s the quintessential New England beach town.
  2. San Francisco-perfect blend of west coast art, food and culture.
  3. Santa Barbara- It’s the polar opposite of New York City.

What’s your signature scent, if you have one?

Ah, a woman always needs a signature scent. My first experience with my favorite scent was in the Piazza Duomo in Florence in Fall of 2006.  Viktor & Rolf had just launched their new perfume Flowerbomb. And these Italian girls were dressed up as massive flowers luring everyone into the perfume shop.  I smelled it and I’ve been hooked ever since on its feminine sophistication.  It’s dramatically alluring for evening and has drawn a magical sweep for many romantic nights in Florence, London and NY.

Top three underrated NY Restaurants. What would you order?

  1. Red Rooster in Harlem – the fried chicken with gravy.
  2. Degustation in the East Village – enjoy their tasting menu!
  3. Po- They have an excellent pasta con guanciale!

Tell us a couple of your favorite quotes.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the live you have imagined.” –Thoreau

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  -Maya Angelou

“Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers.” Hans Christian Anderson

And finally, the question I leave everyone with, how do you think one creates a fabulous life?

A fabulous is not created from rich clothes or expensive parties.  A fabulous life is created from releasing yourself to life’s best adventures.  Have a free spirit and see where life takes you.  My best memories and adventures have all been from sudden whims and having deep conversations with strangers have created lifelong friendships.

Looking back 40 years from now, you will remember that random vespa ride through the Italian countryside and the excitement it brought. You will remember New Year’s countdown shouting with a million strangers in a random NYC bar.  And the time you began conversation at a café with the old lady that led to an invitation at her gallery party.  You never know what’s around the corner, if you just unleash yourself out of your comfort zone.  It’s the unplanned and unforeseen that you will remember.   Take a chance and roll the dice.    Don’t worry about your clothes or the food you will eat. Because tomorrow you will forget what you ate and you will forget last season’s fashions…oh, and always bring along a good book.

 


 

Growing up, my parent’s linen closet was a disaster.

Come to think of it, most closets in my house growing up were a disaster save for a few areas that the cleaner family members held sole control.  Competing against each other were two sets of people: the mad hatter mess makers (Mom and my brother Kevin) and the OCD police (yours truly and her father).  For some reason, my father abdicated most of the house to my mother.

Did he have a choice, really?

The dining room table, the tupperware cabinet and most of the closets in the house (save for my room, my father’s office and his side of the closet) were left to the herds and when things got bad enough, justice prevailed.  Once every three or four months, my mother would ask me to organize our linen closet.  Filled with towels and sheets and pillows and blankets, this thing was easily 10 feet high and required nimble climbing along the shelves in addition to folding, refolding, stacking and collating of every article in it.  I never understood why people just couldn’t fold the towels in half and then in thirds, lines in, edges facing back with no more than three in a stack and 1″ spacing between groupings.

Is it really that hard?

Years have passed and though my mother tells me that no one can organize the shelves like you can, I have long given up the idea that I can change them: the closets or the mad hatters.  These days I close my eyes, open the closet, grab a towel and shut the door, never to open it for the rest of my stay.

Thank God I live in Seattle.

I wish I had a before picture of this shelving area in my bed nook but imagine it with long chocolate curtains hanging from the ceiling to just above the dresser.  Behind them were my towels, sheets and any random storage boxes that I couldn’t find a place for elsewhere.  Because space is limited and there are only so many areas of your house you can focus on at once during your first year in a new place, I often shoved things behind the curtains and only prayed they wouldn’t fall behind the dresser.  Even though the curtains hid the mess, I knew what was there.  And that can only hold off the OCD for so long.

Behold, my creation. Now excuse me while I go refold that gray hand towel.  The lines are on the outside.

 

 

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Hi Everyone,

Last week my dear coworker / friend, Dan, helped me do some fancy stuff to my blog.  (By the way, if you follow me in Google Reader, be sure to grab my new RSS).  He said it would make it better, and so far, the good definitely outweighs the bad.  The only hang-up is that I will have to manually transfer each picture from my old blog to my current blog: evidently there isn’t a way to batch transfer it as we had hoped.  There are 300 pictures and my goal is to have it all completed by next Sunday.

Wish me luck.

My weekend was relaxing, again: a friend’s birthday party, a wedding, sleeping in.  For some reason, this week was a long one and I was happy to have a couple of days to recharge again.  Remember my friend Chris?  He and Lindsey tied the knot this weekend just one hour south of Canada on a farm.  Though I grew up in the south, I’ve never been to a wedding on a farm.

It was everything the blogs make it out to be: a gorgeous red barn with long white curtains to hide the bride before she walked out, boutonnieres with peacock feathers, bouquets of wildflowers, mason jars galore, buffets of BBQ, hay on the floor and guests who were brave enough to wear cowboy boots.  It was gorgeous, lovely and happy.

Yay for friends who find a soulmate and little boys who say “Thank you for dancing with me tonight” before you drive away.  As my friend Talitha said: some grown men can’t even say that.

Some links for your Monday.

 

 

Hello lovelies,

Welcome to the new My Sundry Musings take two…or is it three now?  I’m working to get somethings changed up.  My very good work friend Dan helped me get some new things up and running last night but I’ll have the finalized blog up ready by Sunday.  Until then, bear with me as the website changes things a bit.

 

The people watching in New York was fantastic — unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  Cliche, yes.  But true.

 
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