Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Christmas List

It's an age old question that we all most likely answer a million times over at this time of year:
 "What do you want for Christmas?" 
This past weekend Charlie kept pestering me to tell him what I would like and I frustrate him immensely each time I respond  "nothing really". By Sunday morning he stood in the doorway to my office and begged me to please make him some kind of list.
But there's really nothing I want.
That answer only frustrates him more so I picked up a pen and paper and thought about what I truly want for Christmas.
My first inclination is to write down TIME. I want more time, I need more time. Time to exercise, time to read books and magazines, time to use the sewing and embroidery machine he gave me last year for Christmas that I have yet to even touch. I spend at least 2 hours a day commuting to work (that's a good day) with most days being 3+ hours of commuting on top of working all day. That means I spend on average of about 12 hours out of the house 5 days a week. Sometimes more. For about 3 years now. I'm not whining, I'm just tired. Tired of traffic, tired of commuting, tired of not having time to do things that used to be so important in my life, like working out or reading. Work absorbs so much of my time Monday through Friday that I can no longer do things I love doing because things like cooking a meal for my family win out in importance.  It's been a crazy way of living. One I chose, but one I am trying to figure out how to change because I want/need/miss TIME.
But I didn't write that down. Not because Charlie wouldn't understand what I mean, but because he already knows how frustrated I am and to ask for something so intangible would just make him crazy. So I sat staring out into space. Thinking. Then thinking some more. I remembered that I really want the book Gypsy by Sibella Court and that I wanted The Southerner's Handbook by Garden & Gun magazine. I wrote them down.
When I handed him that little piece of paper he just shook his head. I reminded him that there is really nothing in particular I want. He was still frustrated and I found myself struggling to put into words what I really wanted to say.
How do you tell someone that you don't even know what you want because they are items waiting to be discovered at a thrift shop or flea market? Nothing mass marketed, made in China or from a major retailer can make my heart skip a beat the way it does when I see that amazing treasure just sitting on a shelf or in a dingy corner of my favorite thrift stores.
I didn't know that a pair of demijohns would be the perfect addition to our home decor or that my dining room desperately needed this oil painting until I saw it hanging on the wall at ReStore. How could I have known that a bunch of vintage art that cost me a few dollars here and there would turn into a gorgeous gallery wall in our living room? Or how my heart feels full every time I walk past the set of mixed metal pheasant salt and pepper shakers I found on Etsy. What about the two sets of antique silverware I recently found for a song and couldn't bring myself to sell in the shop because they are just so incredibly beautiful that I am scared I will regret letting them get away.
These there are things I want. Things that have a past, tell a story and add beauty to our lives. I just don't know what they are yet because they are waiting for me to find them.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

P.S, On a side note, I was in Manhattan on Sunday Christmas shopping and found the most gorgeous pair of scissors and a stunning set of teaspoons at Anthropologie. I picked them up and told him he could put them in my stocking. He said I was a weirdo for wanting scissors and asked how many sets of teaspoons does one house need?
Men. They just don't get it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Decking the Halls ~ The Tree Debacle

I should have known things were not going to go smoothly the minute the kids announced they were not going to the Christmas tree farm this year. After some begging (more like incredulous questioning), pleading (more like telling them it was unacceptable for them not to go) and bargaining (I had to agree to buy them McDonald's breakfast in the end) we all piled in the car and headed to the Christmas tree farm we have been visiting for about a decade now.
Of course we wind our way up and down every aisle for over an hour trying (well, with me trying) to find the perfect one. I am generally shot down that the ones I select are too big for our living room or they will point out some miniscule issue with it.  Then, when they tire of wandering with no tree prospect in sight they start to get cranky, or in this year's case, hangry and then suddenly any tree will do.
Finally, we found "the one" that we all agreed upon and were happily on our way home. That is, until the kids realized we had spent so much time searching for our tree that it was almost 11am and McDonald's may not still be serving breakfast by the time we get to the nearest one. Since that was the only reason they agreed to come in the first place, you can imagine that they were pretty irritated that we were cutting it so close that it may actually be a crap shoot as to whether they get breakfast after all.
Fortunately, fate was on our side, they got their sandwiches and all seemed well with the world again.
Unfortunately, I had to work overnight Sunday night. I paced myself with decorating, planning to wrap it all up when I was home on Monday. I was able to get everything else done on Sunday afternoon except the tree which was fine by me since I like to let the branches settle after they were mercilessly crammed into that netting they use for transporting. 

I should have been suspect that things could be headed on a downward spiral when I left work at 3:30 am to embark on my hour and a half commute home. I could barely keep my eyes open, had the window wide open but it was too cold so I also had the heat on full blast. Also on full blast was the Pandora Christmas Radio station and I was singing along at the top of my lungs; not because of the whole Christmas spirit thing, but out of desperation to not fall asleep at the wheel and die which might just ruin Christmas forever for my family. Or perhaps not, since then the kids would never be required to go to the Christmas tree farm again. Hmm. Guess it depends on how you look at it.
Anyway, my singing with the window open and heat blasting thing was working just fine until the damn Trans Siberian Orchestra came on and did nothing to help since I obviously cannot sing along to that annoying crap. Even worse was that I was terrified to change the music on my iphone lest I swerve in my half asleep state and crash the car. What a nightmare.
By the time I arrived home around 5am I was so delirious that I crawled into bed, curled up next to Charlie, shook his shoulder to wake him asking, "Am I really here? I'm home right?" His response of "yes, you are home" sounded more confused than sleepy and I am sure he thought I had lost it for good. I was so out of it that I was scared to close my eyes because what if I was just dreaming that I was home and was really still driving the car??? In rational hindsight I realize that if I had been dreaming I was home then I was already in deep shit if I was still driving. But my exhausted mind had no rationalization at that point.
I bet you think it couldn't get worse, right?
That's where you are wrong. So wrong.
I sleep until about 10 am. Partly because I cannot stand the thought of wasting a day at home and partly because I had to resume a normal work schedule starting Tuesday and did not want my sleeping pattern to be all jacked up. I wandered around trying to accomplish things around the house in a zombified state feeling as if I was incredibly hung over but had unfortunately missed all the fun of pre~hangover. Sucks.
I promised Ryan that she and I would decorate the tree when she got home from school and I had everything ready to make that happen. We put on Christmas music and head into the living room. But wait. The tree looks like it is leaning forward slightly in the stand. I silently debate ignoring it but realize that every time I walk into the room it will annoy the crap out of me. So I suggest we try to straighten it out. We can't even budge it in the stand. So we try again. And again. Finally I admit that we will have to wait for Charlie to get home from work and fix this. Fine. At least my tree will be straight.
Monday nights Ryan has tutoring from 7-8 pm so I after I pick her up and we get back home we have Charlie fix the tree. Success! We put some Christmas music on and started getting the lights on the tree. Halfway up the tree, there was not a single strand of lights left in the tote we store them in. 
How could this be??? Where are all my lights???
I search through every Rubbermaid tote of decorations again and again. I go into our walk in attic and start randomly opening every single storage tote thinking I must have left one up there. At this point I must have looked akin to Chevy Chase checking and double checking the Christmas lights in Christmas Vacation with the full blown craziness in my eyes.
I start grilling Charlie. Where are the lights??? He has no clue because I always dismantle the decor and helpfully suggests that maybe we threw some away last year? 
Since that was completely unhelpful, (he could have at least got up and looked around the totes as if he was trying to help me) and Ryan had grown bored at this point and wandered off to her room to go to bed, I threw on Uggs and my giant puffy winter coat over clothing I would normally never leave the house in and go to Target. It is now after 10 pm and thankfully they have already started their holiday hours. I fill my basket with 6 boxes of lights and head home. I decide that I will get up ridiculously early and finish the lights on my tree. And I do.
I am up at 4 am, coffee in hand and Christmas music on very quietly so as to not wake the rest of the house, and I start putting my brandy~new lights on the tree. I'm in a surprising good mood considering the hour and my whole lack of sleep thing. 3/4 of the way up the tree I open the last two boxes of lights.
I bought the wrong ones.
They were white wire lights, not green wire lights like the rest of them.
I am devastated. I cannot believe this is happening.
Charlie comes wandering into the kitchen a few minutes later takes one look at my face and says, "Oh my God, what's wrong?"
That's when the tears came.
I cried for my semi lit tree and the fact that I didn't think to check what color wire lights I was buying, I cried because I was overtired and worn out,  but mostly I cried because work was completely overwhelming me and I knew I was in for a 14 hour work day. Every day that week.
He put his arms around me and promised he would go to Target for me after work that day and get me the lights I needed.
This was only somewhat comforting since I knew at this point my tree was going to look like this for the remainder of the week:

At this point I realize that whether he gets me the right lights or not I would just be frustrating myself to even attempt decorating the tree for the remainder of the week. I was just going to have to turn a blind eye to it (not hard to do I guess since half of it wasn't even lit), dig deep and go into work survival mode.
True to my prediction, each day indeed turns into a 14 hour work day culminating with me working until 2:30 am on Saturday morning, going to a hotel adjacent to the parking lot of where I was, sleeping until 7 am, getting ready to go back to work, working until about 3 pm then driving directly to a wedding we had RSVP'd months before to attend. I unfortunately missed the ceremony, but had my dad pick up Charlie and bring him so we did not have to have two cars there or it might have been me driving home from my overnight all over again.  I changed into my wedding clothes in my dad's hotel room and off we went to the reception where I danced my ass off til 11 pm in the same heels I had had on since 8 am. By the time we were heading home I was almost comatose and not from alcohol, but from exhaustion and a set of feet that were screaming in pain.
Sunday morning I felt like crap so I relaxed a bit reading magazines and enjoying my coffee before I mustered up the energy to finish the tree.

Pretty ain't she?
Well, she better be after all I went through to get it done.
As one of my friends reminded me, it wouldn't be the holidays if something didn't go wrong.
How true.
Here's another truth:
If you want to enjoy the holidays, then don't work in the retail industry. It sucks any holiday joy right out of you.
Trust me, I know.

So tell me, did you holiday decorating go smoothly? 
Please tell me I am not the only one who survived a comedy of errors.... :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Let There Be Pie!

I don't have much of a sweet tooth. It's highly likely that I will turn down a sugary treat for something crisp and salty any day. But sometimes a girl just needs dessert and in those moments I'd choose pie over cake in a heartbeat. 
In an effort to try something different than the same old, same old apple pie, last Thanksgiving I made this Apple Pandowdy from Williams Sonoma. I don't think I will ever make a traditional apple pie again!
My go to pumpkin pie? Spiced Pumpkin Pie. Also from Williams Sonoma. Truly delicious and to prepare?
Easy as pie.
Yes, I totally just did that.

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Impossibly Chic

Remember when I was talking about The Quest for the Well Edited Wardrobe? Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. For the past week I have been following the undeniably gorgeous Mimi Thorisson and her family on Instagram as they visited New York for some of her book signings. For those of you don't know who Mimi is, she writes an amazing food blog called Manger from the beautiful Medoc region of France. Last month she released her first cookbook A Kitchen In France and besides being packed full of hunger inducing recipes, it is also a complete feast for the eyes.
 As is Mimi herself.
I noticed that Mimi frequently wears the same (or similar) black dress. And she looks impossibly chic every.single.time.
Is it because she has embraced the well edited wardrobe? Or is it because she just knows what works on her? Maybe it's simply because she is part French and being stylish just seems to be part of their DNA.
Regardless, I leave you with this thought:

Then perhaps being impossibly chic will just be second nature. :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Quest For The Well Edited Wardrobe

A year and a half ago I began to pare down my closet(s), rid myself of excess and change my approach to how I dressed myself. I shared how overrun my closet(s) had become and was able to edit down to one closet's worth of clothing (no longer a plural! hooray!) with minimal seasonal storage. While this may not seem impressive to you or to have required any kind of superhuman strength and willpower, let me mention that I have worked in apparel retail for 26 years. It is not easy to be around clothing all day, 5 days a week with styles and trends that change more frequently than some people may change their skivvies. (Except me, I change my skivvies daily!). 
After this "awakening" I can proudly say that I have purged more than I have purchased yet I am continually working on downsizing into a very small, well edited wardrobe. The less I have, the more simple things are. Not really rocket science, but yet it never ceases to amaze me. 
A few weeks ago I saw this pin on Pinterest and once again it refreshed my mission and mantra that less is more:

As I looked over this list it dawned on me that these items are truly the only things I grab on a daily basis. I don't know that I could survive without my black and white v~neck tees. I wear them constantly and with everything. I realized that I rotate only between 3 pairs of jeans; black skinnies, blue skinnies and a blue boyfriend but still own about 5 other pairs.
I had to travel for work last week and as I packed my suitcase I looked down at the items I had laid out and lo and behold, what do you think I had selected? A white v~neck tee, boyfriend jeans, ankle boots and a wool blazer. I added the same belt I reach for time and time again as well as a thin, gold necklace to finish it off. One of 3 necklaces that always adorn my neck. The basics of my wardrobe or core of my closet, if you will.
It's no surprise then that I felt my best and most comfortable in this outfit is it? Of course not. I still have some work to do in the purge department and after this recent reminder it will be a lot easier. If it seems wasteful or painful to the wallet (think of all that money you've spent!) you can always resell better branded clothing, footwear and handbags on sites like eBay and donate the rest to your favorite charity thrift store. I paid for our summer vacation last year with the money I made selling my clothing, shoes and handbags on eBay. You'll be surprised how quickly it can add up and the demand for used clothing online. 
Hmmm...that gets me thinking...extra Christmas shopping money???
That idea in itself is worth an additional purging! Happy Friday friends, I think I'll now be spending the weekend doing some additional closet cleaning, you?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Harvest Wine & Cheese Party

With the holidays approaching faster than a speeding bullet and the stress and strain feeling more powerful than a locomotive, you sometimes feel like you have to be Superman in order to deal with it all. We want to entertain and throw parties that our friends will be talking about well into the new year, but sometimes reality (and exhaustion) keep us from doing so.
Cue the Wine & Cheese party.
There is no need to whip up a fancy dinner party for 4, 6 or 8 (or more!) when you can set up an amazing spread of noshes and nibbles and sip the night away with your nearest and dearest. All you really need is a sideboard, buffet or even your dining room table on which to set up a variety of cheeses, nuts (if no one is allergic!), crackers, breads etc. You can incorporate seasonal elements alongside your serving pieces to make the setting festive and fun. Using a plate stand for the dishes adds a little height and gives guests a starting point to fill their plates. A few candles in between provide mood lighting and some pretty flowers, or in this case, some sheaths of wheat, are the finishing touch. Pop open a few bottles of your favorite wines, set out some pretty glassware and you are ready for an evening that required minimum effort but delivers maximum impact. With no crazy clean up! You'll be more relaxed, able to enjoy yourself and still host that seasonal soiree we all dream about having.

Shop the setting:
Wrought iron plate stand sold
Cheese domes here, here and here
Danish modern serving tray here
Vintage linen towel here 
Pretty vintage wine glasses here, here , here and here
Etched glass salad/dessert plates coming soon

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Making A Statement

Yesterday I had to attend a style event for the company I work for to kick off the launch of a new line. What to wear was on the forefront of my mind all week. While I have paired down my wardrobe tremendously and tend to stick to a uniform of sorts lately, I still need that statement piece to really make my outfit pop. I settled on a white v~neck tee under a great black wool blazer and black skinny jeans with these amazing printed back zip heels. The heels certainly make their own statement but I still wanted a little "bling" around my neck or in my ears to complete the ensemble.
In the same way, I am always looking for "statement" pieces to complete the rooms in my home. Sometimes it's a chair, a painting, or a necessity like lighting. When we moved in and I began designing my master bedroom I had my heart set on a crystal or glass chandelier with silver accents to complete the look.

Unfortunately, I had to compromise with the husband on this. He compromised on dainty coral red nightstands that barely hold more than a frame and a night time glass of water and I agreed (sadly) to let him have the ceiling fan over the bed that he cannot sleep without.
From time to time I find myself still looking for that showstopping chandelier that should be hanging over our bed and I recently found a few on One Kings Lane that have me contemplating whether or not he will divorce me if I quietly replace his beloved fan with one of these beauties.

In an effort to save my marriage I should probably look to some of the other rooms in our house where having the white noise of a ceiling fan is not critical to his existence.

Our study/office might be the perfect place to add this amazing vintage chandelier:

Or maybe it is better suited for a larger space like our formal living room with it's gallery of vintage and antique artwork. It might be perfect since our adjacent dining room has black wrought iron, teak furniture and some rustic accents.
As I continue to look for those finishing touches for each room in our house, each day I look for that piece of statement jewelry or outfit "completer" for what I am wearing. It's the key to pulling a look together in every facet of style and home design.

P.S. One Kings Lane has me swooning over more than their lighting, this vintage ring. I would love  it for the birthday I have this week. Hint, hint Mr. Ceiling Fan lover. ;)