Monday, December 26, 2011

1970's Bathroom Makeover!

I love "before" and "after" photos. So I could just kick myself for not taking adequate photos, prior to starting our bathroom makeover this past fall. Sure I have a few pictures, but they were taken after the wallpaper had been taken down. And trust me, if only you could have seen that peeling, yellowing paper, with the giant brush strokes stamped all over it, in a muted terracotta, gold and teal . . .your jaw would have dropped open in amazement!

We did not have the budget to change out our toilet fixtures, and so our original almond coloured toilet, sink and tub would have to remain. We worked around what we had, with the goal of creating a modern and serene space.

The new colour, a steel blue, is light and airy, but still grounded and calm. Perfect! A few black accents (including no-paint artwork* I made myself) would add the modern edge I was looking for.

And for an unexpected wow! factor, we said "goodbye" to the window shutters and "hello" to a large-scale floral valance, in a bright pop of orange!

* I stumbled upon a fabulous idea for no-paint art work on the Make Under My Life blog. I knew right away, I wanted to use this technique for the artwork in my new bathroom. So easy! Over a primed blank canvas, you simply wrap black twine, on which some dimensional fabric element (I used sheer black ribbon) is threaded. Voila!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

iPad ...finally!

My husband and I have birthdays that are two days apart; December 5 and December 3, respectively. This year we agreed, since Christmas is right around the birthday presents! So, you can imagine my surprise when on the eve of my birthday, I turned on my heels to head out of the kitchen, only to see Otto in Darren's arms, coming toward me holding the most distinctive of all packages. I knew immediately what it was.

I mean, who else could set hearts racing with the sheer simplicity of a stark white box? With the promise of some of the most titillating technology inside, Apple has cornered the market on Sexy Tech. Sure, I had hinted*. But did he really? Could he have actually?

He did!

An iPad. And not just any iPad. But the top of the line, 3G model with a 64 Gig memory, in white, of course. He even engraved it with a message that made my eyes tear. It couldn't be more perfect!

And so I have had my handy little surprise gift for 15 days now. It is almost fully integrated into my daily routine. I take the iPad to meetings with me, instead of a notepad. I do my monthly budget on the iPad, instead of on the laptop. I cook from recipes on the iPad, instead of out of a cookbook. It doesn't leave my side. Indespensible. I am very intrigued at how this device is actually changing how I live and how I work. But even moreso, as time goes on and I discover more apps, I am curious to see how else this little 7"x10" wonder, will work it's way even further into my life...and my heart!

* Truth be told, I did a little more than hint. Just a little.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Project 333, Phase 2: Finally! Project 333, Phase 2 list is ready! While my Phase 2 went into effect for me on October 24th, the itemized blog list is finally complete and ready for posting. (If you are not familiar with Project 333, take a look at "Project 333 Perhaps", which outlines the project).

There were three main goals I wanted to achieve with my Phase 2 wardrobe:

1. Create a "no-iron"wardrobe.
2. Select items that will allow me to express my true "Linda Style".
3. Wear more of my items more often.

Overall, I give myself an A- for achieving these goals:

1. With regards to ironing...I have done the math, and my wardrobe is 99.67% iron-free! Basically everything, with the exception of the Wide-Leg Anthropologie Khakis, is iron-free. I considered dropping the khakis for this reason, but really,they are quite perfect! And so they stay. In my effort to eliminate the chore of ironing, I have discovered that my striped dress shirt can simply be shaken a few times right out of the washer and hung to dry. Who knew? So I am feeling ahead of the game.

2. With regards to self-expression...I definitely have kicked things up a notch. While I am still not on target for what my signature style has historically been over the years, I am getting closer (perhaps as close as I want to be at nearly forty years old!) When I review my selections, I find that the pieces remain classic and somewhat traditional (as they did in Phase 1), which is a far cry from the "Linda Style". However, the manner in which I have been putting these pieces together, is more playful, and *THAT* is bringing this grouping up to par. Bottom line: I'm loosening up a bit and starting to have fun with the Project, and it shows!

3. With regards to utilization...I suppose that remains to be seen. I have only been living with this wardrobe for a few weeks now, so I still don't quite have a handle on the utilization. I guess time will tell.

Instead of closing this phase in 3 months on January 24th, I have decided to let this wardrobe take me through the entire winter! I am confident that I have planned sufficiently. And with a premeditated switch-out for my winter coat when the weather turns harsh, I'm very confident this 33 will serve me well through a New England winter.

And so, without further adieu, I present my Phase 2 List:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Snow, Clothes & Baby Mayhem

I am sorely remiss in posting my Project 333, Phase 2 list. Although, I am happy to say. . . the venture is well underway! However, we have had quite a bit of hub-bub here in Connecticut as of late, with a very early, very destructive snow storm which seems to have thrown a wrench in many a-works. Additionally, I am contending with the general havoc of our household, thanks to one Mr. Otto Riot. He is fourteen months old now, and strategically poised to destroy. Need I say more?

So, the 33 is working well for me thus far. I would love to see this wardrobe carry me through the duration of the winter. I devised it as such, and really believe it might just make it. But I will have to revisit and rethink this notion, as we enter the down and dirty winter months.

More on my Phase 2 list to be posted soon.

Very soon!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Review of ExOfficio Chica Cool Hoodie - Women's

Originally submitted at REI

The ExOfficio Chica Cool hoodie, featuring dri-release®, is odor resistant, styled for versatility and is hard working whether you're taking a hike or taking it easy.

Cute! Versatile! Comfy!
By skullygirl from Northwest Hills, CT on 10/23/2011

5out of 5
Chest Size: Feels true to size
Sleeve Length: Feels true to length
Pros: Dries Quickly, Breathable, Warm, Lightweight, Stylish
Best Uses: Hiking and Camping, Travel, Casual Wear
Describe Yourself: Casual/ Recreational
Was this a gift?: No
I. Love. This. Shirt.
when i first tried this on, i knew i had to have it. the fit was flattering and feminine, without being too form fitting. in fact, if anything. . i would say it might be cut a bit big. i am a size 12, and usually wear a size M, which is what i have this shirt in. probably could have gone down to a small, but i kind of like the relaxed fit of it. i think the kangaroo pocket is strategic! . . .really helps camouflage any tummy flaws. it is thin enough to pair under a cardigan, but most often, i just throw a tank underneath. this is my new go-to shirt! i've worn this to walk around the job-site of a large construction project, and then worn it out to dinner with the crew later the same night! it's also great for hiking or just lounging around. it pairs well with both jeans and skirts (i love it with my brown corduroy skirt). i have it in the dark pebble. to me, it looks almost like a dark navy. very neutral. the other colours seemed just too bright for my taste.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

favicon. . .shmavicon!

I noticed a new option in the template design of my blogger today. . . .a favicon! After a quick consult of Wikipedia, I learned that a favicon is the mini icon that appears to the left of a web browser's address bar. I immediately decided that this would greatly improve my blog, and I simply must get myself one!

. . but a favicon of what? Darren suggested a photo of him. Hmmm.... maybe. Then he mentioned a pic of Otto. Well that sounded more like it! I did a quick study in Photoshop, working a cute photo of Otto down to the right file size, making the background black, and popping up the contrast. Voila! Perfect.

The only problem . . .it didn't work in my blog!  I double checked my file size, and re-saved it, but no luck. For whatever reason, I just couldn't get it to show up on the blog page.

I will have to look into this further. But for now, so that I don't feel all my favicon work was in vain, I present to you the Otto favicon (slightly enlarged for your viewing pleasure):

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Otto's Robot Cake

Our little Otto Riot turned one year old a few weeks ago. We had decided that we were going to have a simple first birthday party for him. We didn't want to get caught up in a whirlwind of party planning and the associated stress, so we agreed on a backyard barbeque with family and friends. Easy enough.

So I thought.

With a robot-themed birthday party in mind, I designed and printed the most adorable robot invitations, and sent them on their merry way. Then the real work began. I decided, I was going to make Otto's birthday cake myself. Initially, my goal in doing this was to keep cost down, and keep it simple. Well, let me just say. . I accomplished neither of those goals. You see, I am not a baker. Sure I can throw together a boxed cake mix, but that is about the extent of my baking abilities. But I was determined. And those that know me will attest that once I set my sights on something, I do not settle until it is accomplished. One might say, I get mini-obsessed.

The vision for Otto's robot cake was big! It was fun and cutesy and colorful, and it was...well, big! And it just had to be fondant. Sure fondant isn't the tastiest confection around. Sure I had never touched the stuff before. But it is so smooth and lends itself so perfectly to the robot form, that I just had to have it!

As I began to sketch cake designs and research cake decorating, it became clear that I was going to need to practice.

A lot.

Three weeks before the party, I armed myself with an arsenal of cake baking and decorating tools and started making test cakes. I baked cake type after cake type until I found the firmest, most full-bodied cake that could withstand the weight of fondant, and the stress of being manhandled by a novice.*  I rolled out fondant ball after fondant ball, until I figured out just how to work with this stuff without it tearing or pleating. My family was soon sick of eating the products of my baking experiments, but guess what? In the end, I figured it out! I had taught myself how to work with fondant, and how to successfully decorate a big ol' cake!

The final Robot Cake was almost exactly what I had in mind. He stood (err...sat) a little over a foot tall. He had doughnut and marshmallow arms and legs, rock candy antennae, lollipop ears and gumball eyeballs. I had envisioned him a little more metallic, but I had not mastered the shimmer dust well enough to create such an illusion. And so he didn't quite shine, but he did glimmer. And that was fine by me.

Robot Cake was not perfect. There were technical flaws that were very obvious to me. But don't get me wrong. I couldn't have been more pleased with the outcome. And the day of Otto's party, the guests all loved him too! In fact, everyone loved Robot Cake except for Otto, who couldn't have been more indifferent.

But then again, what did I expect?!
He is, after all, one year old.

* Confession: I did NOT bake Otto's cake from scratch. Homemade cakes are a lot of work, and when I make one, it's invariably crumbly and doesn't taste very good. I knew it would have to be a box cake. I tested a variety of brands and flavors, and found that Duncan Hines French Vanilla plus one box of Jello Vanilla pudding, produces what is literally, the best tasting cake I've ever made. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Project 333, Phase 2: Status Update

The next phase of Project 333 is set to start October 1, which is tomorrow. I think it's safe to say that I will be a bit off schedule, yet again. I haven't quite gotten my act together. . .although lists have been made and planning is in full force. Realistically, I am shooting for a start date of October 15.

As I posted earlier, one of my goals in this phase is to create a completely "No-Iron" wardrobe. What a dream, this would be! While this has posed quite a challenge, I am happy to say I am very close to meeting this criteria. There is, however, one particular article, that I am on the fence about. It will require ironing, lest it’ll appear frumpy and disheveled, but I still think I want to include it. Needless to say, I've done my math, and if I do decide to include it, then I will have created a wardrobe that is "99.97% No-Iron". I think I can live with that. (Although, maybe someone should check my math.)

Also new to my sophomore round of P333, is a completely revamped mentality. One that is more forgiving, and less regimented. Basically, I am going easier on myself. I have come to understand that this is an experiment in minimizing and simplifying your life, through the implementation of boundaries. It is not intended to make you suffer.

And so, to reduce any and all potential suffering and stress, I am making a few changes to my ground rules. First off, I am planning a pre-meditated coat switch. I will use my wool Paddington coat, until winter really bears down on us. At that time I will break out my North Face Triple C full length down coat (or the "horse blanket", as I affectionately refer to it).

Secondly, I have decided to add some pep to my dressing experience. So I will also give myself a little extra wiggle room, allowing for one belt and one pair of earrings. . items I did not carry in my last phase. While I will count my shoes, sunglasses, bag, scarves, mittens and hats in true P333 fashion, I will not count these two "free" items. I mean really, how much complication can one little belt, and two dangly earrings really cause?

Over the next week or so, I will be refining and finalizing my items. Be on the look-out. In the very near future I will be posting my final Phase 2 list (a.k.a. Phase 2: 33+2, the Rule-Breaker edition)!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tacky Tacking! ! !!!

I have had my heart set on the J.Crew Hacking Herringbone Jacket since I first laid eyes on it a little over a month ago. It took me awhile to find out about this beauty (due to my P333 moratorium on shopping as of late), but when I did finally crack open a catalog, I was in love. Oh how I adored the vibrant flame colour! But it cost a month's allowance, so I tucked it to the back of my mind, and moved on.

Truth be told, the following week I found myself inside my local J.Crew store, trying on the sucker! And let me just say, I couldn't have been more satisfied with the fit. The saleswoman and I had such a nice chat about this piece. She owned it in the vibrant flame, but agreed that if this was an investment piece, I should opt for a more versatile colour. So my mind settled on the classic charcoal, and I walked out of the store empty handed. This jacket does cost a month's allowance, after all.

But this blog entry is not entirely about my beloved Hacking Jacket. It is about something I have witnessed across the breadth of the internet recently; something I have seen for myself in real life, too many times. It is about a pet peeve.

You see, I tend to over-research everything. Everything. And so, in my pursuit to find out all I could about the Hacking Jacket, I began to peruse blogs for reviews and tidbits from those that own it. Here is what I found: besides the fact that everyone who owns it absolutely loves it, in every single blog I came across with a photo of the blogger donning this jacket, the tacking stitch is still in tact on the back vent!

Epic Fail! (for obvious reasons,
this bloggers identity shall remain
Oh the horror! This has always been a pet peeve of mine, and I had been accustomed to seeing unknowing men walking around in such a fashion. But to see just as many unknowing women making the same mistake, has taken me aback. People, please! Remove your tacking stitch prior to wearing a garment. This little "X" stitch will pop up on the vents and pleats at the back of jackets and skirts. It is a temporary stitch, intended to keep the fabric flat and laying nicely, until ready to be worn.

In a week or two, when I finally drive myself down to J.Crew with my months' allowance in hand, I can assure you this: before I slip that lovely jacket over my SmartWool Dazzle Dot Hoody, maybe even before I snip the store tags from the sleeve, I will dutifully remove that tacky little tacking stitch from the back vent!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Project 333, Phase 2: The Plan

It's been awhile since the conclusion of my Project 333, Phase 1. Since then, I have been basically dressing with what is in my closet. Admittedly, I've loosened the reins and reintroduced a few extra items here and there. But for the most part, I haven't even had time to unpack my other clothes. There's a lot going on in our household right now, and clothes are the last thing on my mind. And I'm fine with that.

But as Fall approaches, I've been thinking a lot about the upcoming phase, and what items I might want to work with next. I have a few ideas milling around in my head, but I think I might want to introduce a few more rules:

Rule #1: No Iron
I  would *LOVE* a wardrobe of 33 items that require no ironing or drycleaning, whatsoever. Don't get me wrong, by limiting the pieces in my wardrobe, I have drastically cut down my need to iron. However, I'm afraid it's not good enough. I find myself dreading the 15 or so minutes I spend ironing on a Sunday afternoon. There are many low-maintenance clothing options. I just need to put my hands on those that will be low-maintenance without being frumpy. But I know this can be done. My ultimate goal is to not have to even think about my clothing. To achieve this, I will definitely need to apply the no-iron criteria in determining my next 33.

Rule #2: More Personality, Please!
I am not a conservative person. I am not a conservative dresser. However, during my Phase 1, I was told on many occasions that my style seemed to have become much more conservative. I forged through Phase 1 with what was mainly a navy blue, beige and black wardrobe, with my head held high. But deep down. . .this bothered me. I used to be a snappy dresser. I mixed patterns with patterns, layers with layers and created unique colour combinations, like nobody's business. I am afraid that my Phase 1 choices focused so much on function, that I forgot how much I really enjoy expressing my individuality through my mode of dress. My next 33 will definitely have more zip and more "Linda Attitude".

Rule #3: Utilize Everything
In retrospect, I realize how few of my pieces I really worked during Phase 1. I would say, I only used about 70% of my wardrobe to it's full potential. There are a few items that I wore only once or twice! This tells me a few things. ..I could definitely live with even fewer than 33 items. And also, I need to select more carefully. I've thought a bit about why I did not wear some of my pieces. I have figured out why, and for the most part, I put the blame on an ill fit or a fabric flaw. The bottom line is, I need to let who I am and how I live, determine the pieces I choose.

I have not selected a start date for my Phase 2. I am hoping to have the weather guide me, and once the temps turn cooler, I will set the Phase 2 wheels in motion. But Fall turns to Winter awfully quickly in New England. Generally speaking, I'm having a hard time getting my head around how to handle the seasonal transitions. But really, when it comes to this project, I'm starting to feel like that's the name of the game!

Stay tuned. . .

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy High School, Emma!

Emma started her first day of high school yesterday. Instead of taking the traditional high school route, she has opted for one of Hartford’s magnet schools. For Emma, it shall be the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts! I was a bit apprehensive about the prospect of Emma attending a school over an hour away from home. . .and for good reason. The transportation is a nightmare, and this decision ultimately affects our whole family, in varying degrees. But between you and me, I am slightly envious. When we visited the school for orientation last year, I was instantly hooked! What a great facility and what great programs. I would have loved to have attended this school at her age. And so the decision was made.

With my little Emma starting high school, I can’t help but be sentimental. I, myself, am sick of hearing how quickly it all goes by, in regards to watching your children grow. But it really and truly does!  As if it was only yesterday, I can remember sneaking into Allgrove School, just to catch a glimpse of my little curly-haired munchkin on her very first day of kindergarten. There she was sitting in her little person-sized chair, with her big bright eyes fixed intently on the teacher. I broke the rules that day, but in return I received a priceless image, that I will hold with me always. Besides, Emma's kindergarten classroom was in fact the very same room I sat in as a new kindergartner, twenty two years earlier! Really, how could I resist?

With this new chapter in Emma's life just beginning, I have found myself waxing nostalgic about her younger years in general these days. And with baby Otto on the scene, I can't help but think that the nostalgia is only further fueled, dare I say "inevitable", given the physical likeness between Otto and the Emma of her youth. To those that have teenagers who will rarely hold hands, or give a giant bear hug, or splurge in a flurry of kisses, perhaps what I am about to say will sound a bit less odd. 

A bit.. . 

It has happened, on occasion, that when cuddling Otto, I look down to see my baby Emma! The unthinkable has happened and time has unwound itself 14 whole years, to reunite me with my baby girl. There she lays, snuggled up in my arms, as if it were 1997 all over again. I am able to hold her tiny hands once more, give her little body a full-on bear hug and splurge in a flurry of kisses right on her neck, until she breaks out in an unstoppable giggle. What a treat!

Well, the reality is, it truly does all go by so very fast. But sometimes, the spirit of a memory really can live forever. If you just know where to look.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Project 333: 3 Months in Review

Well the very first Phase of my Project 333 drew to a close last week. I have to say, it almost went by without notice. Life carried on as usual and the next day, even though I was officially released from the bonds of my P333 commitment, I continued dressing from my core 33 wardrobe. I mean, what did you expect I would do...ravage the boxes of clothes I had packed away, or perhaps run out to the mall for a new outfit? :) Ha! Well, the urge for neither ever hit.
The Lost Bathroom Photos:
Due to my lack of spare time, not many photos of my P333
outfits exist; these were all taken in my work bathroom,
in some sort of an attempt to document my project
So, what have I learned from this experiment in living with less? I'd say, precisely that! I learned that not only can I live with less, but my quality of life is improved by doing so. It is easier for me to find my things and easier for me to take care of my things. I get dressed in the dark in under 5 minutes and I don't worry about what I'm going to wear the night before. My mind (and my time) has been liberated!

The P333 mentality has also carried over to other areas of my life. Since initiating the Project, I have declared an all-out assault on my kitchen clutter. I have purged excessive gadgets, dinnerware and even small appliances. The kitchen situation is greatly improved but it's not quite where I'd like it to be. Organizing and streamlining my kitchen continues to be a work in progress.

Even little Otto is feeling the effects of P333. He is happy as a clam with a handful of onesies, and with summer in full force, he rarely wears pants! In all seriousness, I have not bought a stitch of clothing for Otto since May. And at that time, all but one article was purchased on consignment, drastically reducing my little prince's carbon footprint! And even though I had purchased his last batch of clothing sized larger than needed to allow room for growth, four months later his quickly growing body is demanding larger clothes.

Over the next few days, I will hit up my favourite online children's clothing reseller ( for a few choice items. I am happy to NOT be buying new goods and pushing more "stuff" out into the world. Plus, I will most likely spend less than $75 and he'll be set for the next four months. And I was recently reminded that eight or nine years ago when Emma was quite a bit younger, I had handmade some adorable clothing for her. The thought has crossed my mind to dust off the sewing machine on Otto's behalf, but I'm afraid that finding the time these days might be too tricky.

One thing I had set out to do from the beginning of P333, was to learn how to multi-purpose pieces. I did improve greatly on this as the Project wore on. I have observed and watched myself in this regard, and I now see that the quality and "personality" of an article is the key to successful multi-purposing.

Since I found it was difficult to keep photo documentation of the pieces I wore throughout the last 3 months, I kept a spreadsheet tracking my outfits. While my AE Artist jeans saw the most play, they just don't embody the versatility that I was striving for. And so, I am happy to report that the star player in my Phase I wardrobe is...the Patagonia Bandha top!

This was the shirt that went everywhere with me. When I was originally selecting my 33, I had
Patagonia Bandha Top
not expected that I would have to attend the funeral of a good friend. My wardrobe served me just fine on this front. And the Bandha top that I wore regularly to work with my black cardi, I donned one sweltering hot afternoon, with the pin-striped black skirt, to bid farewell my friend. And believe it or not, four weeks later, I wore the exact same top along with my only pair of shorts to bushwhack through the woods on a camping trip with Emma. Yes, my Bandha top has served me very well.

So, what will happen with my wardrobe now that my Phase 1 is complete? Well, I know I will definitely continue. And while I have read about (and encountered) many people who challenged the implementation and allegiance to a definitive number, it works for me. I need parameters. It is not enough for me to say I will just "cut back". I need a goal. And to be honest, I found 33 to be almost too generous a number! The only time I needed all 33 pieces, was during seasonal transitions. Otherwise, once the weather figured out where it wanted to be, I would say I had a core of 18-20 articles...3 of which were shoes.

I have been hearing some buzz about a new challenge, 36/365, in which you commit to 36 items for the entire year. Not sure if I am entirely ready for this step. But I must say, coming off such a successful Phase 1, I almost feel like this is well within my grasp.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Project 333, Phase 1: Winding Down

As I am turning the final corner of my Project 333, Phase 1, I am thinking a lot about not only how I dress, but also about how other people dress.

Throughout the project, when educating someone about what exactly I was doing and why, their reaction would go one of two ways; they were either very uneasy about the whole idea, convinced that they themselves "could NEVER do that!", or they would calmly shrug their shoulders and tell me that they are probably doing it already.


When I first heard about the project from my friend, Beverly, my reaction was quite inline with the former. And just like many of the people I've been talking to recently, after a huge gasp for air trying to digest the gist of this project, I began counting and calculating the pieces of my wardrobe, until I was convinced without certainty, that this just was not for me.

Well, as it turns out, it was for me.

I still have a couple days left in my Phase 1, but I have been doing a lot of retrospective thinking. For me, I have viewed this project almost as a personal rehabilitation. And I do believe I have been reformed! With absolute confidence, I can say that I will not go back to a cluttered and excessive wardrobe. The idea sickens me.

But, what I am most interested in right now, is those people that don't need a Project 333. You know...the calm ones that are "already doing it". I am amazed and somewhat envious of what I assume is their natural born ability to dress simply. I mean, how did they avoid getting sucked into the materialistic vortex of our society? Luckies! I am rehabilitating myself, so I will always be consciously striving and working toward this goal. It will be a lifelong effort, dare I say?

I am happy to report that I am off to a good start. Last week, the J.Crew Fall catalogue arrived in our mailbox. Not even cracked open, it landed squarely in the recycling bin. So I must admit that I have no idea what goodies are coming down the pike from them this Fall, and I probably won't find out. You see, if I don't need anything, I don't pop into their store anymore. And guess what? I can finally see that I don't need anything.

I have more thoughts on the Project as it is wrapping up for me, so stay tuned. But for now, I just wanted to acknowledge those out there that are naturally able to manage their wardrobe with grace and simplicity.

Hats off to you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

i wear my baby!

You heard me.

I believe the proper term is in fact, "babywearing". For those of you not in the know, this would refer to the implementation of a worn sling, mei tei, backpack or wrap, in which to carry your baby.

When I was pregnant with Otto, I was very drawn to babywearing, right from the beginning. With Emma, I was not in the least bit interested. I would guess this was because it wasn't very mainstream, and there just weren't many options back then. But go into any upscale baby boutique these days, and you will undoubtedly find an amazing array of beautiful (and expensive) baby carriers. It is becoming somewhat of a trend, I suppose. But a positive trend, nonetheless. When Emma was a baby, there was the Baby Bjorn, in all it's navy blue glory, and that was it.

While pregnant with Otto, I had planned a special visit to my favourite diaper shop, A Child's Garden (Northampton, Massachusetts), specifically to try out different baby carriers. I tried on two varieties: a mei tei and then a ring sling. With a fake little weighted baby loaded in, it was clear to me right away that I was a sling girl. It was so simple: one very long, single layer of fine Irish linen, with two aluminum rings anchored at one end. I fell in love with this sling instantly! I was amazed at how it made my fake little weighted baby feel so secure to me, that we seemed to have meshed into one single mobile unit. Wow! Just imagine what it would do for me and my real baby!

And so I sprung the $90 and went home with a Sakura Bloom Pure Linen, in Storm.
And then I practiced. For weeks I practiced how I would load the real baby into this contraption.
And then I practiced how I would take him out.

Hiking with Darren and Otto at 2 weeks old
Needless to say, I was nervous about using the sling with real life Otto. I waited until he was about two weeks old before I actually got him into it. And I will admit that for about the first month, I fumbled with that sling like the complete amateur that I was. With two rings, and these insanely long fabric edges they call "rails". . .I didn't know what to pull and what to tug. But I kept at it. And before long, the sling became an integral part of daily business with Otto. I don't think I even used our stroller until he was at least three months old. Everywhere we went, he was cradled into my sling; walks with Dottie, doctor's visits, the market, hikes, dinner parties. . .you name it! I would even make dinner or do light housekeeping with Otto nestled in. Snuggled in his storm coloured pod, my little pea was as content as could be.

Beach vacation with Otto at 9 months old
Ten months later... I am proud to say, I am a babywearing expert! The sling is a staple in our life, and we rarely leave home without it. Weighing in at over 26 lbs., Otto has graduated from the peapod reclining position to the upright hip carry (his feet dangle free, and he now gets a really good look at the world and at me). Admittedly, with a monkey this size hanging off of you, it's nearly impossible to make a dinner. But the sling does still afford me the hands-free liberty to do something as simple as grocery shop, without being bogged down. And I don't have to worry about what he's doing, since he's right under my nose.

Most importantly, I feel there is an inherent security that comes with this snug physical bond between a mama and her baby. I know that Otto instantly calms when I tighten the fabric through the rings, and he is gently pressed close to me. Perhaps he is reminded of his infant days, reclined in the sling, being lulled to sleep by the pounding movement of my step and the steady rhythm of my breath. Whatever the case may be, Otto and I are crazy about our sling. And it carries up to 35 lbs! So, while Otto is by no means a lightweight, I do believe we will see him hanging out in the sling, for many, many days to come.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Kitchen Makeover: Phase 1

Well, we started another project in our house.
. . . or should I say "I" started another project in our house?

The kitchen's 1950's charm was beginning to fade for me. And fade fast. And, probably more importantly, it was increasingly more evident that our kitchen was the farthest from baby-safe/baby-proof that you could possibly get. So, a makeover of the kitchen seemed completely justified.

"Hmmm.. . . since we'll be taking down the kitchen's peach and green floral wallpaper, why not take down the wallpaper going down the hallway too? And we might as well just pull down the paper in the bathroom while we're at it!"  And so it began. A tiny task of baby-proofing the kitchen has turned into a full on, three-room makeover.

I'm pretty sure the members of my family are less than thrilled with me. Some less thrilled than others. (Hi, Honey!!!) After all, we have a lot going on right now. In addition to planning Emma's 14th birthday bash for next weekend, we are also in the throws of negotiations for a new car to replace my 10 year old Saturn. And let's not forget everyone's favourite 10-month-old. Mr. Otto Riot is certainly living up to his name these days! Mobile beyond belief, he is crawling, scooting, creeping and getting his little hands into everything and anything! The boy can hardly be contained.

I mean really, what better time to tear apart the house?

I know this project will go by quickly, and in the end, we will all be happy for the change. We are doing it in small phases so the tasks are more manageable (in case you hadn't noticed, I am quite the fan of phasing a project). But in the meantime, we are all . . .well, we are all suffering. So I don't know that I will be photographing the project's progress. I do believe I will be satisfied to record these improvements via simple "Before" and "After" photographs. So for now, this one is Top Secret!

I CAN tell you this. The new kitchen wall colour is a lovely "Ripe Pear" above a white chair rail, with a little number they like to call "Little Sprout" below. As I am sitting here at the kitchen table, basking in the glow of Coat #1, I am totally thrilled with "Ripe Pear"! It is a muted, soft lime colour. Bright, yet smooth at the same time. Not jarring, but not too dingy either. Quite perfect! However, "Little Sprout". . . is leaving something to be desired. I am afraid it's pale green has too much blue in it, and it is not pairing well with it's yellow-hued counterpart.

It is getting late, and I will be turning in as soon as I post this. Tomorrow is a new day, and with fresh eyes I will look upon these walls. I am hoping the two colours will make peace over the night and I will awake to a harmonious pairing that will require NO alterations, modifications or "do-overs". For if I even start moving in that direction, I truly fear what my family would do to me. (Hi, Honey!!!)

So Goodnight paintbrushes. Goodnight rollers. Goodnight dropcloths. Goodnight tape.  Goodnight walls.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Yesterday, I lost a close friend to cancer.

It just doesn't seem real.  In my mind, I still see her as alive as can be, before she even became sick. She is standing outside my office building on a summer afternoon, wide-eyed and smiling, waving to me. We are headed out to grab a quick coffee on our lunch break. 

That was four years ago.

In her last month or so, I saw the disease change her in ways I had not expected. But I am amazed that the spark that made her who she was, shone steady through the darkness that would ultimately overrun her body. Admittedly, I am a skeptic when it comes to matters of faith and spiritualism. However, I am convinced that this spark, which I was fortunate enough to have witnessed first hand, was in fact her awesome spirit.  

My mantra the past two days, has been reduced to three words: Life's not fair. At moments, I get glimpses of enlightenment in which I am able to see that death is not evil, it is simply a natural part of life. But these moments are fleeting, and more often than not, I am just muttering my three-word mantra inside my head. And then there have been those times when my heart races and I can hardly catch my breath. I am in a panic over the thought of never seeing her again. And I quickly put my mind on something else, for this notion is just too much to bear. 

None of this makes sense to me right now. I don't know if it ever will. No matter how much time you have to prepare, or to accept. . . something like this still hits you like a ton of bricks.

As a person with little faith in an afterlife, I doubt my friend can hear my words now. But if she could, I would thank her for all she has taught me while she was here. She showed me what it means to live selflessly, and how to put others before yourself. She taught me how to cast aside silly inhibitions and to live for the moment. And she showed me what it means to bend and not break. Through the example of her own life, she made all of this look so incredibly easy. But these are lessons I am still learning, and I shall continue to look to her for guidance, wherever she might be.

I don't know what else to say. 
My friend is gone.
My friend with the most incredible spirit you have ever seen, has left this world. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Kitchen Garden: Photo Journal

Summer is in full swing here in Connecticut, and so is our Kitchen Garden! We were actually away on vacation last week, and when we came home, I was surprised at how much the garden grew up and out, and all over the place. It's amazing what a full-sun spot in your yard, lots of water, a bit of affection and a touch of humidity can do.

Since I have been remiss in posting updates on our garden's status, I will provide a mini photo journal to chronicle the garden's progress from the last time I posted on it, back in mid June, right up to today. . . enjoy!

Lemon Balm tends to be an invasive creeper.
We planted ours in a buried pot to help keep it in check.
The plant really took off right away, and looks great.
I plan to steep the leaves and make a lemony iced tea.

Street view of the garden in it's early stages.
Looking orderly and quite nice.
Plenty of zucchini plants right up front, which
will grow quite large, providing a nice screen to the street.

Red Radishes popping up their little green heads!
Started with seeds, these were a later addition
planted to fill up some vacant space in the
perennial herb garden. And besides...
who doesn't love red radishes??

The fragrance of this Curry Plant is rich,
and very similar to cooking curry. However,
it was disappointing to find out this herb
is not edible. 

One of the first flowers on the Pole Bean Plant.
The Pole Beans seemed to lag behind the Bush Beans a bit.

The Bush Bean plants produced babies around the same time
the first flower showed up on the Pole Bean Plants.

First Tomatoes to show up. . . Japanese Black Trifele.
I've never tasted one of these, and I can not wait for them
to be ready!

A teeny tiny Baby Pole Bean on the vine.
(And one that did not make it, lays shriveled nearby.)

Otto fast asleep, while the bumble bee
is hard at work pollinating our garden. 

Our very first harvest: a kale leaf and three string beans 

More tomatoes now coming in, full force.
These are the Pineapple Beefsteak. As the name
implies, these are a sweet, heirloom variety. I am excited
to try this in a salsa, prepared with our own tomatillos!
(Which, incidentally, is producing tons of husks! No photos
at this time, but my fingers are crossed that the fruit will start
growing within all those paper husks very soon.)

Our first sign of a cucumber showed up yesterday.
Awww...isn't it just darling?!

The Nasturtium took a long time to bloom,
but finally blossomed with a vibrant poppy colour

And **SURPRISE**!!
About three Zucchini showed up out of nowhere today!
Hard to believe that yesterday, there was only a blossom
where the shiny new fruit now reside.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Project 333, Phase 1: The List (Redux)

I am about a week shy of completing my second month of Project 333. And in a few short days, I will be embarking on a week long beach vacation. As originally planned when I first committed to Project 333, I will be taking along a small ancillary "vacation wardrobe", consisting of about six items. That's right. . . a week's vacation on six items! I do believe this project HAS changed me!

When my summer vacation starts, I am going to take the opportunity to swap out a handful of my core thirty-three items. The swap is mainly due to the seasonal changes here in Connecticut, but if I were to analyze deeper, I would probably say it is a result of poor planning on my part. (See my blog, Project 333: Phase 1 (Redux), to read more about my decision to swap.)

So, without further adieu, I would like to present the changes to my thirty-three. . .
First, a "Hello" to my lovely new additions, carefully selected for their fit, comfort and versatility:

Summertime Tank
Super light and summery, this tank
is made of organic cotton/hemp. Love the versatility!
It can be paired on it's own with a pair of jeans,
or with a tee underneath, it suits up with a nice pair
of pants for a day at the office!

Frescoe Sleveless Tee
(Outdoor Research)
OK, besides this fantastic colour, and eco-responsible
materials (recycled polyester/organic cotton),
the big draw for me, was this shirt's moisture wicking ability.
This can definitely be worn on the trail....
or with a cardi thrown over, why not to the office??

Bandha Tank
Made of a super soft fabric that is wicking and quick drying.
Another multi-functioning piece that will work as well
during the week, as it will on the weekend.

Kaley Tank
Cool and comfy. This might end up being
more of a weekend piece, I imagine, but I couldn't resist!
I think I brought this one along for those *HOT* summer days
working in the garden or strolling Otto around town!

Noble Shorts
(The North Face)
What made me think I could get through summer
without a single pair of shorts??! I've decided I need ONE pair.
Just one.
I will get along just fine with one pair of shorts, the denim skirt and
the summer dresses. These chosen ones are lightweight, with
a bit of stretch. . .and they are SPF 50!

And finally, a "Goodbye" to a few choices that served me well in the beginning, but are just not working for me, now that the season is wearing on:

I am feeling much more confident moving forward for the remainder of my Project 333, Phase 1. I don't know if this massive swap can solely be chalked up to poor planning on my part, but I do know that I can now survive the long summer days ahead, in style and more cool comfort.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A First Father's Day

Today was my husband's very first Father's Day! He and I don't typically get caught up in all the hoopla over holidays and such. Neither of us are card-givers, and we tend to veer away from being gift-givers as well.  That's just the way we are. Awful as that might sound to many people, this mentality alleviates us of many stresses, headaches and waste, allowing us to focus on what is truly important -- our family and each other.

Baby Otto with his Papa. 
So, without getting too sentimental about today's occasion, I did want to take a moment to remember his very first Father's Day, as a day that was indicative of the sweet and genuine person he is . . . spending time with all of us, whittling away at the never-ending list of baby duties, savoring a really good meal (or two), doing for others, being super silly (*maybe* this involved a garden hose turned on a passing car. . . ), going with the flow, enjoying the moment for what it is, repairing what's not right and getting his hands really dirty in the yard.

I love you, dear.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Kitchen Garden: Planted

Our kitchen vegetable garden and perennial herb garden are finally planted and well on their way to growing strong and healthy. Darren finished up installing the retaining wall cap on May 27th. The entire wall came out wonderful! An amazing feat, considering neither of us have ever built a retaining wall before.

Wall complete, garden planted...
herb garden (left) ready to be tackled
Once the retaining wall was complete, we began the arduous task of conditioning the soil for the vegetable garden. The vegetable garden was planted in the upper bed, which was formerly part of our lawn. The soil is a little on the clay side, so we conditioned with lime, peat moss, our own compost, humus & manure, plus a sprinkling of sand. A rototiller, we have not. . . so it was all mixed and turned by hand with pitchforks. Hard work, to say the least. Once mixed through, the soil was glorious, rich and dark. Perfection!

We had planned our plot beforehand, so planting was a cinch. Once all the plants were in, we decided to cover the base with a nice layer of straw, to help keep the moisture in and keep the weeds at bay. And while Darren worked on the garden bed, I worked on potting our container plants. We did quite a bit of experimenting in our containers this year. In addition to our traditional basil, cilantro and parsley, we also tried planting vegetables, nasturtium and even a hot pepper plant in pots this year! I got creative mixing plant types in each container, trying to achieve pretty looking pots, that will also function in producing food, herbs and edible flowers! Can't wait to see how they turn out. So, by June 2nd, the vegetable garden and containers were all planted and well on their way.

Darren transplanting our huge mint plant.
We thinned it by over half!
The next day, we started conditioning the soil for the perennial herb garden. First we had to remove the plants that would later be transplanted once the soil was properly conditioned. Darren did most of the work here, mixing and churning the soil to it's rich consistency and lovely dark colour. The herb garden was also planned out ahead of time, so planting the new plants (and transplanting the original plants) went fairly quickly. No straw for the herb garden, as Darren's research revealed this is not advisable in any perennial garden. We also had ample space in this large bed, so we mixed in a few other surprises, including a handful of shallots that our neighbor (a master gardener) brought over to us.

The day after they were planted, the pole beans
started to climb the trellis

We planted kale all along the cobblestone edging
Incidentally, Darren and I decided to keep a journal for our gardens. We want to closely document what we planted and where, so that we can chart progress, and make modifications next year if need be. We are also tracking the varieties we plant, especially the heirlooms.

Now for the inventory of what made it into our vegetable garden, perennial herb garden and containers...

My sketch of the gardens, in our planting journal
(* denotes heirloom variety)

Pickling Cucumbers
Tomatoes: Japanese Black Trifele*
Tomatoes: Tomato Pineapple Beefsteak*
Tomatoes: Better Boy
Cherry Tomatoes: Black Cherry*
White Eggplant
Green Bell Peppers: Yankee Bell
Pole String Beans: Garden of Eden*
Bush String Beans: Jade*

P E R E N N I A L    H E R B
Lemon Balm
Purple Sage
Lemon Verbena
Lemon Thyme
Golden Oregano

Radish Minowase (a white variety)

Flat Leaf Parsley
Curly Parsley
Lime Basil
Hot Banana Peppers
White Eggplant
Wheatgrass (for the kitties)