Thursday, February 28, 2008

P.S.




I forgot to mention this. Pottery Barn is trying to kill me. Did anyone else have heart palpitations over these new dining chairs? Ok, I'm really leaving now.

Getting Out of Dodge



I'm taking some time off to travel. Although, I definitely won't look as chic as Doris here, or be riding a bicycle. See all of you lovely ladies in a week!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

$10 Quilt and Some Reminiscing


This past weekend was a lot of fun, mostly because I found this quilt for only $10 at a local thrift store. I also finished up watching the first season of Dexter (it's a bizarre show that can't be explained) and got a hair cut and highlight. Anyway, I decided that since my couch has given up the ghost, I may as well cover it up with something pretty. The quilt has seen better days, but all in all is holding up pretty well.

As you can see, the couch is beginning to resemble a woman who forgot to put on her bra.

Thank you all so much for your suggestions on how to salvage the couch, they were most helpful. I'll probably try them later, b/c forking out money for a brand new couch is something that takes a lot of time and saving (as we all know), unless I can find one at a local resale furniture store. I've been there before and in the past they've had plastic covered couches from the 50's... you know the ones. The couches still in pristine condition 60 years later b/c grandma wouldn't let anyone take the plastic off? I would LOVE one like that, but even those take some saving for.


Now for the reminiscing. Today while driving on the freeway I was stuck behind a big truck. At first I was annoyed, but then I read the big words printed in red across the back: Cedar Creek Inc. All of a sudden I had a flood of memories smack me in the face. I rarely get too nostalgic or sentimental over things, mostly b/c I'm too busy and distracted. But there in my car, with no where to go and nothing else to think about, all I could do was stare at those big red words. Cedar Creek.


My grandfather had a business outside Dallas, and his shop/office was located at Cedar Creek. Or at least that's the way my childhood memory captured it. He and my grandmother also had a cabin there, on a little lake. I drove behind that truck this morning, remembering summer vacations spent there. Meme and Grandad had the perfect 'patio home' in Dallas, and sometimes Grandad would take us out to his shop while he worked. This was a big treat. I can remember playing hide and go seek in the isles of machinery, the air smelling of grease and metal. I remember asking Grandad for a paper cup so I could catch tiny little frogs outside the shop. I would capture them in that cup, sometimes five or six at a time, they were no bigger than my fingernail. I remember eating Moon Pies and RC Colas for lunch ( I realize now that was all the food he had in the shop). It was marvelous.






The last time I went to the shop with him, he let me have an ash tray from his office. It's one of those big oblong 50's ash trays, with boomerang shapes on it. I have no idea why he gave it to me, he didn't smoke. And at 10, I surely didn't smoke. But I still have it. I thought about his shop, those summers, and the tiny frogs all the way to work today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mabel vs. the Couch: The Final Round



It's official. Mabel finally won. She killed the couch. As you all know, I've been complaining about this situation for many moons now. Once upon a time, my couch was brand spanking new and I loved it. My sweet mother-in-law had mercy on us when we were poor newlyweds, and purchased this couch. It was fluffy, upright and had a pleasant smell. That was then, and this is now.





Little did I know when picking out this fluffy, loose cushioned couch, that I would one day own a little schnauzer. A stubborn dog with fuzzy eyebrows, one intent on ruining anything not nailed down or sturdy (note how well my non-poofy leather chair is holding up, thank goodness for one piece of non-pulverized furniture).





Let's take an A.D.D moment and admire a previous Country Living magazine that I was perusing the other day. Is that NOT the best idea for bookshelves? OK Liz, snap out of it.






It begins innocently enough. She jumps up next to me, pretending that she might be in the mood for some adoration and napping in my lap. Stupid me, I'm duped every time. She peers at me briefly to see if I'll yell (because I do yell, and she KNOWS that sitting on the back cushions is a big no-no), and proceeds to burrow into the sofa.





This is always the end result. When I come home from work, there she is. When we eat dinner and leave the table, there she is. Cant find Mabel? She's in the cushions.





I'm afraid there is no reprieve for my couch. I have toyed with slip cover ideas all year, but it's time to face the facts. My formerly lovely couch has bit the dust. Thanks a lot Mabel. Live it up my little friend, because as soon as 'mommy' has enough money... she's buying a big, sturdy, hard-backed couch you cant begin to destroy. So there.








7 Random Facts

I would like to start out this post by apologizing to everyone that's given me any kind of tag or award in the past few months. I'm terrible at carrying those things on, not because I don't like them, but just because I forget. Plain and simple, even if it is rude of me. So please accept my apology...

Nancy tagged me to list 7 random/weird facts about myself:





1. Genetically, my eyes make no sense. My dad has blue eyes (along with his parents), my mom has dark brown eyes (as did her parents). My sisters have blue eyes. I have hazel/green eyes, and no one in the family has green eyes (NOT my eye, pic found here).




2.I love the movie Annie. I can sing all the songs, and whenever Annie sings the song 'Dumb Dog' to Sandy, I have to hold Mabel and pet her.


3. Whenever I go into a flea market, I always want to buy the most bizarre lighting fixtures. Take this one for instance. I have no idea what I'd do with it, and let's face it, it's a little odd. But I nearly came home with this the other day. Whew, close call.



4. My husband made me a CD of Vampire Weekend and I've listened to it over and over in my car for an entire week. I'm bad about that, I latch onto something and obsess about it. But they're good, a little old school Police meets Paul Simon meets a hint of Weezer. It sounds like summer to me.


5. My first name is Margaret. There has been a Margaret in every generation of our family since 1785. She was a sea captain's wife and came over from England. And you thought you felt pressure to pass on your grandparents names! (art by Charles Wysocki)


6. Whenever I'm by myself, especially when Matt works late, I listen to Tito Puente, cook black beans in the skillet and read back issues of Country Home. I have no idea when or where these traditions culminated, but I love them.


(photo found here)

7. In the summertime, Matt and I always take Mabel for walks in the evening. Now, I love doing this for my health, and because Mabel get's such a kick out of trying to scare the ducks at the lake. But, I have to confess I love looking in people's open windows. Now, I'm not talking stalker in-their-yard-standing-on-a-crate mode, but rather when we pass by and the front windows are open, I'm always fascinated at how different the insides of people's houses are. I find that sometimes the nicest houses, with the most pristine lawns and fancy cars, have the most vanilla decor inside. I'm always baffled by this. And yet, there's one little ranch house down by the lake (it's yard, like mine, leaves much to be desired) with the most delightful front window. It's always open, curtains pulled back. The walls have full bookshelves, and art. So interesting. Anyway, I guess this makes me a snoop. I'm also guessing some of us have this in common.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Going My Way


"You cant wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

- Jack London


Well, I've been attempting to put my money where my mouth is the past few weeks with regards to writing. After the big office upheaval, I started making myself sit at the desk and stare at a piece of paper. It's amazing the things you can find to distract yourself when trying to force some creativity. I sit in my little turquoise chair, holding a pen, listening to music (the soundtrack to Pride and Prejudice is my favorite) and think to myself, "Gosh, I really should put some laundry in" or "Hmmm.. I haven't balanced the checkbook in a few days" or "I wander if I fed Mabel today" or my personal favorite, "That picture looks crooked, I should hang something else there."

Sometimes I wish I could join a writers support group, meet other people who are as scatterbrained as I am. It might be some consolation when I find myself Swiffer sweeping the corner dust bunnies instead of working on a project.


Anyway, I've recently had a breakthrough. The first legitimate story idea I've had in months popped into my head a few weeks ago. I like to think of this stage as the 'honeymoon' phase for ideas. The beginning is the most exciting, the middle stage makes my hair thin and by the end I'll be pacing at night and talking to myself. But for right now, it's very exciting.


My youngest sister (who is a tremendously talented writer) told me once that I should draw my ideas. Make a notebook of scraps of dialogue, scene settings; anything that pops into my head. I'm attempting to do this, and while it is a lot of fun, I feel pretty darn silly with my markers and child-like sketches. But, I think she's onto something here. All too often I jump into a story with both feet, neglecting to plan or outline the ideas. This time, hopefully, I'll avoid some of that 'lack of preparation' that so often plagues my stories.






The 'no-TV' nights haven't gone exactly as planned. But, it has been so helpful for me to realized the things that choke out creativity. I've found that turning off the TV, going into the office and shutting the door really helps. We all have a tendency to wait for creativity to strike, but sometimes (I think), it's OK to force it. If I sit long enough, quiet enough, that little magic spot in my brain begins to wake up. All I have to do is take out all the distractions. Ha. Easier said than done, no? Anyway, since you've all been so wonderful to listen to me bemoan about this writing business, I thought I at least owed you an update. For now, it seems that this writing thing is going my way.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Birthday Quilt


My sweet as pie mother-in-law ALWAYS gives the absolute best presents. I am not exaggerating. Here is a pic of what she gave me last year... a gorgeous quilted throw made from vintage tablecloth pieces and Cath Kidston books. I didn't really think that gift could be topped, but she managed to do it again this year.



She made this quilt and matching shams for me. I nearly had a heart attack when I opened the box b/c only Linda understands about my favorite colors in the world; coral and aqua.


I love the floral, and the adorable polka-dot fabric.


And to make it even better, the quilt is reversible. This is the back side (can you imagine... the side that isn't supposed to be seen is even adorable). I'm sure I don't have to tell you how exciting it is the have bedding that can be reversed!


Thank you Linda! I love love love it!


While I was in the guest room (I hardly ever even go in there) I began eyeing a potential project. I have a dresser in there where Matt keeps his clothes (yes, I'm a bad wife and I make my husband keep his clothes in the guest room). We sanded and painted it several years ago. I had plans to do something more exciting than white, but I never could decide. After I eyed it for a while, I began to feel a new project coming on. After I paint my breakfast nook table that is. Oh yeah, and do laundry.



Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Birds in the Morning


There was a dove outside my window this morning. Personally, I can’t think of a sweeter sound, especially after several months of hard winter. I turned the sound down on the TV when I heard him (I was once again exercising, which according to my scale is still a fruitless endeavor). I ran in place with my arm weights in silence, like a goof, just listening to that bird.

My best memories involve the sound of birds. My parents built their dream house when I was 12. It sits on the edge of a mountain, overlooking a creek in a valley. When they finally got the framework up for that house that first winter, I stood on the back porch and gazed at the stark, leafless hills and heard a crow calling through the valleys. I've heard that crows are lonely birds, but I don’t feel that way. They remind me of the house I call home, of the adventure we had as a family when we built it and moved out to the 'sticks.'

Birds make me remember sleeping over at my best friend's house in high school. It was a little blue and white house next to a constantly flowing creek. Giant oak trees blocked out most of the sunlight, everything was always cool and blue and shaded. We would lie in bed at night, windows open, curtains fluttering as mockingbirds chorused in those giant oaks. It was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.

When Matt and I bought this house, we had to paint every inch of it. It was April and we threw open the windows for ventilation. We would arrive to that empty house every day after work the week before we moved in, open the windows and happily paint our very first home. It felt so bizarre, so grown up, so not like us. There were doves then too, cooing late into the night as we painted in the spring air.

As I ran in place this morning, breathing shallowly so I could hear that lone dove, I got so excited. I was filled with good memories and good feelings. I thought of the climbing rose bush I hope to plant, the long walks we take with Mabel down by the lake when the weather turns. Who knew one little dove in the morning could change my whole day?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nights With Mabel


When Matt works late, Mabel and I spend quality time watching girly movies, eating cookies and snuggling. OK, Mabel decided the snuggling part. Actually, we both agreed that perhaps we should just hole up in the house and not venture out until we can hear birds chirping again. It’s still cold here, but no snow. I can’t help but feel that cold weather of this magnitude is a sheer waste when unaccompanied by snow.


Remember Jillian? She's become a beloved family member with her shiny red chrome and fancy mixing gadgets. I never realized how much time I spent mixing things by hand... and if for no other reason, I'm thankful she makes it so easy to mix chocolate chip cookie dough. After pizza and cookies (Mabel dined on a more healthy meal; carrots and kibbles 'n bits), we lounged and watched Something's Gotta Give. By the way, this past week I watched Becoming Jane. I don’t want to spoil this for anyone, but you're going to need some Kleenex. I only say this because I wish someone had warned me!


As you can see, Mabel perceives a cross-legged lap as an invitation to invade my space.


And, if I have the audacity to move, I get what we refer to as 'the eyeball.' I suspect Mabel is suffering from cabin fever, she's very cranky.

Monday, February 18, 2008

New Duds and Some Begging (the Clothes Post)


This weekend Matt and I went shopping. We made a rash decision to go after church, initially so I could find a pair of jeans. You all understand the seriousness incorporated into a jean shopping trip. Once we ventured into the mall on a calm Sunday afternoon, we realized it had been three years since we'd bought a single item of clothes together. Oh sure, there was the white dress shirt from Target here, a basket full of socks there, but no real shopping trips in three years. You’re probably thinking to yourself, "This is the perfect storm for spending money irrationally." Probably, but it was sure fun.

I forget how helpful Matt is to have around. Granted, he follows me around the women's sections like a shadow, but he has really good taste when asked for it. He needed work clothes, but I had the opposite problem. As of late, I've had a serious lack of 'cool clothes.' Sure, I've got tights and pencil skirts and practical black slacks out the wazoo... but nothing fun.

It's hard not to be painfully aware of you're lack of 'cool' with two breathtakingly younger and beautiful sisters. When we go places on the weekends, they are always attired in their finest new jeans, cute tops and fun earrings. I hastily throw on my tennis shoes (because it's either that or heels) and my Walk for the Cure t-shirt. Not so fun. ANYWAY, this weekend I struck gold in the jean department. We went to the Buckle. The sales people were all size 0's with spiky mohawks and fake tans. I was wearing my church clothes. Matt disappeared into the men's section and I was alone. Right before I started to bolt out the door and head to Eddie Bauer, a girl who worked there asked if I needed help. Actually, she swung her long gorgeous blonde hair over her shoulder like someone in a Pantene commercial and said, "You looking for something?"


I decided to be the blunt old lady that I am and just lay it on the line, "Yes. I have a big butt and a little waist. My pants gap in the back and it drives me crazy. Got any jeans for that?" And then, just like in some horrible sitcom with canned laughter in the background, she yells across the room to a sales guy with an orange mohawk, "What are the best jeans for her? She's shapely but with a small waist and her pants gap in the back." I kid you not. Two 15 year olds nearby stopped perusing the Billabong sweatshirts and stared with open mouths. At least she said ‘shapely.’ Mohawk man yelled back, "Try those over there."

But before I could hate her completely, she walked over to the wall rack, plucked three pairs of jeans (and bless her for thinking I could fit into those sizes) and said, "Try these." Miracle of miracles, one of them worked. I almost shrieked in the dressing room, but settled for a subtle, "Yippee" where no one could hear. I was in such an elevated mood, I made an impulse grab for a cute green hoodie (we won’t even delve into how much it rang up for) and brought my goodies home. I will forever be grateful to that little Pantene girl and Mohawk man.


Several of you asked to see my new Sketchers. They're nothing fancy, but I can’t tell you how exciting it is to wear comfortable shoes that ARENT for running. Quite a novel thing.



And I couldn’t post my Monday clip without including Mabel's weekend. She spent a good deal of it begging. I have no idea what’s gotten into her, but she has been quite adamant that I share my food with her. Have you ever seen a dog so enamored with the smell of pickles? She is an odd, odd little duck.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Good Day Sunshine



We had a good Valentine’s Day here in Mabel’s house. Matt and I went for sushi and then he took me shoe shopping. The man just KNOWS. I bought a very cute pair of summer flats, ked-like boat shoes. I just love wearing those with no socks and a pair of jeans, makes me feel like I’m on vacation when I grocery shop. I also bought my very first pair of Sketchers. I needed a comfortable ‘jean’ shoe for an upcoming trip. The ‘cool shoe’ isle is not one I’ve been on in a while, at least not since Doc Martins were in their heyday (I miss those). Anyway, after an initial panic “Matt, help me find cool shoes” moment, I found a fun pair.

In other news, it has been quite the eventful week. On the upside; I have managed to exercise every morning four days in a row. That’s a big deal for me, b/c I usually hit the ground running for most of the weekend and never even consider working out. On the downside; I renewed my pledge to exercising b/c of my yearly doctor checkup. I stepped on the scale and the nurse (who is bigger than me, I might add) says in a really snide voice, “Well, that’s not too bad.” Steam rose from the top of my head. I wanted to say, “Come on mama, you jump on and let’s see how you fair.” But I didn’t. I just killed myself every morning while watching Angel on TNT. Not a great show, but it keeps me from focusing on the sweat running down my forehead.





As far as house stuff goes, I’ve got a couple of ‘where to hang what to do’ conundrums. This poster was on sale a few weeks back at Hobby Lobby for $6.00. I have no idea what to do with it, but I bought it and stuffed it in the back of a closet. I’m thinking white frame in the breakfast nook (I robbed the Doris Day poster from there for the living room). Any thoughts?





I also bought this print way back in the fall. I just LOVE it, but am going to have to have it professionally framed. There is always the ‘frame it yourself’ option, but as a daughter of an artist, I remember the pain and suffering that goes along with cutting your own mat. Not a pretty picture. But it just seems like it belongs in the office, so I'll figure something out. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend, see you Monday!

** The second ballerina print is by artist Michael Parkes. He is a tremendous artist, but I should warn some of you who are perhaps a little faint of heart.. some of the pieces are a smidge, um, nudey. Yeah, that's the word I was looking for. Anyway, I just love his style.



Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Little More Romance...

My Valentine


Sometimes, when he looks at me with those big purple'ish/blue eyes... I still get fluttery and nervous. I love you, Matt.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Office


My project ideas begin innocently enough. Usually, I’m enjoying a big cup of coffee at the break of dawn, nestled in my office chair, enjoying the luxuriously calm hour before my bosses arrive. It’s magic time for me, and one of the perks of the job. All my work is done from the day before (if I’m lucky); my desk is nice and organized. Now, after this hour, all bets are off. The phone calls come in, meetings have to be set, travel arrangements made, haggling with airlines and people in D.C. But before all that begins, my brain is fresh and ready for inspiration.

That inspiration usually comes from you people. It’s all your fault. You post pictures of your latest projects, or magazine spreads that inspire you and BAM, my brain is off and running. This past month it seemed that everywhere I turned, I ran into white/beachy/cottage pictures. Sigh. My dream life entails a little cottage near the ocean, with open windows and sheer curtains. Rose bushes blooming just outside the screen door, fresh cut peonies on the table in a tiny dining room with a built-in china cabinet. There would be no TV in that little house, just a laptop as link to the outside world. The shelves would be overflowing with books and shells and river rocks. Ok, I’ll stop there before we all go crazy.

Anyhoo, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about the office (although I think that Mrs. Fox’s term of ‘library’ is much more conducive to writing a great novel). As you know, I’ve been making a concerted effort to write more, which equals sitting in there a lot. And when spending large amounts of time in a space, I get ideas.



My sainted mother kindly gave me cash for my birthday. What did I do? Get my hair done? Buy clothes? A new coat? No, that would be practical. Instead, the office got new shelves. As you can see, books have taken over the house. Everywhere I turn; I’m kicking and shoving them out of the way.


So I bought these babies. Not exactly ‘libraryesque,’ but I’m really excited about them. The closet is practically empty now, which is a good thing b/c before I could never find anything. I was always lugging plastic containers out of a dark closet, silently swearing while searching for an envelope or a stapler.



I also added a skirt around the two bottom shelves. I like it, but it needs, something. I considered several things, but in the end decided not to ‘muck it up.’ It’s fairly utilitarian how it is, and I didn’t want to add any more fabric. Perhaps a big pink ribbon to trim it out? I don’t know. It will probably dawn on me in the middle of some important project. That’s how it always happens.


The thinking couch needed to lighten up as well. It was such a relief to finally find a use for this great bed coverlet (my mother in law sent it to me a year ago). I also changed all the curtains out for sheers, at least for the summertime.



The little bird deserved a place to perch. Last night she was dubbed Sprinkles.


Thanks to these shelves, there is finally a ‘place’ for those baskets, boxes and other containers I’ve been secretly hoarding in the office closet. They look SO much nicer where they can be seen.




These guys finally found a home too. I bought these about four years apart, and never really had a place to put either of them. It’s times like these that I slap myself on the forehead and say, “THAT’S why you save things.” They will surely end up packed with post cards and letters… but I guess that’s what they’re for. Anyway, that’s my latest project. Now I’m getting down the business of writing.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lightening Up


This weekend was absolutely beautiful. Saturday had breathtaking weather, especially for February. Mabel and I threw sticks in the back yard, which is her favorite thing in the entire world. Even if she hears me say the beginnings of the word 'st,' her little ears perk up and she begins to screech. Sunlight streamed through all the windows and I could just feel the winter tension leaving my body. I sat outside on the front steps and closed my eyes, soaking in the light.


Of course today it’s raining and in the low 40's again... but Saturday gave me hope. Hope that spring really is coming. I ventured out to Lowes (in flip flops no less) and bought an entire buggy full of roots and plantings; hydrangeas, peonies, hollyhocks, hostas, clematis, a climbing rose bush. I have no idea if any of them will survive my black thumb, but I'm going to try.



As you can see, Mabel gets very excited when I leave the front door open. She balances on her back legs like a circus dog and barks at the neighbors. Her joys are small; chasing sticks and watching out an open door. We are both really looking forward to spring. Life is good.


*I said I would be posting office pics today, but it's just not quite photo ready, even for critiques. You just would not believe the piles in the floor. Pure chaos. More tomorrow.