Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tricked out | DIY Halloween decorations.

I came up with another totally legit reason to get crafty: Halloween! Now, I don't mean any disrespect to my son, but this might be my most favorite thing I've ever made:

It's just construction paper pictures I made to spell out trick-or-treat. It hangs outside on the front porch and makes me crazy happy every time I see it. Here are some close ups of a few of my favorite letters:

Oh, what fun I had hunched over the coffee table cutting and gluing and coming up with clever ideas like, A skeleton can totally make a K! It does not take much to amuse me...

(PS - If you aren't all selfish and OCD when it comes to crafting, making letters into pictures would be a perfect activity to do with your kids!)

Once the outside was all tricked out (ha!), I moved inside to up the spooky factor just a bit. Our front entry hall is a great place to decorate because it's a neutral space that sets the holiday mood without making us feel like we've moved to a cheesy theme restaurant (the exception, of course, is Christmas - I want this baby dripping with holiday goodness come December 1st). Here's our haunted hall of terror:

The skeleton is a sketch a friend of ours did. I used to have it out all the time but bringing it out just for Halloween makes it feel much more special. And totally appropriate, don't you think? The only other major decoration I did in the house was a collage of photos from Halloweens-past.

Halloween photos are often the best of the best but having them up all year round doesn't quite work. This big frame ($9 at Dollar General) lets us enjoy our fun photos and old costumes once a year without the novelty wearing off. What a spooktacular idea! (In case you're wondering - the photo in the bottom left corner is me and Bill when we were Patsy and Edina from Ab Fab; on the right hand side, just below the group photo at the pumpkin patch, is Bill dressed as a sock monkey...any others you're curious about, just ask!).

Happy crafting!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lessons learned last night.

1. If you happen to live in a crazy state like Tennessee and are invited to a party on a Sunday, make sure to stop by the wine shop on Saturday when it is legal to buy alcohol. Otherwise you will be stuck trying to decide between A) bringing nothing, B) bringing beer (I like beer as much as the next guy but when the invitation is for an all-girls clothing exchange and wine tasting, showing up with an ice cold sixer seems a little, oh I don't know, redneck), or C) coming up with something else to bring that will make up for the fact that you are a terrible guest who is unable to follow simple instructions and plan ahead.

2. When a recipe instructs you to "fill cupcake tins half full", just do it. There is absolutely no reason to keep filling and filling until all the batter is gone. Not wanting to waste batter or get out another pan are not good reasons. Trust me. You will thank yourself later.

3. Trying to get overfilled cupcakes out of the tin is hard; trying to get them out while they're still hot? Impossible.

4. Baked goods - even ugly baked goods that took the jaws of life to be pried from a cupcake tin - can make up for just about anything. Why say, I'm late and kinda grumpy and I forgot to buy wine when you could just say, I brought cupcakes and they're still warm!

5. While drinking can be an excellent way to nip a bad mood in the bud, be warned: negativity can greatly increase the speed at which one drinks. If you happen to be the only one drinking a particular white wine and you suddenly notice the bottle is dangerously close to empty, SLOW THE F DOWN! Maybe drink some water or have a bite to eat. Whatever you do, don't make an ass out of yourself again. Once is funny, twice is a problem.

6. A little box of spices called "The 2 Alarm Chili Kit" makes a damn fine pot of chili.

7. Swapping funny stories and laughing with friends is a sure fire way to brighten your mood. Some might say it's even more effective than power drinking wine and eating chocolate.

8. Coming home to your husband in nothing but a trench coat and a pair of boots is only sexy in the movies. In reality, your husband is probably sound asleep and will not necessarily appreciate being woken up by his drunk wife standing over him saying, Hey, check it out. Wanna see what I got? I bet you do. Wake up. Babe? Waaake UP! Like my coat? Huh? You like this? Ba-dam! He'll probably be like, Why do you smell like smoke? which will be a total letdown after getting all pumped up on the ride home as you froze your bare ass off and sang Tom Petty's American Girl at the top of your lungs.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saving on kinetic.

So, as it turns out, I'm lazy. This doesn't come as a shock or anything, it's just something that has been jumping up and biting me on the ass a lot lately. When you're lazy, you can't help but know it. The signs are everywhere: there's the laundry that outgrew the confines of the laundry basket several days before you noticed; the tissue on the floor from the time you blew your nose, tried to make a basket, missed, and walked away without a rebound; the lunch dishes that are still waiting to be cleaned when dinner rolls around; and everything you touched throughout the day lying just where you left it (kinda like a trail of breadcrumbs only decidedly less helpful).

It's not that I'm sitting around watching soaps and eating bon bons all day. (Although, how great does that sound?) I actually try really hard. But I think it's slowly starting to dawn on me that the reason I have to try so hard is because of my laziness. If I just did things right the first time, there would be so much LESS work to do later.

To give you an idea what I'm talking about, here are some of my recent worst of moments:
Letting the dog in from the back yard on a rainy day and being too lazy to dry her off.
Time saved: 1 minute.
Time lost: 45 minutes (30 for mopping the floors, 5 for cursing the dog, 10 for whining and bitching about the wet dog and the dirty floors).

Letting Liam eat "breakfast" in bed with me while I dilly dallied on the computer and put off getting up and starting the day.
Perk: Mama got to stay in bed an extra 30 minutes!
Drawback: Mama had to wash all the bedding (even though it had only been two days and one cup of red Jello since the last change of sheets).

Cleaning (most of) the house for a party by shoving all the clutter and piles of crap into the spare room and shutting the door.
Would have been a great solution: If I was a good enough liar to just take a stinking compliment instead of saying, "Oh, thanks. Yeah, it looks pretty good as long as you don't open this door..." And then opening it up to show people I wasn't kidding around. Plus there's that sinking feeling that happens when you go to clean that part of the house a week later and discover important things like bills hiding in there. And trying to reintroduce that stuff back into the house? Please. My week long effort has made freeing Willy look like a piece of piss. Evidently I can only have 90% of my house clean at one time. What the hell do I do when people come visit and sleep in that room? Oh yeah, tell them not to open the closets...
See what I mean? If I wasn't so lazy on the front end, I wouldn't have to work so hard on the back end. Actually...wait a minute. I think I'm coming up with a solution. See, it's not exactly laziness that's my problem, it's timing. If I could embrace my laziness and make it work for me, instead of against me, I would totally be in business.

I need to take back the word and own it. Kinda like how feminists did with bitch. I'll be like, Hell yeah I'm lazy! I do little things all day long that save me from having to do big things later. I make so much less work for myself, I can veg out in front of the TV like TWICE as much as I used to. I don't let my dishwasher sit full of clean dishes because I know it's just a matter of time before my sink fills up with dirty dishes. I empty it right away because I'm a lazy motherfucker!

It seems like a better solution than trying not to be lazy, right? I mean, let's be honest - that is just NOT going to happen. Because it sounds really hard and, well, you know, the laziness.

Clean LIAM now...

...or clean EVERYTHING later.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stop! Dada time.

I'm working today at the Tennessee State Museum gift shop. It's my third Saturday here and the third Saturday Bill and Liam have come to see me. The first week they needed to get the car seat out of my car so they could go to Costco to get some frozen chicken and a "church of ice cream" (the peak on a soft serve reminds Liam of a steeple). The next week I forgot my cell phone and my glasses. Today I needed coffee. Secretly, we just really like each other and are slightly co-dependent.

Every time I hear them tromping down the main stairs humming a Miss Courtney duet, or look up from my book the register and see them parading toward the gift shop like a couple of crazy hobos, my heart flutters a little and I can't help but giggle to myself.

They are always wearing the same clothes - Liam in red track pants, a Mexican hoodie and brown deck shoes; Bill in a paint splattered track suit, Clarks that are twice as old as Liam and a hippie beanie that is way too close to the color of his skin. Both have on swim trunks underneath.

They seem completely unfazed at the prospect of seeing me somewhere as strange and exotic as work. I stand there like someone who just got a hair cut and really wants a compliment without having to ask for one. Well? What do you think? I mean, look at me. I'm working! They're like, Oh yeaaaah. Working. Cool. Alright, well, we're taking our track suits and going to the pool now. Peace out.

I love witnessing their Dada and Liam time. And not just because the outfits are hilarious. There is something about them one-on-one that totally brings out their best. Bill is completely at home in his role of Super Dad and Liam seems more like a confident dude and less like my baby. It always catches me off guard making me feel incredibly proud yet strangely distant at the same time.

The best, though, are days like today. Seeing someone you love in an unfamiliar place is like getting to see them with a fresh pair of eyes. When you get used to seeing someone all the time, it's almost like you stop seeing them at all. I mean, it's not like you're going to have to point them out in a crowd or anything; just open your eyes and there they are, just like they were yesterday and the day before that and last week and forever. But when you don't see them for a little while (in me and Liam's case, an hour or so does the trick), the next time you lay eyes on them, especially somewhere unfamiliar, you get to see what everyone else sees. And it's glorious.

I've done this with Bill before, most notably the last time he picked me and Liam up from the airport. As we were walking closer and closer to the security gate, I noticed a really cute guy standing there waiting for someone. I was totally staring at him and probably would have eye flirted a little if I wasn't all ugly from the plane and pushing a stroller. I forced myself to look away before I got too close and would have walked right past him if he didn't step in front of us to hug his son.

When I see my boys together, though, I have to admit it's Liam who stuns me. He is so big and grown up it almost takes my breath away. I approach him cautiously as if he is someone other than the boy who hopped in the tub with me yesterday and snuggled up to me in bed this morning. I go in for the hug; he obliges politely then drifts away, captivated by something other than me. I can't take my eyes off of him. This is my son. This person browsing through a bin of mini erasers and watching his reflection in the jewlery case is Liam. It's almost enough to send me to work every Saturday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The darling is in the details | DIY baby shower decorations.

This weekend I hosted a baby shower for my dear friend Linnet. She is due right around my birthday and if the baby is a girl, her middle name will be Day - my maiden name. Sure, the name was chosen before we met but, in my mind, this child is my name sake. Who else could possibly host the shower? Obviously no one but Maggie Day Conran.

(PS - whether the baby is a boy or a girl, it will always be Dennis to us. This is the name Liam started calling it months ago when he needed to refer to the baby as something other than the baby. So Dennis it is! As in, When can Pete, Linnet and Dennis come over for dinner? Who is going to hold Dennis when he comes out of Linnet's belly? How long until Dennis gets here? Are we going to help take care of Dennis? And so on, and so on...)

I love hosting parties but especially parties that involve real invitations. There's just something so special about sending paper mail - it's one of my all time favorite things to do. Done right, invitations kick off the party as soon as the guests rip open their hand-addressed envelopes. Not only do they set the tone and give a taste of what's to come, they are something in the mailbox other than bills and junk. I feel festive just thinking about it!

I found these invitations at Target and was really impressed with the quality of the paper and the overall look. They were easy to print at home and, at about a $1 each, delivered a lot of bang for not a lot of buck.

While I didn't go with a theme for the party, I did use the colors on the invitations as a jumping off point for decorations. Everything was muted neutrals/earth tones - orange, blue, green, brown, yellow... a perfect palette for a unisex shower. Here's what the house looked like as the guests arrived:

The poofs hanging from the porch were easily made with tissue paper and fishing line. The idea came from a friend who sent me to this site for step-by-step instructions. They were really easy (although I still managed to mess up as many as I got right...) and added some colorful whimsy to the front porch.

I made the hanging sign with scrapbook paper in coordinating colors (I drew and cut the letters by hand - thanks student government for giving me mad sign making skills!). I strung yarn between stick-on hooks and attached the letters with itty bitty clothes pins. It was a super cute way to welcome guests to the party and was lots of fun for me to make. I love projects like this and was happy to have a legitimate reason to get crafty.

This project was fairly easy as long as you don't count the time it took to make it happen. Picking out scrap book paper was an adventure in and of itself that required more than one trip to competing craft stores. Liam went with me, of course, and as we walked up and down the paper aisle for the hundredth time he asked, "Mama, what's wrong?"

"What do you mean, 'what's wrong'? Nothing's wrong! Why?"

"Because you keep saying, 'Ugh! This is making me crazy!'"

"Oh. That. Well, buddy, I guess Mama is just really picky and indecisive. That's all."

(PS - if you think scrap booking would be a really good legitimate reason for me to get crafty, you can think again. I lack the ability to do projects like this without making a humongous mess - the kind of mess that makes me itchy and uncomfortable for days on end. Scrap booking, while tempting, would most certainly be the death of me. I prefer to keep my memories tucked neatly inside the computer where I am less likely to trip over them.)

My living room is under there somewhere.

Inside, I kept the decorations to a minimum since my house already kinda matched the party (coincidence or clever planning?). I set out a few pots of flowers with coordinating ribbon (they doubled as game prizes!) and hung scrap book paper flags over the food table (double sided triangles strung together with yarn).

To get good use out of the leftover scrap book paper, I made little cards for the guests to write wishes for Dennis and Linnet (we shared them out loud when we sat down to open presents), made BINGO cards for baby present bingo (everyone filled in their game card with things they thought Linnet might get then crossed out the squares as she opened her gifts - it totally takes the pressure off mama-to-be), and decorated a sign up sheet with tiny paper houses (it takes a village to raise a child...this sheet gave us the chance to tell Linnet exactly what we want to do to help with Dennis!).

The yellow flowers are actually pens!
(Martha Stewart paper flower kit - $2 score @ Big Lots!)

The center square is a decorative freebie.

As far as food and drinks were concerned, I went with a pretty basic brunch menu that could be eaten standing up: sausage balls, baby quiches, muffins, pastries, fruit with cream cheese dip, mimosas and coffee (or plain OJ for preggo).

That cuteness in the back there? That's a gDiapers diaper cake that a friend of ours (who also happens to be Linnet's childbirth educator) made for the shower. This was not only incredibly thoughtful (Linnet plans to use gDiapers with Dennis) and adorable, it was also a really good excuse for us to get together for beers to "coordinate colors" and "match the cake to the shower decorations". I am nothing if not thorough.

I had a lot of fun planning and decorating for the shower and was happy with the way everything turned out. Most of all, though, I was grateful to have a few hours with the girls to celebrate our friend as she transitions from pregnancy (only 4 weeks to go!) to motherhood. It's an amazing journey; one that definitely deserves a celebration.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Miss Courtney makes a house call!

As you probably know, Liam is a HUGE Courtney Jaye fan (excuse me, a huge Miss Courtney fan). He listens to her songs every day, knows them by heart and talks about her all the time. She is so present in our home, it feels like she's a member of the family.

Recently Liam started asking if we could invite Miss Courtney over for dinner. He even made a list one night of all the people he wanted to invite over to our house. As you can see, Miss Courtney came in at number one.

From the top - Ms Courtney, Ella (his friend from Spanish class), Sean & Erin (our friends), Todd (either his friend from Spanish or Baby Jack's dad), and Steve (our neighbor).

Since Bill and I happen to know her, we decided we may as well try to introduce her to her number one fan. She was absolutely thrilled to see video of Liam singing her songs and said she would be honored to come over the next time she was in town.

Last week she came to Nashville for a couple of shows and, true to her word, stopped by the house. Here's how it went down:

As soon as I mentioned she was coming over, Liam ran to get dressed and started waiting by the door. Unfortunately I told him first thing in the morning that she would be coming over that night so the entire day was Is Miss Courtney here yet? When is Miss Courtney going to be here? Maaamuuuh - I WANT MISS COURTNEY!

Bill got home from work signaling Liam's patience to completely run dry. I suppose telling him Miss Courtney will be here after Daddy gets home could have been slightly misleading.

We heard a knock at the door. Liam ran down the hall screaming, Miss Courtney! Miss Courtney!, threw open the door with the utmost of confidence, then gasped, clapped both hands over his open mouth, and backed slowly into his room where he stood frozen in sheer amazement.

She hugged him; he hugged her back. Bill and I looked at each other like Where is that slow to warm up to new people kid we've grown to know and love?

He showed her around the house, ending the tour in his room. He showed her his CD player and his Miss Courtney CD, then turned on his favorite Jesus and Mary Chain song. She handed him her new full length album with 5 songs he had never heard before (available tomorrow on iTunes!!!).

Then, they started to sing.




Can you imagine anything more amazing? I mean, what three year old gets to have his favorite singer come to his room and sing duets with him? Minds were blown all around. It was a night that will never be forgotten.

As if that wasn't enough, we got to see Miss Courtney play with her band at Live on the Green two nights later. We sat right up front and Liam was completely star struck. I don't think he so much as blinked the entire show.

When her set was over, we called to her from the crowd and she came over to hug Liam (imagine!). As we were standing there talking to her, Baby Sia and her mom spotted us and came over to say hi. Suddenly Liam completely lost his cool. Instead of looking at Miss Courtney or talking to her, he started pointing at her and shouting, "Baby Sia, this is Miss Courtney! Right here! Miss Courtney, Baby Sia! THIS IS HER!!!" If he'd had a marker, he totally would have had her sign his chest.

Liam now has completely unrealistic expectations. He wants to know when The Fresh Beat Band is coming over for dinner and refuses to believe me when I tell him The Beatles will most likely not be able to come sing in his room. I'm sure we're in for lots of disappointment and will probably have to be the bearers of bad news more often than we'd like, but I hope he believes anything is possible for a long, long time.

With nights like these, how could you not?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tennessee Thurdsay | TN State Museum by day, Live on the Green by night.

Yesterday I spent the morning at the Tennessee State Museum learning the ropes for my upcoming temp job as Saturday Gift Shop Girl Extraordinaire (I think that's my title - I'll have to double check). The mama I babysit for is the manager there and when she needed someone to fill in for a bit on the weekends, she was thoughtful enough to come to me. A new adventure and a little extra cash? Count me in!

After she showed me where everything is and taught me how to use the register (total flashbacks to my Christmastime jobs at Macy's a hundred years ago!), she gave me a tour of the museum and some of the archives. Here's a fun fact for you: Did you know that anyone who is a Tennessean can send their stuff to the Tennessee State Museum and they have to archive it and keep it forever? You would not believe how many people take advantage of this. And not just historically relevant Tennesseans or cash in the attic type people. Oh no. Normal everyday people with totally pointless crap go out of their way to will their stuff to the state so when they die a piece of them will live on. Who knew?! As we wandered around the warehouse I saw a bright yellow Yamaha motorcycle helmet, an electric disco ball and a massive collection of Mickey Mouse souvenirs. Among many, many other things. You name it, I bet the poor state museum has it labeled and archived in their collection.

It made me take stock of what I have and think about what I would want to survive me in a state run storage facility. I couldn't come up with a single thing. It reminded me of the night before when I was digging through my closet, looking for things to bring to a clothing swap. On the one hand, I felt like I had nothing extra to give away (all my clothes fit in the small closet I share with my husband, I am not a big shopper, and I give sacks of clothes to charity every time I can't find enough hangers to finish the laundry). On the other hand, I could easily have given every last article of clothing and not missed a single piece. The only reason I didn't is because, then what would I wear?

At the clothing swap I had no interest in looking for new digs either. While the other girls tried on new clothes and parted sorrowfully with old clothes, I sipped vodka cocktails while reading US Weekly (like crack, I tell ya) and sneaking brownies from the kitchen. Shopping (even free shopping) is sort of lost on me. I don't know what it is. I did come home with a new purse and a hair dryer though and, as always, had lots of fun.

In case you were wondering what my boss lady looks like.

Enough about me being fashionably challenged - back to my Tennessee Thursday!

After the museum and some quiet time at home, we picked up a friend and went across the bridge to Live on the Green downtown. It's an outdoor concert series featuring local artists that takes place on the big grassy field in front of the court house. I have driven past this exact spot at least a million times and never even noticed the grass. How weird is that? The coolest thing about this invisible grass field is that it is actually a green roof - underneath is a parking garage. Isn't that cool? Anyway, it was a beautiful night for listening to live music outside. And chilly enough that I got to see Liam in his super cute new hoodie.

Funny thing about that hoodie? In a pinch, it can totally be turned into a hippie-esque pair of pants.

See, Liam went off to explore the fountain with his Dada and came back with a soaking wet lower half. At first we convinced him to hang out in his wet jeans which, could you imagine? Yuck. I was shocked he went for it at all (I would never wear wet jeans!) and, even though I didn't have anything for him to change into, I was all for it when he was like, "Hey guys, this is bullshit - I'm taking off my pants." As long as he kept a jacket on his lap, no one could tell he was naked from the waist down (he's still going commando). But, of course, that didn't last long. So we fashioned a toga style diaper out of Bill's jacket so we could carry him off to find a potty (or "shadowy spot to pee" as it were). But it looked ridiculous and was like an open invitation for him to play with his junk. So I turned his hoodie into pants! And, really, I have to say - they were not a bad substitute for a thoughtfully packed diaper bag.

Oh whatever, it did the job.

Honestly, though? I'm glad Liam ended up half naked last night. See, next week Liam's most favoritest singer of all time - Miss Courtney Jaye - is playing Live on the Green. So last night was really just a dress rehearsal. Not bringing a change of clothes (or wading in a fountain with jeans on at 8:00 at night - however you want to look at it) was a kink that needed to be worked out before the big night. This is why we practice, people! Now that that's behind us, we are ready for Miss Courtney! We might even have all of our clothes on when we meet her.