To Dad.

70 years seems like an incredible feat, especially since I oftentimes question how I’ve survived for just over half of that. But your 70 years of life experience, is probably what has gotten me through my mere 36. You’ve taught me so many things—things that have carried me through some of my best and worst days. From teaching me how to ride a bike to helping me navigate the stock market—you prepared me for life’s little and big tests.

I understand how important it is to believe in myself, to show up, to not take anything personally, to be fun and to have fun and to “not stand on the boards”—a reference only my former skating friends will understand, but that everyone should. It means to understand the value of time, to use it wisely in order to uncover its worth. So DAD, happy 70th birthday! Thank you for using your time wisely—to make my life better but mostly thank you for loving me for more than half your life and for all of mine.

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Hungry for more.

Recently, I felt sadness for a complete stranger. Maybe it was timing more than anything else. Perhaps I was unusually fragile that day. Or maybe it was purely selfish, having suddenly realized I had missed an opportunity to learn all I could from one member of a truly important generation. No matter the reason, empathy had hit me hard.

As I’ve had more time to reflect, I find myself wondering if the importance of those who came before us has been lost on my generation and even more so on the generation who follows me. I’m terribly afraid that we’ve taken the wisdom of those who preceded us for granted, brushing them off as old, out of touch or unreasonably sad and angry. Had I capitalized on all of the free life lessons that came directly from real life experiences? Just how many of these opportunities had I missed? And why had I not questioned myself until now?

Prior to this awakening, I would have undeniably omitted myself from falling into the category with those who didn’t think twice about this – with those who cared more about their own life than the lives of those who helped shape it. But now, I wonder if their significance has been lost on me as well.

Let’s back up. Last year, I started volunteering with the organization Meals on Wheels. I had seen the TV commercial many times and figured that I was plenty capable of “dropping off a hot meal and saying a quick hello” but after just a few deliveries, I learned that it was so much more than that.

Combating senior hunger (initiated through the loss of independence due to declining health) may be the foundation of this organization but combating other forms of hunger – hunger for companionship, for conversation, for friendship, for love – those are what continue to drive it. It truly is about “taking care of those, who once took care of us”.

For me, the experience has been priceless. I have some humorous stories that I could entertain you with. I’ve seen and heard a lot, some of which is forever burned in my mind, including moments like the following:

  • Being greeted by a senior in just his underwear who seemed confidently unaware
  • The time I felt supreme guilt for possibly being responsible for an escaped cat
  • The few times that I’ve been treated as a thrift shop representative and was gifted many undesired trinkets
  • The countless, unsolicited, reports I’ve received of ailments and escaping bodily fluids

I’ve certainly gathered a strange combination of happy and sad. I’ve listened to many “woe is me” narratives and truly feel I’ve been witness to deep depression onset by old age. I’ve had a quick glimpse into the life we don’t consider when we’re praying for a longer one. We don’t fully understand what is connected to such a wish. We don’t realize that we’re asking for a life that could be full of insurmountable odds – a life that may be pretty darn sad and lonely.

I quickly learned that behind many closed doors lies physical and emotional pain. There is sickness and loneliness. I was shown a clear picture of loss of life within life. Many of these people sit under their own dark cloud in secret until forced to open the door and then they either hide that sadness and pain or display it in plain sight.

I promise it’s not all sad. I’ve seen the opposite end of the spectrum, too. Some client’s are content or seemingly happy enough and they all have been grateful and kind. Some still have their companion or at least someone who helps them maintain the “pep” in their step and love in their heart. But many don’t and on this particular day, I realized that we all have someone, until we don’t.

That day, an unfamiliar face opened a familiar door. She was a somber faced woman, dressed in black. “We’ll be cutting down to one meal. Did they tell you?” At first, this didn’t strike me as strange. I had always secretly wondered if the man who lived there had requested two meals just for himself. Today, I was ashamed of my assumption, which usually made me secretly smirk. As strangers, we sometimes do that. We imagine other people’s lives. We wonder. We speculate. But seldom do we put in the effort to seek out the truth or learn a stranger’s story. I wish I had asked. I wish I had asked where his wife was every time I did the drop off. He would have likely told me, “She is sick in bed.” Instead, today his niece told me that she had died. I’d been to her home countless times and never knew she was there.

In that single moment I was harshly reminded of my real duty. It wasn’t just to feed. It was to care. Bringing this newly widowed man food wasn’t going to heal his heartbreak, his sadness or his loneliness but maybe our next conversation or the one after that, would.

Food is important. It’s a basic human need but it’s not the only thing that feeds the body and it won’t feed someone forever. Stranger’s stories are just as important as mine. These bodies and souls were once like me, and one day, I may be just like them. They paved my path, your path. They saw things I may never see in my lifetime – some of which I’ll yearn to, other’s which I pray I’ll never have to.

So the next time you cross paths with an elder, stop to ask them how they are. Ask them where they’re going. But please, ask them where they’ve been. One day, you may be them. They (I) may not tell you they are (I am) sad and lonely and would like to talk but I promise you, they (I) do.

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I Will.

I woke up on January 1st (along with the rest of the world) forcefully pushed into that brief period of reflection – angry with myself for once again focusing too much on the “has beens” and the “what if’s” of life – wrapping myself up in the past, as if it were my inescapable future.

The few years leading up to 2016 was a mix of good and bad and so I headed into the year expecting the worst, hoping for the best and based on my standards, ended up falling somewhere in between. I suspect someone who fell victim to hard times would say that my year was a good one but for me, the gap between where I am and where I want to be seems to keep growing and the very thought of that throws me into a downward spiral of negativity. But just as I’m about to count my adversities one by one, I hear one-year-old giggles coming from the next room followed by the cute swishing sound of my nephews chunky thighs, speedily rushing towards me and suddenly, all is right in the world. If that’s all it takes, then surely things can’t be so bad!

There are always things to be grateful for and to be happy about. Sometimes, we just need that perfectly timed reminder. 😉img_7322

In 2017 I will:
Continue wishing.
Remember & appreciate the past but won’t look back too hard.
Envision my future.
Keep things simple.
Be happy.
Stay Strong.
Love.

Just Make It Work.

We don’t always have the luxury of customizing a space exactly how we see it in our heads. Open floor plans, high ceilings, oversized windows…not always a possibility. Even if those were do-able, you may not want to put yourself through what could turn out to be, a construction nightmare. Money, time, patience (or lack thereof) all come into play and sometimes, you just have to work with what you have. The good thing is – often times when you’re forced to work with what you have, you’ll find that what you have, can actually work.

My husband and I were gifted a small dose of “You can’t always get what you want” as our home kindly offered up a “small space” challenge of its own – the dreaded “porch turned interior room” project. Our little, extra room. I wanted to view it as a bonus but it actually felt more like a burden. What would its purpose be? A den, an office, a sad excuse for a library in a home where the word itself simply sounds ridiculous?

We’re certainly not the first homeowners to tackle a tiny space. Tiny, we could handle but tiny and overlooked or not usable, I could not.  The room is tucked away behind our living room and my first concern was, how can it be useful or inviting if no one noticed it was even there? Frustrated by this thought, my goal right then and there became to make it enticing by way of intrigue. I vowed to make the room intriguing, usable and of course, beautiful. And so followed a course of action based on intrigue, purpose and beauty – three things I want to have when I grow up. 😉

Step 1: Choose Room Color
With all our rooms, choosing the paint color came first. This room has ample natural light so even dark wall colors would have sufficed but I chose to maximize the already light and bright by choosing a nice, light green – more specifically, Benjamin Moore – Aganthus Green

Step 2: Choose Room Mood
Unlike with people, you can choose the mood of your room. I quickly convinced myself that this is indeed, a bonus room – a space to do anything we want including one or all of the following (probably not simultaneously): read, relax, nap, peruse the internet, reminisce over photos, flip through magazines, write, dream, work and the occasional push-up.

Step 3: Furnish the Room
I asked myself, “What might be helpful when doing one or all of the above?” A work space or desk (to write, work or peruse the web), chairs OR a couch (to relax, read or nap), a bookcase (to store all the books and pictures), a floor lamp (to see), a vintage rung ladder (for the occasional magazine) and a throw (to keep one comfy while doing all of it OR just because I want one).

Let’s break down how checking off this list went:

DESK
Finding a desk was challenging.  Once again, my Pinterest board built dreams that became crushed after my actual “search to purchase” activity and I came up empty. Fortunately, I was able to find many a tutorial on how to make the desk I envisioned and it turned out to be not overwhelmingly hard.

To make our desk:
1.) Decide on measurements.
2.) Go to your favorite hardware store. Mine happens to be Home Depot. Choose your boards and have them cut to size.
3.) Purchase stain of choice, metal connectors and screws.
4.) Lightly sand edges & surface.
5.) Stain and allow to dry fully.
6.) Lay boards out on a work surface spaced to your liking and enlist someone to assist holding in place for attaching.
7.) Get over your need for everything to come out perfect. (I’m constantly working on this)
8.) Attach the hairpin legs. I ordered mine from www.hairpinlegs.com

SEATING
A couch won out over chairs but choosing the right size couch was aggravating because the size we wanted, would not fit through our front door and we were forced to downsize, compromising a bit on the style.

Tip #1: Triple check the measurements of the door it will be coming through before making the purchase.

Furniture is not like clothes. You can’t try it first and so despite measuring numerous times, I still held my breath up until the moment it made it safely through the threshold. However, fitting through the front door is not the only success you need. It also needs to look appropriate in its intended space, which for us turned out to be a big fail. Even this smaller version couch looked way too big where we planned for it to go.  It protruded too far into the belly of our room, leaving little space to do that one push-up.

Tip #2: Always have a back-up plan.

Unfortunately, swapping it with our living room couch (which was my back-up plan), did not work.

Tip #3: Always have a back-up to your back-up plan.

This tip was not just an afterthought. I did, in fact have a Plan C.  And it did in fact work, sliding perfectly into the nook on the far wall completing my vision of that inviting space.  What’s more inviting than a comfy looking couch? My husband proves that nothing is. 😉

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LIGHTING
As I mentioned, this room gets ample light during the day but at night, you’d trip over yourself. Enter, floor lamp. I really craved one from Crate and Barrel but I opted for the cheaper Target version, which does the job just the same and still makes me smile.

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Some finishing touches included curtains, which were hung with our old apartment rods (sprayed gold) and a mini display of some photos and other artsy decor.

 

*Framed stamp collage made by me but stamps courtesy of Grandma & Grandpa’s travels.

 

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*Typewriter, courtesy of my mom’s younger days.

“I’m not a beauty but I’m pretty.
I’m not a genius but I’m witty.”

 

 

 

 

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*Dining Room chair turned desk chair, courtesy of  World Market.

 

 

 

 

 

I also became obsessed with a recycled pallet project that I had seen on pinterest and just had to make it. It was work and I ran into some trouble getting the right coloring on the wood but the end result is close to what I was hoping for and it was a cheap project overall.

Free pallet courtesy of a Facebook search
Existing mason jars colored with mod podge, blue food coloring & my oven
Faux flowers from Michaels
Pipe clamps from Home Depot
Some nails & screws
Stain
Sandpaper

 

Still missing – a rung ladder but otherwise…..voila! A room we rarely use.

 

There Will Always Be More To Do.

Do it, so you can do it again.

We’re quickly approaching the one year mark and are still unable to say that one room is “finished” so I can relate to those who feel overwhelmed and who have lost hope in their home decorating abilities. Yet for some reason, I remain dedicated and more motivated than ever when it comes to our home.  I know it’s a process and you can’t always get to everything but I actually look forward to the point where I can say, “Oh – this is done?  Let’s do it again!” 🙂  Just don’t tell my husband I said that.

When you move into a house, an almost immediate need is for an area that can be used and enjoyed, not just by the home-dwellers themselves but by friends and family as well.  Despite everyone’s best intentions, that space usually ends up being the kitchen. I’m sure you’re familiar with those parties where everyone crowds in the kitchen while the inviting chairs and cozy couches in the next room, remain uninhabited.  I always wondered why that was but when I stop to think about it, one of my main sources of happiness is food so……it kind of makes sense.   Our kitchen however, with it’s tiny square footage, lack of seating and not much counter space doesn’t have a chance in hell of stealing our living room’s thunder.  So by default, our “go to” space is the living room.

Our living room has been mostly done for a while now because we were eager for that “go to” space.  Unfortunately, the space we had to work with posed problems when trying to decide on the layout of the furniture.  With its modest size and long narrow shape, “How practically, comfortable could we possibly make it?” was my biggest, most constant nagging concern.

We are lucky enough to have a working, wood burning fireplace, which was on my “must have” list when searching for a home.  Last winter, it was warm and inspiring despite the lack of warmth and inspiration of the room. It’s wrapped by a simple white mantle that I absolutely love and that in most spaces would be the perfect focal point – just not ours.  Turning our furniture towards the mantle would cut off the openness of our space and would create havoc when trying to maneuver from room to room. It would also force us to place the TV above it, which would place a major strain on our necks and would take away from the mantle’s aesthetic appeal.  We had to come up with something else but turning our seating away from the fireplace didn’t feel right. What is the point of having a fireplace, if you can’t see it?  This was the first time that I felt totally stuck.

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Growing up, my mom was constantly re-arranging the furniture and I can remember at least four different ways she could make it work, each time giving the room a fresh, new feel.  Our living room doesn’t allow for the luxury of options.  Oh – the things we take for granted when young. 😉

I didn’t want to wing it because;
a) to me, this is a crucial room to get right
AND
b) furniture is expensive and if you must revert to plan B and change the layout, you need to be able to re-work the furniture you already have.

In this frustrating moment, I learned that Pinterest and Google can only take one so far and in that time of despair, hiring a professional entered my mind.  To you, this probably seems drastic and unnecessary and is only something “well-off” people would even consider.  My husband would straight up tell me the same.  So, I didn’t share that thought.  Instead, I put it on hold.

For a few days, I pretended to move on.  And then this…

If you live in our area and haven’t been to The Farmhouse Store , you’re missing out. They sell everything from small household gifts to large pieces of furniture that can be customized (size, wood color, fabric, etc.) to your liking.  They host a charming mix of country and chic – which to me is utter perfection.  While in there perusing one day, we learned of their in-home consultation service to which the cost goes directly towards your store purchase.  We knew we would be making at least one or two large purchases from the store, so why not bring someone in to help out with our living room debacle?  For me and now my husband (phew!), it was a no-brainer.  Essentially since (despite dad’s voice echoing strong in my mind that “nothing is free”) it would be free!

Tip #1:  Free opportunities are out there. Of course they come with a cost. 😉

We ended up loving the consultation process (with local designer Michelle May) and the results that followed.  She came into our home, eager and ready to make it our own and we could not be happier with the results.  Turns out that the seating did not have to face the mantle for it to remain a powerful, beautiful presence. Having Michelle come in to assist remains one of our best home decisions to date.  Our living room is actually featured on her website! How cool!

Once we chose the color scheme and the overall feel of the room (thanks to Michelle), we were ready to roll!

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Tip #2:  Don’t feel pressured to make everything match.  You can choose furniture from separate collections or stores, in different colors and incorporate a couple different patterns.  Pieces don’t always have to come as a set.  You can definitely save money this way too!

Tip #3:  There is no need (other than your own personal desire) to buy everything all at once.  Our TV rested on two, small black Ikea end tables for months until I finally discovered our media stand in the middle of Home Goods.  That’s okay.

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Tip #4: Lighting is important.  During the day, light is abundant in this room but at night, it is impossibly dark.  Making sure there is ample light when the sun goes down, is critical.

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I’m happy to say, other than maybe adding some pictures and nick nacks here or there, we definitely have our comfortable common area completed and we’re ready to share with all our friends and family.

Now, on to the next!

Finish the bedroom, so you can get to the REST. ;)

“A good day starts with a good night’s sleep.”

(usually?)

The realization of how far we’ve come is pretty strong when it takes me a minute or two to remember what project came next. Maybe my lack of memory is just due to lack of sleep, which would be ironic because it was definitely our bedroom.

Since moving out of our apartment, we had become completely unorganized with basic, everyday things – namely our clothing which was strewn about my mother-in-law’s house in various places. We were very much longing for a place for our “things” and so logically, the next step was our bedroom.

Color first. Everything was purple – the walls and the ceiling. It all looked nice enough – probably painted only a couple years back but with it being our first real space, we wanted to switch things up.  I had visions of the finished product and per My Bedroom Board my “pinning” habits were trending gray and yellow.

Tip #1: When you find yourself envisioning (or pinning) the same look and colors over and over again, take it as a sign and get started!

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Before the changes…

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Color choosing process…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip #2: If you plan on pulling up the carpet, paint first.  Your carpet can double as a drop cloth because….no one’s perfect. :/

 

Along the way, I learned that having a strong vision of your finished product can be a great tool for planning but it can also make life difficult when you run into inevitable “bumps in the road”.  This happened to me as I searched high and low (to no avail) for a comforter to match what was in my head.  Eventually, I had to allow my vision to change and I ended up eliminating yellow altogether.  I have yet to master this skill. I struggle to make any decision (whether deciding what to eat, what to wear or where to go) so when I do finally make the call, I don’t like having to choose a different direction, mid-stream.

I did stick with gray as the main color and kept things simple by buying a white comforter set.  I actually really ended up liking this plan because eventually, I would like to work in some color and when I do, anything will match!  Maybe my husband won’t mind pink. 😉

Tip #3:  Plan.  But allow your plans to change.

I still wanted to have some fun with this room and so I decided to create a wallpaper accent wall, which would become the backdrop for our bed.  Nowadays, the choices for wallpaper seem endless (#patternsfordays), which can make this decision making process a hard one.  I however, quite enjoyed using my lunch hours to peruse wallpaper stores and to look through wallpaper books.

My friend Katie (check out her awesome blog documenting her life as a New England girl making her way in Miami) turned me on to a very cool wallpaper blog (check it out here!).  I learned of it too late for our bedroom and dining room (which you’ll soon see) but don’t think I’m done wallpapering so……I’ll be referring to it very soon!

Tip #4: Wallpaper books are awkward and heavy but are well worth bringing home. You should get a feel for how the paper looks in your  space, before you drop lots of money on it.  It is $$$.

Accent wall and not much else.

Accent wall and not much else.

So far, so good…

Paint (Behr, Dolphin Fin) – check.
Carpet up, 8’x10′ down (Pier I Imports) – check.
Wallpaper (Ricciardi Bros.) – check.
Headboard (Wayfair) – check.
Nightstands (Home Goods) – check.
New fan (Wayfair) – check.
Curtains (TJ Maxx) – check.
Dressers (Home Goods & Overstock) – check.

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Tip #5:  Stay as focused as possible when in stores that also carry non-home related goods.  There were many times when I struggled to not grab that pair of shoes calling my name or that cute shirt reaching out to grab me.  Don’t grab back.

The accents wall was finished off with a large three paneled canvas photo, which really gave it the ultimate sense of prominence and acted as the finishing touch.  Go big or go home!  I wanted to hang a piece that would really draw attention and catch the eye but that would still be subtle enough to match the softness of the room.  I came up short on all of my shopping ventures, so I decided to pull from what I already had on hand.

One of my favorite past times is taking photos. I partake in the activity like it’s going out of style.  The image I chose for this space has long been one of my favorites. I took it at Central Park’s Strawberry Fields Memorial a number of years back and finally it’s up for the viewing thanks to Groupon where I was able to get an awesome deal on a tri-panel canvas wrap of my photo.

Tip #6:  Utilize your skills.  You’ll find you do have them.  It could be something as simple as taking pictures.  If you like to do it, and have thousands of images saved up like I do, you can use them to decorate your own space.  At least you know they are things you like to look at.

My John Lennon Imagine canvas

My John Lennon Imagine canvas

This room is still very much a work in progress but it has already accomplished our main goal which was to become more organized, get our clothes out of sight and to be able to start each day feeling well rested and ready to conquer the day.   It’s slowly becoming my night-time sanctuary.  I sleep soundly under a thick, white cloud of covers, IMAGINING our future in this house, while my husband tosses and turns from “boring bedroom” syndrome.  Men.

Close to finished...

Close to finished…

Still on our bedroom TO DO list:

  • hang the TV
  • find wall mirror(s)
  • find fun round storage ottoman
  • get a white sheepskin rug
  • install crown molding

and then…decorate, decorate, decorate! (accent color…PINK.)

My happy space is my happy place.

At 33, my life is just beginning.  Does that give you hope?  Good.

My husband and I finally have our own home.  When our eyes are open we see years of work ahead of us but when we close our eyes we see our future family, enjoying all of our hard work in their home.   That vision of our future is what makes me most excited and is what keeps me motivated every single moment of every single day.  To my detriment, this “can’t sit still/always need to be accomplishing something” attitude is what drives my husband crazy.  My brain constantly buzzes with design ideas.  My to do list is a mile long.  My wants exceed my budget.  My Pinterest is on overload.  And I’m constantly nudging him to be more like me.   Maybe I do need to tone it down a bit?  Maybe this blog will help me realize that I have in fact accomplished a lot (enough) in a short period of time.  That I am on the right (an okay) track.  That I should relax (sit down) a little and enjoy what I (what we) have, more than waiting to enjoy what we don’t (yet).  But then again…..there’s so much to do!  😉

Me and my husband the day we got the keys!

I plan to take you on this “make my house my home” journey with me.  I’ll show a lot of before and after pics letting you know what worked and what didn’t.  I’ll share details on my brave (at least brave in my mind) DIY projects and let you know if I’d do it again OR never recommend to anyone who wants to remain sane!

I will work tirelessly to make our house, our home.  I will do it, not without difficulties but happily.  I will embrace this experience knowing it is time-consuming, never-ending, expensive and exhausting.  But I will love it because…why shouldn’t I?  I promise you fun pictures and fun stories that include both successes and fails.  I hope you’ll find inspiration through my experiences and carry that inspiration into your own space.

Welcome to my home ownership!