Monday, December 23, 2013

I'm Working On Lyrics To A New Holiday Tune, 'O Crispy Tree'. Struggling A Bit To Find Something That Rhymes With 'Fire Hazard' While Still Maintaining A Festive Tone.

We're at that point in the holiday season where I'm glad I'm serving cocktails to most anyone that comes into my home because if you look too closely, some of our holiday decor has a 'past it's prime' kind of vibe.  Take our greens for instance.  I went au naturel this year and opted to use only real ones in our home rather than the vast collection of fake pines and spruces we have filling boxes in our basement.  It looks cool and I think I'll do it again next year, but they've moved from a deep, rich, healthy green to the color Oscar the Grouch might turn in his final days.  I can see why Grayish Green isn't found anywhere on a list of popular holiday hues.

I've debated about buying some new garlands and wreaths to replace the old ones before all our guests arrive, but we're so close to the holiday it's hardly worth the investment now since I'll want everything down by the 27th at the very latest.  So I'm keeping the old ones up and hoping no one tries touching them because, along with no longer being officially 'green,' they are also as crunchy as a tortilla chip.  Best observed from a safe distance and a few sips into a cocktail.

I am also preparing myself for an unavoidable ironing session in the next 24 hours.  Donning our gay apparel requires more than a run through the 'wrinkle release' cycle on our dryer.  I can replicate pretty closely any ironing job by heating the clothes up to a level just below spontaneous combustion and folding them with military precision while they're still warm, but some of our fancier frocks will not be fooled by that technique.  So ironing it is.  Kind of an early Christmas present for the family, I think.

I'll be taking time away from the blog until after the New Year.  Please be sure to check back then as I'm certain there will be quite a few insights gained over the holiday season.  Mark your calendars.

I'm wearing this:

A silky satin t-shirt with a jeweled neckline layered over a long sleeve grey t-shirt captures the juxtaposition of my day.   It's festive, but functional.

gratitude:  bright red and aqua blue (new favorite holiday color combo, perhaps?), family time, traditions, life (it really is a gift)

thanks and love.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Post About Exercise Because My Other Option Was About A Bloody Nose At Hobby Lobby And A Napkin Found On The Floor Of The Backseat. Consider This A Gift.

We are moving full-speed into the holiday and I feel like taking a nap.  It may be that my dearest, Geoffrey, is in a bit of a noisy sleeping phase as of late, but mostly, I think it's because I need to exercise.  I feel like I just haven't had time (I recognize that's the excuse every fitness guru tells you is a bunch of b.s.  because I clearly have had time to watch - more than once - the video of the dog playing with the water bottles or the cute family dancing around in their Christmas jammies).  But the kids' school schedules have been really weird with finals, and there's been work to do, and extra holiday tasks, and Geoff has been traveling constantly.  Waaah, I know.   Plus, it feels too cold to run (the fact I'm even planning to continue running post-Turkey Trot should gain me some fitness points, I think) and all the places I usually do yoga in my home are filled with a Christmas tree and lots of wrapping paper.

So I haven't done anything physical aside from wrapping 75 gifts in one day and lifting a frozen turkey out of a bin at Whole Foods while holding my cell phone between my ear and shoulder.  I can't imagine why I haven't been asked to film an exercise video.

I really want to feel my best for the holiday - physically and mentally.  It's such a special time and I don't want to look back on all the events regretting my low energy level and fearing someone will pick up on my forced perkiness.  Since a massive in-home yoga session is out of the question until I get a few things picked up (ahem), I'm gonna slip on the Nikes, locate a warm hat and gloves, and stumble around the 'hood a bit to some upbeat holiday tunes.  Perhaps I'll find some sleigh bells to strap on as a festive touch and a convenient way to drown out the sound of me gasping for air.

I'm wearing this (after my run):

Jeans and sweater.  With a red scarf to make it festive.

gratitude:  the start of Winter Break, fresh greens, the frost outside, the smell of cinnamon

thanks and love.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Prefer A Black Car And All The Dirt That Gets Stuck To It Looks White. I Also Like White Baseboards In My Home And Mine Are Covered In A Coat Of Dark (Fuzzy) Dirt. Darn You, Irony!

I washed the car on Monday.  I have a bit of a weak spot when it comes to car cleanliness, both inside and out.  In my defense, I am working on doing a better job on maintaining a cleaner automobile interior.  I recently sat in some melted chocolate that was camouflaged by the car's dark leather seats and found a petrified clementine while I was looking for water bottles.  I also believe there may be a mouse skeleton somewhere in there, but that's a story for another day.  So I'm feeling motivated right now to clean up my act inside my ride.  The outside however, is another story.

Dirty cars are part of my history.  I worked in a clothing store in Boulder during the Gulf War period and my car was so dirty that my fellow employees dubbed it 'Desert Storm'.  Old habits die hard, I guess because this past weekend I was driving somewhere at night and I had to double check that the headlights were working because they were giving off almost no light whatsoever.  I realized the light was being diffused obliterated by a thick layer of dirt and dried road stuff.  I was a danger.  It was time for a wash.

Now, I know there are real sticklers out there about what kind of car wash is better.  Geoff and I have different opinions about this.  He likes the stand alone system with the vacuum stations outside.  These kinds of establishments have always intimidated me a bit.  I'm afraid I won't correctly get on the conveyer belt  that pulls the cars through the wash or I'll somehow get stuck inside the machinery and have to participate in a soapy rescue effort.  I choose to go to a wash that's part of a gas station.  I like this for a couple reasons.  One, it's convenient.  I can gas up and get a wash in one fell swoop.  Secondly, and to me more importantly, the soap they use is colorful.  It comes in pink, purple and yellow and it makes your windows look like a bubbly kaleidoscope.  And it smells like grape.  If this is the attraction for other patrons of this particular wash, it's a strange crowd indeed.

Regardless, there must be a lot of us out there who like pretty soap because the car wash was packed when I went.  Which brings me to my main thought.  Car wash lines need an escape option.  I never felt I was a claustrophobic person until I sat in this line on Monday afternoon.  When I pulled up there were four other cars in front of me.  I used my keen math skills to figure it would take about 15 minutes for the cars to get through so I hopped in.  Everyone must have been getting a super deluxe wash because it was almost 10 minutes before I even moved an inch.  I thought I'd just back out and come another time, but when I checked my rearview mirror I saw five cars behind me.  There were 10 cars in the line at the time and I was dead in the middle.

I started to feel panicky.  We looked like a Pez dispenser.  What if there was an emergency?  What if my car stalled?  There was no escape.  I wanted an exit option so I could change my mind - just a turn off lane for those of us getting sweaty palms or needing to use the restroom.  But, no such luck.  I distracted myself by opening all the mail I'd picked up earlier, singing two full albums of Christmas music, and nearly finishing an article in Sports Illustrated.  It was such a relief to finally enter the wash, but I was so edgy I didn't really enjoy the soap (that much).  When I came out of the dryer it was like being reborn.  I was gasping for air and blinking in the bright light (now that I could see out of my windows).  Next time I'm bringing snacks.

I'm wearing this today.

It's all I could reach as I've lost access in my closet to most of my clothes because I'm hiding all the Christmas presents in there.  I told Geoff that I'm locking myself in our room and wrapping all the presents today.  He is under strict orders to not allow me out of the room until everything is wrapped no matter how much I beg or plead with him.  I swear every year it won't come to this, but it does.

gratitude:  the end of Geoff's travels (for now), enchiladas, warm weather, sleep

thanks and love.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Wonder Why Polish Doesn't Last For Very Long On My Nails. I Have A Sinking Suspicion That Magic Erasers, Bon Ami, And Spot Shot Are The Enemies Of Pretty Nails. Just Guessing.

Since it's the holidays and all, I've taken a some extra time lately to get myself a little gussied up for all the festivities.  I actually had a manicure last week.  And I loved it (for about 48 hours).   I've never really had my nails done much, except for a period in college that involved numerous frequent visits to tanning salons and nail places.  There was even a small gemstone drilled into my pinky.  It was the 1980s people, so let's not judge.

Today, though, getting a manicure has fallen somewhere between wearing wedge tennis shoes and taking belly-dancing lessons.  It's just not something I'd be comfortable doing.

My daughter gets her nails done a lot though.  I don't know what's up with this generation, but they don't just have their nails painted, they get artwork and sparkles and multiple colors applied to each hand.  It takes about three hours and a manicurist with a fine arts degree to complete.  That's way too long for me to have a face-to-face conversation with someone I don't know -  I just don't have that kind of small talk in me anymore.

But Eliza convinced me I should come with her for a manicure.  We went to her salon where they don't speak English and hence, the whole need for conversation is off the table.  There's just a lot of smiling, nodding, and pointing.  Perfect.  I had my nails painted this amazing color, Lincoln Park After Dark.  It's a purply black and I loved how it looked.  I felt dramatic, but understated in a sort of moody hipster way.  A sales clerk at Urban Outfitters even complimented me so it's clear I was bringing it style-wise.

About two days in though, I noticed some chipping.  Just a little here and there, and I was able to touch it up myself.  But by day four, I looked down and one entire nail had almost completely peeled off.  Of course, I had to see how that was possible and tried peeling some polish off one of the other nails myself.  It came off in almost an entire sheet!  So I tried another and another and pretty soon, I had stripped my fingernails of about 95% of the original polish.  It was a disturbingly satisfying experience.

I still haven't completely removed the remaining polish.  It looks so bad it's kind of interesting.  I'm reveling in its ugliness.  I do think I'll return for a reapplication though.  I'm thinking I'll do it next Monday so it'll still look good for Christmas, and I can look forward to an afternoon of nail polish peeling just before the New Year.  Good times.

I'm wearing this.

I like just a splash of festive.  I considered this scarf with a greenish top, but I looked too much like a spokesperson for Santa's Workshop.

It's Meatless Monday and honestly, we have meaty leftovers that must be eaten tonight.  So we're aiming for Totally Meat-Free Tuesday instead.

gratitude:  holiday shopping coming to a close, my new kitchen soap and lotion, cookies, Fantasy Football

thanks and love.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday Traditions Are So Important. One Of Ours Is Frying A Turkey, Then Using The Hot Oil To Fry Anything Else That We're Curious About. It's Part Holiday, Part Science Project. Never Stop Learning.

Holidays are a fun time to experiment.  It's nice to try new things - sometimes those out-of-the-ordinary events can become family traditions.  Sometimes it's best if they never return.  Sometimes they live on as hysterical stories that often get funnier and funnier each year.  I've had a few of these myself.

I made wassail the first Christmas after Geoff and I were married.  Not the modified version that tastes a lot like apple cider, but a real, TRADITIONAL wassail with Guinness and brandy and fruits and spices.  It was not a hit.  Honestly, I see why we've evolved in our wassail tastes to something more palatable because this old-school wassail tasted like something Bob Cratchit would drink when Ebenezer Scrooge wanted another performance review.  I think it was meant to keep people from freezing to death during the Dickens era or at least to keep them unaware that they were freezing to death.  Our guests were nice about it, but I did find several nearly full cups sitting around our living room after everyone left. We've not revisited wassail again.

Another year, right after the kids were born, we decorated cookie ornaments for the tree with the grandparents.  I thought this would be a fun and heart-warming activity to do each year.  And it was fun.  Until our basset hounds, Daisy and Claire, ate them all.  We'd hung the cookies high knowing full well the bassets' noses would lead them right to the cookies if they were near the floor.  We didn't, however, understand the dedication bassets have to ingesting most anything edible.  While we were sleeping they jumped on the tree, knocked it over, and ate all the cookies we'd hung on it before bed.  They also ate some miniature faux apples that had been coated with a sparkling sugar.  They had glittery poops for a week.  How festive.

And once, I made pans and pans of lasagna for Christmas Eve.  We were having a crowd, and lasagna is an easy choice for serving lots of people.  Except our refrigerator wasn't large enough to hold the pans, so we stored them overnight on the deck in the snow.  Living in suburbia (albeit at the foot of the Rockies) it hadn't occurred to me that wild animals have a keen sense of smell and obviously an appetite for Italian because when we awoke our deck was covered in lasagna remains.  It looked like a crime scene.  We were were forced to take out a small loan and buy pre-made lasagna from Whole Foods.  Mangia, foxes.

This photo I found on Pinterest this morning made me think of brave holiday attempts that end up in failure.

It looks very pretty, but those are actually marshmallows hanging on fishing line made to look like falling snow.  And it does (kind of) look a little like snow from a distance.  But I can't imagine the hysterical laughter if my entire family sat down to dinner at a table I'd jazzed up with hanging marshmallows.  So much comedy would ensue.  And it looks like it would take a lot of time to do - which is the case with so many holiday fails.  They take effort and time, and end up becoming just a funny story.  Oddly, those funny stories are often what make great memories.

So maybe we should all attempt a little something new every now and then.  If it works, we look like a domestic goddess, if it fails we get a good laugh.  Winners all around.

I'm wearing this today.

A sparkly t-shirt is a fun addition to any wardrobe.

gratitude:  Geoff's return, driving both kids to school at the same time, wrapping up the holiday shopping, my new nail polish color (Lincoln Park After Dark)

thanks and love.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Miss The Days Of Holiday Shopping When The Kids Rode In A Stroller. I'd Carry The Children And Fill The Stroller With All My Purchases. Would It Be Wrong To Bring A Stroller With Me To The Mall Even Without Toddlers In Tow? It's Something I'd Consider.

I love the holiday season.  I mean LOVE it.  I have visions of starring in my own holiday show - I'd be dressed in something stylishly festive and cheerfully going about my daily tasks and holiday chores to a soundtrack of rocking Christmas hits.  Although I think it's safe to assume the Mallory High Christmas Special is a no-go, I do try to take this kind of attitude with me as much as I can during the season.  And yesterday was a particularly good time for me to put my holiday vision into action.  I went Christmas shopping.

Now I'm normally an online shopping kinda girl.  I am slightly reclusive love to be home and the fact that I can take care of all the holiday buying for my loved ones in peace and quiet is a wonderful thing.  But, because I'm feeling a tad more adventurous these days and my schedule was permitting, I headed to the mall to see what goodies I could find in person.  I would like to apologize now to anyone who may have been negatively affected by what they saw at the end of the day.

I started out a vision of holiday cheer.  I was wearing some new bootcut jeans, a  simple black t-shirt, and my fancy red damask coat.  I was having a good hair day too.  I hopped in my car, gathered up about 17 used Kleenexes, stuffed them in the trash (we've had a bit of a head cold issue at our house), and cued up my iPhone to shuffle my extensive holiday tune collection as I drove to the mall.  It felt great.

Apparently, a lot of people are out shopping this time of year (who knew?).  I thought maybe I'd have the place to myself on a Tuesday, but I was wrong.  I ended up parking about a half mile from the mall and leapfroging across lakes of melted, dirty snow to get to my destination.  But that's okay, because it's the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

I had some good luck shopping.  And I remembered to ask for boxes (and gift receipts) as I was checking out in each store which made me feel super pulled together, but also meant that the bags I was carrying were hard to hold and weighed about 10 lbs. each.  I was in a hurry because the kids needed to be picked up, so I never stopped to eat (unfortunately) or look in a mirror (more unfortunately).  As I was leaving a little boy looked at me and moved closer to his mother as I passed him.  "That's odd," I thought, as I set my bags down to fish through my purse for the car key.  Then I caught my reflection in the mirrored window of Abercrombie & Fitch.

I had zhuzhed my hair briefly while shopping and the curls had created a pyramid effect on the right side of my head - I'd taken on a very distinct Phyllis Diller appearance.  Carrying all the bags and my purse on my shoulders had caused my t-shirt to somehow start riding so high on my body it was coming up my neck.  My cute jacket was untying itself - the belt had one short piece at the waist and a longer half that was grazing the floor.  And my jeans had grown about 3 sizes too large and were now officially under my feet and sliding down my body.  Thank goodness I was wearing a longer jacket.

So I didn't end my day elfing as well-coiffed as I'd started, but I accept mine is not a path of perfection.  I retied my jacket, pulled up my pants, tamped down my hair and sung 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' to myself as I forged my way back to the car.  I do hope the little boy I scared has recovered.  I'm just glad to have had the day to shop - it's really a luxury to be able to do that on a weekday (I honestly can't imagine how it would be on a weekend - that would test the spirit of even a holiday junkie like myself), but I'm even more glad to know I can take care of my remaining holiday chores from home.  Fireside.  

I'm wearing these.

Nordic leggings I found on Clearance at Target for less than $10.  I bought them for Eliza, but she wasn't a fan.  Now they're mine.  I can do yoga in them, work in them, online shop in them, and do laundry too.  Perf.  Plus, I imagine they'll work great for later when I have a celebratory glass of wine.

gratitude:  eucalyptus oil, my new Diptyque candle, being Mom, getting paid

thanks and love.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I'm Having Some Very Strange Fashion Envy. Our Christmas Tree Has A Fabulous Skirt And Amazing Accessories. Better Than Some I Have. It Feels Weird.

So this was Christmas Tree Weekend for us.  Because we have a family of four busy people which includes two very socially-active teens and a husband/father who is traveling every week of December this year, our weekends are firmly scheduled with lots of holiday tasks.  I'm a little like a festive Captain Von Trapp in my house - trying to establish some order in an environment that often seems to be working against that very goal.  I don't use a whistle however, just a calendar and a firm voice that I temper with holiday cheer and enthusiasm.  Wine after five also helps.

On Saturday, we went to our favorite nursery to buy our tree (as has been tradition in our family for years and years) but it was closed.  A Christmas tree shaped sign on their fence said they weren't going to be selling any trees until the weather warmed up because the trees were so cold, they'd break on the ride home.  This posed a problem for us.  As I mentioned, we require a precise scheduling of holiday events,  and if we didn't get a tree by Sunday morning the entire holiday would need to be pushed back a week.  After calling around we found another nursery that kept their trees inside and had a few that came close to our height requirements (read: taller than is really safe to decorate without a net) so we headed over there on Sunday.

As is the case with many people, we all have different approaches to Christmas trees.  There's the obvious artificial vs. real debate in which I am firmly on the real side (at least at this point in my life).  My parents are quite convincing though in their argument that artificial trees are the way to go after a certain point in life - so I'm not taking that option completely off the table.  Then, there are the full vs. airy camps.  I'm an airy girl.  I like my ornaments to hang on the tree not lay on the tree.  That's just how I feel.  I think mostly my family leans toward a fuller tree, but airy has always won out in the past because I said so.  And then, the lighting issue.  Are you a fan of white lights only, or colorful lights? Again, I've been alone (but victorious) on this subject preferring white lights only.  I'm a purist rather than a traditionalist.

But this year, I was feeling somewhat flexible and slightly adventurous and decided we'd go 50/50 on the tree using both white and mulitcolored lights.  I was inspired by the Rockefeller Plaza tree.  They used a combo of light colors and the results were stunning.  It could also be that the tree is 500 feet tall in in the middle of midtown Manhattan, but regardless, I was certain we'd enjoy the same effect on our smaller scale tree at home.   However, my flexibility has been pushed a bit farther than I'd initially planned.

When we got to the nursery on Sunday, every tree there was as full as full can be.  I bravely accepted this reality with minimal pouting, but did try to convince the family that maybe, since we're completely breaking with tradition, we should just get a really unusual tree instead.  I found one that was a sort of weeping pine - think Cousin It - but they weren't having it.  In typical fashion, the tree we ended up with was more of a rescue.  It had been marked down 30% because it was missing half the branches in the back.  And it was about 4 feet shorter than we've had in years past.  But we felt sorry for it so we brought it home.  Since our tree goes in a corner, the missing branches were a non-issue, it's so short we could do the highest decorating using only a step stool, and now the poor tree won't have to linger in the Clearance section for the rest of the holiday season.

So this year we have a short, full tree, covered in lights of all colors.  And it's beautiful, especially from the front.  I love it and I love that the entire family agreed that an imperfect tree was the right one for us.  We made it beautiful.  And the faux fur leopard print tree skirt I found for it is a nice touch too.

I'm wearing this.

An at-home day writing.  Jeans and a sweater are all that's required.  Maybe socks.

And for Meatless Monday, it's breakfast for dinner.  Traditional fare for those weeks when Dad's out of town.

gratitude:  the family tree hunt, our decorating tradition with hot chocolate, ornaments with pictures of the kids when they were little, the coziness in our great room

thanks and love.

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Blog And I Are Having A Bit Of An Existential Crisis. I Think This Post Is A Cry For Help. Or A Celebration. Hard To Say, Really.

Today marks a milestone for Positively Minutiae (it's actually milestone eve, if we're nitpicking).  Tomorrow this little blog will have been up and running for an entire year.  Jeepers.  A year!  And what a year it's been.  You've seen me through a pigeon infestation, an Emmanuelle Alt wannabe phase, a road trip to the heartland, and countless other dribs and drabs of life.  The blog has actually had almost 22,000 page views over the year from as far away as Malaysia.  Wow.  I hope you've enjoyed what you've read.  I've throughly enjoyed writing it.

The blog kind of started out as a dare to myself.  Could I really write three times a week for an entire year?  And share whatever I produced with everyone?  Apparently, I can.  Whether or not that's a good thing hasn't been determined, but now we know it's possible.  Some posts have certainly been better than others.  But regardless of quality, this process has reminded me that I love writing.  I love being a writer.

I want to thank those of you who have been kind enough to comment or like or share what I've written.  Writing something and putting it out there for all to see is quite an exercise in vulnerability.  While it's exhilarating to some extent, it also opens you up for all sorts of anxiety.  When someone says they like what you're saying and doing it really means a lot.  And for what it's worth, getting approval from your former English teachers is like winning the bonus round.  So thanks to each and every one of you who has let me know you're reading what I'm writing.  And liking it.  Mostly.

Blogs are weird.  Anyone can start one.  It's nice because they give writers an outlet to share what they produce without having to deal with an approval process or ego-shattering rejection.  But, they (blogs) need to serve a purpose, I think.  That's where I get stuck.  For the last year, the purpose of this blog has been, first and foremost, to prove to myself I could do it.  Subsequently, I also wanted whatever I produced to be of some value to anyone kind enough to read it.  And I did it.  I met my goal and hopefully, you've at least enjoyed it a little bit.  So does that mean I stop here?

If I continue writing Positively Minutiae - why will I be doing it?  What is the purpose of this blog?  I don't want to keep putting stuff out there if it's not valuable to people.  And I certainly don't want to become an annoyance.  Writing makes me feel good and I want to make other people feel good when I write.  Is the blog the best way to do this?  I just don't know.

So that's where I stand on this momentous occasion.  On post number 152.  I'll probably be back on Monday for 153.  I'm shameless.

I'm wearing this:

Taking care of a little holiday shopping today.  Sometimes when doing holiday tasks, I like to pretend like I'm in a Christmas special.  Today the wardrobe department is going with leopard.  What does this say about my character?

gratitude:  all my blog readers, Beef Carbonade, new champagne cocktails to try, squeaky snow

thanks and love.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Changed The Song On My Alarm To Something Festive. I Love Holiday Music, But Andy Williams' Rendition Of 'The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' Really Didn't Get The Job Done This Morning. Instead Of Breaking Me Out Of A Deep Sleep, I Worked His Tune Into A Dream In Which It Was Sung By An Elephant Doing Yoga. Weird.

How long does it take to establish a tradition?  It seems like after just two years you're close, then after three it's official.  If that is indeed the case, we have an unusual tradition here at the High house (which, when I write that still sounds like a college party hotspot).  It's the unplanned tradition of leaving one holiday piece out for the entire calendar year.  It seems every time I pack up all the holiday paraphernalia at the end of the season, something inevitably misses the loading process.  It may have something to do with the incredible speed in which I get the house emptied, but after weeks of season specific decor, I'm craving some breathing room so I may not be exactly fastidious in my packing up process.

Typically, it's an ornament that misses the bus back to the basement.  A couple years ago we had a peace dove that sat on our mantle behind a lantern for almost all of 2012.  He was calm and patient about the whole experience - behavior very in line with what you'd expect from a peace dove, really.  It was actually kind of nice to see him peeking out from his perch as we headed to the back patio to watch the fireworks in July - kinda gave the year some continuity.  Last year it was this poor guy who didn't make it back.

It's one of the sheep from our Nativity set.  It's not like there are countless pieces in a Nativity set and it's easy to overlook one of them.  I mean, our shepherds only brought three sheep with them, so to miss packing one up is a big oversight.  This creature spent the year on a shelf atop a book about Feng Shui.  He had a good view of all the goings on and I'm sure he'll regale all the other Nativity members with stories about what he's seen.  I just hope he doesn't judge us by how many dinners were eaten around the coffee table.

I'm wearing this.

It's cold.  Really cold.  I've determined I need some sweaters with color - is there a record for how many charcoal grey sweaters a single person can own?  I may have reached the limit.

gratitude:  puzzles, snow, holiday music, paperwhites

thanks and love.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Say Immerse Yourself In All The Benefits Of Cyber Monday. Wear No Shoes, Play Your Holiday Tunes, Light A Candle, And Sip A Little Something Tasty While You Click Away. Online Shopping Is One Of Technology's Greatest Gifts.

We had a great Thanksgiving break.  This will go down as my most physical Thanksgiving on record as we completed three athletic events in three days - does that count as a triathalon?  We ran on Thursday, skated on Friday, and skied on Saturday.  It was great.  We even managed to paint both kids' rooms which is nothing short of miraculous.  But even with all this activity and accomplishment, we still fell a little short in the hall decking process.

I've wanted to re-cover the seats at our kitchen table for about four years now.  They look like someone wet their pants while sitting on them and considering we've had these chairs for our kids' entire lifetimes, there is a good chance someone has peed on them at some point.  It's very unappealing.  So I decided Thanksgiving break was the time.  And, after watching about 25 online chair recovering videos, I had convinced myself this was a job we could do really, in one afternoon.

I assumed we'd remove a few staples, lay down the new fabric, restaple everything using my keen gift wrapping skills, and in just a few minutes we'd have ourselves some new non-biohazard chairs to proudly offer to guests and the like for festive occasions in our home.  However, when I removed the first seat and turned it over, I began to wonder if I needed to adjust my timeline a bit.

Some credit really must be given to whomever was operating the staple gun at Room and Board when they made our chairs because there were about 450 industrial strength staples in the bottom of the seat.  Removing a single staple required two different prying tools, a pair of pliers, and Band-Aids.  We finally got all of them out of one chair and, after laying exhausted on our kitchen floor for a few minutes and discussing the benefits of using a professional upholsterer, we prepared to start the re-covering process.

We laid the new fabric out, placed the chair seat on top, and neatly pulled up one side to staple it in the middle as instructed.  In every single video I watched while preparing for this job, the staples went right in and in about two minutes, the seat was covered.  All things considered, I shouldn't have been too surprised when our staples didn't even make it halfway into the seat bottom.  Apparently, our seats are made from a unique wood/steel combo and are impervious to your average staple gun, so now we need to actually rent equipment to do the job I thought could be done during halftime of a football game.

At this point, rather than a kitchen table surrounded by eight chairs with ikat printed seats and accessorized with two rustic wood lanterns festively adorned with fresh greens and an adorable red and white striped ribbon, we have a table surrounded by eight chairs (one of which has no seat) and covered in yards of fabric, tools, screws, staples, and Band-Aid wrappers.  Not exactly the epitome of holiday style.

But we'll get there.  Just a quick trip to rent the equipment, pass whatever certification is needed to operate the machinery, and we'll be on our way.  We still have three weeks, right?

I'm wearing this.

I'll be cyber shopping, decking the halls, and doing laundry.  'Tis the season.

It's Meatless Monday and we're having black bean quesadillas and a salad with a homemade ranch dressing.  It may be meatless, but I make no promises about being fat-free.

gratitude:  lots of time with just the family, an absolutely beautiful day for skiing, turkey tetrazzini, sweaters

thanks and love.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Beer Garden At The End Of The Turkey Trot Was A Great Motivator For Me. I Wanted That Beer To Taste Like Victory. And It Did. If Victory Tastes Like Beer.

The Turkey Trot was a success.  I made it through without having to talk myself out of quitting or fighting the urge to cut across the park instead of following the course with everyone else.  I started the race surrounded by a few people wearing jeans (a sure sign they were just avoiding Thanksgiving food prep) and what looked like a group of kids on a field trip, but quickly (go ahead an use air quotes around that one) moved beyond them to a place where most of the people looked as if they intended to give running a try.

I found a woman who looked like a former marathon runner based upon her calf muscles and legit running gear, but who had obviously had a baby a few days ago and now was forced to push a huge, all-terrain stroller through the course.  I settled in behind her as she used the stroller like one of those cattle guards on trains - the ones that push the cows off the track as the train comes through.  We were weaving in and out of crowds of people in costumes and on their phones - I think I may have been drafting behind her and being pulled along in her wake.  But, once we made it to some open space she blew away from me (I wondered if I heard a motor on the stroller) and I was left to finish the race on my own.

I finished strong though.  I've been running on hills, so this flat course was a pleasant surprise.  The finish line actually snuck up on me a bit - but when I saw it coming I made sure my form looked good and I picked up my pace a little.  I think they call that the kick or something, but I knew my family would be watching (as they had probably finished a full 10 minutes earlier) and I wanted to at least give them a good show.  They ended up being farther down the chute from the finish so they didn't see my victorious ending, but because I wasn't gasping for air or crying when I reached them, they knew my race performance had exceeded expectations.

And now we may fully immerse ourselves in the holiday season.  We kick off our holidays with some ice skating on Black Friday instead of shopping with the masses.  None of us are very good skaters and I think we feel it's an auspicious start to the season if we face the danger of an ice rink and come out relatively unscathed in the end.  We celebrate with sushi and a movie.  Life is so good.

I'm wearing this.

The outdoor rink we skate on lets you skate for free if you wear black on Black Friday.  That's not hard for me since my wardrobe is at least 50% black.  The coat I'm wearing is so fun to throw on, but can really only be comfortably worn during the holiday season.  Anytime after Valentine's Day and it starts to look like I have on one of Hugh Hefner's robes.

gratitude:  Kleenex, family foursome activities, a funny extended family, leftovers

thanks and love.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tomorrow We Run The Turkey Trot. I Will Run Alone As My Entire Family Apparently Can Run A Mile In Under Nine Minutes And I Will Be Placed In A Different Heat Most Likely Filled With Athletic Toddlers And People Running Backward.

Well, tomorrow is the big day.  The Turkey Trot is upon us.  This is the 40th annual Trot here in Denver, but it'll be the first time there will be a beer garden at the event.  Also the first time I'm participating.  The coincidence is not lost on me.

I've been preparing for this for a few months now, but I'm still a little nervous.  I've only run four miles once before, so I'm hoping the thrill of the event and the crowd energy will pull me along so I can successfully make it to the end at a pace still considered to be running.  I have visions of those people who finish marathons and Iron Man competitions where their legs turn into spaghetti and they end up crawling over the finish line under cover of darkness.  I hope I'm not the first Turkey Trot participant to end the race that way.  I'm sure most people wouldn't think that could happen after only four miles, but I'm not your average runner, so nothing is off the table.

I've been doing research on how to manage a run like this.  My favorite tip is carbo loading.  Apparently, I'm supposed to eat a lot of carbs today to store up energy for tomorrow's exertion and I'm taking that directive very seriously.  I'm getting toast crumbs on my keyboard as we speak and I have a tasty pasta planned for dinner tonight.  Guilt-free baguette eating may inspire a regular running routine.

Another tip left me a bit concerned.  I was told that you should run the first mile of a race a full two minutes slower than your average speed.  That way you'll have energy left to finish the run at a good pace.  Two problems.  One, I have no idea how fast I run a mile.  My best guess is that it's at roughly the same speed as the rhythm to the song Blurred Lines by Alan Thicke which isn't exactly a blistering pace.  Which leads me to the second problem.  Running two minutes per mile slower than normal actually disqualifies what I'm doing as running.  I may just have to stick to my regular speed (somewhere between a jog and Prancercize) and hope that someone running in a turkey costume and pushing a baby stroller doesn't run me over.

I'm wearing this today.

It's Thanksgiving Eve and time to get our sparkle on!

I wish each of you in the U.S. a wonderful Thanksgiving, and for those of you readers in other parts of the world I wish you a joyous day of thankfulness as well.

gratitude:  a nice weather forecast for Thanksgiving morning, an easy side dish to prepare, boot cut jeans, being present to all the goodness in life

thanks and love.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Strange After Effect Of A Weekend Of Painting Is The Texture Of My Fingertips. I Was Mostly Responsible For Cleaning Up Paint Spills And I Highly Recommend Using Plastic Gloves If You're Working With Certain Stain Removing Products. Apparently They Remove Your Top Layers Of Skin As Well As Unsightly Marks On The Carpet.

We painted the kids' bedrooms this weekend.  This may seem like no big deal, but it had become an issue in our house.   Although, I regret not getting to this sooner, I truly believe the rooms finally got painted because we found the right color.  After years of searching.  Plus, the kids actually cleaned their rooms and we didn't have a single sporting event scheduled.  The planets had aligned.

I loves me a white wall (although we painted our kitchen black).  I like our house to look a little like a funky art gallery or old schoolhouse.  I like wood floors, white walls, white cabinets, and black countertops.  Having a simple base makes it easier and more fun to jazz things up with a few interesting elements.  Our kids, however, want colored walls - as in not black or white (why do they not consider those colors??).  So we've been on a color hunt for about three years.

This painting delay isn't all my fault.  The kids haven't exactly had a clear picture of what colors they prefer.  We've sampled a lot.  We'd paint two or three swatches of color on their walls every six months or so.  Nothing ever seemed right.  The walls started to look like the back of someone who'd gone through one of those extensive allergy tests.  The one where they prick your skin with different allergens to see how red and swollen each area gets?  JD's wall was a checkerboard of greys and blues and Eliza's was a rainbow of bright greens and blues with one odd orange sherbet patch thrown in (where did that come from?).  I was beginning to have an allergic reaction to it all myself.

Turns out the paint colors we went with were never actually ones we sampled.  I credit Pinterest with our choices.  During one of my pinning sessions I found photos of rooms I loved and knew each kid would love too.  They have completely different styles so to find inspiration pics for each of them within mere days is nothing short of miraculous.  I knew in my gut that these were the right colors - after sampling 500+ colors you just know.  I did bring home a small sample of each color the day before I bought them to make sure no one was horrified by the shade, but there was no "living with it awhile" or comparing colors.  We just pulled the trigger and the results are fabulous.

I'm not the best at picking paint colors out of the blue (pardon the pun) so the key to success for us was to find colors professionals have successfully used in rooms themselves.  Turns out Benjamin Moore's Caribbean Coast and Hale Navy got the job done for us in a big way.  Even though I wish we'd been able to get to this point sooner, we would have never found these colors if we'd rushed or settled.  I'm not even sure Pinterest had been created when we started our search.  I don't know if this is a lesson in staying open and giving things time to develop or a testament to the power of good research.  Either way, the Highs are checking one job off the home improvement list and can now move on to one of the 6,493 remaining.

I'm wearing this.

What's with the weather?  I'm starting to dress like the sky.

gratitude:  Thanksgiving break, tasks completed, togetherness, machine washable faux fur throws

thanks and love.

Friday, November 22, 2013

As I Look At The Boxes Of Holiday Decor In Our Basement, I Wonder Sometimes What I Must Have Been Thinking When I Used Some Of The Things We Have. It's Amazing Anything Survived My 'Paint It All Gold' Phase. One Entire Box Looks Like A Pharaoh's Tomb.

As we head into the week before Thanksgiving, I can feel the engines of holiday preparedness revving in the distance.  This time of year is a real balancing act.  I feel like I'm constantly walking the line between holiday reveler and drill sergeant.  This is the last week the kids have off before Christmas and they need to accomplish a few things before they go back - like a massive room cleaning, that if ignored could derail the planned room painting we have on the coming week's agenda - because why not paint two bedrooms mere days before Thanksgiving?  I would also consider it an early Christmas gift if they were able to learn how to use a hamper, a trash can, and to exit the shower without tearing down the shower curtain.  I hope Santa is listening.

There is also outdoor lighting and holiday decor to install.  It's a challenge to not rush Thanksgiving out the door before it's had its day in the sun, but the clock is ticking, people.  I'm not going to wait until after Thanksgiving to get started - it just is too much to do all at once.  Christmas will slowly leak into our home all next week, so by the time we return from our dinner on Thursday, all that will be left is the tree purchase and trimming.

I love the holidays and I really like our house to feel festive, but I think I'll take a different approach this year.  I don't want December 26th to come accompanied by the claustrophobic feeling I've had in years past - where I've lived with so many faux greens and ribbons and ornaments for the weeks leading up to Christmas that by the time it gets here I can barely wait until the last guest leaves on Christmas night before I start dismantling everything.  I love the way those fully decorated houses look, but it kinda weighs me down when my own home is that way.  And it seems like so much work to do just to have to remove it all in a month or so.

I think this year I'm going to add a touch of holiday here and there, but mostly keep things to a simple Winter theme.  That way our seasonal decor won't get on my nerves so much and I can keep most of it up until spring comes.  I'll take Coco Chanel's advice on accessorizing -  "When a lady leaves the house, she should look in the mirror and remove one accessory"- and overlay that onto our holiday home decor.   I'll decorate, take a look, and then remove something.  The tree is non-negotiable though.

I'm wearing this today.

I need to get my out-of-home activities done early today because these pants seem to grow on me while the day progresses and by late afternoon I look like M.C. Hammer.

gratitude:  our new coffee table, lighting, Thanksgiving break, pretty paint colors

thanks and love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Running Is Nothing Compared To All The Action Going On Inside My Head. If It's Not Inner Voices Having A Lively Debate, I'm Also Performing Several Musical Numbers Based Upon Whatever Comes Out Of My iPhone. My Duet With Justin Timberlake Is Really Something Special.

Maybe it's because I'm not a huge fan of my own voice (I think I sound like a Peanuts character), but when I run there is a lot of inner dialogue going on and it's not a one woman show.  Honestly, I think it really must be crowded in my head sometimes.  It's way more than the classic angel and devil talking me in and out of good choices.  I even have some famous people chiming in from time to time.

Sometimes, when I'm running up a hill, which in the western suburbs of Denver is really unavoidable, a whiny, toddler voice starts in (I think it's that weird yellow dinosaur that was on the Barney TV show).  "Whyyyy are we doing this?   We'll never make it!  I'm quitting NOW!"  And then, in a very predictable move, the Little Engine That Could jumps in with the classic "I think I can.  I think I can."  So I heed the spunky locomotive's words and continue chugging along.  When I finally get to a better place in the run, Oprah makes an appearance in my noggin with a celebratory cheer and the kind of joyous energy only experienced during one of her famous "My Favorite Things" episodes.

My favorite voice by far, and the one most often showing up for me, is Tim Gunn from Project Runway.  He's not so much there during exercise, but more throughout the rest of my day.  I love him.  He gets the designers to organize their thoughts and ideas, to push themselves creatively, and to pay attention to the schedule.  And he does the same for me from inside my little brain.  A lot of life is about being creative, working within a time frame, and doing your best, and Tim Gunn is the perfect presence to inspire me to do that while conquering any task at hand.  One of my favorite lines of his, when he's leaving the designers in the sewing room at midnight before the big show, is "Make it work, people!"

It's a great line for life.  Nothing is really ever perfectly perfect.  It would be weird if it was.  But in trying to live life as our best selves, we need to take what we've been given (good and bad), aim for what we want, and do our best to "Make it work."  Every single day.

I'm wearing this today.

Love the faux leather pants.  I'm not really sure if these are officially faux leather because the texture is a little weird.  To be honest, it looks a little like really thin elephant skin.  I'm just going to continue to refer to them as faux leather though, I'm sure you understand.  BTW, I had to go full body with the photo as the scarf made no sense without a head.

gratitude:  reader responses, inspiring holiday colors on Pinterest, Modern Family, chicken salad

thanks and love.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Maybe It's Because I'm Running In Nikes Lately, But The 'Just Do It' Tagline Is Making Sense To Me. Although Sometimes I Think It's Telling Me To Go Ahead And Eat The Baguette While I'm Making Dinner, So Maybe I Need To Watch What I Apply It To In My Daily Life.

This weekend we had a little gathering at our house to put together some care packages for the homeless.  I was inspired by this video I saw on a lovely blog called Shine Your Light.

Pam from the incredible Simple Details blog gave me the idea about what to include in the packages.  Ah, that blogging community!  Truly, a bottomless pit of resources and inspiration!

It was a really fun time and considering we made 45 bags and had 12 people there it took about 7 minutes to complete the job.  Which, of course, left more time for a glass of wine and an in depth discussion about which fabric I should use to recover our kitchen chairs.  It was just nice to have family and friends (that are like family) all gathered and working together for the greater good on a Saturday afternoon.

I'm glad I took the chance to plan an event like this.  I have a habit of thinking about doing nice, thoughtful things and never actually making them a reality.  I don't know why that's the case, but I've grown tired of my good intentions withering on the vine.  This whole event was low key and really didn't take much to organize: I had to buy the goods, prep some refreshments (read: open wine and fill bowls with purchased snacks), and move the backpacks, shoes and lacrosse sticks out of our great room so our home no longer looked like a sporting goods store after Black Friday.  Easy peasy.

I think we tend to believe the things we do need to be bigger than necessary and that magnification makes them a bit daunting.  So we put it off and then we forget.  But, we shouldn't fear simplicity and smaller scales.

Confucius said it right, "Life is actually really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."

A casual evening with friends over takeout and boxed wine is way more meaningful than a sit down seven course dinner that never happens.  If we keep things simple, we're likely to do more.  And life is really about doing things, not just thinking about doing them or talking about doing them.  I want to remember SIMPLICITY in 2014.  Anyone else on board?

I'm wearing this today:

The over-the-knee boots are making me very happy.  I was scared to try them at first, but now I'm all in.  Fear not my fashion friends.

And it's Meatless Monday.  In honor of simplicity, we'll be enjoying a plain pasta with bit of garlic-infused olive oil and butter accompanied by a big, green salad.  Simple and scrumptious and sans meat.

gratitude:  new furniture arrangements, family and friends, family time finally on Sunday night, laughter

thanks and love.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fashion Failure Friday. A Sad Tale About Too Much Of A Good Thing.

I've not gambled in Vegas before, but I've heard stories about people who've been on a winning streak then lose it all by playing one game too many.  Instead of taking their money off the table, they roll the dice one last time and everything falls apart.  That kind of happened to me yesterday.

My loss wasn't monetary in nature, it was comfort-based.  I'd been feeling pretty darn good about my fashion choices lately, but yesterday I pushed it too far and felt so ridiculous in my ensemble that I could barely concentrate on my staging work.  I felt like I was in a costume.  It was bad.

My problem was combining too many trends all at once.  I recently just bought a pair of over the knee riding boots.  I love them, and they do look very now.  Problem was, I should have just worn them with a skinny jean and a t-shirt so they could take center stage.  Unfortunately, I chose to combine them with two looks that also would have been better served on their own.  

I wore a flannel shirt (borrowed from JD) with a very sparkly statement necklace.  The classic high/low trend.  It's all over Pinterest and has actually been getting on my nerves lately.  But I ignored my better instincts and attempted to rock my high/low flannel and sparkle with over the knee boots.  You see now how the fashion stage was starting to get crowded.

Then, I foolishly dipped a toe in the leggings as pants movement.  I normally don't do this, but I thought they would better feature my new boots, so I wore a heavy legging instead of a skinny jean.  And these leggings don't even fit well - they have a weird thick waistband and kind of come up high on me so I look a little like Tweedle Dee in them.  I felt so uncomfortable because my flannel shirt was just long enough to cover my backside, but if I raised my arms even a little, anyone around me saw a bit more than they had bargained for.  I raise my arms a lot.  My apologies.

So, word to the wise, if you're planning to rock a fashion trend, let it be a solo act.  This outfit sounded cute, and may have even looked the part for all I know, but the impact of each piece would have been greater if it had just been worn alone.  Lesson learned.

I'm wearing this today:

No major trends to speak of here.  Just keeping the stripe simple with low boots and a little short-sleeved sweater topper.  I may throw on a leopard scarf if it feels chilly, but Jenna Lyons of J.Crew fame stated that she considers leopard a neutral, so no trend over application will occur today.  Whew.

gratitude:  business opportunities, fun dinner conversations in bad restaurants, flat areas for running, driving the kids to school

thanks and love.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Remember How Nice It Felt When Your Kids Were Young, But No Longer Nappers, And You Had Them Spend A Little 'Quiet Time' In Their Room? The Feeling You Had When That Quiet Started Is The Same One You Get Meditating. Start Now.

The word 'meditation' conjures up images of gongs, incense, and sitars for some, but don't get hung up on the cliches surrounding this activity.  Meditation is about just getting quiet.  And still.  Two things that are hard to achieve these days without some concerted effort.  And two things we must have in our lives if we're going to thrive and be our best each and every day.

I've been attempting to meditate regularly over the last couple years and I do feel better, happier and more present as a result.  I still get crabby and mopey from time to time, but I think those emotional stretches have become less frequent and less intense overall.  I truly recommend giving meditation a try and by starting it now, as the holidays kick off, it'll help you feel your most festive and centered through the entire holiday season.

While I'm certainly no expert, I've noticed there are a few keys to my personal practice - maybe these will be useful to you too.  First of all, go to a quiet place and shut the door.  It doesn't matter if you use your bedroom, your car, or the bathroom - you just need some solitude.

Sit up.  Don't think you can meditate laying down or lounging back on bed pillows.  I've tried and you end up falling asleep.  Sit somewhere and use the best posture you can muster up at the time.  I sit on a yoga brick on the floor - it's nice to elevate yourself a little if your doing a floor sit so use a yoga brick or a pillow or blanket to raise yourself up.  Or, sit on the edge of a chair with your feet on the floor.

Do something with your hands.  I like to lay my hands on my knees with the palms up (I heard somewhere that makes you more receptive), but I also like to touch my index finger and thumb together.  If I'm not feeling super calm I've found holding a warm cup of tea or coffee in both hands gives me something to focus on.  Putting your hands in a prayer position can also feel good.  Or put them on your heart.  Just don't let them just hang there.  It feels weird.

Focus your brain.  Your mind will turn into a three-year-old child when you first start out.  Just try to ignore its constant commenting and work on getting quiet.  Counting to a particular number on your inhalations and exhalations can give you something to do at this point.  Sometimes it's nice to use a mantra.  Or say a single word (in your head, not with your mouth) when you exhale - I like 'peace', 'love' or 'thank you', but you could say 'cheeseburger' if it meant something to you and get the same result.  Or try just listening to the natural sounds around you.

After doing this for a while, you may feel for a moment this sense of nothing and everything all at the same time.  That's what we're looking for.  Sometimes it lasts for just a bit and sometimes it can go on for a while, but that's the sweet spot.  Enjoy it for however long you can get it to last.  And when you feel like you're done, then be done.  Then do it again tomorrow.  And the next day and the day after that.

At the end I like to smile (just turning the corners of my mouth up, not like the Cheshire Cat) and say 'thank you.'  It just sends me off on a good note.

So there you are.  Give it just a little try over this holiday season.  You'll feel like you have more time to get things done, you'll be more present for all the festivities, and you'll be merrier in general.  Enjoy.

I'm wearing this today.

It feels like spring, so I'm going sleeveless.   A cardigan will be tossed on should the weather suddenly remember it's November.

gratitude:  fabric swatches, pencils, pasta, staying up too late chatting as a family

thanks and love.

Monday, November 11, 2013

This Post Is Not Sponsored By The Lemon Council. I Don't Even Know If There Is A Lemon Council, But Would The Person In Charge Be The Lemon Head? I'll Be Here All Night. Remember To Tip Your Waitresses! Thank you!

Just wanted to pass on a few helpful bits of minutiae today.  Our subject is lemons.  Oh, how I love this fruit!  A bowl of lemons is quite literally, a bowl of possibility.  Let's get started.

First, lemons are an awesome decor element.  Their punchy yellow color brightens a room and can fit into any kitchen decor style from modern to vintage.  Always have a bowl of lemons on your counter somewhere - they look good and are incredibly useful.

They have great health benefits.  I've been drinking about 24 ounces of lemon water first thing every morning for almost a year now and it's really made a difference in my overall well-being.  Here is an article about the morning lemon water practice.  I started slowly with a slice of lemon dropped into my water glass for flavor and general refreshing attractiveness.  Then I moved into using the juice of half a lemon and shortly after that just started squeezing the whole darn thing into my water.  I've read lemon juice is very good for your liver - nice if you like wine, which isn't so good for your liver.  But there are also benefits to your skin and overall hydration that make you look and feel a lot better.  Give it a try.  After a while, you won't believe you ever went without a giant glass of lemon water at least once a day.

Also, lemons are wonderful to use when cooking.  I like to shove half a lemon (and a head of garlic and a bunch of herbs) inside a chicken when I roast it (adds awesome flavor) or I'll slice several lemons really thin and roast them with chicken pieces and parts (plus Kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes) - this makes for some amazing melty, tart lemon strips to enjoy with your meal.  And a squeeze of lemon will help neutralize any food you may have accidentally over-salted - an issue for me as I, 1) love salty food, 2) don't measure when I cook and 3) am sometimes distracted by talking and sipping wine.  So they're nice to have on hand as back-up when you're cranking out some vittles.

They can make your house smell great.  It's that time of year again to crank up a little "Pot of Goodness."  This fragrance technique will bring you joy - your house will smell fabulous and anyone who enters it will feel happier.  Make this today.  Put the peel of half a lemon, a whole orange (or two clementines), a tablespoon or so of whole cloves, and a few cinnamon sticks into a saucepan and fill with water.  Set it on the back burner of your stove over low heat and enjoy the amazing smell.  You can keep this going anytime you're home, just put a lid on the pot when you're not heating it and make sure the water level doesn't get too low.  Every few days toss the old mixture into the trash and make a fresh batch.  So lovely.

And finally, you can make a lemon crab.  The kids and I learned how to do this when they were little.  It's just weird and still makes us laugh.  Here's a link.

I'm wearing this today.

Very excited about these moto pants I found on sale at Anthro.  The grey t-shirt and creamy blazer are part of the mix because of their wonderful neutrality.  The pants are the stars here.  And the t-shirt and blazer understand that - at least the t-shirt does.  The blazer is just being patient.  Am I the only one concerned that my clothes are talking to me?

It's Meatless Monday and I have nothing on the menu because our lovely neighbors are bringing us dinner tonight.  I'm so excited!!!

gratitude:  my drive to Pueblo on Saturday with Eliza, a whole day yesterday with just the family, not having to cook tonight, the bluest sky

thanks and love.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I May Have Experienced A Runner's High Today. Or, I Could Have Just Been Running Downhill.

Happy Friday!  I don't want to sound too 'yay me!', but I did a three-mile run this morning and did not feel like crying afterward.  As you may recall, I'm aiming to participate in the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot here in Denver.  Originally, when I came up with this plan, I was under the impression that this run was a standard 5K, which sounded plenty intimidating to a non-runner like myself.  Lo and behold as soon as I made the commitment to the race, I was informed this is actually a four mile run.  Say what?

I wanted to back out of the event, thinking my decision to participate was based on bad information, but I forged ahead anyway.  I've been attempting to train somewhat regularly for the last couple months.  It's not been easy, but it has been eye-opening.  For the first time ever, I bought a Runner's World magazine.  I hid it in my purse and I'm not sure why exactly.

I didn't buy the magazine for the articles about how to survive marathons and the like (FYI the key to survival is to drive), but because there was an article in there about how to look cute in race day pictures.  It wasn't as long or informative as I'd hoped; it mostly featured tips from NBC reporter Natalie Morales who said she likes to wear a ponytail or braids to keep her hair stylishly out of her face when she runs.  I just don't think braids are gonna do it for me (can you imagine?).  Also, my sunglasses tend to slip down my nose and I always end up with the sniffles while I'm running.  I look less like a cute national news correspondent and more like Lisa Loopner.  Maybe we'll hold off on pictures this time.

I have put a little thought into my race day ensemble.  I bought myself a pair of grey compression pants at Old Navy - you know, where all serious athletes buy their gear.  I like the pants and they squeeze my thighs into a pleasant shape - like Spanx for your entire lower half.  I'm not sure what top I'm going to go with - the temperature in Denver on Thanksgiving could be 70 degrees or below zero, so I'll need to wait for an extended forecast before I make a final decision.  I was shopping the other day and saw one of those cute workout tops with a peplum that I considered for a very, very brief period.  Then it occurred to me that peplum workout tops are best worn by someone shooting for a personal record in a run, not by someone looking to merely survive it without crying.  Or quitting.

I'm wearing this today.

It's pretty warm today, so short sleeves are not out of the question.  A cheapo black blazer from Forever 21 will be the perfect second layer should things cool off.  I like this low-budget blazer because it's very thin - you get the blazer effect without the added heft that comes with higher quality materials.

gratitude:  my run today, champagne-based cocktails on the horizon, a color plan for the house, baked potatoes

thanks and love.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We Have Not Been Good To Our Mud Room, But Things Are Going To Change. Like The Scene In Cinderella When She Gets Invited To The Ball - The Tide Starts Turning At That Point, And She's Just One Fairy Godmother Away From Greatness. I Hope Our Mud Room Has A Fairy Godmother. I Could Use The Help.

I would like to issue a formal apology.  To our mud room.  I was checking out a design blog this morning and came upon an article, with tons of pictures, featuring Aerin Lauder's (Estee's granddaughter) home in Aspen.  It's a lovely abode, as one would expect, but one photo stopped me dead in my tracks.  The caption read, "Aerin's perfectly appointed mud room."  I couldn't take my eyes off it.  It was stunning.  Now, I've worked in the biz, so I know this whole thing has been staged to look fantastic, but seriously, I never imagined a mud room could look that good, even with a professional snapping the shots.

Our mud room is not stunning.  Nor, is it well-appointed.  I know there is a bench in there along a wall, but I've not confirmed that visually in months.  I trust it's still there because without it, the Everest-sized wall of stuff that sits on it would be levitating in mid-air.  My logical mind tells me that's impossible, but when we bought this house I would have also felt that the level of disgust the mud room has achieved was also impossible.  I have been proven wrong.

In our old house, we had no mud room.  All the things people left behind as they stepped into our home ended up in a small hallway off the entrance to the garage.  Because this area was considered part of the main house, I made a mild effort to keep it somewhat in order.  But now we have the luxury of a mud room and, instead of treating this hard-working space with the love and respect it deserves, it has become a room-sized equivalent to a junk drawer.

You know something is wrong when you want to hide it (like when we stand alone in the pantry cramming a fun-size Baby Ruth in our mouth, or is that just me?).  We regularly shut the door to the mud room when we have people over and I've even been encouraging the children to bring their friends into our home through the front.  This is not how I envisioned life with a mud room would be.  But, now that Spike (God rest his soul) is no longer residing in the mud room, I have a good deal of new space to work with in there.  And before this additional square footage is overtaken by the tidal wave of junk heading straight for it, I'm going to step in (carefully) to add some style and structure.

I realize our mud room will likely never be worthy of a photographic spread, but at the very least, I no longer want to feel ashamed of it.  And, it'll be nice not to have people sign an injury waiver and show proof of an updated tetanus vaccination before they enter our home.  That's no way to live.

I'm wearing this today.

I want to be ready if the opportunity to try on a few pairs of boots arises while I'm out erranding.  Skinny jeans are required for a clear read on boot viability.

gratitude:  a clearer vision, taking action, twisting yoga poses, resources

thanks and love.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Calendars, Lists, And Wine. Right Up There With Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh When It Comes To Happy Holiday Celebrations.

I feel like once Halloween passes, the holiday race begins.  At this point, we're all lined up on the starting blocks, shaking out our arms and legs to keep them loose, and pressing our goggles into our face so they don't leak.  We're visualizing our desired outcome: joyful holiday gatherings, meaningful family moments, a lovely home, thoughtfully selected and beautifully wrapped presents, the sounds and smells of the season wafting from our home each and every day.  Right now though, we're working to stay calm and focused, but we know the gun will go off any second and then it's full-speed ahead to the finish line.

Holidays can be stressful - physically and emotionally.  But even if you're taking a minimalist approach to the season's events, you're going to need to make some plans.  I'm not a freak planner, but I have learned over the last year, that I'm happier if I've put some effort into planning ahead.  Even Santa made a list - and checked it twice!  Perhaps that added to his jolly attitude.  I never feel great if I'm constantly doing things last minute: things I saw coming, but for whatever reason blew off or delayed or completely forgot.  I'd rather enjoy a glass or two of wine in celebration of the season, not in an effort to drown out holiday fails.  I want to be fully present for the holidays - each year the season is a totally different experience and I don't want to miss a single moment of this one.

That said, I'm using this week to come up with a game plan.  I'm taking Benjamin Franklin's advice to heart:  "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail."  As I was Googling this quote to make sure I had the wording and the author correct, I found another quote that carried a similar meaning, but incorporated a bit more feeling and, dare I say, holiday magic?

"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe."
- Anatole France

So, get yourself some good old paper calendar pages for November and December.  I like the full month of squares on one sheet because I'm the person who sometimes believes December has more days than it actually does.  Print calendar copies from the computer if you have to, then mark dates on them for all the events and activities you'd like to or need to accomplish in the next couple months.  Back out the steps necessary to make those a reality, then follow your plan through the season.  Write in pencil, of course, because life requires an eraser from time to time.   If we do this, I think we'll all find we actually have more time to just soak in and be present to all the holiday goodness and eliminate the last minute freak outs, panic attacks, and general crabbiness that tend to take away a bit from the holiday joy.

On your mark, get set, go!

I'm wearing this today.

I am digging my taupe, suede boots.  They are a great neutral, and the suede adds a nice bit of texture.  I'd almost call them a must-have.

And for Meatless Monday, it's minestrone!  For what it's worth, I like to add a parmesan rind to the minestrone while it cooks and a spoonful of pesto before serving.  Flavor oomph.

gratitude:  stretchy black trash bags, Baby Ruth candy bars, soup, Whole Foods' Mediterranean Tapenade

thanks and love.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Since I Don't Know What To Do With Our Entryway Decor For The Thanksgiving Season, I'm Buying Some Time And Leaving Our Carved Pumpkins Out Until Trash Day On Monday. Nothing Says 'Welcome' Like The Scent Of Moldy Squash.

So yesterday, I was battling a bit of an unfortunate Halloween stomach bug.  Quite fitting really, because there are few things in real life much creepier than imagining how exactly I might have picked this nasty thing up.  We all know how these illnesses are passed along, so I don't need to get into the science of it here, but suffice it to say the unknown exchange of stomach contagion is the thing of nightmares.  

I really didn't eat anything yesterday so today I'm reintroducing food to the system and unfortunately, even though my intentions are to begin my nibbling with healthy and nutritious items, the only things that sound good to me are the remains of the Cheetos from JD's party last night and the five Baby Ruths I hid away before trick-or-treating started.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I already snuck one Cheeto, just to see how it would sit and, for the record, we're all good.  Let the healing commence.

And now that it's November, we'll be inundated with holiday advertising.  I just saw my first Christmas based TV ad this morning.  It was a Petco commercial introducing their new Martha Stewart collection of holiday pet toys.  I'm sure the dogs and cats on the receiving end of these new chew toys will appreciate the fine workmanship and tasteful detail.  Our dogs ate through a Diaper Genie, a table leg, and some refrigerator magnets.  Connoisseurs, indeed.

And finally, tomorrow is my sweet boy, J.D's, 14th birthday.  He is a truly wonderful person and I am entirely grateful to be his mom.  I love you with all my heart, J.D.!  Happy, happy birthday!

I'm wearing this today.

Black is very easy.  And, honestly, all I have clean.

gratitude:  a caring family, happy kids, birthday weekends, the time change

thanks and love.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Don't Mean To Toot My Own Horn, But For The Second Year In A Row, I Managed To Send In Our Car Registrations Before The Bonus Month Expired. I'm Kinda Kicking Butt And Taking Names Now When It Comes To Time Management.

Sometimes I feel like I could be getting a lot more done in a day.  It's not so much when I have a staging project to work on or a writing job -  maybe I focus more when I'm getting paid? - but it seems like when it comes to just the day-to-day life maintenance activities I could stand to step up the urgency a bit.  I'll occasionally have one of those days where I'm firing on all cylinders, checking things off my list, and running at full speed.  But for the most part, I find I'm easily distracted by the computer - I've already Googled Nancy Meyer movie sets, funny last-minute Halloween costumes, and found myself a new running back for fantasy football today.  It's barely past 8 o'clock in the morning.

While this lack of productivity can be irksome, I also feel though, that down time can be very valuable. I couldn't possibly be one of those people who go go go from dawn until dusk - and I accept that about myself.  But one thing I know I could do better is to take care of things before they become a problem that stresses me out.  I read somewhere recently (on a distracting Google search, perhaps?) that the calmest and most peaceful people are the ones that take care of things before they become problems.   They aren't necessarily at peace because they handle stress well: they manage to avoid as much stress as possible in the first place.  Ah!!

So, because each journey begins with a single step,  I'm ordering a water filter for our refrigerator as soon as I post this blog.  Last night the message to "Order new H2O filter" scrolled across the screen on the fridge.  In years past, I'd see that note and think to myself, "I need to remember to do that.  I'll make sure I order one when I get a chance."  Well, clearly I could never find the time to squeeze that task in, which is weird because I'm sure there was plenty of time to price compare over-the-knee boots or research the best way to brine a turkey.  I'd put off ordering until the message eventually changed to, "Replace H2O filter." It probably should have said something like, "You haven't even ordered it have you?  Prepare to enjoy the taste of contamination."  Because of my inaction, our filter was rendered useless and I was left to ponder whether or not the water tasted funny until the new one arrived.  This added unnecessary tension/guilt/mineral deposits to my life.  But no more.

The water filter will be on its way by end of day.  Mark my words.  Then I'll be able to get around to scheduling my annual physical exam if I can mange to find the reminder postcard they sent to me two months ago.

I'm wearing this today.

I found these new grey skinnies yesterday at Old Navy, of all places.  They have a new mid-rise fit in their Rockstar jean and it's perfect for those of us who prefer zippers slightly longer than an inch and a half, but not anywhere near Mom Jean length.  A nice stretchy skinny in a great color for a cheap price.  Score.

gratitude:  amazing fog, creative pumpkin carving, toasted English muffins (Rudi's Multigrain with Flax), staplers

thanks and love.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tonight Will Feature Pumpkins, Power Tools, And Pinot Noir. A Trifecta Of Halloween Fun.

Welcome to Monday!  I missed posting Friday as I was knee-deep in the final phases of our staging project, then afterward decided that a few glasses of wine and dinner out was required.  I also (re)learned that wine consumption is best done on a full stomach and if one throws back a glass on nothing more than the remains of the toast she ate at 7:00 that morning, regrets are possible.  Alas.

I'd hoped to have everything completed with the big project by today and this morning would be the kick-off to a recovery time of sorts.  But, as is the case in so much of life, the Universe likes to mock our silly planning efforts and we'll be heading back up to the flats today to tie up a few loose ends.  It's been quite an experience to exist with an all-consuming work activity.  Not much outside of staging has been accomplished in recent weeks.

For instance, Halloween kinda snuck up on me.  Unfortunately, that means I was among the pathetic group of people scrounging for carveable pumpkins this weekend.  Trust me, at this point in the season, those pumpkin bins outside the grocery store are not for the squeamish.  It's humiliating to have to dig through them in front of everyone only to end up with misshapen, stemless pumpkins that have several disappointingly soft spots.  Although, the moldy areas do make for easier carving, so there's that.

It's Meatless Monday and we'll either be enjoying egg salad sandwiches or a simple pesto pasta.  Sometimes if you let your family make the final decision, they are happier with the results.  I will do whatever it takes to make Meatless Mondays more palatable for my loved ones - literally and figuratively.

I'm wearing this.

I am, once again, a walking tribute to the power of Pinterest.

gratitude:  a gray day, leopard print, Vanity Fair magazine, black pens

thanks and love.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lunch Has Its Own Challenges - Not The Least Of Which Involves Ordering Without My Glasses. Why Are Those Menus Behind The Counter So Far Away?

It's been a busy week, and I'm glad I've made an effort to stop for a quick lunch while I'm moving through each day.  I function better if I've eaten something - no one needs a stager with low blood sugar.  Can you imagine? Oh the horror.

I've come to realize that the act of disposing of your lunch remains at some restaurants can be a nerve-wracking task.  I think the trend toward recycling has added new elements to "disposal" in general.  I'm a recycler.  I'm even making a concerted effort to do a better job of breaking down boxes so they lay flat in my recycling bin and also to rinse things out before I toss them on the pile.  I get it.  Recycling is good.

But now that recycling is becoming the norm, we don't just toss everything we have left over into one big trash can.  Now we need to sort things: trash, compost, paper, plastic, silverware, plates, trays, etc.  They all need to go in a specific place when we're done with our meal.  I get a little anxious if there's a line behind me pressuring me to get my tray cleared quickly - you have to really think about where things go.  I'll even wait at my table until it looks like the trash station is clearing out just so I can sort my paper and plastic in peace.

The worst place for this kind of sorting has to be Whole Foods.  They started this trend I think, but they've also made it the most difficult.   Whole Foods has their trash system broken into no less than five sections and each section comes with a handy framed example of what each particular piece of trash should look like for its associated disposal zone.  But sometimes the examples they provide become outdated and don't match what the Prepared Foods department is using to serve food.  I end up holding my empty container up to the framed examples and guessing to myself the chemical make-up what my Sonoma chicken salad came in.  Is it recyclable?  Would it dissolve on a compost pile?   Maybe it's just plain old trash?  I think it's made out of corn.  Did my food taste like corn?  Could I just eat the container? The stream of consciousness alone takes quite a while.

Sometimes I just cram my plastics and papers in my grocery bag and dispose of it all at home.  It's easier and that way I can practice my speed sorting skills on my own.  After a little private practice, the next time I dine at Whole Foods,  I plan to amaze the other lunch-goers with my flawless execution of trash disposal.  Little victories mean so much.

I'm wearing this.

I've had this vest for three years and could never find a way to work it into my rotation.  I bought it at Anthropologie when I was feeling extra funky, then got it home and wondered what in the world I was going to do with a long, knit vest.  I don't know why I didn't think about using it with a t-shirt and jeans.  Duh.

gratitude:  the smell of roast chicken, simplicity, lamps, yoga

thanks and love.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Know Style Isn't An Interest For Everyone, But We Can't Ignore It Or Undervalue Its Importance. Just Like Breakfast.

I believe you can dress for success.  Well, maybe not success - it's not like your chosen outfit will land you the job or get you the promotion, but to the extent attitude comes into play; what you wear can make a big difference.  I've been experimenting with this theory in the little laboratory of my daily life.  I'm in the middle of a staging project that is bigger than any I've tackled so far.  I've been pretty nervous about it all and I attribute some of the success I'm having to what I've been wearing each day.  The things I've chosen to wear, I think, have given me some added confidence in my work and opened my mind to coming up with creative solutions.

Typically I lean a bit toward uniform dressing.  Skinny jeans, low boots, and a black turtleneck are my wintertime go to ensemble.  But I've made myself stay away from the black turtlenecks so far this season - I've layered more and mixed up prints.  I've pulled out super wide leg jeans and worn my faux leather pants with a t-shirt and Converse tennis shoes.  I'm even attempting the Pinterest-esque dress and low boot combo.  It's been fun.  And inspiring.

They do say, "All the world's a stage," right?  So try dressing the way you imagine the person you want to be would dress.  Like you're in a movie and you get to come up with the wardrobe choice for a particular character.  It's as if every day you're in charge of creating a character you'll love and admire and part of that involves costuming.  Of course, you also have to act like a person you would love and admire too, to get this to really work - but fashion is a good first step.  Give it a go.  How do you want that main character in the movie of your life to look?

I'm wearing this today:

If I were going for the full Pinterest-worthy look, I'd probably have bare legs.  But, I'm over 40, it's cold out, and I bruise like a summer peach.   Leggings are required.

And tonight for Meatless Monday we're going with breakfast burritos.  Scrambled eggs, black beans, potatoes, cheese, and salsa wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

gratitude:  toothpaste, neutrals, sunshine, crispy things

thanks and love.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm Including A Recipe In This One For Something Other Than A Champagne-Based Cocktail. I Like To Demonstrate My Versatility From Time To Time.

How good does Friday feel?  Some Fridays are better than others and, from my perspective, this one is really nice.  Obviously it's been quite a week and my Monday/Wednesday/Friday posts have been a bit tardy each day.  I've considered writing my blog the night before I post in order to avoid this situation, but honestly, I'm a bit of a procrastinator when I write and I can't seem to flow if the clocks not ticking. Plus, sometimes I forget that I was going to try to do that.

I'm certain I'm not the only one that's had a crazy week so I'm going to share with you our dinner tonight.  We're having a pan of roasted sausages and potatoes.  This is the easiest thing in the world to make, it makes your house smell fantastic, and it tastes great.  You may already have something similar in your repertoire, but just in case you don't, here is how it's going down tonight at Chez High.

Take two pounds of Italian sausages (I like a combo of hot and mild), two pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes or red potatoes, and two big green or red bell peppers (or a combo, of course).  Cut the sausages into 1" - 2" pieces, cut the potatoes into eighths, and chop the peppers in larger pieces.  Put it all into a 11" x 13" casserole and drizzle liberally with olive oil.  Add coarse salt, cracked black pepper, and Italian seasoning (be generous).  Mix it all up and pop it in a 350 degree oven for at least two hours (stirring occasionally) or until everything is fully cooked.  Delish!

I love this on nights when I don't want to do anything that requires wearing shoes, I don't want to have to ask a waitperson for more wine, and I don't want to stand over the stove or measure a lot of stuff.  I can just hang out on the couch, Malbec nearby, fireplace on, candles lit, and ask people from time to time to give the sausage and potatoes a whirl.  Life is good.

I'm wearing this.

I'm having some fun with the print mixing again.  I've been combining lots of pillows on sofas lately, so I think my head is stuck on getting patterns to combine in interesting ways.  The statement necklace is a nice way to draw attention away from any pattern combo that feels a little iffy (as is the case here).

And it's a Full Moon, so today is a great day to just be aware of and thankful for the fullness of your life.  No matter what is going on in your life, there is always something to be grateful for - something you love.  Like attracts like, so being grateful for the good in your life helps draw more good to you in the future.

gratitude:  easy dinners, project success, the return of Domino magazine, my family

thanks and love.