Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Letters I Can Never Send #1

Jimmy Fallon writes these wonderful "Thank You' letters as his way of venting, complaining, & getting things off his chest. They are sarcastic and employ reverse psychology that makes them quite hysterical. I have written similar letters in my head as a way to release some stress and have discovered the filing cabinet in my mind where they have been stored is now full. So I thought I would occasionally share a few of the more potent ones. I'm sure not all of you will enjoy this side of me these letters reveal. Just remember I did not physically send them, they are only my thoughts...

Dear Neighbor,

Each day, as I get home from a full day of teaching, please stop meeting me at my mailbox out of breath - literally - and complaining of how exhausted you are. I bite my tongue when I am tempted to remind you that you have had an eight hour day - kid free - for the last 5 years since your kids went to school. 

I understand you have household responsibilities for your family of four, but my head spins thinking you have had 8 hours to accomplish them and you are this exhausted. I am close to sharing with you that, I too, have the the household responsibilities for a family of four, but a only 2 hour window each weekday in which to accomplish them as opposed to your 8. 

I am also close to suggesting that if you are so depleted of energy after a day alone at home, you take one of the 16 half-hour naps that are a possibility for you each day. But I will again, bite my tongue. 

Going forward, I have an idea that may make us a little better friends. When we see each other at the mailbox, instead of the laundry list of things you had to do all day, and how exhausted it has left you, let's talk about our amazing kids, trips we've taken, recipes we'd like to try, volunteer opportunities we can participate in, projects we're working on, or things we're dreaming of…

Your exhausted-of-hearing-how-exhausted-you-are neighbor,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

BFFs: Long Distance Relationships

My 9 year old son and I have something in common: We don't have many friends. I never have. In high school and again in college, I maybe had a total of 3 close girlfriends. Total. It didn't mean I wasn't popular or well liked, I think I can only give my attention and efforts to a few good friends at a time. Beck is the same way. And, like me, he is having to once again say good-bye to one of his best friends this spring due to a long distance move.

I am struggling to find comforting words of advice as he prepares to say good-bye. I want to encourage him to make an effort to keep in touch and perhaps the friendship will endure. I know he is capable of this since he maintains long distance friendships right now that will hopefully last his lifetime. The are that kind of friends. You just know it. They are friends he mentions at bedtime, worries about and gets teary eyed wondering when he will see them again. 

I have those friends too. In fact my two best friends have moved quite far away. They are friends I made at a most vulnerable point in my life, when I had my first baby, and they had theirs. We bonded over exploding diapers at fancy lunches, breast feeding at the playground, tantrum stories and other stresses that come with being a new mom. I have told them deep secrets and I know quite a few of theirs. They are friendships I have had now for almost ten years. Being apart from them for several years now, I find ourselves trying to keep in touch in a variety of ways, but always wish it were more often. Working full time is a definite factor in my inability to keep in touch as often as I would like, but I am going to make a better effort to keep in touch. I am! I really think it sets a good example for Beck & Petra of how to maintain lifelong friendships. 

I want to explain to Beck that true friends understand when some time lapses between calls and emails. A true friend will always be happy to hear you voice and you pick up right where you left off. I found a sweet list of ways to stay in touch with long distance friends on www.huffingtonpost.com  written by Gabriela Kruschewsky. Here are a just a few ways I will share with Beck that I think are right-on:

1. Send random photo messages to each other regularly. I try to do this when I can. It's hard to remember, but super easy to do. I always love being on the receiving end of a fun photo to keep up with what the other person is up to. 

2. Start something personal & private you can both share together. I did this years ago with my sisters. We started a journal that we send through snail mail. We took turns adding whatever we wanted, a photo, a poem, a drawing. It was always so exciting to get it in the mail & see what was added. It could be as simple as an email chain!

3. Try to keep up in their daily life & what's going on with them. I should move this up to the #1 spot. I'll stress to Beck that when talking to his friends, to always ask detailed questions about what they are up to. (Don't just ramble on about yourself). Asking specific questions about what sport they are doing, a trip they just took, family they just visited, can really make your friend feel closer and remind them of how much you listen & care about their personal life. 

4. Remember their family is your family. Or at least, act as though they are. For my BFFs, I keep a list in my contacts of their extended family names. Brother-in-laws, step-fathers, cousins....for when I'm talking to them it's always nice to reference their family with a name. I love when they ask  me specifically about my family and actually remember my nephew's names, Aunt Helen, or that my Irish Gram, Mary, lived next door to me all my life. 

5. Take mini trips together, even if you meet half way. This is probably the most difficult one. As an adult, busy schedules and finances come into play, but it's always such a treat when you can make it happen. I remember we used to make an annual 'girl's weekend' and it made us all so much closer and we have many fun shared memories from these trips.

6. Write an actual physical letter to them once and a while. This takes so little time, but really shows you took a moment to make them feel special. Beck still has a few notes from his long distance friend on his bulletin board. (Along with the necklace his friend sent in the envelope). Very sweet & very easy.

7. Small talk is key. This is so easily done with texting, Facebook replies, Instagram pics, and other technology we already have in our hands all day long. It only takes a few moments to say hi or comment on someone's status or photo. Waiting days for someone to reply to a text is pretty crummy. I will remind Beck to stay diligent and reply quickly.

8. Accept their new friends. This one I saw on another post, but find it super important. You can't expect your friend to put blinders on and never make another close friend again. That would be pretty selfish. It is always a bit painful to know your friends are sharing things she used to share with you, but you must remember her happiness is yours. I'll remind Beck to accept their new friends and it can only make you closer. I myself have made a few new friends here in the burbs. It doesn't mean my long distance friendships are any less important or special.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pulling an Al Bundy

The character Al Bundy from the popular white trash sitcom Married with Children, would frequently relive his glory days of his high school football career. His family would roll their eyes as he would drift off reminiscing the highlights of when he scored 4 touchdowns in one game. I frequently pull what Josh calls "an Al Bundy" when I talk about the great things I used to have time to do. Don't we all?

So as the holidays approach, I thought I'd pull an Al Bundy and share with you my crafty days in NYC when I would rent a table at the Fall Festival and sell my goods. The Fall Festival was held in a beautiful church on the upper east side just before the holidays and was always packed. Each year I tried to make something different, but soon stuck with the few hot sellers until the trend died out. My company name was Peeme & Chama, named after imaginary friends my sister and I shared. Here are a few shots of my glory days:

Charm Necklaces
The idea was that you would choose your cordage and charms. I would assemble on the spot and of course gift wrap was included. Not a great seller. I learned that people don't really like to make-their-own anything when trying to get holiday shopping done.

Painted Glassware
These were actually a good seller. I bought all of the glassware from restaurant supply shops on the Bowery for next to nothing. Profit margin was high since they took no time to paint. People bought sets of wine glasses, salt & pepper shakers, and votive candles. They even ended up being published in one of those cheesy craft magazines you find at the check-out counter at grocery stores. 


Preppy Belts
Oh my- these were a huge hit. I would get all of my ribbon from a supplier in the garment district who would secretly sell me ribbon another well-known ribbon belt designer had just special ordered. After I had sold out, people were taking orders. I was making belts up until Christmas and would hand deliver them up and down the upper east side. Ribbon key chains are a good way to use up the left overs:

Handbags - My biggest Flop
I first tried to sell these on consignment to stores on Martha's Vineyard. I went door to door down Main Street. Not one store took them. I was pretty crushed. They bombed at the Fall Festival too. Too small for ladies to carry and not cute enough for little girls. Oh well. 

Wish Necklaces- My biggest hit
The idea was that each necklace came with a specific wish like good fortune, love, strength...The necklace had no clasp and was tied on. Once the necklace falls off, your wish would come true. What could be easier to make? They consisted of thin thread, a small charm and no clasp! The packing took me longer to assemble than the necklaces themselves. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to Business

I have this tray on my kitchen counter. For the entire summer I filled it with beverages and the blender for spontaneous visitors and drinks on the deck. As soon as school started up, I found myself once again 'nesting' to get ready. Each school year I try to attend to areas of the house that will help the kids and myself stay organized. (My kitchen desk, dresser drawers, and even the fridge). In my attempt to make packing lunches easier, I sadly put away my summer beverages and replaced them with lunch boxes and thermoses for both kids. I always hated unloading them from the dishwasher each day to then turn around the next morning and dig them out of the cupboard. As unsightly as it may be on my counter, it has to live there. 

Fridge = Message Center
What are you doing to get ready for the school year? Share what trick you have to make getting ready for school easier or the homework routine less painful. How do you stay organized? CLICK the email button on the right --> and send me your photos and ideas! I'd love to post them! Have a great school year!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Timelines & Cupcakes

I tend to be the 'photo keeper' of the family. Throughout my childhood, I remember my parents developing the hundreds of photos they took and jamming the envelopes full of prints into their bedside table drawers. They were not the scrapbooking type. These drawers finally became overstuffed just about the time they divorced. I feared the photos would be lost in the shuffle, so I put them in huge garbage bags and actually hauled them to my dorm room in college. Dork alert.

From there I divided them up into 5 piles, one for each of us. It made me feel better knowing we each had some tangible memories of our lives when we were all together. What each person did with those photos was up to them. I prayed they would be carefully arranged in scrapbooks in chronological order (as mine were), but I had my doubts.

Fast forward 20 years. My brother-in-law was having a big bash to celebrate his 40th birthday. My sister wasn't over-decorating since it was already a pretty cool setting at a trendy new pub in Saratoga. I wanted to contribute something to the festivities and knew I wanted to include photos of him in some way. I started gathering any pictures I could find of him. Pre-digital prints were temporarily removed from my scrapbooks and scanned. I then combed through years of iPhoto for digital images. Once they were all gathered, I printed them out in contact sheets for the size I needed. They became cupcake toppers. Everyone sang Happy Birthday as his eyes scanned the 60 photos of his many happy years with family and friends. They were a big hit.

This summer, my other brother-in-law was turning 50. My sister was throwing him a backyard pig roast with many family & friends invited. I thought the photo cupcake toppers would go over well. His mother sent me prints of him when he was growing up, all the way through his high school years. She even gave me his birth announcement! I then scanned everything and found all of the digital photos we had of him.

100 cupcakes were being served, so I had to find at least that many photos. As I was printing out the small contact sheets, I figured I would print each picture in larger 4 X 6 format for a giant timeline to hang somewhere at the party. I started to arrange the pictures in chronological order (see below). I decided to hang the timeline on the side of the house where the bar would be set up, hoping people would linger as they were getting a drink. I had 18 feet to work with, so I had to make 3 rows. I stapled each photo to 3 inch grosgrain ribbon. Here is the initial layout:

Here it is installed:

Here are the same 100 photos covering a span of 50 years as cupcake toppers:

Starting to think of what I will do for Josh's 50th…need to start gathering pics!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Petra's Bed Make-Over

When we moved in 3 summers ago, Petra got the smallest bedroom in our home. I've always felt a bit bad about it, especially since she will eventually want to spend more time in there and need much more storage space for her clothing. Earlier this summer, she was willing to pass on most of her larger toys in an effort to make her room "more grown up". I was also anxious to rid her room of her dresser that took up so much floor space. Her current bed was in a "nook" that is unfortunately 6 inches shy of a twin size mattress or twin bed frame. The only solution I could think of was to build her a custom sized captains bed in the nook and then have a custom mattress made. Here are some of the beds that inspired me:

Love the many drawers.

Great use of space- especially with sloped ceiling.

So many shelves, not too many drawers.

Really dig the nook being painted a separate color.

This summer seemed like the perfect time to jump start this project. I realized hiring our contractor to build the bed wasn't going to happen in a timely manner, so I took the initiative to do it myself after seeing this photo:

This is the photo that motivated me.
Love the wallpaper, serene colors and loads of storage.
The dresser Petra already has was a white Malm Ikea she had in the city. We happened to have another one (temporarily in my room as a placeholder for a walnut Danish modern I am dreaming of…) so I got right to work. The  mattress from her youth bed was coincidentally the same exact width of the 2 dressers side by side. It was just shy in depth by about 20 inches, so I ran to Home Depot and built a frame for support. 

I just need to build a safety railing or we could use a
toddler bed rail that slides under matters each night so it is hidden during the day.
I will also install a shelf up in the nook to take the place of a bedside table.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Boat Update: Work in Progress #4 Continued….

I have been trying to work on the boat at least one day after school each week. I originally thought I would just be  decorating with my new goods: making the beds, changing out old photos with current ones, fluffing the pillows, switching out old beach towels with new, but I cannot ignore some of the major cosmetic deterioration. My focus has now shifted as I scramble to fix some of these issues before  it's too late. As I make these repairs, I am switching up some of the materials originally used to better suit the limited time we can devote to boat work in the future. 

The mahogany railing that I painstakingly stripped, sanded, stained and varnished years ago had some serious aging and exposed areas. If I didn't address it, the mahogany would look terrible and the peeling varnish feels like a paper cut when you grab it. It's now totally stripped & sanded, waiting for a coat of stain and I will now use two coats of Cetol instead of several thin coats of varnish. This will save time in the long run & will look just as great. Stay tuned for final photos.

The swim platform hadn't been sanded in a few years and looked so faded and sad. I used the radial sander so hard, I actually broke it. Thank God I was basically done & ready to Cetol. 

The headliner is in really bad shape. In many areas, it is not even attached to the ceiling frame anymore.  To replace the entire thing is simply not in the budget. There were a few holes that if not repaired, would only tear open more. One was the size of a fist. hmmmm...Beckett...The problem is, after researching online & checking a few marine stores, they really don't sell headliner patch-kits so I decided to make my own. I bought a yard of the liner at an upholstery store that works mainly on boat cushions. To adhere it to the existing 46 year old liner, I bought a 3M spray product used by car repair shops for car headliners. It was pretty toxic & extremely difficult to apply upside-down. I admit, the stack white looks a bit odd against the old liner, but better than a hole I guess.

Other housekeeping jobs that have kept me from my decorating finale were painting the bottom, scraping the trim tabs, rudders & propellers and scrubbing the fenders. Almost to the finish line- I'll post  more photos when finished!