Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On blogging?

My friend Holly started a blog in 2006, which I thought was absolutely absurd. By 2008 I myself had become a regular reader of some fabulous now-defunct blogs (and two that actually lasted)! I used my "favorites bar" to earmark them and had an actual pin-board with sticky notes of websites with good ideas before the days of bloglovin and pinterest. Here is an example of a something I saved back in the day (Image Via)

Since I had been producing my own clever crafts and pretty parties practically from the time I was in utero (IMHO), I thought I should be a blogger too! My hook was that I was a working attorney and a Martha-Stewart-Do-it-all-Mama. I also genuinely wanted to increase Jewish content on the decor and craft blogs. I think I could have good at blogging, at least by those days' standards, if I had posted more than 8 times in the first three years of the blog's existence. Alas, that was not the case, and the blog fell into complete obscurity and neglect before it ever started. Here was one of my first pictures about Peacock Holiday Decor (to my surprise and, totally unrelated, that became a "thing" over the next few years):

In 2012 I had something I actually wanted to blog about! The experience showed me the best and worst that the internet could be. Here is the short version: I had an idea for a Jewish Elf on the Shelf that I dubbed "The Mench on the Mantle."
I planned to produce it and thoroughly researched to ensure the concept did not exist. It did not. I proceeded to consult a patent attorney, who advised that I was risking suit if I went forward for commercial gain. After weighing the risks, I did it just for fun and placed it all in this blog. Thousands of people read about it, and I felt the rush that good blog numbers can give you. Presumably, one of those people took the idea and went into production. I will never be able to prove it definitively. The name is almost the same (as are some of the wording/ideas and they follow me on pinterest). I am to blame; I placed it out here for free with no protection. Stupid for anyone. Double stupid for an attorney. The blog had been slow after my initial success as I had a friend become sick and pass away. By the time I saw "their" idea on kickstarter, I hadn't blogged in awhile. I almost deleted the blog at that time, but I figured I should at least get to leave my stuff up if they got to be on the Today show.

I continued to love reading the internet, but only very seldomly would I post. When Kelly's Korner did a link-up about adoption, for instance, I thought it would be fun to add my two-cents as an adoption attorney, but basically the blog was dormant. With pinterest going strong, it seemed everyone was getting in on the action. What had once been my own obscure little niche was becoming mainstream. I rarely had anything new or different to share, and I was scared to share when I did, so I just didn't.

Then this year, I decided to blog for myself, even as the rest of the world was proclaiming that blogs were dead. Goodbye Young House Love! I wanted to use the blog as a journal, to tackle some goals, and have a little fun. None of those things involve readers or stats--not one of them. I told myself it would not matter if I reached a single person. And so I began....Over the first part of the year I actually got something out of the process. It kept me accountable and was, indeed, fun. Particularly with organization projects, blogging gave me a reason to finish and to do it well no less. It was working for me. I was my author and audience.

The funny thing about being a blogger, though, is that you begin to care a little. Of course, you will notice if you get a a little traffic or if some nice blogger stops by (HI AMY). You you may even test the water and participate in a link party to see if it works, you know, just because. Then you may start to notice that your "stuff" isn't so good. You are not the most clicked or ever featured and you probably won't ever be. Don't get me wrong, I am not down on myself! I am cool with that. I have a beautiful home, projects that actually look great in person, and a pretty good DLSR. It just isn't enough, not these days.

What I have noticed was that to be successful, you have to have excellent lighting, impeccable photograph skills, and time to painstakingly edit your photos. Then you have to top it all off with a moniker or list, so they are pinnable. Compare today's blogs to the one's I fell in love with like Stem and SippyCups. Their work was spot-on and I am sure would still be innovative even today. Yet, these blogs would would not be given a second look now because they are not picture perfect. Look back at the picture at the top. That was, and is, a great storage system, but it would hardly warrant a second look today. I even tried the glossier stuff myself:

It "worked" on pinterest and on the blog. It was actually fun to play with the graphics and it helped get my closet clean. But it is hard to produce that type of post consistently while still using the blog to meet personal goals. It is not that the two are incongruous; they just don't always align. Perhaps that is why all those early bloggers simply gave up? Is that why so many are proclaiming that blogs are dead? I don't know for the masses. But here is what I know for myself.

I am not going to get rich doing this or maybe even noticed. If I truly have a great idea, I may or may not put it here. But I do like the content I produced early this year. It helped me. It was fun before I messed it up by complicating things. So during the short remaining weeks of 2015, I am going back to short (and perhaps shoddy) posts that help me reach some goals before the New Year. I hope you will follow along. Maybe you'll be inspired to post some content that isn't perfect as well. We could we all use a break!!! If no one follows, I am going to try to be okay with that. Maybe that is my goal for next year!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A little sweet treat

Several years back I wanted to make a cereal bar at home for my daughter. At the time we were pretty clean eaters, though I don't know if I had even heard that particular term yet. I just knew that I did not like her eating processed bars for primary nutrition. You may remember that our battle of the bars wages on even recently. I set out to Google an appropriate recipe looking for search terms like, " peanut butter," "oatmeal," and "milk." I stumbled upon this gem of a recipe, foolishly believing that it would be a breakfast alternative. It was apparent the moment I started making it that it was a very unhealthy treat. The funny thing is it has become our favorite brownies / bar, and it is even our signature item when we bring someone dinner.

You can find the original recipe here. Here are the ingredients:

This is the original copy that I that I printed and still use:

And finally here is a picture of the finished product... Wait, I would never be able to photograph a full pan because these babies are eaten the minute they cool down!

I am linking up with the best of the weekend here! and to Too Cute Tuesday

Monday, October 19, 2015

an ode to a battered suitcase

I am back from a fabulous vacation, where I did lots of thinking about the blog and if I will keep it. In the meantime, I do have something I want to say---to my suitcase (embarrassingly enough, I don't even know if my own suitcase reads my blog :))!

You are battered and torn, scuffed around the edges with two broken zippers and a handle that no longer behaves as it should. So many countless things that I have traded in, traded up, discarded and long forgotten—yet you remain. I purchased you for an adventure all my own, but in a brazen move, I selected you to match the luggage of a man I was just beginning to know. In the beginning it was just us—me and my too small suitcase. In you I carried a summer’s worth of clothing which later became so filthy it was simply left behind. I marveled with how I had traveled so light. On the way home, I filled you with a rug, pillow cases, and a woolen baby coat (brimming with plans for the future and the man with the matching luggage). We went vacationing and to seemingly innumerable weddings in those early years. Together we went on my honeymoon and, one by one, the funerals of my grandparents. You were the perfect bag for my first real business trip and when we needed a get-away after a painful loss. Eventually you held maternity clothes, onesies and tiny socks. The wearers of the onsies grew so big they needed their own bags, and I got you back to myself. We have visited friends, criss-crossing the country and filling two passports. You have sat in my closet in an apartment and three houses. Even as our travels have become decidedly more glamorous, you are my constant. It is commonplace for fellow travelers to note your Lilliputian stature. I take that as a compliment, knowing that though I may be a woman who travels to stylish locales, I am still the girl who could set out on an adventure all her own with so few things and such big dreams.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Not today Sir....

While I haven't blogged, I've been bogged. I'm bogged down in so much day-to-day being an adult and too, too much volunteering. That is a whole different blog series, but not today sir! For now, for your viewing pleasure is my lovely sukkah!

A sukkah is a temporary shelter covered in natural materials, built near a synagogue or house and used especially for meals during the Jewish festival of Sukkot. I love to mix the theme and change it up, but I loved this one so much last year that we decided to keep the theme one more year!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

just felt like sharing

My family was an early adopter of email, and I have had some sort of account for 25 years. Still, I loath digital communication because it is hard to know someone's actual tone. I often respond to emails and even (gasp) texts with phone calls when the situation calls for tact. I was recently on an email chain that was a potential minefield for hurt feelings. In my old professional life, my actions had the potential to mend broken families or rip them apart. This was a personal matter and quite trivial, however, it could have caused lasting hurt.

Our PTO vice president contacted me with a new volunteer for my teacher appreciation committee (we arrange conference meals, a holiday celebration, teacher appreciation week, and a Spring luncheon). It is normal to get new helpers at the beginning of the year. What was unique was that this woman was new to our school and had lots of suggestions from her old school "beyond just conference meals" (great), but also was ready to take charge immediately (whah?). I hoped to train someone to fill my role next year. While I was jumping at the chance for help and a potential replacement, my ego felt bruised. Even worse, the PTO vice president hadn't seemed to clarify that we already do many of this mom's suggestions. I know that it was silly, but I felt vulnerable and defensive. The new mom ended up emailing me that very night, again asking if we could possibly find it in our budget to do more than "just conference meals" and saying that she would head it up.

I knew I had to respond via email, and that I did not want to alienate her. I legitimately want her to replace me. I do want her to bring new ideas and energy. I also felt I had something to prove-- I was ready to fire off a quasi-nasty email. Then I pondered: why was I so offended by something so mundane? Why was she so eager to take on a role that was already filled? Why did she assume we didn't "do more" without first ascertaining what we actually do? Why had The PTO rep not "defended" us?

I realized that I was hurt, plain and simple, that our hard work from the previous year was not being recognized. I realized she was new to our school and trying to meet people and help out. So there it was:I was hurt; she was looking for connection and to feel useful. The last thing either of us needed was a petty and pithy email exchange. On a more practical level, I realized we had never publicized our work as only the teachers had seen the product. The only thing we had asked for help with was baking for conference meals. Perhaps it was fair for her to assume that was all we did, after all. Maybe this was an actual opportunity to educate the new volunteer, bringing the PTO up to speed, and get some new blood on board.

I drafted an email with good restraint, beginning, "My co-chair A and I would love to have you on board with us as we plan! We welcome new ideas and are always striving to do better and more, so it is great to have another perspective. In particular we would love to have someone who would carry on after we are finished (I plan to roll off after this year, though I cannot speak for A, who still has younger kids). It sounds like you would be a great person to start with us this year and continue in the role!....." So nice, right?!!

I then proceeded to go into my "however" and listed everything we did the previous year. While I did qualify it with an apology for he lengthy amount of information and say that it was "just to get us all on the same page,"
I probably went off the rails a a bit. I went into painful detail with pictures to show all we had done. Was it too much chest-beating and bragging? In hindsight, probably a smidgen. By that point I had realized this, I had already hit send. All that was left was to pray she would see simply my good intentions.You know what? She received the right message! The internet worked, y'all!!!! Her response was "All this stuff is amazing!!! I had no idea you and A coordinated all of this last year. I would love to be a part of your team and am looking forward to working with you. I'd love to see all of the things you and your team do publicized too. Is it possible to get a PTO corner in the weekly updates to highlight what the PTO is doing even when help isn't being requested? I'm sure some of the other teams are doing stuff behind the scenes too. Thanks so much for filling me in." She is going to be our chair in training and I will pass it off to her next year!

In my mind, she is awesome for both reaching out in the first place and recognizing that she spoke without all the information. It could have gone another way. I could have handed my post over to her in a blaze of glory or I could have marked my territory so clearly that she didn't engage at all. It sounds ridiculous, but things like that happen on PTO's all the time. Things like that happen on all email all the time. I am so glad that I stopped for a minute to think about why she made the request and why it bothered me. I am glad that she stopped and thought about how to respond in a way that was kind. By slowing down and listening, really listening to he meaning of what the other was saying, we communicated so effectively. This is one time where I wish real life communication would be more like email.

Monday, August 31, 2015


I am feeling like golim dropping the ring today! I got a lot of spam on the blog yesterday. In an effort to delete a bunch of spam, I got rid of many precious comments. I really prize your comments, and it truly makes my day when someone actually takes time to say something here (it doesn't happen that often, ya' know). Apparently there is no way to get them back under the settings I had. Whump. whump.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Drawer Challenge: We were drawer challenged!

When my 10 year old was born, we bought a fancy dresser with a built in changing table. You can barely see the tip of it in the picture above. We also bought a bunch of baskets, which we foolishly believed would hold all of her toys. Ha! By the time we moved less than three years later, I had tried about ten different toy storage units and conceded that we needed a whole room of built-ins just for toys. Clothes, however, seemed like they would be easy to store. After all we were moving from an older home with the small closet above to a new home where everyone got their own large walk-in. Since little sister was then an infant, I gave her the fancy changing table dresser (still going strong--just don't tell her what it is). I once again placed my all hopes in those baskets!

I planned to utilize the baskets as clothing storage for underwear and tights and hang everything else (which at that point meant one thing only--dresses). Not using a dresser meant that she would have more floor space and a generally tidier room; I loved the added benefit that it meant that she wouldn't have added surfaces to place tchotchkes.
And it worked!
Until it didn't.....

Fast forward 7.5 years and the cracks in my "brilliant" plan were beginning to show. The girl who wore dresses and only needed to store tights and undies now has a full pre-teen wardrobe spilling out of the baskets. She also has a (honestly inherited) problem with holding on to crafts, craft supplies and birthday goodies. Because I always wanted her room to appear tidy, our general rule was that she could keep anything she wanted in her closet.

Anything, folks. Papers from kindergarten? Yup! Crafts from Camp? You bet! Every free t-shirt she ever received? Of course! While I always maintained that the closets was "her space" to do what she pleased, the clutter was spilling out. The surfaces of her desk and nightstand were holding things that really rightfully belong in a closet. The day that I could no longer look in her room, IHeart Organizing put on a drawer challenge. The challenge was really to organize a drawer, but I knew that it was also calling our name because we were drawer-challenged!

So we went out an bought an inexpensive chest of drawers. I purposefully chose a cheaper set because it was going into a closet and, let's face it anything is an improvement after nearly a decade in baskets! We took all the pictures off the top shelf--no need to display items up there where we can't see them anyhow. We carefully went through the old t-shirts and papers and kept only things with true sentimental value. I would have made deeper cuts, but I appreciate that this is hard for her (if it were my stuff I am sure I would balk more than she did). We were left with this much smaller stack and even stored items in the baskets:

N found an old science project she no longer needed--she decided to breakdown and cover the display board to cover her plain wire shelves:

She corralled all her old dance costumes into one garment bag. She was very impressed that it was an old Neiman Marcus bag, and said "if I die in Walmart, drag my body to Neiman Marcus!" She had seen this quote somewhere before and must have been waiting an awfully long time to use it!!! It is not perfect, but oh the improvement!

We were able to reuse an old storage system reject (remember I had about ten failed systems for toys?) to place art supplies that were cluttering her desk:

And more baskets came in handy for a few items that she legitimately wanted to keep:

All of this was made possible, of course, by this chest of drawers:

Notice how and old art-box became an "underwear dispenser" and she displayed her necklaces just like mom!

An added benefit is that the nightstand and desktops are clear and those drawers actually got mini-makeovers too!
This is not perfection and, in fact, we will take another pass when we organize her Fall wardrobe as the weather changes. But I can breathe in there again and she can actually use the things that she wanted to keep. It was a major teachable moment about what we really want to hold onto and, honestly, spending a day doing a project with her is something that I want to hold onto too--so maybe it is almost perfect!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Last "Little" Birthday Party

We go big for birthday parties around here. Long ago, I vowed to stop the elaborate parties after age ten. Well, my friends, my eldest daughter has turned ten. With a tear in my eye, I am going to present her last "kid" birthday party. Grab a coffee, it is going to be a long one!

When N was seven, she laid out her remaining parties. She is nothing if not my child! For the past three years, I have known that she wanted a messy, ten-part obstacle course and chocolate fountain for her 10th. Despite the lengthy advanced notice, I wasn't really sure how to do the obstacle course or if the girls would participate. A funny thing about turning ten is that half the kids are still playing with American Girls and half are think they are too cool for school. I knew that if she wanted full participation it was going to have to be good.

This past Spring, I heard of a company that offers Foam Party for kids. It was basically just like the ones for college students but with more clothing and less grown-up innuendo. I knew right away that it was a perfect fit for us as it was both messy and cool enough to engage even the "big shots." After thoroughly questioning the vendor to ensure that it was not going to ruin my grass and after negotiating over the price (sometimes the law degree comes in handy), we struck a deal. One obstacle down--nine to go....

Even with my amazing powers of negotiation, the foam was pricey, and everything else had to be super cheap! I began making obstacles before school let out. I tried to think ahead whenever I was working on a project and plan for double-duty at the obstacle course. When we styled a bar mitzvah as a favor to a less fortunate family in our congregation, I knew his football goal-post centerpieces would become an obstacle. When Mr. 31-derful got two frisbees in a charity golf tournament gift bag, I set them aside for the party. When or neighbor had leftover pool noodles from a light-saber project, I begged the rest off of her :). Our rainbow hued pool rings became hula hoops. Our hula hoops became jumping targets. You get the point--cheap, cheap, cheap! Even if I had bought the items, they were mostly dollar tree purchases. The only trouble was that I normally keep a tight color palate and this was "mismatched" at best. We decided to just go with it. Hence N's Rainbow Run was born! Here are the obstacles she selected:

Over the course of the summer, we attended several parties at the club where we belong. I have never done a kid party there, as I think it is a little ostentatious, but the other mothers swore it was easy and cheaper than doing it at home. I looked into it, and they were right. For a little more than the cost of filling our large chocolate fountain at home, I was able to host the event on the manicured lawn of the club (and it included food and a chocolate fountain). It was beautiful and I didn't have to clean up a thing--anyone who has ever cleaned a chocolate fountain knows getting out of said cleaning is priceless!! Here are some pics before the guests arrived:

The flag favors came from a friend whose business has a wholesale account with a popular party business. I did not pay nearly as much but you can find similar ones here: I thought a flag was a perfect little favor for those who triumphed over the course. It doesn't look hard but it was up a hill and pretty hard for this author! It was set up with two alleys so two teams competed relay-race style.

As guests gathered, the foam was turned on and a few giant bubbles went flying, sending the girls into a frenzy!
I have some priceless pictures of all the girls in action, but don't want to show guests' faces. Here are a few of the birthday girl herself on the course:
Notice, how little sister was stationed to throw some color into the mix!

Then, this happened:

After the rainbow war, it was time to hit the foam, where we had a dance party the rest of the night:

We did take a break for a chocolate fountain, of course:

A few moms stayed and I served them Sangria from a patio overlooking the party. It was a very fun, sticky, and bittersweet way to end N's childhood birthday bashes. While I know this all may seem over-the-top to many, it has been a joy for me to create these precious memories for N. There has been love sealed in each homemade invitation envelope I have sent and joy built into every DIY project. They say that joy doubles when you share it with others and I think it grows exponentially with each guest, so I do not regret the way we have celebrated these ten birthdays. Well, I do regret a few peoples' hair was pink all week, but I don't regret one penny or one second spent on these ten celebrations to honor my girl. We almost lost her on the day she was born; ten parties or a ten thousand could never show my gratitude for her life. We still have two more to go for little sister and then the bat mitzvah planning can commence :)!
inking up with:
21 Rosemary Lane