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

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Flowers with a Message

They say that each flower represented a word and meaning in Victorian flower language. Sadly, other than knowing that red roses mean love, I don't speak that language. I did recently "meet" some flowers with a message about simplicity and sustainability that I am happy to share with you!

My friend was formerly with an event firm and still has many contacts in the industry. She heard about the flower farm from a young floral artist known for her whimsical and wild style. All I knew was that this florist had gone to NY for additional training and that she was involved in an event at a local-ish farm. Armed with a ticket to the event and no additional information, we headed out (thanks to Mr.31-derful and Dr.My-Friend's-husband for skipping their normal golf routine so we could spend a whopping six hours away on a Sunday). The hour drive with my friend sans kids was worth the price of admission, but when we pulled up the long, rocky driveway to Flower Hill Farm, we knew we were in for a treat!

We were greeted by two big dogs and a bunch of smiling faces. Even before we were ushered in the farm house, I ran into a friend from my congregation. She is an artist and caterer by trade who was there to turn "whatever was in the garden" into a vegetarian lunch. Once inside the cozy farmhouse, we were offered Fruit Water and Raspberry Zinger tea served in mason jars with name-tags tied on in baker's twine (they had me at baker's twine). Everywhere you looked were floral vignettes (including the one above next to some magazines featuring the florists work). Even the food from the garden in its untouched state was beautiful:

As I looked around, I was very surprised by the crowd. They were not young hipster florists as I suspected. In fact, there were more old hippies than young hipsters-- a mix of master gardeners and people that I recognized to be social activists from my community (half the "audience" are members of our congregation). As my eyes adjusted to all the familiar faces, we were ushered out onto a wisteria-covered pergola. There we learned that the farmer was a yoga instructor turned master gardener who had spearheaded an urban garden initiative in Ferguson, Missouri for many years (yes that Ferguson). Her dream was always to have her own flower farm and produce locally grown flowers for sustainable florists. We also heard from two florists who left traditional shops and are committed to sustainable, local farming methods of their flowers. They had already picked many flowers for us (as we learned you must do that before the sun rises). I could have dove right into those flowers to soak them up!

One exception to the pick-at-dawn rule are zinnias and so we headed out to the fields to pick zins!
My photos don't do it justice, it was simply breathtaking to see rows and rows of flowers (not to mention their personal food garden, garlic fields, bees, and even the most breathtaking weeds).

We began picking--learning how to tap a zinnia ever so lightly. If it bends, it is too soon--but if it stands up like a pencil it is ready:

On the way back, we saw their greenhouse, where they are "burning" the plastic planters to be used for next year. I guess you let them get really hot to clean them to be re-used (I wish I had taken notes). We also saw the garlic house, where they are preparing bunches of garlic for local restaurants.

Back on the pergola, we saw two demonstrations on 1) how to style flowers in the wild and whimsical style that is dominating the wedding scene right now and 2) how to make a proper french hand-tied bouquet--if you do it right it will stand on its own).

Next it was back inside to see what my friend did with all those gorgeous veggies:

We had the most delightful lunch and conversation and then headed back out to play with the flowers. We each made a a "wild" arrangement and one small hand-tied bouquet. I am pretty good with oasis and a tight floral arrangement at home (they think oasis is bad for the environment and taught us a chicken-wire alternative). Here are my flowers once we got home.

They would have been better with oasis and more tightly arranged, but these babies were wild-Missouri-grown and they told me they needed to be free. Hey, maybe i do speak flowers after all!
Linking up with:
21 Rosemary Lane