Friday, January 29, 2016

Coach, Put Peyton In!

It is hard to imagine now, but Peyton Manning was once a third-string quarterback. Granted, it was only because he was a red-shirted freshman. Still, there was that moment before Peyton Manning was Peyton Manning. He showed up to the University of Tennessee in 1994 just like me. The University was abuzz with its bicentennial and talking about a new era to come, little did we know it was actually to be the Peyton Manning era. My graduate work would later give me a much better academic pedigree, but that is the year I learned and grew the most. Man, did I have some spectacular failures.....doesn't everyone try and fail the hardest their first year from home? I wax nostalgic for it all now, the good and the bad memories bathed in a warm, orange light. I imagine Peyton was going through it, too, in his own way. I didn't know much about Peyton Manning at first, just the things I heard bantered about by fraternity boys.

Manning was the third-string quarterback. He wasn't even the favored freshman. That role was actually filled by Brandon Stewart, who people thought would eventually become the Vol's star QB. Shortly after the season started, the then-star quarterback Jerry Colquitt was injured (and his backup was injured too), forcing the Coach Fulmer to play the freshmen. It was super controversial at the time, but the coach put Peyton in to take over mid-game. He was booed by the crowd--booed. The fact that the game ended in a narrow defeat only gave rise to the critics, but cemented my love for Peyton. Even if it was just that moment, he was the underdog freshman just like me, each of us trying the figure it out. Critics be damned, Manning started the following week against Washington State. The Vols won, and the Vols won all but one of their remaining games, finishing the season with a victory in the Gator Bowl. Peyton Manning was basically the coolest freshman at any college. It took me a bit longer to figure out how to be a winning college student as I stumbled through the year figuratively (and literally sometimes).

The remaining years of college were marked by growth and regression for me, but were far less tumultuous than freshman year had been as I matured and settled into friendships, my major, and adulthood. All the while, there was Peyton. He was a likeable, relatable hero among us. When I say among us, I mean I had one class with him. "We" will always have the time I borrowed a pencil from him in Dr. Polios' class--his entourage looked at me like I had two heads, but I really needed a pencil. By the end of junior year Peyton Manning had miraculously earned enough credits to graduate. None of this leaving school prematurely to go pro for Peyton. He could actually walk away with a degree and a fat deal in his pocket. BUT he stayed--he stayed to be a senior with "us." Not just doing something well, but finishing what you start, makes you a legend. A lot of people said he wanted a national championship, which alluded him (the team he built won the next year). He ended up graduating in December of 1997, but he was a member of the class of 98. Though adored by millions, I doubt any carry him in their hearts like the Tennessee class of '98. We cried in real sadness when he lost the Heisman and tears of joy when he was the first round draft pick. Just at the moment when we were all ready to move onto our next chapter, he did so with utter class and distinction.

Its hard to draw much of an analogy between my life and Peyton's after college, but in some ways, all of us class of '98's are in the same place. We have had a shocking 17 post-collegiate years under our belts. We are about to turn 40--most have become parents, hopefully many of us have felt successful in our careers and personal lives. Obviously, Peyton has. We are all on the precipice of our middle-age and our next era. Mr. Manning was heard to say this may be his "last rodeo." As we close our 30's, I think we are all experiencing some last rodeos of our own. If this is it, I sure hope he wins and I sure will miss seeing play. Thanks to Coach Fulmer for putting Peyton in!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A little Holiday

I have some scenes from our Tu B' Shevat Seder (think of it as a Jewish Arbor Day). Stylistically, it was much like last year. I just wanted to share some photos because it keeps me personally accountable to get the pictures from my camera and actually do something with them. It also reminds me that I have got to learn how to set the camera to take better nighttime pictures. Jeesh--these are grainy!

The kids started the evening by planting herbs which will be ready by Passover. Note that the kids made place cards for both the workstation and the dinning table--they like to mark their territory!!!

After we planted we went in for a short service (you can see the decor is very similar to last year):

The kids made the challah into two little trees. Some days the size of our eggs or humidity changes the challah. Yesterday was just outstanding--I wish I could bottle up whatever we did to make its so good!

Finally, the reason that I do all of these "challah-days" are the two little smiling faces at the end of the table.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Stop and Smell the Flowers: Sam's Club Online Bulk Flower Review

I have access to the wholesale florist row here in town, which has many benefits including high quality flowers of all varieties and the ability to purchase exact colors. If I want a dusty peach knock-out rose, florist row can't be beat. I often leave there, however, and see better prices on common flowers elsewhere. Basic roses, for example, are always better-priced at Sam's, and I know Trader Joe's will always have white hydrangeas at the unbeatable price of $5.99 for three stems. I have become so accustomed to the these prices that I hate to pay more even when I need something highly specific like light lavender flowers to match an invitation, which is exactly what I needed this weekend. Some friends and I were making centerpieces for a bat mitzvah luncheon (there was lots of professional decor at the nighttime party--ours was just a little extra gift to make the casual luncheon pop). Enter Sam's club online. I ordered three boxes of these Hand Painted Lavender Hydrangeas with 26 Stems each for $62.98 a box. I set them for deliver the Thursday before the Saturday event. In the meantime, I ordered 24 of these gold cubes vases from

Thursday morning, the boxes arrived

Here is the inside:

I had lots of buckets of water waiting at a prep station:

The first order of business was to unwrap the flowers and give each a clean cut before placing them in the water:

I was told that the flowers would arrive thirsty and wilted, but they were in pretty great shape when I started the re-hydration process:
They got even better after a drink!

The only problem was that my hand got a little of the stain (remember I ordered tinted flowers to match the invitation)!

But the hands were worth it, because look at how well it matched (I blurred the name and location for privacy):

While the flowers got a good, long drink, I crafted floral picks to tie into the gold, heart theme:
First, I mixed paint to match the invites and painted ordinary wooden dowels. Next, I affixed small ribbons in coordinating colors. After that I added gold glitter hearts that I cut on my silhouette, though you could use a punch if you don't have one. Finally, I wrapped them in floral tape so that they would look natural amongst the stems if they were visible and to ensure that the paint didn't leach into the flowers.

The next morning, I began soaking floral oasis before the rest of our committee arrived. I normally would have used a block, but these rounds were on sale 2 for a $1 at Dollar Tree.

After a good soak, they went in the vases:

My friend L had the hard task of cutting the picks down to size, which proved to be one of the hardest parts (the moral of the story is to buy thinner dowels)
Here was the end product:

The planner actually ended up pulling the floral picks out for the morning luncheon so that the arrangements were just purple. She put them back in and reused them on the cocktail tables and scattered around the room at night along with lots of other sweet gold accents. So, our flowers turned out to be a dual-purpose gift with a wardrobe change in the middle. I couldn't be more pleased and the added benefit was that I now own 24 of those gorgeous vases (more accurately 16 as 8 seem to have walked off).

I would order these again in a heartbeat!

I am linking up with best of the weekend. This certainly was a great part of my weekend.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A busy week and Tu B'Shevat

It feels like we have a short school week every week lately. Obviously, yesterday's holiday was not a day off, but a "day on". Accordingly, we spent our morning doing community service before settling in by the fire on the frigid cold day. Now I have to scramble to get everything I normally do in five days in four. On this week's schedule are two super fun projects. As a gift to a very special bat mitzvah girl, some friends and I are making centerpieces for her kiddush luncheon. The nighttime event has real vendors and professional decor, but we are helping make the tables extra sweet with some flowers I purchased online. I will document that process and give you a review on Friday. I also have to scramble and pull together my Tu B'Shevat seder because we will be busy with the bat mitzvah all day Saturday. Here are some ideas that I am pondering: Of course, I will recreate my own lazy susan of the required fruits and nuts:

Because of all the eating we are doing during the seder, I was thinking of keeping super simple, maybe salad and soup with this Challah:

This image is NOT my own--you can find the image and instructions here!

We are going to plant parsley for Passover and then I am going to trick the kids that we have one more thing to plant and pull out a dirt cake. Remember those?? You can find the recipe any old place, but I really like the look of the ones from Martha Stewart here.

Hi ho, hi ho, its off to work I go.....

Friday, January 15, 2016

Spring is Coming: On Tu B'Shevat and Groundhog's Day!

Winter is just getting started around these parts (literally, it was just in the 60's a few weeks ago, and the weather is just now getting cold). Because of this, I am sure the Midwest will be a frozen tundra in June. Nonetheless, two of my favorite precursors to Spring are just around the bend. It's almost Tu B'Shevat and Groundhog's Day. Now you may wonder what Tu B'Shevat is and, even if you know,you still may wonder why I am mentioning it with Ground Hog's day. Elementary, my dears!

Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. Tu B'Shevat has become a celebration of ecology and the environment; think of it as a Jewish Arbor-Earth Day. The themes center around Spring awakening and renewal. Awaking from a different kind of slumber is our friend Punxsutawney Phil. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will persist for six more weeks. See same-same? Well, sort of!

At 31-derful we like to celebrate both holidays as you can see here for Tu B'Shevat and here for Groundhog's Day! Its hard to believe how much our mason jar terrariums have grown since last Tu B'Shevat:

Here is a look back at our Groundhog Day's festivities:
We munched on Groundhog Pancakes, Groundhogs (peanuts) in their hole (Pinwheel cookies), Ground Hog Sandwiches (cream cheese on whole wheat), "Groundhog food" (veggies), Groundhog Cookies--crafted from fudge covered oreos, and finished the day with a healthy meal of SPRING salad and WINTER squash soup.

And at last year's Tu B'Shevat:

You can grab a free printable of the seder/placemat here. I printed it on large paper so that our plates fit over the tree graphic! Hope these inspire you to have some "Spring in Your Step" this January and February!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A little more of the way it was....

I am so happy to link up with Kelly's Korner for her home tour this week!!! Our house was brand new when she did the first SUYL, but I never participated because I was busy being a momma to little ones.  I sure did love it though and am so glad she brought it back! The house was perfect for 2008 (ha! in my humble opinion).  Lately, I have been mixing it up to bring it into 2016

The sitting area of "Our Room" (the one room we do most of our living) is the place that has undergone the most transformation already. In the beginning, I had an almost monochromatic painting above the fireplace, a beige rug, a stainless steel and glass table between the two chairs, and a dark wood end table that now resides in Mr. 31-derful's study/office. It was generally much more clean-lined than it is today. Over the past several years, I have been adding gold accents and more pattern to soften the space.

I love my built-in's. We created a space for a television and electronics on one side of the fireplace, while we left the other open so that one day it may house an upright piano. For the last eight years, it has been a little art-nook and buffet. It is perfect for placing appetizers or overflow bar supplies (the bar is just to the left). Those cheap little footstools under the console table were purchased long ago but have stood up so well and are still so useful for extra seating. See that sweet little mantle clock? It is from my grandparents' house. My mom tried to set it once and I nearly slapped her hand away because I want to to stay just how they left it. The lower painting was picked up by my in-laws in Greece as a house-warming gift for Mr. 31-derful when he bought his bachelor pad. They also gave us the signed, numbered Trova print above. We have been so lucky that they love art and are generous! I still swoon for the art lights!

I have a little funny story. You may notice that there are framed beach pictures in some of the frames above while some are empty. The pictures were my favorite family photos ever and then recreated them once the girls were older--Only I never printed the newer ones from the second photo session! It has been two years--but it will be accomplished in 2016!

Here is a shoot looking out towards the kitchen:

And one from the bar looking out toward the dinning room and entrance:

The room has a few more changes in store in the coming months. Eventually, I would like different couch and maybe to give those footstools a furry, modern makeover! What I am currently looking for, however, is a different coffee table to replace the black leather ottoman.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

State of The Union--Change is Coming!

Tonight President Obama is giving his last State of The Union. Then, for good or for ill, change is coming!! On a much less important note, I wanted to give my own State of the Union, State of 31 Something Lane. We moved here from a Traditional Tudor in 2008. As grand as the old house appeared, it was filled with lots of hand-me downs (which suited the traditional style) and floor-models purchased at deep discounts.

When we moved here we "graduated" and embraced the PrairieMod Style--if you have no idea what that is, read about it here. This was the day we moved in before landscaping (in the Spring I will take some new pictures to show the now-maturing landscaping and porch make-over):

We also got almost all new furniture. I was so, so stinking proud. The day we moved in, the house looked like it was ripped out of the pages of a magazine (or at the very least a Crate and Barrel catalog). I have made small changes here and there, like adding gold accents into our once-brushed-nickel-only decor and moving around art. For the most part, though, our main-floor living space has remained the same for the last 8 years. Times and tastes change. I am ready for a new, softer look. Now, I won't be getting all new furniture and I won't be doing any real remodeling, but I will be shaking it up. Before we progress, though, I want to take a look back at the way the house looked in our first eight years here.

As you walk in the front door, there is a formal dinning room and an open stairwell. Just past that, is our "room." It is one room that serves as our main family living area for, well, everything! Off of that, are our separate "away-rooms" (a study, art-room, the basement seen here, here and here, and of course our laundry and bedrooms). This, however, is where we really live.

I'll focus on the sitting area tomorrow as well as begin to document the away rooms, but for now, let's go towards the kitchen seating! Turning towards the kitchen area you can see our breakfast bar and dinning nook. These chairs and stools were purchased through a designer/friend.

The table has been in all three of our homes, beginning as a dinning room table in our old, old house (which was Mr. 31-derful's mid-century modern bachelor ranch) and eventually settling in as a kitchen table for thousands of meals in the house. It is still sold by Room and Board and I still love the base though the frosted glass top has seen better days. Changing out the top is on the agenda.

You know how the day you go to get a haircut and your hair is awesome???!! That's sort of how I feel about these pictures. I mean, after taking these shots, I sort of fell back in love with these. My goal, however, is to soften up our home (less Crate and Barrel more Restoration Hardware, if you will), so these are on the way out. I really hope they go to a good home where someone will love them as much as we have!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

About Time....

One of my best attributes has always been my memory including the ability to recall dates and appointments without relying on a calendar. When I first began working we were required to use Palm Pilots. Even though I have been “digitally calendaring” since the dark ages and have always kept a big paper calendar for the family, I rarely had to check either. A funny thing started to happen three years ago. Even though I could remember that I had a doctor’s appointment on July 12th at 2:15, I sometimes would forget that we go to dance every Tuesday (for the last five years). Did I mention that I turn 40 in this year’s calendar??!

I went to a simple paper planner. I have preferred using that to my old digital methods because I can see everything laid out at once! Can you tell our life moves at a fast pace??

I also like the idea of the cute little day runners and notes sections that come in paper planners. Unfortunately, I rarely use these because they aren’t that well-suited to me. Why do these things always assume that your shopping list is only three items long and that you need to plan in ten minute increments? Personally, I am going to be in the store for an hour to buy 76 items!

This year, I have decided to make my own planner with just what I want. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I started with Google Calendar. It’s the best of both worlds! With the app, I have most of my information going to my phone and I have a working hard copy.

You can print Google calendar out in several different formats including my personal favorite “month view”? I could theoretically add day views later during a hectic time. I was able to set up my known recurring dates before I printed, which meant that I didn’t have to write “dance” on 52 Tuesdays! It is also much neater than my chicken scratch, and I like that I have the ability to add my own notes and lists on paper as I see fit (or not). I printed them out and sliced them.

I was going to place them, but then I realized that I didn't want the holes in the dates themselves. So, I mounted them to these precious scrapbook papers before punching the holes!

And you know I had to monogram it! I grabbed this cute small three ring binder at Target (there are some with calendars, but other great ones in the dollar spot).

I love that this was so inexpensive and is exactly what I need with nothing that I don't want!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2016--It's About Time

I just gave the blog a little celebratory New Year's Makeover! 2015 was my first real year of blogging (notwithstanding the actual age of the blog and that it was basically dormant the last quarter of 2015). 2015 and the blog saw me tackling some aspirational goals from fitness to strengthening friendships. None of these goals were met in their entirety, but I feel good entering this new year. I have been able to strengthen some of old friendships, but more importantly I have embraced and am grateful for all the love that surrounds me currently without looking back. Weight still is and is always going to be a struggle for me. When the exact right moment to go back to work full time is still alludes me (but I feel much more self-assured and closer to opting back in after my stint of working last summer). My whole house has been organized: Goal accomplished! But then it got messed up again--I guess that is an on-going struggle too! Sadly, the easiest and most tangible goal to reach was to finish my photo albums. They are STILL not pulled together, but I got three of ten down (counting 2015 makes 3/11)! I WILL get those done this year and share some of my favorite moments on the blog as I organize the albums. When I began this journey, my chief complaint about 2014 had been that I felt like I was just checking the boxes. I had worked hard to make beautiful moments for everything from my husband's fortieth to fantastic charity events and every holiday in between, but they were a blur and I didn't even take pictures. In 2015, I was able to slow my pace a bit and savor more moments. I actually thank the blog for that. I was using the blog as a motivator, but an unintended side-effect is that it is a nice journal. I hope to continue this trend in 2016--to consciously slow our pace--to savor more memories and share them here. Maybe I'll inch toward a goal or two along the way.