Thursday, March 31, 2016

Brought to you by the Number 40....

I got the idea for this post from Kelly's Korner where I am linking up today.  This post is brought to you by the number 40 (well, 39.5)!

Though I nickle and dime my poor husband to death  at Target and spend a small fortune on decor, entertaining and my little ladies, I am pretty cheap when it comes to my own "maintenance".  I don't get my nails done other than special occasions.  I wear a lot of Old Navy and plan to drive my 2007 minivan into the ground even as all my friends are trading theirs in for fancy SUV's.  Other than a few good anti-aging products from my doctor and a small collection of better makeup,  I really am not a product junkie.   At almost 40, my routine is having to changing a bit.    Here I am keeping it real with no filter in my minivan:

I see that wrinkled brow, but this post is about my hair......

Getting my hair done used to be for fun and fashion only.  I could go long stretches with no cut and I colored even less frequently.  When I got a few grays, they just blended in with whatever fun treatment I was doing at the time.  At 38, I started noticing the grays started multiplying and coming in FAST.  For all the many beauty things I don't do, I just felt like I had to address this.  I started making more regular appointments.  I tried coloring it myself every other time with mixed results.  I shopped around for a cheaper salon (and found one).    Even at the less expensive place, the cost of getting my hair done every six weeks was shocking to this low maintenance woman!  I try to stretch as long as I can, but I'm  5'3"..... so this is what everyone sees by week 5:

To get another week or more  out of my color,  I call on this product:

It is available at any old store--I get mine at Walgreens.  It is under $10 a bottle and I can't say enough good things about it.  You just spray it on--it doesn't wipe off on my clothing or sheets and it washes away at the next shampoo (I usually shampoo daily so I am not sure how long it stays, but at least 24 hours).   It blends right in with my hair--I use light brown and saves me until my next color.  One bottle lasts awhile so it's a great value!  I think this would also work well if you were growing out any dye job not just grays.

Now if only, I knew of something so cheap and easy to erase those forehead wrinkles.....

Friday, March 25, 2016

My Favorite thing to DIY: Party Paper

I am linking up with Show us Your Life Over at Kelly's Korner.  Today, she asked people to link up with their favorite thing to DIY.  This was super hard for me because I DIY a lot!  To be fair there's also a lot I outsource too.  We don't shovel our own snow or cut our own grass and we have a cleaning service once a week. Before you get the wrong idea, I pick up and do laundry several hours a day!   It is just that not doing those things allows me to plant a garden, paint, do graphic design (you know I am a graph-faux artists, right), decorate, cook, spray paint, and reupholster things.  I even get my kids in on the act:
 Okay, that was just a shameless way to show my girls way back in 2010.. weren't they the cutest things on earth??!!  They were DIY'ing, though, making flowers from toilet paper rolls. They made 80 or so that Spring.  I glued them together,  spray painted them and wired the piece for hanging.  It is a huge and beautiful art piece over my guest room bed.  Really, its great looking and I  wouldn't trade it for a "real" art piece!  Even Mr 31-derful doesn't complain that it isn't real--it's that good!

My most favorite thing to DIY, however, has got to be party paper!  This has become more and more commonplace over the years with the fabulous options at Target and Micheal's and with printers having come so far.  Still , I know many people who outsource invitations, place cards, menu cards, and signage.

I have been doing my own since 2006 thanks to a simple and fabulous program called Printing Press Extreme.  I can't say enough about this program, which you can purchase in its updated form here. I also love to use the software that was free with my silhouette to do these types of projects.  It makes it so easy to elevate even a small event like a shower or birthady party.

I just think that a little paper goes a long way.  An invitation sets the tone for the event and using matching paper items at the event is an inexpensive way to tie everything together.   Take this example from my way-back archives (I wasn't so great with photography or blogging back then).  My mother-in-law was turning 60, and my father in law was surprising her with a dinner at a favorite restaurant.    I created a pretty orange and brown invitation for her autumn, surprise party.  The room was orange and brown and it was October,s o those colors were a natural fit.  When guest arrived at the event, they were greeted by a sign that mimicked the invitation and escort cards with the same font and color.

 The table assignments directed guests to tables named after her beloved grandkids (fortunately, there were exactly 6 tables).  You can see that the table number was also in the same "suite" as the invitations and signage:

To carry the theme even further, I added a menu card to match:
We did add floral as well, but it was the inexpensive paper that really tied it all together.  Here is the whole room:
The only other thing I added was an orange bow on the columns.  I even used the invitation for as inspiration for the slideshow screens.  I have put these kinds of touches on countless parties, showers, and celebrations over the years for myself and others.  It really is my favorite thing to DIY and I am literally off to do it right now for a 40th B-day tonight!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Purim is almost here!

Purim, a super fun Jewish Holiday takes place Wednesday night and Thursday. The holiday itself is commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from the wicked Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews in ancient Persia.  We read a text called the Megilah (the scroll of Esther).  Fun fact: if you have ever heard the phrase "the whole megillah,"  it come from this.  You get to shout out anytime the bad guy's name is said and eat cookies shaped like his triangular hat--this year I filled mine with candy bars!

The TRADITIONS are my favorite--a night of costumes, masquerading, revelry, feasting, plays (shpiels), and the giving of both charitable donations and gift baskets.  Seriously, this holiday has something for everyone!  Think of it as Jewish Halloween, Mardi Gras, and May Day all in one! 

In particular, I love the tradition of mishloach manot or Purim baskets.  They are gifts of food or drink that are sent to family, friends and others.  This derives from the Book of Esther. It is meant to ensure that everyone has enough food for the Purim feast, and to increase love and friendship among Jews and their neighbors.  You have to include at least two different types of food and anything else you like. No shocker, we always have a theme!  This year we went with gardening.... You can see I started with adorable burlap planters filled with seeds, a shovel and gardening gloves. Here they are in the chaos of our art-project staging room:

Next, I added sunflower seeds and the  hamantaschen cookies. 

Then this sweet girl set to work affixing a note with the most precious tassel:

Here are some other shots of the baskets (just from my phone--whomp, whomp):

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kiss me I'm Jewish-Irish-ish

Remember Juan Epstein? He was one of the sweat hogs from  the 1970's sit-com "Welcome Back, Kotter." Don't worry if you didn't remember this, it has almost nothing to do with my story.

I was just thinking about old Juan the other day because he was all about challenging expectations of race and multiculturalism.  Part of the character was that he was both "this" and "that."

My family is all Jewish by religion.  My ancestry, however, is made up of 1/4 Irish Christians, making my kids 7/8 European Jews and 1/8 Irish.  See, this and that.  People are always shocked to learn that I both am Southern and Jewish.  The Irish thing takes it over the top. All I can say is that these freckles don't lie!  I didn't mean to get too deep today, but I wanted to say that before I sham"rock" your perception of me.

I present to you our annual St. Patrick's Irish Heritage Shabbat.  The kids walked in from school to find the table set in all its glittering, green glory:

Oops, is a sneak peek our new chairs before my reveal post! 

 Being Friday, we obviously had Sabbath Candles and Challah at the ready!

Each girl naturally got some swag at her seat (I made the felt headband in the lower picture using a tutorial I saw on Felt So Cute  a million years ago--she's also Jewish, so I guess lots of Jews get into St. Patrick's Day).

It is poorly lit, but in this picture you can see that a little note was "flying" among the shamrocks.

Here is what said:
We truly are LUCKY to live in a time where we can embrace all these different parts of ourselves...and that we get to go to the beach!  Irish-Jewish-Ish!

Monday, March 14, 2016


 This is really belated, but I wanted to post this so I would remember next year.

Our Super Bowl celebration included lots of good, but not good for you, food.  I slaved over a vast amount of from-scratch chicken wings and potato skins.  By from scratch I mean FROM SCRATCH, including homemade sauces.  I even had to butcher the wings and was left with 7 dozen wing "tips." I hated to throw them out.  Since you know I was serving the wings with celery and carrots, I had lots of veggies too.  I figured I had the makings of a great stock pot:

While that simmered away, I was working on step one of the skins, which is a good long bake.  By the time the potatoes had baked and cooled enough to work with, the stock was just about perfect.  I pulled the tips and skimmed the fat.  Then I threw the potato insides right in.  Everything was so soft that I mashed it with a potato masher (no immersion blender needed)!

It made the most luscious potato soup just right for a cold early February day.  The added bonus was I didn't have to worry about making lunch for the family on top of everything else.  I thought it was quite clever and a "tip" to remember next time I  make wings!   Now that is a souper bowl of soup for before the super bowl.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hi, I'm Suzanne

I am linking up with Show Us Your Life over at Kelly's Korner.  I always loved reading this series and am thrilled to participate.   Today is all about introducing yourself.  So here goes:  I am Suzanne, and I don't know the name of my blog.

In 2009 I registered the blog  as the"stay-at-home-attorney."  Literally five minutes later, I decided that was a bad idea and dubbed it "Our Life at 31-derful."  It has never mattered that the blog didn't have a proper name because it is really just something for myself.  Occasionally the blog is a scrapbook--a place I can look back and remember some small thing I'd otherwise forget.  Sometimes the blog is a motivator, pushing me to clean my home in time for an organization challenge.  At other times it is just a place to do creative writing or share a party I hosted.  Mostly, though, it just sits dormant--waiting for me to read back over my own story or write another chapter.   Lately, I have been posting more frequently.  I find that I have evolved over the years and I like looking back. Here is who I am right now, today, in no particular order:

A wife of 13 years, which I'm finding is way different than being a new bride
A mom to girls who are no longer babies, but not yet teens
A homemaker-- a role that I finally feel no need to defend even as I relaunch my career
A semi-professional party planner and designer even though it has nothing to do with my training
A wannabee decorator
A not-wealthy philanthropist
A PTO mom and lady who lunches
A Jewish woman (I'm not religious but I love tradition and celebrate big)
A celebrator of occasions
An attorney and master's level social worker who finally doesn't give those things top billing
A former intellectual who now can't remember why I walked into a room...
A person on the cusp of 40 (!)
A Southerner transplanted to the Midwest
An old Tennessee sorority girl
A girl with a pretty face who would be so attractive if I lost weight
A person with many hidden insecurities that sometimes present themselves as bossiness
A person with loads of friends who overlook the above
A generally lucky, lucky woman with a great life and family

So that's me today.  Maybe you will follow along and see who I become!  I look forward to hearing from you and getting to know who you are

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

More changes on the way

Yesterday I showed you our dining room as it has been for  (for the most part) during the eight years that we have lived here in this post.  And now here is my plan for mixing the room up.

The table, our much beloved chairs, and paint color will stay.  If I were doing it all over again, I would paint all of our rooms a soft gray instead of a soft beige, but we aren't planning on redoing that at this time (our house is very open concept and it would just be too big of a job to start).  Fortunately, we are bringing in lots of moody gray pieces to make the space feel richer--using the photo in the upper left as our inspiration.  

I always thought the scale of the room was off, so we are bringing in massive prints of agate to give the wall interest.  We have a big debate in our family about art.  Mr. 31-derful thinks that it has to be "real," meaning that he thinks a somewhat-known artist has to have created it or that it must be a signed numbered print of the same.  I on the other hand care about the size of a piece and the balance it creates in a room.  Sadly, to get "real" art in the large size we need is above our pay grade! Finally conceding this, Mr. 31-derful is giving in and we are getting something like these prints from Grandin Road .  

We have never had drapes/curtains as we wanted the aesthetic to be extremely clean.  Now that I want to add more visual interest I wanted drapes.   Our window is not a standard size and we have to do custom.  I got JC Penny to come out and design custom ones for me.  I know that the words " JC Penny" and "custom" don't seem go together, but I have heard for years that they are a decorators secret.  My parents used them when I was a kid and I still remember the excitement of the decorator coming with oodles of fabric books and samples.  It was just as exciting to have her come to my house once I was an adult!    Penny's was way less than other custom drape stores--we will see how it goes!

Finally the biggest change is that these pieces will be gone:

I listed them for sale like this: "Loved continuously by one non-smoking, pet-free family for the past seven decades. Structurally the pieces are sound with original solid wood, dove-tail construction. The pieces are showing wear, however, including a chip in the veneer of the bachelor's chest. It is good furniture and probably deserves to be lovingly restored or repainted. We just don't want to invest the kind of money to restore because the rest of our home is contemporary. And I can't bring myself to chalk paint over 70 years of family memories, but you should! "  I honestly hope another family loves on these pieces like we did!

In the place of the storage pieces will be a new, totally custom piece that is being made for me by a master woodworker.  We are combining elements of the two buffets pictured at the bottom of my update page and I can't wait to see how it comes out!

How often do you update your decor and home?  Was waiting eight years too long, too short or just about average, I wonder.....


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

8 year update: Dining Room as it is

I really loved how we decorated our house in 2008, but times and tastes change and we are updating a few key spaces through the home.  Before we move on, here is my Dinning Room as it has been for the past 8 years.
 The Dinning Room is just off the center hall on the right.
In our last home, we were lucky to have Mr. 31-derful's grandmother's Hickory Chair dinning set made in the 40's or 50's.   The set was perfect in our old tutor.  You may recall that I actually love the chairs that go with the set from this post.  I just don't like them with the table, so we swapped them out for clean-lined these Lazar Max Chairs in a greek-key.  I promised my husband we would have them forever if we bought them.  Luckily, I still adore these chairs as much as the day I bought them.
Here is a close-up of the china cabinet.  On display is our wedding china and the storage beneath holds the rest of the set,  my beloved whimsical Wedgwood that comes out for ladies lunches and Mother's day, and our bulk dishes for big buffets.  It is like a clown car--so many items impossibly stuffed within!  
Panning around the room,  there is a corner with a Pottery Barn display table.  I bought it many moons ago to hold my very first gift from Mr. 31-derful.  He had given me a rock fountain, which was all the rage in 1999, and I wanted to put it in a place of honor.  On top now is a cheap little vase that I grabbed at Pier One ions ago and stuck a peacock feather in (peacock feathers are my signature holiday go-to--- this one must have stayed past the holidays one year).  Below is a vase from a local artist that my friend Holly commissioned for us as a wedding gift.  Hanging on the wall nearby is a signed Leo J. Meisnner print given to us as a wedding gift from my brother in law, who was then working at a gallery in Nantucket.  The vase and print go so nicely together that I consider them a set even though they have nothing to do with one another!
    Panning around further, there is a buffet, which I have always adored. 

Just past a sunny window where my side chairs reside when the table is not extended, sits a small bachelor's chest (The sunny window makes it hard to photograph!):
I have the chest loaded up with things I love.  There is an A-B for life paperweight-- it is a property law reference and  commemorates the tenure a special law school professor of ours, but it also reminds me of where we met and fell in love.  The candles are Nambe'--I sure did love me some nambe at the time I got married!  I added the rough twine and key--a nod to a series of conversations with my youngest daughter about the key to happiness.  The tray was another wedding gift, purchased at a Tennessee craft fair.  14 years later, I have to say, I am so glad all these people went rouge off the registry.     Finally, there is a tiny painting by Renee Schuls-Jacobson, a blogger and 
artist I met on the internet! I commissioner it memory of my sweet friend who passed away.

Sadly, after 70 years the cracks are beginning to show in this furniture--literally.  
This furniture is like the shabby gentry--it has a good name and is of quality, 

but over a lifetime it has cracked up and is actually worth very little.  ( Oh dear-I just referenced 
Shabby Gentry--what am I to do now that Downton ended??)  

The point is, it is good furniture and probably deserves to be lovingly 
restored or repainted. We just don't want to invest the kind of money to restore when the
the rest of our home is really quite contemporary. I also just can't bring myself to chalk paint over 70 years of family memories. I'll be back tomorrow to show you my plans for changing the room up as a part of our continuing 8 year update!