Monday, December 17, 2012

Yay, for accomplishing something...

In January of this year, on another blog, I wrote a post titled: "To Resolution or Not to Resolution".

In that post I decided I would purge and clean one room of our house per month for the year of 2012. Ha, ha, you can laugh with me, or you can laugh at me, it's your choice. That was a loftier goal than I had imagined. Four people can gather a lot of junk and time really gets away from me. I started out strong by thoroughly de-cluttering the family room in January and Michael and I got partially through the garage. In February, I started the bathroom, but never finished. I never even started the linen closet. I did re-do my home office in March, as planned, but it is now cluttered again. There was a big lesson to be learned, just like with any bad habit, if you don't change the underlying problem, it will recur. I go ahead and de-clutter, but then stuff seems to magically appear to take it's place.

Fast-forward to December. December's goal was Joey's room. I had visions of Joey's room turning into the most beautiful guest room. I planned, I pinned, I cleaned, I tested the limits of my allergies with all the dust in that room... kids should be taught to dust their own rooms (she says after her children are grown and at college). Joey helped me go through his things so I didn't have to box everything up for later. The Goodwill received some treasures, the recycling bins received a lot of, well, trash. Unfortunately, there are still a couple boxes of items in the furnace room. One of my biggest pet peeves is moving something from one bad place to another (Michael is a master at this).

Once the room was purged of all of Joey's pre-teen/teenage paraphernalia including his old Pottery Barn Locker furniture, we moved in the original bedroom set Michael and I used when we first lived in Portland in 1987. I love this little set. It is just a double bed and a dresser. My Sister, Tiffany, had kindly been holding on to the set for me. Danny painted the room and then painted the furniture black, which I think looks awesome. I wish I had before pictures of Joey's room. I cannot believe I did not take any.

And then, today, this very morning, the most amazing elves came to my house and made the whole thing come together, magically. This is why there are people that do this kind of thing for a living, because THEY ARE SO FREAKIN' GOOD AT IT! Thank you Holly and Jasmine.

I am not a great photographer, so use your imagination. The room has the most obnoxious recessed lighting, which I obviously left off for these pictures. Holly and Jasmine brought beautiful lamps that give a nice cozy feel. I pinned that chair on Pinterest ages ago. It is a relatively inexpensive chair from Urban Outfitters. It works for me.

It is a fairly drab December afternoon, so I took one picture (below) with the flash. You can also see the really cool bug lamp on the right.

Joey returns from Amsterdam tomorrow night. I hope he likes it!
I am so happy to have accomplished December's room transformation.
Next on the list, Sammy's room, which will have a queen bed! Visitors Welcome!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I love entertaining at our house every once in a while. The planning is fun for me. I enjoy thinking about how I will set the table, or what recipes I want to make/try. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that has its own built in theme and yet, the possibilities for food, decor, guests, is pretty much endless. I do have a few limits, however. First, if I want everyone to be able to sit at the same table (our dining room table), I have found 10 is optimum, 11 is sort of doable. Unfortunately, we only have china for 10. If we go over 10, we use every day Fiestaware. If we go over 11, we have to split into multiple tables and put people in different rooms, which we have done, but it is nice to keep everyone at one table. Although this year we started out with a possible guest list of 18, we did end up with 11. Yay, everyone at one table, and yay, everyday dishes, which go in the dishwasher.

I have been planning the menu for a couple weeks, but Thanksgiving prep officially started for me on Sunday. Michael and I hit the grocery store with a list totaling 75 items. We were able to get 73 of those items at one store. My Thanksgiving Day Menu included 21 items, plus drinks. I would be responsible for  5 appetizers, 9 main dish items, 5 desserts, and 1 punch. Grammy would bring 2 main dish items. The reality of the situation, I made 3 appetizers and Tiff & Danny brought spinach cheese squares. I made 9 main dish items and picked up rolls from a bakery. Grammy did bring 2 main dish items (sweet potatoes & fruit salad). I made 3 desserts, Michael picked up the pre-ordered Caramel Pecan Pie at a local bakery and a variety of ice cream flavors from Salt & Straw including Cinnamon Snickerdoodle and Coffee Bourbon. Grammy brought a flourless chocolate cake for dessert, which was unexpected.

I organized myself by splitting the cooking into three days. Day One: Monday. I made my favorite cranberry sauce.

Day Two: Tuesday, I made the potatoes (The Pioneer Woman's Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes), two appetizers (Trisha Yearwood's Hot Corn Dip

and Bobby Dean's Pimento Cheese Dip), and three veggie recipes (The Best Vegan Green Bean Casserole, Creamed Spinach, and Carrots with a hint of maple syrup).

Day Three: Wednesday, I made another appetizer (Ina Garten's Cheese Straws), three desserts, Four Ingredient Vegan Pumpkin Pie-just as good as last year...

so yummy and worth making again

really rich

I also prepped the turkey with Williams-Sonoma Dry Brine.

Day Three: Thanksgiving Day included making the Not So Humble Pie Turkey Recipe

Cornbread Stuffing and Regular Bread Stuffing
and Gravy, of course.

Plus, heating up everything else that had been previously prepped.
Since I am somewhat adaptable and I wanted a pretty table more than I wanted two more appetizers and Thanksgiving punch, I abandoned those recipes due to time limitations.

The other thing that was abandoned due to time limitations, me spending any time on myself, or even changing my clothes from what I had been wearing for two days: shorts and my "Nice Peaches" Savannah t-shirt. Ugh!!! Thank goodness my family does not care what I look like.

I do think my table was beautiful

Michael is currently obsessed with Hard Apple Cider and buys a different kind every time he goes to the grocery store. I do hope his cider turns out or I fear he will be utterly dejected. Here he has asked Sammy to pose with some cider.

Appetizer/Sweets Table:

Guests arrive:
Peter, Grampy & Rylan, Kyle, Tyler
(Geo is a Great-Grandpa!)

Same people-take 2

Grammy, Kyle, Grampy & Rylan, Hannah, Tyler, Peter

Just sitting down to eat. I'm sure I am thinking... what am I missing?

Michael finally gets to stop cleaning the house and sit down and eat. He is very happy.
Of Grammy and Grampy's five Grandsons, we were missing Austin (who had to work)
and Joey (who is in Amsterdam until next month).

Rylan, 6 months, not particularly fond of the flash.

Grammy, Sammy, Aunt Tiffy & Lily in a stupor after dinner. I tried to get a picture of Coco, but realized she never sits still. Lily is almost always calm, but usually under foot.

This morning I woke up to this beautiful girl sunning herself. So happy to be roaming free after being locked up all Thanksgiving Day. Cat fur and Thanksgiving Dinner were never meant to go together.

My centerpiece looks even better today

and I was able to salvage a bag of these delicious spiced pecans.
I love Baker & Spice.

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving.

This Old House: Fireplace

About three years ago I wrote a post about our living room. In the picture below, just a peak of the left hand side of the original fireplace is visible:

The original fireplace was kind of art deco style with rounded column structures on each end and black marble tiles around the opening and on the hearth.

I could not stand the look of that fireplace, but did not have the money to re-do it, so I had Danny remove the white columns and the black tile. He built an inexpensive mantel and mounted it and we left the brick exposed. We used leftover corbels from the kitchen remodel and in the picture below, you can see about half of the fireplace.

For years I have been looking for a man-made stone composite (or something like it) for the fireplace surround. I never could find exactly what I wanted and anything close to what I thought I wanted was really expensive. I decided I had had enough of the exposed brick.

Last winter, as I was perusing the internet, or Pinterest, or whatever, I came upon a tile manufacturer in San Diego (Tierra Y Fuego: Artistic Handcrafted Tile). I immediately fell in love with their ceramic tiles. Specifically, their Santa Barbara Tiles. Of course we do not live in California, or even in a Craftsman Style home, but a girl can dream... and maybe even make a few of her dreams into a reality.

For the living room fireplace, I decided I would go with a decorative painted wood surround with San Carlos Santa Barbara tile around the box and on the hearth. These tiles appealed to me because I think they look beautiful, I love the blue/green, red & yellow color combination, and also because they remind me a little of Sweden for some reason (ironically, not Santa Barbara or San Carlos).

The nice clean living room represented in the picture above was long gone. Joey had used the living room as an art studio and I had used it as a catch-all for lots of things that did not have a home. Before the fireplace remodel, this is what the living room looked like:


Danny got to work removing the old mantel, leveling out the bricks and cleaning the box:

Danny finished the fireplace a few months back, however, Michael and I did not get to cleaning up the living room until the day before Thanksgiving. I am thrilled to report, we love our new fireplace:

and we love our newly clean living room:

Once we get those hardwood floors re-done, and the hard cider in the corner finds a new home, the living room will be "done". It only took 16 years to get to this point, ha!

Friday, June 15, 2012


Yesterday I was working and listening to my iTunes. The Dixie Chicks song 'Lullaby' came on. That song and many others immediately remind me of the boys' Bar Mitzvah videos. I used lots of my favorite songs in those videos. A few years back I had a drive crash and, apparently, Sammy's Bar Mitzvah video was on it. I could re-create the video pretty easily as I have all the photos in folders, and all the songs. Instead, I decided last night to use just that one song and make a video of Sammy, ages 0-18. I made one for Joey... I even made a video of Lily. Sammy deserves his own.

As some of you may know, Sammy is on a month long trip to Europe with friends. He left Monday afternoon. I miss him terribly. I thought I was going to be able to handle Sammy leaving home. I thought it would be easier because now I will not have to wonder where he is at 3:00am. I will not have to wonder if he made it to class... on time, or at all. I will not have to worry whether he turned in his homework--or got in trouble. He is off to college and in complete control of his own destiny. At 3:00am when I sit bolt upright in bed in panic and wonder, where is he (as I did for a couple weeks after we dropped Joey at college), I will lay back down and go back to sleep knowing he is at college, being his own person, doing what he wants to do, continuing his journey to who he will eventually be--on his own.

For now, that painful emptiness is just teasing me, because he is in Europe--not at college. This is just a precursor for what is to come. He will return and then we will say good-bye again and then our house will truly have a void. When both boys leave in August, Joey for his semester abroad in Amsterdam, and Sammy for college in Maine, we will be alone.

One day you get this great gift handed to you. A gift that comes with so much responsibility and yet such great joy. And then, you turn around, and they are grown. Here is a video that, in a little under 6 minutes, spans 18 years of my sweet, sweet, Sammy. This is one second child that does not lack for photos.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We Are So Proud

Five days ago, Sammy graduated High School!

I am not sure we could be more proud. This post is dedicated to sweet, sleepy, smart, sporty, sensitive Sammy.

He did it! Sammy graduated from High School. Phew! I’m not gonna say it was easy. It wasn’t. It wasn’t easy for Sammy and it wasn’t easy for us. Sammy had THE wickedest case of “senioritis.” There were moments when we questioned his ability to pull it off. But he did, indeed, pull it off and we are so proud of him for hanging in there.

This house will not be the same without the presence of Sammy Lubitz. The cats, oh those cats are going to miss hanging out on the leather sofa watching you play video games J

When you were 0
You were the sweetest, happiest, sleepiest little baby
and we fell in love the moment we laid eyes on you.
You got your first tooth and held your own bottle both at
the ripe old age of 4 months.

When you were 1
You charmed all the childcare staff and they spoiled you.
You were strong and happy, you watched everything your big brother did
and you wanted so desperately to keep up with him.
Your first word was ball and the next was blue
and you loved all balls, big and small.

When you were 2
You had THE most beautiful blond curls
and the biggest brown eyes, and you didn’t go
anywhere without a Hot Wheels car or a Thomas
The Tank Engine in your pocket. Your favorite
book was The Runaway Bunny.

When you were 3
You made friends at preschool and you were loyal.
You loved kicking, throwing, and bouncing balls
wherever and whenever you could and you
refused to learn to swim (a running Lubitz Brother theme).

When you were 4
You refused to wear a peach colored shirt
because you said that color was for girls.
You learned to ride a bike without training wheels,
you took your first tennis lesson, and you got your
first “buzz” cut because you wanted straight hair like
your brother and your best friend. You would have
nothing to do with girls.

When you were 5
You started playing t-ball and soccer and
learning Japanese. You made new best friends
and you started honing your mischievous side.
You took one piano lesson and decided right away
that you did not want to play the piano.
You loved collecting rocks and found shiny ones
to store in your pockets. Every night you begged me
to read you Harry Potter.

When you were 6
T-ball turned into baseball and we realized
you could play every position on the field with skill.
You loved being a soccer goalie and you learned to read.
You started taking tennis lessons every week (and never
stopped). You traveled to Japan for the very first time.

When you were 7
You were told you had to play all soccer positions
(not just goalie), so you quit the team and focused
on baseball. Your love of video games was
born in earnest and you spent every possible moment
with your best friends (no girls).

When you were 8
You begged to play tackle football and we begrudgingly
agreed. You played both Fall and Spring baseball.
You traveled to Japan for the second time and even
had your own business cards. By third grade it was obvious
school was not your favorite place to be and your 3rd
grade Japanese teacher told us you often slept in class, but
somehow managed to ace every test. This would also
become a running theme.

When you were 9
You continued playing football, Fall and Spring baseball and
it became obvious school was not your favorite, but you went
diligently in order to spend as much time with your friends as possible.
You took up the Bass Guitar.

When you were 10
You continued playing football and you took up soccer again in the Fall.
You traveled to Japan for the third time. You gave up baseball, temporarily.
You graduated from elementary school.

When you were 11
You played your 4th year of football, you started playing basketball
on the school team, and you continued playing goalie on the soccer team.
You started middle school.

When you were 12
You played your 5th and final year of football. You did an absolutely
amazing job at your Bar Mitzvah ceremony chanting both your Torah
and Haftarah portions. You had a party and invited every single one of your
classmates because you didn’t want anyone to feel left out. The inflatable
sumo ring you picked out was a big hit! You continued playing basketball
and soccer and loving it.

When you were 13
You traveled to Japan for the 4th time. You came home from Japan and
gave an awesome presentation comparing American and Japanese
Automobiles. You graduated from the Japanese Magnet Program having
been on the honor roll every single grading period and you made the decision
to follow your brother to Catlin Gabel for High School. You played basketball
and you decided to play baseball again in preparation for Catlin. You were an
amazing closing pitcher, catcher, first baseman, and one of their best hitters.
Your team came in 2nd in district and went to the state tournament.

When you were 14
After taking tests, being interviewed and being accepted, you started
your Freshman year at Catlin Gabel School. You made new
friends. You went on outdoor trips and played basketball and baseball.

When you were 15
You played basketball and baseball and continued your nearly lifelong
habit of spending absolutely as much time as possible with your friends.
We didn’t take it personally. You inherited Nana Fern/Papa Skip’s
1966 Thunderbird (which went immediately to the mechanic).

When you were 16
You made me the most beautiful bench in woodworking class.
You traveled to Japan for the 5th time and you said good-bye
to your brother as he headed off to college. Your friends became
even more important to you and we understood. You played
basketball and tennis. You attended the winter formal... with
a girl J

When you were 17
You took the SAT exam. You struggled with motivation and had
a hard time making it to class and getting your homework in,
but at the same time, your artistry as a filmmaker became apparent.
You attended your Junior Prom. You got your nose broken at basketball
camp playing flag football and other than practicing basketball and tennis,
you took the rest of the summer off.

When you were 18
You started the college application process and
you realized you would, in fact, need to go to class in order to graduate.
You decided to go to Bates College in Maine. You went to the Senior Prom.
You played tennis doubles most awesomely and walked away from the OSAA
State Tennis Tournament with an outstanding 3rd place finish. You received the
Media Arts Award for your filmmaking and you graduated High School. Your C&C deemed
you the strongest person they know, most likely due to your recent obsession
with weightlifting and for your Catlin Gabel Upper School Arm Wrestling
Championship Title. You left for Europe.

Sammy, despite our constant fretting and worrying over you, we adore everything about you. You are kind, sensitive, strong, athletic, loyal, intelligent, witty and oh, so handsome. We hope all your dreams come true and we miss you so much. After putting this down on "paper", I also realize how much we will miss watching you play sports. I am currently thinking of buying a place in Maine J.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gray is the New White?

Each week I get this great email from a local real estate agent (who used to be Joey's guitar teacher) highlighting Portland properties for sale. The links in the email take you directly to the real estate multiple listing for that property. Most of the listings include lots of great pictures. One of the houses in today's email has this gorgeous kitchen with gray cabinets. I have been noticing lately (on Pinterest, of course) that gray cabinets are really hot right now. If I didn't love my kitchen, I think I would get me some of those gray cabinets. Here are some of my favorite gray kitchens:
Love the open shelving and white countertop, I would do white marble :)
and I would totally have pink flowers on the counter all the time, because what a lovely color combination: pink & gray!

Love the shaker cabinet style and the hardware

Love the wood countertops

Love the open shelving, chandelier and shiny floors

Love the pot rack with all new-looking pretty, shiny silver pots and the big marble top table and stools

Again, gray and marble. Such a beautiful, clean contemporary feel

and this is the kitchen from the recent real estate listing. Lovely big farm sink. Lovely everything!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Breakfast Project: Day Five

Breakfast with Sammy
Day Five: "Not Mother's" Eggs Benedict

I have reached the fifth and final day of my Breakfast with Sammy Project.

I have a few general observations:
(1) I want to state that I am extremely proud of both my boys. They do both frustrate me and they also bring me the greatest joy I have ever known. I love them both for who they are as people. The teenage years are tough for all involved, but it is merely one step in a wonderful journey and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

(2) Like most everything else, practice makes perfect when it comes to cooking.
I enjoy the practice.

(3) I very much prefer sunny sunrises to cloudy ones.

(4) Getting up at 6:30am just isn't that bad, especially when I get to spend time with my 18 year old.

(5) Some things I thought were irreplaceable, aren't.

Thursday afternoons the house cleaners arrive. In preparation, I pick up everything in the house that is not in its place and put it away (otherwise who knows where it will end up). I make sure all the dishes are done, beds are made, etc... The animals are all rounded up and herded into my office. The cleaners clean the bathrooms, kitchen, floors, dust the furniture, vacuum, etc... I wish they wiped down the walls, but they don't. I thought when the boys got older, things like dirty fingerprints would be a thing of the past. They aren't. It seems the smudges are just higher up on the wall, and bigger.

Yesterday, while I was working away in my office surrounded by my three furry babies, I heard a large crash and then the sound of something (or somethings) shattering. Oh how I hate that sound. It seems one of the cleaners backed into a plate rack I have hanging in the dining room. She dislodged the rack (even though it is installed with a screw), it crashed to the floor, and my two 1920's German Majolica Bird Relief plates, that I adore, shattered into many, many pieces. This is not the first time my things have been broken (actually, Michael breaks things all the time). The cleaners have broken drinking glasses, a bowl, and even a light fixture. That was crazy, apparently while they were dusting it, the whole thing just fell out of the ceiling and crashed to the ground? When I saw the plates, I was heartbroken. Even though I don't speak Spanish, I know what the house cleaner was trying to say, and I felt bad for her. I could tell she was offering to replace the plates. I told her it was okay and went back to my office.

I loved those plates so much, that I often took pictures of them. For example, Tuesday morning, a picture of one of the plates appeared in my blog. Here's another picture taken that morning:

Thank goodness for the internet. After a brief period of mourning, I decided to see if more plates were out there somewhere. I am happy to say, I found them at an online antique store. Two "like new" plates are on their way to me. I am a happy camper.

Now, on to breakfast!
I love Eggs Benedict. I didn't used to love it, but sometime in my 20's I had an epiphany regarding Eggs Benedict. My favorite of all favorite Eggs Benedict is served at Mother's Bistro in downtown Portland. My Eggs Benedict today was NOT as good as MOTHER'S, I will admit that, but it was pretty good
We have made Eggs Benedict at our house before. Once, I made Eggs Benedict with Crab and Avocado. YUM!
Today, I went traditional. When I was preparing Sammy's, the Hollandaise curdled some and I didn't have the time to fix it. Once Sammy left (and I am left with the options of cleaning up my breakfast mess or starting work at 7:30am), I set to making that Hollandaise as smooth as silk.

Even though I know how to make Hollandaise, I feel I cannot really do it justice without having Julia's book in front of me. 
and then trying to get the sauce smooth again, I had to glance at her hints, just to make sure I was doing it right
We also had some delicious, sweet and juicy cantaloupe

I had a half portion of Eggs Benedict because I really should not be eating it at all and I also have an early lunch date with a good friend. Looking at these pictures, I am already hungry.

I made it through and I enjoyed it.
Next week, our breakfasts will be dedicated to healthy choices :).