Monday, August 8, 2016

First Day of Kindergarten

The Headlines:

As a Mom there is lots to look forward to...

and a few things to dread.  

Which one is this?

Ironically, sometimes the things you look forward to - are the same things you dread.  You know what I mean?  Think about it... there's actually a lot of irony in motherhood.  It starts the moment those beautiful bundles are born.

A Mother gives birth and the baby you wanted so badly to hear is making you crazy with their cry! A Mom stops breastfeeding but yearns for closeness.  Toddlers begin to walk and all they do is get into everything.  They start to sleep through the night but the Mother wakes up just to make sure their baby is breathing.  Parents want kids to read but miss telling bedtime stories (still do it)!  Mom has a personal side kick for years but starting one August they leave for most of the day.

This is where we're at in our house.

Today was the first day my little boy went to Kindergarten.  We were all ready for it.  He was climbing up the walls during these last 2 weeks of Summer.  I was on the roof thinking about jumping off.  But then, the night before the day came,  I looked back on that day and every day since he was born and all I could remember was perfection.  That loving, sweet and angelic baby is now going to school and leaving me behind in my misery and loneliness (never mind I have a million things to do which I've been putting off for about 8 weeks - even though my husband's not sure that I do anything at all each and every day)!  None of that matters now.  He's starting school.

And the rest of his life.  It's lightening speed from here Mommy.

I will also warn you if it's your last or first child going to Kinder, there's a huge difference.

My daughter first left for school five long years ago (and though I love her just the same) I was practically pushing her out because I had this incredibly needy baby at home that I had to take care of... there weren't many tears back then.  Just relief.  But your last child starting their long "academic journey" is different.  Because life for you, on so many levels changes too.  No longer will you be going to Target with your little one on a Tuesday morning at 10:00.  You will do that all alone now.  You will have more time to think about what's for dinner.  You'll be able to walk into a gym.  You can even start a new career.  Well, hopefully.  If you want.  I wrote about that a few months ago HERE.  But see, that's the point.  Today, you, as a Mother now have a few more choices.  Choices you didn't have yesterday.  And while in this moment you may long for last week... tomorrow is full of new and exciting possibilities.

After all, there are many more Motherhood ironies that lie ahead.  My children will still drive me crazy as they follow me around the house until they want nothing to do with me.  I will continue to be annoyed that I'm a personal taxi until they turn 16 and I can't protect them anymore.  They will want to eat dinner with their friends until one day they'll ask to come home and eat with you.  We'll want them to find someone to love... until they actually get married.  I wrote about that HERE a few years ago (being replaced someday will KILL me)!  I may even say I need grand kids... but I won't want to be a "grandmother"!  It's all very ironic.

So cry a little now.  Then wipe those tears and start living Mama.  Life has changed forever and there's no going back.  That baby is in the big leagues now and he can't wait for what lies in front of him.  And inside, some where, maybe deep down... neither can you.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Best Rose' Wine List #summerwater

The Headlines:

I love me some wine!

Make it Pink & it's even better.

Let's call it #summerwater

It's funny... a light pink wine used to remind people of White Zinfandel.  You know... the stuff your grandma drinks?  Or the stuff the 21 year old used to order her first time out to a fancy dinner back in the 90's!  Yea, that was me.  It wasn't until recently that light pink wine, (i.e. Rose') came back in style.

And boy did it - now it's unstoppable.  Rose' is the New Black.

I get why.  It's light, it's well priced and it's absolutely stunning in a glass!  Perfect for Summer.

All my friends agree.  At least the cool ones.  Hee heeeeee.  Here are some of my favorites.  And don't miss the last one.  

2015 Rosa dei Masi - Rosato - $12-$14
I love Masi which comes from Italy.  The bottle screams "girls night" to me.  It's light but packs a powerful punch and goes well with almost anything. 

Miner Medocino Sangiovese - $22-$25
Miner is a great Rose' from California.  It's tall/thin appearance and darker shade of "pink" might be more appropriate if a guy joins you for the night!  It retails for more than the Masi and I think it's rare to find in grocery/liquor stores.  But you can always ask your retailer.  They may say they can't get it...  but they can.

Martin Ray - Russian River Pinot Noir - $12-14 

Martin Ray is classy, clean and cool.  It's made from a Pinot Noir grape.  It too comes from California.  In the Sonoma area (Russian River Valley to be exact).  It's retailing in this picture (at Costco) for $12.99, which is a great value!  

Another great #summerwater is Sauvignon Blanc.  Its light, crisp, fruity taste is always a favorite chilled on a hot Summer day!  Here are three I really like... starting with this one:
Trinchero Mary's Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc - $20 

Pick it up, it's a solid bottle.  A good one to take to a Summer BBQ because the bottle is a nice, heavy grab.  It seems substantial and it is... especially for the price - $20 at some grocery stores.   

2014 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc - $11-13
I love Joel Gott wines.  He's a solid California wine-maker that's made a name for himself in the wine world.   I think I wrote about him in my Holiday wine picks.  Just checked, sure did.  Exact same wine as a matter of fact.  See that HERE ... goes to show it's a good wine all year 'round! 

Angeline Reserve Sauvignon Blanc - $10-12

Just a quick last mention... another Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc.  It's good.  It opens fast (screw top), can't go wrong.  Yes, that bottle is empty.

I am saving the best for last!  It's this puppy...
Gerard Bertrand - Cote des Roses - $12-$14

I kinda can't get over it.  First of all, it's GORGEOUS!  Look at that lovely, very light pink color.  I can NOT stand it, it's so beautiful!  But it gets better.  Look.

The bottom of the bottle is in the form of a rose.  The GLASS top/lid... is a very light pink color.

After you drink it put the bottle by your tub with some bath crystals.  Use it as a vase.  Whatever.  Just keep it.  Now taste.  Ummmmm.... yum!  It's a blend of 3 grapes and it has a light, subtle, fresh taste that is truly #summerwater in your mouth!  Not to mention, it comes from France which makes it seem even cooler for some reason.  

I mean really, run don't walk, to get this stuff for Summer.  Can I tell just tell you Costco buys it in bulk and they sell out every time?  No people it's not a secret.  But I just found it.  Now you must too.  So get in on the action.  You'll be glad you did.  

Cheers to you... now go enjoy your newly branded bottles of #summerwater and don't forget to... 

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The POWER of Pendant Lighting

The Headlines:

A little light...

packs a powerful punch!

When I re-did our kitchen about 4 years ago I did not put in pendant lighting.  Turns out... that was a mistake.

As always, I chronicled the kitchen remodel on this blog.  You can see the post HERE

One day... about 3 years later it hit me.  We needed pendant lighting.  Actually, the fact that we needed better lighting in the kitchen was something I knew for a while but chose to ignore.  That's how I roll sometimes.  Turns out it can really make a huge difference.  See, nice but a "smidge" boring...

 Today, it's a whole new world...

I can NOT explain the huge impact it made.  

2 reasons: it provides much better lighting and it looks amazing!  So, not only is the area warmer due to the new lights but it just looks finished.  I no longer will put ANYTHING on my countertops except a small vase of flowers as pictured here.  There's no need.  Too distracting.

I know what you're thinking: I just need to get my house in order, pendant/chandelier lighting is dead LAST on my LIST! But maybe it shouldn't be.  As the Power of the Pendant is strong.

Here are my 5 Pendant Lighting Points:

1 - Don't Spend Too Much
There are lots of pendant choices out there.  Some are through the roof expensive.  Don't get those.  Get the ones in your price range.  Those puppies are connected to the ceiling.  People won't be touching or inspecting them.  They have to look good from a few feet away and that doesn't necessarily have to cost you 2k.

2 - The BIGGER the Better
Gone are the days when a small pendant looks cool.  In fact just the opposite.  They look super distracting.  They don't command enough attention to get noticed.  You're putting up pendants to GET NOTICED so the bigger the better.  The ones in my kitchen are the extra large.  24" x 16" and I wouldn't go a hair smaller.  I'm also loving the "trend" of putting up 2 X-Large ones instead of 3 Medium or Small  ones.  It's just cool.

3 - Don't Hang too High (or too Low) 
The rule, according to a lighting designer I consulted out of NYC (I know - very chic) - the bottom has to be at least 6 feet above the ground over a kitchen island.  They can be higher if your ceiling is massive.  Mine is... I went 6 feet 5" above the ground.  Too low and it just looks weird.   Too high and, well, it just looks weird.  *Other hanging height rules: bottom of a dining table pendant/chandelier should be at lest 30" above table if the ceiling height is 8 feet but add a few inches for every extra foot of ceiling.   And in a living room, bottom of fixture clearance should be 6'6" if there's an 8 foot ceiling.  Higher if the ceiling is higher and so on...

4 - Get DIM
If you can, put the pendant lights on separate switches from any canned lighting (that will cost a tad more with your electrician) and get a dimmer switch.  It just adds a whole other level to your lighting.  Trust me on that one.

5 - Avoid Glass
For 2 reasons:  cheaper and easier.  Several of my friends have glass on their pendants.  The dust that collects on them is excruciating and cleaning them is even harder.  Yes, even with Windex.  They're just so cumbersome (think about it - high, suspended & on a chain).  Plus, the glass-less choices cost less.  Glass costs more.  Period.  Now, they're coming out with so many lighting choices WITHOUT glass... you should just get those.  I did.  The ones in my kitchen don't have glass and neither does the one below in my bathroom.  Couldn't be happier.   

If you're still not convinced of the Power of Pendants let me show you a few more examples.  While searching for the perfect kitchen pendants I bought one I didn't use.  So I put it in my bathroom.  Above my tub. 

It's gorgeous.  Really glams the place up!  Lighting Love.  Convinced yet?  One more example.  I put this pendant up right when we moved in.  

Now, while a very cool pendant in the right space.  Here, it didn't go with my decor.  Plus, it provided no light - since it was only one bulb (be careful of those 1 bulb pendants) - so changed it out for this chandelier...

and problem solved.  It was brighter and the style fit better.  I get tons of compliments on it!

Everyone says it... lighting is under-rated.  Turns out "everyone" is right.  Once you fall under the Power of the Pendant... you certainly see the light!

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Friday, May 13, 2016

House-front Face Lift - For Less!

The Headlines:

Need to spruce up the front of your House?

Here's how to get the most bang for your buck.

After a while everyone needs a face lift.  Yes, we're talking about the house not you.  When we bought ours about 4 years ago I knew we had a lot of work ahead.  I've documented most of it on this blog (check under the label "remodeling" on the right side bar).   We've done it slowly.  Not all at once - like some people.  I'm a Stay at Home Mom and funds aren't un-limited.  Plus, I really like doing this stuff so I want to get it right.  We try to be smart and calculated while staying fiscally responsible shall we say?  That's what you want to do too?  Then here are my suggestions:

1- Pick Priorities
Try to limit these to a reasonable number - 5.  We desperately needed to paint, get rid of our horrible light "noses," update the door, change the eye sore windows and fix the mailbox.  We'd love to re-do our driveway (make it circular and add stone) plus update the landscaping but that's just not in the cards right now.

2 - Find A Painter Who Can Do MORE!  
This will save you cash because he's already there.  We saved mucho money getting one guy to do EVERYTHING!  As opposed to a painter who only paints.  Trust me, the painter will charge you almost the same amount as the guy who will do everything.  They're harder to find but they're out there.  My "painter" also lopped off the ugly "nose" lights that tend to go on adobe style homes like mine.

We added these sconces that look so much better:

He also changed out our mailbox and added new, cooler looking numbers (which I blocked out).

3- Develop A Plan
After picking priorities and finding a guy to do the work - you need to be clear on exactly what that work will be.  At first we thought we wanted to add stones to our house and stain our front door dark.   Look, the door was in dire need:

But I decided to bail on the rock idea.  We could get more bang for our buck by simply adding the wrought iron lights and iron front door.  Yes, the door would be pricey but worth it.  The sidelights even open for some cross ventilation.  I love this door.  Typically, you the customer, get to design iron doors too!  They can do anything.  Each one is usually made custom for the customer.

It's even awesome on the other side which was a surprise to me.  I never thought about how much it would change the feel and look inside the home!  But bottom line the new door ties in nicely with the windows, lights and indoors for a super cohesive look.

4 - Use Paint In Un-expected Places.  
Our windows looked horribly dated since they were "framed" with white instead of black.

We had to do something.  But new windows would cost thousands & thousands of dollars.  And our windows were fine.  In fact, really good, according to the window pro who just came over...  So I came up with an idea to PAINT the window frames.  Surprisingly, the contractor didn't charge too much to do that yet the impact was HUGE.

The result?  Much better.

They look phenomenal.  And we started a trend.  Everyone in our neighborhood is doing it now.  You can also throw up another color instead of black - red and turquoise are big where we live.  We also put black paint on our view fence.  In Arizona, houses usually use the same color of their house on their fence but I asked -  why not black?

Turns out, it really makes the fence look like a wrought iron, custom job versus what we had before.

5 - Bring the Indoors Out
Last thing.  It's super cheap to go shopping inside your own house!  Sometimes I just look around, see what I don't need or want INDOORS any more and repurpose it outside.  That's what I did below.  That side table used to be my bathroom stool.

It works perfect here.  Side note, if you can swing it, all front yards need a sitting place.  To better watch the kids ride bikes, drink wine or just to keep the neighbors in line.  If you don't have a designated one, like a porch, make one.  I almost guarantee you can find a little spot on your lawn or under that eave.  Just look for it.

That's it.  Are you inspired?  The whole project cost just under $15k.  No, not chump change but I'd say it looks like a million.  

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

What's Your Second Act?

The Headlines:

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" 

My Husband asked me this question the other day.

So what's my answer?

There are many stages to being a Stay At Home Mom.

This is one of them.

What's Your Second Act/ What do you want to be when you grow up?

It comes after...

Stage 1 - dreaming about quitting your job when the baby is born.

Stage 2 - quitting your job once your baby is born.

Stage 3 - wishing you never quit your job so you can go to work and rest.

Stage 4 - fully enjoying play dates and the Moms you meet during them.

Stage 5 - sending them off to pre-school and celebrating those couple hours free!

Stage 6 - trying to decide if you should hold them back from kinder (because maybe they're"not ready").

Stage 7 - realizing they're ready and you're going to be home without them from 8-3 everyday.

Stage 8 - cherishing every last moment you get with them during the next few months.

Stage 9 - asking yourself: what do I want my 2nd (third) Act to be?  Because it almost feels like you get a chance to enter the real world again.  Almost.

That's exactly the stage myself and many of my friends have been hovering over for a while now.
We talk about it constantly.  Everyone's trying to figure out what they're going to do.  I have a friend who is thinking about going back to school and becoming a professor in the broadcast field.  Another considering sales.  I'm sure one of us will get her real estate license (wait, that's me, I have my real estate license).  I even have a friend who will start a children's music class in her house.  Oh and of course one friend will teach pre-school.  The list goes on and on.  The pressure is mounting.

Though, I'm not sure it should.  Our kids still desperately need us when they go to school.  I wrote about my theory a little while back, basically talking about why it may be better to work when they're babies and stay at home when they get older.  Read the full story HERE.  But now that the time is officially nipping at my heels, I feel the itch.  Perhaps not because of me as much as the societal pressures that follow Stay At Home Moms.  What ARE THEY DOING ALL DAY?  No one really knows... not even the Stay At Home Moms truthfully.

But with that societal pressure perhaps also comes the potential for opportunity.  The possibility that us Moms could do something great while we raise our kids well into the college years.  It's a fine balance.  A tough one to master.  But it's one that many of us yearn to try.

The problem is... what do we do?

Many stay at home Moms get the opportunity to do so because their husbands work very hard doing their job.  In many of those jobs there is little wiggle room.  So the potential for help from them is probably un-likely.  My husband works a lot and travels or goes to dinners and early meetings frequently.  So Moms who want a second chance have to come up with something to do during the hours of 8-3.  Only.  Weekends are often off the table due to soccer, dance, baseball, travel, church, etc.  Same with week nights.  Then don't forget about all those Summer, Winter, Fall and Spring breaks.  Not to mention half days galore.  A Second Act is fun to dream about but perhaps more difficult to realize.  What job will put up with those hours?

There are those women who find their answer in direct sales jobs.  We all know a gal selling Beach Body or Rodan and Fields.  It's a great option.  For some.  Perhaps not others.  Probably not me.

What then?  I certainly don't have the answer, I'm simply presenting the question.  Here's what my ideal job would look like, written in a Help Wanted Ad:

Sound familiar?  I'd get that job. Sigh.

Yea, a 2nd Act for a MOM is hard to find.  I think we all know that.  But I'll keep searching. Maybe someday I'll find it.  It's then I would probably enter the last stage that a Stay At Home Mom faces:

Stage 10 - feeling like a Working Mom, who just wants to stay home again.

Forward this post to your husband.  And then... tell him Thank You.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Riced Cauliflower Crust Pizza

The Headlines:

Looks like a pizza. 

Not a pizza.

Well, not really. 

A few weeks ago I published one of my popular blogs ever.  It was on this stuff.

Riced Cauliflower... took me minutes to whip up the post and everyone loved it.  You can read it HERE.  In it, I tell people where to buy it (Trader Joe's) and what to make with it (fried rice - better than the real stuff, no joke).  After that, someone mentioned that I could also make a pizza with it too.  Are you kidding me?  The heavens opened up and sent us this cauliflower pizza directly.  I mean, really.    

The recipe has been a little adjusted from the great Paula Deen.  She clearly came up with the concept, it's not mine.  Kinda like I didn't make the riced cauliflower either (thanks to TJ's) but I am compelled to tell you about it and now this...

Lay your eyes on this beauty:

It looks just as good as it tastes.  It may actually taste better.  And, as always, so easy to do.  My style.  

Here's What You Need:
parchment paper
EVOO spray
1/2 cup pasta sauce
1 egg
2 tablespoons grated parm cheese
1 1/4 cups shredded mozarella
1/4 cup cheddar cheese (or use another 1/4 cup of mozzarella)
fresh grape tomatoes, sliced
4-5 cloves chopped fresh garlic (not needed but highly recommended)
salt & pepper
salami (or pepperoni) (optional)
shredded fresh basil  (optional)

Here's What You Do:
Heat over to 425.  Line parchment paper on baking sheet.  Warm riced cauliflower (if frozen)... then let it cool.  In a medium-large bowl mix egg, 1 cup of mozzarella, parm cheese, add riced cauli then a little salt and pepper.  Spray parchment paper with EVOO.  Then, pat into a round "pizza crust" on the parchment paper and stick in the oven for about 15 minutes.  It should be a little brown on the edges.  

Once finished, top with your pasta sauce (or you can make your own fresh tomato sauce - I like short cuts), remaining cheese, fresh garlic, tomatoes and salami if you choose.  Bake for another 12 minutes.  Top with basil before serving... or not.  The salami and basil obviously makes the pizza look a lot more "pizza-ey!"

This recipe is FABULOUS.  The fresh garlic makes it, it is a MUST.  And in case you're wondering, no the "crust" does not fall a part when you cut it.  

I mean, really run don't walk to make this recipe.  It is one you can NOT miss.  And I'm, you know, picky. 

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Monday, April 11, 2016

DIY Cardboard Initial (Letter)

The Headlines:

I can't believe I'm doing a blog on something so simple.

But then again, why not?

Huge, cool looking initials have been all the rage for a while now.  Especially in kid bedrooms.  But they can get really pricey... for the BIG suckers.  And of course, those are the ones that look the best.  So I made one.  And you can too.  Promise.

For my daughter's last birthday I planned a special party for her.  You can see all the details HERE - it was adorbs.... I'm just sayin'!  But out of that party I got a (2)"two-fer(s)".  We made a special "S" as a center decorative piece:

I was especially glad to do it because I knew I could use it later.  In her room.  We hung it above her picket fence headboard which I wrote about HERE...  and it got me thinking - why not blog about the the BIG cardboard initial?  It truly was so easy I just had to share... please try not to laugh at the instructions below!

DIY Cardboard Initial:
Get a big cardboard box (we got our from Home Depot - free)
Draw a block letter
Cut it out (with an exacto knife - not scissors)

Use primer spray paint
Lightly add spray paint of choice (we chose a sparkly pink) - or add a lot - up to you
Dangle battery powered lights around it
Hang with a 3M strip

In my case I added paper flowers to the display (purchased, not made, from Michael's) which were also used at her party.  See above "two-fer" photo.

They kind of hide the battery packs to the lights and, well, they just look cool too!

I'll say this... the letter was well worth the pennies it cost to make.  It took center stage during one special occasion and another special place.  Talk about bang for your buck! SSSSSSSSSSSweet.