Monthly Archives: January 2014

WIWW: Snowpocalypse, Florida Style

There is a teeny, tiny, little chance that it MIGHT snow here today. It hasn’t snowed in Tallahassee since 1989.

pleated poppy

Needless to say, everyone is at DEFCON-2 about it. Schools and day cares are closed, creating a massive headache for desk jockeys like myself. I think, at best, we’ll get some wintry mix (the most nefarious of all precipitation) this afternoon.

So what’s a girl to wear?IMG_8627

Blazer: Goodwill
Sweater: Hand-me-down
Jeans: Loft Maternity
Boots: Boston Terrier
No, the OTHER boots: L.L. Bean, circa 1998

I made the discovery this morning that I can no longer zip up my rain jacket. Sigh.

Here’s another outfit from earlier this week:


Dress: Zulily
Cardigan: Old Navy
Boots: Zappos
24: Weeks down

I am completely in love with this dress.

Have a lovely week, and stay warm out there!

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No Darkroom Required

I love taking pictures, especially since Jason gave me a fancy-schmancy camera for Christmas 2012. I’m still very much an amateur, but I enjoy it.


And yet, I am terrrrrrible about printing photos. I am only marginally better about backing photos up onto a CD or web site.


That said, one of my biggest fears is losing my photographs. We were incredibly lucky that our house fire didn’t damage a single one, but the thought of losing images of deceased relatives or ever-changing children is just heart-stopping.


You want to know how many of our wedding photos we’ve had printed since 2009? Two. TWO.


Recently, I decided to take action. I saw several tutorials like this one, which create a customizable rotating display for photos. And I also learned that Snapfish now offers “Deco Prints.” Like Printstagram, you get 4×4 photos printed on heavy cardstock. Unlike Printstagram, you don’t have to order sets of 24, and can often get free shipping.


I have an Instagram feed, but I used Picasa to crop most of these photos, then sent 53 to be printed, all taken during 2013. They won’t all fit in a frame at once, but I can rotate them throughout the year.


I printed lots of pictures of the kids, and several of the pets (both living and not-living). I also printed some of my attempts at nature photography.


I also needed a big frame. I scored this bad boy for $20 at Goodwill. Note: Frames without glass are much cheaper. (Jason asked, “Should we make sure this isn’t secretly a masterwork before we take the picture out?”)


I can’t wait to see how the finished product looks. I plan to hang my collage over the sofa in the family room, where I can see it every day.

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Beach Bum

It’s hard to explain to people that, while I grew up in Florida and currently live in Florida, I do not get to the beach that often.

Part of it is the distance – Tallahassee is 45 miles from the coast as the crow flies, but it’s at least an hour-long drive to a decent beach.

Part of it is that I am a wee bit high-maintenance about my beach experience. I like walking on the beach. I do not like sunning myself, as I am frequently confused for some sort of beached sea mammal. STOP TRYING TO THROW ME BACK. I love watching the ocean from a porch, balcony, or veranda. I’m not crazy about parking my buns on a towel for hours and hours.


This past weekend I met some friends from college in Fort Myers, and on Sunday we drove out to Sanibel Island. We walked on the beach, watched a large pod of dolphins playing, and visited the lighthouse – which is not really a lighthouse, but more like a light-on-a-stick.


It was lovely.


There were plenty of birds to watch. This one gave me the side-eye.


The driftwood was fantastic.


It was also Kate the Chicken’s first beach experience. She must be a big fan of dolphins, as she did a wonderful frolicking-dolphin impression for several hours afterwards.



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A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!

One of the scientific properties of a gas is that it expands to fill its container.

Turns out this is also one of the scientific properties of junk.

We bought a house with four bedrooms. We’ve been using the fourth bedroom as a guest room. And a crafts storage room. And an off-season clothes storage room. And a childhood-memorabilia room. And a home office (by which I mean the modem, printer, and paper live there).

You get the idea. It’s kind of crazy up in there. And now we need it to be a full-time bedroom for Kate the Chicken, so it needs to change, pronto.

This is what we had going on up until a couple of weeks ago:

Guest Room

Not pictured: The closet on the left was filled with clothes, suitcases, and my entire childhood.

When we put the crib together, we quickly realized that the double bed was eating up a lot of floor space and would probably need to go. Also needing to go? The computer desk.

This is what I would like the finished product to look like:

Nursery Plan

Here’s our progress so far. WARNING: Stuff’s about to get real. Real messy.

This is the current state of the closet. The suitcases moved to the attic, and all the clothes not belonging to Kate the Chicken were stored. The stack to the right is all sewing gear, and that’s my sewing machine on the left. The upper shelf is still filled with old paperwork and bins of childhood stuff. Possibly also Jimmy Hoffa. The bar holds Kate the Chicken’s existing wardrobe.


“But Windy,” you protest, “it is highly unlikely that Kate the Chicken will want to wear Jason’s old dress shirts.”

Maybe not now. But she will when I do this with them:


We have successfully swapped out the double bed for a twin (thanks, Karen!):


The wall color we’ve chosen is Home Song by Behr, which is a pale pear green. It will replace the current color, The Beigest Beige in All The Land.

It goes nicely with the crib bedding, which is a hand-me-down from Tyler:


The crib now contains empty storage containers from Epic (and Ongoing) Guest Room Purge 2014. It will eventually (probably) trade places with the dresser:


And here’s the dresser. I mentioned before that it was my father’s when he was a boy, and I inherited it in high school. The mirror is detachable, and will be removed for Kate the Chicken: The Early Years:


Again, MOAR disaster. I’m working on it! Being crafty requires almost as much gear as having a baby!

I hope this has been a window into my Big Nursery Vision, and not a casting call submission for Hoarders. We work on the room a little bit every day, and it already looks loads better than when I took these photos. The dresser has been emptied and cleared off, for example.

The next step will be painting the walls. We haven’t had to paint a thing since we moved back in, so I feel a lot of pressure to do a good job. (I mean, come on. I pressure myself to be the valedictorian of everything – why would painting be any different?)





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Old Reliable

I didn’t learn to cook until I was in college. In my sophomore year, I signed up to bake for the Hungry Newt, a student-run coffee joint in the basement of one of the old frat houses.

I quickly realized that I had no idea what I was doing. Despite being the granddaughter and daughter of very competent cooks, I had absorbed nothing. I needed help. I needed a guide to the mystic culinary arts. I bought this:


I wish I’d gotten a first edition, which features Saint Martha of Bethany slaying the dragon of kitchen drudgery (I kid you not):

Back, beast!

I read large portions of it like a novel, finally grasping the nuts and bolts of cooking. Because of my baking gig, I ran through the cookies section first. I began to see patterns – with cookies, for example, you usually start by creaming butter and sugar together (this was a revelation at the time). It was one part chemistry, one part Potions.

While I have become pretty confident in the kitchen, I still refer to the Joy of Cooking. At Christmas, I sought its advice on roasting a whole beef tenderloin. And last Sunday, I checked how long an egg needed to poach:


I love the language – “Swirl the water into a mad vortex”! Delightful.

This book will always have a place on my shelf.


Nom nom nom.


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Baby on a Budget

In a move that will surprise exactly no one, I am trying not to spend a fortune on Kate the Chicken. Jason and I just finished teaching Financial Peace University, and we’re trying to be mindful of those lessons as we become new parents. Again.

Baby spending is, in a word, ridiculous, according to this article. The piece features several anecdotes that would make Dave Ramsey furious – parents who buy bigger/newer/”safer” houses or cars, only to discover that now they don’t have money to cover maintenance or gas. Uh, oops?

Those are Big Picture concerns. Today, I want to look at the small picture – in Kate the Chicken’s case, the guest room that we’re using as her nursery. Even this arena is fraught with purchasing pressure – you NEED a theme, you NEED new furniture, you NEED a wipes warmer.

I need some deep breathing exercises. Maybe a Xanax.

Here are a few thoughts that have kept me from going nuts in the nursery.

1. Guess who doesn’t care about your cleverly-crafted nursery theme? 

We all want rooms that are breathtakingly beautiful, with innovative use of space and perfectly coordinated accessories. And by “we” I mean “adults.” Your baby doesn’t care how much you spent for that 10-piece on-trend crib bedding set. He or she will gleefully poop all over it. Ideally, you want a nursery that can be hosed out.

2. Beg and borrow (but don’t steal!)

Asking for help isn’t easy. But when you’re trying to have a baby on a budget, it’s a necessity. I kept a probably-more-than-reasonable amount of Tyler’s baby gear, and stowed it in our attic when we moved to the new house – which means that most of it burned up in the house fire. I have been humbled by the generosity of other new-mom friends, who have let us borrow dozens of items (or buy them cheap!). We’ve also found some great deals on Craigslist, like the barely-used crib and mattress we scored.

3. Call it recycling, upcycling, or whatever. Just do it.

Remember when you were getting married, and everything marketed to brides was billed as ABSOLUTELY VITAL TO YOUR HAPPINESS and also marked up 50%? It’s the same with babies, except insert “baby’s” between “your” and “happiness.” Does your baby need a special baby dresser? A wee baby bookcase? A precious baby rug? Nope. Will your existing furniture work just fine? Yup. Kate the Chicken will be using my father’s childhood dresser, a big comfy chair we picked up at an estate sale, and a bookcase I bought at Target right after college. Please see #1 for her anticipated reaction to same.

4. Woah there, tiger.

Kate the Chicken will probably not eat solid food for the first six months of her life – so why would I buy a high chair now? She won’t be walking for about a year – does she even need shoes until then? She won’t be crawling or otherwise mobile for months – do we need to baby-proof the whole house RIGHT THIS INSTANT? You don’t have to buy ALL THE THINGS at once. In fact, I think there’s an argument to be made that totally up-ending your existing life and surroundings “for the baby” contributes to a feeling of lost identity for the parents.

To Sum Up

If you have a big baby budget, by all means spend it on things you love. But be honest about whose happiness is really at stake. And if you have a small baby budget, spend carefully and don’t be sucked in by marketing.

And please don’t think that I’m immune to the parade of beautiful nurseries I see on Pinterest, some of which I have shared in this post. Just yesterday I was investigating wainscoting to see how much it would cost to DIY.

I firmly believe that the most valuable things you can get for your baby are not available at Target. Taking care of your own financial house and laying a firm foundation for your child’s financial future are infinitely more important than the pattern on her curtains. Kate the Chicken may wear hand-me-down clothes and put them in a hand-me-down dresser, but she’ll have a college fund. She may have to endure the horrors of a used minivan, but she’ll never have to endure the stress of financially supporting her parents. (At least, that’s the plan!)


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Crafty: Ornament Storage

Our Christmas tree holds an eclectic (read: non-matching) assortment of ornaments. Some have been handed down from my parents, some have been made by the children, and some have been procured while traveling. For the last few years, we have relied on ornament storage boxes like this one:

My biggest problem with the boxes is that the dividers are not attached to the bottom of the box – meaning that flat ornaments slide around when you pick up the box.

I wanted something a little sturdier, that could be configured with a little more flexibility.

As usual, it was Pinterest to the rescue. I found a link to this blog post, which referenced a 10-year-old ornament storage tip from Martha Stewart.

I fired up my glue gun and got to work.

photo 1

My storage container can hold three tiers of cups. I fit 21 on the first level, 26 on the second, and 28 on the third, for a total of 75. That’s a lot of ornaments, it turns out. I was able to double up on small ornaments (usually a soft fabric ornament with a harder glass or metal ornament). We only needed to make 2 levels for the second storage container, and used the top “shelf” for odd-sized ornaments.

photo 2

Up into the attic they went!

I like this method because it keeps the ornaments safe from attic vermin (like the ones that ate my wreath), and the boxes remain pretty lightweight, even when fully loaded.

I spent $5 on plastic cups and $16 for two storage containers, for a total of $21. I already had cardboard and a glue gun.

I am pleased.

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A look backward…..

This morning I took a look back at my resolutions from last year, to see how I did:

1. Make peace with the fact that “Be Valedictorian of Everything!” is neither reasonable, nor healthy, nor sane.

I think I did a pretty good job with this one. Lowering the bar FTW! I let go of a lot of emotional baggage this year. It felt good.

2. Adhere more closely to William Morris’ instruction, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

With Jason’s help (always!), I got rid of quite a bit. We shredded old bills and statements, sold some things on Craigslist, and generally slimmed down our collection of stuff. It’s an ongoing process, but I feel we have a better handle on the clutter.


I still struggle with this one, not going to lie. I improved somewhat over last year, but maybe only 30%.

4. Continue to take better care of this old bag of bones.

Having a tiny alien being inhabit your bag of bones is a very good incentive to stay healthy! On the eating front, I expanded my meatless recipe repertoire. On the exercise front, I did good-but-not-great. On the frivolous front, I used eye cream and rosacea treatment consistently throughout the year, and got my hair cut on a regular basis.

5. Less fretting!

Several outside factors have contributed to my success in this arena. Paying off all our non-mortgage debt was a HUGE load off my mind. We also started seeing a counselor for some blended-family issues we were having, and he provided some valuable tools to combat anxiety.

A look forward…..

I am pleased with the list above. I still have a lot of work to do, especially in area #3 and #5. I will add a few more:

6. Make it (kitchen).

I re-discovered my love of canning last year, and I want to continue that. My dream would be to stock my pantry with homemade sauces, jams, pickles, and preserves. This is not realistic (SEE #1), but I can work at it. I would also like to make more of my own snack foods – crackers and spiced nuts and whatnot.

7. Make it (house).

We’ve lived in our house for two years, and there are STILL bare walls crying out for art, sofas crying out for throw pillows, and bookcases crying out for style. I am still a little scared of my sewing machine, but I need to get over it. I am also a little scared of putting holes in the walls, but I need to get over that, too.

8. Grow it.

I s-u-c-k at gardening. Last year we managed to grow basil, parsley, and cilantro. This year I would like to add jalapenos or tomatoes or something else that’s easy and forgiving. Suggestions are welcome.

I think that’s enough for one year, especially one that will include a new baby!




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Kate the Chicken

Because it’s not official until it’s been announced on the internet: I’m pregnant. And it’s awesome.

Jason and I are expecting a baby girl in May, and we could not be happier or more excited.

When we told the children after our eight-week appointment, Tyler decided that if it was a girl, it should go by its middle name, like Hollyn does. I asked him for suggestions, and he blurted out, “Kate the Chicken.” So we’ve been referring to the baby as Kate the Chicken for the last several months, long before we knew whether it had ladybits or dudebits.

It’s kind of catchy.


So far, the last 20+ weeks have been smooth sailing. I hurt my knee in a 5K when I was about 8 weeks pregnant, but I have been walking and doing this prenatal yoga DVD. My doctors are very much of the “everything in moderation” and “use common sense” and “STEP AWAY FROM THE INTERNET” school, so the whole experience has been very laid-back and low-stress.

Cravings have included Frosted Mini Wheats, hard boiled eggs, and carbs in all forms, especially pasta. Aversions have included (until recently) meat and seafood.

How have the kids taken the news? Tyler is generally excited. He had a slight preference for a boy baby, but he’ll be an excellent big brother either way. He likes to talk to the baby and feel it kick. The girls are comfortable with the idea, but occasionally slip into gloom and doom predictions based on their experience with their cousins, who are very young. It’s typical older-sibling stuff – you won’t have any time for us, we’ll have to do all the work and change all the diapers, going out to dinner will be an ordeal, WOE IS MEEEEE. It will be a matter of showing them, not telling them, that things will be fine. All three of them are great with other people’s children (and the girls love their cousins to pieces!), so I’m not worried.

Plus, now we get to shop for a minivan. Awwwww, YEEEAAAH.





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