2015: I'm Ready For A Change

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I am a firm believer in the power of a good New Year's Resolution. I know the idea of a resolution isn't for everyone. For me, for the way my mind thinks, resolutions work. I embrace a fresh start and a chance to begin the new year with new habits and convictions. The downside is that I'm not very successful at adopting a new habit on a random Thursday in May. The upside is that January 1st is a great day to adopt new habits, and that happens to be tomorrow.

My goals this year are mostly health and wellness related. My health and wellness affect everyone in our family, so it's a trickle-down effect. Changes that are good for me will in turn be good for everyone.

Aside from losing weight, probably the most obvious of all resolutions, I have some specific goals about changing our eating habits. I used to be such a health nut. Yoga, organic, whole foods, very few processed foods, little meat or dairy. Somewhere between Utah and North Dakota it all fell apart. I'm ready to put those healthy habits back in place. I've warned the kids, a hard rain is gonna fall this year.

I don't know if Jason realized what he was committing to, when he purchased all of the books on my Amazon wish list. They were heavy on whole, vegetarian, non-processed, and family-style cookbooks. He'll thank me later? He also presented me with a Ninja, so perhaps he also wishes for a healthier lifestyle...OR he wants many more delicious frozen drinks on the weekend.

I have a desire to focus more on family and to be present in their lives. In short, I need to disconnect.

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I'm also on a mad organizing and simplifying tear in the home, as is usual in January. Bedroom closets, basement storage, kitchen cupboards, and the laundry room won't survive the next couple of weeks.

I love getting organized every January, and once again before the kids begin a new school year. I love a good, solid planner, with pen & paper. I bought this guy at Target, and already have January and half of February filled in.

Sugar Paper

My Mini-me has the one below. We are cut from the same cloth.


On the home front, I haven't decided if I'll be able to embrace Marsala in 2015...

...but I already have three big home projects in the planning stages.

Here's to a healthy and balanced new year!
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Christmas 2014 In Review

Christmas 2014 was a whirlwind of stress and planning, mixed with shopping and procrastination. That is actually a legitimate description of me, on any given day. Stress, planning, shopping, procrastination, repeat. Throw in a bottle of red wine and a good playlist, and you have the recipe for Colleen!

This trip was bookended by a visit with my sister and her family, and Christmas evening with my Mom. My sister throws a high energy Christmas party with more than 250 guests every year.  I can't fathom the planning that goes into such an occasion, but she pulls it off each year and loves doing it.

In previous years we drove to Big Sky, Montana, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This year we chose Vermont, and my New York heart was full. I have missed the northeast for twelve long years. 


*Not a bad view to enjoy with the morning coffee*





We enjoyed family games, milkshakes at a lovely diner, a visit with the sweetest elf, family movie night featuring Elf, and a handful of visits to the local swimming pool. 

The kids say Jason is easy to spot because he's the only one wearing all black. He's Johnny Cash on the mountain. 

While in Vermont I wanted to see some beautiful covered bridges, quaint chapels, and anything else that screams Vermont. Miniature glass bottles full of 100% pure maple syrup, in the shape of a maple leaf? We bought three.

The weather wasn't ideal for snowy activities; it was 45 degrees and a slushy mess in general. But they had fun. Jason beamed when Owen's instructor said, "he's the best six year-old shredder I've ever seen." Ella was moved up to the next level and killed it on the highest mountain. Natalie and I left for some shopping after a trip to the clinic for what felt like strep throat, but proved to be a bad cold. She loves a small town as much as I do. She was happy to poke around in the stores, but got right back on the mountain as soon as she felt well enough. 

Jason was so sweet to drive me around in search of covered bridges and other Vermont charm. 





We referred to this handy map of the covered bridges to lead us in our search. I see this is a handy reference for all of the covered bridges, so I see a Sunday road trip in our future. I bet the bridges of Ohio are pretty too. 

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Update On Natalie's Room

This room is the very definition of a compromise. Our taste in decor is very different. She likes teal, zebra print, and plenty of posters. That sounds like a lovely room for a girl her age, as it should be. So that is probably where this story will end, until she asks for my input in a matter of months.

Why spend money and time creating a room that she doesn't love? I read plenty (too many...) decorating and DIY blogs, and it always makes me sad to see a blogger create a ridiculous bedroom for her child just for the sake of content, when the end result isn't even kid-friendly. I want my kids to love their rooms, even if that bedroom isn't worthy of Pinterest. Because this is real life and I have real kids. If Natalie doesn't love her room then what is the point?

I shared several ideas with Natalie, but what she wants is a room that she has created for herself, and I have to respect that. She spends a lot of time in her room, and keeps it clean and organized and super cute. I have no complaints, and I love going into her room and seeing the pride she feels in her space. She is a nester too, unlike her brother, who spends as little time in his room as possible. He could live happily out of a drawer. That little dude is another story for another day. 

We changed the color of her walls, and that made her very happy. Pink to turquoise. We relocated the black headboard from the guest room. 


We hung her favorite posters, Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. You won't see that on Remodelista. I love Remodelista, but Natalie loves Taylor Swift.

We updated her furniture arrangement, and organized her closet and precious belongings. We changed the curtains. She still needs a more functional desk. I'm checking CraigsList regularly for the perfect desk for us to fix up together.  

She would not love this room any more if I hung a beautiful grid of Rifle Paper Co. prints in perfectly coordinated frames. Nor would she appreciate an expensive upholstered headboard.

Animal heads and chevron are all the rage in blogland, but she is not interested. 

She would not be happy with white walls and bohemian decor. 

But I did make one final change, and it got her seal of approval along with hugs & kisses. 


I love her room because it is a reflection of her, and she is pretty amazing. 
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Thanksgiving In Review And On To Christmas

I took some much needed time off after Thanksgiving to enjoy the holiday with family, and get my wits about me to prepare for Christmas.  

It's not often that my husband's entire immediate family gathers in one place at the same time. We hosted his Mom, two sisters, brother-in-law, three nephews, and one niece. I love having family with us for the holidays. Over the years we've had a few sad holidays without family, just our sweet little family of five. Of course we aim to make each holiday a memorable event for the kids, but it's just not as much fun without extra people there to celebrate, and the kids usually announce their boredom by 10:00 a.m. They look at us sideways when we suggest they watch the parade. Apparently any excitement around the Macy's parade died in my generation. 

So we were thankful to have family with us this year.  I loved watching Jason and his sisters recount the trouble fun they had during their high school and college years. May our kids not create that mayhem for us. Jason's poor Mother. He turned out just fine, but what a trouble maker. :)

It was really nice to see the cousins playing together, making memories.  Of course I think back on playing with my cousins at my own family holiday parties. There were often 11-14 of us, and Grandma Kendall's house was not that big. 

This year the kids were seated in the dining room, an old-fashioned kids' table in a separate room. We covered the table with white paper and each kid drew his/her own place-setting. 



This art melts my Mommy/Auntie heart.

While my husband's family was staying with us we made a point of taking plenty of family pictures.


That is one justifiably proud Matriarch.

From those images I created our Christmas cards, not the one above, obviously. They're ordered, now let's see of I can get them in the mail before the post office closes on December 24th.  

We dragged the Christmas decor, all 18 totes, out of storage shortly after everyone left. We made cocoa, put on a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, and assembled the Christmas tree.



The tree has already been relocated. I had second thoughts and rearranged the living room. And the rest of the house has been hit by the magical wand of Christmas. So I have plenty to share this upcoming week!

I can't finish without mentioning another exciting event - I was delighted that Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick shared my dining room on her blog. She is a legend in Home DIY blogging, and I am honored!
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We Finally Started Natalie's Room

This girl is about to celebrate a birthday.

Oh that sweet face!
Other than the gorgeous blonde hair, and the height she inherited from her father, she is my mini-me. At her age I was shorter, chunkier, and I had the baddest mullet in all of Yates county. 

Despite those differences, Natalie is the child most like me, delightful personality quirks and all. 

This Halloween...dressed as a hippie
In our former home, her room was the first to receive any attention, and Ella's was never really finished. So in the current home, to be fair, there were a few projects to complete before I was able to concentrate on her room. And it's worth noting that her room in this house was already really cute, just not exactly her taste. 


Before: pink walls and black & white curtains, no real plan or design on our part yet.


Natalie has a signature color, and although I've tried to convince her to consider other colors, she sticks with turquoise/teal. I really wanted to design her new room around plum/purple, but she wouldn't hear of it. Blushy pink? Nope. 

Onward with teal then! A word about the teal that we settled on, Valspar Alpine. It is three shades brighter than I would have chosen and three shades more subtle than she wanted. We were at an impasse but settled on this color after much debate and mutual concession. 

This room is another (practically) zero-cost project. We have everything we need on hand, but may switch out a desk or chair, a night stand, or paint a dresser. The biggest impact came with wall color and (eventually) curtains. And we definitely need a good afternoon of purging and organizing.

Yesterday I painted. I started listening to the Serial Podcast from the beginning. I've heard so much about it. Before I knew it the whole room was painted, the sun was setting, and I felt like I'd lost a day of my life. I hadn't showered or eaten. But her room was painted and I had listened all eight episodes. Weird.

So this is what the room looks like now, at half-done status.


Truthfully, I don't love the zebra rug. I'm not a fan of zebra. I'm sure they are lovely animals, but I don't love the whole effect in design. It's just a personal preference. But she desperately loves this rug and a coordinating blanket, so who am I to keep these harmless things from her?

This week I will figure out the curtain situation, and a few other details: memo board, dresser refresh, wall decor, etc. But she is happy and excited to get back in there once the paint fumes go away. And I am happy to focus my attention on her in time for her birthday and before the holidays take over. 
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So I Made Some Mittens...


I love projects that make use of old favorites things, ones that might otherwise be forgotten or thrown away.

This old sweater is too small for Natalie, and the neck opening is too large for Ella. It falls off her teeny shoulders.

The first attempt was a disaster. I know enough to begin a new project with throw away materials, because I mess up the first time, every time. Just like the first waffle. You always throw away the first waffle, unless you're Martha Stewart. So what did I learn from attempt #1? You have to make the wrist opening large enough for the hand to pass through. *smacks forehead*

For my second attempt, I overcompensated for my earlier mistake by making huge, baggy mittens that looked more like potholders. Fortunately you can re-sew a smaller shape then trim the excess material.


I love the colors in this fair-isle print.


I saved the arms of the sweater and other large scraps that could be used for another project.


This is the perfect project for me. I don't like to measure or pin. I adjust as I go. Maybe this is why it took three attempts to get it right? Whatever. Martha Stewart I am not.

I made a second pair from an old red sweater, because after that success, I caught the mitten-making bug. I was high on home-made mittens.

Natalie claimed the fair isle pair, and the red ones are too big for Ella, so I'll have to make a third pair for her. And then I'll officially be sick of this project and never make another pair. But it was good while it lasted. And our household will be three pairs of mittens richer.

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Another Touch Of Inkwell

I made another small change over the weekend.


See my little brass book ends? :)

I love when the backs of bookshelves are painted. It adds a personal touch and nice detail.

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These shelves needed something. It feels like everything is floating in a sea of beige.




I like that this detail ties the living room and dining room together. 

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When Being Brave Pays Off a.k.a. The Dining Room Reveal

First, I must say that I am in love with this dining room. I walk past it and smile, I stare at it with the lights on, then for a while longer with the lights off. 



Second, I have to admit that painting the walls this color really freaked me out. I second-guessed myself every day. Just before painting, I woke up in the middle of the night regretting my decision. I tried to convince myself that beige isn't so bad. And why can't I just leave well enough alone?




I never regretted the decision once the paint was on the walls. Inkwell is a beautiful color. My husband even likes it, and he is a lover of beige. It feels regal and rich. I decided on a matte finish because such a dark color will appear super-shiny. This matte finish is like velvet. 




My mind always goes to resale value, even though I hope to stay in this house for many years. I don't think this is a color that a prospective buyer would be offended by. It feels classic and timeless.




The curtains made a big impact as well. 




I chose a simple unbleached linen set from Ikea. They're affordable, $35.00 for the set, and add a touch of texture and neutral tone to the otherwise dramatic room. These curtain panels come in a tab-top, but I'm not a fan of that style, so I flipped them upside-down and iron-hemmed a rod pocket and cut the tabs right off. 

The total cost of this room makeover included the cost of paint, curtains, and curtain rod. It came in under $100!

Before & after:





And compared with the design board...mission accomplished!




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Linking up with Thrifty Decor Chick!


TDC Before and After

Ghosts Of Halloween Past

This is our 12th Halloween with kids. What?!

I have one rule: they aren't allowed to dress as the same character more than once. Otherwise the girls would be some incarnation of a witch every year. I force them to be creative and come up with a new idea each year. #meanMom


A Mom's trip down memory lane, complete with poor quality, unedited pictures...


Natalie's first halloween in 2003 was celebrated in California, and she dressed as a giraffe. I have no idea why we decided on a giraffe. Probably because I was working full-time and waited until the last minute.



The next year she was more excited to dress up and beg for candy.





In 2005 Ella joined the family. This year we were in Iowa. Natalie was a black cat and Ella was a tiny pumpkin, only 32 days old.





For halloween of 2006 we lived in Louisiana. Natalie was a witch and Ella was a pirate. The pirate costume was assembled from clothing we had on hand: my belt, some brown leggings rolled up, and Natalie's blousey white shirt & denim vest. This is one of my favorite costumes. I love her baby cankles.





The next three years we lived in Salt Lake City. 

In 2007 I insisted the girls dress as a lady bug and bumble bee because I knew coordinated costumes would probably never happen again. 



I was a pregnant lady that year.




Owen joined the family in 2008, and Jason became a part of the decision making process. He chose Yoda for Owen. Natalie wanted to be the tooth fairy because she was losing teeth left and right that year. Ella was a devil. I chose the costume because she was seriously a demon child that year and it fit her perfectly. 



She? She's plotting something here.



In 2009 Natalie dressed as "ice," Ella was a black cat, and Owen was Alan Jackson. Remember, Jason was making halloween decisions for Owen, so obviously.






Halloween of 2010 and 2011 were in Minnesota. In 2010 Natalie was a cowgirl, Ella was a grouchy butterfly, and Owen was a can of beer. (Jason!)



Jason and I dressed as a vampire couple that year.


This picture of Jason is eternally amusing.



In 2011 Natalie was a devil, Ella was an angel (we all had a good laugh about that one), and Owen was a gnome.


After Yoda, Alan Jackson, and beer can, I wrestled control of Owen's costume away from Jason. In 2011 he was my sweet gnome. So dang cute. This marked the last year I had any say in their costumes.



Then we moved to Fargo and the kids officially took over. In 2012 Natalie was a cute & spunky witch, Ella was a skeleton, and Owen was Spiderman.


I just realized Natalie dressed as a witch twice! Son of a...!




2013 was the year of Danica Patrick, a monster, and a ninja.



This year Ella will dress as Katniss Everdeen, Natalie will be a hippie, and I'm still not sure what Owen is. He has the costume but I don't know what it is?! Something from Skylanders?

Happy Halloween Eve!

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