Thoughts on decorating your home…

So after last week’s archaeological find reaffirmed my long-standing love of brown, I refreshed the family room by “shopping within our home”. (Moving things around.) Really Bryan started it when he decided the crazy-print chair from our bedroom is comfy and wanted it to be “his” chair in the family room. It clashed with all the orange and blue I’d brought in here for Fall – but – as you know, I only do “colors” on things like throw pillows that are really easy to swap out.

This chair is the exception in a house full of solid colors. It’s not Bryan’s style, but he’s a pragmatist who just wants to sit someplace to watch football on TV. (The sofa sits low so it’s hard for him to get up/down.)

You can see in these pictures how similar our home is to the inspiration scrapbook I put together in the 90s. Pulling together pictures helped me realize what was off-kilter in my first little apartment in Dallas so I could refine over time. I use Pinterest the same way today.

My philosophy on decorating is that your home should be very “you” or “y’all” stylistically while at the same time being functional, comfortable and durable so you can really live in it. I grew up with these kids who weren’t allowed in their pristine white ultra-modern living room or dining room. What’s the point of a picture perfect space your family can’t use?!? <insert eye roll here>

My philosophy on budgeting is to invest in furniture that you’ll keep forever and spend very little on decor that you’ll change out over the years. Our living room and dining room were empty for many years while we saved up – no regrets.

Most of our decor is from Target (baskets, lamps, candles), Hobby Lobby (pillow covers, seasonal items) or Ballard Designs (monogrammed pillows, curtains, lamp shades, rugs). I don’t comb the earth for this stuff, although I will if I ever win the lottery and have all that free time. :)

This is where I am sitting right now!!!

There are so many amazing home bloggers out there, but a few have really captured my eye with their style. My friend Joslyn’s home tour on Simple Lovely is simply lovely. She is insanely creative. I’m a big fan, too, of House Tweaking‘s clean, modern style – and I’m oddly drawn into the weird/creative combinations from Little Green Notebook. Also, the home tour for Chris Loves Julia is an amazing testament to the magical powers of renovating.

I’m curious, what influences your style?

A King Kong birthday for Michael…

After watching the Jack Black version of “King Kong” a few weeks ago, Michael said he wanted a King Kong birthday, so Leah obliged and made him a really, really cool birthday cake!

Here’s King Kong on a chocolate cake with icing trees, an icing waterfall and cupcake towers with “Anne Darrow” (a Polly Pocket) on top!

How can my baby be 8 years old?!?

I decorated our chalkboard.

We alternate which year the kids have a larger celebration (a party or a weekend getaway). This was Michael’s “family year” so he wanted us to eat lunch at his favorite restaurant, Red Robin.

Also, you can’t tell from the picture ABOVE but Michael wore his pajamas because, as he put it, “You should be comfortable on your birthday.”

Michael is touching a fossilized allosaurus tooth that we gave him for his birthday for his dinosaur fossil collection. He hates being told to smile for a picture… a daunting problem for an introverted child with a camera-happy mommy! :|

Leah is really into “Dr. Who” so she made him a card that really only makes sense if you watch that show!

Michael and his buddy Brogan went to the movies and then camped out in Brogan’s yard to celebrate HIS birthday. They were born two days apart.

This is what I posted on Instagram on his birthday:

Michael was born, then he went to preschool and today he’s 8. That’s exactly how it happened and it was that fast! I hugged him and kissed him this morning and it was just like kissing his little forehead right when he was born and wrapped up like a little burrito… except this time he ran off to find his cleats for his football game. <big sigh>

Happy Birthday to my precious baby who’s all grown up!!

Flashback Friday: It’s 1995 all over again!

Long ago, in a time almost forgotten, people drew design inspiration from magazines that were printed on paper. I know – so weird! I was an avid reader of Architectural Digest and Elle Decor back in the day and used to love pulling out pages of my favorite images. I recently stumbled upon a scrapbook I’d put together 20 years ago and was stunned to see that my tastes have changed very little over the years! The pictures look soooooo much like my house and my Pinterest boards! Here’s a peek…

Oh yes, people! Brown’s back! Ha! I laughed when I saw this. Apparently, this was all the encouragement I needed…

I bought a table that looks exactly like this 2 years ago!!!

This looks very much like the ancestry wall I put in our hallway this summer.

My love of earth-tones, textures and natural materials was well entrenched by 1995. I saw lots of photos of seagrass furniture and sisal rugs on the pages of my scrapbook. Isn’t this room gorgeous, though?

This photo looks like the wall color and trim in our bedroom right now…

I had comments on most pages – often saying “brown with white” and “love all the browns”. Ha! How about that fax machine? I love the brass lamp.

This photo looks like the wall color and trim of our dining room.

This looks like the colors in my office – chocolate walls, off white curtains, brown stained furniture, lots of plants…

Apparently, I liked “wood, wood and more wood” before the days of actually having “wood, wood and more wood” in our kitchen, which sometimes seems a bit much.

In Bryan’s man cave, we have a cow hide rug over hard wood floors just like this.

And cube shelves… Now this part I remember. I have loved cube shelves since I first saw them in a friend’s apartment in Austria in 1993! And now both my kids have them in their bedrooms.

If anything, unearthing the scrapbook confirms for me that regardless how trends evolve, I know what I like. I sometimes get caught in the swirl of, “What if I do this and it looks really dated in a couple of years and I hate it?” We have a family friend in Auburn who loves seafoam green. It’s her signature color. I was just saying recently that her house has looked amazing since she first decorated it in 1987 because it’s classic and it reflects her style.

I’ll take a cue from Mrs. Dollar and stick with what I like. <3

Fall Break at Santa Rosa Beach

The kids had this week off for Fall Break, so I decided to take them and my parents down to Santa Rosa Beach. I always loved the little towns along Highway 30-A when Bryan and I lived in Florida. We stayed in this cute little house in Old Florida Village, one of my favorite neighborhoods.

Fall is a great time to go to Santa Rosa because it’s the off-season which means everything costs less and it’s not crowded! And it’s not hot!

This swamp was right behind the house.

We had a wood fence to keep the gators out of the yard, but it didn’t keep a bear from getting into our garbage can one night! I much prefer a swamp with wild animals over a view of high rise condos full of tourists… But I wonder if my European friends would be thinking, “Alligators?! Bears?! What?!?!?”

Leah and Michael took turns pretending to be Jaws and attacking each other in the pool. The red thing coming near Michael is a makeshift dorsal fin. Ha!

Our house was just a few hundred yards from the beach…

A lot of places rent bicycles… I want us to ride bikes next time we go.

Leah and I enjoyed a late afternoon walk… The red tide (or “Crimson Tide”) had washed up – it’s just red seaweed and was sort of ugly/messy but interesting too because it was full of fish eggs!

Nana and Paw-Paw love the beach! I think they were sad when we moved away from Florida because they loved spending so much time at the beach. I say The Cove is a great place to live – and the beach is a great place to vacation. It might even be my very favoritest place to vacation!

There are vacations of ‘doing’ and vacations of ‘being’. This was definitely a quiet, peaceful vacation with no real agenda – which I love.

This beach access has a nice long ramp that’s always made it easier for Bryan to get on the beach. He decided to skip our vacation this time to stay home and work and hang out with his dad.

We have a photo above our fireplace of the kids taken in this exact same spot when they were about 4 and 7.

This is why I love Santa Rosa Beach! It’s always so beautiful – just a wide open view of the white sand and emerald green water – and it’s never too crowded. :)

Me and my super awesome Dad!!!

If I win the lottery, you may forward my mail here…

Leah-the-mermaid made an appearance on the beach…

Here she is pretending to be startled by humans! Ha! This is high season for blacktip sharks and I was seriously worried Leah would get eaten – even though we have never seen a shark here. I made her get out of the water after we took a few pictures!

We ate some good local seafood, of course.

This is me tickling Michael to try to get him to smile for the picture! He always makes faces at the camera.

We did some shopping, too!

There are mostly locally owned shops and restaurants in the area, like this cute little coffee shop.

We went shopping and had dinner at Destin Commons and let the kids get candy… The grown-ups did, too!

Speaking of sugar, we always visit The Donut Hole… On Sunday morning, I foolishly showed up at 10:00 AM and everything was sold out! (Well, we got some muffins to tide us over…) On Tuesday, I drove over at 7:30 AM and as you can see it was already picked over but they still had a great selection.

We met our friends Andrew, Dawn and David for lunch at The Back Porch in Destin, one of our favorite seafood places from when we lived down there.

Andrew, Michael and Leah…

Lucky Leah gets to stay at the beach a few extra days with Andrew and his family! The rest of us have come home already… <sigh>

It was a great vacation! Five days just isn’t long enough!!!

Upcycled Planters + Wilson

I’ve added two new plants that I have to show you… Both are planted in “pots” that didn’t begin life as a flowerpot.

We got this coffee crock as a wedding gift and somewhere along the way we broke the lid. I have used it as a flowerpot for years.

I took clippings from the huge Philodendron in my office to create this “new” plant. Philodendron are pretty easy to propagate: just clip the vine, tuck the stem into the dirt, and add a lot of water! They’re easy to grow, too – happy with anything from indirect sunshine to a fluorescent light!

OK, now brace yourself for the cutest plant and pot ever…

Isn’t this little guy adorable?!? He used to be a plug-in scented wax warmer… but this summer, I knocked him over and broke the top. He was too cute to throw away, so I removed the electrical cord and used him as a container for drinking straws before deciding the right plant might look like feather plumes… and a star was born.

He reminds me of Wilson-the-volleyball from the movie Cast Away. Forget Gone with the Wind and Terms of Endearment, I sobbed when Wilson floated off to sea… like for-real gasping, ugly crying! Wiiiilllsooooooooon! Gosh, that movie was good. Anyway, I think I’ll call this guy Wilson-the-owl. Wilson will probably live on the kitchen table because he doesn’t need much light.

Mommy Fashions

When I was a kid, trends were more linear: flare jeans were cool and THEN skinny jeans were cool, but not at the same time. These days it all changes so quickly that styles cycle back before I knew they’d left! If you saw my closet makeover, then you know I don’t like to hang onto stuff. But some things never really go out of style, so I keep things like Converse, Birkenstocks, my favorite denim shirt, a black pencil skirt, etc.

Anyway, I got quite a laugh out of this: InStyle’s “What’s Right Now” headline says Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid are bringing cargo pants back in style. Trend alert!! I have owned a pair of olive drab cargos for many years and was already planning to wear them this Fall! <insert gasp>

This is what I wore to lunch today at my favorite neighborhood cafe. Everything I wore is 2-15 years old… 
Cargos: Talbots. Cardigan: Target. Top: Ann Taylor. Sandals: Birkenstock Betula. Tassle tote bag: Dooney & Bourke. Leather wrap bracelet: Stella & Dot. Boyfriend watch: Michael Kors.

I love the stacked bracelet + watch combination that’s trendy right now. I don’t think I have ever been “cool” although I may have thought so briefly in my 20s. It’s so good to be 45: you’re a champ every single day you put on something nicer than yoga pants, right?
Wrap bracelet: Stella & Dot. Watch: Michael Kors.

Cardigan: TJMaxx. Tee: Target. Shorts and belt: Walmart. Wedge sandals: Lands End. Layered chokers: Starr Luna.

That’s an outfit I wore last week. I rarely go anywhere more exciting than the kids’ school, sports practices or Target, so for me, it all comes down to simplicity (mix and match, no dry cleaning) and comfort.

What’s your go-to look?

This Month in the Yard: September

You know, I had so hoped this would be my year with our yard but it never bounced back from the dryness of July. I’ll call it a “lesson learned” for next year. Note to self: Plants need water. :|

OK, here’s where things stand: I’ll start with the front porch. The front porch is my friend… The wreath can’t die on me and these plants have been incredibly resilient despite how often I forget to water them!


My brother Steve gave me these Begonias last Spring and I put them next to the Cleyera. They have thrived! No water – no problem.

Steve gave me these cute little Pansies, too. They’ve thrived with zero attention. I say “no water no problem” but this spot outside our dining room window stays fairly moist and shaded. Everything here looks great – as usual.

Leah and Andrew decided it was a good spot for a “fairy house”. See the pathway lined with pistacio nut shells?

They lined the fairy’s path with a fern frond.

…And inside the fairy’s house is a little bed made of leaves. <3

The Lantana has done really well in both spots this year but particularly here where it gets bright sunlight and a little rain. I’m sticking with Lantana from here on out!

All of my Crepe Myrtle trees have grown like crazy despite the heat and lack of rain. I have trimmed back the off-shoots at the base of each tree twice already this summer and they have grown back again. Last summer, we paid to have this Crepe Myrtle removed – including have the roots ground down – but it came back anyway. I dug it up in July and it grew back and bigger – about 4′ tall! It’s insane. Gotta love the tenacity of a Crepe Myrtle!!!

My Cleyera are sprouting little autumn berries. So cute!

Soooo… several of my Hosta Lillies are in bad shape, particularly these by the driveway. Yikes! :( They just needed more water than they got. Ditto for the Hydrangeas behind them.

Droopy, thirsty Hydrangeas. <sigh> I haven’t thought about them in the 5-6 weeks since the last round of photos for the blog. But hey, I do feed the kids (and the pets) every day, so, you know, priorities. :)

The River Birch is dropping leaves – ditto for the Flowering Cherry.

The Caladiums that I planted as bulbs have done better in this pot than in the flowerbed. The pot has been pretty moist and mostly shaded.

Despite its imperfections, the yard is a great place to relax. I stopped to lay in the hammock for a bit between photos… So peaceful!

My Purple Coneflowers are dead – done for the year – which is odd because last September they were gorgeous.

My Purple Day Lillies just look like clumps of grass with the exception of this one lonely amazing bloom. So pretty!

The little Apple Tree that Michael planted in the Spring is hanging in there.

This is the Cleveland Pear we planted in 2008. It was about as tall as Bryan or me back then! It will be beautiful in a few more weeks…

The Purple Pixie Loropetalum look pretty amazing. They’re already transitioning from purple to red. I love these shrubs.

OK, that’s it for September!


Letzter Wochenende war Oktoberfest! Wir hatten ein ausgezeichnet Zeit – wie immer!

I had to break out my German for a second… Last weekend was Oktoberfest! We had an excellent time – as always! :)

Michael, Leah and Andrew were so patient as we waited in a line ~200 yards long just to get in!!!

It’s a very good thing Andrew came with us because he loves rides as much as Leah does! He couldn’t get enough! Andrew was cracking me up!

Bryan joined us in time for dinner!

How about some greasy Schnitzel before we go ride something that spins really fast?!? Mmmmmmm!

Almost Munich. ;)

Studies in centrifugal force.
(The kids took off their flip-flops for this one.)

Michael is such a smart kid – he likes the carousel. Me, too! Ha!

This is really all the spinning we can handle. Michael and I are mostly spectators at Oktoberfest.

Michael liked the fun house…

Leah and Andrew rode everything that goes really fast and yanks you around! Look at the delight on Andrew’s face! Leah would alternate between laughing and looking concerned, but she loved every ride and wanted more!

The kids ate so much junk food! (But “fair food” is half the allure, right?)

This is Andrew shortly before I made him and Leah promise that next year they will trust me when I tell them they cannot possibly eat a funnel cake all by themselves – much less after eating Schnitzels! Ha!

Amazingly, no one threw up!!!


The Wide Receiver

So, just to clarify, I am having so much fun coaching Michael’s football team! Oh my word. I love it. Michael thinks I get too excited. Michael is very, very reserved – except for when he’s not.

Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down.

Yesterday, Michael got the opportunity to play wide receiver. He’s been playing center when he is on offense and is great at snapping the ball, but the job is a little boring in flag football. He’s been wanting to run the ball and this was his first chance to show the coaches what he can do. (What Michael can do is always contingent on whether he is thinking about football or whether he is mentally cataloging dinosaurs into the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.)

The quarterback (in red) threw the ball to Michael.

Michael was ready.

He caught it and turned away from the kid who was trying to block him…

…and he ran it all the way in! He got past three kids trying to pull his flags! And then he did it again! Michael thought it was really cool. :) Now he says football is “probably” his sport.