for he’s a jolly good fellow

Things have happened, and I’m only just now starting to write about them. Let’s start with the trip to NY.

It came to our attention last year that our Uncle Fred (who is one of our absolute favorite people, let alone uncles) was turning 50 in 2014. My sister, Morgan, had the brilliant idea to help him celebrate it by showing up, unannounced, in New York.

Months upon months of planning later, we did it. All twelve of us (as Uncle Fred so eloquently put it, his “brother, his wife, his five children, his three sons-in-law, and his two granddaughters”) flew up to Rochester, NY, to spend a long weekend with Uncle Fred and Aunt Stephanie and figuratively bang the pots and pans and pop the champagne to ring in our uncle’s new year.

Because Uncle Fred is a planner, we FaceTimed him three weeks in advance to tell him we were coming, and I think he was suitable surprised and pleased. I say “pleased” rather than “excited”, because neither Uncle Fred and Aunt Stephanie are effusive people. It might be the whole Northern thing.

The weekend included great food, a craft beer tasting (Uncle Fred is big into beer), NY pizza, too many games of pool, a chance to see our other Northern uncle and his wife, four children, and two hangers-on, a beautiful road trip out to Niagara Falls (a first for my husband and my two brothers-in-law!), a lot of red wine, and a visit to the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. I also have a newfound yearning for Wegman’s to come to Charlotte. PLEASE, Great Powers That Be of Wegman’s…

The most eventful part of the journey was undoubtedly the trip home, when we flew from the Buffalo airport to the LaGuardia airport and had a 25 minute layover to catch our Charlotte flight. Has anyone ever been to the LGA airport? Can I see a show of hands, please? So you know how big it is, right?

Well, we asked the flight attendants on our BUF-LGA flight to help us out and maybe make an announcement to let us get off the plane first (we are 12 people all trying to make one connection, you know), but they didn’t lift a finger. Our first flight left ever-so-slightly late, and then our landing was delayed because LGA was redoing their runways, and basically one thing after another went wrong. When the plane doors finally opened, there was a mad dash out to the terminal. We had less than 15 minutes to make the connection, so we sent two of our party sprinting out to the connecting gate (across the entire airport, of course); we sent one person to our current gate to have them call over to the connecting gate and tell them to hold the plane; the airport sent one of those coveted little golf cart things to help tote us over to the connecting gate; we piled nine people + driver onto the little cart, which was surely only supposed to fit four; we ran wildly through the remainder of the terminal, when the cart could take us no further, and tumbled onto our plane breathing thanks to all flight attendants and gate agents involved in our rescue.

It was a miracle we made it, and really, really good, because there were no more Charlotte flights out that night, and we would have had to spend the night in the airport WITH TWO LITTLE TINY CHILDREN WHO WERE OVERTIRED AND SICK. (!)

Baruch HaShem.

Speaking of sick, we all came home and promptly got sick (with the exception of maybe one or two of us). It has not been fun, but we are on the mend, and Uncle Fred is definitely worth it.

Happy birthday, Uncle Fred! We love you!

like mother like daughter

Yesterday, my sister, Morgan, put out a post about how she’s turning into our mom. This inspired me to do my own on how *I* am doing exactly the same thing! Of course, my ways are different from Morgan’s, because she is a mom (and that certainly changes you). So here is my list of ten ways I’m turning into my mom. :-)

  1. I’m putting in a garden bed next month – and growing my own vegetables.
  2. My refrigerator is organized like my mom’s, with very few changes. In fact, we own the same refrigerator. I also have a pretty strict three-days-and-then-we-throw-it-away rule for leftovers, same as she does.
  3. Mums-isms have become a part of my everyday lingo, like, “You have to make your own fun,” “Roll with the punch(es),” “You make your bed and you lie on it,” “Never start doing a household task (like taking out the trash) unless you’re ok doing it for the rest of your life,” and “And we will call it fun.”*
  4. My entire house is painted taupe (not actually my choice, but I didn’t rush in wanting to change it – a huge step for Young Julianna).*
  5. I have developed a palate for green tea.
  6. There are pillows on my couch to make it look nice, but I never use them as back support. I hold them in front of me, or to the side, like my mom.
  7. I tend toward organic produce and meat, and ONLY purchase fresh fish at Earth Fare. The SouthPark location.*
  8. I have set days throughout the week to do my household chores: Nothing random or helter-skelter.
  9. Unless death or infection is imminent, aches and pains or wounds and surface cuts are met with, “Is it bleeding? No? You’ll be fine.”*
  10. I am finding that flats are actually really comfortable and stylish.

*Note: the ones with stars are similar to or exactly copied from Morgan’s list, because, after all, we’re sisters.

Happy birthday, Mums – I love you, and you are a great role model!!

new times

My husband got a new job! It’s really exciting to us. :-) If you listen to our podcast, you already know that…

Last week, he went on a *business trip* down to Atlanta, GA. This may be the first of many, or the only one in several years – we will find that out down the road, I expect. Because of our current phase in life, I was able to accompany him! I can’t imagine spending those three days home alone. Sounds pretty lonely. I was really glad I could go this time around.

Atlanta, as it turns out, is HUGE and BUSY and the TRAFFIC is AWFUL. Six lanes, always full. Congested. They have stoplights to merge onto their highways, it’s so bad. After being there, I can understand why their snow and ice problems were so massive. There are so many cars that would have had nowhere to go! Yikes!

It was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me, being there with, but without, Joshua. Whenever we take a trip, we’re together 100% of the time. That’s kind of the point of the trip, you know? So this was different. He was at work for most of the day, and that left me to sightsee or hang out by myself. Battling Atlanta traffic to see the touristy things in which I’m not even interested, or walk city streets…alone? No, thanks. I did take a walk around the Square in downtown Marietta, and it was quaint and beautiful, and probably would have been a highlight of the trip if a) the stores were open and b) it was more than 28 degrees outside. As it was, I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time there.

However, I still had a really great time. Here in Charlotte, commuting from Indian Trail to uptown Charlotte takes about an hour, and that has cut into my time with my husband just a bit more than usual. It’s something we’ll need to get used to. In Atlanta, we were in a hotel a mere 2 minutes from his office, AND he got off at 4:30 – quite the treat! So, even with the business aspect, it still felt a little like a holiday.

Also, I was able to cross off a bucket item list because of my amazing husband’s diligent research – he found us a rotating restaurant to go to! I’ve always wanted to see one, to see what it’s like. We went to the Sundial, which is on the 72nd floor of the Westin in downtown Atlanta. Beautiful restaurant, beautiful views – I recommend the experience!

how to host a friend for tea

Did you grow up having tea parties? I think most little girls did. My mom had a few books about tea parties with decorating ideas and recipes, and all of us girls had a ball with that. A tea party can be a bit overwhelming, I think. Especially when you really want it done right. The clotted cream. The scones. The lemon curd and jam. The tiered plates with tiny cucumber sandwiches and miniature cookies. The teacups.

I do love a good tea party done right.

However, when one just has a friend over for tea, it can be as simple as tea and an edible. The edible is an essential part of having a friend for tea.
NB: If someone uses the phrase, “drop by,” that is a completely different thing from having someone for tea. That means sipping tea or coffee from mugs while sitting at your kitchen table, catching up. No edibles necessary.

Here’s how to have someone for tea:

  1. Make sure your house is tidy. That does not necessarily mean scrubbing the floors on your hands and knees, but things should be straightened, dishes dried and put away, counters wiped up, blankets folded in the living room. Make sure the bathroom is perfectly clean – if you’re drinking tea, you’ll need the bathroom to look nice. :-)
  2. Bake a quick batch of cookies. If you make it a habit to have people for tea, may I recommend making a batch of cookies and freezing them in individual scoops, to be cooked at a later date? Make once, bake many times. This past week, I made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies and put almost all unbaked scoops of batter in the freezer. An ideal number of cookies to have for two people is probably four. It provides the option of two per person, looks like plenty, and means you won’t overeat. Remember that tea is traditionally at 4:00pm, but nowadays done anytime in the afternoon, and we don’t want to spoil our appetites.
  3. If you choose to make cookies, fresh or frozen, preheat your oven one hour in advance of your company. If she’s arriving at 2:00pm, preheat the oven at 1:00pm. This way, you will have the cookies baked and cooled, the pan washed and put away, and the house smelling like heaven – just in time for your guest!
  4. Set out your tea service:
    - The teapot
    - The choices of tea (if you’re providing choices – you could just pick one yourself)
    - Milk/lemon/sugar (optional – I knew my guest wouldn’t take anything in her tea)
    - Cups (mugs are totally fine, but if you happen to have teacups…)
    - Plates & napkins for cookies (if you have cute little napkins or vintage linens, that’s great – it all depends on the kind of mood you want to set)
  5. If it’s a cold day, light your fireplace! If you don’t have a fireplace, make sure the heat is keeping things nice and toasty. You don’t want your guest hugging her mug for warmth.
  6. Adjust your lighting so that things are cozy and inviting. The lightbulbs on the ceiling fan may be a little harsh for an afternoon tea. The indirect, soft light of a side table lamp with the backlighting from another room might be perfect. Switch things on and off until you find your sweet spot (and remember it for next time, so you don’t have to test it again!).
  7. Heat up the water. I like to do this about 5 minutes before I expect company. I have an electric kettle, so it’s pretty snappy. Boiling water on the stovetop would take longer, and you can adjust your timing to meet your needs. If your guest is habitually late, wait to turn on the kettle until you get her text saying she’s running late and is right around the corner.
  8. Smooth your hair and fix your dress! Or, rather, make sure you look like you’ve been relaxing all morning and the house cleaned itself and the tea was made by magic fairies.

It’s not like I’m an expert or anything. Read this post as encouragement to have a friend over every now and then to enjoy each other’s company! Tea with a friend is like an oasis in time. It’s really delightful. I like to aim for one a week, if I can, but it’s probably more like one every two weeks, and sometimes one of those turns into sipping mochas at Starbucks. Inviting someone into your home, though – even if it’s more work – is definitely more rewarding.

winter white

How many different cliched snow blog post names do you think are out there? I just thought of three or four without even thinking about it, so I’m guessing a TON.

Anyways.

Beside the point.

So, guess what? It snowed.

It really did! Of course, it was more like white fluff in the air, smaller than desiccated coconut, if you can believe that. It didn’t stick to much at first, but when we got up this morning, there was a dusting all over everything. I’d say about an inch or two, if that.

While Joshua was piddling around up stairs trying to get his command center setup so he could work from home, I decided I would like to go out and play in the snow like a little girl. It’s been a long time since I was a little girl. (Ok, not that long, but sometimes it feels longer than at others.)

On with the play jeans and warm sweater. Double layers of socks. Fuzzy hat. Handwarmers. One of Joshua’s big coats that keeps me cozy but I don’t have to worry about getting dirty. Ugg-style boots that aren’t Uggs, because who wears $200 boots in real snow?

I tramped out the front door and saw my neighbor brushing the snow off her car in preparation for going to work. I suddenly felt very foolish and childish and lazy and entitled, because I get to stay home all day and play in the snow while the washer does my laundry and my neighbor has to go off to work. I ducked back inside before she saw me and went out to the backyard, instead.

I know it’s silly to think like that. My husband is an excellent provider, and he *likes* that I stay home. But still. It might have had something to do with how childish I also looked at the moment…

Anyway, so the snow was pure powder and you can’t do much with powder-puff snow. I had visions of making a miniature snowman and sending a picture to my sister, who is babysitting in Mooresville, but I couldn’t get anything together. Disappointing. Then I thought about making a snow angel, but I didn’t that would work so well, because I could see the grass through the snow, so it would be less than impressive.

I took pictures of cat footprints that were all over our patio and front stoop – yuck. Thank goodness they were only cat. I gave the bushes a good shake and videoed the snow falling off of them, because it looked pretty. I stamped around on the road and the gutter, breaking ice under my boots and watching the spidery patterns that makes.

I hid behind my chimney as my neighbor drove away.

I drew hearts and wrote my name in the snow collected on top of our recycling can. I was tempted to write all kinds of messages on Joshua’s car, but I thought he might like to see it in its pristine condition, snow and all, instead of totally defaced by finger drawings.

Then, with nothing left to do, I checked the mail and went back inside.

Never too old to be young.

P.S. – it’s more fun to play in the snow when you have a playmate.

a stitch in time

As of this past week, Joshua and I have been in our house for five months. Five whole months! Isn’t time flying?!

For all of those five months, there have been no window treatments of any kind on our dining room windows, which happen to face the street and are almost five feet wide. Five feet of wide open space for strangers to stare into our home. You know how easy it is to see into a house when it’s dark outside and the lights are on? Yeah.

Anyway, yesterday, my mom and my sister and myself started to rectify the problem. I decided to go with sheers and a valance, and my mom came over to help me make the valance.

My mom is a genius. We made this valance completely without a pattern, mostly by eyeballing things, and using tape for pins. Because I don’t own a sewing machine, I don’t feel the need to have any sewing supplies except for my travel button kit. It has three pins.

My mom cut the fabric with her teeth.

You probably think I’m kidding about that.

Ok, I am. But it’s only a small stretch, because she is actually one of those people who can cut thread with their teeth, and she did that while she was here. I have NEVER been able to figure out how to do that. It’s so awesome.

The point is, I am pretty unequipped over here for a sewing project of this caliber, but my mom and Mary totally made it work. Did I mention that the whole valance gets mounted on a 1×4″ board and then screwed into the ceiling? As we were nearing the finish line, my mom asked if we owned a saw.

Um, no.

There has been no need for a saw so far.

So Mary went out to our garage with the board, a hammer, and a steak knife, and came back with it about 7 minutes later, the perfect size.

My hat is off to my mom and my sister for their resourcefulness in these straits. :-) You guys are amazing.

leftovers

Two years ago at the turn of the year, my siblings and I made a plan to really maximize our spare time, so we wouldn’t waste it in meaningless ways. You know. YouTube. Facebook. Google. Email. Texts. Black holes of the technological world.

So we made this project, called Leftovers, to record our day through a few simple snapshots, then string them together into a short, 1-minute video detailing the day.

I was the only one who actually did it.

I just found the four videos I made, for January 3, 4, 5, and 6. It’s so amazing to be able to see exactly what I was doing almost precisely two years ago! It’s like reading an old journal. It made me smile. I like nostalgia.

And then that made me think that, as tedious as journaling every day can be, the joy that comes from reading it a few years later can not be supplied by any other thing. And that makes journaling worth it to me. Even alternative journaling through pictures and narration.

As cliched as it is for me to say this in January…let’s journal more. Let’s journal today.