Decorating (my) World

There's an exchange  in "Dirty Dancing" that goes something like this:

"Max, our Baby's gonna change the world."
"And what are you gonna do, Missy?"
"Oh, Lisa's gonna decorate it."

It comes at the beginning of the movie, the exposition if you will, and the intent is to contrast the brainy and idealistic "Baby" Houseman with her vain and ditsy older sister, Lisa.

Of course you're supposed to sympathize with Baby.  You're supposed to want to be Baby.  And in 1987, at 18-years-old, I did.  I envisioned myself growing up to do something big, something to change the world.

Um, so yeah, about that...

Now, don't get me wrong, I love what I do--staying home to raise my kids--and I believe it's very, very important.  If I didn't, I wouldn't be doing it.*  However I also acknowledge that I'm not exactly changing the world.  (Talk to me in 30 years when one of the girls is running for president ;)

And the truth is, Lisa's desire to "decorate the world," to make a sometimes difficult place a little nicer to dwell in?  Well, that doesn't seem quite as ludicrous to me anymore.

Decorating, designing, feathering the nest--whatever you want to call it--has become a hobby of sorts.  I've done a lot of work on this house.  It's the second we've owned, and the one that we hope will be our "forever house."  I waited until we had this one to invest in furniture and decor and I'm having a lot of fun doing it.  (So if you're looking for a blog about changing the world, you're in the wrong place.)

As time goes on I will be giving "tours" of the house.  A logical place for me to start is with the living room as it is more or less "done" compared to other areas of the house.

Here are some pics of the living room.  I should say right now that I am not a photographer nor do I use a fancy camera or photo editing software.  I do have an SLR camera, though, and learning to use it is up there on my New Year's resolution list right under start a blog and an Etsy store.  (One out of three ain't bad..)

I find it difficult to capture the room all in one shot but you get the drift.  

Now you may disagree, but I find it to be cozy and inviting, especially given the 20+ foot ceiling thing we've go going on.  And while I'd love to have all white (or gray) walls and mid-century modern furniture with fun pops of colors like pink and blue, that just didn't feel right for this space.  

So I'd like to spend some time dissecting the room and discussing what we did/bought and why.  I'll be doing that in the next few posts so stay tuned.  First up will be the coffee table, which could easily have been featured in Copy Cat Chic.  Should be a good time.

* author's note: Please do not think for a moment that the comments at the beginning of this post were in any way meant to disparage working moms.   I am personally of the belief that one should do what's right for one's self and her family.  Not all women were meant to be stay-at-home moms and I would not want to live in a world where that was the only choice we had.  Just wanted to put that out there...


Anatomy of a party

This week my daughter turns eleven, a fact that makes me happy and sad at the same time.  But I'm not here to wallow in the nostalgia of it all, no, today I'm here to talk about important stuff.  Today I'm here to talk about the party.

Ten years ago, when she turned one, I was a nervous wreck about her party.  You see, back then, I wasn't much of an entertainer.  In fact, I didn't entertain at all.  I don't think my husband and I ever threw a party prior to her first birthday.  We barely even had people over to dinner.  That's saying a lot when you figure we'd lived together for almost a decade before she was born.

Oh how things have changed.  Nowadays, I entertain.  I entertain a lot.  Thanksgiving?  Yeah, I host that.  Christmas?  Yup, that'd be me.  And the birthday parties? Well, between my two girls I've thrown 18 in the last ten years.   At some point this went from being a job I dreaded to one I enjoy and--dare I say it?--actually look forward to.

I think part of it is that as the girls get older, I no longer need to schedule the time as strictly as I once did.   When little kids come to a party, they expect activities.  You need to have them planned.  You need back-ups in case the planned activities fail.  And you need to know that no matter how carefully you've planned, things probably won't go the way you've envisioned them..

With eleven-year-olds, you plan the food, the decorations, a very loose schedule and they fill in the blanks.  In other words, you get to do all the fun stuff.  Today I thought I'd share a few pictures from the party, sans the guests (people might not appreciate me putting their kids' pics on a public blog) and sans my kids (as I haven't decided if I want their pictures on a public blog ;)

My daughter, I'll call her Emmie, wanted a sleepover.  Sleepovers are her favorite thing in the world.  There was no theme per se, so we just bought decorations and food that suited our fancy.

I think the best way to tell the rest of the story is through pictures.  Enjoy!

Given that it was a sleepover, I set up the treat table to look like a bed.  I simply layered a pink table cloth over a white one to look like sheets and a comforter.  Then I fashioned a pillowcase out of an additional pink tablecloth.  (I fit it around the pillow, stapled it and then turned it inside out.  Voila!  Instant pillowcase.)  Then I added a teddy bear for an authentic touch.  I wish I had taken a close-up of what was on the table.  In lieu of a cake, my daughter wanted to let the girls decorate their own cupcakes.  I set out portion cups with gummies & sprinkles for decorations, and each girl got a cup of chocolate and a cup of vanilla frosting.  

Here are the cupcakes going into the oven.  I got the recipe here and the cake was quite good.  I wish there had been cooking directions for cupcakes, but by the second batch I think I pretty much got it ;).

And yes, I do have the world's worst and ugliest oven.  It's also the smallest.  This is a problem  for the woman who does Thanksgiving and Christmas, etc.  If you'd like to be a part of the petition to get Elena a new oven, I will happily provide you with my husband's email address.  No really, I will.

The dining room is where the girls actually ate.  I had so much fun putting up the garland and hanging the crepe paper.  And the cute paper goods came from Shop Sweet Lulu.  If I still lived in Chicago, I would find her store and beg (or bug) her until she agreed to let me work there.  And then I would spend my wages on her merchandise.  

The dining room got a little out-of-control with the addition of the giant balloons/place cards which floated above each girls' chair.  But oh boy were they ever a hit!

I had to include a picture of the punch.  The recipe came from a party-planning book belonging to my daughter.  (I decided to start her young; she will throw her first party before age 33--but preferably after she moves out of my house ;)  To make the drink, mix frozen limeaid concentrate with lime-flavored sparkling water and add fresh berries.  Kids love it and it's not quite as sugary as soda.

In the playroom we set up what we like to call "the giant bed."  It gets bigger every year.  We put a bunch of mattresses on the floor and voila! Instant slumber party.  The girls love it!

When the party was over, each girl picked one of these...

From here...

They contained these...

...which were also a huge hit!
(Order your own HERE.)

Check back in August to see what we do for daughter #2's birthday.  



The Trouble with Blogging

So here's one of the many reasons I failed to start a blog years ago:  I don't like to neglect my responsibilities.  And once I've started something it becomes a responsibility.  And you see, I am an "all-or-nothing" kind of gal.  I go big or go home.  No in-the-middle-wishy-washiness for me, nosiree.  So once I start something I don't want to neglect it.  I don't want to be one of those blogs that people find and then realize, "Oh, the last post was five years ago."

But sometimes "real life" gets in the way.  This week is a perfect example.  It's a short school week for my kids.  It's also a week where I am preparing for a major school event (I'm a volunteer but I have a lot to do; please see above where I talk about going big) and my daughter's eleventh birthday party.  (Birthday parties can be kind of elaborate around here.  More on that later.)   Then, of course there's the time I spend taking care of my kids and the house and the errands, not to mention time spent on Facebook and Pinterest.  I've already explained the importance of Pinterest.  And Facebook?  Well, somebody needs to cyber-stalk my friends and acquaintances.  Dear God who will do the stalking if I start slacking off?  I jest, I jest.  Kind of.  (Okay not really.)

So this is my way of saying I won't be around for a few days.  But never fear.  I'll be back next week with a kick-ass post about my daughter's birthday.  I know, I know.  You can hardly wait.


Going to the Chapel..

Not me!  Been there, done that, don't want to do it again.

It's actually my (former) nanny.  She and her long-time beau were engaged on Christmas morning.  She's not actually getting married at a chapel either.  She'll be tying the knot at a ranch in Malibu.  Nice, eh?  Despite the swanky surroundings, she and her fiance, like many young couples, are working with a limited budget.  For that reason she's asked some of her friends to pitch in and help with the details.  I am proud to be included in this group.  

Aside from contributing a flower girl and a junior bridesmaid, my other contribution is scouring thrift shops and fleas markets for rustic table accessories.  She's envisioning vintage books tied in twine paired with glass bottles and jars filled with flowers.  She's also looking for vintage frames.  

As it happens, I loove thrift shops.  (I'll go into this in more detail in a future post.)  In fact, I have a garage full of thrifted pieces that are just waiting to go into my (currently non-existent) etsy shop.  (More on that later as well, but here's a teaser shot of one shelf in my garage storage closet.  Excuse the quality of the picture; it was taken with my iphone.)

The pieces above are primarily milk glass, which I love.  I used a lot of the tall skinny vases for my mother's wedding (which I hosted in my living room/backyard).  My bride friend is not looking for milk glass, however, so it was off to the thrift stores I went.

Here is a sampling of what I found.  Vintage books were not so plentiful, but I did find these two beauties for a total of $2.00:

Just for kicks I decided to pair them with some vintage bottles that I had lying around for a cute tableau:

Not bad for an amateur.  

At the next store I was thrilled to find thirteen identical vases.  Originally $9 apiece, I got them for $13 total.  They were made in Spain and although I don't think they're exactly what she's looking for, I bought them anyway.  I think they'll do well in an etsy store, don't you?  

I gussied that one up with a piece of twine.  Because I'm fancy like that.

The irony of all this is that I hated planning my own wedding.  Perhaps that story deserves its own post as well.  The short story is that I was overwhelmed.  It's a lot more fun helping with someone else's.



Feeling Badly

Not four days after I wrote my post about Dooce.com, I received a phone call from my sister-in-law.  There was an air of urgency about her voice.  "Heather Armstrong is getting a divorce," she told me.  A few clicks of the mouse later and the news was confirmed... well, sort of.  Heather and her husband Jon are currently in the middle of a separation.  She made no mention of divorce--nor did he--but things do not sound good.

And I know it's silly to feel this way about someone you've never actually met, but I'm sad for them.

I guess maybe we might still be BFFs after all.


Inspired by Pinterest

Inspired by Pinterest will have to be a regular feature on 'A Casarella.  (Look at me busting with the regular features after four posts!  That's placing a lot of faith in my ability to maintain a blog for more than a month...)

If there's anything that could be a regular feature, though, it would be Inspired by Pinterest.  Because that's the greatest thing about Pinterest: it's inspirational!  Unlike my other favorite time-suck, um, website, Facebook, Pinterest inspires me to step away and do something creative with my time whether it be cooking, organizing, crafting, etc.  In fact, I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to "pins I've attempted in real life."  (Found here.)

Next up on that board will be these little beauties.

I found them here.  Unfortunately I have no idea who the originator was.  For those of you who are wondering, these are Valentine's Day themed paint chip bookmarks.  To my delight, both of my daughters wanted to give them out for Valentine's Day after seeing my prototype.  My older daughter helped with punching and tying the ribbon.

I was lucky enough to have a small heart punch (for the ribbon hole) and a large heart punch for the other cut-outs.  The ribbon was on sale, .33 cents a roll at Michael's, and of course I pilfered the paint chips from a hardware store.  (I must admit I feel a little guilty about that.)  But look how cute they turned out!  Originally I didn't like having the paint color names displayed on the bookmark.  That was until I looked a little more closely:

This one reads: Barely Pink, Be Mine & Scented Valentine.  How appropriate is that?  I think the kids are going to love them!


Don't judge me!

Why yes, I did just spend thirty minutes organizing my daughters' crayons by color.  

Organizing is a passion of mine.  Passion--sickness--whatever.  It makes me awfully happy.

And to prove that I'm not completely delusional, I ask that you note all of the broken crayons.  If I were truly OCD those puppies would never have made the cut.  As it stands I have two little girls who keep my sanity in check.  There was no way they were sacrificing some of their favorite crayons (why else would they be so well-loved?) for the purpose of this picture.  Well-played, girls.  Well-played.


Do You Remember Your First?

One of the reasons I wanted to start a blog was because there are so many great blogs that I enjoy reading.  I'm sure I'll discuss many as time goes on.  Reading blogs is as much a part of my daily routine as checking email.

That's why it's funny to think that a decade ago, there were no blogs.  Oh, maybe there were.  I'm sure people had online diaries--in fact I know a few early adopters who did just that--but blogs are a part of our culture now in a way they weren't just a few short years ago.

The first blog I ever read was Dooce.com.  I know, I know... it's kind of a cliche.  Sort of like losing your v-card on prom night.  But at least I can say that I "knew" her when.  Okay, "know" might not be the most accurate word, but I was an early(ish) reader.  My babysitter introduced me to Dooce in 2004.  Dooce (aka Heather Armstrong) had just had her first daughter and I was pregnant with my second.  She was experiencing post-partum depression and I was experiencing what I refer to as pre-partum depression.   We were both English majors, both madly in love with our husbands, both living in our first houses.  Clearly we were destined to be BFFs.

Sadly, like many relationships, ours eventually faded.  I still check in on old Dooce from time to time but I no longer consider her my #1.  This is by no means an indictment of Dooce or her writing.  She is still wickedly funny, an excellent writer, an amazing photographer.  But Heather went and evolved on me.  She got all enlightened.  She had a baby without pain meds, ran a marathon  and started hanging out with Christy Turlington.  In short, we no longer have much in common.  Don't get me wrong, I do not begrudge her her enlightenment.  More power to her!  (Truly!)  I just can't relate anymore.

It's okay though because now I have lots of other imaginary internet friends.  (Shout out to John & Sherry at Young House Love!  Those guys and I are tight.)


'a casarella

A small plaque affixed to our house reads 'a casarella. When my mother first saw it, she smiled. "I think it means little house," she told me. Though it had been purchased by the previous owners, we decided to keep the plaque. It's a sweet way to welcome people to our little house.

When I came up with it for a blog name I was sure it had already been taken. As Blogger (the blogging program) searched its archives to tell me if the name was available I thought to myself, "This is a sign. If this name is available I should start a blog. If not, forget it." I crossed my fingers but I'm not sure if was hoping for or against it. I've wanted to start a blog for awhile now but have talked myself out of it on numerous occasions. Does the world need another stay-at-home mom blogging about design and crafts and cooking and motherhood? Can the world bear more endless talk about first world problems? Only time will tell...
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