Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Livin' the Dream: Michael from Inspired by Charm

Welcome to the second installment of Livin' the Dream! Yesterday I schooled you on my event planning biz.  Now, I'm pretty sure you all know this guy. And if you don't, what rock have you been living under? This is my friend Michael, who blogs at Inspired by Charm.

He is one of the most talented people I've ever come across. For real. He cooks, he creates, he takes beautiful pictures. And he's also the reigning king of Pinterest with um, over 350,000 followers (at last count). Isn't that crazy? Oh and he also owns his own bed and breakfast in central Pennsylvania called Old Charm. How fun is that? Plus inside of the inn is a little gift shop that he runs. It's like 10 year old me died and went to heaven. I wanted to be a gift shop owner for the longest time. Of course, instead of all sorts of pretty American-made things like Michael sells, I wanted to sell troll dolls and scrunchies. But that's neither here nor there. Let's chat with Michael about running his own bed and breakfast...

S: Tell us a little about your business... 
M:  I own a five room bed and breakfast in St. Marys, PA, a small town located in the center of the state. Inside my little inn is a small gift shoppe open year round. I also make custom gift baskets called ‘A Basket of St. Marys’. The signature basket features goods made in the area. 

S: How did you know you were ready to go out on your own? Was it alwaysyour plan or did you have a light bulb go off in your head?
M: I had always dreamed of owning a bed and breakfast, but thought it would be something that would happen much later in life. After college I worked at a hotel in Philadelphia. After three years with the company I just wasn’t happy anymore. I was successful within the company, but I just dreaded going to work everyday. I made a decision to quit with no plans for the future. I just new I needed out. After quitting, I started the job hunt. During this time I found out that the only bed and breakfast in my hometown was for sale. So I went home to St. Mary's, toured the home and knew instantly this is what I was supposed to do. I spent six months developing a business plan. With very, very little money in my pocket I applied for a home loan and other small business loans. Somehow everything worked out and I bought my own business and my first home.
S: Do/Did you have a mentor or someone in the biz to give you guidance? How did you learn the ropes?
M: Other than the support of friends and family, I was pretty much on my own. Thankfully the internet provided a lot of guidance and support. I also spent a couple weeks with the previous owner learning how she did things. Over the years I’ve realized that I learn best by doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screwed up, made mistakes and ran out of money.  I somehow bounced back from these things and I’m all the better for it.
Every year I learn more and things seem to get a little bit easier. And I’m so thankful to have my family near me. My dad is one of the handiest people I know and my mom listens to my gripes everyday. She’s also an amazing cook!

S: What has been your most effective form of promotion? How about something that didn’t produce the results you thought it would?
M: Being in a small town, the best form of promotion for me has been word of mouth. I asked the original owner of the bed and breakfast this same question when I was interested in buying. She told me the same thing. I found it hard to believe, but she was right. I tried newspaper, radio, etc. and none of them, for me, were as powerful as word of mouth. I think it’s really important to figure out your target clientele. This will help you determine the best method to promote your product or service. It’s going to be different for everyone. 
S: What has been your biggest challenge so far in running your own business?
M: Can I have two? Stress and time commitment are my biggest challenges at the moment. Being the sole employee of essentially three businesses leaves me very little downtime.The phone always rings. Emails always come. Someone will always need something. With guests sharing my home I always have to be ‘on.’ Some days it’s a piece of cake. I’m a people person. I could carry on a conversation with anyone. But we all have our days when we want to just sit on the couch and watch tv in our pajamas. These days are the hardest. don’t get two days of a week. Sometimes I don’t get two days off a month.There are no sick days or vacations days. I’m not going to lie; it sucks. But…I never have to ‘go to work’ and I don’t have a boss, so that’s kind of awesome.
Also, when you are your own business you carry all the stress of that business being a success. Everything is on your shoulders. When things are going well, it’s the best feeling in the world, but when things aren’t, well, if feels like you can’t breath. 

Thank you so much Michael, for your completely honest take on running your own business. I told him that being an innkeeper sounds sort of like being a mom, with the whole no sick day thing. Sure, you know the job isn't all fun and games but you have no idea until you're wearing your innkeeper/mom/boss hat, ya know?

Do you have any other questions for Michael? Like, did you ever dream of running a troll doll empire of your own?

Visit Michael's Blog / Like his Facebook Page / Follow him on Twitter & on Pinterest

Monday, January 30, 2012

Livin' the Dream: Launching a Creative Small Business

Since launching Bottle Pop Party Company, my event planning business, back in September, I’ve had lots of questions and emails, mostly from people dying to start their own business. People working a job that no longer interested them and wanted out. People with ideas.  Their questions ranged from “How did you know you were ready?” to “How much do you charge?” Granted, a lot of these questions were asked of me months ago and I’ve yet to answer them. I’ll tell you why. One…I wanted to give them the attention they deserved and over the past few months, I just haven’t had that opportunity.  And two, I needed to see where this business was going. I didn’t think I had ANY answers just yet and I wanted to feel more confident in Bottle Pop before I went running my mouth, ya know? So here we are, I’m here to answer those questions for all you lovelies who asked. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who may be wondering the same things and wouldn’t think to email someone whose blog they read, so this is for you too.

To make things a little more interesting, I’ve also asked some of my favorite small business owners to help me out. I picked a few really creative people who are in all different stages of business ownership and asked them for their stories too. So today I'll answer questions and then all this week you’ll hear from my fantastic guests too. I think it will be fun…and give you the chance to get the inside scoop on chasing your dreams.   So without further ado, I give you…

What was it like to start your own business? 
As you all know, I quit working when Gabe came along and I consider myself a stay-at-home-mom.  Therefore, there was no day-job to quit. No steady income to lose.  Any business I could drum up as an event planner would just be a nice addition to my wallet, we obviously weren’t depending on it to keep food on the table. On one hand, this is really nice because I can move at whatever pace I feel like and not suffer any bad consequences. On the other hand, I have to rely on my own determination to drive myself to make business happen.  So when I decided to start Bottle Pop, I was mostly excited. I had, for years, known that I was meant to do something creative and finally put the billions of ideas in my head to use. Of course, I was nervous putting myself out there too. What if I went public with it and it flopped? While not tragic, it would be a blow to my self esteem.  So to do it and have people respond in an awesomely favorable way, well it’s been pretty darn sweet.
What have you learned so far?
I’ve learned that people will not bang down my door, wanting my services without me doing something to get them here.  I wanted to carefully control the image that my website and social media portrayed so I spent a lot of time on them. But unless you’re out there telling people to look at your social media, then what good is a fancy website?
How have you been promoting yourself?

I suppose the best thing I’ve done so far to intentionally promote myself was to contact a blogger with a large audience (MODGblog.com) and offer my services. It fell into place since I live near her and she’s all about promoting people who do good stuff. In addition to that, I think taking great pictures of the things I’ve done and showing them off is the way to get people interested. Above everything though, is word of mouth. You can’t pay for that kind of advertising. Unfortunately you can’t control it either. I’ve got to tell everyone I meet, ANYWHERE, about my business. You never know who knows somebody who’s cousin’s wife needs an event planner.
What did you have to do to get to the "launch point"?

Like I said, I had been wanting to start my own business for years. My best friend and I would dream up ideas all the time but it never really went farther than picking out a good font for our logo. It was actually my cousin’s wife who inspired me to just freaking do it.  She had posted some pictures of a really cute, Hollywood themed party she threw for her daughter and I jokingly said, “we should start a party planning business!” Within minutes, we were emailing back and forth about it, making plans to sit down over a few bottles of wine and see if we could make this happen. Those meetings did happen and those plans were made. But after some health issues, she wasn’t able to continue in our partnership.  I decided that I was too far into it, too giddy with plans, to let this dream die. So I said I was going to do it on my own.
Honestly, it was much easier, having someone to dream with...to bounce ideas around, to put money in, everything. But when it’s just you, you get to make all the decisions and you get to take all the credit. It’s good both ways. So I decided that the first thing I needed to do was create a name that hadn’t been taken, claim the website and get it looking good. I wrote an official business plan and researched the heck out of my state’s small business laws/guidelines. I wrote list after list after list. I gave myself a launch date and decided that the main components needed to be in place by then.
How'd you figure out your pricing?
Oy. This is the hard part. If it were up to me, I’d be crafting up stuff all day long for people for basically free. Because I love crafting! It’s fun to me! But luckily, my finance professional husband reminds me to reel it in. Deciding what to charge for your services, if you’re a service-based business, is tricky and will most likely be the part you keep questioning. I use a few different methods when figuring out how much to charge, all of which are explained pretty well here.
I know a lot of planners offer packages, and originally, that’s what I was going to use too. But I very quickly learned that every single event is so different and expectations are all over the place, so that wasn’t going to work. Every single customer of mine gets a custom quote based on their expectations.
 And I would be curious - how do you get it all done with Gabe at home during the day?! 

I’ve had to alter my own title in my head a bit. I switch back and forth from SAHM to WAHM all the time. If I’m working on an event and I need to be crafting it up, or researching things online, or on the phone with a caterer, I do not let myself feel guilty for not spending that time with Gabe. I consider myself “working”. During those times, he is either napping, watching some toons or playing by himself. I’m lucky that he plays well on his own and will let me work at the kitchen counter while he plays next to me. When it comes to the actual events, most (but not all!) are on the weekends so I’ve relied on John and our parents to help out with watching Gabe. It’s not a big deal at all and hopefully it continues so seamlessly.
So hopefully that was helpful in some small way. Obviously I have so much more to learn myself so I don't have all the answers. But when I lie awake at night, not being able to sleep because I'm thinking of ways to make an event the prettiest thing I can, I know I made the right decision.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for more small biz inspiration! And if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or email me at ohshannanigans at gmail.com

Keep up with all the pretties on Bottle Pop's Facebook page too!

Friday, January 27, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Fonts

Call up Dr. Zasio, I'm a font hoarder. I download fonts more than you change your underwear. So um, that would be everyday, right? Ok good. Anyway, these are a few of my faves lately and you can get them all at dafont.com fo free, fo sho.

What are you guys doing this weekend? We've got my mom babysitting so I can take John out to dinner for his birthday. I'll also be working on plans for my 1st Craft Day at my house! Basically, I'm opening up my place to any of you that want to come over and craft. We'll have projects to work on, food to eat and chit to chat. It's going to be pretty awesome. I'll post more details in about a week. In the meantime, mark your calendars for April 1. And if you were feeling skittish about meeting up for Always Bloggy in Philadelphia, this is the perfect opportunity, it's just a few hours! Surely you can deal with that, right?

Oh and next week I've got a couple of awesome posts lined up. Any of you interested in planning parties or running any small business of your own will fo sho want to tune in.

Is the use of fo sho twice in one blog post excessive? Doubt it.
Have a great weekend, guys!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Party Like It's the Prohibition

Wouldn't you kill for a party like this in your honor? Think flappers, prohibition and dark seedy speakeasies. And hard liquor. Always think of the hard liquor. This is going to be the perfect way to say goodbye to your (pun alert!) Roaring Twenties on say, your 30th birthday!

Planning this baby is SO fun. I'm up to my eyeballs in gold spray paint & rum. But not at the same time. I do not condone drunken painting.

all image sources can be found on my Roaring Twenties Pinterest Board

Pin It

You can also feel free to hire me for your next party. Serious. How fun would that be?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

February's Menu Plan: Handfuls of Russell Stover's

Ok lovebirds, I've got February's Menu Plan for you a week early since I've got something special up my sleeve on the blog all next week. Anyway, it all sounds really good this month so I hope you find a recipe or six that you can use. Anything from last month leave an impression? We really liked the Bacon & Gruyere Crusted Meatloaf and the Pierogie Casserole. Clearly we love the comfort foods round here. Now git to clickin. Oh and if you're new around here (hi!), you can click here for menu plans of months past.

13. My Fave Rice & Beans served with Tortilla Chips
14. Stick your finger in every chocolate until you find the caramels

I'm also always on the lookout for new and interesting recipes so if you have one that you think we all might like, let me know! Pinterest only gets me so far.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Peace Sign or Bunny Ears...You Decide

The evening started out pretty normal. I headed into the city to meet up with my buds, for dinner at the Continental. I already told you guys what an amazing night this was for me...best friends, lots of fancy boozes, yum food, what else do you need?

We sang Happy Birthday to Katie, who turned 31 just yesterday.
btdub, I hope you had an awesome birthday Kate!

then after blowing out her candles, I headed to the ladies room...

when, according to Urban Dictionary dot com, I was Photojacked. I left my camera at the table and didn't, until a few days later, find this gem uploading.

My friends are effing weird. And I love em.

Meanwhile, half of us decided to make it a late night and head out to an Irish pub...because as a wise man once said, I've never met an Irish pub I didn't like. Wait, there was no wise man. I said that. And I meant it. So anyway, after handing my expensive camera over to a drunken Irishman to take our picture fifteen times, these were the results. Now keep in mind, I don't look at my pictures after taking them....ever. I like the surprise. So imagine that surprise when I realize that, according to Urban Dictionary dot dom, I'd been Photobombed.

 Oh. The peace sign. Good one.

Oh the peace sign and duck lips. Even better.

Well now you just look like an idiot. You can hear the "derrrrr" coming out of her mouth, can't you?

So listen girlie, if you're out there in your sequin trim tank reading my blog (very high possibility, right guys?), I'm not a fan of you ruining my pictures. I prefer to ruin my own pictures with things like leaning over and backwards in an attempt to be the same height as my shorty friends only to showcase my chin region to the world. So for fecks sake lady, the next time you see me taking pictures in the middle of an irish bar, keep your peace signs to yourself. Wait...is she giving me bunny ears? Well that changes everything. Now I'm pissed.

UPDATE: Thanks to the anonymi tipsters, I found out that this was no innocent case of bunny ears. This b was being straight up rude. So I took it to the Shannanigans FB page, where it was suggested that she was giving us the European equivalent of the finger...or she was slow on the draw in giving the crude fingers-over-the-mouth, vag symbol thing. You know what I mean...Anyway, I'm making it my personal mission to spend my weekends in irish pubs in the city of Philadelphia hunting this girl down to publicly shame her. You with me?

Friday, January 20, 2012

I've Achieved It.

Well ok, they can't all be winners. But 700 times, I've felt the need to blab my personal biznass to the whole world and that's something to be celebrated. Or to be worried about. Whatevs, I'll celebrate. Wine? Ok. Meanwhile, I don't have anything crazy lined up for this here 700th post. I just thought I'd let you know about it. What I do have lined up today is my boy's 17th month. Feel free to celebrate just the same.

Dear Gabe,

If there's one thing you've mastered this month, it's being self-sufficient. As your dear mother lies around with a herniated disc (yep, verified, more on that later), wishing that she could take the muscle relaxers and pain killers during the day, you make me believe you're doing just fine on your own. Although towards the end of the month, you came down with a case of the clingies, for the most part, you've just continued being an awesome little independent player. You are content to pull 25 pieces of wooden play food out of a basket, squeeze your butt into said basket, then pile the food on top of you. Then bust out of said basket. Rinse, repeat. Hours of entertainment. Thank you for being a clever little thing, you make me smile all day long.  In the past month, you've also...

- Gone back to bibs. For awhile there, you were strictly anti-bib. We just dealt with lots of costume changes as you wore all of your food. But once your strawberry obsession started, the giant Elmo towel bib entered the scene and it's been smooth sailing.

- Required a real adult-sized fork at every meal. Should I sit down without giving you one, you make it known that you will not be partaking in dinner without the proper utensil.

- Added a few more words to your vocabulary. Your favorite? Your favorite fruit, the bapple. Side note, I'm trying hard not to be one of those moms that says, "oh my kid knows how to say apple, she says it 'ehhhblurrghh'. Right? Totally apple!!"  Your favorite letter is B. You say it constantly. You run around the house, yelling "Beeeeeeeee!"

- Decided that haircuts are akin to papercuts between toes. I made the mistake of taking you to the hairdresser for a quick trim. After you cleared the place with your screams, she was only able to cut the front of your hair. I've been perfecting my ninja cutting skills while you're in the tub to get the rest of it, but you're on to me. There's no such thing as distraction.

I really do love spending my days with you kiddo and I'm so happy you're mine.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snack Attack

Not to be confused with Zack Attack, the fictional rock band fronted by Zack Morris. Surely a fave with all of you nostalgics out there. Seriously, I had more comments on Monday's trip down memory lane than ANYTHING recently. Crazy kids.


I'm pretty predictable. It's mid-January, so I'm obviously on a trying-to-eat-better kick  Who isn't, I know. It's harder than I thought, this whole eating well while being a SAHM. When I was working, I was on a good schedule, chugging my water at my desk all day, eating the same lunch most days of the week, bringing calorie-deprived snacks from home and eating them at the same time every day. It made things easy. Go home, work out, eat normal dinner, done. But now, no two days are the same.

Sure, we sort of have a schedule but mostly that's just for my tiny boss. There's no telling where I'm eating my meals, at what times, and shit, what am I going to dig up to feed myself when I just gave Gabe the last veggie burger? He's constantly trying to get into the cabinets, begging for food like a dog, so snacking is kind of a problem around here. I give him a good mix of graham & animal crackers, cereal bars, strawberries, apples and pears. What do I get? Usually half a sleeve of Ritz crackers and a string cheese while I'm picking up the Cheerio explosion that occurred the night before.

Moral of the story? If snacktime is all the time, then I needed some new snacks. These are my obsessions this week: All are actually enjoyable and give off the impression of being "good for you". In the past I did Weight Watchers and have been counting points for most of my adult life but I'm trying to lose that mindset and just go with overall stuff that isn't complete shit for me. I'll never be a processed, convenience-food-free kind of girl but it's all about making better choices, right?

1 / 2 / 3/ 4

1) I'm not sure what made me pick Trader Joe's Cinnamon Almonds off the shelf. Normally I couldn't care less about almonds or cinnamon flavor but I bought them anyway. And it works. Sweet, crunchy, all that jazz. The serving size is a 1/4 cup but I grab 3-5 nuts in passing and it does the trick.

2) Dudes, let's chat about Girl Scout Cookies. I live for one. The Samoa. I know they changed the name but call it what you will, it will always be the Samoa. (btw, Samoans do the humpty hump). Anyway, I've taste-tested every flavor of every fiber bar out there and this is the best one I've ever had. The caramel coconut fudge bar is basically a Samoa bar. Get some.

3) My mom has, admittedly, been on every diet known to man. When you grow up in a household like that, you get used to eating some crazy stuff that is usually made of chemicals and is trying to be passed off as tasting just like the original. If there's a low-fat, no calorie version of it, we've tried it. Anyway, my mom used to bring home meringue cookies and I was never, ever on board. They tasted like cardboard to me and I wanted nothing to do with them. For some reason, I tasted one recently and kinda dug it. So I picked up a pack of Mint Choco Chip ones. They.are.bang.in, Bangin. I love them so much I can hardly stand it.

4) I always forget about cereal any other time of day besides breakfast. But um, it's totally a viable snack. Yeah, my idea of a serving size and theirs is quite a bit different but I'm working on it. This cereal is currently on sale at target by the entrance. That's why I bought it. But it's good and I've bought it twice this week.

So there you go. Do you have any other easy ideas for me to add into my rotation? Suggestions of hummus will make me vom. Please don't suggest hummus.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Take a Trip With Me...

Down memory lane if you will. Let's pretend we're in 5th grade and we're having a sleepover at my house ok? The following is what we're going to be discussing:

Notes! Oh how many different ways can we fold these babies before we pass them back and forth?I was an ace at note-folding. An ace I tell you. I had techniques you ain't never seen before!

McNugget characters. Im sorry, how cute are these? And I'm so glad there is a picture of these for posterity's sake because you know our kids won't ever have toys based on deep fried chicken nuggets. Sucks for them.

Young and modern?  This was the next step after Teen Magazine. I was not Modern nor was I a teen but I sat my ass in the magazine aisle at Pathmark while my mom grocery shopped and got my fill of lies guys tell for sex. I was ready.

There are no words for the awesomeness that was charms. There are words to describe Clearly Canadian though: delicious, refreshing, bubbly. My best friend and I used to walk over to the Swiss Farms, pick up a Tastykake and a Clearly Canadian and sit on the curb. Good times.

I think it's abundantly clear that I've had an obsession with stationary supplies since I came out of my mom. In fact, I came out of my mom with a trapper keeper, filled with fresh notebook paper and a pencil case full of awesome purple ink pens and blueberry scented markers. Oh and I also had both of these babies. LalalalalalaLOVE.

It's obvious why I mastered this technique. You know I signed my name with this S for MONTHS.

Forget the crown though. I don't know what dork added that.

Who cares if your ears are pierced? Sticky earrings were the shit no matter what!

Yes. Yes. Yes. After Tinkerbell, you move onto the grown up makeup...Kissing Koolers.
This really was my first razor, so gracefully shoplifted for me by my friend. What a doll.

Two McDonald's references in one post? They sure had some effective marketing, didn't they?

Did you guys read this? I was always troubled by the author's name. How the h-e-double-hockey-sticks do you pronounce Barthe???

Ok, let's all make an agreement to not admit that we watched Zoobilee Zoo. Because we're 5th graders and we're clearly too old for that shizz. And you're right, it's effing creepy. But good. Oh so good.

My girl down there in the red jumpsuit was rocking socks with sandals before it was cool. Waiiiiiiiit....

And finally, the reason that school is tolerable. Thank you Miss Frank. Btdubs, what a weird name for a line of psychedelic school supplies for little girls, right?

Wasn't that fun? I'm pretty glad I did this blog post soley for the fact that I can show my kids one day. Then they can roll their eyes and laugh at me. Then I'll laugh at them. And send them to their rooms.

all via by way of one of my favorite pinners Alison. Guys, go spend two more hours looking at all of these. Especially you Kel. (my best friend is the most nostalgic person I've ever met). 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flashback Friday: No Boys Allowed

I'm flashing back to high school today. High school in general was pretty awesome. I entered it kinda shy and quiet and left four years later as an outspoken class clown. I can't say for sure, but I'm guessing this awesome turnabout of my personality was the product of a single-sex education. We didn't have to worry about what we looked like since our uniforms were all straight fug. If we wore our maroon tights with runs in them two days in a row and they started to smell a bit funky, no one cared. We perfected "the knot" hair-do because we had no boys to impress with blow-dried hair. We just threw it up in a scrunchie right out of the shower and knotted it on top of our heads. We could focus on what type of personality we wanted to be that month without having to impress some boy we had a crush on. We could sit around the cafeteria scarfing fries and rice krispie treats without some d-bag high school boys making comments. We could literally, just be us. I mean, sure there was an all boys school sitting 10 feet away on our campus and every now and then we'd share some classes but they were on our turf. We ran the place and if we wanted to walk around wearing men's boxer shorts hanging out from under our jumpers, then we'd do it.

Unfortch, it seems that this freedom won't be realized by girls in my old 'hood much longer. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has determined that due to their shit-tastic running of their schools, several of our area high schools and grade schools will be closed. My high school is on that list, Archbishop Prendergast High School aka Prendie. They blame underenrollment. They don't blame the shit show they've created behind closed doors of the Archdiocese. This news is huge around here. Around here, when you ask someone where they are from, they respond with their parish...St. Phils, St. Joe's and the like. It's an identity for so many of us growing up here. And when they close those schools, so goes that identity. When they close the only accessible single sex education institution in the area, so goes that freedom to just be yourself.

1998 was the year of the sweater.

Why yes, that is a Wu-Tang shirt I'm wearing. What of it?

A lot of people are on the SAVE PRENDIE!!!!! bandwagon, filling out surveys pledging alumni donations, plastering their Facebook walls with pleas to keep the place open, updating their statuses (stati?) daily with the school's fight song or wondering if they'd just let them walk through one more time. Not I though.  Gathering in a peaceful protest on the school grounds will not move the Archdiocese. They are not moveable. So while I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to have gone to an all girl catholic high school, I won't mourn the loss of the school itself. I've got my best friends, I've got my memories and I've got my personality to show for it.
My super talented writer friend wrote about this sitch much more eloquently. She's one of my favorite fellow alums.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lucky Me


I spent much of the past weekend in a constant state of blissful gratitude. Now you guys know me, I'm not one to wax poetic about the beauty of the world around me and being thankful for everything on earth and all that hooey. In fact, I mostly roll my eyes at that sort of thing.  But after the weekend I had, I realized how much I do have and man, I'm a lucky girl. I just kept running head-on into things that any girl would be thanking the stars for, ya know? So I did. Instead insert God for stars. On Friday night, I headed into town to meet up with my best girls for dinner. To have money to eat out at a fancy joint and drink fancy drinks, to have the funniest effing friends that make me laugh til my side hurts, to have a husband that asks no questions about how much I'm spending or what time I'm coming home. All good things.

That night turned into a late one and when I finally crawled into bed in the wee hours of the morn, I was dreading the next morning. I even considered leaving John a note, begging him for a late wake-up. But I didn't need to. A late wake-up call happened to the tune of a crumbly McDonald's bag and the cure for all that ailed me. This, my friends, is why I married him. We spent our Saturday at Lowes and playing outside and making lists of house to-do's. Because even if we don't have the money to do everything that needs to be done right now, we have an amazing house that not only gives us shelter, it looks cute doing it. Bonus. We've got a nice big yard for our healthy little son to run around in.  See? All these amazing things I've got going for me...it's pretty awesome.
It's weekends like this that I need to re-live on the days when my back pain is relentless and I'm feeling like a less than stellar wife for not cooking dinner.  When I'm calling myself a shitty mom for keeping the tv on all day to entertain Gabe. When I'm feeling the tug of the pursestrings when something unexpected comes up. When it's so easy to get down in the dumps for any number of reasons. I've got a charmed life and I just need to remember it.

Funny enough (not funny at all really),  I wrote this the other day when I was riding high on the gratitude train in the sky. I was all set to publish it when that stupid effing back pain came back. And when that happens, I was like, meh, I don't feel like dealing with the blog. I don't feel like dealing with much. When I'm not stretched out on the couch in the one position that doesn't send shooting pains down my back, I hobble around the house, with an uncanny resemblance to the hunchback of Notre Dame, silently willing Gabe to be perfectly content with the lack of activity. It blows. I've been to the doctor, been put on medicine but the pain comes back. I'm actually going for an MRI today, praying that they find something in which to attribute this pain. So yeah, it's gonna take some extra oomph today to remember how good I have it. And some valium. Which I had prescribed to take before my MRI so I'm not thrashing about because of claustrophobia. Maybe I should have gotten extras. Mother's Little Helper indeed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Making Do in My Living Room

The cleaning, reorganizing and redecorating bug has hit me bad this year. Normally I can't wait to get the decorations down and get the place clean and sparse after the holidays but this year, I'm not going for sparse. I'm going for "decorated". My focus right now is my living room. Here's the deal. When we moved in, we loved the paint color. It's a greeny gray, similar to the middle picture below. Unfortunately, this room is where our old furniture ended up, our old furniture being a charcoal gray sectional sofa (similar to the pic below), a giant matching armchair and a big old tube tv. The furniture clashes with the walls.Yet neither are going anywhere anytime soon.

Another problem I ran into was one that I always said I wouldn't have: letting my child run the show. As in, get rid of the coffee table for his safety. We're now using a tiny little graham cracker covered ottoman as a combination foot stool/coffee table/wipe stash. We also had to block off the back of the tv with side tables so he wouldn't go running back there, chewing on cords.  Function over form apparently. Well that's over. Sort of. He's out of the doing-major-harm stage and he's cut back on his cord chewing habit so I can attempt to put shit back together again. Here's the plan:


So besides re-arranging a few things, I'm adding a couple new things and shopping my house. Even though it may seem silly to buy new pillows when you have a grubby handed little toddler, we are in major need of them. And they're fairly cheap. I'm adding to the gallery wall that I've been slowly putting together with our new photos...mostly giant Gabes everywhere. And a little splurge on the lighting, mostly because John always complains that it's too dark in our living room. Hmmm, I wonder why. The dark couch and the dark walls? You don't say.

I'm also in the market for artwork. Probably something to DIY. Have you seen any cool ideas? The only thing I can think of is paint chip art and frankly, I've had enough of that.

Also, what do you guys have on your windows? We have nice curtains but we also have the dreaded white mini blinds. I don't like them but I like the privacy and light they offer. Are there any other options for me? Halp.

Anyway, I'm hoping this turns out half decent. Because, as I tell John all the time, for as much as I enjoy looking at pretty rooms and stuff, I haven't decorated anything other than a nursery in awhile. He reminds me that I did two nurseries. Whatever. We're on my side here, not John's.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

This is NOT my Christmas Re-Cap, Swears.

I lied. Sorry.

I know, I know, everyone has already moved onto New Years resolution posts and beyond by now and my sorry ass is just now posting about Christmas. Oh well, grin and bear it. Gabe looks cute, that's all we care about right? I swear, one of these days, I'm going to post something of substance. It's my New Years resolution. There, I made this post about New Years, so we're good now, right? Ok good, let's get on with it.

We host our annual Christmas eve dinner at our house. It's a small crew, our fam, my mom, my brother and his kids. Gabe is suspect.

I finally get a ta-da! out of him.

disclaimer: Every picture taken this Christmas sucked. I don't know why. They just did.

And word to the wise Shan, pea soup green is not your color. Lose it. Meanwhile, that's another one of my New Years resolutions...Stop buying cheap clothes that don't work for me. See? This is clearly a New Years post.

After the oblig photo shoot by the tree, we moved into the dining room for dinner. Two memorable things happened. No, three. 1) Someone, and I don't know who, spilled their glass of fruit punch all over the table. No biggie. Except my elaborate centerpiece consisted of about 89 different pieces, as seen here. Mad scramble to get everything off the table and sop up the punch. Oh well, it only made Gabe's mess that much more tolerable. 2) Gabe learned how to use a real fork. He just picked it up and went to town on his spaghetti and meatballs. And 3) my party cracker didn't have a toy inside! Not fair!

We then moved onto presents. Gabe was a fan. Yeah play tent yeah! That's mine!


My mom gave gabe this guitar that plays The Police. It.is.awesome. Why don't more toys play classic rock?

Gabe says, "May the odds be ever in your favor."

It's a Gabe inabox!

I love this next pic even if it's blurry. Let's all just lay under the tree, ok?

Then we put out candy cane Jo-Jo's and milk for Santa. Note to self: buy cuter Santa plate.

So after Gabe went to bed, Santa came and put up the 2nd tree. I think it was worth it.

He liked it.

Good thing those Christmas pj's came in a two pack. Christmas Eve is not exempt from leakage.

I just thought that one was funny.

I feel like Gabe looks a lot like Biebs in this pic, don't you? Oh and this sled was his favorite gift from Santa.

And while technically it's his 2nd viewing of A Christmas Story on Christmas morn, last year didn't count. This year, he was mesmerized by the Bumpus hounds.

Yay Christmas!
Sorry I tricked you.


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