Before and After: A Basket and a Backstory

Yesterday was one of those days.

Our playdate got cancelled for the morning and we have been cooped up all week with colds. Adam had a four-hour conference call and would not be joining us for some lunch-time relief. Ellis is definitely showing his three these days. Both boys refused to nap, and by 3pm I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed a moment not holding, looking at or instructing my kids. So I packed them up in the car for a five-minute voyage to the dump. Both the kids rear-face (a post for another time) and sitting back-to-back in the car was just the break from each other that we all needed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in the country, but I have a three day max for staying home. We usually stay pretty busy with playgroup, storytimes and outings during the week. Because of our colds we were on day five of stay at home quarantine.

The dump is a perfect distraction. It is only three miles away. Ellis might see a dump truck and there is the swap shop. The swap shop is the place where you can leave or take anything that isn’t ready to be trashed. We have found some gems there. Everything from the duck bank (a favorite among toddlers who love to feed him pennies) to big vintage speakers for Adam’s stereo to our dining chairs.


On this lucky day I found a basket I had coveted for a long time.


I love baskets. The bigger the better. I use them for everything all over the house. There is a very fancy African import shop in town that sells these baskets, but they are too rich for me, so for years I have just admired. Sure this basket was busted (or more accurately “toe up” according to the random guy standing around at the swap shop), but it was the basket I had always wanted. So I pounced on it.

And I remembered my resolution to slow down and take some “before” pics when I start a new project. Which I did. Before, during and after pics. I haven’t completely accomplished my resolution to slow down (I did decide to start this project during the witching hour between dinner and bedtime in which our whole house falls apart) but I had waved my white flag and surrendered to this day hours earlier. By that point of the night, Adam was already running the show, so I felt ok diving right in. (I also started writing this post before I actually finished the project, but hey, baby steps.)

So to give this basket new life I trimmed off the broken top and needed to finish the edge somehow. I tried black and tan yarn, but really the yarn was too thick and it kept splitting the wraps on the row beneath it, so I ended up using a variegated ribbon. I just stitched it all around the top edge of the basket.

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Here is the after shot, with a toddler model in the basket, for scale.

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So the basket redo ended up being a good save to an otherwise frustrating day. Baskets for the win!

Musical Theories

I have no musical sense. One year my new year’s resolution was to learn how to clap on beat. I did it, but it took me all year.

I can, and do, listen to the same song over and over, because I like familiar things and I don’t care much what something sounds like. So I don’t ever really want to hear new music.

I often have to ask Adam what instrument I am hearing in a song. The conversation goes like this:

Me: What is that sound?

Adam: A drum

I often confuse Neil Diamond and Neil (the other one… Armstrong? Just kidding Adam, I just wrote that because I know you are going to edit this…Actually I really can’t remember his name…apparently it is Neil Young). I am not sure they are actually different people.

All of this kills Adam a little. He was in a band in high school. He still jams with some other dads when he can. He plays guitar, base, mandolin, drums, piano and the occasional harmonica. He loves music.

Adam was deeply concerned that our children might inherit my lack of musical interest or understanding. He was most afraid that our kids would only recognize the voices from NPR. He was very proactive in the pursuit of our children’s musical education and he started early. When Ellis was incubating Adam would put headphones on my belly and play a new song for him every night. Adam called himself “DJ daddy” after reading an article about how babies can recognize their parents voices at birth. In fact, Adam’s first words to Ellis were: “Hi baby. It’s DJ daddy.”

As the boys grew Adam implemented one rule, which has made all of the difference: No Kids Music in the Good House.

Adam developed this rule when he was a manny. He didn’t have any kids music and he taught his charges how to listen to “real” music in the car. According to Adam “all music is kids music.”

I am fine with this because I hate the sound of children signing and lots of music for kids seems to be sung by kids. So this ban really was a win-win in our house.

The good news is that Ellis seems to have his father’s musical taste. His current favorite songs are: Boogie Monster (by Dangermouse and CeeLo) and Ruby Soho by Rancid.

Does Eric have strong opinions on the musical environment in your house? I would love the opinion of a pro musician Dad on this one.


Not a paid or promo post

When I was on maternity leave and stressing about becoming a working mama, a friend of mine from church told me about Stitch Fix. It’s a customized box-shipment. Think, personalized stylist delivers clothes in your size to your door. I love nothing more than getting packages so for $20 I figured it would be worth the experiment and a nice “back to work” gift for myself. I scheduled the delivery for the Friday of my first week back.


My first “fix” I only kept one of the five items and, I probably would have sent it back except my $20 went toward the top. It was just a sweet navy button down tank that I actually wear all the time now but I’m sure I could have found it for cheaper had I looked on my own. I think that my description of myself as a new mom threw them off though because all they gave me were cotton maxi skirts that, while pretty, were wildly overpriced at $60 and $70. The curse of being crafty is that I know what it takes to make a maxi skirt and the hour plus $10 of jersey just doesn’t add up to that price point.


I did refer it to a few people though so my second “fix” was styled for free and I wanted to give it another go. When it arrived I loved EVERYTHING. Drat. Fortunately, you get 25% off when you keep it all. The fix netted me a dress, short sleeve top with a deep V back, cardigan, a raglan long sleeved top with a pretty chain print and a tank.IMG_2939

I bragged on the service so much the second time, that I got three more referrals. Plus, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a gift card for Christmas. Bonus! I had my third fix scheduled already in advance of an upcoming event. It arrived last week and I’m pretty happy with it! Unfortunately the dress I totally loved didn’t fit (I blame the fact that I’m still nursing) and so I forwent the 25% discount. I wound up keeping two of the pieces a textured color block top and a pin tuck jersey tank. The Chambray shirt was awesome and incredibly soft but overpriced in my opinion and a cute cardigan that was just a bit too trendy and pricey for me.


I pride myself in being eternally thrifty, and that really hasn’t changed, but the time I can allocate to digging through thrift stores is very limited these days. Supplementing my bargain wardrobe with a few more current pieces that push my style a little bit has been well worth it. I also love how they send you recommendations for styling because they definitely suggest things I wouldn’t have thought of yet. Here’s my referral link in case anyone’s interested in checking it out.

The last 7 months as a working mom have had some major ups and downs. One thing I know for sure is that finding shortcuts and treating yourself from time to time are a must. I definitely believe in freeing up myself so that the time I do spend with Luke each day is as focused on him as possible. Stitch Fix is one of the ways I’ve been able to do that.

Mamas, whatever you do each day, find a way to treat yourself, you deserve it.

The Curse of the Afters

I realized the other day that I have upgraded eleven (11!) chairs since we started the blog. I was in such a hurry to get each of these projects done that I took zero before pics. And by hurry I don’t mean “oh I can’t wait to do this project this weekend” I mean “let’s start ripping off fabric in the car on the way home because I can’t stand it.”

My impatience means we get stuff done. Lots of stuff. That is the blessing. Things are constantly changing places or colors around here. I sprayed these blue yesterday even though we are in a deep freeze and expecting an ice storm. My urges wait for no weather. I am like the post office- I just cannot be deterred.


The curse is that we have to rush through everything to get it done. No stopping for pictures, no mulling it over and no time to research the best option. I am not a perfectionist, so this method really works for me. I just want it done and it doesn’t need to be just right as long as I can cross it off my to-do list. Roundups work a lot better for me than tutorials, so without further ado (and without any before pictures) here are the “afters” of all of these chairs:


Six dining chairs for the beach house



Four free chairs I found for free at the swap shop


These ten were pretty quick changes since they are all vintages chairs from a time when chairs were designed for easy updates. The fact that old chairs were made to be recovered easily gives me endless joy.

The 11th chair Adam calls my “Frankenstein unicorn.” I had a chair that I liked, but I needed it roll for it to work. I bought an office chair to replace it only to discover that it was one inch too wide for my desk, so we took the bottom rolling part of the wide chair and paired it with the top pretty part of my old chair and now it is perfect.


Part of my issue is I don’t like following directions, so it is hard for me to write them out in a tutorial. I have to force myself to take notes when I knit since I usually don’t use a pattern, but I also can’t be bothered to remember anything. Currently I am knitting a baby blanket that I have knit 6 times before, but I have never written down how many stitches to cast on, so I have to reinvent the wheel each time. Arg. What is wrong with me?

Perhaps my only New Year’s Resolution (learn how to cook with capers) needs to be expanded a little to something that will make my life easier. I need to set a goal to set myself up a little better by slowing down a little.

I do love it when I surprise myself by making something easier. For instance, at Christmas I hang about 100 tiny vintage ornaments in our front window. In the past, this task usually takes hours. I was delighted to unwrap the ornaments this year and discover that last year I had packed them up with the strings attached so all I had to do was hook them on the nails (that were still up from last year) instead of restringing every single one. I thanked my former self for that little gift. I think I need more of that in my life.

I know my future self will thank my past self if I can just get it together in the present. I hereby declare this the year of focusing on the “befores.” Hopefully I will have something to show for it sometime soon on the blog.


There are a bunch of things that I want to record for my own memory but they don’t fit neatly in a blog post, so here is a random list of what Luke’s been up to these days.

  • Clapping, peek-a-boo and “touchdown” all revealed themselves during dinner one night last week. I was beside myself at all the things he had finally put together that day.
  • Saying daddy, momma and turtle, his first words in that order. I actually think the fact that he says mommy and turtle makes up for him saying daddy first. He’s getting close to saying Kitty and thank you. He says “oh” when he purposefully drops food at the dinner table.IMG_2984
  • Eating everything…there really isn’t a food he doesn’t like except for peaches and I have to fight the compulsion to give them to him just because it’s so weird to me. Just for kicks I gave him rosemary garlic sourdough bread that I get at the farmers market, it’s super flavorful and I thought he’d make a face. Not this kid, he was clambering for more.
  • Throwing. This may be a problem; more for our neighbors downstairs than for us. Luke likes to take all his hard toys and toss them across the hardwood floor to make as much noise as possible. His favorite time to play this game is 6 am.IMG_2965
  • He’s so close to walking I don’t know what to do with myself. We’ve gotten a few wobbly steps here and there and he races around when he’s holding onto one of us or his little push cart so as soon as he gets confident I know we’re done for.
  • The confidence walking and standing has led to some spectacular dancing and Luke’s love for music is really showing through. We recently took him up to the recording studio where Eric works and let him sit behind the soundboard and listen to one of the pieces Eric recorded. He immediately began bopping to the beat and moving the levels. I think he’s a natural.IMG_2996

This list kind of reminds me of when we used to write letters back and forth during your PeaceCorps days. Remember how I used to send you stupid rid-bits about books and pop culture even when you were so far away. I could never wait to get to my apartment to read your letters and would wind up rushing through them in the elevator on my way to the door. I remember getting the letter telling me you were getting engaged and throwing open the door to my apartment with tears of happiness, Eric really thought I was crazy then!

Hope you are having a great week my dear!


The Most Wonderful Time

The end of December was a roller coaster. Just when I was getting myself prepped for a final push at work and then a nice long quiet trip to the East Coast, we got some wild news. We would need to admit Luke to the hospital.

It turns out that Luke’s pneumonia was compounded with a case of RSV, a lung virus. Breathing was difficult for him and his oxygen levels were lower than the doctors would have liked. The poor little guys immune system had been pounded with one thing after another and the doctor thought it would be best to give him some time to recoup.

The hardest part was that our doctor recommended admitting us immediately through the Emergency Room, so not only were we not prepared for a hospital stay but we had a team of doctors who were–in their best impersonations of Dr. House–asking us every possible question under the sun to determine what was going on. I appreciate their thorough approach but it made for a scary few hours. Watching your little one go through test after test is a miserable experience. I would have gladly hoped on that exam table if it would have been any help, but our little trooper took it in stride as best he could.

Once we were on the pediatric floor, the nurses and doctors were incredibly human and did a great job helping us keep Luke as comfortable as possible and even gave us good advice on tests that we could do or tests we could possibly skip. At that point it was really a matter of waiting for his oxygen levels to return to normal though so that really helped. In some ways, navigating all the monitors and IVs made it feel like having a brand new baby all over again. Still, as tough as it was, I’m always so thankful for Eric in situations like this one and we wind up coming out of the situation closer than ever. He is always great with Luke but he had us both cracking up with a makeshift puppet show using some of the gifts from the hospital — laughs we needed for sure!

After two days, we finally got the okay to head home but our holiday travel plans were up in the air. Thankfully, after some negotiations with the airline, advice from our pediatrician and hard thinking on our part, we got the green light to head East for a shorter visit. We still fit in the visits with siblings, cousins, Eric’s grandmother (Luke’s GiGi) and friends from high school and college. Here are some of my favorite photos from our holiday festivities:

It was an amazing first trip with Lucas and spending time with him and nearly our entire extended family made for an amazing week. Hoping for many great holiday seasons in the years to come but this was a really great one for sure.

Ellis’ Birth Story

My big boy turns 3 years old today!

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In honor of his big day and in light of the fact that he had a somewhat unusual birth (born naturally in water at a birth center, which accounts for less than 2% of births in the US) I am sharing his birth story.


On January 4, 2012 you were “due.” Your Grandma Mary and I took Tess for a walk. While we were walking I started having mild “waves” (contractions in Hypnobabies language. We used Hypnobabies to prepare for the birth). Every 15 or 20 minutes I would feel some pressure in my belly. It felt exciting. After we had made one loop around the park we decided to keep walking so that I could keep feeling the waves. We walked from 2:30-4 in the afternoon. At four we got in the car and drove into Pittsboro. I saw some crazy Adirondack chairs at the Habitat store and I almost bought them, but then the reality that you might be arriving set in and it wasn’t the best time to figure out moving chairs. We stopped at the Chatham Market and bought our favorite cannolis. We drove home and I told your daddy that I was having waves if I walked. He was very excited and we decided to go for a walk. We walked around the farm until the sun set.

When it was too dark and cold to walk we came home and called our doula, Joanne. I told her I was having waves 12-20 minutes apart if I walked. I told her I wanted to keep walking. She said that wasn’t a great idea. She told me to eat dinner and go to bed so that I would be well rested for when you decided to arrive. That is what I did. We ate curry that Sue made for co-op and our cannolis while we watched a Maria Bamford documentary. In our birth class we learned that laughing and relaxing are good ways to prepare for birthing. We laughed a lot. I decided to take a bath before bed. Your dad and I talked while I took a bath. I told him that I didn’t want to just watch TV and go to bed. I told him we needed to do something important and meaningful before you arrived. I suggested we start a non-profit. He suggested we go to bed.

At 10:30 before we went to sleep I really wanted an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. I didn’t often crave food at night so this was out of the ordinary. We live far away from fancy pretzels, but your dad made me a bagel with butter. We put on the hypnosis CD and fell asleep.

At midnight I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. When I peed I noticed that I was bleeding. I woke your dad up and told him. We decided to call the Birth Center to let them know. They told us to go back to bed. As soon as I laid down I felt the first real wave of labor. There was no way I could go back to sleep. I started having contractions every five minutes. At first I used the hypnosis and breathed through each wave. When it got harder your Dad went downstairs and got your Grandma Mary. She came up to the bedroom and rubbed my back and helped me as I tried to use the hypnosis to ease some of the pressure.

We called the Birth Center again and they suggested I take a bath. We filled up the tub and I labored in the bath for about 40 minutes until I was just too uncomfortable. We also called the doula and asked her to come to the house. It was clear to us that you were on your way, although since you were my first baby everyone thought you would take a bit longer to show up than you did.

You dad carefully timed each contraction and recorded how often I was eating, drinking and peeing. The Birth Center wanted us to wait until the contractions were one minute long and three minutes apart for an hour. By 3:30 they were coming that quickly and we called the Birth Center and said we needed to come in. They agreed to have the midwife meet us at the birth center at 4:30am. They also said it would probably be “several more hours” which freaked mommy out a bit because at that point, even though it had only been three hours, it was getting intense. I wasn’t sure I had “several more hours” in me (fortunately I didn’t have to wait that long, but we will get to that).

When I got out of the bath the doula arrived. I was having a very hard time using the hypnosis to cope. She suggested that I move around during waves if that felt right. She also gave me permission to be vocal. I really needed that. I was pretty loud after that. Joanne massaged my back and I continued having contractions in bed. I tried a few waves swaying with Grandma Mary and then Daddy. I didn’t like the way Daddy’s grey sweater smelled and I told him to change. He did.

We tried to get into the car, but it took us a half an hour to get out the door because I kept having to stop to have waves. It was very cold, but I had on lots of clothes and was burning up. Daddy tried to turn on the heat, but I wanted him to roll down the windows instead. He froze and had to sit on his hands to keep warm. The labor got really intense during the drive (looking back now we know I was transitioning, but we didn’t know that then). The waves kept coming and there just wasn’t a break. I felt extremely nauseous as well. I was the longest 25-minute drive I have ever taken. We saw five deer on the road though.

We got to the Birth Center at 5am. I had a contraction as we parked, another one as soon as I got out of the car and one in the hallway on the way to our room. We burst through the Birth Center doors and fell on the first bed I saw and had another difficult contraction. I threw up a little which startled me. We found out that our favorite midwife, Leigh Ann, was on call.

Leigh Ann checked to see how far progressed I was. I didn’t want to know the number in case it was low and it would freak me out. She checked me and said “I really want to tell you your number. You are a 9. Get in the tub.”

They filled up a big hot bath, my third of the night. I jumped in just as I was feeling “pushy.” I looked at your dad and asked, “Are we ready for this?” And he said, “Yes, of course we are.” So I started pushing, and after transition the pushing felt really good. Although the actual contractions were really intense in the lull in between it didn’t even seem like I was in labor. It was still dark outside and the lights were very dim and calm in the room. I pushed and pushed with each contraction and you moved down. You were in a great position. Daddy held my hand and helped me growl through each contraction so I would keep my voice nice and low. After about 45 minutes of floating in the water and pushing you were ready to be born.

On the last push your head came out and your little arm was up (like Superman). At 6:12 am with one final push the rest of your body slid out and Leigh Ann caught you and swooped you up out of the water onto my chest. I looked shocked that you were there. And your daddy kept saying “He’s here. He’s here.” You cried a gurgly little cry all on your own. Since you were bright pink and crying and doing really well you got to stay cuddled on my chest in the warm water covered in a warm blanket. Leigh Ann told me I was a rockstar, and I felt like one.


The placenta came out with the next contraction (I couldn’t believe I had to have another contraction since you were in my arms!). They floated the placenta in a bowl in the water and your daddy cut your umbilical cord. Then it was time to get out of the bath. I was bleeding a lot so I got a shot of pitocin to help stop the bleeding and they helped me to the bed so I could be stitched up. I tore a little and had to get a few stitches.

While the nurse and midwife took care of me, your Daddy took off his shirt and held you skin to skin. You peed your first pee on him, which he said was lucky. We cuddled you for an hour before they wheeled in a scale and daddy weighed you. You weight 8 pounds 5 ounces when you were born. We thought you had dark hair but as you dried off we saw that you were a little blond-haired blue-eyed baby. (You are 4 months old as I write this and you are still blond and blue. )

We called Grammy and Grandma Mary and told them you were here. They were surprised you came so quickly. We asked them to bring us bagels and a giant turkey sandwich for me. They came to the Birth Center to meet you. At 2 in the afternoon we headed home. You slept the whole way home. In fact, you were very sleepy for the first few days. You spent your first night cuddled in our bed, part of one big happy family.



Is it just me or did 2014 go by in a blink?

New Year’s really isn’t my favorite holiday — the forced fun and high expectations rarely pan out — but I do love setting goals and aspiring to new better things in the year ahead. So, in the spirit of public accountability, I thought I’d share my resolutions here. I like to make specific resolutions so they may sound silly but, it works for me, so here we go:

1.) Get outside. You’d think this would be surprisingly easy in Southern California but it can quickly go the wayside when it’s too hot or it’s a late night getting home due to traffic. I’m 10 times happier when I’ve spent at least a half hour a day in the fresh air. This was a resolution of mine two years ago and it’s one I really worked on and liked it a lot so it’s back for a reprise.

2.) More (non-knitting) crafts. I’ve pinned more than 100 crafts on my pintrest Craft Time board, I’d like to tackle at least one a month this year. None of them seem super time intensive so I think this will be manageable.

3.) Read and write. Making time for things I love and that replenish me has been hard since Luke has been born. I’m sure every mom everywhere just nodded her head. But, finding a few minutes a day to read has been really fulfilling for me the last few weeks and I most definitely want to continue. Writing this blog, and staying in touch with you, Kat, is definitely another one of those things that I want to continue this year as a few minutes a week for myself.

4.) Save. Each year, Eric and I set a savings goal. It’s fun to have something to work toward as a couple, and the last two years we set a “reasonable” goal and a “stretch” goal since we have income that’s variable. We hit our stretch goal both years, which I’m particularly proud of this year since Luke was born and I took off for four months to stay home with him. This year, we’re going to carry over the goal amounts and add in a 529 savings plan to start putting money away for Luke’s college education.

5.) Be present. Having a child and a career, wanting to still maintain some part of my pre-motherhood life, and finding the balance of living far away from our families but still having time with them — I find it very easy to fall into a state of always wanting more and waiting for the next “stage”. I can already sense from the last 10 months with Lucas that time with him is going to fly and I want to really make the most of the time he’s little. A great book of meditations has helped me with this the last few years and my (lapsed) yoga practice so I think both of those things will help me center myself and realize how great we have things right now.

Anyhow, we’ll see if I make it past Valentine’s Day with any of these resolutions but either way, here’s to a healthy and happy year ahead for us all!