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New for April

20 Apr

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Spring, where for art thou? I bought pansies last week intending to plant my window boxes but New England had other ideas. Today it snowed.

In my attempt to escape the misery of this endless winter season and trick myself into patience as I await the bright and early AM coverage of the royal wedding, a few weeks ago I decided to investigate who this Meghan Markle was and what her show “Suits” was all about.

Now I’m not usually one to gush about something as low brow as television. But before you stop reading — I promise, this is leading somewhere you want to go. I should note that I am NOT a network TV-watcher. I was never a huge consumer of television before I met my husband, but Brian slowly turned me into a television snob. It started slowly: The Office. Thirty Rock. Parks & Recreation. Do you see where this is going? The quality shows. Now I almost exclusively watch Netflix and Amazon original series’ because they are just so damn good.

Suits - Season 6But Suits blew me away. I didn’t expect too much so I happily dove ahead, right into Season 7, (skipping seasons 1-6 because I’m impatient like that) but quickly fell hard for the snappy, intelligent, hilarious bromance between Harvey and Mike. The writing is superb and I find myself laughing over various lines, or often, little facial expressions I’ll recall Donna or Harvey or Mike making in something I’ve just watched.  IT’S JUST SO GOOD, so trust me and watch. And Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane, well.

Meghan-Markle-Suits-PicturesShe. Is. Exquisite.

Full on girl crush over here. Move over Price Harry, because I get it. If Meghan is at all like her character on the show, Rachel Zane, it all makes sense. Also, her HAIR IS ALWAYS AMAZING. I don’t know if I tooootally buy that “a mutual friend set them up” all blind date like, because if I was him and I watched the show which I have a sneaking suspicion that he did, you bet I’d be pulling all the strings to find a mutual friend to help get it set up, too. But watching almost five whole seasons of her has been such a luxurious treat and I can’t wait to see what her choices are as far as the wedding goes because she clearly has incredible taste and is stunning.

Also, as someone who used to watch Gossip Girl purely to admire the fashion and to figure out how (HOW) Blake Lively’s mane was as glorious as it was, between Donna, Rachel, and Gina, (ok, and Harvey, with his peaked lapels and Windsor-knotted ties; see a great Suits style breakdown here), Suits fills a void in me that is starved for elevated, subtle, corporate-world style. Jolie Andreatta, the costume designer, is killing it. Here’s a great collection of some amazing looks from the show. I had been getting my fill from Mireille Enos on The Catch, but it hasn’t had as long a run and the witty banter between the two leads isn’t quite as quippy.

Suits - Season 6But back to Suits. The first few seasons are especially amazing, so I’ve been loving the opportunity to watch them back to back, en masse like this. I say opportunity like I have no children, job, or life. As I write this, I’m hiding in our office, kids asleep, laundry and housework all in need of attention, yet all I can think is: do I have time for one more ‘Suits’? It helps that episodes are only about 40 minutes long. I feel like it’s also worth mentioning that it took me almost all of Seasons 7 and 1 before I stopped confusing Gabriel Macht for Johnny Lee Miller, of Hackers fame. I KNEW I’d seen and loved him in something but couldn’t quite place him. Well, when it finally hit me, it was like I was hit in the face with a ton of bricks: He was Johnny from one of my fav ever Diane Keaton collabs.

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Does anyone reading remember a little film called Because I Said So? It was the movie that first introduced me to the magic of a Diane Keaton film set. (How about that Hampton’s House, am I right?) Also, knitwear. This is totally an aside but, do you know that Diane Keaton had her knitwear for that film specially made by a luxury knitwear designer? I learned this during a deep dive one night while I was fantasizing about how I will one day, eventually, (in my spare time), master knitting my daughters’ luxurious, Norwegian-inspired, heirloom-quality knitwear. Obviously.

Anyways, in the film, which is terrible but I love anyway, Mandy Moore plays one of Keaton’s daughters. The love-afflicted one. She also happens to be a chef which is the real reason this film has a special place in my heart. I love movies about chefs — even if they’re terrible. I can’t help it. Anyways, this specific film introduced me to the magic of a “Lady Baltimore” cake — Keaton baked it for Mandy Moore in the film, and ever since, it has topped my “To Try Someday” list and I will go to my grave with it still at the top of that list probably, seeing as it’s been like 10 years since I first saw this damn movie, and have yet to make the cake.

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Johnny, played to adorable affect by Gabriel Macht, was the guy I’ve had in my fantasies forever more or less, since the first pages of Pride and Prejudice were seared into my heart, in that he appreciated “Milly” (Mandy Moore’s character), just as she is. Much like Mark Darcy appreciated Bridget Jones, just as she is. (Hang on, there is an amazing connection here that I’m rambling my way to. Just hang on!) That, and those brooding, dark brown eyes. Because good God, what is he wearing throughout that film. And why is his hair that color? Yikes.

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Although the second Bridget Jones’s Diary was absolutely horrid, this is in direct inverse contrast to the bright beacon of light HIS REAL LIFE WIFE, Jacinda Barrett was in the film, as the misconstrued love interest of none other than… Bridget. The fact that these two real life celebs had two roles I absolutely adored them in in two films I really appreciated just makes me all that much more certain that there is someone pulling the celestial strings somewhere and that deja vu really is something important… but, I digress. If you’re still even with me and were able to follow any of that…

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Then the last thing I need to mention as far as weird celestial coincidences is this: Amanda Schull from Center Stage is ALSO on Suits, as is Gina Torres, from the previously mentioned The Catch. And both are absolute bad ass bitches (excuse my French) in their roles. I particularly adore Amanda as Katarina, Louis’ devoted Associate. She plays her absolutely perfectly and I love to see the dancer I wanted to BE way back when, resurface in a totally different role. And as for Gina, well — I can’t wait for her spinoff.

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But back to the show. It is really amazing and you need to watch. Trust me! Seasons 1-6 are free on Amazon Prime right now.

If you need more convincing, the stories about what they’re like on set make me chuckle. As do the bloopers. Enjoy and happy weekend!

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Plans, Travel, Kids + Blessings

13 Feb

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The plan had been to return to Hawaii last year to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. But I was due to deliver our second child in June. Then we thought, OK, Paris in the spring next year to celebrate TEN years. But we have two weddings to attend in May. And then a third, big, big one that I’m IN in October for one of my absolute best friends — I’m her matron of honor. It was shaping up to be kind of a busy year on the wedding front so we knew we’d have to scrap Paris before we even rang in 2018.

As I was reflecting on all of this earlier tonight and hating myself for how ungrateful I was sounding in my head, lamenting all these wonderful invitations to celebrate with our friends, I started to think about my daughter. I’m finally feeling a little better after weeks of sickness in our house, so we hit the road for the mall earlier today. Exciting, I know, but I had never attempted a solo excursion to a bigger mall with both the girls, but wanted to bring E to The Disney Store, so it was an excursion with a capital “E” if you know what I mean.

Emilia was so well behaved and Caroline, well… second babies. She’s a dream. Sooner than I’d planned, I found myself steering the rig stroller toward the Disney Store as a reward for all this excellent behavior. Emilia lept from the stroller at my insistence and RAN — hair streaming behind her, little arms pumping, straight to the mouse ears, a girl on a mission. I just wish I’d filmed it. It went something like this as she arrived breathless through the door: WOW MAMA! LOOKIT! FROZEN! ELENA OF AVALOR! ALL MY FAVORITE THINGS!

I was practically dead from the adorableness of it all.

She tore through the store hugging dolls, rolling a suitcase beside her, and even lying on the floor at one point to get a better look at a selection of “figures” as she calls them, of all the Disney princesses.  In that moment, I probably fell in love with my little girl a hundred times over, which I’m sure many other parents can relate to. One moment, you’re fit to tear your hair out because they’re throwing a tantrum over one thing or another and the next, the unabashed enthusiasm they show for a set of figurines causes your heart to swell up to the point that you think you might choke with adoration and devotion to this little person who is propped up on her elbows, belly down on the floor, inspecting the wares at the Disney Store.

It was a whopping reminder to me that they’re not going to be this little forever, and while the days are very long and hard a lot of the time, this period of our lives together is so brief in the grand scheme of things. The fact that strangers stop me when I’m out with the girls and say: Gosh, I miss that age so much. Mine are grown! should tell you something.

It also made me realize that the Disney trip I’d been envisioning happening when the girls are older and will appreciate it — something said to me repeatedly as far as kids and travel are concerned — should happen far sooner than even I had realized. The time is now! I never realized how brief the window is for Disney magic through an almost-three year old’s eyes until today. How many Disney trips can we squeeze in before she grows out of this phase? It was a total perspective shift, I’m telling you.

All this to say, as much as I’d love to sneak away for an adults-only vacation soon and check some locales off my “Dream Travel” bucket list, (I’m looking at you, Denmark), what I’m doing right now is pretty great too. It may not be the kind of adventure you see pinned to travel boards on Pinterest or Instagrammed all over a friends’ feed, but it’s messy and beautiful and fun all on it’s own, so maybe it’s best to count my blessings.

And maybe start to think about planning our first family trip — to Disney.

 

Garden Update: Spring/Summer To Do List

11 Feb

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The minute our Christmas tree is down in early January (usually late January most years, ahem) my mind turns to our yard and garden. Lately, my obsession is winter gardens, but that’s a post for another day. Garden planning is a pull that has existed for as long as I can remember, long before we bought this house and my imagination finally had the room to run wild. I just love to dream up what could be as far as making a space beautiful, both indoors and out.

That said, summer bodies are made in winter — or something like that. For now, I’m trying to set aside my stack of books and seed catalogs and focus instead on the nitty gritty of planning out our landscape overhaul starting with an update of what we have left to accomplish, what we will abandon, and what we’ll need to add to from our spring/summer 2017 garden to do list.

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1. Stump and tree removal in the backyard

This was partially addressed last spring when we had the massive, gnarly stump just off our patio ground. Since grass wouldn’t grow over the shallow-rooted area, the area surrounding our table and chairs was a perpetual mud pit.

2. Deal with the chipmunks

I struggle with this one because I know the damage they can do to the foundation of a house and I’m nearly certain ours have burrowed up against the entire perimeter of our house and garage. Many recommended something called a “death bucket” which is apparently the most humane way to kill chipmunks, but I’m holding out for a better solution, like catch and release. I’ll share more information once I find something.

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3. Remove two shrubs under kitchen window

Done! Brian tackled this one in early spring last year and it really opened up the whole patio area. I just wish we’d done it sooner.

4. Level the backyard

We’re really dragging our feet on this one but it’s probably my number one priority since the uneveness all over drives me bonkers. It just feels like SUCH a massive undertaking since we’ll have to totally reseed the lawn which isn’t something I relish after weathering a winter indoors. It might be something we just learn to live without because I can’t see a good time to tackle it.

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5. Redo and build-out the patio

Hopefully this spring we’ll finally make some progress on this. I have a much better idea of what we need thanks to an entire summer/fall and now winter to ponder our wants and needs and one of the greatest shockers is that I now want to KEEP the flagstone. I’ve always been interested in recycling and reusing, but as I’ve studied landscape design and sustainability, it’s become clear that the best designs make use of existing raw materials, so I want to follow suit. Plus, I always liked the color that the flagstone provided, so I’d like to see what can be done to perk it up a bit.

6 Build-up berms along the back perimeter

This might be yet another we adapt or abandon. I loved the idea once upon a time, but the fact is, berms will probably damage the fence so it may be best to just let this one go and start to visualize something new.

7. Seed the lawn

See #4. If we grade, then we’ll seed then. Although, I guess it can’t hurt to see over the bare spots? Something to look into.

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8. Start our vegetable garden

Check! It wasn’t at ALL where I’d thought it would be and I was so uncomfortably pregnant by the time planting time came around in the early spring that it didn’t feel like a full effort to get it off the ground ever really happened, but we did technically start it and the tomato output along made it worthwhile. We also managed to establish a patch of 25 raspberry bushes that actually produced berries, much to E’s delight.

I do need to rethink how we approach it though because we don’t have the full sun required to grow what I’d hoped we could, so I may need to look into alternative spots to throw some plants — front yard gardening anyone?

9. Plant privacy trees and shrubs on back perimeter

No progress here. I did purchase one arborvitae but the list of trees we would like to add is long and expensive, starting with: pear trees, a blue spruce and finally, I’m absolutely drooling over specimen trees. I really, really want a Japanese maple to stare at adoringly as I sip my morning coffee this summer.

10. Install side yard arbor and gate; plant clematis and roses

This is a great example of a To Do that I’m glad we never got to. With young kids, I don’t think more fence opening makes sense, now that I’ve had more time to live in our home, particularly one to a very busy main road. Sure, a rose-covered arbor would be charming and lovely and it would be so nice to have a cut-through to the front yard from the side, but nothing is worth the risk of endangering our children.

11. Purchase lounge chair seating

This one is very high on my list for this spring/summer. I’ve wanted to find really great quality steamer chairs for years. I love Adirondack chairs as much as the rest of the population, but after I sat in a steamer chair on the Vineyard with Brian about 6 years ago, on my first trip there actually, just before our wedding, I was basically spoiled for life. Picture an adirondack lounge chair. I’ve kept my eye out for them online and even on Craigslist, but I think it’s the kind of thing I may need to “know a guy” for because  everything I’ve found online so far looks too cheap to be the quality I’m looking for. I’m holding out for a truly sturdy teak chair. The search continues.

12. Find the perfect hammock

This should be a priority since lounging in the afternoon shade with a lemonade and a book sounds like absolute heaven to me, but the fact is, we don’t have a spot to hang one yet! I’d hoped to have planted some trees this past fall, but we didn’t end up doing it so this one may be on hold indefinitely, much as it saddens me.

13. Find a swing set for Emilia

Done! After an exhaustive search, I think I found the set that will blow our daughter’s mind and it was shockingly affordable. We went with a Sportspower Mountain View metal swing set. Beyond its amazing price, the features that sold me were the flying saucer and a trampoline. Sometimes a bargain price raises a red flag, but after pouring over hundreds of rave reviews, I was persuaded to take a chance. I know the cedar swing sets look really beautiful in a backyard and I was incredibly tempted, but I think the most important aspect of a swing set is the variety of ride-on/play features and I’m just not convinced those playhouse towers on most of the wood sets really get used enough to justify having them. In addition to the saucer and trampoline I mentioned, our  also has two swings and a glider — that means it can accommodate up to eight children at a time. Now, the big project is going to be preparing the space for play set installation. This involves jackhammering up a cement slab once used for a fireplace, leveling the most irregular slope of our yard, and finding an alternate way to source/DIY woodchips or playground safety fiber. You know, something two parents can do on their own some weekend.

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14. Install front window boxes

Done! Although we only managed to install, but not fill our window boxes until the second week of August last year, we were able to enjoy them in both fall AND winter and now they’re installed on all windows on the front of the house and we have one on the yard-facing window of the garage. For fall, I transplanted some of the ivy we have growing in our yard and then filled in with mini mums. For winter, I smooshed chicken wire into the boxes, then filled in with various evergreens, including some of the cut branches from our (and our neighbors’) Christmas trees. Smooshed is a recognized gardening term right? I filled in with some faux red berry branches for some interest.

All in all, not a terrible progress update on reflection. I’d thought we hadn’t gotten to much but considering that I was pregnant for the first half of the year and then caring for a newborn for much of the rest, we got a lot down. I’m just going to keep reminding myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day and to take baby steps. A garden should develop over time and with all the careful planning and consideration we’re putting into planning out the design, accounting for our goals as far as usage and function, I think we’re in really good shape to tackle even more of our priority to dos this spring and summer. Stay tuned. 🙂