Ready, Set, Beach!!!!

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I’ve determined that I am a beach bum.  The beach is my happy place be it the height of summer or the dead of winter.  There is something calming about the sound of the waves and sand between my toes.  It is a place where I can “hear myself think”.  Given the Zombie Apocalypse of 2020, I’m finding it to be my remote work refuge.  A place to contemplate and work and, better yet, the view is amazing!

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With the upcoming holiday, I am setting the week aside as vacation.  It’s time for some pleasure reading, beach walking, and general out of office time.  I’m packing the beach bag with goldfish for a snack, my kindle loaded with beach reads, my iPod with audiobooks and a playlist and I’ve ordered a case of sunscreen from Amazon.

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2020 beach reading list (no reviews as I’m just set to start my reading binge)

  • Feels Like Falling, Kristy Woodson Harvey
  • Hello Summer, Mary Kay Andrews
  • Chanel’s Rivera,Anne de Courcey
  • Sex and Vanity, Kevin Kwan
  • Drawing Home, Jamie Brenner

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2020 audiobook playlist (no reviews as I’ve just started listening and walking)

  • The Summer House, James Patterson
  • The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel
  • Firing Point, Tom Clancy
  • Resistance Women, Jennifer Chiaverini
  • All the Ways We Said Goodbye, Beatriz Williams
  • True Evil, Greg Iles

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Packing list for the beach bag

  • Sunscreen – 30 and 50.  My go to is Coola but I couldn’t find the unscented this year so I’m opting for Supergoop.
  • Beach towel – I’m still using monogrammed bath sheets I ordered from Neiman’s years ago but I keep eyeing the ones from Weezie.  I love their makeup towels.
  • Tech – iPod, kindle and AirPod Pro (the pro are amazing at noise reduction.  I highly recommend)
  • Cooler with drinks and a spray bottle of Evian to cool you down
  • Goldfish
  • Hat

It’s the little things

2020 is the year of the zombie apocalypse. That’s were I am with this year. I joked to a good friend that I was stamping it defective return to sender. That’s truly what I’d like to do. I love New York and visit there often. Now, I cringe in horror as I consider a visit at some point in the distant future.

Then there are the things that I’d forgotten, the things that make you smile, the things that matter, the little things. Working from home has reminded me how much I love the light in my kitchen. Something so simple but something that puts a smile on my face when I walk into the room. Same with a quick chat with my neighbor. BC (before COVID-19) I was always racing somewhere. There was the office, an appointment, an errand, something that I had to get to. Now there is time to breathe. Things are slowed down which lets me appreciate the blessings in my life – and I am truly blessed.

So what are the little things I’ve rediscovered?

  • Cooking – I’ve always loved to cook but there is a difference between cooking to simply eat a meal and cooking to enjoy.  The former is quick and usually involves a microwave and something quick.  The latter, is slow.  It is a process to be enjoyed. I love contemplating what I’m going to serve, sourcing the ingredients, preparing the meal and then serving it with china and linen and, most importantly taking the time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Also, its probably healthier than the other option.
  • The fur ones – It struck me that it had been ages since I’d taken a long walk with the pups or played a game of fetch.  To be certain they were not neglected.  In point of fact they are spoiled rotten but somewhere the weekend walk on the trail and the evening play disappeared into life.  What a treat to get out in the fresh air with the pup and exercise my legs after being at my desk for hours.  Sun also helps.
  • Organizing my home  – I literally hear my Mom in my head each evening.  Are there dishes in the sink, did you hang up your coat, put away whatever – well, you get the picture.  At the end of each day she straightened each room before she went to bed. Everything in its place for the start of the next day.  I’ve adopted her habit.  Not that I’m messy or generally disorganized but, again, the little thing of waking up to a straight house is a wonderful feeling.
  • Writing letters, talking to someone on the phone, arranging cut flowers, planting my container pots, taking a moment to breathe and enjoy rather than rushing through to get to the next thing on my to do list.  

 

I think I’m reclaiming my life.  Or, maybe I am remembering to live my life.  This “pause” as someone called it the other day, has given me the freedom to manage my own schedule.  I still have a ton of work that must be done, if anything, those responsibilities have increased.  Still, it doesn’t quite feel like it because I can manage my life in a different way.  A way that lets me enjoy the work, the career, and my life.   The talking heads say this is a black swan moment.  I don’t know if that is true but I hope that as we move to what is next we manage to take some of the good this time has brought with us.

 

It may be the zombie apocalypse, but I’m learning to live my life again.  

 

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Master suite makeover; a work in progress

Everyone needs a project in the middle of a pandemic if for no better reason than to distract from the apocalypse.  As an aside, is anyone besides me thinking this time is a bad mix of reality tv and dystopian fiction, the worst of each form you can find?  Thus, my need to do something to occupy myself.

Paint and Color Scheme

 

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Before this all started, I’d started to redesign my master suite.  Now I’m full tilt into the project.  First up was to paint.  I’m using Farrow and Ball pointing in estate eggshell.  I’ve used it throughout my house in different finishes.  It is my favorite creamy white.  I first saw it used in one of the Kips Bay decorator homes and it’s been my go to ever since.

Next up is the color scheme.  I went back and forth between blue, black, and white and green, black, and white before selecting the green combo.  For me green is restful and relaxing.  I’ve done a black and white room and a green room before.  This room combines both in a combination I’ve not previously used but am loving.  Even better, in selecting the green combo I can use things I already have at the house.

The Bed

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Working with Second Yard in Charlottesville (they are amazing), I selected Thibaut’s Oriental Toil in green for an upholstered headboard.  Alice helped me design the shape and suggested a contrasting black cording.  The result is amazing.  I’m pairing the custom headboard with black and white sheets and a duvet from my linen closet.  I love white bedding so I tend to grab sheet sets from Rue Lala when they go on sale.  Added benefit is that I tend to go with sheets with either green or black embroidery in all my bedrooms so laundry is easy.  For the duvet insert and pillows, my go to is the Yves Delorme outlet in Charlottesville.  They have an annual sale on bedding which is the time to stock up.

The bed skirt was inspired by a lace skirt I found on Pinterest.  I wanted something that contrasted with the headboard.  I selected a sheer fabric and used a box pleat design.  The creamy white color of the fabric ties in with the white in the headboard and furthers that green and white combo.

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For the finishing touch I’m considering a monogrammed bolster pillow from Leontine Lines.  They’ve done pillows for another bed that are to die for.  I’m also contemplating a quilt in either green or black.

Lighting

So far I’ve selected one lamp for the space.  I will need another but I’m still working on furniture and placement so more to come.  The one lamp I settled on is brass with a green and white shade by Fermoie.  The Shade Shop in Charlottesville has an amazing selection.

 

Furniture

I’m still selecting furniture.  At a minimum, I’m going to be searching for a night stand and chest. My plan is to take my time and find pieces I love.  I am repurposing a vanity bench that I already have.  I also found an antique love seat at the local antique barn.  I’m having both the bench and the love seat painted with a black mirror finish using Fine Paints of Europe paint for that mirror finish. Palette Home out of Richmond/Charlottesville is my go to for paint.  I’m using a Thibaut green and white print to upholster the love seat and make a pillow for the bench.

Stay tuned .  .  .

 

 

Organizing the master bath

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I love to be organized and neat.  Nothing frustrates me more than to know I have something and not be able to put my hands on it.  When I first heard of Marie Kondo, I was intrigued; then I watched an episode of her show.  I was completely stressed out.  No more Marie and “sparks of joy” for this one.  I did find Rachel Rosenthal of rachaelorganizes via instagram and become a devotee.  This weekend I decided to stop looking and actually organize my bath.  It was a perfect time.  I’m in the process of re-doing my master suite which includes the bath.  They are almost finished and so what better time to organize everything than when you are putting the bath back together.

 

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I opted for acrylic organizers for the drawers and cabinets.  Amazon and the Container Store to the rescue with idesign and Mdesign containers for everything from makeup to brushes and medicine.  I am in love with the large divided turntable.  I think I want another for the kitchen!  I’m thinking of a second order as I needed another two or three bins than I’d anticipated.

For the counter, I opted for white trimmed in black lacquer bath accessories from Hudson & Vine.  They provide a clean but finished look for the vanity top.  I topped off the look with a powder dish that had been my Mom’s that I’m using for hair ties and a silver nut dish to hold jewelry that I found a few years ago from Gryphon Estate Silver.  They have beautiful things and I love a silver accent.

Now I’m relaxed and can find things again!

 

 

A bit of the familiar

 

Everyone keeps talking about the “new normal”.  I’m not certain what that even is or looks like but I am certain that I needed a dose of the familiar.  This time of year is beautiful in the south.  My normal on Saturday is a trip to the nursery for ferns, flowers, and herbs.  It is a trip I plan and savor.  Once there, I love taking my time. Imagining new combinations, thinking about a cocktail or dinner on the patio and the joy of summer.

I ventured out not certain what I’d find since we are still “closed for business”.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my nursery open for business.  For a brief hour, I immersed myself in the familiar and joyous task of planning my patio for the summer.  How wonderful to think of fun things.

When I left the nursery, my car was filled with herbs for cooking, flowers for the containers and ferns for the front porch.  I’ll take that hour of familiarity in a time that is otherwise so uncertain.

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Life at home

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It’s been ages since I posted.  Between family illness, work and now a pandemic, something had to hit pause and unfortunately this was it. Now I’m determined to reclaim  normalcy.  Okay, maybe now is not the time for “normal” but I have to start somewhere.

I’m cooking more than ever now.  A trip to the grocery is an adventure and I’m missing my Saturday morning routine of farmer’s market and tennis.  Still, there is so much for which I’m grateful.  My endocrinologist recommends eating on the “outside” of the market, no processed foods, so what better time to embrace her advice?  This means I’m cooking.  Breakfast is mini frittatas, buttermilk biscuits, or sausage muffins. Waffles and Bloody Mary’s for Sunday brunch.  Lunch is salad  – chicken, tuna, egg, chef, or taco- or soup – taco, chili, potato.  All homemade.  Dinner is where I’m embracing my creative cooking gene.  New experiments include chicken meatballs, meatloaf, and baked chicken breasts.  Pinterest is my often my inspiration.

 

 

Embracing my new normal!

Weekend prep for the week ahead?

Do you prep for the week ahead?  The last few weeks at work were crazy.  My schedule’s been packed from morning to night with little chance to breathe in between.  I know that’s the status quo for many.  Trying to balance work and family and a tiny bit of me time is often a challenge.  Wasn’t there an old advertisement where the Mom worked all day and came home to “fry it up in a pan”?  We could have it all – right?  My Pollyanna alter-ego says yes we can!  The part of me who is flat on the sofa says maybe not.

I’ve finally come to the conclusion that if I’m going to have a shot at doing it all, prep is my only hope.  I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking for the week ahead.  That way I have homemade and healthy dinners already done when I get home on a week night.

I tried two new recipes last weekend.  Both new recipes are instagram inspired – chicken chili and stuffed peppers.  Best yet, both freeze.  This gives me dinner for the week and variety for another week.

Chicken chili-

  • One block low fat cream cheese
  • two chicken breasts
  • 1 carton chicken stock
  • one can black beans
  • one can rotes tomatoes
  • one package frozen corn
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken in the bottom of the crockpot with beans, corn, tomatoes, stock, and spices next and cream cheese on top.

Stuffed peppers –

  • one pound sausage (chicken)
  • one can rotes tomatoes
  • one block low fat cream cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 bell peppers cut in half

Cut peppers in half, clean out and place on baking sheet.  Fry sausage out till done.  Add to sausage tomatoes and cream cheese.  Stuff pepper halves.  Bake for thirty minutes in oven.

 

What is on your fall bucket list?

 

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Are you a list maker? I am.  I have countless “to do” lists both of the handwritten and the digital variety.  Those “to-do” lists are of the mundane type.  The chores that must be done, the work projects, the grocery lists.  I decided that I wanted a fun version, thus my fall bucket list.  So here it is:

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  • replace the ferns and geraniums with mums, pansies, and pumpkins.  Add a few jack-o-lanterns for Halloween.
  • visit a pumpkin patch
  • spend time with friends finding my way through a corn maze

  • try a new fall soup recipe

  • learn to make my great grandmother’s caramel cake
  • take a drive through the mountains to see the leaves
  • Watch a scary movie
  • visit the farmers market
  • jump in a leaf pile

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That’s my bucket list.  What’s on your list?

Seasons Change from Summer to Fall: Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

I love that there are four distinct seasons of the year.  Each one is unique and leaves me with a bucket list of things to enjoy and do.  The official start of fall this week left me with a major “to do” list.  Top of the list was mums and pumpkins for the front porch to replace the geraniums and ferns I’d enjoyed all summer long.  Next up, the first pot of soup for the fall.

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I love soup and with a busy schedule it is quick and figure friendly.  I tend to make up a large pot each weekend.  It makes enough to have a weekend meal and have lunch and dinner over the next week.  For my inaugural pot of fall soup, I decided to go with an oldie but goodie – fire roasted tomato soup.  It is quick and easy.

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  • two chicken breasts cut into bite size chunks
  • two links of either chorizo or hot Italian chicken sausage
  • one large red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • two medium onions, diced
  • olive oil
  • cilantro
  • two 28 ounce cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • large container of chicken stock or bone broth

In a large stock pot, sauté the chicken, sausage, onion, garlic, pepper, cilantro, and salt and pepper.  When the meat is done, add in tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock and cook on low for two hours.

 

Summer Reads Audible Style

Is listening to an audiobook “reading”?  While not “reading” in the traditional or neurological (due to different processing in the brain) sense; but an excellent alternative when you are driving, exercising, otherwise engaged in an activity where you are unable to “read.”

As an avid reader, I often have several books started at any given time and one of them is likely to be an audible book.  This summer I’ve listened while painting, weeding, exercising, and driving.  As confession is good for the sole, I confess I’ve listened to some excellent books and then there are the duds.  My summer thumbs up / thumbs down list follows.

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Those on the thumbs up list all share common features.  They had an engaging plot, likeable characters and were well written.  Park Avenue Summer and Down River are not to be missed.  They are excellent!  So, thumbs up for:

Park Avenue Summer

Down River

The Mulberry Tree

The Spitfire Girls

The Malta Exchange

The Girl From Berlin

Single Malt Murder

Honorable mentions to :  The Mother in Law and Berlin Calling

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Those earning a thumbs down also shared certain characteristics including a wandering plot, need for a good editor, and characters who were not rootable. Both The Golden Hour and Wunderland held so much potential.  Yet, they both fell flat.  I kept thinking get on with it!