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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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!

 

 

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.

 

The art of packing; the packing cube and the pouch

How do you pack?  That seems like such an easy question.  You throw clothes and toiletries into a bag and go.  It’s not that easy, especially if you are flying and have to contend with TSA.  Enter the packing cube.

 

I’ve become obsessed with the packing cube and the pouch.  It lets me organize, especially small things like cords and chargers for easy access.  I’ve got one cube for glasses, contacts, lens solution and the like.  Another I use for a small dryer, hair towel, flat iron, and brushes.

For cords and chargers, I opt for a small pouch that zips.  Intimates go in a bridal satin pouch.  I have a set of three monogrammed that I purchased from Leontine linens.  The large one is for workout clothes, the medium for intimates, and the small one for belts and scarves.

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The best thing about this system is that with everything in a cube or pouch it all stacks neatly into my carry on bag.

Ready, set, GO!

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Project Bedroom

 

 

7C1C0672-2BAA-4D9C-91DC-64CC5CCA67A9I’m in the process of decorating a bedroom.  As the only girl for multiple generations, I am fortunate to possess a number of family pieces.  Also, growing up in the piedmont of North Carolina, or furniture country, there was access to wonderful pieces and a great selection of furniture.  This time, however, I decided to start with an empty room and see where it leads me.

Thus far I painted the room in my favorite color, pointing, by Farrow and Ball.  I’ve used this color previously and love it.  There is something I love about Farrow and Ball paint and this color is the perfect “white”.  It is more of a cream than a dead white.  It has just enough color to have “body”.  Cameron at Palette in Charlottesville, is amazingly helpful with the paint.  With her help I selected the finish and the color.

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My inspiration piece is a blanket I found during a recent trip to Scotland.  It is this beautiful white, black and pink Scottish plaid.  Even better, it will pick up on the black I painted the sunroom/office walls.

I discovered this beautiful black floral fabric at The Second Yard.  With their help, I’ve designed an upholstered headboard.  It is perfect with the blanket.

I love repurposing what I have.  It is my version of shopping my closet.  By chance I discovered that the lamps in my sunroom are perfect with the headboard fabric  I swapped out the shades from white drum to black oval.  I wanted a slightly smaller shade/ footprint for the lamp in this room.

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I’m also focusing on small details to pull the room together and update it.  For under five dollars, I replaced the pulls on the radiator cover.  Now they look “today” and will fit with the overall look I want for the room.  They also pick up the metal in the fun new fire screen I purchased.

 

I love a living plant in a room.  I tend to have a black thumb.  My Dad used to say a funeral prayer everytime my Mom or I purchased a plant.  I seem to be able to keep orchids alive so I opt for orchids.  Ivy Nursery is wonderful and a great collaborator.

I’m currently debating furniture.  I have one chair and a desk in there now.  I’m debating both.  Stay tuned, this is the fun part.

 

 

Mom’s Rules

 

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Last weekend I happened across one of those tv shows on organization.  I was intrigued.  I am always looking for tips to better organize my life; so I thought, why not?  I confess this particular show merely stressed me out.  In fairness there were good tips but I couldn’t get past the basic disaster of the house.  More than anything it made me think of my Mom.  I know there is the old saying that as you grow up you become your parent.  In this case, I think I’m proud of that.  My Mom had a beautiful home always perfectly maintained, her own business that she impeccably ran, as well as filling the role of mother and wife of fifty plus years.  In the days where women are supposed to have it all and do it all, she did and made it seem effortless.  It’s made me ask the question of how did she do it all?  It’s not like she was exhausted or gave up her own life.  She did do it all.  So how?  I think the secret is in the rules she imposed as I grew up.  So Mom’s rules –

  • Make your bed when you get out of it in the morning.  It only takes a second and it is done for the day.
  • Where is the item’s home?  It is easier to put [name whatever it is – laundry, dishes, books, paper] it in its proper place the first time rather than moving it multiple times.  Another variation on this rule is where does it live?  Everything should have its proper place and be put in it before you go to bed at night.
  • Hang up your towels.
  • Dirty laundry in the hamper.
  • Hang up your clothes when you take them off.
  • Fold the laundry as you take it out of the dryer.  It has less wrinkles that way.  For those things that you only partially dry, alter this rule to fold the laundry when dry.
  • Leave the room straight when you are finished for the day.  That means everything back where it came from with dishes in the dishwasher, blankets folded and put away, remotes in their proper place.
  • Deal with mail when you take it out of the mailbox.
  • Have a clean sink when you go up to bed or no dirty dishes in the sink.
  • If it does not fit or you never wear it, donate it to someone who can use it.

 

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These are the rules Mom imposed on our daily life.  It worked for her and it seems to work for me. Are there rules that you live by that permit you to organize your life?

What is your “It” bag?

IMG_0574Sex and the City made certain bags cult classics, if they weren’t already.  The Birkin and the Kelly are certainly “it” bags but I’m asking a more nuanced question here.  What makes a bag or a style of bag your own personal go to bag?  Confession time, I’m something of a bag connoisseur.  I love handbags and have since I was around three years old and was gifted a Chanel inspired bag as part of my Easter ensemble.  I loved that bag and cried and cried when I discovered my Mom “gifted” it to a younger child years later.

I have many lovely handbags but I find that, time and time again, I return to a particular type.  My personal “it” style is an unstructured tote.  The Louis Vuitton Neverfull and the Goyard St. Louis fit the profile perfectly and are the bags I return to daily.  This style is perfect for the “dump”.  In addition to wallet, phone and keys, it holds files, an iPad or laptop, leggings for after work yoga or Pilates or barre class and about anything else I think I’ll need between the time I leave for work and return home.  This style also makes a perfect carry-on bag.  I can’t count the number of times my St. Louis has been stuffed under the seat in front of me on an air plane.

While the unstructured tote is my go to bag of choice, I also have a soft spot for a hobo style bag and a bucket bag.  Goyard’s fidji / hobo bag is a favorite.  Smaller than the St. Louis or the Neverfull, the hobo bag is slightly smaller but still holds everything I might need sans laptop and has the added advantage of a zipper.

Next on my list of favorite bag styles is the bucket bag.  Celine’s cabas /tote is in my bag rotation.  The bucket bag is deep and the chief flaw is its depth.  It is easy for an item to fall to the bottom and get lost but it has the same advantages of an unstructured tote.  It is another “dump” bag.

Do you see the common characteristics?  My personal “it” style bag needs to be:

  • light because I’m going to stuff it;
  • discrete; and
  • able to accommodate the dump because I’m going to fill it with everything I need for a day in my life.

So what are the characteristics that make a bag your own personal “it” bag?

What’s for dinner? Kitchen Staples

 

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What do you keep in your pantry or kitchen?  I’ve been cleaning out closets and generally organizing things.  The kitchen is next on my list.  My cleaning binge sparked the question of what are my staples?  What are those items that are “go tos” for my kitchen?  Let me start with the fact that I cook.  Take out is a rare thing for me and while I love eating out, it tends to be a social occasion with friends for me.  This means that I cook dinner most nights, breakfast and sometimes even lunch.  My doctor is all for this.  She tells me to eat on the outside of the grocery.  By this she means fresh veggies, fresh meat and fish, avoid the frozen food section and go light on the canned goods.  Avoiding the canned goods may be the most difficult part.

So what are my kitchen staples?

Meat:  Chicken, chicken sausage, bacon, beef, pork chops, shrimp, salmon

Canned goods:  tuna, chicken stock, beef stock, green beans, tomatoes, beans of all types

Vegetables and fruits:  tomatoes, asparagus, lettuce, squash, apples, onions, grapefruit, grapes, blueberries, broccolini

Frozen foods:  corn, mixed vegetables, broccoli

Add in butter, flour, eggs, milk, sugar and cheese and I can whip up something healthy in minimal time.  I tend to go for soups and stews that I can make up on Saturday or Sunday and eat on during the week.  I love rice, potatoes, and pasta but they only love my waistline so I limit them to twice a month.

Suggestions for a new soup or stew?

 

Paper versus online?

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I love office supplies and stationery stores.  So many tempting items.  Pens, pencils, notebooks, calendars, agendas, and supplies to organize.  Can we name January organization month?  It is the beginning of the year and time to start fresh and organize everything for the beginning of a new year.

I use a combination of online and paper to keep my life organized.

  • Agendas – I keep two one that I keep by my bed (Inslee by Design at Inslee.net) and one that fits in my tote.

 

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  • Office calendar – I use a circa calendar (weekly version) in the office.  It serves as a diary in addition to a calendar.  Appointments, phone numbers, meetings and projects and related notes end up there.
  • Online calendar – I keep all my appointments entered in an online calendar that is synched to my phone and iPad.  I love having that information electronically available and at my finger tips.
  • iPhone reminder app – I love this app.  I keep my to do list, grocery list and every other kind of conceivable list there.  It synchs across my devices and I can enter due dates.
  • Ulysses notebooks – I keep three going at all times.  One has important facts related to contacts and other key life information.  It is the notebook I take in advent of fire.  Also, it includes information I don’t want available online.  The other notebooks are more project based and hold notes for various projects and from related meetings.  One or both always seems in my tote.

 

  • Online file storage – this is a must and is available from a variety of different services.
  • Circa notebook system – I love this system.  I have custom notebooks for every project.  Small ones for travel, large ones for large projects and everything in between.

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Last but not least is my converted hope chest.  I’m southern so, of course, I have a hope chest.  Actually I inherited it from my grandmother who got it from her grandmother.  While my grandmother kept lines and her memories in her chest, I’ve turned mine into a file cabinet.  I outfit the interior with hanging folders and use it to organize and keep the papers I don’t want online or those things that simply don’t lend themselves to scanning. Added bonus is that the chest looks beautiful in my office.

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Packing for a business trip

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I have to present at a conference next week and I’m trying to decide what to pack.  This is a professional engagement and that means either suit or sheath dress and jacket.  I tend to be cold natured so I always travel with a sweater or a jacket to cover my arms.

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Business trips tend to be quick  so I always try to minimize what I’m taking.  I usually opt for either navy (is that a Southern thing?) or black.  By electing a color scheme I minimize shoes.  I also opt for having an extra outfit that I can pull out in emergencies.  That is a lesson I learned after being caught unaware on two separate occasions.  I’m leaning towards a wool, navy shift dress from Tory Burch and a navy pant suit, also Tory. I will accessorize with a scarf and my everyday jewelry of watch, earrings, necklace, rings and bracelet  By electing two Tory pieces, I can use the jacket with the dress and have the pants as my “just in case” feature.  It also saves on shoes.  I’m short so I always opt for heels.  For me that is a professional thing even in today’s climate of casual dress.  I am projecting an image of confidence and authority when I present so I try to consider presenting the complete package, thus the suit and heels.   I’m going with CL’s for the day.

My travel outfit is inspired by a wonderful TSA agent at Laguardia.  She advised me to wear a warm up suit to make the TSA line easy.  Since I have far too much of my mother and grandmother in me to go with a warm up suit, I opt for pointe leggings and a long cashmere sweater. I’ll complete the outfit with flats and a scarf.

To round out my packing, I’ll take leggings and a long sleeve exercise top, a nightgown and unmentionables with an extra set thrown in for the just in case things that happen when you travel.  My toiletries, Bluetooth speaker, conference information, laptop, and notebook with my conference papers will go in my tote with room for my handbag.

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My goal is to avoid checking my bag and by opting for minimal packing and a uniform color scheme I may just make it.