A First Grader's Heart...

First grade is a big deal.

It's innocence, earnestness and candor,
curious eyes and open minds.

It's the first step towards the land of big kids: exciting for children,
bittersweet for parents who wonder how their babies got so big, so fast.

We worry, wonder and encourage at the start of each new milestone.
We beg Time to slow down as we savor these waning little kid days.

First grade puts the world of books and language in their very own hands and opens
the door for new friends and experiences. Their perspectives stop us in our tracks
and remind us of how happiness is not tied up in things.

I met my own lifelong best friend in first grade.
Thirty years later, we are the mothers of daughters born one month to the day apart.
They are first graders.

I see their faces each time I think of those beautiful children.
My heart hurts at the thought of their parents' awful reality.
I want to wrap them up in my arms and cry with them.
My head can't help but go to a place that is brutally sad, where innocence is lost.

I want to make sense of this senseless horror, but
there's none to be had.

Perhaps if we all lived our lives with the heart of a first grader, our
world would be a kinder, safer place.

Perhaps the best thing I can do to honor their memories is to encourage
the peace in my own children's hearts and go forward each day with
more gratitude and pray that it's enough.

May they find the peace they so deserve.
May their parents feel our collective hearts in their time of unthinkable grief.



Design School Diary: Creative Juices

Since I've begun design school, it's fair to say I've been sporadic at best at blogging.

I've been channeling so much creative energy into my projects
and what I'm learning, that it's been a challenge lately to have any left for the blog. Wrangling and refining my thoughts to share seems exhausting to me in the dark early morning and late night hours.
Like going to the gym, the further away from it I get, the harder it is to return and refocus.

So today, this is my attempt to do just that.

Here's a little view into what I've been
working on these days: my color harmony project.

Our task was to design a space around a postcard we randomly selected and create the back story for a fictitious client. The objective was to choose textiles and finishes that blend harmoniously with the palette the card inspired.

Who were my clients? 
A young family returning to their hometown of New Bern, North Carolina, 
which just so happens to be the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola (and where my parents live).

My vision?
A family room that drew upon the colors of the card  and offered
an updated take on a traditional home near the downtown and riverfront areas.

What did I learn?
  • Following my instincts is what it's all about, but also really daunting.
  • My classmates are super-talented, supportive and creative women.
  • Getting my feet wet in this new world is incredibly exciting. 

Next up?
  • Hopefully finding a way to balance my creative juices and get back to blogging more frequently.
  • Designing a fictitious restaurant based upon the design of an historical period. I've chosen Scandinavian Modernism. It's rather unknown to me and definitely out of my comfort zone, so wish me luck!

Have a wonderful weekend!



Thankful November

A friend of mine has been writing Thankful November posts on Facebook on a pretty regular basis this month. Reading them planted a seed in me.

Since Hurricane Sandy hit, I've had a bit of writer's block. 
My head and heart were anywhere but my blog.
It's only in the past week that a bit of normalcy has returned around here, but I know the same cannot be said for so many friends and neighbors who lost so much, so quickly.

Following my friend Tricia's lead, I'm finding that focusing on the positive and goodness in others really goes a long way.

Today, I am thankful for
simple pleasures that are easily taken for granted:

hot showers, a warm house and a cold refrigerator

generous spirits 
(and I don't mean lots of booze, or do I?)

happy, silly kids

hanging hand-print turkeys

a loyal dog at my feet

In the wake of chaos, I know that these little things don't solve the greater problems, 
(except for the generous spirits, the people and the booze). 
but they do remind me of the priceless things that are important.

What are you thankful for today?



Low expectations...

The good thing about having low expectations is that it's sort of hard to really
be disappointed or at least surprised when things go south.

The past two storms, Hurricane Irene and a freak March '11  storm,
left most of our friends and neighbors without power for days 
but somehow gave my little family a free pass.

That said, I believe in Karma. 

We're due.

I'm going into this storm stocked up and fully expecting to be without power for days. 

Photo: Apparently, spaghettios and ham steak will get the Andrews family through the Frankenstorm. Now that I cleaned out the canned goods aisle at Stop & Shop, the sun will shine through Thursday. Oh and most importantly, Todd's in charge of batteries, booze and ice ; )

We are as ready as we'll ever be, 
(clearly spaghettio's and ham steak will give us sustenance) 
with lots of great friends and neighbors
 who will be in it with us. 

Photo: Practice makes perfect. Sandy can't stop Captain America and Firestar! Be safe everyone! http://instagr.am/p/RV-NvLt-pj/
Oh, and a couple of Superheroes who dropped in to fend Sandy off.

If we're lucky, we'll be pleasantly surprised if she's all bark and no bite. 
In the meantime, perspective is a good thing to keep close. 

Things can be replaced. 

Sandy is not Katrina.

Even if she is horrendous, 
we have the resources to recover. 

Mother nature has wielded far worse to those 
in more dire straits.

To all of you in Sandy's path, be safe and hunker down!



Design School Diary: Adventures of a stay-at-home mom back out in the world...

So I can safely say that I've got three design classes under my belt. Here's a recap of what I've learned thus far. Not surprisingly, much of this has little to do with design.

1. I look forward to my drive each week.
Traffic or not, 25 silent minutes in the early morning is a rare treat.

2. The best laid plans usually go awry. At least in my house. 

I was so organized and prepared for my first morning of school.
Up and dressed and wearing make-up by 5:30,
 (my kids don't see this too often) 
lunches packed, breakfast table set 
and that's about where it all unraveled. 
Just as the hair dryer started to hum, 
my son called me upstairs. Bloody nose. 
Next it was crock-pot juice on my new big-girl clothes
Then as I tried to make my escape to beat the traffic, 
my daughter sent our excited greyhound bounding out the front door. 
And down the street. 
After his collar came off. 
He's never, ever done this before. 
Lesson learned? Relax
Even though it was a big day for me, 
it was just an ordinary day for the rest of the world.

3. At 36, I am an unrecognizable version of the student I was 
in my teens and twenties. 
Focused, driven, and organized, 
I actually spread my work out instead of leaving it to the last minute. 
I even retyped my class notes. 
Who am I?
I have no idea what kind of grade I will earn or how I will measure up,
 but so far, I am the best student I have ever been. 
Sorry Mom and Dad. 
I wish I knew this twenty years ago.

4. The challenge of something new, something I've wanted to pursue, something I'm not positive I will succeed at is incredibly motivating.

5. Oh, and I learned that I've been misusing the term couch my whole life.
See for yourself. 
I knew this experience would be an eye-opener.

What kind of student were you? Any life lessons that surprised you recently?
Have a great week!


Strolling down Memory Lane, a repost: Easy-Trick- or- Treat bags

Hey there. Long time. I know.

A couple of you have asked me to share the Halloween Trick-or-Treat bags I made
for my kids which I posted about last fall. So, for today, here's a repost to share with you and links to a couple of parties you'll find at the bottom of the post.

I will be back with something new sooner or later.
In the meantime, have a great weekend!

I am always a sucker for celebrating photos of my kids. Last year I decided to showcase their photos on simple canvas tote bags I found at Michael's.  After sharing my photos of the kids with family and friends yesterday, I got a lot of requests for instructions on how to make the bags. It really is such an easy project and quick to update each year.

  • cotton/canvas tote bag
  • puff paint
  • iron
  • dish towel or pillowcase
  • iron-on transfers (I used Jolee's Easy Image, purchased at Michael's)
  • scissors
  • your favorite Halloween photos of your kids
1. Pre-wash/dry your bag. Be sure to iron all the wrinkles out.
2. Set up a clean pillowcase or dishtowel on top of a hard, heat-resistant surface, not your ironing board.  I used a dishtowel on top of my stove. 
3. Iron the towel or pillowcase to create a wrinkle free surface.
4.Following the directions enclosed with the transfers, print your favorite picture on a transfer page. 

 5. Cut the transfer out in the size/shape you like.

5.Remove the backing.

 6. Place the transfer on the bag, covered by the parchment paper that is included with the transfers.

7. Using firm pressure, hold the iron for about 10-20 seconds all over the picture until the entire image has adhered. Be sure to check that the entire image has transferred, especially the edges. 

8. Let your kids decorate the handles and edges with puff paint or fabric markers and voila, a trick-or-treat bag that has you strolling down Memory-Lane every year. (My kids actually did this step before I ironed the first photo on.)

Please email me or leave a comment if you have any questions!
I'm linking today's re-post to: Drop by and see what others are cooking up!



Today the sky is crystal blue.
The air is crisp but the sun still warm, just like it was eleven years ago.
I remember driving to work that day and noticing how beautiful the weather was.
The morning was humming with sound and activity.

I remember starting the day like every other, unaware of the chaos that was about to unfold.
The rest of the day was anything but normal:
scrambling for a t.v. set to huddle around, 
desperate for any news,
Any signs of hope,
Jammed phone lines,
relief and frustration 
as we tried to check on loved ones.

I remember driving home from work mid-morning in a silence that was eerie.
I remember feeling paralyzed with helplessness by the images I couldn't escape from. 
Perhaps of these, it's the faces of 9-11 that are seared into my memory so indelibly.

the faces of those
 who ran from the ominous cloud that chased them like a monster,
who stood watching in disbelief,
of my friends and family grappling with fear and sadness,
the faces of 
the missing and the lost 
the grieving loved ones 
left behind,
the faces of children and heroes.

While my heart is always heavy on this day, and I can't help but remember, I try really hard to look for hope too. It's not easy, but it's the only way I find any comfort.

I found it here in this little man today, who was posing as a superhero in our yard.
Somehow it seems a fitting way to honor the memory of those lost eleven years ago, and all of us who must carry on.

Take care of yourselves and those whom you hold closest to you.

If you're looking for more reflections on 9-11, hop over here to read what others are sharing.


Big girl clothes...

When my daughter was really little, like this, 
she loved to sift through my retired work clothes to play dress up.
(the shoes are my husband's, I swear)
She called them her "big girl clothes". 

Well, it's been years since I've worn these big girl clothes. 
It's safe to say that since leaving the classroom behind four and a half years ago, 
my wardrobe  has taken a bit of a hit. 
Tees and jeans have replaced most of my heels and skirts. 
My husband's shoe collection now outnumbers my own.

Last week though, I took myself to Macy's armed with coupons 
and a What Not To Wear inspired list of basics.
 I swore to stick to the list and stick to the list I did. 
Three hours and about that many fitting rooms later,  I had the beginnings of a new wardrobe. It's still the wardrobe of a mom, but one beyond the frazzled years of spit-up stains and endless diaper changes. 

Tomorrow, shortly before my kids head off to school, I'll do the same,
 except this time I'll be the student. 

Design school here I come. 
Let's hope my new big girl clothes survive a stain free trip to Starbucks.
 (no easy feat for me)

Anyone else out there in need of a wardrobe update? 

Have a great Monday.



School days...

Like many of you, my daughter started school this week.  First grade. 

Clearly, she was excited.

Last year? Not so much.

 It is also her first year riding the bus. 
Even more excitement.

Time seems to being going by at warped speed, but it is pretty amazing to watch her read and learn and to see her confidence start to soar as she does.

I hope all of your kiddos had a fantastic start to their new school year. Here's to one filled with great leaps and bounds and lots of good memories!


P.S. You may have spied this star burst pencil wreath I made last year in one of the shots above. Last week I linked it up to Hubby Made Me's Throwback Thursday Link Party. Stop by and check out Britni's blog and the other fantastic creations  fellow bloggers have whipped up.

Have a great weekend!


Goodbye summer...

Just dropping in to say hello. And goodbye. To summer that is.  
Just after my last post last month, this was the view from my front steps for a week:

A blissful stretch of the Chesapeake. 

All to ourselves.

More or less.


We cheated on Cedric with Jesper the Black Lab,


nabbed the best table at dinner,




learned to swim,

 and  soaked up lots of local beauty on the bay.

 It's safe to say that we fell in love with the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Beyond the obvious, I also fell in love with my forced breakup with technology: no wifi, cell phone service, and little t.v. for us that week. It was hard to come back to the land of blogs and Facebook and email, so for the most part, I decided to give myself the rest of the summer off.

And it was heavenly.

Next week the school clothes come out, early mornings and longer days return and our routine will be restored to order. In the meantime, enjoy the last unofficial days of summer.  I hope yours was happy and full of relaxing moments. I look forward to catching up with you all next week.

See ya Summer!



Summer time and the living is easy...

One of the things I love most about summer is how much slower the pace of our usual day-to-day seems. I know I am fortunate to be home with my kids right now and if I was working full-time, I might feel differently, but I do believe the ease of summer is a state of mind.

Something in my head shifts when the weather gets warmer and really, when school ends.  Maybe it's the teacher in me (or the kid), but I flip a switch in my head and get into summer mode. Now that my kids are a little bigger, I really look forward to this shift and relaxed routine.

This mindset seems to  foster a lot more time to catch up with friends, to head out to the backyard daily and throw super last minute get-togethers with friends, family or neighbors.  This July 4th we did just that. We had no plans until the last minute and as I'm learning, these impromptu gatherings are just as fun (maybe even more) as the well-planned ones.

I literally pulled this together a half-an-hour before our friends arrived using knick-knacks from the basement, Eamon's Rarebits Easter basket, a runner from my kitchen and the Christmas linens I forgot to put away. It's nothing fancy, elaborate or stunning, but an example of going with the flow. When my brain is in summer mode, the filter that usually makes me over think lots of things kind of falls to the wayside.

I really love what summer does to me. Towards the end of August you might be reading a very different post, but I really hope I can tap into this summer brain a little more throughout the year.

Do you look forward to slowing down in the summer or do you prefer adventure seeking or finishing off winter's to-do list?

Whatever your pleasure, have a great day.

Linking up today's post to:


Happy 4th!

via The Quillcards blog

There are many ways to celebrate the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

via history.com

 4th of July

 Whether it's with a big crowd 
Rain of confetti at the Boston Pops July 4th Concert at the Hatch Shell at the end of the
Boston Pops July 4th concert

or in your own backyard,


I hope you get to enjoy the very simple pleasures that quietly bind all Americans 
as we celebrate our freedom.
4th of July
via Pinterest (could not reach original source)
via examiner.com

Happy 4th of July!



Etsy love...

Okay. Today's post is not terribly original. It's all about my love for Etsy, something lots of bloggers have and do talk about often, and for good reason. It's a treasure trove of all things handcrafted or vintage.

My love affair with Etsy began probably about two years ago when I purchased this sweet little milk bottle.
from Etsy seller maryscrochetnmore
The lighting is terrible, but it's a quart sized Sealtest milk bottle that I posted  a little bit about last summer. I bought it as a little reminder of my grandfather who worked  as a milkman for Sealtest in New York. He was a pretty cheeky old soul and used to try to teach me the various routes and roads leading from Manhattan to Montauk. My sense of direction is still pretty awful, so apparently it fell on deaf ears.

Since then, I browse Etsy often, usually more as a window shopper than purchaser. But below is a little showcase of some of the handcrafted and unique pieces I've picked up here and there.

Dog Vinyl Wall Decal Sticker Graphics - Item 143

I ordered this adorable vinyl decal for my son's room 
 (which has yet to be touched) from decalhappy.

Vintage Map Drawer Pull Cabinet Knob Handle - Custom - You Pick Location
Next up for Eamon's room were these cool map drawer pulls from
DaisyMae Design Shop. I chose custom pulls with maps of both Greenwich Village and Jones Beach, Long Island, favorite local destinations with sentimental attachments.

Little Boy Bowtie - Solid Colors - Sizes 6M - 9 years - Boys Bow Tie

This spring, Eamon had a thing for bowties and begged me for about a month to get him two: one blue, one green. So, to Etsy seller the Little Gentlemen's closet I went.

Take It Personal - Initial Charm Necklace in 14K Goldfill, Graduation gift, m. frances Jewelry
Last month I ordered this beautiful, hand-stamped initial necklace from mfrancesjewelry for my niece's 6th grade graduation. I wanted something both age appropriate and somewhat timeless so she could wear it for many years without it being dated. This fit the bill and Mary was amazing to deal with.

Vintage Jones Beach Blank Note Card, 5 x 7
Lastly, I ordered this vintage blank note card of Jones Beach from  BlueThistlePaperie just last week to frame for my bathroom. This local beach is full of nostlagia for us, so this cute promotional card is an affordable way to incorporate it as meaningful, whimsical artwork.  The seller, another Mary, was super speedy and a pleasure to work with.

What I love about a place like Etsy:

  1. It's like shopping a "Mom and Pop" store: I like giving regular people who have great ideas or talent my money.
  2. It's an often affordable way to buy items that have meaning to me and inject some personality and character into my home.
  3. Let's face it, the first gifts we probably ever gave anyone were our childhood drawings and masterpieces. This is a way to give a handmade gift when time, means or talent are lacking.
  4. Every seller I've dealt with was incredibly nice, helpful and excited about selling their product, I guess because they put so much of themselves into creating or finding it.
It's safe to say my love affair with Etsy will only continue to grow.  I have tons of new "favorites" added to my profile, full of artwork, pillows and well, more pillows.

Have you shopped Etsy? Do you have any favorite sites for gifts, artwork or home decor? Any gems we should know about?

Have a great Monday!