Seeing things...

I've spent a bit of this week working on the bathroom.

 a reminder of where we started:

While most of the elements are not in place yet, here's a preview of what's to come.

There's a lot more of the tedious stuff (sanding, spray painting, sewing, mouldings, etc.) that has to happen before the pretty can be put together, but I love seeing things start to fall into place, especially since it doesn't happen often or easily around here.

Have you had any visions come to life lately?

Have a great day.
linking to:


Trying to keep it simple...

As a follow-up to my last post, I thought I'd share some pictures of Eamon's birthday party.  In the past I would spend way too much time planning, obsessing and crafting the kids' parties.  As I've gotten older/busier/more tired, I find myself paring back a bit, keeping it as simple, yet fun and affordable as I can. This is much easier said than done for me.

Last year (below), Eamon was all about Jake and the Neverland Pirates. This year it was 101 Dalmatians. Since neither of these were on the party store's radar, I had to get creative for both and found more inspiration at the craft store than at Party City.
 I did luck out and find this mammoth Pirate balloon last year.

 a homemade banner made with scrapbook paper and twine

The makings of a pirate party: a treasure chest hunt  to fill the goody bags and a pirate hat making station.The centerpiece was one of Eamon's birthday presents.

This year:
Having a party at home sounds like an affordable alternative to having one out at a kid-friendly place, but it can so easily snowball into an expensive and slippery slope when you start adding up all the little things and food.  This year, I really tried to be conscious of not overdoing it. Here are the kiddos coloring in Patch the dalmatian for their "Pin the tail on the Dalmatian" game. I literally drew the stuffed animal you see hovering in the background onto a sheet of oak tag about an hour before our guests arrived. An artist I am not. Can you say (dripping with sarcasm of course) Mother of the Year?

Some simple favor boxes for Eamon and his cousins to be filled with goodies from the pinata.
I made the paper chain out of scrapbook paper about an hour and a half before everyone arrived, because the console needed more red. There really is something wrong with me. It's like a nervous tic.

 A rather creepy looking, yet passable Patch cake. I used a Wilton pan that I already had and some pre-colored fondant that I picked up at Michael's. 

 The tablecloth is just from a roll of white butcher block paper, taped down with black and white packing tape that was in the clearance bin at Michael's.  The spots are from a roll of chalkboard sticker paper that I cut out with my Martha Stewart circle cutter.

 this year's scrapbook paper birthday banner

Eamon's birthday wreath. 
I made this for the first time last year.  It's just printed photos of Eamon on his birthday each year which I glued to more scrapbook paper and tied to a grapevine wreath I already had.  I love this little trip down memory lane each time I open the door.

I got all of the supplies for the party's decor at Michael's or our local 99 cents store. The pinata was the only thing I purchased from Party City.

Last year I was a bit of a nut with planning the details.  This year there was a lot less of that. 
What did I learn?
  • Lots of balloons go a long way: Eamon was thrilled at the sight of them.  
  • Kids don't care where their cake comes from, a box, the store or from scratch: if it's cake and it's for them, they are usually just fine.
  • A less is more approach makes it so much easier to enjoy the party: We always let the kids pick what food they want served at their party. Eamon picked pizza. I made a phone call and tossed a salad. Easy peasy. Once I let go of the notion of a more involved or refined menu, I realized how liberating it was!
  • Follow the kids' lead: We opened presents when Eamon wanted to, had spontaneous games of freeze dance and "hot dalmatian", and let the kids just play. Everyone had a blast  without me as a cruise director.
  • Most of the decorations end up in the trash at the end of the night:  It's a good perspective check. It can still be fun and tied together without breaking the bank or buying every character item in stock (I still have Thomas birthday plates from three years ago).  I have some leftover supplies from this party, but since they're generic craft supplies (i.e. scrapbook paper, balloons, tissue paper, etc.) I know they won't go to waste.
  • It's not about me: It can be really easy for me to get wrapped up and then overwhelmed by the details, which in the end, is more about my vision, than the kids'.  They will only be little once and right now, they are still incredibly easy to please and entertain. Soon enough they will want their parties out and they will have bigger guest lists.  This year, keeping it simple helped me to keep the focus on Eamon and what made him happy. 
Lesson learned. 
Although the idea of recreating  Melody's smoothie shop from the Freshbeat Band 
did float through my mind for Neve's birthday in May, 
I will try to remember that less is more.

How and what things do you try to keep simple?

Have a great day.


Linking to:
Somewhat Simple


Little man

Four years ago today it was raining like hell. We spent the day running errands with Neve, going out to lunch and hitting Babies R' Us one last time before my scheduled c-section the next morning. Ironically we thought we had everything in order. When Todd and I decided to sneak out alone for a drive later that evening, we soon realized that the nausea and back pain I'd had since St. Patrick's Day was labor.   Three short (or not so short) hours later, true to form, Eamon arrived, on his own terms.

He's been surprising us,
charming us,

and keeping us entertained ever since.
Happy 4th Birthday to our sweet,

and handsome little man.

I am grateful every day for the love and light you bring to our lives.

Have a great day!


If you're lucky enough to be Irish...

St. Patrick's Day is nostalgic for me. In high school, I marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York each year with the marching band.  We always performed "New York, New York" and to this day, when I hear that song, I remember my whole swing flag routine. I also remember falling in my slippery white go-go boots in front of Central Park. Even with the drunks heckling me, I wasn't phased.

I was lucky enough to be Irish and marching down Fifth Avenue.

Then I went to school in Ireland for my last semester of college and felt more American than ever.
I remember one of my Irish cousins asking me, "Do you feel Irish?" 

I didn't know how to answer that question.  In New York, people automatically assume that I'm Irish because of my name and how I look. 

In Ireland, there was no question I was a Yank.

What I do know, is that St. Patrick's Day and feeling Irish have a lot to do with my family and traditions.
My paternal grandparents, Mary & Ben Conaty in Greenwich Village in the 1950s.
I love this photo of my grandparents for so many reasons:
The vintage quality. The window into that era. The story that I conjure when I look at it.

They look happy.

I don't have too many memories of my grandmother being well,
but I have a ton of my grandfather.
He was a tough man in many ways.
There was a lot about him that was hard to love.
There was a lot about him that was mysterious to me.
He was often grumpy and a curmudgeon.
He was a bit like Archie Bunker.
But to me, he was also funny and sarcastic,
and I loved him.

I know he was not an easy man to have as a father.
He was not your typical doting grandfather either, but
he had a soft spot for me and we had a special bond.
I know his life was hard.
I'm not sure just how so, but I think it made
him who he was, for better or worse.
He was the oldest of many children.
He left Ireland alone, around the age of 20  and never went back.
Didn't keep in touch.
Didn't want to talk about it. 
Told me not to visit Ireland.
"They won't let you in when they hear your name is Conaty."
Mysterious. Curmudgeon. Grumpy. Sarcastic.

Not long before he died, over Thanksgiving dinner,
he told my brother and cousins and I
stories of his speakeasy hopping days with my grandmother.
Soon after that, over tea at his kitchen table,
he told me about meeting my grandmother on the ship
when he emigrated from Ireland.
They were both from Cavan, he from town, she from the country.
They lost track of each other until fate intervened
a couple of years later at a Cavan Ball in New York.

I am so grateful that as he aged, he told me these stories.
The man was usually an oyster.

He was an impeccable dresser.
Even during a heat wave, he wore long slacks
and a button down shirt. 
 I remember seeing him in his fedora.

Maybe that's why I love that Eamon suddenly wants to wear bow ties.

He came to this country, worked hard and raised seven children
with my grandmother, who I hear was pretty saintly. I wish I had known
her longer and better.

He died when I was nineteen.
I miss him and think of him nearly every day.

St. Patrick's Day is just a way for me to feel connected to him, to be proud to be
his granddaughter, to have carried his name and hopefully have learned from his life.

I think he would be proud  and even softer today if he could see these two
kiddos, who are lucky enough to carry a little piece of his Irish along with them.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!




Sometimes I have bursts of productivity that have me feeling like I'm on a roll and I get cocky. One quick bout of craftiness or an organizational sweep and I con myself into thinking (briefly) that I'll cross off a good chunk of my endless to-do list, while running the house like a well-oiled machine.

It started with the kiddos' arts and crafts drawer

which used to look like this:
Over the weekend I finally tackled this messy drawer, which took on a life of its own some time after Christmas. Using some dollar store bins to corral their supplies and a lot of purging, this was pretty light work. Now that the kids know where everything they use and put away lives, perhaps they'll keep it neat for a day or two.

Feeling accomplished, I decided to get crafty on Saturday night (exciting, I know) and make a birthday banner for Eamon and some St. Patrick's Day decorations for the kids.
This may or may not have been fueled by wine. Either way it almost ended with my computer crashing while trying to download 101 Dalmatian images from the Internet.  I probably should have taken that as a sign, but I kept going.

On Monday, my house was tidy, dinner was a breeze and my ducks were in a row. I had three loads of laundry under my belt, and I was feeling pretty invincible, so I decided to tackle the sewing project that I've been wanting to work on for a year now. Bolster pillows for our couch.

Three days and a big mess later, here we are. 
Pretty, right?

Not so pretty. Between sewing projects, I tend to forget my Achilles heel. Math.  

The remnants of the hurricane that was my creative burst:

All that laundry still needs to be put away.

along with the breakfast dishes (and a few from last night)
and a stray Christmas decoration.
My flowers are dead.

Oh and the bathroom needs to be finished.

I had all these ideas about posts for the next week or two which were based around some of these projects. But  then I thought about how sometimes Blogland can make me feel a tad insecure. Sometimes, I wonder how so many of these talented women whose blogs I read get it all done. The truth is while some of them undoubtedly do, I'm sure many of them don't. After reading Emily A. Clark's post about her real life vs. her styled life a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd fess up. 

I might have gotten a bit cocky, but I'm almost always real, so welcome to my mess. You're a lot more likely to see what my home looks like if I show it as is, than if I wait for my projects to be finished!

How about you? Any messy confessions you'd like to share?