Adopt-a-Room

I belong to a group in Cranford called “The Newcomer’s Club” that is basically a social club in town for women to get to know each other, drink wine, have play dates and discuss events going on in town. I joined last September and was really excited to feel like I’m part of a community. Shortly after my sister died, I received an email about adopting a room at a local women’s shelter and it literally brought me to tears. They asked if they could dedicate the room to my sister and I was so touched. Several women from the group donated items to decorate the space. It looks like one person picked out all of the accessories but it all just worked together. The furniture is provided by the shelter, so I painted the room along with two other amazing women. We chatted over the course of two days and really got to know each other. The entire process was very therapeutic for me… knowing that this one room would help a woman and her young baby so she has a safe place to live.

We recently received an email from the director saying that a woman and her little one moved in the week after we completed the room, and the little boy walks around everywhere with this little stuffed dog from the crib. That made my heart smile. This is just a little reminder that even when you’re experiencing your own grief, you can be a healer for others.

 

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My New Vegetable Garden

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been almost an entire year since we officially closed on the house. It feels like just yesterday and a lifetime ago all at the same time. We’ve experienced so much here already and living here just feels right. I’m embarrassed to say that just last week I painted and organized the linen closet. Pre-Cole I would have had that done in days, but everyone warned me how much a baby changes everything. When he goes to bed, I answer emails while I cook dinner (or honestly, wait for the take out to arrive), and then I’m exhausted. I have no interest in organizing or doing much of anything at night. I asked my doctor when I’ll stop feeling so tired, and her answer was “well… my youngest is 10…so….”. Yawn.

Anyway, this post isn’t about my linen closet but my amazing new garden! These crazy photos are almost exactly a year ago, right after we closed. The woman who lived here before us was in her late 70’s and raised her 3 kids here over the course of 40 years. The house needed (and still needs) a lot of love. Before we moved in we removed all of the existing overgrown shrubs, 1 gigantic tree in the front yard that was about 5′ from our house, and a tall gangly tree on the side of the house. Removing these trees not only made the house look younger, but it allowed a space for my vegetable garden. The back yard is almost all shaded, which is amazing during the summer months especially now that I have to worry about greasing down a toddler with sunscreen. When my oldest nephew first saw the house, he was so disappointed because he realized there was no sunny spots for the gardening I love so much. He has gotten me plants in the past, and loves to talk about what I’m growing and trying new recipes.

 

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Below are pictures of my new fenced in garden that Ryan built for me! He spent at least three muggy days working all day in the sun to finish this for me. One of the days was even his birthday, but as much as he complained about finishing it, you could see how proud he was to make this. :) I showed him this picture, fully expecting him to say I’m crazy because it’s completely custom but he just responded “sure, I can do it.”. I even threw in “I’ll completely build the boxes on my own so you don’t have to” hoping he wouldn’t take me up on it. (Thankfully he didn’t) To sart, we spent four dreadful hours in Home Depot picking up lumber, screen, pavers, and rocks. That trip alone was enough to exhaust me, and thankfully we had a babysitter so Cole didn’t have to see me struggle to push what felt like a 100 pound cart.

Digging the holes to put the posts is so difficult. I dug about a quarter of a hole for one of the posts and my arms were in so much pain, so Ryan took over and dug each post. Once the posts were in, Ryan cut the pieces of wood and I was just his assistant. I helped staple the screen to the fence, and once the fence was all put together I stained the fence with deck stain. For the actual garden boxes, I used a natural homemade stain of vinegar, steel wool, and coffee and I love the color! I wish we would have used the stain for the entire fence. (Side note: Ryan texted me to stop at Home Depot to get the finest steel wool they have. I thought he was joking meaning “get the fanciest steel wool money has to buy” but he literally meant the finest grit. We both had a good laugh about that. :) I’m hoping the fence will keep the deer out, and so far no bunnies have tried to crawl under since there are rocks blocking the way. I’ve had my eye on one bunny lingering in the yard, but he hasn’t gotten my produce yet!

In previous years, I went crazy and planted way too many plants. The bugs would get to the plants in the back because I planted them too close together and couldn’t reach the back plants, or we’d have too many tomatoes to eat and they’d end up going to waste. This year I only planted 3 cherry tomato plants, 1 pepper plant, 1 dwarf raspberry bush (my first time with fruit!), 2 basil, 4 parsley, 1 thyme, 1 rosemary (that’ll hopefully grow back next year) and 1 blueberry bush. Everyone says that blueberry bushes do better in 2’s so they can cross pollinate so I’m going to see how much fruit they produce as a single plant, and if we need to I can add another one next year. I’m so excited to try growing berries this year and I can’t wait to see them start to mature!

We also recently rearranged our outdoor furniture. Our garage is set up oddly behind our house, so the driveway goes right behind our house instead of a patio. When we save enough money or hit the lottery, we’re going to add a blustone patio where our furniture currently is so it acts as a patio, but someone can drive on it if they need to (for resale).

And now for less words and more photos…

 

IMG_1198(Don’t mind the hose wrapped around our tree strump side table. It’s temporary for the sprinkler until our new grass grows in. :) We may move the hydrangeas further away from the house and add schip laurels next to the house because the beds on the side of the house look empty. Has anyone had experience transplanting plants? Is it best to wait for the fall?

 

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My beautiful peonies that didn’t last long enough for a photo shoot. I can’t wait until they grow in nice and full to create a huge hedge! I want to add some small shrubs in front but I haven’t decided what to add yet.

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Ryan even added a soaker hose system so I don’t have to worry about watering the garden. Phew! We still have to cover it with dirt once we figure out how long the timer should leave it on for. We’re still figuring out the perfect length of time to leave it on.

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Thank you, Ryan! You sure know how to make a girl feel special. ;)

Extra Curricular Activities

This summer was a busy one: newish baby, going back to work, packing, renovating, moving, unpacking, not sleeping. :) Even so, I forced myself to also do some fun things so I didn’t get burned out. I managed to get to the beach once (yay!) and celebrated two of my best friends getting married. I also explored our new town by taking walks in the local park, joined a local women’s group, started a play group with some lovely women I met after having Cole, and took some cooking classes.

I’m pretty confident in the kitchen but seeing other techniques is fun for me. (A perfectly relaxing day to me is reading design magazines while binge watching The Barefoot Contessa.) Last month I took a pasta making class and an Italian sauce making class and learned so much. I just have to find my kitchenaid mixer in the pile of boxes in the basement and buy this attachment and I’ll be making my own pasta in no time!

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Here is a delicious and fresh tomato sauce recipe we learned:

Prep time: 15 minuets
Cooking time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Can whole peeled italian plum tomatoes (2 p0unds)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 table spoons olive oil (not EVOO. I just realized I love this taste so much better)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • fresh basil

 

Intructions:

Warm the olive oil and add bay leaves. Add the sliced onions and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Bring the onion to caramel color then add the tomato, sugar, and simmer for 60 minutes. For best results cook at least 60 minutes. Let the sauce cool for 20 minutes and blend the sauce in a blender or run through food mill. Ass salt and fresh chopped basil and refrigerate for 24 hours. Enjoy!

Did you know there’s a difference between tomato and marinara sauce? The base of tomato sauce is sauteed onions, where marinara sauce is a based of sauteed garlic. Interesting, right?

Settling

When I was pregnant, people would always tell me how quickly time would go by once you have a baby. Maybe it was the hormones, or maybe I was a cynic, but those people seriously annoyed me. Now that I have a toothless, bald baby I now understand what they were talking about. Cole is now five months old and the time has flown by. Each week inspires new changes and milestones that are so much fun for Ryan and me to witness. I could talk about that boy for hours, but I won’t bore you. :) I mention this because you may have noticed that I took some time off from blogging. I didn’t do this intentionally but life kind of got in the way. We closed on our house in late-June and spent all of our spare time renovating our house and spending time with Cole. I didn’t want to miss out on his infancy by committing to too many other tasks.

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(Our moving announcement!) :)

We’ve been living in our new house for about a month and we are finally starting to feel settled. We still need to hang some art and the window treatments, but other than that it’s starting to feel like our new home. Life is starting to feel more normal and we’re finally starting to get into a schedule (until Cole decides to change things up). I’m excited to start spend more time blogging. I’m working on a lot of really fun and different projects that I’m excited to share with you soon! For now I’ll share with you what we’re personally working on now…

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Plans for our landscaping.

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“During” pictures while the gigantic tree was being removed from the left side of the house. Oh, and my handsome husband. :)

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We had the trees removed before we moved in because they were old, gigantic, too close to the house and causing the roof to grow moss. I literally cried when I first saw the house because it looked so naked. A little dramatic, I know. The front is growing on me now and it’s nice that you can actually see the house. (Check out the before here.) I’m excited to get plants in to complete the look!

Above is a photoshopped picture of what we’re looking to accomplish with the landscaping. We’ve already painted the door and railings black, added a new black mailbox and added new black shutters. We’re working with a landscape architect that I used to work with years ago and he’s helping us come up with a design that is colorful, textured and low maintenance. He seemed surprised by my two criteria: no holly bushes with poisonous berries and it needs to be hearty so it will survive digging and soccer balls. I know what little boys are capable of and it’s very possible that he’ll eventually eat the dirt or berries. I’m sure he’ll also eventually take tonka trucks to our garden. I’m one step ahead of him!

We finalized the design last night so now we have to start the prep work. Ah, the dreaded prep work.

 

My Two Babies

The past few months have been a whirlwind and went by so quickly! I can hardly believe that Cole will be 12 weeks old this Thursday. When I was pregnant I originally told clients that I’d only need 4-6 weeks for my maternity leave and the clients who had children laughed at me. I can now see why! It really does take three months to get into a groove and develop some sort of a schedule. We’re still working on that schedule part, but it has gotten so much easier! Cole is an awesome sleeper and only wakes up once, maybe twice, each night and when he does he goes right back to sleep. He’s even had a few nights where he slept eight straight hours! He’s been in his crib from the first night home from the hospital and I like to think that helps with his sleeping. Once we swaddle him and put on his sound machine, he usually goes right to sleep. He is amazing, that little boy.

He is developing such a fun personality now that he’s almost three months old. He has been smiling a ton and is just now starting to giggle and coo which melts my heart. When Ryan sings to him in a silly voice he kicks his legs like crazy and smiles a big toothless smile. Here’s a few of those adorable smiles. :)

 

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I have some more big news! Ryan and I bought a house! :) I know, we’re crazy. Two of the most stressful things in your life and we did them both within 10 weeks of each other. It doesn’t feel real and we’re both on cloud nine.

We weren’t planning on moving for at least two years but Ryan was looking at real estate every day “just for fun”. That’s like going to target “just for fun”. You always end up with a cart full of random items that you probably didn’t need. But, that’s besides the point.

Ryan found a different house last February and we ended up placing an offer but it didn’t get accepted. Looking back, I am so relieved! Our realtor casually mentioned that she had another house coming on the market¬† on March 28 (my birthday), so I saw it as a sign. She described this house and my eyes glazed over: center hall colonial, fixer upper, north side of Cranford, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a wood burning fireplace and a finishable basement (for a future office). Ahhhh! It reminds me of the Father of the Bride house (my absolute dream house) but obviously on a much smaller scale. I knew this was “the one”.

We closed on the house last Monday and it couldn’t have gone any better. We met the previous owner who lived there for 40 years and raised her family there. She was emotional to say goodbye to the house but she was so happy that a young family was moving in. She was sassy and full of life and exactly who I was hoping she’d be. Her positive energy was infectious and it made me feel so good because I know the house is full of good energy too. I asked her what her favorite thing about living there was and her answer would have been my own. She said her kitchen was always filled with people and love. I promised that we would continue to love the house, cook delicious meals in that kitchen, and have parties to create new memories. After we signed our life away to the mortgage company, the previous owner and I hugged and we both cried. While I jokingly teased that it was from my nursing hormones, I know it’s just because I’m just so happy. SO happy. I am so excited for this next chapter in a house I am so proud to call my own.

Since the previous owner was a bit older, it does need a lot of work. This past weekend Cole spent time with his Grandmas while Ryan and I were able to paint almost every room. It’s amazing how productive you can be when you don’t have an infant attached to you! Before we move in we are going to refinish the wood floors, install wood flooring in one of the rooms that is currently carpeted, and install central air. Go big or go home, right? We’re also removing a few HUGE trees that are way too close to the house. See that big daddy below on the left? He’ll be gone soon so we don’t have to worry about him falling on the house.

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My line of work is dangerous for my own house because I have big plans. For the exterior I want to built an overhang over the porch so the house doesn’t look so flat. We’re going to paint the shutters black and eventually get a new front door. We’re going to replace the lighting, windows, add landscaping and remove that funky walkway to the street. We have another walkway that goes to the driveway which is what we would use anyway. Ryan photoshopped a picture here to get an idea. Swoon!

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I’m sure I’ll be posting progress pictures once we have time and money (ha!) to do more work. I don’t want to rush anything because this could be our “forever home” and I also don’t want to miss out on Cole’s infancy. Spending time with him is way more important than stressing over which windows to buy or how quickly we can add molding to the dining room. :) Baby steps.

 

It’s been a happy 14 years.

This past Wednesday Ryan and I celebrated our 14th (!) anniversary. We’ve been together for 14 years, but married for three years. It’s so wild to me that I’ve known Ryan for half of my life, that we’ve been together for so long and that we’ve already been married for three years. I’m sure I’ve said this before but when I first met Ryan I did not think we’d be together for so long. He was my first boyfriend and I just thought he was going to be a summer fling. Because realistically who marries their high school sweetheart?! When we first became friends, I was madly in love with him. I can clearly remember asking my mom to stop at CVS one night before I saw Ryan because I wanted to buy Strawberry Kiwi lipsmackers in case he kissed me. Of course I didn’t tell my mother that, but I remember feeling giddy buying it. It feels like just yesterday.

Fast forward 14 years and we spent our anniversary lounging in our PJ’s with our new baby boy. No one prepared us for the intense amount of love we would feel for this little guy. I read a quote online that said “Don’t marry a man unless you would be proud to have a son exactly like him.” This quote couldn’t be more appropriate for Ryan and Cole. If Cole grows up to be exactly like Ryan, then I’ve done something right in my life. I am one lucky woman with two boys that I am so grateful to call my tiny little family.

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WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR DESIGN PROJECT!