Looking Backwards and Forwards

It’s hard to believe, December is over, the children are gone, and life is getting back to normal.  I’ve disappeared for the last few weeks, but sometimes you just need a little break.

So today, I’ll recap December and 2015 and give you a peak at what’s to come.  I started off the month disappointed in my Christmas trees—not the giant one we brought home from the tree farm but the ribbon trees I’ve been making for months.  Let’s face it, 18-inch trees don’t look impressive in 18-foot windows.  My little ribbon trees ended up on the bookcase where they looked quite festive, all I had to do was Rethink My Plan.

Bookcase forest

Then I shared with you Winter Sunsets, because they’re one of the best parts of this time of year.  The MR has been taking some time off over break. He’s going to miss the beautiful sunrises and sunsets we enjoy during winter.

Winter Suset Collage

We get short days, rain, and flooding in our little valley.  It’s been crisp and cool for the last week, but December brought its share of rain; It’s the Season.


When the girls finished up finals, we headed off to Roatan, an island off the coast of Hondoras.  We’d visited the beach on a Caribbean cruise years ago, and the MR always wanted to go back.

Baby Girl at the Beach

Baby Girl back in the day rocking a bikini and braids.

It was a low-key week for all after the kids’ stress from end of term exams and the MR’s work excitement.  We rented a condo a few feet from the beach, swam, snorkeled, read books, and relaxed.


We traded in our sunsets from the deck for the tropical version for a week.


We were home in time to Wish You Joy and Peace this holiday season and spend Christmas at together as a family..Tropical fam

One of my favorite gifts this year was from Sweet Miss.  She used Shutterfly to put together a book of highlights in A Tribute to the Big White House on the Hill—2015.  She had told me she’d been going through the blog lately, but I had no idea what for.  I thought she just enjoying my witty way with words and wanted to keep up with what we were doing.

She did add quotes from the blog that have me smiling giddily, forcing people to feel the softness of my towels, and playing with the dogs, drinking wine, and crafting on the deck.  Perhaps I need to tone down the realism a little.  People might be afraid to visit.

According to WordPress, the top posts of 2015 were when the new furniture for the great room finally arrived in Orders Up with 145 views and 10 comments.  By the by, I really do like to hear from you guys.  Sometimes I feel like I’m sending my words out into the void.

Great Room with pillows & throw

The next was our recap of last year in Bathrooms, Floors, and Bounty in 2014 highlighting the big bathroom remodel upstairs and down (remember the baby blue sink?), the new floors downstairs, and all that garden goodness (plus a shocking picture of me with red hair—what was I thinking?).  It received 81 view and three comments.


Oh the memories we can look back on.

Orange floor at sunset

Rounding out the top three was getting the carpet in Color Under Foot with 72 views and nine comments.  We still have a bit of an echo problem, but the carpet adds so much warmth and really pulls the room together.

Great Room Closer

Other favorites from last year were the Party Prep for Baby Girl’s graduation.  The whole family was in on the preparation with baby face pennants, balloon banners, and a pineapple tower.  It was a day to remember.

Pineapple Tower

Making a Statement was another highlight of 2015.  Now when you round that last corner of the driveway, the helicopter pad is gone, the grass is green, and the landscaping is welcoming.  We are no longer a house plopped down in a wilderness.  It took months, a burst pipe, and the family laying sod on graudation day, but it’s done.

yard & house

A few of the flowers and shrubs have been pruned by the deer, and the long dry summer was a little tough on the grass, but it still looks great and is the perfect starting place for future plantings.

One important change that didn’t make the top 10 was replacing the windows with blown seals and adding window films. We’ve had one window crack after the application of film, but we purchased the extra insurance and will have it replaced this spring.  Cracking is very unusual, but as I watch the snowflakes fall, me and the MR were concerned that extreme temperatures might cause more problems.

You can read all about it in Windows Upgrade.  While it still gets quite toasty in here at times (think 80º inside and 32º outside), the films have reduced the glare dramatically.

Film Install Collage

And now if this post wasn’t long enough, perhaps I’ve been holding it all in for the last three weeks and now I’m ready to burst, what’s up for next year?  Well, with both of our sweet girlies off at school, we’re painting the upstairs.  We meaning the MR.  By the time he’s done, the laundry room will be the only room left to be painted.

When he’s finished, I’ll get to put the sewing room together in earnest, seed catalogs are arriving, we have travel plans, and after 19 years and it’s fair share of spilled milk, sharpies, and spirographs it’s time to replace the dining room table. Now that the house isn’t totally falling apart, we have a little time for some fun stuff.  I think a bit more landscaping and a few more paths are on the agenda.

In good news, Baby Girl was accepted to the architecture program.  She still has four-and-a-half years of hard work ahead of her, but we’re very proud and happy for her.  Another highlight for December was my dad selling his home of 38 years and purchasing a townhome.  I’m sure that will keep us all busy packing in the next few weeks.

I’m hoping to stay more organized/on task in 2016.  It’s going to be a great year—I can just feel it.

No Christmas post would be complete without the much anticipated Christmas PJ’s.  Someone asked for Christmas’ mumus.  All I’m saying is be careful what you ask for.

Christmas Pjs Collage

How did your 2015 shape up? What’s on the agenda for the new year?











Party Prep

Nothing like a momentous occasion to make you want to celebrate. Our sweet Baby Girl graduated from high school a few weeks ago.

FFA stuff 034We’ve been looking forward to this event for months, and what better way to mark this step into independence than with a party for family and friends? I was cleaning, and planning, and shopping. We decided to join forces with another family and host the open house here for BG and her best friend.

Sweet Miss was away at school studying for finals, writing papers, presenting group projects, and planning away for the party, too. She sent me a Pinterest board filled with ideas—I really should have paid more attention. When she came home four days before the party, we had a lot of shopping to do.

Many hands make the work light; thank goodness for MeeMee, Papa Larry, Sweet Miss, her fella, and the MR. It was wonderful.

grad party

BG, her best friend, and her mom enjoying the day.

Here’s some tips and tricks for your next party.

1. Gather your supplies and get your shopping done early. 

This banner never would have happened, if I’d waited till the last minute to purchase supplies. BG’s poster was as simple as uploading a few pictures to Costco and picking it up a day or two later.

balloon banner


Have all your decorating supplies together. If you’re setting up a table before the party, just do it. That’ll be one thing off your list.

Pull out your platters and serveware ahead of time, so while you’re in the midst of all those last minute kitchen chores, you won’t have to stop to find tape or platters or special spoons.

Supplies prepped


I did have a lot of decorations all set out on the buffet, but this is a live and learn thing. Next time we have a party, if I get out the platters, the MR is very helpful.

2.  If someone offers to help, just say “Yes!”  

I have trouble with perfectionism. If it’s not quite how I planned, I get a little crazy. Life’s a lot easier and more fun when you let others help. Learn to let go.

everyone working 2


Sweet Miss had visions of a pineapple tower but woodworking isn’t her forte, so we called Papa Larry into action.

Pineapple platform

The platform he built turned into this focal point.

Pineapple Tower

Way to go Sweet Miss and Papa! It was lovely.

It took many hands to put the balloon banner together. I’d seen the idea in an old issue of Real Simple (let’s just say that was a misnomer) and had bought the balloons and garland online. Grandma MeeMee and I cut up tissue paper into our own color-coordinated confetti.

confetti bowl

Then it was time to stuff the balloons. Can you say tricky? MeeMee and I came up with a plan. I stretched the neck of the balloons, and she stuffed in confetti.

stuffing the balloon


The balloons waited patiently the rest of the week on the buffet till game day. I didn’t want any to deflate ahead of time. The day of the party, we had Papa and the MR blowing up balloons, and Baby Girl adding the letters. Then Papa tied them to the garland, I hung them over the table, and we were set.

Papa Popped Smiling

Be careful not to overfill the balloons, or you’ll be covered in confetti.

By the end of the party, we’d lost a few letters, and it was difficult to get the balloons all facing one direction. While I still think it was a clever idea, and visually exciting, it may have been more trouble than it was worth.

3.  Check out your local rental store.

The MR was looking around online, and the rental store down the street had tables for $10, and tableclothes for $10. We were expecting around 75 people; a few tables just made sense. We were also able to pick up wine glasses. The best part—we just had to rinse, no washing involved.

bg & bud


The tables were well-used on that sunny afternoon.

4. If you forgot something—improvise. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Improvise.

I woke up the day of the graduation ceremony realizing I hadn’t ordered a lei for Baby Girl. Now she’s been an officer in FFA for the last two years, she’s made dozens of leis for graduates, this is a big part of graduation. How could I forget? The FFA advisor decided not to make them this year, so the local florist was taking orders, and I’d simply let it go.

It doesn’t hurt to have two former FFA members with plenty of lei-making experience in my house. BG bought carnations, and Sweet Miss got busy with a needle and some dental floss. A little later, we were set, and I was over the bad-mom moment.

flower lei 2



I had wanted to decorate the top of the buffet with Gerbera daisies—BG’s favorite—but we ran out of time. When the MR and SM went to the store the day of the party, they picked up more carnations and some unusual black flowers instead.

Sweet Miss used her crafting experience to glitter empty jars and “2015”‘s that BG had cut out of card stock With the flowers, they made lovely centerpieces and the buffet just had to go bare.

SM making flower arrangements


5. Embrace input.

Sweet Miss wasn’t getting home until a few days before the party. I figured we didn’t have time for her Pinterest board. Well, life would have been a lot easier if I’d taken a good look at her ideas and done a little prep ahead of her arrival.

She printed pictures to line the driveway, made a garland of baby faces, and painted advice boards.

baby face swag


If someone has the enthusiasm and the drive, let ’em go for it.

Advice boards


By the end of the party, both boards were filled with helpful tips on how to succeed. Some talked about forgiveness, positivity, finding your passion, and putting family first. Others focused on using the restroom regularly. What does that say about our diverse group of partygoers?

keys to success 2


6.  Stop stressing and just enjoy.

This is a hard one for me. I freak out a little—OK, maybe a lot—when I’m planning these kind of events. But me and the MR are blessed to be surrounded by family and to have many wonderful friends in our lives.

Family on the deck



We are proud of the class of 2015, of BG and her buddy, and the new adventures in life they’re about embark on.

Girls on the deck


A little bird told me that one of my readers wanted to see graduation photos. So glad to have my dad, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and the MR’s folks here to celebrate with us.

Grad Collage 2

What are you celebrating this month? 




Adding Comfort

Overnight guests aren’t a problem around here. We have a guest room with its own bathroom. We’re set right?

Well, adding a few cozy pillows doesn’t necessarily make a bed comfortable.

Guest Bed Collage

When we moved here, we didn’t realize that the built-in bed in the master suite was a king-size bed; so for a few months, we did the hop, skip, and jump to get out of bed while we waited to buy a new mattress. It seemed perfect just to set up our old bed in the guest room.

The key word being old. You see it’s the mattress we’ve had ever since we got married–23 years could be pushing it on the lifetime of a mattress. The MR’s folks are annual summer guests, and they started talking about the wonders of egg-crate pillow toppers for mattresses. Maybe it was time to do something.

So when Baby Girl’s school volleyball team announced a mattress fundraiser, we thought they were crazy, but we jumped on board. A few weeks ago, the school gym was set up like a mattress store with beds everywhere. We went, we tried them out, and we bought one.

Our brand-new mattress arrived yesterday.

mattress & beet 003

Now the guest bed will be as comfy as it is cozy. Sweet Dreams friends.

If you’re curious, the mattress was a brand-name, made-to-order mattress that we bought at 30-60 percent off the retail price. We had it delivered all the way to the guest room for a fee. The team sold 35 mattresses and raised over $5,000 for the volleyball program.

The only down side is that we still have the old mattress to get rid of.

What’s the craziest fundraiser you’ve been a part of? 




Play Ball

I was chatting with a friend the other day, and she mentioned how much she loves following along on the blog and how busy we are.

That totally brought me to a stop. I’ve made a big mistake if I’ve given the impression that all we do is go, go, go. We always have chores to do and projects to work on, but we also take time to relax.

So I thought I’d share with you how we’ve spent a lot of evenings this summer. When the MR gets home from work, we adjourn to the deck chairs off the kitchen with wine, cheese and crackers, and this contraption.

K-9 Kannon

Earlier this summer, Grandma MeeMee gave the MR the K-9 Kannon. This tongue-in-cheek present has provided hours of entertainment. You see, while me and the MR want to relax and talk about the day, the dogs are ready to run.

Let's Go

With just the pull of the trigger, they’re off.

On the Run

And it’s a long way down to the meadow.

Down in the meadow

After a few turns, Cocoa comes back with her tongue hanging out ready to rest.

Tongue haning out Cocoa

But Bogart is far from calling it quits. So Cocoa makes a show of playing. She runs with him to the landing and then watches as he retrieves the tennis ball.

Cocoa on landing 2

She then greets him on his return running back up with him.

He's Back

And the processes starts all over again. The really great thing about using the Kannon is that you don’t have to touch a slobbery tennis ball. The ball fits into the end of the gun with no fuss or muss.

Even though Bogart celebrated his 10th birthday this July, he still has a lot of get-up-and-go. He can play ball for hours, and I don’t mind hanging out with my guy as an added bonus.

Bogart Rests 3

How do you kick back and relax come evening?

Just Go With It

Sometimes I get bogged down in the crush to be perfect. You’d think at my age I’d realized that’s just not going to happen. But no, I plan, I worry, I fret, I stress.

Well, this last week has been one of those weeks. Sweet Miss graduated from high school, and we wanted to celebrate with an open house for friends and family. I think open house, and I think finger foods, treats and punch. I asked Sweet Miss what she wanted and the list was very different: “good” corn bread (as opposed to that new recipe that was heavy as a rock), her favorite salads, BBQ chicken, deviled eggs, and the Mr piped in with steak. Hmm, this was more complicated than I expected.

Sweet Miss also had some interesting ideas on what to do at a graduation open house. She said these parties are boring, and she wanted games to liven things up. OK, so we’re planning a sit down menu for 50 people, and let’s throw in random party games. This was one of those times I could put my foot down and do what I thought was expected or just go with it. Hey it was my girl’s party, and her plan sounded fun.

So with a lot of help from my mother-in-law Theo and the whole family, we got this house together, made a ton of food, and set up party games. Now somewhere along the way, Sweet Miss mentioned she wanted a photo collage with pictures of herself growing up. Going through old photos is a chore in and of itself; my mom loved to take pictures. We bought poster boards, but we were running out of time when it hit me. We could just put pick up the glass and put them on the buffet. The pictures would be protected, visible, and easily removed. Luckily, my father-in-law had bought suction cups for us. I’d mentioned how we needed to dust under our glass topped counters but had no way to lift the glass. It was perfect timing, and I love the way it turned out.

I think this would be a great way to showcase pictures for a special birthday or holiday. While most people don’t have long glass counters, photos sandwiched between glass plates would add a fun and personal touch. We’ll have another grad party in a few years and further down the line, I’m hoping we’ll host a few engagement parties. Wouldn’t it be fun to showcase photos of the happy couple? For now, I’m glad we ran out of time and decided to think outside the box on this one.

And now for those of you wanting to liven up a graduation open house, here’s just a few party games to try. First we had the classic eating a doughnut off a string, then a water balloon toss, three-legged race and shaving balloons (note: dollar store razors aren’t very sharp). Then we had a pinata with Sweet Miss’ face on it. Why you ask? Because that’s the way she wanted it. And finally the party game to end all party games…the pie eating contest.

Sweet Miss and friends prepare to dig in.

Which quickly degraded into a food fight.

Baby Girl don’t mess with your grown up cousins.

We had such a good time, and some day I will learn to just relax and enjoy life.

Do your parties fit the “normal” mode? Do you have an interesting way to display pictures? When was the last time your party ended in a food fight?