Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All That and a Bag of Chips

I found a new coat that is as cozy as my favorite blue bathrobe. I'm visiting my sister and we hit her Target yesterday to return $25 worth of stuff. I promptly spent $100 on myself, with the highlight being this Long Brown Puffer Coat.

Guess how much it was?


I may look wider than a barn door, but I am oh-so-cozy. I may even start wearing it inside the house. There were tons (like 50) left, marked down from $40. Colors were White, Black, Brown, and Blue. Thought I'd pass this along in case you need a little extra coziness today.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Great Expectations

So I’m just wondering, did you marry “your type?” If you are married, did you have a preconceived notion of what kind of guy you would end up with or whom you gravitated toward during your dating years? If so, did you marry that kind of guy? How have your expectations been different from reality?

I always figured I would marry a frat guy type. Gregarious, with a slight beer gut, loads of stories, and the ability to throw me over his shoulder at will in a “get over yourself, Anna” kind of way. The kind of guy who would lean you up against the cinder block wall in the fraternity party room and slur with a little beer on his breath, “Man, you’re soooo hot!” Not sure where I got this from, but it’s just an image that stuck in my head.

Tom does not fit this mold. He is shy and reserved; he is proper and straight-laced. I outweigh him easily within a few short weeks of becoming pregnant, so there hasn't been a lot of throwing over the shoulder around here.

He is definitely not a frat boy. In fact, until we got involved in our church, he had just a few male friends, and he is content to spend a weekend at home rather than going out golfing our hanging with the boys. He does not curse, tell raunchy stories, and I don’t believe he’s ever uttered the word “hot”in the “smokin’ hot” sense in his life.

I remember when an ex-boyfriend visited me in graduate school and spent some time with Tom and me. Later, he proclaimed, “I just don’t think Tom is an ‘Anna Maiden Name’ kind of guy.” He even sent me the comic you see at the top of this blog post as some sort of illustration.

Puh-leeze! I mean, what was that about? I was in love with Tom! He was handsome, sweet, thoughtful, and extremely smart. Whatever the ex was trying to do totally backfired. Did this guy not realize that I have never NOT rooted for the underdog in my life, and he had just made Tom into an Underdog?

Didn’t he realize no one puts Baby, I mean Anna, in a corner?! A comic that criticized Tom? Ha. That guy might as well have gone out and bought the ring and booked the reception hall himself, because his insult sent me farther into Tom’s cute arms.

I think the ex did manage to peg that Tom and I are different. Sometimes those differences have been easy to navigate, sometimes more difficult. But even though Tom and I are opposites on the Myers-Briggs scale, and he may initially not have seemed like an “Anna Maiden Name” kind of guy, he’s the one I married, and after 18 years together, there are a lot of reasons why it works.

For one, there’s the whole introvert/extrovert thing. His quiet nature does not bother me. I realize now that I want to be the one with the loud, funny stories at parties, while he laughs along and is hopefully not too embarrassed .

I’m also a bit of a prude, so if anyone is going to be slightly risqué or raunchy in this family (by which I mean blogging about shooting one’s wad (of cash) or occasionally uttering the S-word) I’d prefer it to be me.

Also, Tom doesn’t schmooze, ever, so you are always getting the real deal. He might not be gregarious enough to be Pres of the IntraFraternity Council, but he is a loyal friend with great integrity. He is satisfied with our quiet life, and doesn’t care who knows whom, how much they make, or where they bought what. He also doesn’t get into gossip, which can be a bit of a bummer for me if I get in the mood, but it’s good not to have someone to feed off of.

Of course there are many reasons I love Tom, and certainly not just because he serves as a good foil for me. One of our old friends used to liken us to Dharma and Greg, which sort of implies I am a crystal-carrying ditz, but it does peg Tom as the mild-mannered type. I guess our friend just meant we complement each other well, and I believe that.

It also doesn’t hurt that he is H-O-T-T (lick finger, put it on your rear jeans pocket and insert sizzling sound here).

I could probably write a whole separate post for you on what I would suppose Tom’s “real type” is. I’ll take a quick stab at it here: a thin, doe-eyed, northerner with long, straight hair tucked under a baseball cap. Likes cooking, fine wine, the great outdoors, L.L. Bean and watching Planet Earth. Lives to cheer on her favorite sports teams and go to rock concerts. Prefers sex to sleep.

Good luck with that, Tom. Bloom where you’re planted, baby.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stomping Around the Christmas Tree

So on Christmas Eve morning, before our annual Mexican lunch at Chevy’s, dropping cookies off for local firefighters, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and going to church, Mom had a pity party.

I hadn’t slept well because I was disappointed and disgruntled. Tom and I had gone to pick up our new car (my first car ever with power windows!) just in time for Christmas. I pictured something like this, without the BMW part, of course.

After signing all the papers and paying, we took the keys and walked out to drive home. It was the wrong car. Crap. Weeks of deciding, and figuring and waiting--- for what? Of course on the way over I had told Tom very dramatically, “I am so sick of car shopping. If I have to go back to the dealer after tonight, I will poke my eyes out with a screwdriver.” Ooops.

So I tossed and turned, wondering when I’d ever get my new car. Wondering how we were going to cram the 4 of us PLUS THE DOG into a Volkswagen Jetta for our 5 hour trip to my sister’s. Picturing my feet scrunched up on the dash like they were for our Thanksgiving trip. Imagining blod clots and much pissed-off -ness by me.

I grumped around downstairs for a while then crawled back in bed to stew.

Then I noticed I had my period. Three days of fantasizing about a surprise after-40 pregnancy went up in smoke. The whole scenario of having teenagers and a toddler at the same time, with an unplanned (and therefore surely meant to be) child who would be easy, docile, and bring the whole family together just like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie disappeared too.

When I finally got a grip and put on my big girl underwear (NOT panties, mind you) to start the day, Molly and I began baking. Seconds later, in her exuberance to point out something incredibly important (colorful sprinkles?), she clocked my in the left eye. Stinging tears, a possibly detached retina, and we kept on baking. It wasn’t exactly a screwdriver through the eye, but it wasn’t fun, either.

I thought I was hiding my grumpiness pretty well (unless the zits gave me away) until we got to Chevy’s. Molly announced to Tom and Jake, and anyone else in the parking lot, “Watch out. Mom’s grouchy because she has her period.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Wish for You Today

My wish for you this special week is:

(That's Peace, "Peace & Peace," or "& Peace Peace"...depending how you look at it. You get the idea)

Time with those dear to you:

...and something special under the tree:

And for those of you who are experiencing loss this season, for whom the decorations, lights, and even the music bring up memories both bitter and sweet, my wish turns into a prayer. An extra prayer of comfort for you.

Monday, December 21, 2009

See Family Hits the Big Time

Just wanted to let you know that the See family Christmas card is being featured as Snuggie Picture of the Week on one of my favorite blogs, Pulsipher Predilections. Wooohoooo! Thanks, Kristina!

See our other brush with the blogosphere big time right here.

This Thing Runs on a 60 Watt Bulb

Christmas shopping around here is…interesting. Jake is easy. He just chooses one expensive Lego set and we are done. Well, “done” if you don’t count the endless discussions of the Lego set’s merits, the intricacies of the design, etc. This goes on for weeks during which time you just may want to poke your own eardrums out with a sharp object. I am appalled that the cumulative price of all his Legos could bring relief to several small countries, but it certainly is simple to push the “Order” button at

Molly, who is more likely to play with an old Bandaid than her American Girl dolls, is not so easy. She is a creative spirit; she is unique. In the above picture she is playing with a gourd.

Remember last year when she asked for:

A mouse
Tickets to a Jonas Brothers’ Concert
Never to go to Home Depot Again?

She did not get her first two choices, but we did give her a fancy schmancy certificate freeing her from any/all future Home Depot trips. She was pleased. This year we realized we failed to put an expiration date on the Home Depot decree, so now we have to figure out a new gift.

“Well, I don’t know what to ask for because the one thing I really want I know you won’t get me.” Big sad eyes. “What is it?” I ask. “A King Charles Spaniel puppy.”

How right she is.

My problem is compounded by the fact that my sister just adopted a teeny tiny dog, whom we will meet at Christmas. She has a chocolate lab, too, and she is blowing my excuse that you can’t have a large dog and a small dog together. Thanks, L.

As I said, Molly is not easy to shop for. When she was 4 we got her the My Pretty Pony that talked and said things like, “Feed me, Mommy,” “I need my Pacifier,” and “I love you.” Ten minutes into it on Christmas morning, Molly declared, “This pony is too much work.” Back into the box it went. The nice thing is she doesn’t ask for video games, laptops, cell phones, or gadgets. The hard thing is that she pretty much asks for nothing.

I am at a loss. So I bought her this.

To me this is basically an Easy Bake Oven. You know, like the one I never got as a kid, but that I see lined up in multiples on the thrift store shelves every time I go shopping. I can imagine a mom’s delight when she tosses this honking piece of plastic into the donation bin, reclaiming prime real estate inside her home.

Yeah, this crayon maker has the potential to be used about 3 times if I’m lucky. Lots of plastic packaging, lots of plastic parts. Mucho environmental damage, and of that I am not proud.

But please do not judge. It’s December 21, and at least it’s not a puppy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Coasting Along in December

I'm not much of a crafter at all because I just don't have much patience for the little details. When I saw this idea at Beneath My Heart, Traci assured her readers it would be easy, so I decided to try it.

Check out the link for a step by step tutorial, but basically, you make coasters using 4 inch square tiles from Home Depot (17 cents each!), a little Mod Podge, and your black and white printer.

I printed out initials in fonts that I liked, cut them to size, and glued them to the tiles using Mod Podge. A little Mod Podge on the top, let them dry, then sprayed the top with Acrylic Sealer. The final step was putting a thin piece of self-stick cork on the back so the tiles wouldn't scratch a table.

All of the supplies (except the tile) were at Michael's. This was the easiest, fastest, and least expensive craft I've ever done. Before I knew it I had coasters for my neighbors and friends from my small group.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quick Question of the Day

So if your region is calling for snowfall this weekend, and you got the kids sleds for Christmas, would you give them to them early? Last year we had no snow at all, so I'm leaning toward yes.

BTW, no one believes in Santa, as evidenced by this back seat conversation of years ago.

Here are our choices:

A. Ho Ho Ho!

B. Heck No!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Way to Represent

I know posting twice in one day might be a little over the top for me (it's feast or famine you know), but I simply must process the events of this evening.

Jake went to a Boy Scout event at a local church. The point was to introduce current Cub Scouts to the wonders of Boy Scouting, should they choose to move up next year. They played games and learned about scouts. Then they broke up into small groups, with a Group Leader (older boy) supposedly sharing what to expect.

Jake's group was led by a boy who claimed to be a vampire. After telling the kids he hated them, he said he was going to suck their blood. Then he proceeded to swear at them, using, as Jake said, "The S-word, The B-word, and the F-word." Nice.

Note to Boy Scouts of America: You may want to reconsider your choice of spokesperson. And here I thought Nike and Tag Heuer had a hard sell with Tiger Woods.

A Fire and Ice Christmas

So I was at my annual checkup last week…no not the one with stirrups, the one where the HVAC guys check out the furnace. Anyway, heat exchanger something blah blah something something was cracked and now we’re out 12 grand.

So my gift is shiny and expensive, but not in the same way a piece of fine jewelry would be. When I told the kids we were getting a new furnace and air conditioner, Jake said, “Well, I guess we won't be getting new windows...and Europe’s definitely out.”

Smart Kid.

May your holidays be a little more bling and a little less cha-ching.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bloggy Holiday Card Exchange, OR Have I Just Ruined My Husband's Career?

I am participating in Tuesday's Bloggy Holiday Card Exchange. It's a way to share your card or photos with blog friends.

Thought I'd get mine up early so you would know that Scary On-Line Guy didn't do me in.

Our card has two pictures on it. This one:

(As you already know from reading this blog, Tom is a saint. He went along with the whole Snuggie thing with nary a peep. Question: Do we send this photo to his work colleagues???)

And here's my fave:

As you can see, we're keeping warm this winter at the See house. I hope you have a cozy Christmas too!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Famous Last Words

In an effort to not turn into Fred Sanford, I put some of my grandpa’s old furniture online to sell. Imagine my delight when my first customer pulled up today, reeking of smoke. I guess my point about the furniture having always been in a smoke-free home wasn’t what reeled him in.

He was a creepy, thin, middle aged white man, with glasses and a quiet demeanor. Why didn’t I just suggest a serial killer on my posting? I kept mentioning how the furnace guy was on his way and how Shadow had a very aggressive streak (as she tried to lick his face).

On a positive note, he had a pick-up truck, not a panel truck, and he didn't tell me I looked like I had soft skin. Anyway, he left and will decide later today whether he wants the furniture (which I’m pretty much giving away). In the event that I am not heard from again, please tell Tom that this guy’s cell phone # is in our phone, I have an email trail, and it’s been a really wonderful life.

Thank you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Because I'm Selfless That Way

So, my Christmas plans have been a total disaster. The tree sits undecorated in the family room, my tiny trees on the front stoop blew a fuse and now the outlet won’t work, and the white candles in the windows are ancient history. Within 7 minutes of suction cupping (?) them to the windows around the house, they came crashing to the floor. “Bam!” From Molly’s room. “Smash!” from the kitchen. Nine broken bulbs in a row. Not remotely like Kristallnacht, but you get the picture.

Speaking of pictures, I’ve been desperate to take a family Christmas picture. We usually do it over Thanksgiving when my sister can take it (see red plaid family on red couch above). This year we wanted Shadow in the picture, so we had to do it at home.

Determined to check one measly thing off the to-do list, I roped in my 9 year old neighbor. She thought she was on an innocent play date with Molly until I handed her the camera and told her to start shooting. She got some good ones, but kept cutting off Tom’s head. He comes in at a towering 5’8" in shoes, which to a 4th grader must seem gigantic.

Anyway, getting 4 people and a dog to look good at one time proved a challenge, which leads me to today. I had to select which one would be our card photo. The power! The responsibility! There were two in which I looked pretty fabulous, but Tom was headless and the dog looked possessed by demons. The kids? Well this never was about the kids, was it?

We order our cards from, where they are inexpensive and I can order a ton. But who wants a ton when you don’t look good? Hence my leeetle moral dilemma. Should I throw the rest of the family under the bus so I could look good? I blame my best friend for all of this. Years ago she told me how irritated she got when her married friends would send photos of just the kids. She wanted to see how her friends looked, too.

Well, I promised her Tom and I would be in the photos from then on. Nothing like giving everyone a yearly documentation of wrinkle encroachment. My friend is married with a child now, and let me tell you if I get a photo of just her daughter in the mail this year, she is cruising for a bruising.

So, I’m curious: WWBD (What Would Blogland Do)? Would you choose the fabulous picture of yourself, or would you sacrifice yourself for the greater good? I mean isn’t Mom the one doing the decorating, cleaning, shopping and wrapping? What about the mailing, schlepping and thank you note-ing? Shouldn’t she be the one who shines in the Christmas card photo?

Being the selfless person I am, I chose one where we only lost the very top of Tom’s hair, the kids looks great, and I look…meh. My nose veers off unbecomingly to the corner of the picture and my face is a fleshy orb. You may be wondering if you’ll see it. Oh yes you will-- early next week.

This blog is no stranger to unflattering pictures of me, and this one isn't terrible, just not my fave. It also has a twist that I hope you’ll see as kitschy and ironic. If not, you’ll just realize, if you haven't already, that we’re really big dorks. Until then, I’ll leave you with this from Awkward Family Photos. Enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

2 Dollar Chair Revisited


Remember the $2.00 chair I got at the thrift shop, despite the fact that I have chairs coming out of my ears over here? Well, I liked the pretty blue color, but the fabric was badly stained and covered with cat hair. I was a little nervous about re-covering it because I've only done chair bottoms, not tops and bottoms.

When I took off the fabric, finding a gazillion staples in the process, I got a little nervous. I considered keeping the bright aqua vinyl I found underneath, but alas, it had rips in it, so I knew I must plunge forward.

With Tom's assistance and Molly's encouragement, I started folding, cutting, and stapling. There is no sewing in this household. I just kind of made a hospital bedsheet fold in the back, with lots of extra fabric, and stapled it all underneath the chair.

I wanted a funkier fabric, but settled on this brocade pattern because the price was right. Here is Tom pretending we're going to use duct tape on the chair. Well, we might have used a smidge, but it's not where you can see it!

Here's how we ended up:

Could someone please reach up into the above picture for me and move my coffee table over about 6 inches? Thanks.


Chair: 2.00
Heirloom White spray paint: 3.00
Black and White fabric: 15.00
Total: $20

And for those of you who are worried that I'll get buried under a pile of chairs and be featured on "Hoarders," I did put 4 chairs on Craigslist last week. Still waiting for takers.

This post is also featured at Shanty to Chic.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Two Trees or One?

We haven’t bought our fresh Christmas tree yet. And now, with a beautiful snow falling outside, I think we’ll stay hunkered down and put off going to the tree lot until tomorrow.

A few days ago, Molly and I put up the Kids’ Tree. What started out as an homage to the tiny, magical tree my sister and I had on a table between our twin beds growing up, has turned into a 7 foot high artificial tree covered with the kids’ treasured ornaments.

I know the subject of a “Kids’ Tree” can spark serious and heated debate. I mean, is it to showcase their special things, or is it just a ploy by a control freak mom to keep pipe cleaner and felt creations off of the real, fancy tree? I would say for us, it’s a bit of both.

My mom was a florist and a great home decorator. When we kids finished trimming the tree and wandered off to do other things, Mom would get to work. She wouldn’t undo what we had done, but she would tie it all together. Strands of fake pearls or silver beads, white birds with ribbons in their mouths, tons of gold balls—she would find one way to unify the tree each year and make it the Best Tree Ever. Our kiddie creations were more than welcome there, but our trees always looked classy.

I mimicked her decorating style as an adult, and each year I’d have plenty of gold or silver balls, and as one boyfriend called them, “necklaces” on my trees. I was good at it, remembering to hang ornaments deep within the branches and never to skimp on the white lights.

What I hadn’t counted on was the sheer VOLUME of ornaments my kids would make and receive each year. My mother in law is a prolific supporter of Hallmark, so collectible ornaments abound. Combined with classroom crafts and our church’s Advent ornament workshop, the kids were hauling in about a ten new ornaments each per year. Do the math. My own contributions were personalized ornaments for each. Because I was traumatized as a kid when I couldn’t find anything with the name “Anna” on it (how times have changed!), I just can’t pass a “Molly” or “Jake” ornament up.

So, now we have the Kids’ Tree in the upstairs hallway, and the “Real” tree in the family room. I love how the upstairs tree is right in front of a window. In my book, that gets me off the hook for hanging exterior lights. The downstairs tree is more subdued with a lot of white, silver, and my decorative touches while the one upstairs is a riot of color.

I love the upstairs tree because I don’t try to control or “fix” it. I don’t move ornaments around. I don’t mind if there are New York Yankees ornaments, or Santas in Hawaiian shirts. We love going through the ornaments, remembering where each came from. A clothespin reindeer with one googly eye, a wooden apple from when I was a kid, Tom’s collection of Little Drummer Boys, Molly’s dough stars, and Jake’s golden macaroni picture frame. The tree itself is a little smooshed in the middle, or at least it appears so in this picture.

Some of the kids’ creations are on the tree downstairs, too. The most treasured are the Names of Jesus ornaments each child made in second grade. They are made out of paper, red yarn, and glitter, and they remind us why we are putting up the trees in the first place.

So, while our two trees sprang up out of the need for space for all these ornaments, they also allow me to keep some semblance of control over our home’s décor. This might not seem like a lot, but I feel as if I have so little control over the paper and clutter and dog hair that come into the house. It’s nice to have one tree look the way I’d like, and the kids love having a tree just for them

The staid silver balls and tasteful ribbons help ME enjoy our trees more, but it’s the quirky, one-of-a-kind ornaments that hold the most special memories for ALL of us. Nothing gets left out.

But those two molded plastic Mark McGuire ornaments my MIL got us in the 90’s? Whoopsie. I just couldn’t seem to locate them this year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What's-Up Pre-Nup?

Without saying anything more about the whole scandal, I would like to mention that Tiger and Elin Woods are currently reviewing their pre-nup. Tom and I do not have a pre-nup because with my teaching school and his being in grad school, there wasn’t a whole lot to consider, finance-wise, and we figured, correctly, that we'd never be rich and famous. We did, however, go to a few hours of pre-marital counseling to discuss our wants/needs in marriage.

You may remember from an earlier post, that Tom’s primary need in our marriage was “Clean Counters.”

I must say that I have done swimmingly on this front. While they are sometimes cluttered , our counters are almost always clean. I wield my Method spray bottle as a woman on a mission to make the house smell like cucumber-melon and to keep my husband satisfied.

As he approaches his 40th birthday, Tom has begun to wonder if he really chose the best “Need” to head up his marriage list. He claims he didn't really understand the question. This morning he asked me if we could re-negotiate in light of this confusion and his upcoming milestone birthday.

I believe he was alluding to a different kind of need, perhaps in the Lovin’ department. Maybe he wanted to address frequency, such as amending it with, “on the occasion of a full lunar eclipse, not just a solar one.” Perhaps clean counters do not provide him the kind of satisfaction he once envisioned.

So I ask you, should I hold him to the original 1996 agreement of “Clean Counters,” or should I take pity on the guy and re-negotiate? Is this like being granted 3 wishes and then using one wish to ask for 3 more? Because I never really thought that was kosher.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Which Smells Worse? Snapfish or 3 day Old Fish?

Snapfish, you stink.

I tried to like you, really I did. You were the one who first introduced me to Photo Books. You showed me how I could put an entire year's worth of pics into one small, thin book-- no cropping, stickers, or glitter required. You convinced me that if I powered through one day in December, by the time Christmas rolled around, I'd have a nice album on the coffee table, look completely pulled together, and even gain points with the in-laws.

I wasn't wowed by your photo quality or your customer service and was eventually woo-ed away by Shutterfly and occasionally Kodak Gallery. But you were my first.

This year, when you sent me the 50% off "each album" coupon, I was back by your side like a lovesick teen. I wanted to wait until December, really I did, but your coupon expired in November. To heck with Thanksgiving. To heck with our Christmas card photos in matching plaid pj's. I wanted you and your savings, and I was willing to compromise to get it. If Nov and Dec had to go into NEXT YEAR'S BOOK, then so be it.

Imagine my dismay when, after 6 hours of selecting, editing, uploading, placing, and captioning 300 pictures, I discovered you weren't really who you said you were. That 50% off coupon, which should have been pretty significant on my ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY DOLLAR ORDER (????) amounted to $19.99. And the free shipping I'd been promised? Not able to be combined with any other offer. Gotta love the fine print.

I had to make a choice. Throw away all the time I'd put in and go crawling back to Shutterfly, who was ready to embrace me with open arms and a REAL 40% off coupon. Or, suck it up and press "order." I was leaving the next morning for Thanksgiving and that car wouldn't pack itself.
So, when you received my order, you may have thought I was the same happy little Anna See of days gone by. As if all it takes to impress me is .11 prints or a snappy website. No sirreee. And those little coupons you've been putting in my inbox ever since you received my colossal order? Just like pouring lemon juice on a paper cut. I bet by Christmas Eve you'll be offering me 75% off plus a make-out session with tongue.

Well, forget it.

You Stink.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday Blues?

Just got back from our whirlwind annual trip. We stay in a different home each night, which means a lot of driving and schlepping in and out with luggage, sleeping bags, and what-not, but it’s all worth it. The family time with relatives is precious, and I am so grateful for it. We played Charades, ate ourselves silly, looked at old photo albums, saw our first snow of the year, and drove halfway around tarnation.

Coming home is a pain. The stuff we take out of the car quickly overwhelms the kitchen and the hallway and is enough to drive me either to distraction or to drink. One of my favorite things to do when I get home from a trip, once I’ve put in the first load of laundry and managed to dig out a place to sit down, is to look over the newspapers that arrived while we were gone.

I am able to pick through and make a nice little stack of my favorite sections only. Everything else goes straight to the recycle bin. It feels decadent to have four days of unread Style sections or Local News to be enjoyed at one sitting. World news? There's always tomorrow.

Today wasn’t as fun for me because of one thing: Black Friday.

With all the traveling and visiting, I can never shop on Black Friday. It’s not that I even like to shop AT ALL, but when if seems like everyone else is doing it, I feel a sense of urgency that comes from peer pressure, I suppose. But the people who are pressuring me aren’t my peers, but the people on TV and in the newspapers and on the radio.

Tom and I are in the market for a new car, and I read that statistically Black Friday is the best day of the YEAR to buy a car. Aargh. Missed it. Now, regardless of which of the 364 other days we choose, we’ll feel like chumps.

Last night, while visiting my dear relatives, it was all I could do to not whip over to the local Walmart and start scooping up socks, undies, and small electronics. Their pristine, country Walmart was just down the road and if our little car hadn’t been packed to the gills with all of our travel crap (and it did feel like crap by day 4), I would have done it. The clown-car situation, with stuffed packed on the dashboard and under our feet, made me sit down at the farm table with a cup of spiced tea and enjoy the company instead. It was the better choice and one I enjoyed thoroughly.

But to arrive home to find my newspapers full of ONE DAY ONLY offers and coupons for a day that had already passed was a little disheartening. It appears that Target, Toys R Us, Michael’s—well, just about everyone—was handing out free money and merchandise on Friday. I almost get the impression the parking lots were paved in gold.

So what’s your take? Did you run around snapping up the deals, or did you lay low? I’m usually finished shopping before Thanksgiving so this year I feel behind before I’ve even started.

Even as I type this I have the urge to hop on over to Amazon to see if there are any good deals left, so I guess I'm pretty caught up in this whole consumer culture. I must say, however, that having the chance to spend time with my 90+ year old grandparents, who have been married 74 years (!!!) was better than any Early Bird Special on the planet.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

No Garage. No Mudroom. No Problem? Small Space Ideas.

So I may have told you we live in a 1960's split level with no garage and no mudroom. The specs from 1969 do exalt the praises of a "spacious mudroom on the lower level" which is the room I now use as an office. It was planned as a laundry room/mudroom, and it's a great size, but since it is in the back corner of the house, with no connection whatsoever to the driveway, carport or entrance to the house, it is not useful as a drop zone. So a blogger's paradise/laundry room it remains.

Even though we only have 2 kids, stuff seems to pile up around here. Tell me I'm not alone.

I thought I'd share some of my imperfect solutions to dealing with clutter. Not that all of my solutions ever last. Remember those cute vintage train cases I had on the stairs? Gone to greener pastures. They looked cute, but the junk just accumulated and no one felt like carrying it upstairs.

Now this is what I like to see when I think of home organization:

Isn't it purty? I have an entire idea file filled with images of gorgeous mudrooms for my dream house.

Alas, that is not the reality here.

We come from the carport directly into the kitchen eating area. We've made a mini-mudroom area just inside the door, which is usually a bit chaotic. The black organizer holds dog stuff in one drawer. Hats/mittens/scarves go in the next 2 (in the summer it's sunsreen and bug spray).

The lower ones are for the kids' shoes and socks. If you are going to have kids take off and put on shoes downstairs, why not cut out a step and keep all their socks right there, too? See, there's Jake putting his socks on.

I've added a metal shoe rack for Tom's shoes. I don't love it, but I hope it will keep things neater.

The hooks work well for us, but if they get overloaded, coats get in the way of the door. Ugh. Soooo, you'll see some secondary storage for the kids later on.

The top holds our phone, a bowl for keys, and paper and pencils for phone messages.

This mini-mudroom is great for the kids' stuff, but Tom and I need a place, too. You may wonder if we have a hall closet, which we do, but I find that even the grownups hang up coats in the closet each day, so I changed things a little bit in our foyer, which is next to the kitchen.

Here's a nice bookcase from Crate and Barrel. It has always held my collection of silver bowls and pitchers. I decided to take the silver out and replace it with some white baskets I had in basement.

The baskets now hold hats, gloves, and scarves for Tom and me. I hope this will work for us.

I also added 4 cute hooks from Anthropologie with our initials on them. Mere steps from the coat closet, I think these hooks will be good for my purse and whatever coat is in rotation that day.

Now doesn't my purse look happier here than in the kitchen?

The kids' hooks hold their sports' bags and scout stuff that is not needed every day.
Tom thought all of these hooks would lend an cluttered, junky air to the foyer, and they might. My thinking is that our foyer is generally wasted space. We have no key to the front door, so we never come in that way, leaving it just a weird, tiled pass-through. The house specs circa 1969 called it a "Grand Reception Room." Yeah, right.

Here's a closer look at those cute Anthropologie hooks.
Next is the coat closet. Inside the door is a shoe holder that has gotten lots of use. It used to hold my kids' craft supplies in our old house. For the past 5 years or so it has held hats, the camera, bug spray, flashlights, sports equipment and the very useful snowman kit (hat, coal, pipe, etc). While it is not lovely to look at, it has been handy.

Another nice addition to this small coat closet, and all the closets in our house, is an extra shelf up top. We noticed that all the closets had dead space up there, so we just added a cheap Closetmaid one from Home Depot. We needed this space because our coat closet also holds the vacuum, brooms, mops, and a tub full of rain/snow boots. I really like the holder that hangs the brooms on the walls.

Also in the foyer are these 2 huge vintage picnic baskets. One holds all of our Calvin and Hobbes books, the other about 5 extra rolls of paper towels. When I go to work, I use them to block the stairs so that Shadow doesn't wreck the family room.Talk about multi-purpose.

Heading upstairs you'll see the kids' hallway. It is a mini-gallery for their artwork and it has a row of hooks for hoodies and sweaters.

While I don't LOVE having our stuff "out in the open" all the time, I think the likelihood of people putting things back where they belong is greatly increased if we store things on hooks rather than in drawers and closets. Also, I always hope this strategy will help people find what they are looking for. A girl can dream, right?

I must admit I prefer summer when these hooks have beach towels, goggles and swim suits on them, but now that it's almost Thanksgiving, I think it's time to admit those days are gone for a while.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour. While a well-appointed mudroom would contain all of these things and more (drool! drool!) we've had to get a little creative around here. Organization and near-constant culling by Mom (do men ever go through the kids' clothes to see what has been outgrown?) help keep our junk from being completely overwhelming. Except for on the days that it is.

Just remember: Home is Where They Love You