Trying to Stay Afloat

It feels like it’s been about seven years since I shared how to make lovely lemony shortbread bars. (It’s actually been 10 days – quite possibly the longest break from blogging I’ve taken since I started..!)

I must confess, I’ve been suffering from a bad case of writer’s block. For a combination of reasons – including majorly intensified stress at work and long hours, plus a general feelings of the “blahs” lately – I just have not been able to finish even start a post over the past couple of weeks!

writers-blockimage source

I’ve still been filling my very few spare hours with craft projects, decorating, and organizing, and I’ve had some lovely days with friends and family over the past couple of weeks, too. Still, I’ve had trouble completing projects, and I’ve had trouble finding the time to write about them.

But today, the sun is shining. It’s nearly 80 degrees out, and the work week has ended (kind of, I have a school related event to attend tonight still). It’s Mother’s Day weekend, which means it is a great time to reflect on how fortunate I am to have an amazing mother (and an amazing mother in law). Last year, I used the week before Mother’s day to share some stories and lessons learned from my mother, my grandma, and my Mommom.

DSC_5828 copyAnd this year, I am missing my Mommom even more this weekend than most.

beautiful-e1365262449119I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend – and to all the mothers out there, enjoy your well-deserved day of celebration. I am feeling inspiration return, and I hope to pick back up with my semi-regular postings beginning next week.

I’ve missed you, friends!

To Carry Her Close

I have started this post at least a dozen times over the course of the past month. Each time, the words just did not come out right. This blog has been an outlet for me over the past year – in many ways. I’ve shared wedding plans and DIY projects, and occasionally written about topics of a more personal nature – today being one of those occasions.

2 months ago my grandmother – my Mommom – passed away. You may remember her from this mother’s day series I wrote last spring, when I talked about some of her amazing qualities & some of the important life lessons that I learned from her over the years.

mommomI’ve always counted myself to be so very lucky for having had so many years with each of my four grandparents. I lost my first, my paternal Grandfather, a few years ago – and it was a harsh reality to accept that I would not have my loving grandparents in my life forever.

My Mommom was diagnosed with a rare and terminal illness many years ago. And so my family prepared, in as much as one can prepare, for the day that we would have to say goodbye. Each holiday was a special joy, and having her with me on my wedding day was a blessing I had hardly dared to hope for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut all of these important moments shared with her are kept only in my memory now. There will not be another Christmas together, there will not be baptisms and birthday parties. My future children will never know her – will never feel her unconditional love, experience her intelligent wit, or share an Entenmann’s crumb cake doughnut with her after a sleepover.

I worry that my own memory is insufficient. My younger brother remembers details and moments that are merely a haze to me. I remember fragments – pieces of my past. Like the colors of her garden in the springtime, the sandy taste of her Werther’s Butterscotch candies on a hot summer day down the shore, and the smell of spaghetti and meatballs cooking on her stove as I sat at her round kitchen table. I remember how she rarely raised her voice, and that she loved to tell stories. I remember mother-daughter miniature golf tournaments – for which my mother, Mommom and I would team up – and listening to broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera House over the radio together.

I remember taking for granted that she would always be at everything. Every concert, soccer game, school play and recital. Every holiday dinner, every lazy summer in LBI. And as I grew older, and as I watched my friends lose their grandparents, I remember the  the tightness in my chest at the thought of having to say goodbye.

I miss her. I miss just seeing her, just sitting close to her. I miss the way my mother would tell her funny stories and make jokes because she couldn’t do that herself anymore. I miss watching my grandfather look at her with his expression of constant, steady love.

Lockets1I wear this locket now – and gave its twin to my mother – so that I can always carry my Mommom close. It’s the beautiful Forget Me Not Tiny Heart Locket from Heartworks by Lori, which I then sized and cut a photograph to fit inside.

LocketsThe image is of the hands of my Mommom and my mother, along with mine – joined on my wedding day this past October.

DSC_5971Three generations of strong, intelligent, funny and loving women (not to toot my own horn!) Each caring for the other in their own special way. It’s an image that reminds me of how lucky I was – and am – and to forever treasure my memories.

Happy Easter!

I hope anyone celebrating Easter today had a lovely day! The hubs and I had an absolutely fantastic meal with the in-laws at one of our favorite local restaurants. It was delicious & low-key, and now we’re kicking back and enjoying some relaxation time.

Yesterday, I went home to PA to visit my family, including my cuter-than-cute nephew Silas! He and his parents have been visiting on and off for a few weeks now (they live in California), and I’ve just been jumping at every opportunity and free afternoon to spend with him.

SilasWateringCanI gave Silas some Easter presents – and the big hit was a set of two little plastic watering cans – a blue elephant and a yellow duck – that came from the dollar section at Target.

SilascansIt just goes to show that the price tag in no way correlates to the fun that little ones can have!

WateringFlowersWe spent the morning walking around Grammie’s garden and watering all of the flowers, bushes, trees, and pretty much everything else out there. It warmed my heart to see these little flowers poking their way up – spring has definitely arrived!

SilasPlaygroundIn the afternoon, we played in a nearby kiddie playground. Here are Si and his daddy (my brother) braving the ladder. I love that look of determination on his little face.

SilasAdorbsThis kid has just stolen my heart. I can’t even deal with how cute he is.

SilasRunningI mean it, guys… I’m obsessed.

We dyed some Easter eggs, too. I lived in the purple & pink range. Not too creative, I suppose, but I think they’re purdy.

Eggs2I hope everyone enjoyed quality time with family & loved ones this weekend! And if you’re feeling crafty, why not make some wooly sheep pals like these?

Happy New Year!

Hello there, friends! I hope you are all well, happy & healthy on this first day of 2013! I’ve enjoyed a lovely break from work for the past week, including a little blogging break while I spent most of my free time binge-watching the first two seasons of Homeland. Great show, and I can’t believe it took me so long to check it out! Now that I am reeling from the season 2 finale, I thought I’d take a second to share with you some of my favorites moments of this past holiday week!

Christmas2012Collage

Little bits of happiness from my week- from the top left photo clockwise:

a beautiful dusting of snow on Christmas morning in my parent’s backyard  // my sweet little nephew enjoying a Christmas story on Christmas eve // crate of gifts under our Christmas tree (significantly emptier than pre-Christmas, but we still have some to give!) // the glow of a candle in an aluminum lantern, surrounded by pine cones & glittery balls // sparkling wine and our wedding toasting flutes to ring in the new year // our part cozy – part college-kid-esque New Year’s eve dinner. Dining by candlelight on our coffee table with our new wedding china and paper towels for napkins. We’ve got class AND we don’t buy real napkins. Bam.

New Year Resolutions for 2013? More family, friends, crafts and books – less take-out, stress, and overflowing laundry baskets.

What about you?

It’s Who You Make Your Cookies With

Before I begin this post, I’d like to share a disclaimer: My mother, father, grandparents, brothers & I have been making Christmas cookies for decades with great success. I come from a long line of Christmas-cookie-bakers. We take a day or two every December to come together (as many of us as are around) to whip up batches of our family standards – Chocolate Chip Cookies, Butter Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Roll-Outs & Spritzes, among others. Every year we make cookies, every year they are delicious.

This year, we tried to make made cookies. It may (or may not) have gone exactly as planned. We may (or may not) have had a few disastrous trays of Butter & Chocolate Chip cookies for inexplicable reasons (It was definitely my brother’s fault). Suffice it to say, this post will not include photos of perfectly baked Christmas cookies.

recipeA well used & loved recipe for my Mommom’s Butter Cookies. Any recipe that calls for two sticks of butter is sure to be a win.

It really doesn’t matter, though. It’s not about how the cookies come out, it’s who you make your cookies with. (This explanation got me off the hook when I came home with less than the expected multiple tins-full of cookies for my hubby to snack on).

pbakingMy lovely sister-in-law carefully measuring ingredients – clearly she is innocent in this debacle.

I love going home at Christmas time and admiring/oogling over my mother’s huge collection of beautiful holiday decorations. I love the Sunday in December when we get together to bake & happily make plans for the upcoming holiday. This past Sunday, after an especially trying week and the unbelievably horrific events of Friday – I loved it even more. Even though my drive to Pennsylvania & then back to New Jersey was dreary and rainy. Even though my brother ruined the chocolate chip cookies our cookies were less-than-adequate-for-human-consumption.

bakingBaking is a group effort in our home. The culprit is the one wielding the cookie gun.

Time with family is a treasure.

momandmommomMy mother, and her mother, decorating the butter cookies.

Decorating butter cookies with your grandmother is a blessing, and must never be taken for granted.

mommomcookiesThe more sugar the better, I say.

Knowing that within the next week we will truly all be together – when our Californian contingent flies home for the holiday – is reason to celebrate.

I love Christmas. I always have. I cannot help but be extra-aware of how lucky I am this Christmas – to be surrounded by family, to be spending my first Christmas married to a man who makes me laugh & loves me for all of my quirks and flaws, and to have my very own Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer so I can make some more cookies that my brother won’t be able to ruin to share with friends & family. 🙂

P.S. After I left, my family continued baking and suddenly all the cookies came out great. Either I was the true culprit, and blaming my little brother is unfair, or they were actually just holding out on me so they could hoard all the GOOD cookies for themselves. I choose the latter option, what do you think?

A Silver and Gold Thanksgiving Table

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is nearly here! I’m looking forward to spending the holiday with my family. Since I am not faced with the task of cleaning, cooking & decorating for guests, I daydreamed today about a lovely Thanksgiving table in silver, gold & autumn hues. It’s much easier to imagine & browse my favorite home decor online stores (the 21st century version of window shopping?) than to actually pull the whole event together, I am sure!

Inspiration for a Silver & Gold Thanksgiving Table:

Clockwise, from left: 1) Metallic Diamond Printed Napkin Set – $25 for set of 4 (sale price) from West Elm. 2) Hand-stamped vintage serving spoons – $24 for two from Blithe Vintage on Etsy. 3) Pumpkin Place-Card Holders – $14.99 for set of 4 (sale price) from Williams-Sonoma. 4) Twisted Gold Tumbler – $16.00 from Anthropologie. 5) Gold Wishbone Napkin Rings – $39.50 for set of 4 from Pottery Barn.

So, what about you? Planning your own Thanksgiving feast, or letting friends or family do all the work & just enjoying the eats?
P.S. If you’ve been following my chronicles of wedding projects – just taking a little break, there is a lot more to come!