Merry Caughmas and Hacky New Year

I apologize for the long radio silence. In addition to the normal holiday madness of shopping, wrapping and baking our family had 2 colds, back-to-back. We have felt like absolute poo lately so we've tried to stay in our den of germs house as much as possible.

To distract you from my terrible blogging I will dazzle you with a picture of my baby.

Ta Da! *jazz hands*

I may have missed Christmas, but I hope you and yours continue to enjoy your holiday!

Christmas Time Is Here Again

We are ready for Santa at our house! We put up our tree last Sunday and I spent this past week putting the final touches on the decorations.

When I bought our stockings last year I knew I was pregnant but for some reason I didn't buy a third one for the baby. I tried to find another one this year but no luck. Fortunately Steven's grandmother offered to buy Luke his stocking so I picked out this soft fleecy one from Pottery Barn.

The tree got decked out in the same lights and star as last year but this time I actually dug out our ornaments. We don't have that many - most of them represent our life milestones - so we'll build our collection as we go.

Also making a second appearance are the winter village houses under the tree. I love how they look nestled between the presents!

You may have noticed pillow switcheroo for my white chair (the other one moved to the dining table to make room for the tree). This is a pillow my mom cross stitched for our family the year before I was born. Since my mom has gotten remarried - and doesn't have the last name "LANEY" anymore - she passed the pillow along to me. It makes me want to pull out my embroidery supplies and get crafty myself.

Speaking of my mom's embroidery, I put one of her holiday hand towels in the guest bathroom. The red fits right in with the existing color scheme, don't you think?
The hand towel is hanging out with our holiday air freshener. To be honest, this is one of the quickest, cheapest DIYs I've posted on the blog and I can't even take credit for it. After we put up the tree and trimmed the bottom branches - gotta make room for presents! - the hubby grabbed a few pieces headed for the compost pile and stuck them in this bucket so our guests could enjoy the scent of pine trees as they wash up. Well, he didn't do it entirely on his own - I rearranged the branches in the bucket to make them look better. But he was the brains of the operation. He's so smart!
To add even more holiday spirit to the guest bathroom I hung a strand of Wolfpack lights. Tacky? Probably, but I don't care. I love my Wolfpack almost as much as I love Christmas. So there.
Last, but not least, I whipped up a simple centerpiece for the kitchen table using items I already had. I grabbed my vintage cake plate, a glass cake dome, 3 star ornaments and - voila! - instant centerpiece. The cake dome lets me feel like I am participating in the hugely popular bell jar/terrarium trend and it keeps the cats from knocking the ornaments onto the floor. It's a win-win. I love this so much I might keep the cake plate all year and just swap out the contents.

What about you guys? Have you decorated already? Or do you put up your tree on Christmas eve?

Planning My Perfect Party

I just read this post about outdoor movie watching and it already has me planning and dreaming (and wishing and hoping...) about the perfect end-of-summer party. Labor Day or my next birthday, perhaps? Yes, that's months away but I had to get my ideas onto paper the internet before they slip away!

Picture it: a movie projected onto the back wall of the house, hot dogs and burgers on the grill, a tub full of frosty beverages, and all the tents, chairs and blankets we can fit in the backyard - and maybe a freecycled sofa or two, just for good measure.

I could do this all summer long, but I would love to do it in early fall so that there would be lots of fire-building, marsh-mallow toasting and blanket-sharing once the sun went down.

You're all invited, of course. What's your dream party?

Ahh, Much Better

Remember how I wanted a new ceiling fan for my birthday? Well, I got one and I am beyond happy.

I didn't get a picture of my old one before the hubby un-installed it, but it looked a lot like this one:

Just your basic white and brass builder ceiling fan. Was it hideous? No, but it didn't exactly go with the vibe I was trying to create. My new fan however...

... is just what the doctor decorator ordered.

Mom Jewelry For Moms That Hate Mom Jewelry

I love my son. I love my husband. I love them so much I want to write it on billboards. I can't afford that, so I have to settle for wearing it around my neck. The only problem: I can't stand mom jewelry. There are some more modern, unique versions on Etsy but even those are a little cliche for me. Yes, I'm a snob.

I figured I'd try my hand at making my own "Mom" necklace, and this is what I came up with:

What's that? It doesn't look like mom jewelry? Thank you, you are too kind. Don't let it's looks deceive you, this is one sappy necklace. Each strand is a message written in morse code. One says "Steven, my love" and the other says "Luke, my son." D'awww, isn't that sweet?

It doesn't look perfect, so I would like to re-do the beading, but I'm a busy gal and the odds of that are slim.

You likey?

Looks, Personality, and She's Great In the Kitchen!

OK, that's a lie. I'm lousy in the kitchen.

It's no secret that I'm not much of a cook. I don't enjoy planning meals and if it were up to me we'd probably eat macaroni and cheese or peanut butter sandwiches every night. Luckily, the hubby is a good cook and prepares most of our meals. Every now and then I'll make dinner, or I'll chip in if we're cooking a large family meal, but those occasions are rare.

If I do wander into the kitchen, I like to bake. I think I get it from my mom. She can make magic in the kitchen but she's famous for her sweets, particularly her cheesecakes.

When I chose to make a cheesecake for Thanksgiving I knew I had some mighty big shoes oven mitts to fill. I kept it simple and stuck to a plain New York cheesecake, using Mom's recipe. But then I decided that wasn't Thanksgiving-y enough, so I improvised a fresh cranberry topping. Having sampled Mom's baking through the years, I'm kind of an expert on cheesecake, and I thought mine tasted as good as hers.

I would share the recipe with you, but I'm pretty sure my mom would kill me. Seriously. She gave me strict instructions not to give the recipe to anyone, and I think it's safe to assume that includes the internet.

What did you make for Thanksgiving?

Random Tip For You

It's fall, which means this is the time of year when I wear the same thing every Saturday, eat food in parking lots and yell obscenities at strangers. No, I don't go crazy every fall - it's FOOTBALL SEASON!

For those of you who don't follow college Football:
A) What's wrong with you?
B) Stay put, this tip applies to other sporting events.

Once a season, the stadium passes out little towels to everyone - my fellow Wolfpackers know them as Howl Towels - so that fans can wave them whenever something exciting happens.

pictured: Howl Towel and Collegiate Smugness

Lots of people throw them out or leave them behind after the game, but they shouldn't do that. Why is that? I'm glad you asked. There are so many ways to re-use them:

-house - they're great for dusting and cleaning counter tops

-shop/garage/gym - keep one handy when you're working to wipe the sweat from your (wo)manly brow

-car - de-fog your windshield, wipe drive-thru grease off your hands or dust a CD

-diaper bag - babies like to make messes, so it's nice to have something on hand to absorb stuff that you can pretend never existed throw away toss in the wash, guilt free

-tail-gate kit - they never seem to give out the Howl Towels the day it rains, so keep it in your bag to wipe your seats on a rainy day - it beats grabbing dozens of paper towels from the ladies' room

See, I told you they were useful. Seriously - I haven't paid for a household rag since I started going to football games. I challenge you sports fans - save some dough and keep those towels out of the landfill!

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Post Is About You

According to the baby books, a possible side effect of pregnancy is extra hair growth. Yes, your hair can look full and lustrous, but it won't last because all that extra hair will just fall out after the baby is born.

I never had the boost in hair growth, but do you know what? My hair fell out anyway. I am losing hair like it's MY JOB. That doesn't sound so bad until you realize it's mostly falling out in the front. SEE:

You think that's embarrassing? I have another bald spot just like it on the other side. Most people probably wouldn't even notice it, but I don't care. I made an appointment with my hairdresser and got some bangs to hide my receding hairline.

Here's to hoping it grows back. If not, I'm getting a buzz-cut and a wig.

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

A few days ago I was reading one of those Shop Your Closet, Wardrobe Re-Mix articles in a fashion mag. You know, they show you all the outfits you can make by combining all the clothing basics you already own.

One that caught my eye was skinny jeans (cuffed) + fun top + ankle boots. I thought it looked cute, and I do have all of those items, but I was afraid the outfit was too rock-n-roll for me to pull off.

Then fate intervened. The next night I saw Liz Lemon, self-proclaimed schlump, wearing ankle boots with cuffed skinnies on 3o Rock. I thought, if Lemon can do it so can I.


So here I am. Cuffed skinnies, ankle boots and a sequined top. I threw on my cotton blazer for structure and warmth, then added a chunky black ring for some extra bad-assery.

booties and skinnies

subtle sparkle - it doesn't scream rock-n-roll, but it might whisper it a little

So, that's the closest I'll ever come to looking like a rock star. Let's call it bad-ass lite. Is it the most figure-flattering ensemble I've ever worn? Probably not. But I'm proud of myself for trying something new.

Jeans - Old Navy, Sweetheart Skinny
Boots - Candies, via Kohl's
Top - BJ's, yes, BJ's
Blazer - Target

The New "Mom" Jean

I have found my new "Mom" jeans. Don't worry - there isn't a pleat in sight.

I was at Old Navy the other day (see, I told you my birthday money was burning a hole in my pocket) and I fell in love with the Sweetheart Skinny.

Most skinny jeans have a low rise. For all you childless gals, that look couldn't be cuter. But I'm a mom now and my firm baby bump has turned (back) into belly flab. That means low-rise jeans only lead to one place: Muffin-Top City.

Just because I push a stroller and drive a sensible sedan doesn't mean I'm willing to give up trendy pants. This is why the Sweetheart is so perfect. They're skinny jeans WITH A MEDIUM RISE! Pardon my enthusiasm, but did you just read that? I can wear skinny jeans without turning my midsection into a pastry!

I bought 2 pairs, but I left enough behind for you. What are you waiting for? Go shopping!

How Was Your Halloween?

My Halloween was fantastic, thanks for asking!

I was really excited about carving a pumpkin this year. The hubby and I were leaning towards a simple ghost design, but then our not-so-inner nerds spoke up and we were inspired to carve a ghost... being chased by Pac-Man.

I apologize for the crappy picture. Photographing candlelight does funny things to my camera.

It has been at least 10 years since I've had a jack-o-lantern and I was really anxious to get started. Perhaps too anxious. Notice how the ghost's left eye is smaller than his right one? That's because we carved the pumpkins a week early, not remembering how quickly they start to mold and wilt. Eh, live and learn.

Another notch for the bummer column - we ran out of candy by 7:30. Not wanting to disappoint the trick-or-treaters, I raided the pantry. But since I'm back on Weight Watchers, this is all I had:

Sorry kids, I hope you like fruit snacks and diet cookies.

However, nothing could truly bum me out because I got to play with this little munchkin all day:

Really, Luke, could you get any cuter?

I'll see your Halloween jumpsuit, and raise you one lobster pot.

Touche, Lobster Luke, touche.

Best picture of the night:

No! Not the melted butter!

We didn't take him trick-or-treating (3 month olds don't eat candy) but we had fun dressing him up and seeing all the neighborhood kids in their costumes. Steven and I dressed up as chefs but we didn't get any family pictures because Luke tapped out for a nap before we could get that coordinated. Maybe we'll try again one night this week.

Tell me readers, what was your costume?

Birthday Inspiration Board

I seem to be hard to shop for because when my birthday rolls around, most of my family gives me money. Who am I to argue? It's always the right size and it matches everything!

Today I turn 26 and my gifts are already burning a hole in my pocket! I whipped up a little inspiration board to help me decide what to buy for myself.

Black Flats - I have already told you guys how much I like my gray flats, and I am definitely going to get a second pair in black.

Ceiling Fan - Our living room already has a ceiling fan, but it is not my style - contractor standard brass and white, yuck! I guess I complained a lot about it because my mom offered to buy me a new fan for my birthday and I am loving the industrial feel of this one.

Leather Boots - At 26, it's time for me to invest in some black leather boots. I've had several faux leather pairs in the past, but I need to step it up a notch. These Frye boots are out of my price range, but a gal can dream.

Shower Head - I recently spent a few days with a friend and she had a rainfall shower head. I loved it and have been dying to get one ever since I came home.

Bralette - As a nursing mom I have worn nothing but boring nursing bras over the past 3 months. I want this sweet little lace bra to make me and my girls feel feminine and pretty. Plus, at $20 each, I might get more than one!

What would you buy for your birthday?

This Is Why I Am Always Covered In Cat Hair

There is no point in ever buying a cat bed because he (and my other cat) would rather sleep on piles of clean laundry. Also, please note the cream sweater that was perfectly folded until he kicked it out of the way.

At least he has good taste. He's sleeping in between by 'NC State' and 'I Love Lamp' hoodies. Tacky, maybe, but I love a good hoodie.

Gray and Fleecy

I went home to Wilkesboro over the weekend to visit with friends and family. The cooler temps gave me a chance to wear 2 of my favorite purchases for fall.

First, I brought my new casual jacket from Old Navy. It is soft and comfortable like a sweatshirt but has the structure and styling of a jacket. I have the gray one, but they don't carry it anymore. I snagged a pic of the brown one, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

pretend this is gray

I also packed the new Self Esteem flats I picked up from DSW. The grey wool looks super cute with jeans and skirts. But most importantly - fleece lining - I have found cute shoes that feel like bedroom slippers! The are so toasty I don't even need socks. I admit wearing socks with cute shoes can be a wee bit dorky, but my feet are always cold so comfort usually wins. In fact, I love these so much I'm probably going to go back and get the black pair.

What items are getting heavy rotation in your fall wardrobe?

Calendar Swap

I just signed up for a calendar swap, hosted by the Lovely Lady-Bloggers behind Design Crush and Greedy Girl.
It seems like such a fun and simple way to bring some beauty to my life. You guys should join the fun!

Build Your Own Biscuit

I don't normally post things I find on other blogs but, come on, this is too adorable not to steal. A wedding with a biscuit bar instead of a wedding cake! Frickin' awesome, I tell ya!

It's true, I love cake like a fat kid loves cake.* But, I am Southern and I have the highest respect for a good biscuit. Especially if said biscuit is accompanied by real butter and fresh jelly. Perfection.
*Because I'm a fattie, obv.
Happy Friday!
[ via 100 Layer Cake ] [ Photos by Anna Robin ] [ Biscuits by Baked ]

My New (Old) Necklace

Look at what my grandmother-in-law sent me!

She found it at an estate sale and thought of me. Wasn't that sweet of her? I am loving long, textural statement necklaces for fall and this piece is perfect. Unique chain, gorgeous leaf detailing and a semi-precious stone (malachite, I think). I can't wait to wear it!

Hooray for Fall!

I love fall. Love, love, love it! As soon as the temp starts dropping I run to my boots and scarves. Oh boots, how I've missed you!

I will wear my boots any way I can: under slacks, with skirts and tights or over jeans. There's just one problem. I hate how jeans, even skinny jeans, bunch up inside my boots.

Remember stirrup pants? Weren't they awesome for wearing with boots? Yes, but, did you ever try to get some extra mileage and wear them with other shoes? Yeah, awkward. Don't you wish there was a way to get the function of stirrup pants without the goofy side effects? Well, now there is.

This morning as I was getting dressed I grabbed some scrap elastic and a handful of safety pins and within minutes I had be-stirruped my jeans.

Sorry for the funky picture. It is quite awkward to photograph your own foot.

In the future I might rig up some more permanent hooks and eyes, but for now the safety pins are working just fine.

Tulip Tote Bag

I am so excited - I just bought this sweet vintage tulip tote bag!

You see, now that I am a working mama I have to bring my breast pump to my office but I don't want to look like I am carrying my breast pump. This bag allows me to shuttle my pump in style and leaves room for my purse, my water bottle and the occasional sweater. Yummy.

Lip Stain

I am not much of a make-up wearer. To me, tinted moisturizer IS foundation and my idea of getting all dolled up is putting on 2 coats of mascara and some eye shadow. Just one color, though - I can't handle the 3 toned upper, lower, crease concept.

When it comes to my pucker, I am a chapstick girl, through and through. Lip stick is too heavy and lip gloss is too sticky. However, as I get older, I think I need some color on my lips. God, I sound like my mother. Enter my new best friend: lip stain!

It leaves my lips with a hint of budge-free color all day and I can top it with chapstick to my heart's content! I chose a cranberry hue for that just-had-a-cherry-popsicle look. And since it goes on so smoothly I can decide if I want a little color or a lot - today I picked a lot to brighten my mood on this dreary day.

Snazzy, no?

Yet Another Find In The Yard

Last week I noticed a weed growing up through the hedge at our front door.

A few days later, the weed blossomed and turned out to be a morning glory.

As I stopped to admire the blooms, I noticed this little gold bug. Apparently he got the memo that metallics are on trend for fall.

I apologize for the blurry photo. This bug was tiny and testing the limits of my camera's macro setting.

Dairy Queen

I'm a Dairy Queen. Get it? Nursing mom... Dairy Queen... I can't be stopped.

T-shirt tried on (but not purchased) at Target.

Whose Cats Have an Amy Butler Cat Toy? Mine.

During my recent adventures in pom-pom making, I tried to make a pom from some leftover Amy Butler crib skirt fabric. Tried is the operative word. Both attempted poms turned out horribly and went straight into the trash. Prior to making the poms I got a little over zealous with my rotary cutter. "These will be so cute," I thought, "I will make one for each of my friends !" Since the poms didn't work out I ended up with a giant pile of fabric strips.

I couldn't bear to let such beautiful fabric go to waste so I whipped up this cat toy with the Amy Butler strips and some jersey scraps. All I did was take 15 strips, of equal length, and braided them into 5 ropes. Then I used the jersey to tie the ropes together, and I had myself a cat toy.

Now, I don't flatter myself to think that this is something anyone would pay for, but it was a quick project using materials that were headed for the trash. It's a win-win, right?

New Jewelry, Part 2

After my successful run at creating a pom-pom necklace, I wanted to make another one using this tutorial and scrap jersey fabric left over from this dress-to-top transformation. I love it! The ruffles are just so fun and feminine!

After I made the pom-pom necklace I still had tons of scrap jersey so I whipped up this braided beauty. I am really digging the contrast stitching and exaggerated hardware.

My last necklace was inspired by the work of Kate Miss. I don't like to rip off other designers, but I am not in a place to drop $50 on an accessory. So I did the next best thing - I DIYed it! It's not too terrible if I don't sell it or claim the design as mine, right? Again, I celebrated the hardware and I did a double strand in shades of red - perfect to be debuted at a Wolfpack football game!
Heavy hardware is definitely new for me, but I am loving the results!
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