The chief enemy of creativity... is "good" sense. ~Pablo Picasso


Even though food has always been "in" and by "food" I do include beverages...
I have really come to enjoy a few things even more this year. 

This, unassuming, dare I say it "blended" wine is quite amazing...
but more than the flavor, it will forever signify the night I finally went "home"...

And what a name... ha Menage a Trois. 

The breeze was subtle, the stars were twinkling (you can see them there), and my mind was reminiscing.
How many spring and even more summer nights I spent under the stars in Iowa. How many nights I insisted on camping in tents, on the trampoline, inside various forts made out of those huge Maytag appliance boxes, in lounge chairs, in the back of our van, on the roof of our van, on the roof of our house... they never let me camp there...

Almost inevitably I'd wake up wet with dew, eaten alive by mosquitos, to my mother shaking me awake because the tornado sirens were going off (i'm a deep sleeper) or to the feel of wet heavy cardboard boxes on top of me and the flow of water beneath me - since I insisted to sleep at the bottom of the hill... We later learned to use a tarp if we could rig one up, although it still didn't protect us from the dew. But it didn't matter. It was our own "place". Those forts were our castles, huts on stilts perched above the ocean, or dream homes, high rise apartment buildings, anything we'd seen or heard or read about. We'd even stay up late and make extravagant meals in our "other lives". Decorating the plate of pasta with leaves from celery, pretending to season like we'd seen the professionals do, with only a jar of parmesan and salt and pepper. And candles, a necessity... as we sat down to enjoy our fine dining experience before venturing back to our "homes" in the backyard. As a kid, I always imagined my life somewhere else. 

But the other night.... it dawned on me as I sat on my parents porch, eating a pasta dinner I made for them, that my "imagination" then... had become a reality - in some ways I suppose. 

Here I was plucking fresh basil from their plant, tossing in the olive oil and tomatoes and serving it to them. We talked about the "castles" I saw while I was in Scotland and showed them pictures from our ocean front view in Kona... 

But after they'd all gone to bed... I stayed out on the back patio and took it all in. 

The 'ex peer iences' I've had in my life have taken me all over the world. I've met and high-fived close to a half a million people at Rock N Roll Marathons. I've been inside Hendrick Motorsports garages and had my ear drums blown out at a NASCAR race. I've drank wine on a yacht in Italy and rolled my own cigar at the Plasencia family farm for Alec Bradley Cigars in Honduras... but that night, sitting on that porch, feeling that breeze, and taking in that moment... might go down as one of the best feelings in the world. I moved into the hammock in the backyard and had one of those moments when the magnitude of the world hits you as you gaze up at the stars...

Not only was it home, in the springtime, my family nearby and a great glass of wine in my hand, I was enjoying this place all to myself while the the rest of the world was asleep...  but the most fascinating realization I had was wasn't "new".

 I'd been here before, countless times before. But it wasn't until then that I finally understood Thomas Wolfe's quote "you can't go home again". 

Home is never the same because, you're never the same.
So many nights I imagined "home" to be something else, somewhere else.
But that night... I was there. Fully there. I didn't want to be anywhere else.
I was home... perhaps for the first time.


I take it back... 

I've avoided Target like the black plague since I decided to try and not buy anything new for a year.
For obvious, unnecessary, but hard to quell... $60 purchases. 
I even managed to have my doctor elongate my prescriptions so that I wouldn't have to walk in there every month to get my Thyroid medicine. Yes I have hypothyroidism. One of the worst the medical team had ever seen... but I won't bore you with that... back to Target.

I hadn't been in Target in 3 months...
I went in to pick up my prescription the other day and since June 1st is knocking at my door, I thought I'd just take a gander through the store - mainly the women's clothing section. For the first time in quite some time, I didn't just beeline my way to the pharmacy and then high tail it out of there for fear of breaking down... and I'm not quite sure if what I'm feeling is elation or fear or a mix of both. 

You see....
At a very young age I found a pair of Neon yellow/green pants at a thrift store with my mom. They were a size 12 - adult women's size 12. Now, although I have a hypothyroid problem, severe weight gain was not one of my symptoms. Size 12 was about 12 sizes too big when I was 10 and about 10 inches too long. That being said, they were the most splendid pair of pants I had ever laid eyes on. My mother didn't even say no. The expression on her face uttered disgust. 
She wanted frilly pink dresses and lacey fold over socks. My father wanted pleated plaid skirts, peter pan collars and after that a nice black and white outfit provided by the "nunnery"...

Appealing to her "skills" and her "talents" I utilized what I'd seen my father do countless times, almost always to positive outcomes...
 After a heartfelt, probably over dramatic and paired with my best puppy dog eyes I made my plea... and convincing her she could make these pants fit me... like only SHE could. (blink blink)

With one giant grin on my face and one giant roll from her eyes...we went home and got to work. After cutting almost half of the fabric away, and a few under her breath utterings, she had worked her magic. I think more than anything, her biggest concern with these pants was that if she did indeed make them fit me, I would indeed wear them... in public.

Mothers know best :)

Much to her sprouted an obsession with neon colors I just haven't been able to (or ever wanted to) break. Thrift stores around the country have been scoured in search of anything neon - especially umbros - and until recently it was only thrift stores where I could find these little jewels. American Apparel started carrying more neon a few years ago, but having found most of my neon wear at less than $5 - I had a hard time paying full price. 

Well... as luck would have it - the world has embraced Neon once again. 
As I slowly approached the women's section at Target my heart started fluttering as the brightness of what appeared to be neon was getting brighter and brighter. Sure enough, Target, has jumped in head first to the world of neon. 

even leggings! 

I had said there wasn't much I missed, not much I was ready to run out and buy. 
Well I was wrong. 

If only because it might be another 20 years before neon is back!
I will be making a trip to Target to purchase some very "necessary" neon clothing. 
Talk about money well spent :)

By the way. 
Neon is Eon with an N for nifty. 
And Eon... well I can only hope "neon" lives up to it's namesake - see definition below. 

e·on also ae·on  (nn)
1. An indefinitely long period of time; an age.

Divide... and Garden!

There isn't much better in life than a perfectly placed hammock and a beautiful day...
I had flown home to visit my family and give away the infamous puzzle at First Communion. But before things got crazy, I got some good time with my mom. She always comes and crawls in bed really early with me, and wants to chat away. Usually at that time of the day she does most of the chatting and I do most of the "listening"...

As my eyes adjusted to the sunshine pouring through the windows and the little breeze that was blowing through I realized it was spring in Iowa. Usually I see Iowa the last week of the most hot and humid month of the year as we ride our bikes across the state with the other 30,000 crazies on RAGBRAI - July.  Or... I arrive to driving snow and 20 below... for Christmas. 
I'd forgotten that May in Iowa is quite possibly the most beautiful Spring the world sees. 
The weather is perfect, there is no humidity, the flowers are blooming, the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of mowers can be heard almost daily. Kids are graduating or just getting ready for summer vacation and because winter kept everyone holed up, the energy and excitement of warmer weather is absolutely intoxicating. I moved our conversation from my old room to the blooming backyard hammock. 

As we rocked in the hammock she told me about another year finishing up as an elementary special ed teacher. How things have changed so much since she first started teaching more than 45 years ago. Of course the topic with most midwesterners always shifts to the weather and especially planting. Living in California for the past 6 years with hardly a patch of grass to call my own, planting hasn't exactly been on on my radar. Noticing other peoples plants, gardens, yards... hasn't either. But my mother, as you can imagine, since we're related, wanted to tell me all about the yard, the plants she had chosen, why she put them in certain locations, how she fertilized them, how mad she was at all the "damn" rabbits that ate away... at everything! and most importantly how proud I should be of her because she was swimming in Hosta's. They're the green plant that is in abundance in this picture...

I didn't know if I was supposed to be glad that she had managed to keep them alive or glad that they accented her yard... I didn't know exactly what to say since I haven't reached that point in my life where I understand or appreciate gardening. 

Well it turns out she had been working with one Hosta plant at the beginning. A Hosta that had been given to her as a gift. 

We moved around a lot as a kid and she told me how when they would move to a new house with a new yard she counted on Hosta's to grow pretty easily, look nicely in any yard, and how they were a very economical plant. And she had become known amongst all our old neighbors for loving them... since they saw them at every house we ever bought. 

Economical? You can't eat them, you don't really sell any part of them, and they don't even flower.... How were they economical?

Well, she said, it was given to me, as a gift. One plant. And over the years as it's grown and comes back... it's a perennial... I've divided it and re-planted it all over the yard. 

Therefore... I have managed to decorate my yard without buying any new plants... in a few years...

Nothingnewforayear... try nothingnewforafewyears! 

Touche :)

Maybe I should take up gardening and see what I can do. This is why you should spend more time rocking in hammocks... listening to your mothers...  
right mom?

Puzzling puzzles

I should have known...
There isn't much more exciting to 2nd graders than going to an amusement park... certainly not puzzles :)

We put the puzzle together and I flipped it over... and she just looked at me. 
I asked her what it said, my fault, I don't have the best handwriting, so she struggled a bit. When she finished... I was beaming. She smiled and asked if we could do another one...

We did. We had a lot of fun. Stayed up late...
And the next day she cried when she found out her sisters had been to the amusement park while we had been at her little retreat... but I'm holding steadfast that someday she'll think our puzzle and our day together was cooler... ? ha

Even though I don't think she fully grasps it now, I hope that in years to come, she'll think back fondly.
Until then. It will hang in her room, our secret veiled behind Alice's Wonderland.

We just took clear contact paper and put it on the backside . That way when you take the back off the picture you can see it, but only then. It's kind of neat, knowing we have our own little secret message. Maybe neater for me than for her :) 

I guess the secret is out... but if you ever get a puzzle from me - the real puzzle will be... what it REALLY says :) 

Bags and Burlap

My one aunt loves carrots and having her feet rubbed, I know this because my mom points it out to me every time I open a bag of carrots or ask her to rub my feet :)

I can't remember much, but for some reason I have a thing for numbers like my grandmother... also an attribute my mother reminds me of... often.

Well, today she told me I remind her of my great aunt Helen too 
- among my stubborn, impatient, and independence seeking qualities ... she was apparently also very resourceful. 

She was living on a remote farm in Montana with her husband and children and of course money was tight, but more than that, availability of products was pretty much non-existent. So... she started salvaging old "gunny sacks" (the burlap bags that potatoes and other goods would come in) and she re-purposed them. Not to be outdone by all the city women who had the luxury of ordering from catalogues and decorating their homes she got creative with what she had. 

She started dyeing the burlap bags and making things. Drapes, chair covers, you name it. Funny thing is... burlap wasn't revered as glamorous then, which is why she dyed it... not the case these days. Burlap is back!

Old Aunt Helen... the pioneer for not buying anything new... I guess all the pioneers were :)

Well Aunt Helen would be happy to know that although she has no idea what Pinterest or any other website is... she was a trendsetter. 

Paper bags are kind of my thing. They're sort of the burlap of today. Not sure I should attempt drapes with  it but I do love the color and feel for just about everything. Looks like it goes hand in hand with burlap :)
Trader Joes bags are my burlap sacks. 
Too bad most things I buy aren't packaged in burlap because in order to get it these days you kind of have to go down to the store and buy it... new. 

I know "everything has been done before" but in this case, I'm glad it's resourcefulness and not just the same old love song...
(who am I kidding I'll always be a sap for the mushy ballads :) and now burlap too. ha

Maybe when the year is up I'll do some decorating with Burlap in homage to my Great Aunt Helen's resourceful ways and in gratitude for passing it along... not to mention it might get me a few pins on Pinterest! ha
(I don't quite understand that site but it's on my "to-do" list)

June 1st wish list

The most asked question - after how the dog is... who is doing great! :) Thank you all! ha
So the next question is...

What are you going to buy when the year is up?

It seems like such a monumental occasion. 
It seems like I should buy something just because I can. 
But what do I really need?

Aside from some conditioner, mascara, and my favorite perfume 
(My obsession with smell... obvious)

Surprisingly enough, I'm not dying to buy anything in particular. I guess not anything "new". In fact, it's almost become such a fun "challenge" to find things "old"... it doesn't seem as fun to go shopping in a regular store.
 Just this weekend I was talking to some girls who asked about the skirt i was wearing. I had to break it to them it came from a thrift store, so the likelihood of them getting one of their own was slim to none. But when I told them about the whole nothingnewforayear thing you could see the wheels turning. From cool vintage tables and funky lamps... to outfits that you'll rarely have to worry about seeing show up at the same party - there's a lot of fun that has come out of this year.

Of course throughout the year I certainly hit low points. Moments where I wanted to be able to just pick up and buy something I saw online or in a shop... and maybe it's my bad memory, or maybe it's just that unimportant... that I can't really recall that many things that have been haunting me this year. 

I can only recall two things. 

And because I prefer "new" swimsuits... 

Although I would ante up for that tan and a body like that if it's for purchase :)

I've entertained the idea of trying to go to the grocery store with a list, and challenging myself not to go back to the grocery store until all the food is gone... Which would not only make meals interesting... lol. but it would also make me think more about what I really want to eat and not being so wasteful. But I travel a lot so it wouldn't be nearly as interesting as if I was home most of the time and trying to work it around multiple meals a day. 

I gave up sweets for Lent and when it was over - the flood gates opened! I'm almost afraid to do that because it's so easy to fall back into bad habits...

There are a few things I'd like to be able to buy regularly... as you can imagine, but for the most part... I really enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

I guess I'll have to see how I wake up on June 1st and let you know.

Annapolis by recommendation

This weekend I was in Annapolis Maryland for the Land Rover TriRock Annapolis Race
Not only did I debut a new swim cap dress - which was made from a box of leftover swim caps and a very long skirt I picked up from the thrift store... 

but I also was given a good "roadmap"for a proper weekend spent in the city that houses the US Naval Academy. 

So we were by default by the Naval Academy because that's where our event was... and it was beautiful... but on to the "painkiller" at Pussers. 
The most interesting part of this restaurant/bar was that the outside bar is dockside - without any fences. I asked the police crew helping us with the race how many people go in every year (there is a ladder) and they said about... one. What!? lol they must be so much better behaved than I imagined. It's almost guaranteed that if I spent too much time there I would definitely find myself doing a cannon ball into the water - especially after a few more Painkillers. ha
But I managed to behave - this time.

Then ironically enough I met up with a few friends and they took me to Sly Fox... it was like they knew!

And when I went back to the docks to help sticker our transition area... look what this young man had waiting for me. The last piece of pizza from Mangia. 

And last but not least... it wasn't on the list... but catching the sunrise at City Docks, should be added.

A weekend to remember without spending a dime - except on a couple of stops to Jimmy John's... and Starbucks :)

I don't think keeping up not buying anything new for a year in some aspects will be that hard. In fact I think it's just re-trained my brain to go back to the way I was raised. Some things I WILL go back to buying! ha. 

Although I'll think twice... The bathroom cabinets just look so much nicer when they're not cluttered!

Inciting Inspiration

So the year is almost up... but I've been reminded that although I've abstained from "new" things... I have found quite a few "old" things... maybe a few too many. But I think the thrift store has incited inspiration. 

I fell in love with that table I sanded down and eventually just sealed. It's beautiful and it made me really appreciate good craftsmanship and old pieces that just need a little love to bring them back to life. 

I have a friend who is expecting a baby. Ok, I have a few friends expecting babies, so I've been on high alert for cute baby things. Of course, buying "old" things for babies isn't typically "welcomed". Germs, and stuff I guess :) So I've stayed clear, for the most part of the baby section at thrift stores, but what about furniture? I saw this absolutely, ridiculously cute, high chair and got downright giddy at the thought of busting out that sander again, working some TLC into it and and gifting this cute chair to a very deserving, yet-to-be-born little person. 

But maybe not everyone loves "old" things like I do...

I walked away... only to find this...

If only it had been a few months earlier... Joey McIntyre could have really felt my dedication...

And if that wasn't enough...

If my puzzle hobby gets old... and I take up golfing... These sparkly little gems would definitely go well with my striped socks...

Just kidding! 
I know all you serious golfers are dying a quiet death imagining me showing up to play a few holes in that outfit... don't worry - I'd stay on the chipping green :)

But you can see my dilemma! When the thrift stores offer you so many possibilities - it's hard to walk away. Especially when you realize that for just $10 that high chair could end up amazing or an utter disaster... but I'm only out 10 bucks! I mean that's less than one woodworking lesson - 
that's an assumption - i'm not sure how much woodworking lessons cost.

But... I should tell you about a new friend I met. I was in Costco a few weeks ago and saw a woman who looked very familiar. My first guess was that she was from Iowa. She looked at me funny and assured me she was not from Iowa. I couldn't place her, but I knew her. Finally she said she was on a home improvement type show. 

When I moved to Canada in 2002 I only got a few channels in my dorm room, and it was winter. I watched marathons of a home improvement show that was on one of the 4 channels I got. It really inspired me to take more risks, be more creative (big picture stuff) and instantly I placed her. 
She was Amy Wynn from TRADING SPACES

It's like it was meant to be. That table was all sanded down just waiting for my next move, and who walks into my life...  It's amazing how when you just "let go and let life happen" how it can work out better than  you planned. 

Anyway. I managed to walk away from all three of those fantastic finds... but it's amazing how much more inspiration I can conjure up at a thrift store than I can flipping through a catalogue... why is that?
Because out of desperation comes inspiration!

Putting the pieces together...

What do you get kids these days for gifts?
I've played the, "let's try and be the coolest aunt and somehow produce that elusive, all the kids want it, gift"... or the nice piece of jewelry to try and instill appreciation and value... I've even tried the "experience" of a water park or hike to see the majestic wonders of the world... and it seems kids these days would rather have video games and movies - at least until they've learned every line or mastered every level. 

Kids are hard to please, so I've stopped trying to construct what it is that will make them happy and decided to give them what I want to give them. 
I didn't get a choice as a kid. 
Christmas "lists" or Birthday "lists" didn't exist. You got what you got. If that meant new socks, or just a card, or newspaper clippings from your aunt who thought you'd enjoy them... - you smiled and appreciated that someone thought of you. Gifts were gifts... not requests. 

Well... my nieces first communion is soon and as her Godmother I will be flying home to Iowa to be there and of course I like giving gifts, and my first knee jerk reaction was that since it's not quite June 1st yet, I was going to be pressured to get her something "new" because kids are hard to please. And then - inspiration struck. 

Standing in the toy section at the ARC thrift store I saw puzzles. Lots of puzzles. 1,000 piece puzzles, 10 piece puzzles. When was the last time you did a puzzle?? Maybe you're a puzzle person, but I haven't done very many puzzles and I certainly haven't done one recently, but I like puzzles. 
I decided I needed a puzzle.  Someone told me recently I don't have enough "hobbies". So we're giving puzzles a shot. 

Then it hit me. I saw a really pretty Alice in Wonderland puzzle that has a lot of pinks and purples, just like my nieces bedroom and I thought maybe she'd enjoy putting it together with me while I was home and then we could frame it and put it in her room... 

But I wanted it to mean more. 
So I ran home and put the puzzle together, flipped it over and wrote a message to her on the back. Then, I took it all apart and put it back in the box and wrapped it up. Now, she HAS to put it together in order to get the secret message! 

I could have stopped there, but as I mentioned I also bought one of these $2 puzzles for myself. 
The 1,000 piece kind...

It made me think. 
As I opened the box it smelled like a campfire. 
Not smoke, like cigarettes, but a campfire. I imagined the people who had it last, sitting at their cabin on the lake (just like the picture) putting away their cell phones, and their computers, TV's, video games, and putting a puzzle together.... together.  

I liked imagining that setting. The conversations that probably took place as they ate popcorn, or drank wine, and everybody mindlessly enjoyed a simple pleasure of a puzzle, with the complex pleasures that each person added to that table. The camaraderie and competition and fun they had, made me want to share this puzzle again. 

When I was in Kindergarten my mom ripped down the wallpaper in our basement and to our surprise the people who had put the wallpaper up about 10 years before had written on the walls. The messages were about what was going on the world at the time, how much gas prices were, and a little about themselves, where they were from and what they liked to do. It was so interesting and unexpected. We left messages of our own just in case someone wanted to tear down our wallpaper someday too!

As I unloaded that puzzle I thought... what if I put this puzzle together, flipped it over and wrote a little message in one corner... then, donated it to another thrift store (best case scenario in another city or state in my travels) and it could be like one of those dollar bills you can check online to see where it's been... 

Or maybe I should leave a riddle or a "puzzle" for the next person to figure out, and then they can leave one for the next person!

My dad used to write riddles in my lunch as a kid - addressed to our lunch table he called "the lunch bunch" We loved it!

Anyway. I'm going to give it a shot. 
It might take a little while to get the thing together, but I'm going to do my best, leave a message or a 'puzzle', and like the movie Serendipity.... send it out to the world, and see what comes back. 

And to think it's all because I decided to pick up a hobby... and couldn't buy anything new :)

May Day!

It's one of my favorite days of the year. 
As a kid I remember coming home to a dixie cup on our front stoop one day. Inside was popcorn and raisins and M&M's. 
It had a pipe cleaner for a handle and that was it. No note. No clues. 
My mom's eyes got big and said... It's May Day! I was still perplexed. 
We ran inside and frantically began digging through our cupboards to see what we could find. It became a trail mix of sorts. Some cereal, with popcorn, whatever nuts we had and marshmallows. We didn't have dixie cups so I vaguely remember using coffee filters or something! lol

Either way I was so elated with the idea that for no reason other than the fact that it was the first of May, we randomly got a little basket of goodness on our front steps! And it wasn't the only one... The moms in the neighborhood must have all realized or at least caught on that this is what we did. So as we headed out the door armed with our own little "May baskets" to deliver, we stumbled upon a few more baskets sitting on our front porch. 

I learned that the idea is not to be seen or "caught" giving away your May baskets. So my mom and I carefully snuck around the neighborhood leaving our little goodies. I still didn't quite understand why we did this... but let's be honest - who cares!? :)

As I got older of course, May Day became a little less important... especially since it falls during Prom, graduation, First Communion, mowing the lawn... life I suppose. But when I went away to college it hit me on the first of May one day and I ran home and made the most elaborate May Baskets I'd ever made. 

They were peanut butter Rice Krispie treats with Peanut M&M's shaped like hearts and tied with little bows that I delivered to my college girlfriends. They laughed... and then the next year when I was living in Canada and nobody got a May Basket - they started to appreciate the little things. 

I eventually went back and year after year, I've tried my best to remember to keep the tradition alive. 
Eventually it became an expectation at my office. Popcorn balls were a big hit one year and I had 4 of the most beautiful rose bushes outside my apartment building... that each May Day everyone also got a rose... We all know the problem with that though - man did expectations - even from myself,  get high! ha ha

Well... no roses this year - but a lot of little kids live in my neighborhood and I hope if I start out easy with some popcorn, cereal and marshmallows... they'll have something to aspire to just like I did...

Happy May Day!