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Well, HALLO there.

04/30

As a 20+-year veteran IKEA shopper, my top tip for sanity preservation is this: always start at the checkout area and work your way back. I haven’t been upstairs in an IKEA in ages.

This backward route means I pass the garden area twice, so a couple months ago I got lucky and spotted these $5.99 striped HÅLLÖ pillows: Read more…

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Teacher gifts that won’t get tossed.

04/24

If Pinterest trends are any indication, teacher-gift season is almost here. And with it the challenge of finding a budget-friendly idea that adequately conveys thankfulness and saves face in the implied creativity competition. (If you’ve ever had a child in elementary school, you know what I’m talking about.)

Although my son just finished his first year of college, I spent a lot of time over the years volunteering at his school. I got to know many teachers and witnessed firsthand the demands of their job and the sacrifices they make for our kids.

Fact: Teachers absolutely deserve our gratitude.

But I also learned the hard way that sometimes the best way to thank them is by keeping it simple.

Read more…

A fond farewell…

03/13

… to an Arizona house. My boy started kindergarten and graduated from high school here. Walls painted, then painted over. Fences stuccoed, curtains hung, pool built, gardens planted. Many memories — most wonderful, a few best forgotten.

I love living in California, but I miss this house and, most of all, the incredible people we met while living here.

The lollipop-looking ficus trees were my nod to East Coast landscaping.

The light maple floors throughout the house were one of my favorite features. They also hid dirt pretty well. Read more…

Back to basics.

03/12

I started this blog as a way to document my quest to revise, improve and simplify my life to focus on what’s most important.

A lot has changed since then. My only child started college 700 miles away. I sold my home of nearly 14 years. My husband and I moved from Arizona to Southern California.

But as I pause to catch my breath, I realize the words I initially chose as filters for editing my life — revise, improve, simplify — have not changed. In fact, they’ve helped guide and ground me during particularly stressful times. Read more…

[Not So] Traditional Swedish Butter Cookies

12/19

I was recently invited to a cookie exchange — my first. The party sounded like fun, but I was completely stumped by what to make.

Let’s face it, everyone knows cookie exchanges are basically beauty contests for baked goods, and even though this one wouldn’t involve judges or prizes (thank heavens!), I didn’t want to be the one bearing the ‘platter of shame.’ Read more…

Edited Entry: Painting Door Hardware

07/28

As is the plight of many homes in Arizona, the street view of our house is dominated by a three-car garage. Blech.

Our lipstick-on-a-pig solution was to paint it a solid color and attempt to dress it up with modern mission-inspired light fixtures and windows. But since the garage still makes up nearly half the facade, the front entrance needs to be a standout to get noticed at all.

While cleaning up the aftermath of a recent haboob (which is way more fun to say than it is to experience), I realized our entry was standing out — just not in the way I’d hoped.

Our front door is looking tired and neglected, the welcome mat is not welcoming anyone, and the weathered bench is barely holding it together.

Time to spruce it up — starting with the door hardware.

Read more…

Favorite Summer Dessert: Fresh Fruit Tart

07/23

Image ©2011 Christopher Halloran Photography

My Aunt Stewart was a born hostess. She made entertaining seem effortless — a trait she passed along to her children. My siblings and I have fond memories of her huge holiday shindigs where she welcomed with open arms every friend and family member who happened to be in town.

She had a quick wit, a deep, throaty laugh, and a classic, honeyed Southern drawl. She took a genuine interest in people and had a knack for making them feel unique and loved.

Read more…