November 30, 2011

You're Not a Girl; You're a Town.


Once a week or so, I get nearly teary eyed, my chest tight with pride and contentment. And it's not because of Tessa, if that's what you're thinking. It's because of Nashville. Sailing along these streets, plodding through its parks, sitting at its coffee shops, chatting with its shop owners, I am hopelessly in love. 

Twenty-nine years into my relationship with this place, I've grown to love it in a way that's emotional, protective and proud, not unlike the way I love Tessa. It's where I've lived my whole life. As with all the best love affairs, I've weathered long periods of doubt, felt panicked and trapped. Time keeps passing, and I find myself thinking, God, I've maybe lived nearly half my life already, here in this town. I've had tough moments when I've felt forced to throw some of my dreams overboard completely; basically all the ones that involved getting the hell out of dodge and living somewhere hectic and smelly and buzzing all night. But I've come to realize lots of things about myself and my sweet-smelling town, most of all that where I live has almost nothing to do with how much I can accomplish in life or how happy I'll be or not be. And I've made sacrifices for love, as corny as that might sound, that I don't regret making. 

I wrote on the "About" page of this blog that living in the same city your whole life is like losing your virginity to your husband, in that it's virtuous and romantic but also pretty much a big bummer. (Hello! Big-time missing out!) For the record, I did live in Knoxville for six yearsfour years for college at UT and two years after that to work at Metro Pulse. After I was fired from that job (because I was young and stupid and thought life was supposed to be fair), I went home to our apartment and lay in Nekos's arms and cried my eyes out, stopping only when he suggested we pack our things and move (three hours away) to Nashville. He was waiting tables at a pizza place and was eager to get a fresh start in a place with an actual job market, plus he knew my mom and dad lived here. Now that he's here, I know I'll never convince him to leave. It's hard to believe he's not from here, the way he navigates Nashville's backroads (I ask him for directions constantly) and seems to be buddies with all its barflies. So here we are. We bought a house here, made our little girl here and have forged our friendships and careers here. Life could throw a curveball, but I think here is where we'll stay.

Over time, my panicked feelings about living here all my life have been eased by travel, which has only strengthened my feelings about Nashville's own specific sweetnesses. From the window of an airplane, Nashville doesn't look like much of anything; in fact it looks downright depressing compared to the lights of New York City at night or the grandeur of the Grand Canyon at 30,000 feet. Not until you're inside this place does it really speak to you. Sometimes it even sings to you, being Music City after all. 

Speaking of New York, I spent my teenage years mooning over a map, putting a hopeful pin in the Big Apple, but that didn't pan out. It could have panned out, had I shrugged off Nekos and the love we felt for one another. But I wanted a partner most, more than any other far-flung dream I ever had. And he never wanted to live in New York; he wanted to stay in the South where he can eat meat-and-threes and watch SEC football and not get overshadowed by too much of everything. So here we'll stay. And, at least for today, I am really happy about that. 

If you live in Nashville, what are your favorite things about this place? Or, if not, what do you love about where you live?

*The title of this post is from the Avett Brothers song "Smoke in Our Lights." Sigh. Suuuch a good song.  

November 29, 2011

Dear Santa,

How lame is it that I'm hurrying to post this so I can watch the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show?

Anyway, old man, back to the point, here are a few things I've been pinning and pining over. You won't be surprised that they're all items of clothing, as always:

Sources, Clockwise: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
I would, however, gladly forfeit all of this material stuff for one long weekend in Key West with Nekos, in which case I'd just need one of these (speaking of Victoria's Secret). Here's hoping!!!

November 27, 2011

Post-Pumpkin Pie.

Turkey day is over, which always comes as a relief. I've had my fair share of crappy holidays, and so I tend to wake up with a lump in my throat on days that are "supposed" to be amazing. I think partially this is because I come from divorced parents and because I'm an only child; it's always seemed that there are too many people's feelings that need tip-toeing around during the holidays. But all went really well this year; no one cried, and I only took one Xanax. 

We had my dad over on Wednesday night, and we hung out with my mom on Thursday. My parents have been divorced for almost 25 (!!!) years and neither ever remarried. Though they can hang together for brief periods of time, if necessary, like on Tessa's birthday, it's way more comfortable for everyone if they don't. On the holidays, I'm their air traffic controller--making sure his plane doesn't cross paths with hers and vice versa. 

The night before Thanksgiving, my dad brought over a honey baked ham and I threw together some baked beans and cole slaw and (what else, really?!) Sister Schubert's rolls. Tessa totally warmed my dad's heart by eating her entire meal in his lap.  

The next morning Nekos and I woke up early and drove to Belle Meade to do the 5-mile Boulevard Bolt. We met my mom there, and all took turns carrying Tessa. We did this last year, too, and had so much fun that we tried to recreate it exactly. A meal always tastes better when you deserve to eat it. 

Nekos took a series of pictures of me, my mom and Tessa, with this huge carving knife sticking bolt upright out of the turkey. We didn't realize it until later and got hysterical about it (and the fact that in most of the pictures Tessa is trying to slap me in the face). 

After lunch all four of us dropped like flies and took long, languid naps. Then we hauled out all the Christmas decorations, hung our stockings and decorated our tree. I'm actually feeling very merry; it's sort of sickening. We all are, and we all owe it to a little girl named Tessa. Pumpkin pie helps, too. 

November 23, 2011

20 Months Old.

The time has finally come: We are having tea parties here! Not those hyper-conservative rallies (not here, not ever), but those intimate affairs to which only two or three stuffed animals are invited. Tessa puts an elephant, say, on one chair and a bear on another and serves them imaginary food and drink, stalking around her little table and beseeching her guests, and me and her dad, to "Pwease, eat!" I think she will host some killer keg parties when she's older. She can't say her "L's" at all, by the way. So "clock" is a very definitive "cock" and "milk" is "muck." True story.

Other things I'm loving about Tessa now: She's eating better than she has in a long while (less picky) and is chubbing up really cute. Three months ago a pediatric chiropractor tested her for food allergies and suggested that we switch her from cow's milk to goat's milk, which is expensive, but she seems to be doing lots better on it. She also started taking fish oil supplements and a chewable multi-vitamin, which she loves and actually asks me for several times a day. I'm thinking/hoping that all of these things are why her little colds are staying little instead of becoming feverish and scary like they used to. (Thanks to a blog reader, Mel, for suggesting that I take her to this specific chiropractor! It's been a big help.) We also decided a few weeks ago to limit her pacifier use to naps and bedtimes, and she's been a champ about that. Plus, I think it gives her more incentive to get into her bed and put up less of a fuss about going to sleep.

It changes every week, but I've been really enjoying her company this week. (Last week she was driving me nuts, but I think it's because she was cutting another tooth, now pearly white and peering out from her pink gums.) She's super affectionate--loves to kiss and hug--and most always happy and laughing her head off.

So she's 20 months old today. I think that means I'm allowed to start dreaming about her second birthday party now? Two? Two!

November 22, 2011

Aspartame & Other Drugs.

Clockwise: Sewing! Garp! Me! Hattie! 
Around my birthday, I wrote about 5 goals, most all of which had to do with wanting to take better care of myself because a) I wasn't sleeping very well, at least not naturally, and b) I loved Diet Coke and Splenda in my coffee and faux sugar bubble gum and ice cream products and c) I wasn't writing fiction anymore, and it was making me feel like my writing-related goals were going POOF.

Two months later, I've made a lot of progress on three of my goals and none at all on two others.

First off, I have given up aspartame! I initially wrote that I thought it would be the hardest thing for me to accomplish on my list, but it's actually been no sweat. It's been more difficult, in fact, for me to remember how to pronounce aspartame. I keep wanting to say Ass-per-tame. The first week was tough, but I made some pretty "sweet" substitutions, replacing the Splenda in my coffee with Truvia and swapping my daily Diet Coke or two with an even more caffeine-jacked daily skim latte, with one raw sugar (or sometimes none at all! GO ME.) At restaurants, I just order an unsweet tea instead of a Diet Coke. And I'm not totally rigid about it. I've actually had a Diet Coke or two, a packet of the yellow stuff a time or two, and it's been totally no big deal. I was worried I would gain weight, but I haven't. Not a pound gained or lost either way. And the best benefit, and the one I was most hoping for, has been fewer breakouts. Maybe it's a fluke, but my skin is looking uber better since I told aspartame to kiss it. Like, I actually walked out of the house without putting on any makeup the other day. I'm not saying it was entirely pretty, but it happened.

On the other hand, the trying to go to sleep naturally thing has not worked. Most nights, I alternate taking Motrin P.M. with taking Xanax to get myself to sleep. I was so grateful to come across this New York Times article, "Mothers and Sleep Medication," because now I know I'm not alone. Big sigh. The gist of it: Women, mothers especially, so often lie awake at night because they can't turn off the hyper-vigilance that powers their days. This is exactly how I feel: All day long I'm taking care of Tessa, meeting work deadlines, keeping the house clean and organized, maintaining a marriage and a social life and a family life, keeping up with this blog, and on and on. I love all that stuff (mostly), but how to disconnect from it long enough to get that eight hours of sleep every night? My very favorite bit from the article was this woman who said, "We’re supposed to be these crazed people all day and then suddenly become Buddhists at night.” Exactly! How is that supposed to happen? Pass the pills, dude. I will perserve on this one though, because I worry that it's a slippery slope, this taking pills to sleep thing. And one day I'll be pregnant again, and I won't be able to cope that way anymore.

In good news, I went out on a limb and asked two people who I really admire to start a fiction writing group with me. And they said yes, and we've set deadlines and shit. So I almost already have one short story under my belt, and then I'll be responsible for another one every six weeks. Accountability is so golden! I can't even begin to explain how happy this makes me.

Oh, the other two goals I wrote about? Here are the Cliff notes: I have been working out, usually three times a week, rotating Pilates classes and Zumba classes (I am, for the record, still terrible at Zumba and giggle my way through most of the classes), but I haven't lifted a finger to start on this quilt I waxed poetic about wanting to begin. I have been doing lots of sewing lately, though, but mostly boring stuff like mending and refashioning clothes that fit weird.

This post was inspired by Mandy's (really awesome) plea tonight to bloggers to please be authentic. Being authentic takes balls, by the way. Because when all the details aren't sweet as pie or wrapped into a neat DIY, and when you have things to say about motherhood or your kid other than how blow-your-mind amazing it/she/he is, it's sort of awkward. Speaking of authenticity, you have to see Ryan's post on Pacing the Panic Room. It's called "The Best Worst Weekend Ever," and it's about a romantic getaway with his wife gone terribly wrong. The honesty slays me. I could never be that honest here. But I so admire it in other bloggers. Honestly, I hope you guys have a badass Thanksgiving. We are doing a 5-mile race, but by doing I don't mean running. Because strollers aren't allowed. Meaning I'm going to have a ridiculously adorable 26-lb turkey strapped to me. Watch out, Nashville.

November 19, 2011

Stuff I Wore: Day in the Studio.

This morning Nekos took pictures of one of our girlfriends who is launching her own stone cold GORGEOUS jewelry line, Seraphine Designs (see my necklace). He does video production for a living, so we just went to the studio at his office to do her photo shoot. She was a tough act to follow, but afterwards I squeezed in a little "Stuff I Wore" shoot of my own since, you know, the lights were already set up n' stuff.  

Vest: BCBG (bought a few years ago)
Tights: J. Crew
Boots: Navid O Nadia, bought in NYC five years ago 
Necklace: by Brooke Seraphine (more details coming soon!)

We are baby-free for the day and night so I'm planning on lying in bed and watching Project Runway re-runs until we head off for a dinner party tonight. And then, tomorrow, sleeping in!

Happy Saturday to all and to all a good night. 


November 17, 2011

The Inaugural Vlog!

I try to get Tess to talk; I have nothing to say; and she knocks over my glass. And it's awkward. This is truly masterful cinema. Stay tuned for future episodes.

Not to talk about weather, but I am kind of dying inside over this weather. It is very, very cold tonight, and I do not approve. I am a mama bear who is trying to think of how I will pass the time indoors with my cub this winter. No swings, no slide, no rocks, grass, leaves or berries to collect, no zoo to visit, no park to lollygag around, no outdoor playdates. This is a conundrum. So I could use some indoor activity advice for other veteran parents of busy toddlers. Please!

And, also, how is it possible that Thanksgiving is a week away? What is to be done about it?

November 15, 2011

Stuff I Made: Lauren Moffatt-Inspired Sweater

I love just about everything Lauren Moffatt makes. And her story is cool, too. For the first two seasons of her collection, she sewed several hundred pieces at home on her 31-foot sailboat docked on New York's Hudson River. But, I mean, the clothes speak for themselves ....

Amazing, right?

There's this one sweater of hers that struck me as a possible easy DIY. It's called the Safety Joe Pocket Sweater. It's sold out on her site now, but it was priced at $295.

And, voila!

I made this out of two gorgeous sweaters I picked up at the thrift store. I know, I was especially bummed to cut up the Bugle Boy one.

I cut off the sleeve of the striped sweater (OBVIOUSLY), sliced it at the seam, lay it flat, ironed it, measured it, remeasured it, stretched it, remeasured it, cut it some more, hemmed the top and bottom, used some steam-a-seam to keep it in place and then stitched it onto the sweater by hand. I also took in the sleeves and sides of the navy sweater so it fit better.

Nekos came home and said it looks like a Tommy Hilfiger sweater. Not really what I was going for, but whatevs. I know it's a Lauren Moffatt knock-off; that's what matters.

November 14, 2011

A Happy List.

I haven't put together one of my "happy lists" in a while because I discovered Pinterest many months ago, and it kind of eliminated the need for any other place to collect inspiring images. But I don't know, what can I say, I'm gonna lean on other people's work for this post because Tessa is very hands-on these days, and it's not leaving much room for me to break out the sewing machine. Plus, it's getting dark so dang early that I literally want to get in bed at 8 p.m. every night. I did make dinner tonight, though. I was really hopeful about this quinoa/butternut squash dressing recipe that I found on The New York Times website. It was okay, but a whole lot of work for just okay. And mine looks nothing like the picture, but instead all mushed together. I think I might possibly hate cooking. Or if I was ever going to like it, it would have been before I had a kid. Because my kid can't stand it when I try to cook and stop paying attention to her. She clings to my legs and yells, "Mommy!" and "Hot!" and points at the stove really emphatically, like she's outraged. Which is probably why it turned out all mushy n' stuff. I'll blame Tess. Anyway, here are some things that have inspired me this past few weeks, in no particular order (because obvs Tessa's smile would be tops):

Sources,  clockwise: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 
Sources, clockwise: 1,  2, 3, 4 (unknown, but let me know if you know!)

November 12, 2011

1 Year of Blogging!


Dear Blogging,

This week marks one year of doing you.

I've loved almost every minute of it—so much so that I'm actually bummed when I don't have the opportunity to do you that day.

Would you believe that I did you 251 times in the last year? I must really dig you.

It's just that having you to do has made me more ambitious, reflective, and invested in creating beauty in my life. And it's given me a purpose outside of my marriage, family, and career. I like that.

Let's keep doing what we're doing, you and me.

Some of my favorite posts/highlights from the past year:

from the heart:

from the craft room:

from the closet:

November 10, 2011

Vintage Toy Box + Vintage Bedspread = Thrifting Score.

A girlfriend today said she feels fall is a time for turning inward. I don't know that I've necessarily been any more reflective, but taking it literally, I've definitely focused a lot of energy on the inside of our home, redoing our bedroom, tweaking our office, and doing some heavy duty furniture rearrangement. I'm feathering our nest in a way that I haven't since I was pregnant with Tessa.

Most recently, we began turning our guest bedroom into a guest bedroom/playroom. Tessa's bedroom is upstairs across from ours so it's great to have one place where all her toys can live downstairs. That place used to be our living room, but we've moved all of the toys out of there and in here (which is woah!).

Our guest bedroom is already painted such a kiddie color so it works, even though Tessa hasn't quite yet figured out where all her toys have gone and has to be reminded often. Today at the thrift store I found this vintage bedspread for $4 that I fell in love with, and the color matches the walls perfectly! And also there was this old toy box for $10 that captured my heart, cobwebs and all. After a good laundering and a bleach-y wipedown, both were perfect little additions to our playroom in progress. Once it all comes together, I'll share some pictures of Tessa's playroom.

Tomorrow is big: Nekos comes home from Cleveland, where he's been on business all week, and we have a movie date planned! And also, it's my one year blog-a-versary!

November 9, 2011

In Need of Sparkle.

Sources, clockwise: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (woefully unknown. let me know if you know!), 6, 7 
I am resolving to add some sparkle to my life. I mean, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure those Converse will be under our Christmas tree this year. (I've already put in a very enthusiastic request with Nekos.) But I'm also on the look-out for a sequined top or jacket that I can wear in the daylight and tone down with an old tee-shirt or raggedy jeans. Maybe a sequin beanie hat, too?

I need sparkle in particular today, my friends. I wanted to shoot my eye out for most of the afternoon. (I say afternoon because Tessa was at her Mother's Day Out program all morning, during which time I worked.) It was just one of those days when motherhood feels so excruciatingly boring and endless that you sort of don't know how it's possible that it's only 4 p.m. and that you'll have to think of something else to do to entertain the ragamuffin who asks you for crackers every five minutes and gets elaborately frustrated with all of her toys. Plus, Nekos is out of town so I didn't have much to look forward to.

There was one unbelievable highlight of today. I went to Tessa's MDO program mid-day for a parent teacher's conference. Considering she's only a bit over one-and-a-half, this was definitely my first experience with this sort of thing. I thought maybe her teacher would tell me that she'd been slapping other kids or stealing their snacks, and I was sort of nervous about it, especially because I sat down in a chair across from Tessa's teacher, and it all felt very serious for a minute there. But instead she tells me Tess is pretty much the bee's knees times one thousand. And the best part is: I got to look through the window and see Tess napping! Why is this a big deal to me? Because I've never even been able to picture how it's possible to get eight babies to take a nap ON A FLOOR AT THE SAME TIME. I literally thought her teachers just blatantly lied to me every day when they said she had napped. But there she was, there they all were, sound asleep, almost like they were drugged. Tessa was on her back--even though she almost always sleeps on her stomach--and her little hand was off her mat, half uncurled and so lovely in its smallness. And I thought: This is it. This is the sweetest thing I've ever seen. But that was all before I picked her up.

November 8, 2011

Out with the Old School.

Here's what a lot of the conversations in our house sound like these days:

Nekos, calling to me from the office, "Ellen? Do you really want me to upload all of these Blessid Union of Souls CDs?"

Me, practically jogging into the office: "What? Of course! Are you kidding me?" 

On a walk recently, Nekos and I made a mutual decision to completely get rid of our CD collection. It felt like an ephiphany: We'd upload them all, put them on a drive, box them up and take them to the used CD store to see how much they'd cough up (not much, it turns out). We—well mostly hehave gotten increasingly obsessed with building our vinyl collection, and our massive CD collection had taken a backseat, while taking up basically all the space on the bookshelves in our office. 

So we've ditched most of them now, and it feels ... mostly, amazing. I'm a compulsive declutter so it really appeals to me to be getting rid of so much crap. Except when I pick up a really old CD, like Joan Osborne's Relish, which I'm certain I got when I was 13 from one of those CD clubs that was all the rage when I was in middle school; you know, you'd pay 99 cents and get 10 CDs for free and then the next month for the rest of your life you'd get a Seal or Kenny Loggins CD that you never wanted? Anyway, except for some sentimentality about CDs we had on heavy rotation in high school, we've been pretty excited about going digital and not looking back. 

Plus, I just think our office looks 100 times better. We moved all of the books from random places in our house onto the cleared-off shelves, and wow. Books are gorgeous. I might pick some doozies out for the Goodwill box every once in awhile, but otherwise our book collection is here to stay. 

Speaking of, are you guys reading anything good? I'm halfway through Jhumpa Lahiri's short story collection Unaccustomed Earth and loving it so far.  

November 6, 2011

White with Pops of Color: Our New Bedroom.

Our bedroom makeover is finally done! The blog post title is sort of tongue in cheek because although I've been blathering for a year or more about how much I love the idea of a "white bedroom with pops of color," I realize now that that particular combination of words is pretty ubiquitous these days. Just try Pinterest-ing "white with pop of color" and see all that comes up. :)

This bedroom re-do was a lot of work but so much fun, and we're pretty stinkin' thrilled with the result. I feel like it's bright, cozy, and inspiring. Here's what all I did, with plenty of elbow grease and encouragement from Nekos.

I started by painting the walls white, which was scary because it is whiter than white, not even cream.

And I picked up some pretty new curtains and curtain rods at World Market, which is so fun and like Anthro for less. The floral ones are the Emma curtains (I think they're sold out online now), and the burlap-y one is here. I decided to hang the curtain on the far wall a couple feet higher than the window, which made a big impact I think. 

Speaking of burlap, I made a bedskirt out of three coffee sacks. I just cut them the right length, hemmed them, and safety-pinned them to the existing bedskirt (which no longer matched the room), a couple of inches underneath the mattress. I'm pretty sure I got this idea from my friend Blair, who made burlap saddlebags for her bed that I think are awesome but unfortunately not toddler proof. 

I also turned our existing duvet cover over because the pattern there no longer matches either, and this way I get the all-white bed I've been wanting, with some help from TJ Maxx sheets. By the way, I've gone to a much higher thread count, and I'm in heaven. I don't think I'm ever going back to a 350 thread count again. Yowza.

I blogged a couple of months ago about how I came up with this plantation shutter headboard.

Nekos and I framed the John Lennon and Yoko Ono poster we used to have just pinned above our bed and surrounded them with other randoms found around our house.

I made this light out of chicken wire and spraypainted it white. 

This is the little chair that goes with my vanity table. I spray painted it white and ...

... then roughed it up with a hand sander. 

Hanging above the vanity is this chicken wire inspiration board, which I also blogged about making recently. 

I hope you dug the tour of the new best place to cuddle in the Barnes house!