Saturday, March 31, 2018

Why "We're Never Going To See These People Again" is My Travel Motto

What are we doing? WHATEVER WE WANT!

My friend Debi and I sang this over and over while jumping up and down in the water and throwing our hands up in the air. If you've been reading along you know we were on this trip with her daughter, Casey, and her niece, Maggie who was turning 21. Sometimes you just need to act like you are six years old and it's usually best to do that when you can say "We're never going to see these people again."

You know you are living your best life when you are wearing a sun hat big enough for you and your bestie to get under. 

No one was interested in going to Chichen Itza (Read about my two previous trips to the ruins here and here.) so the four of us opted for a private beach excursion complete with an authentic Mexican buffet and unlimited drinks. Unlike Cozumel, Progresso is a place I don't feel comfortable just strolling around. There's a beach just at the end of the pier where the ships dock with great food and drinks and where you can get a massage on the beach. A couple of years ago my husband and I did that and it was fun but there were people coming by constantly to sell things and I knew our girls' group wouldn't want to deal with that.

After a 20-minute bus ride from the pier we arrived, changed and grabbed some lounge chairs. I now realize I never sat down in mine. When it was billed as a "beach house" I thought they were kidding but it really was a house with a private beach.

We started with drinks and food, then headed for the water. It was one of those beaches where you can wade out a really long way without it ever getting over your head and the tour guide had promised us no sharks. I still can't help but keep an eye out though. Thanks a lot, Jaws and Shark Week.  It was glassy smooth at first but later the waves picked up and one particularly roguish wave pulled down Casey's bathing suit rendering her topless while facing the beach.

Apparently, in Mexico, this doesn't even earn you any cheap plastic beads.

I was so helpful with my laughing hysterically and jumping up and down. Why is every little thing exactly one million times funnier on vacation? Thank goodness we are never going to see these people again! 

Over the loudspeaker we  occasionally heard them announce different activities you could join in between the music. We couldn't be bothered to get out of the water and so I have the most wonderful memory of us all doing the Cuban Shuffle in the gulf. They did call Maggie's name and request her presence for a birthday celebration. They put a funny hat on her and gave her a free drink and a miniature cake. It was all super cute.

Casey and I took part in the salsa lesson and Debi found an 86 year old man who was a hit among the spring breakers in the club every night and danced with him on the beach. She'd bought a hat in Cozumel and looked like a Cuban cigar heiress. Now that's a style goal!

While Debi and I were jumping up and down and singing "What are we doing? Whatever we want!" a man and his wife waded out to us to tell us that they'd seen us around the ship and thought we looked like we were having more fun than anyone.  We'd already had this discussion among the four of us and were pretty sure it was true. Debi and I recalled trips to Italy and New York where we also had reputations as the people having the best time. It's a travel goal!

Eventually, Casey and Maggie made us get out and helped us get our stuff together, while Casey was helping me on with my caftan which was tangled up over my head I heard her say "I told you we should have made them get out sooner."

I guess we also looked a bit like six-year-olds. I'd lost count of my rum runners but it suddenly seemed really hard to figure out complicated things like two arm holes and a neck hole. 

There was a bit of a rush to collect ourselves and get back on the bus for the ship. After all, we had to get ready for a lovely dinner, karaoke, the comedy show, and hitting the club.  Our evening goals. So very different from the ones I have at home. 

You know it was a good day when you have had salsa AND a salsa lesson. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tequila Shots and Jewelry Shopping: A Dangerous Combo

Our first of two stops was Cozumel. If you are going to do an excursion there I highly recommend snorkeling on the Palancar Reef which ranks among the most amazing things I've ever done. Read all about snorkeling and dancing in Cozumel. 

But if you just want to get off the ship and wander around to do some shopping it's perfect for that. If you land at the port closest to downtown you are all set. If your ship docks at Puerta Maya  you'll need to take a taxi to downtown for about two bucks apiece.

We had a female taxi driver who turned up Ke$ha on the radio so we could have a dance party in the car, obviously a theme of the trip. She couldn't stop laughing.

On the main strip, beachfront, there is plenty of shopping. What's with all the diamond stores? But we always head a block or two away from that for walking down sleepy little streets away from the fray of thousands of cruisers who seem to feel safest among the throngs of people. Just a couple of blocks over you could be in any little Mexican village. I have always felt safe in Cozumel and the Yucatan, in general, is a safe part of the country compared to areas where walking across the border is possible.

In Mexico, I shop for 3 things: silver, turquoise, and blankets. I have a blanket from each trip I've made. They are perfect for taking to yoga or for using on chilly nights on the porch. I found one early in the day and marked that off my list.

 We stopped at a charming small cafe called Casablanca (some sketchy reviews on Trip Advisor but we had a fun experience) for a snack. Under an umbrella, we drank two for one margaritas and ate guacamole.

Next to it was a guy doing henna tattoos, something I've always wanted to do. Maggie and I did this. Because if you are going to get an Indian style henna mandala Mexico is the place to do it, right? 

Meanwhile, my friend, Debi and her daughter located a jewelry store and Debi returned wearing a stunning ring. The guy had started at a price of $825.00 but she ended up paying less than a quarter of that. Haggling is something the locals expect and happily engage in, but if you whip out your money at the first price they'll gladly take it.

After my margaritas I thought jewelry shopping sounded like a fine idea. We all headed back to the store. They were ready with the tequila shots when we walked in. It was a small store with 4 of the most charming men you've ever come across. Pouring us tequila and talking silver and turquoise.

How much cash can you spend on jewelry? Please note: whatever number you say is what you will spend. These men are the definition of smooth. I asked for a shot of tequila for every step of the process.

I can't even think about buying jewelry...without more tequila. Etc. Etc.

Y'all! Almond and chocolate tequila. Who knew?

I ended up with a stack of 7 square silver bangles and a pair of turquoise earrings for sixty bucks. I had one thicker bangle on my other arm as I was paying and one man came over to say in a low voice to the guy checking me out "Don't' forget about that one." To which the man taking my money said, "I'm giving that to her." The first guy made a face, like "well, okay, then."

I wondered how many times a day they did this little act. Obviously, that encounter would have been done in Spanish if it was real. 

We laughed about all this later and wondered if we'd been taken advantage of and just assumed we had overpaid. Upon returning home though our research showed that we had actually paid fair prices for our purchases and it was one of the most enjoyable shopping experiences I've ever had.

Plus the tequila was so amazing I had to stop before we got on the ship and buy some to bring home. Surely these guys are getting a kickback from the tequila sellers. 

Things you hear when shopping in Mexico: 

I can tell you are a good woman. 

Do you like tequila? 

How much cash do you have to spend? 

Here's a charm for you. 

Come inside and taste the tequila. 

Special price for you. 

Have some more tequila. 

If you are heading to Mexico set aside some money for shopping. It can feel a bit like gambling and like gambling part of what you are paying for is the entertainment. Just don't take more than you can afford to happily part with.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Girls Gone Mild: Emotional Outbursts and Strip Karaoke

 Our ship set sail on St. Patrick's Day, but the first order of business that day was shopping on Royal Street. It's my favorite street in the Quarter full of unique little gift shops, antique stores, and art galleries. We picked up some goodies and headed back to the hotel for our car and drove to the Port. I'd never parked in the Cruise Parking before but it was the easiest thing ever and the porters come right to the car to get your bags out and whisk them away.

After we parked we headed down to get to the escalators to go up and through security and check-in. As I stepped onto the escalator I started to cry. My crew was worried about me and I could hardly talk to tell them that they were tears of joy. First I knew how much my bestie, Debi was going to LOVE cruising, but also I appreciate every single wonderful thing that I ever get to do and don't take anything for granted. So I had a little moment as we headed up to get in line.

My girls totally got me. 

Check-in was easy peasy and before we knew it we were on the ship with drinks and food. Later as the ship sailed down the river Debi asked me if I wanted to split a burger from Guy's Burger Joint. "Oh sure. Why not?"

Y'all. This was my first burger in 7 years. 

Apparently, the answer to yesterday's question: Who are we? (for me, at least)  is someone who listens to rap and eats beef.

Did burgers always taste like this? Is Guy putting crack in the burgers? Is it so good because I haven't had one in so long?  I should probably just confess that I had one every day. 

After organizing our things for the week we headed out to dinner and a show. Then we settled in at karaoke. The fun thing about karaoke is that some of it is surprisingly good and some of it is, well...awful. The best thing is when the bad singers are having the most fun and the crowd tries to help them out by singing along. Karaoke became a nightly event for us.

 I need to tell you a funny thing that happened. 

One of the bad singers was a young guy who took his shirt off in the middle of his song which was hilarious. Later, while someone else was singing a guy in the crowd yelled: "Dude, take your pants off!" Someone in our party didn't hear it and my friend pointed to the guy and repeated what he said.

Just in time for a man to turn around.  All he heard was "Dude, take your pants off."  and to see her pointing in his direction. He looked a startled as she tried to explain, but you can't unring that bell. Whenever we saw him afterward he was known as No Pants Guy.

"Look, No Pants Guy is over there."

"No Pants Guy is here with his sons."

"No Pants Guy's sons are laughing and pointing at us."

Any trip is enhanced by a running joke. They tend to be among the "You had to be there" stories but I know you are my people. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Girls Gone Mild: Rap Conversion and the Big Easy

I have a fun hangover. But it's Saturday, and I'm keeping up with my three posts a week one of which has to happen today. Last Friday my oldest friend, Debi, and I, her daughter, Casey, and niece, Maggie drove to New Orleans to catch a cruise to Mexico the next day. This was what Maggie wanted to do for her 21st birthday.

Here's a secret: if you ask me to go on a cruise I'm in. No occasion necessary. 

We rode down in a driving rainstorm the entire way listening to rap. Now, if you had asked me before I got in the car if I liked rap I would have said no and probably made a face like you were asking me how I felt about root canals. I can't even imagine what I would have said if you had asked if I wanted to be in a car for 7 hours listening to it.


By the time I got out of that car, I had started a new Spotify playlist that included Nelly and Juicy J. According to Debi's Fitbit, she had taken 7 thousand steps in the backseat of the car. You can't sit still when listing to Lil Mama and Ludacris. Just sayin'.

We kept looking at each other and saying "Who are we right now?" 

No. seriously. Who. Are. We?

We arrived in The Big Easy, checked into our hotel, and headed out to the Quarter in search of food, drinks, and beignets. We happened upon a restaurant called Deja Vu and fulfilled everyone's po' boy requirement. While we were settling our bill a Saint Patrick's Day parade went right by and we racked up several handfuls of beads.

We also ran into some ladies dressed like bees and a man dressed as their beekeeper. Not sure what the connection is to Irish saints but if you've been to New Orleans you know that things don't always have to make sense. Like all the men in kilts. Only in my mind did I say, "Wrong country, guys." Details aren't all that important in party mode.

Next up was the legendary Cafe DuMonde. Afterward, I had hoped to take them to the Bombay Club but that secret is apparently out and it was packed to the brim. My next choice was the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, but it was also filled to overflowing. We managed to snag some drinks from the bar and sit in the beautiful lobby and chat nonstop.

I did mention it was a girls trip, right? 

Y'all I actually lost my voice from so much talking! The rest of the week I sounded like a cross between Bonnie Raitt and James Earl Jones.

The communication only stopped when we collapsed into our beds that night and dreamt of palm trees and glimmering seas.

Just kidding. We all had the weirdest dreams that night. 

*black and white photo compliments of Maggie Murray

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Inventory for Creatives

Are you letting anxiety and fear of failure stop you from putting your work out there? 

This idea of creating a consistent body of work is going better than I had anticipated. I stopped waiting for inspiration to strike before sitting down to write and decided to publish something, anything on the blog 3 times a week. You and I know they aren't all winners but that's the point. Also, I'm feeling very vulnerable posting more often, personal, and less perfect posts. As a creative introvert I have a lot of anxiety about putting work out into the world, but guess what, Makers, Writers, and Artists! That's just the name of the game.

Anxiety and fear of failure won't kill you but not trying is certain failure. 

Are you waiting for the perfect time to start? 

It's the biggest hurdle, isn't it? To put something out into the world, to be exposed, to be known can be hard whether you are writing a book or posting to Instagram. Will anyone get it? Will anyone like it? Will I seem self-absorbed, shallow, or ridiculous? Some days it's uncomfortable. But what's more uncomfortable is the thought of not writing, creating, and sharing. The bigger vision of my life includes bringing the joy (this year's motto), sharing what I've learned, and connecting with others by writing, speaking, and photography.

Stop waiting for the perfect time and start. 

Are you waiting for your perfect work or masterpiece? 

Stop waiting for the most brilliant piece of work ever to go public with. Can I tell you a secret? For years I was terrified to have anyone read my writing or see my artwork or photos. And public speaking? Are you kidding me? The nightmare of nightmares! But here I am doing all those things. Perfectly? Nope. Not even close.

Done is better than good. 

Are you thinking it's too late or that you missed your chance?

The first time I actually "published" a piece of writing it was a Facebook "note." I literally broke out in a cold sweat knowing people would read what I had written. I was filled with anxiety all day long. And I was in my 40s! As you can see, it didn't kill me and it got easier each time.

It's never too late.

Do you think everyone might know you are just a big fraud? 

Every once in a while I think "Who am I kidding?" or "Why would anyone listen to me?" Occasionally   Often, I feel like a fraud. I have that feeling that eventually someone, or worse, everyone, is going to figure out that I'm faking it. That I don't have all the answers. Those tons of other people know more about what I'm talking about than I do. I was encouraged by Elizabeth Gilbert's post from backstage at a TED Conference a couple of years ago when she shared that she felt like a fraud being there and as she'd asked around so did every other speaker there! The top people in their fields with tons of awards and accolades still feel that way. Of course, you and I do!

Impostor Syndrome is universal, don't pay too much attention to it.

Is serving others with your creativity something you just can't stop dreaming about? 

Most days I'm just writing away alone in my studio or taking photos that make only me happy. But then I get invited to speak somewhere or I write something that resonates with someone. I get the private message, comment, or someone pulls me aside after a talk to tell me I've inspired them. To try something new. To take a chance. To begin again. And all the hours of work slip away into a pool of confirmation that I'm on the right track. The bigger idea is to be of service to someone else with the written or spoken word or photography.

Keep the bigger vision of your life in mind. 

Do you keep doing the work no matter what? 

You do it for free. You do it when no one is watching. You do it when it's lousy, misunderstood, and falls flat. You can't NOT do it. Well, look at you. You're an artist.

Welcome to the party. 

Now get to work. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Ridiculously Philosophical Post About Travel

"There's no place like home." the wizard had Dorothy say while clicking her heels. I'd agree with that in a lot of ways but can't help wonder if the gingham-clad heroine of that tale would have traded all she learned on her adventure to stay at home and help on the farm.  I think not. The story of home is safety, comfort, predictability.

 While all those things are nice, a constant dose of them can be stifling which is what made Dorothy long for adventure over the rainbow. She's only able to come to the conclusion that home is the best place in the world after leaving it and learning something about herself apart from it. Had she stayed safely in the confines of Auntie Em's care she would likely spend a life filled with a certain restlessness, wondering what it was she'd missed?  We, knowing all she would have lost out on, shudder at the thought. 

A few years ago I read, The Razor's Edge, a story of travel combined with searching for meaning in life, a recurring theme in literature which has more recently given us Eat, Pray, Love. So what is the connection between all this wandering and wondering? Mark Twain said " Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." That is certainly true on a larger social scale but may also be true on a personal level. 

We catch a new glimpse and expand our view of, not only the world around us, but of the one within us. We are more willing to let go of our narrow-mindedness about who we are as we embrace new experiences in strange places. We are going, whether we want to or not, to learn something about ourselves.  Finding ourselves outside of our normal roles of employee, spouse, parent--being recast as merely a person in the larger world, is freeing while also being uncomfortable, challenging, and exciting. If "all the world's a stage" some of us desperately need new lines and a scene change from time to time. Our own selves, cast in a different light, may surprise us.

My dream trip to Italy was life-altering. Something new was woven into the edges of life's fabric and added an inexplicable layer of richness. Questions were answered; others beckoned. So when I read Somerset Maugham's story of Larry's search for answers I feel for him and the fact that few understand it. Least of all his fiance, Isabel who I dislike and not just because she says "I'm twenty, in ten years I shall be old." I can't help comparing her to Elizabeth Gilbert who enticed us with her journeys through Italy, India, Bali.  

Ms. Gilbert would have been a better companion for Larry's spiritual journey.  Quests call for loyal companions of like mind as all good storytellers know. A fellowship, a band of brothers, at the very least an honest friend, sometimes taken along, other times met along the way. In these three stories, the friends are picked up as the roads and the stories unwind. Unusual bonds are forged between travel companions, no one else will quite understand your experiences like those who have shared them. 

You cannot travel and remain the same, as Twain knew. You will pray prayers of gratitude and wonder, prayers of thanks for the kindness of strangers.  You will fall in love with art, and sweeping vistas. You will love cities and the people in them, you will love fellow sojourners you meet on the way, as well as love and appreciate friends left behind and relish afresh the comforts of a home upon your return. 

Our distant observations are likely to be vastly different than our close up experiences. You cannot travel and remain the same. The world with all its permeating richness, color, diversity, and teeming life simply will not allow it.

Shimmering possibilities over the horizon beckon the sleeping gypsy soul.

Home will be waiting when you return.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Travel Companion Checklist

There are lots of packing and travel checklists available. None of them seem to cover a very essential part of a perfect journey: the travel companion.  

Strange food, frustration with canceled or delayed flights, and language barriers can bring out a person's true identity. The adventure lover in me doesn't mind any of that much at all. People watching being at its most interesting when things are falling apart. Travel can make us feel as if we are on unsure ground. Periodic exhaustion is a given. The old saying is that you don't know anyone until you live with them. Please. Living with them is nothing compared to flying, sailing, or taking a bus tour with them. Here are some qualities you are going to want in a travel partner.

  • A sense of humor: It's first because you are going to need it. It can salvage the direst of situations and make a good day more hilariously fun than you can imagine. Laughter also translates well often erasing language barriers.
  • Flexibility: If they can't roll with the punches and be happy with changes in plans...leave them at home where they can be in control.
  • Promptness: A must. You not only don't want to be with the person who is holding up the tour, but you don't want to be the companion standing around making awkward apologies and assuring everyone your roommate will "be down any minute." 
  • A spirit of adventure: It is going to put a damper on your trip if your companion is always saying "Oh, I don't want to do that." You want someone who will do (most things ;)) at least once. 
  • Gracious manners and cultural sensitivity: Do I really have to explain how embarrassing it can be to travel with an example of "the ugly American?" You are looking for someone with graciousness and an appreciation of other lifestyles and cultures. 
  • Curiosity: Learning something with someone else and exploring are great fun if your companion if inquisitive. 
  • A love of knowledge: A person who is well read is practically widely traveled even if they've never been anywhere. Connections to books and information make travel a deeper experience.
  • An interest in history: Knowing what happened in the places you are visiting is an essential step in understanding a culture. 
  • A love of food: Eating is a vital part of the travel experience. You aren't looking for a travel mate who is constantly trying to find the McDonald's.
  • Low maintenance: People who need constant reassurance and attention should be left behind.
  • A light packer: Last but not least you want someone who can travel without every piece of clothing in their wardrobe. It expedites every step along the way of a journey.
Find your travel soul mate and get busy planning a lifetime of adventures together!

Happy travels, Y'all!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Why I Always Celebrate the Ides of March

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Being a four-year Latin student in high school meant black armbands to mark the day. When I homeschooled my kids it meant reading Shakespeare's, Julius Caesar. It's always been one of those weird days I celebrated. Like October 3rd for Mean Girls fans or May 4th for Star Wars lovers.

If you want to celebrate today, pay your bills. For the ancient Romans, the Ides of March was considered a day to settle debts. 

The Ides of March will forever mark one of the most wonderful days.  On this day several years ago I was traveling in Rome with a dear friend and marking the NUMBER ONE thing off my bucket list. We were literally giddy for nine entire days. It was a such a magical happenstance that a couple of years ago we were at a baby shower for her daughter. We started to reminisce about it and we both began crying. Crying, Y'all! 

The young ladies present were asking her daughter if we were okay. "Yeah, they're just remembering Italy."

Last year at this time I went with my oldest friend to Mexico to celebrate her niece's 21st birthday.

I wish I had planned ahead. I would have had a teeshirt made that said: "53 is the new 21." 

I thought this would be the perfect time to share about that trip since it is both the exact same date and we are finally getting to travel together again. I was going to just repost my original blog but oh my goodness! When I started blogging it was pretty bad. Bad storytelling. Bad pictures with the wrong dates. Even bad fonts and format!

But in my defense, as you will see, these posts were being written by the snarky Mr. Suitcase at the time. 

If you want to check out how far my posts have come since I started blogging check these out:

White Knuckles from Milan to Venice

Venetian Blind


Florence: Part II


From Assisi to Rome

When in Rome

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor
Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spring Honey Update

I'm starting to get a lot of people asking about honey. Everyone has eaten up all the fall honey and can't wait for that spring honey that tastes like a bouquet of flowers. I never can decide which one is my favorite. 

Here's what is going on in the bee yard right now.

I popped the hives open a couple of weeks ago on a warm day. Of the six hives I had heading into fall, I lost one. There were very few bees inside that appeared to have frozen in place during a cold snap. When I went back and checked my notes from last year I saw a pattern of weakness that they just never recovered from. I had given them frames of brood from other hives several times in an effort to boost their numbers.  I'd fed them. I'd taken steps to keep the hive beetles at bay. But in the end, it was still a weak colony.

All the other hives all had larvae, and brood, which means the queens are laying. Capped brood means there was a laying queen at least 3 weeks ago. Larvae indicate she was laying 3-9 days ago. All the hives had lots of bees.

Now I just have to hope I didn't crush any queens during my inspections. 

Even without opening the hives, on days when it's too cold for fear of chilling the brood by breaking the cluster, a beekeeper can tell a lot. Observation of what's happening at the entrance of the hives is very telling. It's great fun to watch the girls bring in loads of different colors of pollen and is a good sign that all (or at least most things) are well.

Cooler than normal temps this week mean that honey production will be delayed. My bees usually fly when the temperature hits 53-54 degrees. Beekeeping makes you a keen weather observer. 

According to my notes from the last several years, the time most likely to expect swarming is the first and second week in April. In this area, the possibility exists throughout the month and into May. Usually, if they haven't swarmed by June it's all good. Just like beekeeping has made me more observant of the weather, it has made me more observant of nature in general. I'm sure there have been swarms of bees over my head every spring of my life but I never noticed them.

I'm going to be traveling next week and really wanted to do thorough inspections before I left but the weather is just going to be too chilly. You can bet the minute I get home I'll be checking for queen cells and seeing who is ready for more room.

Meanwhile, if you are waiting for honey, remember, I work for the queen.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

How I Failed at Minimalism

I tried. I really did.

I have spent the last 35 years clearing out. I thought I was chasing Minimalism but in hindsight was trying to keep my head above the clutter watermark. I had a yard sale every year for 20 years. Let that one sink in. 

The stuff that got sold, tossed, or donated fell into four categories.

First: The things my husband owned when we married. Has any new wife ever been excited by her husband's bachelor decor? Brown velour sofas and Fight Club posters. 

Second: Detritus from every stage of my kids' childhoods. Pacifiers to prom dresses, kids come with a never-ending phase by phase tsunami of clutter and much of it has emotional tentacles that grab and make it hard to let go. On top of plastic junk made in China and toys they outgrew, some idiot invented something called a participation trophy. They better hope I never find them.

Third: Relics of a life lived. Not my life.  Empty peanut butter jars, broken jewelry, and treasures of one kind and another. Estate sales and thrift store drop-offs for the life accumulations of 3 relatives. Stuff is so much easier to discard when it's not yours. 

Read about coping with other people's things here. 

Fourth: My own possessions. Things I had needed or loved at one time that had ceased to be important or useful. But I also battled hard against my own things often to make room for all the things that were important to the rest of my family. I was as hard on myself as anyone when it came to painful choices about what to part with and what to keep. This was especially true when the kids were at home and the house felt it would burst with one more thing. Have I ever gotten credit from my family for this? Nope. I'll be they don't even remember the book stand I let go of. 


If you've been around a while you might remember my brush with Minimalism. But once I was rid of other people's stuff I realized that I enjoy a certain amount of abundance of the things I love. I mean, my stuff is fantastic!

Remember this if you see me on Hoarders. 

As I looked around after I'd cleared the obvious clutter, I realized that I like groups of things. I like home to be cozy and just the right amount of full. When there is too much I get antsy, but the same thing happens in reverse when the decor is too spare.

My Pinterest boards should have been a clue.

I also realized I tolerate more things in some rooms than others. I don't want a clutter free studio. I want an abundance of materials as well as inspiration. The bedroom, on the other hand, is calmingly free of extras. I hate things sitting out in the bathroom, but love a living room filled with pictures and treasures from travels. Rocks and bird's nests mixed with silver cups and champagne buckets.

It looks like a kindergartener and Holly Golightly decorated my dining room. 

Remember when I was purging hard and looking at everything wondering if my kids would say "Why did she keep this?" Read My Morbid Exercise For Purging Clutter. I still do that sometimes but just as often think "Eight silver mint julep cups will look great at the estate sale."

I know. It's still morbid. 

There's no right way. There is only the way that makes you happy. There is only the thing you and your family need for this time in your life. It will change. Forget what you should be doing and ignore all trends. Collect when you feel like collecting. Purge when you feel like purging. Curate and edit constantly.

The end. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

How the Power of Perception Changes Reality


I had been having a really good time on our vacation. We were with some dear friends, the ship was beautiful, the ports were indescribably gorgeous, and the crew was one of the best we've ever had.

A few years back on our first family crews my kids and I were caught in a group of people getting off the ship who had obviously cruised a lot. They were talking loudly enough to let everyone know it and they were full of complaints. My daughter and I gave each other the telepathic look that means "how bratty and annoying is that?" Later when we discussed our observations we talked about how ungrateful they were. We made mental notes to never take something so wonderful for granted.

On this latest trip my husband and I spent an evening lounging near glass windows overlooking the Norwegian sea with every conceivable food or drink available somewhere on the ship. We sat with our friends and discussed how completely grateful we were. As we talked we named so many ordinary things we were blessed with daily that seem like sparkling miracles to most of the world: running water, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, etc. I know that for me so many nights I am so appreciative for my bed and heat and air conditioning that make our lives not just tolerable but comfortable.


So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived a couple of mornings later to grab a cappuccino and hear the woman in front of me tell the barista that this "has been the cruise from hell!" You see her card was apparently fine to use at any of the many bars on board but not at the coffee shop.

You see where I'm going here.

She informed him that this was just one of a long list of things that had gone wrong. I mean you have to wonder about the other tragedies she'd endured.  She stormed off. I immediately regretted not saying out loud what I was thinking... 

Pretty sure the cruise from hell was the Titanic.

This is a fantastic example of our own thoughts creating our reality. The ship wasn't sinking. We weren't caught in a dangerous storm. She obviously wasn't seasick. The power was on. The plumbing was working. We weren't overtaken by pirates. They hadn't even run out of coffee. We were having lobster for dinner, for crying out loud!

It's a wonderful practice to count one's blessings. Anger and  fear run out of oxygen when you do it. We all have those moments when we forget all the good things about our lives and let our negative mind take over. There is also the law of familiarity which I think was the problem with the ingrates my daughter and I encountered. We can too easily begin to allow the marvelous to become mundane if we don't check ourselves.

be thankful

Take some time every day and think about how rich you are on a global scale. The things we take for granted remain glittering dreams for the majority of the people on the planet. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Watching Paint Dry: Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint for Faux Scandinavian Charm

Watching this paint dry might just be the most exciting DIY project you do today. Except mixing it up! Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint comes as a powder that you add to water to create the paint. Watching the color emerge is part of the fun!

A few years ago some friends were moving and were putting this little chair on the street. I brought it home and spray painted it white. It's been having a useful life for a long time in the bedroom. It serves two purposes: 1. a place to put a large decorative pillow every night. 2. A place for us to sit and put shoes and socks on.

This wasn't exactly a tragic look for such a utilitarian piece hidden away in the bedroom but it wanted to be more than it was. It wanted to be a darling Scandinavian piece that would fit in with our bedroom inspired by a trip to Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Stockholm. 

Check out the before and after of the master bedroom in this post! 

Milk paint is non-toxic so I didn't have to be too worried about Mr. Cleo's curiosity. The chair looked better immediately after a coat of Miss Mustard Seed's Dried Lavender, a color that has been discontinued, unfortunately.

The exciting thing about Milk Paint is that watching it dry is actually fun! It has a natural desire to chip. See what I mean?

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You can take any flat tool and scrape off the flaked paint. Note: The paint doesn't chip everywhere but unless you use a resist like beeswax you can't predict where the chipping will happen. You kind of have to be okay with that, but it is so worth it!

Come on. Live a little! 

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This is how the chair gets used at night. I love the bold Scandinavian looking print on this pillow.

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If I had wanted to invest more time and energy into this project I would have painted it first with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint so I could have used an aging wax over the finished product. I skipped that step knowing it wouldn't do anything for the slick spray painted finish. As always though, I sealed the MMS Milk Paint with clear wax.

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When I was all finished I thought it would be a darling touch to use Modern Masters Warm Silver paint on the little details. This sent it over the top to where it wanted to be. Now it looks like some amazing find from an old Swedish home!

Or you know, a little faux Scandinavian bedroom in Tennessee.