Archive | August, 2016

Stupid Fall Quote

A Secret: I Detest the Season of Fall

Today is August 31, which means tomorrow for all intents and purposes begins the season of Fall.  If you have been on the internet at all the last few weeks you have seen these types of things on Facebook or Pinterest.

Love Fall

Or

Stupid Fall Quote

Bloggers everywhere have been lamenting of the hot temperatures of summer and wishing for days of wearing boots and plaid shirts.

These quotes and posts make my stomach churn  because my dirty secret is that I do not look forward to the Fall season, at all.  It seems to be an unpopular sentiment, so I might be offending many of you by expressing this.  I am not really sorry though, and I need to get it off my chest.

In a week or two, Instagram will be full of pictures of the first sighting of the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte.  My Trader Joe’s will look like the Pumpkin Growers Association of America (I have no idea if they actually exist) bribed the Trader Joe’s product developers to add pumpkin to every product sold in the store.  Target will clear out the school supply aisles and fill it with Halloween decorations, candy and costumes.  Our evening walks with Gatsby will soon get darker and he will have to wear his collar light both for safety and because he is afraid of the dark, and then the walks will cease as it becomes too cold, slippery and dangerous to walk after work.  And my creative space, my screened in porch, will be cleaned up and packed away and I will be forced to retreat indoors to try and find inspiration.

Every September I deal with these feelings about Fall.  My husband tries to convince me that the weather is still pretty nice in September and even into early October.  Intellectually I know this but I still dread the approach of Fall.

I know what comes after Fall which is months of cold and dark and ice and snow.  Would I feel differently about Fall if I lived in a place where winter was milder and shorter and the summer hotter?  Possibly, but I still don’t think I would appreciate the colors of orange and mustard yellow.

I love summer.  I love the lushness and brightness of the trees covered in green foliage.  I love the flowers blooming in my yard and opening my windows to the freshness of the summer breeze.  I love wearing only one layer of clothing and getting to show off my pretty painted pink toenails in open toed shoes.  I love stepping out on a summer’s night feeling the heat and humidity envelop my skin, the sound of cicadas creating a deafening song, and the fireflies lighting up the night sky.  There is a certain spontaneous freedom in the summer.  It gives you the feeling to play hooky and go to the beach, to take a walk after dinner, or to grab a cocktail early on a Friday afternoon.

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I have noticed the last few weeks that when I awaken at the unholy hour of 5 am, that the morning is dark and the sun slower to rise.  The leaves on my maple tree have become a bit scorched from the heat and have started to drop on the ground a few at a time.  I saw the kids walking to the school bus in the morning this past week, a sure sign that summer is coming to an end.

I just want to hold onto it for a bit longer.  To not let it go.  I know that there are things about Fall that I will appreciate.  We here at May Meets June try to live by the philosophy of enjoying the present moment, but in the Fall I have to work at it a bit harder than I do in the Spring and Summer.  I do appreciate putting on a light soft cardigan or hoodie (especially if it has thumbholes) and feeling all cozy against the slight chill.  The crunch of leaves underfoot and the crisp air of the morning that quickly warms in the sunlight.  My strand of pumpkin lights around the front door lend a glow against the dark of the night and an expanded menu of roasted vegetables, soups and slow cooker meals will be a nice change from the lighter grill fare we have been eating the last few months.  That feeling of coming into a warm lit up house, when your cheeks are a bit flushed and rosy from a cool breeze and your nose runs just a bit.  The smell of the furnace when it first starts kicking on for the season and slipping into your warm sheepskin slippers, instead of always being barefoot.  The warmth and taste of a big bold glass of red wine that replaces the chilled white wines of summer.

While I will find things to appreciate about Fall, I will never love it.  I will never be anticipating its return.  I am terrible at endings, goodbyes and letting go and for me Fall represents this.  The end to my favorite season and a long wait until it returns again.  In the meantime, I am doubling up on my Vitamin D intake, reading reviews for a lightbox on Amazon and window shopping for my all-time favorite clothing item of cozy gray cardigan sweaters that have deep pockets where you can stash a treat and your hands.  Autumn l I will take you when you come, but it doesn’t mean I am going to fall in love with you. –June

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Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.

Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.

Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.

Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance. – Yoko Ono

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Roasted Shrimp

We have had a busy summer to say the least, and I have often found myself scrambling to decide what to make for dinner that is quick and easy, yet still feels like a little effort has been put into it. Our local paper recently had a a roasted shrimp recipe by Ina Garten, that sounded perfect. Now, I have several of Ina’s cookbooks, a la Barefoot Contessa, but had not tried her roasted shrimp. I love the versatility!!! You can make the shrimp with pasta, place it over quinoa or brown rice with seasonal vegetables, or even toss it into your favorite salad. It is also great with cocktail sauce for a yummy appetizer.

Roasted Shrimp

2 pounds (12-15 count) shrimp (see note)

1 Tablespoon good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and devein the shrimp, if necessary, leaving the tails on. ( I did not have the tails on for this particular batch ) Place shrimp in large bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.

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Spread shrimp in a single layer on cookie sheet. Roast 8 to 10 minutes, until firm and cooked through. That is it!! The shrimp come out perfect and of course I had to sample a few right off the pan.  You can also roast the shrimp on the grill in a basket, just keep your eye on it so you don’t over cook. Also, if you use smaller shrimp, be sure to shorten your cooking time.

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I had some fresh broccoli in the fridge that I coated with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it right  along with the shrimp, and served over quinoa.

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 If you are looking for a quick and easy dinner, give this roasted shrimp a try and don’t be afraid to experiment with some great seasonal sides.

Have a great week!~May

You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimpshrimp soup, shrimpstew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. –Bubba (Forrest Gump)

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Witch

August Books

Happy Friday!  It’s time for some of our book picks again.  We always find that our summer reading tends to be a little lighter. And with August being the last breath of summer, we picked a few more beach reads for the month, for you to soak up.  We always find Fall calls for more serious reads that you can really dive into, and there are some wonderful new releases coming out this Fall from some of our favorite authors.  So, in this last weekend of August, we hope you enjoy these last of the beach reads, even if you are just sitting in your backyard.

Here’s To Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Here's To Us

From Amazon:

Three romantic rivals. One crowded house. Plenty of room for jealousy.

Laurel Thorpe, Belinda Rowe, and Scarlett Oliver share only two things; a love for the man they all married, Deacon Thorpe–a celebrity chef with an insatiable appetite for life–and a passionate dislike of one another. All three are remarkable, spirited women, but they couldn’t be more different. Laurel: Deacon’s high school sweetheart and an effortlessly beautiful social worker; Belinda: a high-maintenance Hollywood diva; and Scarlett: a sexy southern belle floating by on her family money and her fabulous looks. They’ve established a delicate understanding over the years–they avoid each other at all costs.

But their fragile detente threatens to come crashing down after Deacon’s tragic death on his favorite place on earth: a ramshackle Nantucket summer cottage. Deacon’s final wish was for his makeshift family to assemble on his beloved Nantucket to say good-bye. Begrudgingly, Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett gather on the island as once again, as in each of their marriages, they’re left to pick up Deacon’s mess. Now they’re trapped in the crowded cottage where they all made their own memories–a house that they now share in more ways than one–along with the children they raised with Deacon, and his best friend. Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett each had an unbreakable bond with Deacon–and they all have secrets to hide.

Before the weekend is over, there are enough accusations, lies, tears, and drama to turn even the best of friends–let alone three women who married the same man–into adversaries. As his unlikely family says good-bye to the man who brought them together–for better or worse–will they be able to put aside their differences long enough to raise a glass in Deacon’s honor?

May’s Review:  This was my first novel by Elin Hilderbrand. I have seen her books on the library shelves many times, but always had so many books waiting on hold for me, I never picked one up. This was a fun, light beach read with interesting characters. I loved the sprinkling of recipes throughout the book, and even copied a few to try.  I look forward to reading some of her other books.

June’s Review:  I always look forward to a new Elin Hilderbrand book each summer.  She is an author that can always be counted on for a beach read especially because all of her books are set on a beach in Nantucket.  I enjoyed this book for a good light read.  The characters were interesting and each distinctive.  And once again, like many favorite books, there is food and recipes in the story which always makes it fun.  If you are looking for a fun read that feels like summer, check it out and if you haven’t read any of Elin Hilderbrand’s other books, you may want to read them when you are looking for a lighter read.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

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From Amazon:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller everyone is talking about THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica returns an electrifying and addictive tale of deceit and obsession.

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.

May’s Review: This was my second novel by Mary Kubica, a Chicago author. This book also takes places in Chicago, which is always fun when the setting of a story is in your home town. The story is told from two points of view and it’s about a young woman who is missing, and her roommate’s search to find her. I was thoroughly engrossed for the first half of  the story. This was a thriller and although I did enjoy the book, the story didn’t keep it’s momentum for me, and I found the ending to be a bit of a let down.

June’s Review:  Mary Kubica is a Chicago author and because we live in Chicago it always fun to recognize some of the setting in the story.  This book is a little mysterious and a little bit of a thriller.  I have come to the conclusion that thrillers are not my favorite genre because I am not usually surprised by the story or if I am surprised by it, I tend to be mad at it.  However, for the genre I liked this story.  It kept me engaged and guessing a bit.  It is a bit reminiscent of any creepy roommate movie or story that you have seen or read, but made it a little figure out what exactly was going to happen.  It was a fast read, perfect for the summer.

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

Witch

From Amazon:

Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten–her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed byLa Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.
May’s Review: I just picked up this author’s newest novel, The Secret Language of Stones this week and am looking forward to starting it. There is something about Paris in the 1890’s that always draws me in, and this story pulled me in from the beginning. The story is sometimes dark, and ghostly with a touch of the supernatural, and it held my interest up to the last page. It was a nice change from all the beach reads this summer.
June’s Review:  This author has several books including a new one called The Secret Language of Stones: A Novel which from the synopsis looked really interesting, but I had never heard of her.  I loved the setting of this book in Paris in the 1890s and I loved the description of the paintings and the jewelry and the clothes.  I had a little trouble getting into the story a bit for some reason.  I am not sure if it is the book or if it was because we had just spent the weekend writing at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, which always makes reading difficult for me for a few weeks.  The story was interesting and definitely a gothic style about ghosts and the supernatural.
Finally, next Friday, September 2 the movie based on the book The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is being released.  If you have not read the book, pick it up this weekend before the movie comes out.  It is a wonderful emotional novel.  And if you have already read it, let us know what you think of the movie.  May and June are planning on having a girl’s night at the movie theater to check it out.
Have a good weekend.  Happy reading.  -May and June
“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”
Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
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Cozy Bed

There’s No Place Like Home (and Your Own Bed)

This past weekend, I was visiting out-of-town family.  It is always nice to go away whether it is to visit people or just to go on a little getaway, but I always have a little problem.  I cannot sleep.  This is not a new problem for me.  I was always the kid on family vacations or slumber parties that would be wide awake half the night just staring at the ceiling, listening to everyone else sleep.  And if someone was snoring in the room (and I have a family of very loud snorers) there was no sleeping for me, instead I would just be full of pure frustration. Now when I travel, I know at least the first night I will be restless and have fitful sleep.  I do not have trouble sleeping at home so it is only a problem in other locations.  While away this weekend, the two things I missed from home the most were Gatsby and my bed.  I laid awake thinking of my nice big king size bed and my comfy sheets and the ambient nighttime noises I am so used to that I do not even really hear them.  Because of my problem, I have come up with a few things that help me sleep while I am away and maybe they can help you too.

  1.  Bring your own pillow.  If you are traveling by car, bring your own pillow.  If you are flying, it is hard to travel with your own pillow because of space restrictions (plus you feel a little silly carrying your pillow through the airport).  There is a comfort to having your head cradled in your own broken-in pillow, that is your personal preferred height and firmness.
  2. Use a sound app.  I don’t use a sound app at home but when away I find white noise helps reduce external noises.  When I stay in a hotel, I find that there is always a lot of noise at night with people’s doors closing, the elevator and people talking in the hallway.  I have found that the app Deep Calm has some good white noise including the sound of rain.  There is nothing like drifting off to a good strong rainstorm to give you a good night’s sleep.
  3. Carve out some quiet time.  I find it hard to go to sleep if I have a lot of activity right before bed.  Apparently, I am like a two-year old who needs to wind down before sleep.  So if you can try and carve out some quiet time and go read a book a little bit before sleep, but stay away from the screens because they make it harder for you to sleep.
  4. Get some exercise.  The vacations where I sleep the best are when I get some exercise during the day.  We used to have a lake house in Wisconsin and we would be outside all day, enjoying the sun and the water, going for walks and paddle boating.  Those nights would always be the best night’s sleep because I was exhausted.  We had an expression while we were up there that we had been “laked.”  Similar to when you are home, getting exercise during the day makes for a better night’s sleep.
  5. Watch what you eat and drink.  When you are on vacation, it is easy to get out of your normal eating patterns and to imbibe a little too much in a favorite alcoholic beverage.  Also, afternoon coffee sounds like a good idea on vacation, until you are awake at 2:00 am and remember that you never drink caffeine after noon because otherwise you are awake all night.  If you can try and stick close to what you normally eat and drink, with maybe only one indulgence, you will sleep better.  Not eating well disrupts sleep because of an upset stomach or just that “too full” feeling.
  6. Stick to your usual bedtime and wake time.  No one wants to hear this but it is easier to sleep if you go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day.  When I am on vacation or out of town, I often end up going to bed much later and getting up later, which throws off my sleep pattern.  Try and stick as close to your regular times as possible and it will be easier to sleep at night.
  7. In a pinch help yourself.  I do not like to take medications or sleeping pills, but in a pinch I will take a Tylenol PM when I travel.  It is not my first choice but when I am exhausted and can’t sleep it takes the edge off just enough that I can get some shut-eye.

Cozy Bed

(Anthro bed)

And finally when you do get home, take a shower, put on your pajamas and go to bed early.  Enjoy the bliss of your own bed.  Do you have any tricks for sleeping when away from home? –June

 

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Letting Go of “Stuff”

Do you find that your house has accumulated a lot of “stuff” over the years? These past few months, my mom has been cleaning out and packing her belongings for her move, and let me tell you, a home can accumulate a lot over time. She has lived in that house over forty years, and I am happy to report that this week, the movers are scheduled to arrive, and she will be ready. It got me thinking though, next year, probably around this same time, I may be packing up my home and I don’t want the process to be as stressful for me, as it was for her. Last week we were cleaning out her basement, and agreed that every home, whether you are getting ready to move or not, should regularly be purged of those items that no longer serve a purpose.

It happens innocently enough. You buy a few things for your home, then get tired of them and replace them with a few new things, storing your original items just in case you want to display them again, but never do. So they sit in your basement or closet, for years. As a decorator, I am guilty of this because I am always changing things around in my home, and now I have a closet that I am afraid to open, because something always comes tumbling out. If you have children, you may also have acquired every report card, hand made picture, science project and don’t forget the trophies from various sports. They get stored in bins down the basement or crawl space, never to be seen again. Yes, they all are attached to wonderful memories, but why are we holding on to all of this? Will we really be less happy without it?

Recently, I had to go into our crawl space, a job I never enjoy, and started poking around at all the bins neatly stacked on top of each other. Honestly, I did not even remember that I had some of the items I found.  A lot of the bins contained childhood things that belonged to my boys and when we move, those bins will be delivered to them to do with as they wish. I also have enough Christmas decorations to open a small holiday shop. They will be going as well.

I am putting some furniture on my mom’s moving truck next week, where they will make the long journey to their new home in South Carolina. I had so many books on the bookcase, too many, and decided it was time to let some of them go.

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Most public libraries take donations, so I boxed up the ones I did not want, and will be dropping them off next week.

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The rest were boxed and stored away for the move. After Nicole left for college last week, it looked like a tornado hit her room. I took the opportunity to purge, leaving some of those more personal items for her to sort through when she comes home for the holidays. I think all this clearing out may have rubbed off on Alyssa, because she cleaned out her room as well, and next week is tackling her closet.

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I have decided to start small. Every week, I am going to clean one closet, drawer, or cabinet, depending on how much time I have, and yes, I am going to tackle the crawl space, one bin at a time. I will give things to friends and donate to Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Amvets and my driveway may have a few extra bags every week. I have only just begun and my house already feels better. There is something about not being weighted down by stuff that feels so good. A few years ago, I read a book called Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I learned While Living in Paris, by Jennifer L. Scott. After spending a semester living in France, she fell in love with the notion of less is more, a fashion style of the French and decided to write about it. I love this! She believes that each season, all you basically need is a ten item wardrobe, give or take a few pieces. Now, I have more than ten items in my closet, but I wear everything I have and when I buy something new, I always let something go so my wardrobe never becomes unmanageable. I suggest you try it!

I think sometimes we feel that the more we have, the happier we will be, but for me the opposite is true. Keeping it simple makes my life so much better, and I look forward to bringing that lifestyle into my home, present and future.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. –Leonardo da Vinci

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Boutique Shopping

Do you ever get tired of wearing the same style all the time? We all have our favorite stores for clothing and accessories which for us include Nordstrom, Anthropologie, and Ann Taylor Loft. Sometimes though, it is fun to step out of the box a bit, and try something new. May and June discovered a little gem of a store and the best part- it is right in our neighborhood!

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A La Mode is an elegant little boutique in the heart of downtown Arlington Heights, IL. It has been there for years, but we didn’t really take a close look at it until this summer. Our pilates studio is just down the street, and since we are already right there, we always enjoy looking at all the pretty clothes and accessories after our workout. In the past, boutiques in general always seemed to be more prevalent in the city, but now they are finding their way into most suburbs, which makes us very happy. In addition to having beautiful accessories and jewelry, you can also find good quality footwear and beautifully made clothing.

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We have both made several purchases over the summer, and received a lot of compliments. Prices are reasonable too.  If you absolutely fall in love with an item, make sure you buy it, because a lot of times when an item sells out, it is gone forever. Nothing sits for a long period of time and whenever we visit, there is always something new to see (and try on).

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Boutiques are great stores for purchasing gifts as well. We have both found some lovely scarves, bags, and jewelry and the store gift wraps everything so beautifully.

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If you don’t have a boutique in your area, you can check out Francesca’s. Even though it is a chain, every store is different and unique. They have many locations and you can shop online too. A La Mode recently opened a sister store two doors down called Charisma. It is also lovely, with a slightly different style.

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So, if you are looking for something for yourself, or want to find a gift for a special girl, check out some of the boutiques in your area and if you live near Arlington Heights, we invite you to check out A La Mode.

Have a wonderful weekend. ~ May and June

“I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick. I believe in pink. I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and… I believe in miracles.” – Audrey Hepburn

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Champagne Problems

Last week we had tickets to the Meghan Trainor concert.  Neither of us are huge fans but my husband thought it would be something fun to do and after being in Nashville, we remembered how fun it is to attend live music events.  It was a fun and energetic concert (although we were surprised that most of her fans are young girls, and their mothers).  One song that she sang was called “Champagne Problems” which got me thinking that so many things I complain about are not really problems.

I got champagne problems, champagne problems
So pour a glass and let’s drink up all my champagne problems
I got champagne problems, champagne problems
So pour a glass and let’s drink up all my champagne problems

Can’t believe my Uber’s late again
Gon’ be late for dinner with my friends
These shoes hurt so bad, can’t feel my toes
And I forgot my jacket back at home

 Think about the things you complain about.  Are they really worth complaining?  Are they worth expending energy?  I noticed this week the things I complain about.  I complained that it was Monday.  I complained that I had to go to work.  I complained that it was dark when my alarm went off.  I complained that I was tired.  I complained that Target only had one register open, so people would be forced to use the new self-checkout lanes.  I complained that I had to wait for over 10 minutes for my drink at Starbucks. I complained that it was hot and that we needed rain and then I complained when it did rain. I complained that the weekend was too short and I did not have time to do the things that I had really wanted to do.

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All of these complaints are “champagne problems.”  I have it pretty good. Instead of complaining I am going to turn those complaints into prayers of gratitude.  Language is an amazing thing.  Imagine instead of voicing a complaint you instead voiced a blessing.   I am thankful that I have a job to go to that pays me money that helps us pay for our house and our food and the occasional frivolous purchase.  I am lucky that I have a Starbucks on the way to the office and money to buy a drink and a few minutes to just people watch while waiting.  I am so happy it is summer, the sun is shining, the grass is green and I do not have to wear a coat to go outside.

My new Wi-Fi doesn’t seem to work
No, no internet, that’s the worst
And my iPhone always seems to die
Right before I hit reply

But I can’t complain at all
No no, life’s too short for that
(Life’s too short for that) no, I can’t complain at all
(Life’s too short for that)

I got champagne problems, champagne problems
So pour a glass and let’s drink up all my champagne problems
I got champagne problems, champagne problems
So pour a glass and let’s drink up all my champagne problems

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This would be a much better way to approach the day.  We know that we are all going to complain about some things.  Life is just that way and sometimes it does make you feel better to voice a complaint., but so many of those are trivial and mere annoyances.  It would be so much more worthwhile to use that energy to express gratitude.  In a pinch, though,  just pour yourself a glass of champagne and have a drink to all your “Champagne problems.” –June

 

 

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This Journey Called Life

My grandfather was a man of few words, but when he spoke, his words were profound, and I have kept them stored at the back of my mind, ready to bring them forward whenever I need to be reminded about this journey called life. Once, when I was going through a particularly challenging time, he compared life to a bus ride, with our journey beginning the day we are born. Sometimes, our voyage is smooth and takes us to beautiful places where the sun is shining bright and the waters are calm, and sometimes there are twists, turns, bumps in the road and even the occasional blizzard, and we simply must stop. My bus has picked people up along the way, and sometimes, it has stopped to let people off, and all I can do is wave goodbye as I watch them getting smaller and smaller in the distance. I’ve always preferred being the driver of my bus, and yet I am reminded time and time again that I am not the one in charge.

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I always thought this would be a fun bus to ride on my journey.

Today, I have been feeling like my bus took a wrong turn along the way, and we are a little lost at the moment. There has been so much change the last six months, and there is so much more to come. I have, at many times, wanted to turn my bus around and go back for a bit. Back to when my dad was alive and healthy, back to when my boys were young and their biggest issues were scraped knees, even back to when I was a child and life was carefree, without responsibility. But we can never go back on this journey, so I must learn to let go of my fear and my need to control, and simply sit back and enjoy the ride.

The home I spent so much of my childhood in has been sold. It still feels so surreal to drive up to my parents house and see the For Sale sign standing on the front lawn. My parents built the house back in the seventies, and for so many years we were a family of four living there. Then, we became three, two, and then one. I know it is time and the house is too much for one person, and yet saying goodbye is so difficult.

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My father loved his home and always joked that he was going to be carried out feet first, so I just assumed that we would have our house forever. That was not the plan, however, and now it is time for us to go. I know part of my sadness stems from the fact that this home was such a part of my dad, and without it, how will I find him? As the house has slowly been dismantled these past few months, stripped of its personality and charm, I have seen that my feelings weren’t so much about the structure of the house itself, but what went into it, and those are the memories that I will take on the bus with me.

Today, my sweet Nicole leaves for college, and for all the sadness I feel because my daughter-friend- partner in crime will be away, I am so excited for her journey as a young woman to begin. The world is hers and I know great things are ahead for her.

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Next month, my husband and I will be celebrating our ten year anniversary, the day before my oldest son, Danny, and his fiancé, Alli, begin their lives as man and wife.

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We are all looking forward to their wedding!  I love him so much and am so proud of who he has become as a man, and I know he will be very happy.

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  My mom, who has always lived 10 minutes away from me, will now be living in a separate state. That will take some getting used to, however, I know it is temporary, and we will make it work.

There are other changes coming too, I know. I am going to try hard not to overthink what is ahead though. Rather, I am going to focus on the experience which is what life is all about, breathe, drive the bus when I am asked to, and when I am not, I will sit back and enjoy the ride.

Life’s like a road that you travel on

When there’s one day here and the next day gone

Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand

Sometimes you turn your back to the wind

There’s a world outside ev’ry darkened door

Where blues won’t haunt you anymore

Where brave are free and lovers soar

Come ride with me to the distant shore

We won’t hesitate

To break down the garden gate

There’s not much time left today

Life is a highway……Tom Cochrane

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Some August Favorites

Can you believe we are already moving into the middle of August? Where has the summer gone? Kids are going back to school over the next few weeks, the community pools will be closing soon, and before you know it, we will be back to the more structured life that often comes with fall. However, it is not here yet and while we still have summer with us, May and June would love to share some things we are loving in August.

What May is Loving

Every May, my husband Bob and I wipe off the dust that has settled on our bikes over the long winter, fill our tires with air, and hit the trails in our area. We both are early risers, and love to get out every weekend and enjoy the quiet of the morning. Fortunately for us, we can always find a Starbucks close by where we can partake in our morning beverage of choice, before continuing on our way.

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After a busy week, it is a great time for us to connect and enjoy each other’s company, plus we are getting a great workout too! We have both noticed the subtle changes in the season, especially in the last week or two. The sun is rising a little later, the mornings are a little quieter, and the once active baseball fields have been abandoned until spring. That is ok though, for now it is still summer and I will drink in every moment. My senses come alive as I breathe in the freshly mowed grass, hear the sounds of children playing, feel the warm wind on my face, and see the bright sun against the bluest sky. So far, our journey this year has taken us over three hundred miles, and we look forward to biking well into the fall.

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What June is Loving

June is loving the hydrangeas blooming right now. Depending on your variety, they may have actually bloomed a month or so ago but some are just now starting to bloom.  A lot of my hydrangea bushes bloomed in July but they still have their blooms and have now turned a little lovely light green color.  Next year, I am going to replace a couple of my plants that have not bloomed in a couple of years with a variety similar to this Vanilla Strawberry plant that starts white changes to light pink and then to a strawberry red.  Hydrangea

And my mom has a lovely bush that just bloomed so she brought me this beautiful bouquet today that I am enjoying in my kitchen.

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Hydrangeas are also my favorite because they were the centerpiece to the flowers for my wedding which was also in August.  So I am loving my husband this month and celebrating 9 years of marriage on the 18th.  We have been through some challenges that we never planned or expected on that day, but our relationship has grown so much in that time and I love him even more today.  We still have a lot of fun together and enjoy each other’s company. Although that may be tested when we spend our anniversary in the car for 10 hours on a road trip, but we will be happy to see our family when we get there.

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What We Both Love

Something that we are both loving right now is our summer sandals. Are you surprised? We both love shoes (especially June!) and want our toes to enjoy their freedom before they must be tucked away in cozy socks and boots. May came across these fun little red flats a few years ago, at Nordstrom Rack and although they aren’t great for long walks, they are perfect with a cute sundress or denim shorts.

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June found these fun mint green Minnetonka sandals, which are adding a nice little subtle color to summer outfits.  And they are a wedge so she gets a little extra desperately needed height too.

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Our local farmers market is a wonderful place for fresh produce, especially this time of year. The tomatoes and corn on the cob are at their peak as well as summer fruits, and the fall harvest is just around the corner.

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When we think of August, we are always reminded of the intense heat that goes along with the month, and this August has been sizzling. We have officially entered the dog days of summer, so, who better to talk about the summer heat then Sawyer and Gatsby! Now, you would think that Sawyer would love cooling off and paddling his heart out in the backyard pool, but he doesn’t like the water. We’ve done everything possible to entice him, but he doesn’t like getting wet. He would rather lay by the pool on his towel, looking pretty as he worships the sun.

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However, we are happy to report that last week, when it was so, so hot, Sawyer allowed us to bring him in the water, but not to swim. Bob carried him around the pool while Sawyer rested his head on Bob’s shoulder, eyes closed, enjoying the ride. He is quite the dog.

Unfortunately for poor Gatsby he does not have a pool because otherwise he would be out there all the time. He loves to swim.  When we had a lake house he would spend the whole time in the water fetching tennis balls, which was fine until we happened to be there in November.  He didn’t realize that the water could be so cold.  So during the dog days of summer, Gatsby goes and lays out in the grass or the driveway and cooks himself soaking up the rays.  And then if it is not cool enough in the house he begs for the air conditioning to be turned up, and who can resist that face.

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Hope you are finding some things to love this month!  Have a great weekend. –May and June

 There shall be eternal summer in a grateful heart. – Celia Thaxter

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Where Are You On Your Runway?

I recently listened to a podcast called, Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert.  It is a supplement to her book written last year called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.  In the episode I listened to, she talks about your creative journey as an airport runway.  You do a few things to get started on your runway, and then you begin to accelerate as you do more projects and gain more confidence, until finally you need to lift off, otherwise you are going to crash into the houses at the other side of the runway.

I think most people have a dream to do something and for many of us it is a creative pursuit, whether it be art, writing, gardening or cooking.  However, a lot of times we are scared to seriously pursue it.  This is our heart we are putting out there for others to judge.  This is the thing that we have dreamt about and what if we fail, then our dreams will be all for nothing, and we will have nothing left to dream about.

For a very long time, I wanted to be a writer.  I fell in love with books and reading at a very young age.  Then once I learned to write words, I discovered that I could make up my own stories and books.  My mom saved some of these little books and I have read them.  They are so dear and very funny.  When I was in third grade and was selected to go to a Young Author’s Conference, I decided on my career as an “author,” as I called it then.  But somewhere along the way, I set that aspiration aside and did other things.  However, I was not really surprised when it resurrected itself a couple of years ago.  All along it was living in my heart, but I was not listening.

This blog has been part of my runway to my work as a writer.  It was scary to leave the airport gate, so to speak, and write something and let others read it.  I did a lot of preparation and packing for my trip.  I talked to others about how I wanted to write, I dabbled a little, I took a workshop here and there but never really produced anything.  Lately, I feel that I have been picking up some speed and acceleration.  There are some exciting things coming up with the blog in the next couple of months.  A friend and fellow writer mentioned to me about jointly working on a project on a topic that is becoming very near and dear to both of us, and a book keeps whispering in my ear.

Elizabeth Gilbert points out in the podcast that the stuck and antsy feeling you often start to feel in your creative journey, means that it is time – time to takeoff.  I am getting close because I am certainly feeling all of those feelings.  It is not quite time yet, and for now I am enjoying some more time on the runway.  But I am looking for signs of good flying weather ahead in preparation for my takeoff.  This summer I have tried to scale back on some commitments because I am craving quiet and solitude with time to think and to write.  I have been doing lots of yoga, journaling and writing.  I think it is all in preparation for something that is to come.

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I hope if you have a dream in your heart, you are working on it and enjoying some time with it.  It is fun and it fills your soul.  And if you are still thinking about it, step out there and try it.  The good news with the runway is that you can go slow (I know when I’ve been on a plane it can take awhile to get from the gate into the air), and your feet at first don’t have to leave the ground.  Don’t forget to look for others that can help you navigate the path you are setting out on.  Finally, when you are ready, take a deep breath, and take a leap of faith in yourself and put your landing gear up.  –June

You have extraordinary treasures hidden within you.  Bringing forth those treasures takes work and and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion.  We simply do not have time anymore to think so small.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

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Discovering your Strength in Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)

I’ve been doing a little yoga challenge lately during my Sun Salutations. As I slowly flow through each posture in my morning practice, I find myself pausing at Plank Pose. At first I held it for ten cleansing breaths, then ten became twenty, and most recently I have worked myself up to a full minute. I don’t know why I suddenly feel so drawn to Plank, but over the years I have learned not to question myself when it comes to my yoga. I do it because it is what my mind and body need right now, period. There is so much strength in Plank and whenever I practice it, I am always reminded of a solid plank of wood- strong, steady, and dependable. Since this seems to be my posture of choice at the moment, I thought I would share this foundation pose with you as well.

Plank pose is a great posture for beginners. It develops strength in the arms, chest, back, and abdomen. It also prepares the body for some of the more difficult postures as a student’s practice deepens. With that said, it can also be a very challenging posture for many, and I often discover students holding their breath and lifting their hips as the posture becomes more difficult. Here is an easy way to experience the posture, easing into it as you build strength.

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Begin on your hands and knees, keeping your wrists below your shoulders, your middle fingers pointing forward and your fingers spread wide. Gently draw your belly in and up. Extend your right leg long behind you, with the balls of your toes on the ground, and stretching your heal back. Make that leg strong. As you extend the left leg back, keep the pelvis stable and firm the belly. Gently pull the thighs together to create more core strength. Breathe, breathe, breathe…..

Try to hold the posture for four breaths to start, then gently place your knees back on your mat. I suggest repeating those steps a few more times, then bring your hips back to your heels, and rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.

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As a variation, you can place your elbows on your mat, keeping them beneath the shoulders.

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As you feel more comfortable with the posture, begin to challenge yourself just a little bit, without force. When you reach that point where you want to give up, I invite you to stay true to your breath- and be aware of the strength you carry within, then release.

** Contraindications:  Chronic issues with the shoulder, wrist, or arm.

When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” ~ Peace Pilgrim

Namaste.

~May

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A Weekend of Creativity and Vintage Finds

Good morning and happy Friday! We have officially entered the dog days of summer and it has sure been steamy here in the Midwest. It is hard to believe that school begins again in just a few weeks, with fall just around the corner. Two weeks ago, May and June enjoyed a girls weekend away while attending the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, at the University of Iowa. This was the second time we attended the festival together, and we were looking forward to going back for another creative experience.  We attended a seminar on Jumpstarting Your Creativity, which turned out to be a lot of fun.  The weather was very hot and sticky, but that didn’t stop us from leaving for our trip a little early to check out a few of the many vintage shops in and around Iowa City.

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Our journey took us to Sisters Garden, a quirky resale shop located in the rural town of Kalona, Iowa. We actually spent quite a bit of time roaming the two farm homes and large yard filled with retro  goodies. We found some wonderful items that could dress up any backyard or garden, including architectural pieces, as well as unique accessories for the home. May discovered a great vintage mirror, but alas it was too large for her car. If you plan to do some serious shopping, make sure you bring a large vehicle to transport your lovelies back home.  June fell in love with those aqua chairs in the above picture, but again we had a space consideration.

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In addition to the vintage pieces, the store also sells their signature brand of natural soy candles that come in many heavenly scents. May personally loved the honeysuckle.

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Years ago, June saw a planter in a magazine that looked like someone’s head, and the plants grew out of the top like hair.  She has been on the lookout for one ever since.

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And look what she found!!!!  June had trouble picking which one of these lovely ladies to bring home.  These were not vintage, but a lot of vintage stores have some great and unusual gift items as well.

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She is sporting a lovely little mum headpiece right now while she lives on the patio, but expect her accoutrements and location to change with the seasons.  Maybe a bunch of twinkle lights for the long dark days of winter?

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June also made a new friend with this bear rug.  He was ferocious looking, and we both laughed about how Sawyer and Gatsby would react if he came home.  We decided for the sake of our dogs’ hearts, it would be best to leave him at the store.

There were also a few fun shops right on campus that we had to re- visit this year.  While we did not necessarily find a treasure to take home, we did have fun poking around.  We also stopped into a great secondhand  bookstore called The Haunted Bookshop.  The bookstore is more interesting compared to some traditional bookstores since you never know what you are going to find.  The two cats living there can assist with your purchase too!  We also visited a store in Iowa City called Om, which we loved. Yoga books, crystals, and jewelry made with precious stones.  We both came home sporting gorgeous moonstone rings to remind us of our trip.

While we jump started our creativity in our writing workshop, we also enjoyed some creative inspiration from our vintage shopping.  It is so enjoyable to discover interesting things, imagine the history behind them, and just have some fun with a friend.

Have a good weekend. –May and June

Vintage means pre-loved.

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It’s Blueberry Season

The months of July and August mean that it is blueberry season here in the northern Midwest.  There is nothing like the taste of fresh blueberries ripened on bushes, instead of in those little plastic containers on the shipping truck, followed by the grocery store.  The ones that are picked fully ripe are much sweeter and for lack of a better description, taste “blue.”  Because I would have to drive some distance to pick my own blueberries, I take advantage of the local farmer’s market which has Michigan growers bring them in for my pure enjoyment.

While I love to eat fresh blueberries by the handful, they are a great fruit for baking.  When we first moved to our house, our neighbor brought us a blueberry pie that was absolutely delicious.  Blueberry crumble is also delectable and much easier to make then a pie.  However, my favorite thing to make with blueberries are fresh piping hot blueberry muffins.

It has taken me awhile to find a blueberry muffin recipe that I love.  Many are too heavy or too oily.   This recipe ,which I found from The Pioneer Woman, is light and moist because of the added yogurt, which means less oil (and less fat and calories) in the mix.  It also has a yummy caramelized sweet topping, made from turbinado sugar (you can also use brown sugar), sprinkled on top of each muffin. Don’t forget that step of sprinkling the sugar because it takes the muffins from good to great.

I have made some tweaks to the recipe so I included my recipe below but if you want to check out the original, I have linked to it above.

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Blueberry Muffins

3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 generous cup plain, unflavored yogurt (throw in extra if you want)
2 1/3 cups fresh blueberries
Capful of Vanilla Extract
Turbinado sugar or brown sugar

Preheat oven to 385 degrees.

In a large bowl sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, capful of vanilla, egg, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir to a count of 10.

Add blueberries to mixture and stir 3 times.

Add mixture to muffin pans lined with foil muffin liners (you can also butter the muffin pans if you don’t have the liners). Sprinkle turbinado sugar or brown sugar over top.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

 

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Serve warm with a little butter.

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You can also reheat these.  I often take about half of them and put them in a Ziploc freezer bag and put them in the freezer.  A few seconds in the microwave to defrost and maybe a minute in the toaster oven.  You can enjoy blueberry muffins made with those bluest of blue summer berries into the winter months when the snow is flying and the temperatures are frigid, and taste the warmth of summer on your tongue.

Enjoy. –June

I may never be happy, but tonight I am content. Nothing more than an empty house, the warm hazy weariness from a day spent setting strawberry runners in the sun, a glass of cool sweet milk, and a shallow dish of blueberries bathed in cream. When one is so tired at the end of a day one must sleep, and at the next dawn there are more strawberry runners to set, and so one goes on living, near the earth. At times like this I’d call myself a fool to ask for more…  -Sylvia Plan

 

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A New Home

Even though I was born and raised in the Midwest, I think I’ve always been a southern girl at heart. I used to love taking trips to New Smyrna Beach, Florida to visit my grandparents. My mom and I would take long walks on the beach, and I always wished I could bottle that fresh salty aroma, and take it back home with me. When my boys were little, we spent many summer vacations on the warm beaches of Hilton Head Island, and Isle of Palms, South Carolina.

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A few years ago, my mom and I went to Savannah, Georgia and once again when it was time to leave, a piece of my heart was left behind, beckoning me back to the sweet south.

My husband and I always knew we wouldn’t be calling the midwest home forever. You see, we are not winter people. I always teased that I was really supposed to be born to a southern family, and there was a mix up. I’ve never been a cold weather girl, which has become more evident in recent years. I never look forward to the first snowfall, I don’t ski, and I’ve only been on a snow mobile once, and froze. When the girls weekends still included the company of us parents, we used to ice skate in the city, and would make it about twenty minutes before we were complaining of frozen toes, needing to warm up at our favorite pizza place. I hate being cold! Every year, the gloomy skies combined with the harsh temperatures and snow are enough to send me into a mild depression. When November comes, I’m ready to get into my pajamas, and hibernate until spring. I’ll take the warm sun and beach please.

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So, for the last year, we’ve been talking about our move and for many reasons including the weather, we happily settled on Charleston, South Carolina as the destination for our new home. We purchased a house this past February, and plan to take some time to do a little remodeling, to make it our own, and transition into our new environment. We have one more child who will be graduating next May, and then…..  As I write this, it is early morning and I am looking out at the beautiful natural landscape at my Charleston home, and I feel such peace.

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Our family has spent the week here, working on the house, enjoying the sites, the delicious food, the beach, and of course the sweet Carolina sunsets.

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Tomorrow it is time to go and as always when I leave here, a small piece of myself will be left behind, welcoming me back when I return.

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For now, I’m looking forward to starting some projects and decorating our new home.  I’ll be back and forth a bit, but that’s ok. Oh, and the best part, I will not be spending anymore Januarys in Chicago. In the coming months, I’ll share some of my home improvement projects with y’all, so stay tuned.

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Have a great week. ~May

“Charleston is always a good idea.”

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