Goodbye, 35!

I turned 36 on November 19th. I’m happy to be here another year, and I’m happy that I can finally remember my age now – since I’ve consistently forgotten if I am 35 or 36 for the past several months.

When you’re a kid, you think of these numbers – these ages, so abstractly. You also think your parents have it all figured out, which is hilarious now. I’m sure they were all winging it just like I know I am! You assign specific milestones to them. It’s funny that I don’t remember assigning a milestone after 27. Perhaps it’s that I figured my 30s and on would be so easy, with all the money I’d be making working and saving to go on trips, and buy “grown up” things like sofas, houses, cars and other adult necessities. Ha! Kids forget about taxes, student loans and childcare costs. And groceries.

I always thought 27 sounded like the best year. It was an odd number which I like, and an age that seemed like you had things figured out and were officially “grown up” and maybe had a kid, but not “old”. 27 did make me grow up though, as it was the year I lost my brother. But, it was also a reminder to never truly “grow up”, and to live my life and appreciate every age so that I could continue to bring joy, the learning of new things, and laughter into each new year – in an attempt to also bring part of my brother’s spirit with me.

So before I look at 36, I want to remember a few things from 35. Thank God for the micro-blogging goodness that is Instagram, so can remember! (And I know this is long, but I have to get the word count in for my semi-annual posts these days – kidding!)

My mantra this year was “One Thing at a Time”. I wanted to stay present (except for folding laundry, that requires television), keep my mind straight and stop trying to do too much at once. Whether that was at work, hanging with Henry, or taking on too many commitments or activities. I think it all worked out.

I adjusted to the new routine of my life with a one-year old little boy. I tried to stay present in the moment, and give him my full attention when I could, but also not be too hard on myself. Babies need to learn how to be their own people too, and I love that Henry is independent. I also tried not to fall into the “mom guilt” trap, and to support my other parent friends. We are all doing the best we can, and that has to be enough. Did I mention that I called my own mom and dad every single day? Thank God for those people, and thank God for FaceTime!

opera planeWe got to travel to Florida for Christmas and this past Thanksgiving, Indiana in March, see my cousin from the Philippines in April, and have a Huber family reunion in July. We played a lot of cards. I love that my family loves games (excluding my Dad, who used to play but now rebels). The older I get, the more important keeping in touch with my family is.

I read books! I even let the dishes or laundry pile up sometimes in order to get some Marissa time in.

I did my first Capsule Wardrobe in November. I think that I always wear the same things anyhow, but now it’s more intentional.

I donated, gave away or tossed possessions that I do not need or want. I’ve been reading more about minimalism and I find it addicting. The part that intrigues me is clearing up the clutter in your life to make room to focus on your passions. I also like buying less, but getting better quality items on something that will last. It doesn’t have to be about having nothing, but surrounding yourself with people and things that you truly love. Except art supplies. The more the better! Ha!

We spent quality time with Henry. He is at the age where he has a full personality and makes us laugh all the time. We visited the Zoo, the Please Touch Museum, the beach, parks with our friends, we went on walks around the neighborhood, played at the water park, we smiled and waved to the sweet old ladies near our local playground, and we embraced silliness to make our boy laugh.

pizzaHenry and I religiously attended “Pizza Tuesday” all summer. Or as my friends refer to it,”Tuesday is the new Friday.” We wrangle our kids at a park and order fresh Margarita pizzas and glass bottle Coca-Colas from a food truck with a wood fire oven on board. Tuesdays were one of the highlights of my summer. Sometimes we even got ice cream afterwards. Heaven.

I chopped off eight inches of my hair to donate and get some much needed style back.

Henry got bronchialitis / asthma triggered from colds (that he should hopefully outgrow), we stayed at the hospital 4 separate times. He is doing much better and his new asthma plan is working really well (knock on wood). We are so grateful that we live 2 miles away from the best Children’s hospital in the country and he has received amazing care.

operaHenry and I got to attend a garden showing under the stars of an opera that my friend was performing in at Longwood Gardens. It was a truly magical night. We spent the day exploring the gardens with my girlfriends, drank some wine, and sat under the stars on a chilly summer night. I sat in the back near the exit with my sleeping boy (in case he cried so we wouldn’t disturb anyone), and it is a memory I’ll always treasure.

I did some side gigs! I helped a lovely couple in Chicago with space planning and interior design for a family friendly Living, Dining and Work / Foyer area, and wrapped up some work with a local client in Philly.

After a brief hiatus, I started drawing and painting again.

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Mike and I got to dress up fancy and attend  a beautiful outdoor wedding, drink champagne and stand outside barefoot in the wet grass with our friends while watching the party from afar. I think it should be a rule for every major party to sneak away for a moment and to take a quiet moment and capture the moment in your mind.

I ropera-wiree-worked our family budget to pay down debt and save more. This led to saving money on food and imaginative meals using the  contents of our pantry. I find our routine works better when I do some meal planning, and when I’m also realistic and put in flexibility to order pizza or have Mike pick up Wawa! (I’ve also found that people who are into “meal planning” are really into meal planning so you can find a lot of information – thank you, Internet!)

I finished all seasons of The Wire, and officially agree with society that it is the best television show ever made.

I read (and loved) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and tried to apply principles to my career. My friend and I now use the phrase WWSS for “What Would Sheryl Say?” when we need to encourage another female colleague to own her success and to make a leap, even if it is daunting.

Spopera-workoutsideeaking of work, I am proud of what I did this year. I learned a lot and worked hard to improve my skills and how I provide reporting and data. I love the people I work for, and there is a ton of support. Highlights were eating lunch alfresco with friends on our roof deck, eating my weight in double chocolate or orange cranberry muffins from the cafe, and the one bike ride and one run I went on with colleagues.

We took Henry on his first amusement ride at The Boardwalk in Ocean City. He was not ready, we had to stop two rides twice before we learned this lesson. However, he was ready to dance for a crowd while we were taking shelter from a sunshower.  They were literally around him clapping and he tried to breakdance. It was amazing.

On to the next year!

Posted in Life, Simplify | 1 Comment

Sketches and Clothes and Chicken Scratch

I had some fun today mentally recalling what I put together clothes wise for the past ten days trying to only use items in my capsule wardrobe. I felt like sketching…

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Days 7 and 8 were my favorite days, since I wore a new silk scarf that a friend gave to me, and a gorgeous 100 inch strand of pearls my mom gave me one Christmas. The pearls looked especially nice against the black blouse I wore.

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I’m still working through my capsule, and I already replaced a few things, but so far it’s making my morning wardrobe decisions much easier. It’s also encouraging me to work with the accessories I have but never end up wearing!

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Fall Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

I heard about capsule wardrobes for the first time from Caroline at Un-Fancy. As someone who flirts with the idea of minimalism, wants to be more efficient in the morning (getting out of the house for work & daycare) and is looking to eliminate daily choice overload, I was hooked!

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The idea is that you select a specific amount of items of clothing, accessories and shoes for the season and pack what you won’t be using until the next season. Dependent upon what “rules” you follow, accessories and shoes may or may not count. I’ll likely count my shoes (forgot to draw my blue suede boots) and be unlimited with my jewelry to switch things up.

Basically, it’s a strategic plan for your wardrobe, so that it is edited, cohesive, and items will work well with each other. As an artist and designer, I love having limits, it helps me be more creative and forces me to use what I have. I also am more mindful of the great items that I do have.

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It was great timing since Fall has just arrived. After reading a ton of posts on Un-Fancy, I also checked out Project 333 , which was also helpful (and binge worthy). I packed up clothes, put items in the donate pile, and a mend pile.

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I went to my sketchbook to figure out my 33 or 37 (still a little undecided) pieces for the next three months. It sounds like such a small number, until you start writing it down, or in my case, drawing it out.

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This is my preliminary Fall 2014 capsule. I think I’ll buy a white tee shirt, and maybe a green military trench if I find a good deal, but I think I’m good! Side note, I love the drawing app Paper by 53, it is so much fun, though nothing will ever replace old fashioned paper, pencils and paint!

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I’m one step closer to having a jumpsuit uniform!

P.S. Look at my sweet little boy drawing too! Sigh, for cuteness…

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Posted in Fashion + Beauty, Illustration, Life, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

One Post Before Fall Ends

When life gets busy, something has to give. These days, it’s my personal blog, but I love to have it to look back on, document my life and keep my little part of the internet.

I turned 35 in November. I’m enjoying my 30s, and appreciate the chance to get another year on this planet. Better late than never, here goes a list of the things that happened at 34 that I’d like to remember:

1. I became a mama. Being a mama is pretty amazing. You get to run with glee towards a fire engine at a kid’s party and people just think you’re being a great mom. Ha! Impending motherhood also gave me a kick to start things going on other dreams I had before I got sucked into a vortex.

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2. Case in point: I became an official small business owner with my design partner-in-crime, Ann. We started Design Move Toss, LLC, which is a virtual and in-home interior design consulting gig. The goal is to have it be a fun and creative outlet where we can help people, make some extra money, and let it grow responsibly and organically. I’ll probably talk about it more, and we’re in the process of getting our logo / collateral redesigned soon! However, it was great to get started and not worry about making everything perfect in the beginning. Anyone else have a tendency to suffer from perfectionism paralysis?! Oy.

3. I really made a go of my Etsy shop selling watercolors and custom home portraits, and was pleasantly surprised to exceed my expectations in sales! I want to explore some paper collage and larger scale paintings this year, but we shall see. (Again, that limited free time and day-job thing).

4. I went out of my comfort zone a few times, and as usual, was glad I did it!

5. I said “no” when needed, to make sure I wasn’t spreading myself too thin, so that I can be there for my family. Although, who wouldn’t want to hang out with this sweet baby?

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6. I tried to stay present in the moments and enjoy my new baby, and was “gentle” with myself, per the wise advice of Leya (Curious Bird).

7. I read some books for fun. I laughed with friends. I watched more TV than one should, and tried not to feel too guilty. I ate lots of chocolate muffins in the afternoons with a side of coffee.

8. I got to spend lots of time with our family and friends, which is the most important thing to Mike and me. Having Henry as initiative for people to visit really helped! My heart bursts when I see how much he is loved by my amazing relatives.

9. We got to go to NYC, Washington D.C., Indiana and Florida. Not too bad for year one. (We also all got severely sick in NYC with our Indiana relatives, but have many stories to laugh about now).

10. I picked up my knitting needles again! I’m making Henry Pickles (his nickname) a Fair Isle sweater.

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I’m looking forward to see what good things 35 brings!

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Scenes from our days

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This is my first attempt to blog from my phone in order to write more often! The weather in Philadelphia has been gorgeous. There’s just a hint of crispness in the air, but you can still wear flip-flops with a long sleeved shirt. Driving with the windows down is a must in my opinion.

I’m taking advantage of the roof deck for lunch at my work. Our office moved from downtown to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. While I miss working downtown, I’m used to my new routine (although I do miss my bicycle commute).

We are making the best use of this weather right now by going for strolls to the library after work/daycare, meeting up with friends, and walking around our neighborhood.

The new Barnes museum has a wonderful outdoor area with gravel on the ground that makes me think I’m in Paris (if only for five minutes)!

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Posted in Bebe, Life, Philly, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Summer Corn Chowder

Before Summer officially ended, I made a huge batch of Summer Corn Chowder. Using a few recipes for inspiration (the ever fabulous Ina Garten and a few others), I came up with this recipe. It is delicious, if I do say so myself. I ate it for about a week solid.

I’m hoping to make it one last time before the leaves turn.

Ingredients:

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Directions:

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Rustic chic table setting:

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Food detail drawing:

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My favorite companion to soup:

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I heart soup.

Posted in Food, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Fermented Sourdough Starter Hooch Juice

My father has one sister, Aunt Sissy. She is a prolific bread baker, reader, nurse, teacher, mother of four, dog-lover, and overall amazing woman. When I was going to college in Indiana, she was a 5 hour drive away in St. Louis. Their house was my home away from home when I was burnt out on being a college student (for what felt like a decade), overcoming college-angsty heartbreak or just homesick. The years I got to spend with them there (and my uncle and four cousins) are some of my most treasured memories. Whether it was taking my younger cousins to the movies, having “nights of beauty” where I’d dye my cousin Cara’s hair and we’d experiment with makeup, or just reading on the couch and talking to my aunt and uncle.

When she visited me in March to meet Henry, she brought a sourdough starter for me and taught us how to make her go-to no-knead sourdough recipe. The mad-scientist type process of having to feed the sourdough starter appealed to me, and the low effort for a delicious baked bread. I’ve made no-knead and kneading required breads before, but never with a starter. This one is delicious, and takes 5 minutes of preparation. You just need to find a starter or make one yourself!

My aunt uses a chopstick to stir the bread, and I’m a convert. Less shagginess to cling on to the utensil, and it does the job. Just plan ahead 14 – 20 hours ahead of time to allow for the rising, second rising and baking. Other than that, it is totally simple.

I follow the recipe linked above from Heather at A Real Food Lover. I just take one chopstick and mix 3-1/2 cups of bread flour, 1-1/2 cups of non-chlorinated water (I leave my Philly tap water out for 12 hours prior), 1/2 cup sourdough starter and 1-1/2 teaspoons of sea salt in a bowl. My preferred method is to stir everything vigorously and try to get all of the dough wet until it’s in some semblance of a ball. However, it doesn’t seem to matter. If there are dried bits of flour on the bottom though, it will mix in once your dough rises.

Cover it with plastic and let sit (room temperature) for 12 – 18 hours. Here is my dough after about 18 hours. Also note my really cute BKR water bottle that I love, but I accidentally dropped and broke (so need to purchase the glass bottle part again soon).

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Take your dutch oven (oval shaped if you’re lucky like me and have a pretty purple one from…you guessed it…Aunt Sissy) and spread butter all over the bottom and sides. Round would be fine too, it will just give you a different shaped bread. Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom and shake it so it hits the sides.

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I have dumped the ball of dough into the dutch oven, or floured a surface and kneaded / folded it gently into a football shaped loaf. I had the same results both times. Either way, shape it into a loaf looking thing and center it in your dutch oven. Cover with the lid and let rise for 1-2 hours.

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Heat oven to 500 degrees, and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. After 30 minutes, take the lid off, and (very important here, folks) reduce heat to 450 degrees to get this nice crust. Do not forget this very important step and turn your loaf of homemade goodness into a burnt football. However, if you do as I did, you can scrape it off and still eat it. Might I suggest additional toasting and lots of butter?

If you do it correctly, the top will look like this. Mine doesn’t spread out to fill the whole oven, but it still creates a beautiful shape. Let it cool uncovered or even taken out of the dutch oven, slice and enjoy! It is delicious warm from the oven, and also toasted with  butter. But honestly, is there anything better than toasted bread with butter? It’s the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or a hearty salad.

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It goes fast, so plan ahead to make more! I keep mine (after it’s cooled) in the same dutch oven I baked it in with the lid on. This is also the perfect excuse to keep my beautiful Le Creuset oval oven out on the countertop.

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I’ve said it before, but there is really something magical about making bread. There’s an invisible thread that connects you to the millions before who created, passed on and taught this small act of providing sustenance to your family. It’s the childlike glee I get to see the chemical process that creates something delicious out of a few ingredients, patience and time. And the smell in your home before, during and after the baking process.

Thank you, Aunt Sissy, for years passed and years to come of love and support. And thank for bringing me a jar of fermented sourdough hooch juice into my life and connecting me to something big, small and outside of the intensity of new motherhood. I love you always.

P.S. Hooch is the alcohol substance that can build up over your starter. It makes me laugh for no particular reason other than it sounds funny.

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