Another happy referring client!

“I am a realtor and I recently had a client ask if I knew anyone who could completely finish the interior of their new lakefront home.
It’s so nice to be able to entrust the clients I care about to someone who will care for them and do an amazing job. She is very professional and truly listens to what people are looking to accomplish, then executes it.
From paint colors and flooring choices down to the pillows and picture frames, Amber is a joy to work with. Couldn’t be happier.” Let’s get to work on your space or event!

What’s better than a plank of grilled cheese!?

It may be the first day of spring but I’m holding on to comfort food with both hands until these chilly temps catch up. And I prefer said comfort foods to have butter and cheese. Lots of it.

Last Saturday night I had a few girls over for wine, cheese and chocolate. And too bad, there was cheese leftover. Um,😍😍😍! So Sunday afternoon we sliced up a French baguette and sweeped the fridge for some yummy odds and ends. My husband manned the combinations, I just helped with prep.

We enjoyed: goat cheese + jalapeño jam, classic Colby jack + sharp cheddar with Honeycup mustard for a sweet horseradishy zing, Brie + avocado, manchego + pesto Gouda with caramelized onion, roasted red pepper and garlic. Oh my word.

And to finish it off, I simmered a cup of leftover tomato soup with a tiny can of tomato paste, Italian spices and garlic for a savory dipping sauce. Oh my heavens. I highly recommend trying a similar tapas-style meal if you have veggies and cheese to use up. It’s tasty, ooey gooey and fun to eat. Plus, adding a spicy mustard, honey or jam will immediately elevate your grilled delight to gourmet status.

A gray paint win.

When your client texts a picture of the paint you chose and it’s the perfect gray! YES. I’m planning to write a series of how-tos soon.

Preliminary ideas: how to assemble the perfect cheese plate, how to build a table-ready bouquet, and of course, how to choose the perfect gray wall color! Are these good ideas? Anything else I should cover??

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Keep party planning simple

Let’s talk about birthdays a minute. There are always going to be those women who overachieve at party planning — but you don’t have to. It’s okay to throw a kid’s party and ditch the treat bags. You have my permission to completely skip streamers and balloons. And it’s most definitely acceptable to pick up a cake at Costco and call it a day. The important thing is making sure your birthday babe and guests enjoy themselves.

Simple plus intentional equals memorable.

When I host a party or event, I pick one or two important places to direct my planning energy and phone-in the rest. I know my capacity, and I’m determined to enjoy myself. I don’t want to feel stressed and I really don’t want to be sweaty when my guests arrive!

My daughter turned one yesterday and we hosted a small family party for her. I don’t have a playroom or toys her older cousins would enjoy (ages 3-14), so I decided I was going to build the ultimate cardboard fort with tunnels and lights — all the stuff of childhood dreams. (It took a little legwork on the front end to find boxes but Nextdoor and Facebook did the trick, and I was able to build the whole thing during just one of the baby’s naps.) The other thing I decided to make was the cake. That’s it. I picked up a few helium balloons, a banner on clearance at Target I could easily use again and ordered pizza. (My hubby went to pick up the pizzas when they were ready, but you could simplify your day even more with delivery.)

So what’s my point? Simplify things so you can enjoy them more. No one can do it all — and anyone who expects you to isn’t a real friend. AND make sure to get the pictures you want. I don’t know how many holidays over the years we’ve meant to get a full family picture and forgot until it was too late and everyone’s makeup was melted off. Yesterday morning while my husband put the finishing touches on the fort, I rattled off the pictures I wanted to make sure we took. It helps to have another brain on the case once things are in full swing. (If all your friends get equally caught up in things, make sure you get the posed pictures checked off your list right away and snap candids as you think of it.)

I will say, the one thing simple party planning can’t do is remove the nostalgic sadness of watching your child grow up (I know this from experience now), but it can free you up to be completely in the moment — feeling all the feels about the day. So before you hop on Pinterest to pile on the ideas (and obligations), stop and think about how you really want your guests to feel when they leave, and gauge your capacity for energy vs. enjoyment. These milestones should be about making memories and meaning, not doing more.

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Raspberry ricotta pancakes with a side of grace

Sunday mornings look quite a bit different around here since the little girl joined our family. We’ve missed a lot of church since she was born because her nap bumps inconveniently into both time slots we could attend, and her sleep has always been an issue around here. I’m afraid to mess with her daytime routine too much because it affects nighttime so badly. So, so badly.

Honestly, I don’t feel too bad about missing right now though because we still have our small group and because I know this is just a season. So for right now we do church by podcast, have a nice breakfast and I wear the holiest clothes I know of — my robe and slippers. This morning I made ricotta pancakes with my special ingredient — raspberries. (I know everyone thinks blueberries when it comes to pancakes, but raspberries caramelize in an unexpectedly delicious way. You can *almost* skip the maple syrup… But why would you!? We aren’t savages.) So, slowly sipping coffee and talking about faith and struggle and growth and Jesus from our cozy kitchen is our Sunday morning lane right now. And that’s okay. It won’t be this way forever.

Are you in a temporary lane because you have small children, sickness, loved ones who need extra care or car issues and no money to fix them?
Do your best to avoid resenting the situation and accept that your best is good enough for right now. This season won’t last forever — because even if it feels like it will never end — it really will. You’ll look back and see the beauty that came from the struggle and inconvenience. For now I’m just going to enjoy this time and take in the sights, sounds and tastes here in the slow lane. Sundays will return to normal soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Raspberry Ricotta Pancakes for Sunday Mornings

(Adjusted from The Kitchn)

1 cup ricotta cheese (use only the driest parts)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1.5 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

2 large eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

(Recipes always tell you to do certain steps separately and dirty a bunch of bowls and I just don’t have time for that. I do the minimal amount of work possible for it to still turn out delicious. In this case it was babying the egg whites with a mixer… but it’s worth it.)

Stir ricotta cheese, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, milk, egg yolks and vanilla in a bowl until just mixed. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until stiff (4 minutes or so). Fold egg whites into ricotta mixture. Drop from 1/3 cup measuring spoon onto hot, oiled/buttered pan. Cook side one until small bubbles form and pop on top of pancake. Drop 3-4 fresh raspberries onto each pancake and flip. Cook pancake through. Raspberries will be slightly charred and perfectly caramelized. Serve with real butter, maple syrup and a knowing smile. You just made the bomb pancakes.

Blanketed.

Shelter quote

Do you find yourself burdened by pain, confusion or grief? …Maybe you’re huddled and weary beneath heated arguments over whether guns or mental illness are to blame.

A few weeks ago, a mentor who knows my love of coziness shared this winter-perfect poem with me and asked, “if it was wrapped around you right now, what would your ‘prayer shawl’ say?” “Breathing room,” I answered. Maybe you feel the same. What do you need to find shelter and cozy comfort for your heart today? Whatever it is, it’s not too much to ask.

Showing up with love

Family

A few years ago we decided to simplify the month leading up to Christmas so we had more space to enjoy it. For instance, we bought a fake tree that could be decorated right before Thanksgiving and stay up longer. We also decided to stop sending Christmas cards and do valentines instead. This not only knocked one obligatory holiday task completely off the list — it has turned into a really meaningful tradition. I mean, everyone expects to receive at least one Christmas card in the mail — but that can’t always be said for the day we honor romantic love. It feels really good to extend our love out into the world this way — saying “I love you” to those we love most, and brightening the mailbox of someone who may be extra lonely today.

Every year now my husband draws a simple card design and I choose a love quote that feels timely and relevant. Then we write a handwritten note and seal it with a kiss. This year’s design may be my favorite yet since it features the newest Valentine on the block — our Winslow Rose — and the cozy place we call home. Plus how sweet is this quote? “Love planted a rose and the world turned sweet.” All the heart eyes.

Much love from our cozy home to yours.

Never underestimate the power of an open home

House key vignette

Over anniversary dinner each November, Kyle and I reflect on all that’s transpired since we shared that meal a year before — the highs, lows, growth and change. We talk about the early days of our relationship and marvel at the way it feels so much less green-on-the-vine and at the same time, still fresh and new. The conversation always weaves around to the people we do life with too… new friendships that have sprung up, and others that have transitioned or changed — either to shallower depths or unexpected closeness.

A few months ago, I received a text from an old friend going through a hard breakup. We worked together about 8 years ago at a coffee shop — me in my late 20s trying to make a professional leap, her still in high school. For the years since, we’d really only seen each other a handful of times, checking in on Facebook or the occasional spontaneous drop-in. But today, she needed a place to stay until she could get her feet back under her… and she’d thought of us. Without hesitation Kyle and I readied the guest room.

While “M” ended up staying just 2 weeks, what has happened since has impacted us for life. During her time with us, she transitioned through her grief and on to asking some hard questions about who she really is and what she wants out of life — then bravely showed up to find the answers. She lined up a temporary living situation with a friend in town and went about creating a plan to put her culinary training to real use. She met with her therapist, read piles of books, popped by weekly for babysitting, wine or dinner, and did loads of introspective work. Today she’s moving to NYC to pursue a career in pastry. I couldn’t possibly feel more proud — or bittersweet — about the whole thing. We got a front row seat to her entire transformation — recovering parts of herself she’d sacrificed for the sake of the relationship and ultimately unfurling like a rose. My excitement for her future is palpable.  It’s all been such a gift to witness.

You see, when you create a cozy, safe place for people to land… they’re going to accidentally become family. The line between friendship and kinship will likely become so blurred, so decidedly flimsy you won’t even be able to name all the ways your hearts have grown connected. Never underestimate the power of a warm bed and an open heart.

I can’t say I loved seeing our house key returned to us last night, but I’ll always treasure the unexpected closeness we got from a few dear months intimately connected with M. I guess good old goldie will just have to wait here for the next person passing through.

Permission to let go of perfection

succulent

You know when you repeatedly encounter a phrase or sentiment, and by like, the third time you’re thinking — hmmm, maybe there’s something to this? Or perhaps the incidents seem completely unrelated, but you see a common thread running through them? I’ve had that recently around the idea of house perfection.

The first time was last week when a friend popped by and my house was a mess. I apologized but she quickly responded, “no, it’s nice. It’s lived in.” The next was experiencing a host who kept clearing dishes before the guests were finished. The third happened last Saturday while wandering around a box store with my husband and daughter. “I really want us to have more ‘real’ plants in our house,” he said. “Well, I love them but I’m terrible at taking care of them,” I replied, “If we decide to do that — it needs to be your responsibility to keep them alive.” He looked at me blankly and said, “I’m already the one who does that.” “Ha! Well then, we‘re making it official,” I concluded. 😉

So how are these connected? No matter how tempting it is to equate coziness with perfection — they aren’t necessarily one and the same. And then there’s us — maybe we need to accept we just can’t do it all perfectly all the time. Stains happen, your favorite mug shatters, the plant shrivels up, someone unexpectedly drops by and you still have yesterday’s mascara under your eyes. Oddly enough, these things don’t destroy coziness. In fact, they may just help cultivate it.

I used to be a hardcore everything-in-it’s-place-and-matchy-matchy kind of girl. Until a family of 5 moved in with us for 3 months. By the end, I couldn’t remember which throw pillows went where or when I last dusted — but we were closer than ever.

Bottom line, if we’re going to create welcoming spaces for real people — we have to accept stuff’s going to happen, and loosen our grasp on perfection. We may have to face our own house shame, fear of judgment or fear of damage. I still sometimes battle that stuff, but I’ve resolved that who does life within these walls is infinitely more important than what hangs on them.