Tag Archives: holidays

a fifth stone

The last post featured one of my favorite gifts I received; this post is about one of the favorite gifts we gave. Here’s the short version of events that led to this gift.

You might remember the big gift we all gave to my parents last Christmas – custom mosaic garden stepping stones, one for each grandchild. My parents had been looking for some type of stepping stone for a new garden area they installed, but they never really found anything that they loved. My sister and I came up with the idea to have four stones made, and we chose subjects that we thought represented the things that our parents love – and we tied each one of those ideas back to a grandchild.

It was a really fun gift to give, and Carol Lancour did an amazing job on all four of them. Spring rolled around, the ground warmed up, and they were all installed. Done!

Well, not exactly. Because spring also brought along some exciting news… and sometime late summer I realized that maybe that garden path wasn’t really finished.

I contacted Carol that fall and asked if she would kindly reserve some time to get one additional stone made. I wanted to book her early because I knew the baby wasn’t coming until November, and the holiday season gets really busy for her. She graciously accepted the challenge, and we all waited for the baby’s arrival.


Once my niece was here and had a name, I started toying around with some ideas for the fifth stone. I finally settled on a twilight scene with fireflies because it reminded me of all the kids running around playing in my parents’ backyard in the summertime. I thought it could sparkle, and sort of symbolize the joy that all the kids bring to our family collectively. Carol liked the idea and starting planning it out.

And then my grandfather was so ill, and those weeks in late November and early December were really hard. I received a text from my sister saying that my mom had stopped by the house to decompress for a bit and hold the baby. She mentioned how hard everything was, and how she was looking forward to spring again. She told her that she’d love a fifth stone – maybe for Mother’s Day – and she’d love it to have a bunny, like the bunnies that hang out in the garden. And she also wanted pink – pink for spring, and flowers, and a perfect pink-skinned surprise baby girl to celebrate.

I emailed Carol immediately and told her to shift gears. She graciously did, and the design took off from there. She sent several progress photos along the way – from concept sketch, to this later one:


The final product is just stunning, right down to that sparkly blue bunny eye, and the pink dogwood blossoms that bloom in my parents’ garden each spring.


The added bonus was the surprise factor – my parents had no idea that a new stone could be ordered, made, and delivered in such a short time. This moment was one of my favorite moments of the holidays.


I can’t tell you how enjoyable it is to work with Carol. Her work is beautiful, and her attention to detail is second to none. What a fun surprise it was to get a chance to work with her again. Her work has brightened up two winters for us, and gets us ready for spring, and the garden, again.

handmade tub ledge

We received (and also gave) some of my favorite gifts ever this Christmas. But hands down, my favorite gift was this surprise one:

Homemade Tub Ledge

It’s really not a surprise that I’ve been wanting some sort of tub ledge for awhile, but other than mentioning it in an offhand way – along with all the other items we’re slowly purchasing for the bathroom makeover – it wasn’t really on my radar at all. M spent a few afternoons in the basement working on another gift project for E, and he always brought up photos of the progress on that piece, so I never thought to go downstairs to see what he was doing. (I’ll post some photos of that project after we hang it this weekend.) He kept mentioning that her gift was more complicated to assemble than he thought it might be – but he was really masking the fact that he was working on two things at once.

I love the way it turned out. Some of the tub ledges I’ve seen are really complicated, with book stands and cup holders and slide out ledges and gadgets. I love the simplicity of this. I really just wanted a place to put a magazine and the occasional glass of wine so that I don’t have to lean over the edge of the tub all the way to the floor repeatedly. (Our tub sits on claw feet, plus it’s a slipper tub, so it’s extra deep – reaching the floor is no easy task.) I’m a morning shower person, but most nights I also unwind with a soak. It warms me up in the winter, and cools me off in the summer. I don’t usually read books in the tub, but it’s where I go to catch up on magazines or flip through catalogs. And now it’s even more enjoyable.

Homemade Tub Ledge_magazine

When we eventually decide on the style and spacing of the pegs in this room, I’d love to add a hole or some type of hanger to this so that I can hang it up when not in use. It’s going to look pretty sweet in there – even in our crazy, half-finished space with a patchwork quilt of sample blues all over the walls – the tub is still my favorite sanctuary.

image1 (22)

(M- I’ve told you a dozen times already – but thanks again for making such a sweet surprise. xo)

new year, new year

At the start of every year, I always wait for this feeling of renewal – some sort of burst of energy to overtake me on January 1st. It never does. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that we’re never at home for the holidays – so any desire to wake up bright and early on the first day of the year and tackle some long overdue house project or fill up the trunk for a trip to Goodwill doesn’t get very far. Even if I were to set some crazy goal like Run Every Single Day in 2016!* or Run a Zillion Miles in 2016!* it would still hit the back burner for a bit because, well, I wake up in Iowa, and only crazy people** run in that sort of weather. I’m (sort of) okay with cold weather, but I’m not foolish enough to think I can successfully navigate snow and ice. If you’ve ever seen me walk across a wintry parking lot you would understand – I have a greater fear of slipping*** than I do of any sort of rodent or reptile or flying or heights. I’d rather drive down an icy street than walk down an icy sidewalk.

*I have amazing friends who set – and meet – goals like this, so you’ll note that I labeled the goals as crazy, not the goal makers

**Your goals might not make you crazy, but running around waist high piles of snow when it’s seven degrees outside certainly qualifies you for the title.

***Does this have a name? Let me check. Yes, it does! Pagophobia. I’m a pagophobic. Not to be confused with phagophobia, which is a fear of eating, which I don’t have. Obviously.

I actually received several very nice gifts that will make cold weather running more palatable, but I got very ill on the way to M’s parents house last week, and the resulting medication I was on made me really nauseous and dizzy, so I took it easy during our visit. To say that I’m excited for my core and cardio classes tonight is an understatement. My body is craving movement after so many hours in the car.

The point I’m dancing around here is that I always give myself a little time to settle on and settle into any resolutions that I might make. It takes us a little time – a week or two at least – to really get back to normal. There’s always a moment when, upon returning to our house after the last trip, I look around and sigh, frustrated at the accumulated piles and messes, the holiday decorations still in full force, the gifts received, but not even unpacked, the remnants of gift giving strewn about. The little one always makes a beeline from the car to her third floor bedroom to shut the door and decompress; the rest of start the evening’s march, a ballet of sorts, up and down the stairs dozens of times. If we manage to scar our children in any way, it will most likely be related to going up or down stairs with empty hands. The unforgivable sin in our house is walking past a pile on the stairs – and ignoring it.

Last year I dodged the whole resolution idea by stating my intentions for the year. And while we might have missed the mark a bit on some of our intentions for the house, I definitely think I carried through on my goal of practicing openness, stretching myself. It might seem like a bit of a cop out to restate the same thing for this year as well, but I’m going to anyway:

“Listening to that piece made me more aware of what is driving my intentions this year – to stretch my body, to craft a home, to open up more in my writing. It has nothing to do with goals of perfection – the perfect body, the perfect kitchen, the perfect blog. It really has to do with openness. Less opening, the verb, but more openness as a practice. Widening the backdrop of this life a bit.”

I’m hoping to push myself a little further in all of these areas.

Stretching my body: last year, at the ripe old age of forty, was the first year in my entire life that I really committed myself to building strength and flexibility. It’s not an overnight transformation, but I’m honestly surprised at what a difference a regular practice of challenging fitness routines can make.

Crafting a home: I’m going to do my best to enjoy the process, and I’m so excited for some of the things we have planned for the house. I’m going to commit the same sort of rigor and discipline to the planning and implementation of those projects, large and small, as I have to working out.

Opening up more in my writing: I’m going to try and worry less about what I’m going to write about or how I’m going to say something, and just write. I’m also going to try not to worry so much about the quality of the photos. It’s the artist in me – and the perfectionist – but I need to be okay with the fact that photography is a difficult, and unstudied, medium for me.

Outside of the big three above, I have a few smaller goals. I’d like to run in a few races this year – maybe not huge ones, but I’d like to participate in a few larger running events outside of my normal solitary practice. I’m still considering trying a half marathon over my birthday weekend in April. We have some exciting travel lined up! And some relaxing travel, too! And I want to continue to push myself in the kitchen. We do dinner well. The girls would love some more variety at breakfast, and I’d like to help E make a better school lunch at least a few days a week. And after all of this recent travel and shifts to our regular diet, I’d like to get better at our travel diets as well. We spend a whole lot of effort complaining about the sorry state of eating options when we’re not at home, but not a whole lot of effort being imaginative or proactive with a solution.

So here’s to good intentions, a fresh start, and a dent in my laundry piles this week! 2016, I’m ready.