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Spring Cleaning Can Include Taking Down Your Christmas Tree.

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

This past weekend, my family and I went to church on Saturday night as a family, so on Sunday morning, we ate breakfast together at home, welcomed the coming of Spring while also bemoaning the lost hour of sleep that comes with Daylight Savings Time, since toddlers don’t care and that dude got up anyway because his body clock said so. And we took down our artificial Christmas tree and put away the rest of the Yuletide decorations.

Tis the season! But not that season anymore.

Sunshine and tinsel and Spring and Baby Jesus. But he isn't in this picture. So here is my baby.

Sunshine and tinsel and Spring and Baby Jesus. But he isn’t in this picture. So here is my baby.

Yeah, so what had happened was that, as I have told you, I had major surgery in January, a week after New Years. Since we like to leave our tree up at least until then, because taking it down so early is too abrupt for me and I need to ease out of the holidays and back to normal non-sparkly times, we thought that we would pace ourselves and take it down when things got normal. But even after the initial period of my mom and sister and Bestie Maria coming to stay at different times, and friends and family giving us rides when I couldn’t drive, and friends sending and bringing food, and my husband literally doing all of the heavy lifting, it took us awhile to get back to normal. Which we mostly are, but I know that this whole thing takes awhile, and in all of that we had never set a deadline for the tree coming down.

For awhile it was fine, because we knew what we were capable of, and it wasn’t a priority, and friends who came over knew where we were with that, and that was like late-January/early February. It was actually kinda nice to have the tree there, all shiny, and we knew we would get to it. We took down most of the other decorations and, because we knew it would help us with finishing it up, put them on the floor in front of the tree. And then it got later, and then it snowed, so the tree fit in, but then it melted, and that tree started to look strange, and friends would come over then in late February/early March, and we would say “The tree is still up. Don’t judge.”, and they would say “Shoot, we don’t care.”

And then I realized I was judging me. Because it was time.

So on Sunday morning, we went downstairs and got the box that holds the Christmas stuff, and we turned on a warm weather playlist (“Here Comes the Sun”, “Walking On Sunshine”, “Everyday Sunshine” and the like) while wrapping up the Baby Jesus in our Nativity and disassembling the tree. It was a nice family time to spend with each other, looking at the gifts people gave us and remembering how nice it is to have people who give you things, and remembering the meaning of the ornaments and when we got them and why, like the Blue Crab one we got in memory of my Dad, who loved him some crabs, and also remembering who gave us certain ones, like my late former neighbor who did the alterations on my wedding dress and gave us a beautiful “First Christmas” ornament, and Bestie Johnette’s mom, who adopted her friends and gives us beautiful angel ornaments every year. And it was cathartic to complete something, and bring some order and get rid of clutter, and to literally move into a  new season.

It was good. It’s okay to do things on your own time. And then it’s good to know when it’s REALLY time.

This is the favorite warm weather song of both Streeter Twins. What is yours?


Saturday Morning, With Apologies to Maroon 5

by SweetMidlife

It’s Lynne. And this has been a wonderful Saturday morning so far, and mostly because we did not have any set outside plans, and my family has been grooving on each other’s presence. It inspired this, inspired by “Sunday Morning”, my almost-favorite cut off of Maroon 5’s wonderful album, “Songs About Jane”. 

I like this place.

I like this place.

Saturday morning, light is falling
Bunch the covers ’round my skin
Toddler knocking and then barging in the door
And jumping in the bed that we are in

But things just feel so lazy
Getting up is hard to do
I know I should sit on up
Get up and go, yes it’s true
But Saturday mornings bring me close to you
I’m gonna snuggle up some more with you

This maybe all I need
Besides To-Do lists I don’t want to see
So come on curl back up with me
Moving slow on Saturday morning
And I never want to leave

Here’s the actual song. It’s chill. I hope you get to chill today. 


Moving house: Or why I hope to never have to leave my new house

by SweetMidlife
Our new living room, mid-box.

Our new living room, mid-box.

To review: Last summer, I (being Leslie) unexpectedly started a new chapter of my life when my lovey-dove Scott passed away unexpectedly. Obviously, that was a world-rocker, but that world refused to stop spinning so I had to start rolling with changes, mostly just continuing to live the life I already had but without my Scotty. Which sucks because it took so long for me to find a good guy in a grab bag of losers, and I only got to keep him 6 1/2 years. That was a lot of work. I’m exhausted.

Meanwhile, there was one change he and I had already planned, which was to leave our lovely South Florida rental home, where we moved in 2013, sometime in the first part of this year. The landlords were looking to sell it and we decided, as much as we loved it, not to buy it because we wanted an extra bathroom. So we’d started just doing random searches – I wanted to stay in the little town we lived in and Scott wanted to move across the canal into West Palm Beach, for school district and prettiness purposes. After he died, and my mom the queen of the universe, moved in with me and the little one I live with, she and I started tentatively looking close by, to check out prices and different areas, but weren’t set on a date…

…Until our landlords decided to sell our house, like, immediately, and at the beginning of February we found ourselves on a ticking moving clock with 30 days and a suddenly short supply of available homes anywhere we wanted to be. Of course. We looked out of our target area, even, and then made an offer on a nice house in the right neighborhood that we didn’t love, but that was better than living in a van down by the river. We had hoped to find a miracle, but were willing just not to be homeless.

“Do houses just show up at the last minute?” we asked our realtor, who shook his head about 24 hours before calling us to say that a lovely place around the corner from he and his family had a brand new “For Rent” sign on the front lawn. Miracles, anyone? The moment we walked in that afternoon, we were in love – high wooden ceilings, a Florida room that’s all windows, and an over-sized master suite for me. Although I did offer it to my mother, of course.

“doyoumaybewannatakethebigroomiwillsleepouttherenexttotheboydontyouworryaboutit” I said, hoping she would pick up on “My goodness I want that room.” She did. I am so glad she did because I super wanted that room.

And now I’m in it, surrounded by more boxes and stuff than I knew I had. The move was a monster nightmare and I am never doing it again.

But I am so happy. I feel weird about not being in this house with Scott, and I would be lying if I didn’t feel a little guilty to know that I am in a much nicer house and that my life and the Kid’s are going on without him. But he would want me to. We can’t live in a van, we couldn’t live in the old house, and we, again, would not fit in a van. It is normal to miss him and wonder what he’d have thought of the place, which is in the school district he wanted and is probably the result of some heavenly maneuvering (OK SCOTT YOU WON.) But it is also normal for happy things to make you happy, and this new place is happy. We are happy. We are not quite complete. But we are happy.

And I hope we can one day buy this house and live here forever because I hate moving and am never doing it again.


Buying a dog bag by accident: Or owning the thing you have, no matter what

by SweetMidlife
Yes, it's a dog bag. But it's super cute. and I can work it.

Yes, it’s a dog bag. But it’s super cute. and I can work it.

About a month ago, rummaging through the local Goodwill for winter-type clothing for myself and my kid the day before heading north, out of Florida and into places where they have winter, I ran into the cutest bag. It was pink tweed, very Nancy Reagan at a press conference meets hipster bowling bag. It had a weird long zipper at the top, and some mesh zippered flaps on the side. I couldn’t quite figure out what those were for, but it was big enough to stick my laptop in for the flight, super attractive and easy to carry, and the weird side zippers made it a cinch to stick bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper in, which is totally a problem that needed solving. Totally.

Also, it was like $8. So welcome to the family, New Bag.

I wasn’t the only person to dig my bag – my sister and mother immediately told me how sharp they thought it was, and a few other friends specifically stopped to tell me how much they liked it. It was a very long trip, hanging out with Lynne to help out after her surgery, seeing friends and family when I could, and writing a random story for work when necessary (RIP, Ziggy Stardust), and I found myself shoving a lot of things into the new bag and its weird zippered portions, finding it spacious and easy to fill – there was always another corner to shove things into, and I have never met a bag I couldn’t fill till it looked like a hobo pack.

By the time I got home, I was rather in love with it – not the least of which was because it’s big and huge and easy to find in the crazy thrift store storeroom that is my living room.So a few days later, I grabbed it on the way out the door to go visit a friend for an after-work glass or two of wine. I plopped the bag down on her counter next to the wine and plunked into a chair, noticing her notice it as she walked by to get the corkscrew.

“That your new purse?” she asked.

“Yep!” I said, anticipating the compliments not only on the stylishness of my choice but an opening to brag about the deal I’d gotten.

“You know that’s a dog bag, right?”

No. No I did not know that.

Suddenly, everything made sense – the odd roominess of the purse, that was not actually a purse. The weird, helpful zippers on the side, that I could shove a soda in but that was actually made so that little Fifi and Fluffy could stick their precious head out of. The fact that it was $8, because not everyone needs a dog bag. Or realizes that they bought one, sans dog.

So I wondered – was everyone looking at me weird? Was it like when I walk my kid to daycare and then walk the empty stroller back home with people peering in looking for a baby but seeing a bag of spinach and spaghetti squash and thinking I’m crazy? Did I look dumb? Should I head back to the Goodwill for another non-canine bag?

I don’t know how I looked to others, but I can answer the last one – No, no I am not replacing that bag. Because I like it. Because it’s big and roomy and cute. Because it’s possible to repurpose a thing as another thing because it’s not hurting anyone. And because even if I look a little crazy to other people, I have decided to work my dogless dog bag and let it rock.

Because I can.


Ring of Fire, or The Saga of the Wreath

by SweetMidlife

Happy 3 Days Before Christmas from Lynne!

I have always wanted to be a crafty person. Not Beastie Boys-crafty, but Martha Stewart-crafty. However, to be successfully crafty, you have to have follow-through and adequate preparation, 2 things that I have not always had at the same time. There have been some successful projects, like when a friend gave me an old wooden table and chair set that had been in her attic, and I painted the table blue and decoupaged a big yellow sunflower in the middle, and I painted the chairs alternately blue and yellow. Then I had this idea that I was going to decoupage a lot of stuff and sell it, after only successfully doing it once, but umm, that went nowhere. Over the years, I have been alternately crafty, sometimes having great momentum and just doing the thing, while other times talking myself out of whatever project I had in mind because I hadn’t really thought about what it took to do it well.

Which brings me to the wreath.

My husband and I bought our house in 2011, and found out that we were pregnant the day that we closed on the place, which was the day before we moved. The combination of being new homeowners, finding out that we were going to be parents, and also being in a new city where we didn’t really know anyone (we had friends in family within 40 minutes of here, but that’s not the same as having people RIGHT THERE), made me really want to establish this place as ours. To really add something to our home that was made with our hands. And that inspired me, if I am remembering it right, to buy a copy of some magazine not long before Christmas time. I think that it was like Better Homes and Gardens, or Women’s Day, or something like that, and as I flipped through the pages of do-it-yourself ideas, I saw something that would look amazing in our house: it was a door wreath made out of actual hot peppers.

“Oh my gosh!”, I thought. “This is perfect.” My husband is from San Antonio, TX, and loved Mexican food and all things spicy, so this would be a fitting thing for our front door. Plus, it was unique, and I just knew that whoever came to our place over the holidays would see it and laugh, and be impressed by my talent.

Yeah.

So I went to JoAnn’s Fabrics and bought a wreath frame, and I think I got ties to attach the peppers to the wreath. And I took the magazine with me to the grocery store, and I picked a peck of peppers (yeah I said it!),  and I went home to start my project. I was so very excited, because I knew that I was going to knock this thing out of the park, y’all. And I started tying peppers to the frame, and it was looking really fresh and lovely, and then my fingers started to hurt from the pepper juice, and my hands were getting red and raw and irritated. When my husband got home from work, I was like, “I have no idea how the people in the magazine could stand this. My hands are burning!”

And my patient husband looked at me, and he looked at the picture in the magazine, and he looked back at me, took a deep breath, and he said, “Babe. It’s because the ones in the picture were dried first. That’s why your fingers hurt. You are working with fresh peppers.”

Ahh. That makes sense. And when I looked at the picture again myself, I saw that this was true. My zeal had overrun my actually taking a good look at what I was doing. I don’t have photographic evidence of my sad craft, but here is my recollection of it.

Yes.

Yes.

So I think that we cooked with some of the peppers I bought, and held onto the rest in the fridge for as long as I could so I wasn’t totally defeated. Now, what to do with the wreath? And I had this idea, but this one was actually good. I went out to CVS and bought a large bag of gift bows. And I stuck them all over the wreath, and they looked way festive, and I put the wreath on the door. And some of the bows fell off. Pretty much every time we closed and opened the door, we lost some, and I spent that winter taping and re-taping bows to the frame, and for the most part, it looked non-jacked-up. Pretty, actually. But bow wreaths don’t keep well in the shed. So when I fished it out the next December, some had fallen off, so I did more bow surgery. And that lasted that Christmas season, but I think last year I looked at the trash bag we had it in in the shed, and saw wayward bows, and decided that I didn’t want to even be bothered. But this year, though, I decided that I was gonna do something with this thing. This is what it looked like when I got it out this year.

Yeah.

Yeah.

When my son and I decorated our tree, which is pre-lit, we started with the ornaments and loaded it up with dangly goodness. Then I looked over and saw the bag of garland we forgot to put on. But I think that was meant to be, because then I remembered my mostly-naked wreath, and decided to do this….

20151222_082040

Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh, I like it, I like it.

It was easy, and it used stuff I already had, and my kid got to supervise, and it didn’t hurt me. Those are good things in decorations, I say. Yes, I do.

How about you? Have you had any decoration-fails? Any decoration wins? In-betweens? Tell us!

 


Deck Your Halls With Macy’s Heart of Haiti, Fa la la la la, La la la la

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

This past summer, we told you in Sweet Midlife Land (a real place, we have decided) about Macy’s Heart of Haiti home decor line, a fair trade initiative that partners with Haitian artisans and sells their creations in selected Macy’s stores as well as online. Now is a perfect time to check out Heart of Haiti as you finalize your Christmas lists: the products are way beautiful, very unique, and your friends and family not only have a beautiful piece for their house, but they get to know that they are truly helping an artisan who depends on these purchases for their livelihood. It’s pretty, and with a heart.

In case you don’t remember from when we wrote about it back in June, Heart of Haiti was started shortly after the island nation was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2010. It helps the country’s large artisan community of 400,000 which makes up Haiti’s largest sector of employment. 550 artisans work for Heart of Haiti, and in turn, they support 4500 of their families and extended family. Buying their work actually puts food on tables and sends kids to school. This is no small thing, friends. No small thing at all.

The piece that we are featuring is a beautiful papier mache vase made by artisans in the seaside Haitian town of Jacmel, where they have been practicing this technique for hundreds of years. And this isn’t like the papier mache that you did in 6th grade art class that your mom put in her living room just because she wanted to be nice. No, these are really beautiful and sophisticated pieces that add a decorative touch to your home. Look at this video of one artisan talking about her pieces, and about how being about of this initiative helps her and those around her.

I was thrilled to receive one of these vases to put in my home and make a part of our holiday decorating. It comes with a glass insert that you could use to put fresh flowers in, but you could certainly remove that if you wanted to display dry things. You could even just put nothing in it, because it’s that pretty. I myself put a Christmas-y bouquet in mine, and put it on our bookshelf above the TV, where my guests can ooh and ahh over it. Actually, I am looking at it from the couch where as I am sitting and I love it. Wanna see?

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There’s a tight shot so you can see it up close in all of its handcrafted glory.

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Here’s another where you can see how it pairs with not only my Christmas decorations, but also how good it looks with my everyday decor.  This is good, because when the holidays are over, I plan to keep using the vase by itself, like this.

20151208_161908

So, as you complete your holiday shopping, you should really check out Macy’s Heart of Haiti. You can give to your friends while giving back. And that’s a perfect gift. You can find the Heart of Haiti line here online (as well as pieces from Macy’s other Gifts That Give Hope initiatives, including Paths of Peace, that works towards economic sustainability in Rwanda) and also at these select Macy’s stores: Herald Square, Downtown Brooklyn, Downtown DC’s Metro Center, Chicago’s State Street, San Francisco’s Union Park, Downtown Seattle, Dallas Gallaria, Downtown Portland (Ore), Atlanta’s Lenox Square, Dallas Galleria Mall, Miami.

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

 


Rock Summer with Macy’s “Heart of Haiti” Line of Pretty Home Stuff

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here.

We in Sweet Midlife Land are really excited and honored to be able to tell you about something fantastic that Macy’s is doing, besides them having seriously awesome home stuff and equally awesome sales on said stuff. Along with social entrepreneur Willa Shalit and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Macy’s has launched “Heart of Haiti”, an initiative that helps the people of Haiti in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that injured more than 300,000 people, killed over 250,000 and left more than 1 million people homeless in 2010. There have been many organizations that have reached out to assist the nation’s recovery, but Heart of Haiti differs from many of those. Using what they call “Trade-not-aid”, Heart of Haiti focuses on Haiti’s artisan community, which at 400,000, is the largest sector of employment in the country. Those individuals rely solely on their handcrafted goods as a source of income, and Macy’s has teamed up with them by selling some of those goods through the store’s Macy’s Gifts That Give Hope line, which features products that give back to the communities that make them. Heart of Haiti offers really, really beautiful handcrafted pieces of home decor that liven up your house while also providing sustainable income for the artisans that produce them: Each artisan receives 50% of the profits for each of their pieces that are sold. That’s fair trade, and it’s pretty amazing.

As part of writing about this line, I got to check out a piece from the collection, the Jonas Sunflower Metal Lantern, which can be used inside your house, or outside on your patio. Watch this video of artisan Jonas Soulouque, who crafts these lanterns out of recycled oil drums. Really. Watch it. It’s amazing.

Beautiful, right? This lantern is pretty much one of the nicest things in my house. Our decorating sense is a little funky, a little eclectic, and a little bohemian, and when we bought our house 4 years ago, we planned on turning our family room into a hip but comfortable hangout. Then we found out we were pregnant the day that we closed on our house. Over the years, the cool pieces that we have as part of our home decor have been joined by blocks, toy trucks, and plastic drums. We have been working to reclaim our style among the toddler’s stuff, and the Jonas lantern is a good entry back into adulthood. I put it on our back deck in front of the internet-inspired bench that I made out of cinder blocks and 4x4s. The Jonas lantern really adds an easy class to the place. See?

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It’s really stunning, and definitely stands out in the very best way. I am so excited to have it as part of our summer entertaining. You should get one, or any of the other pieces of the collection for that matter, to liven up your own house or give as a gift (Weddings! Graduations! Housewarmings! Whatever!),  and you can find them all here, or at select Macy’s stores.  It’s a great way to support a recovering nation and its artists, while also adding to your home’s beauty. That’s more than win-win. It’s Mega Win-Mega-Win. Is that a word? It should be.

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with a product for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

 

 


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