Sunday, December 26, 2010

My kids, Christmas, and not keeping up with the Jones's

Yep, they're getting older.....I've noticed through the years that the gifts under the tree each Christmas have become smaller and smaller (although they are more and more expensive!). The kids appreciate how hard Rich and I work and the gifts they do receive, yet they understand the meaning of Christmas.

It is interesting to me, especially because we live in a bit of a "bubble" that both kids enjoy the very simple things we do together as a family. We do not take elaborate vacations, and we have all but stopped dragging them through our own agendas. They don't require tons of entertainment. They actually enjoy talking, taking walks on the beach or on a nearby trail, playing board games (I won at Clue last night, woohoo!), and more simple fun activities like bowling and miniature golfing. They have been exposed to art and music, but not in a super formal way. Despite this, they are both very artistic and musical. We have started a new tradition of eating Christmas Eve dinner at a fun, authentic English pub. The restaurant is all decked for Christmas and the food is simple and unique. There are British roots on both sides of the family, and I think we just get a little more in touch when we eat there! Once in a while I serve afternoon tea at home, which everyone loves.

The kids do at times receive gifts that might be considered excessive, such as a new computer. Those gifts are greatly appreciated, and often dearly wished for. But I don't need designer clothing and all the decorating I do is very budget-friendly and/or DIY. Personally, I like the challenge of designing something for half of what most people would pay and dressing well on so much less of what most women spend (hint here: it is all about the accessories!).

We only have one television and this is basically unheard of where we live. It just means we need to share. Personally, I like that the kids do not have their own TV and I am nearly always aware of what they are watching or which games they are playing. Perhaps that makes me seem strict or boring, but everyone is okay with that because this is the way it has been.

Oddly enough, despite our lifestyle, I often feel a need to live even more simply. I have been thinking about this as we move into yet another year and as we prepare to launch our eldest son in another 18 months or so, which hopefully will include college.

So these are my ramblings in this culture of excess. Even with the hurting economy, the excess is just everywhere. And I am not saying I have been immune, no. Just feeling that the Reason for the Season is not there for so many and that even those who are believers can get too caught up in all the extravagence, excess, and waste even with the best of intentions.

Just a closing thought:

"The secret of happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less (SOCRATES)."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White............

Bathroom..........I know, I know. I LOVE Christmas!!!! It is my absolute favorite time of year. My house is lit up with reds and whites and greens, be-ribboned, and sparkly.

I have been putting off a renovation for our master bath for so long.....but finally I am moving toward designing it, at least. Here are my gorgeous inspiration photos (husband does not like the pouf in the first photo, but I've assured him that I have no intention of including said pouf...).

So...I am envisioning light and dark, simple and elegant. Naturally there are some obstacles in the room to deal with, and I am such a DIY-er that budget will be important, but it is fun to imagine the space without it's lovely 1970s harvest-gold-ness. :)

Just for fun: I am linking to even though I have not made anything out of this dream, yet! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


It's been a slow lesson learned, but I have discovered that rest is extremely important the harder I work. Life has increasingly demanded more of me both at home and at work. As a helping professional, it gets exhausting at times and have I mentioned that I have teenagers? Hello? So when Rich told me I had carte blanche on how to spoil him for his 50th birthday, I thought of beautiful Catalina Island. Sure, the kids were with us, but they needed the rest and the break too. Honestly, it was so nice that I really did not want to return home!

Friday, July 30, 2010

First Design School Project/Writer's Retreat in Carmel, CA

For my first design school project and presentation, I was simply given a fictitious client's favorite color: a lovely aqua blue. It was then my job to draft a space plan, and choose all the fabrics, furnishings, paint colors, flooring, window treatments, art and accessories (have I left anything out?) for the space. I chose to draft the plan as a cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea for a female writer to use as a working space and second home. My design concept was primarily traditional furnishings with a feminine touch, an analogous color palette with blues and greens complementing neutrals, and clean, uncluttered lines. The fabrics I chose were mainly from Schumaker and Brunshwig and Fils. Furnishings were by Kravat, Pierre Deux, Thomas Pheasant (Baker), Jan Showers, Mitchell Gold, and Jonathan Franc. A smattering of the materials are on my presentation boards. Yep, I got an A. :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Homemade Pita Chips

Lately I have been craving hummus. I've been on a different path the past few weeks. I think it has something to do with this. Found myself unable to cut chicken up the other day, indeed. But I digress. SO......when my youngest son asked me to make these baked pita chips, I was all for it. I mean, what goes better with hummus than pita chips, carrots and tomatoes? So here is the recipe:

Take a package of good quality pita bread and separate each so it becomes two circles by using scissors around the edge. Then cut each circle into about 6-8 chip pieces depending on the size that "interests" you. Lay on a baking pan inside-side UP. Brush with EVOO (thank you Rachel Ray...I wonder if I could ever go back to calling it simply olive oil?) and sprinkle with kosher (coarse) salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Everyone loves them and they are healthier this way. :D

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bergere Chairs.........ooooooohlala.......

I think I am in love. A pair of these in a fun, graphic, geometric print sound just divine.

My first design project is a fictitious writer client, whose favorite color is Dunn and Edwards' Frozen Wave (essentially aqua). The color was handed to me by my instructor and must be used in 20% of the space. So......I am thinking that these chairs need to be in the picture, most definitely.....probably in white with a dark wood and then some cool graphic blue and bright green pillows. That just might work. I am a total beginner!!!! I will take some photos of my fabric swatches soon. :)

Please note:  all images were found via Google Images.  I only *wish* I personally had these chairs to photograph for you all.  :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Room Design

Here is an object of beauty that I am planning for the writer's retreat I am designing...I love it in the dark bronze laquer....

And here is a very cool site to help with space planning and room design. Much easier than the process by which I am currently learning with architects tools and tons of measuring (read: eyestrain)!!! I wish I had known about it earlier.

ENJOY!!! :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I have been in a cooking and baking mood lately, but a healthy one at least! Here is my homemade salsa recipe that is super quick, easy, and cheap to make (and fast to disappear around my house!):


4 cloves of garlic
1 1/4C fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 14-15 ounce cans of organic peeled and diced tomatoes
1T Cholula sauce (or Tabasco sauce)
1t. salt
1t. lemon juice

Basically throw all of this in a blender and blend until it is the consistency you like. Throw in more Tabasco or peppers for extra oomph. We love it like this. Today I baked my own tortilla chips.....I would have photographed those too, but they have disappeared already!

XOXO, Steph.

Friday, May 28, 2010


As much as I try to fight against it, I simply love to bake. There is something relaxing about it for me. Here are some wonderful bar cookies that I've invented. It is hard to go wrong with three males in the house who will eat just about anything, but these were a definite hit! I tend to make more bar cookies now than shaped cookies simply in the interest of time. These would be great as regular cookies, though.


OVEN 350, Spray 9x9inch pan

1t. vanilla
1C butter
1 1/2C packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4C flour
3/4C almond meal (finely crushed almonds)
1/2t. baking soda
1/2C chocolate chips
1/2C dried cranberries

Bake for about 25 minutes. Enjoy! :)

I am linking to

Thursday, May 20, 2010


*I am linking this post to I have no idea how to attach the actual link thingy!*

Oh I have been busy! Working a 60% contract as a school psychologist and attending design school two days a week has been tougher than I had thought. Meanwhile, I am continually reminded that I am a mother to two boys (both in awkward life stages) as well as a wife. There's laundry to do, bills to pay, cooking to get done, and (continually) a kitchen to clean. Exercise, once an area of intense passion, has pathetically become near obsolete. When I do exercise (I have just returned from the pool!), I am reminded of how frightful my fitness has become compared to not-so-long ago. Ah well.

One nice thing about being a school psychologist is that SUMMERS are OFF!!! Oh it is a HUGE perk!!! I will be in school this summer, but it will afford me a bit more time to exercise and take care of things that have been diet (won't talk about that one right now...).

For my BIG design project this quarter, I was given a floor plan and a random color by the instructor and I am required to use that color in 20% of my design. Today we worked on possible floor plans after completely tracing the blueprint given to us. Let me tell you....this is much harder than it sounds!! There needs to be 36 inches of clearance, a maximum of 24 inches from the furthest point of seating to coffee table, a minimum of 18 inches in between seating and coffee table, etc. My furniture arrangements were just not fitting within these criteria too nicely, but I will get there. I am on a HUGE learning curve. Many students have an art background, I do not. I merely know what I like. :)

So next week we need an inspiration piece for the room. My color is called Frozen Wave....and I am designing this house for a writer. I found this beautiful Roger Muhl painting that will be perfect inspiration for the space. I was freaking out about my color "selection" because there was almost too much I could do with it....very bold/modern, French Country, seaside shabby chic, and so on. But I am actually going with traditional. Go me! I finally made a decision.

So I start with the inspiration piece. We will see how I do!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

DESIGN SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(rendering courtesy of


On the "bucket list" for years has been the yearning to study real design. With both boys in high school next year, it's finally time. I may fall flat on my face, but I will approach returning to school with grace, humility and excitement. All I do in my spare time is look at beautiful architecture, beautiful photography, beautiful interiors, and the talent of those capable of putting it all together.

From my many years of work as a school psychologist, I have a desire to improve spaces for children that are in group make them more happy and peaceful and hopeful. If I end up having any talent at all in this area, I will purpose to help others with it in some capacity. Simple, frugal, balanced, and beautiful design...that will be my aim.

It will be quite different from graduate school in psychology, no doubt. :) My first class begins May 4! Here I go!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Some ramblings on this topic...

While on the treadmill this morning, I noticed one of the gym's televisions sporting a bar graph displaying that America's unemployment statistics are still at about 10%. I have friends who have lost jobs, and know of many other cyber friends who are struggling financially.

The Green movement is so appealing. I helped my older son construct a pamphlet earlier this school year on the billions of water bottles that do not end up being recycled, but rather clog our landfill instead. I hope that people are beginning to "wake up" to the reality of (and the enormity of) the waste in our country. We are a "disposable" nation.

Perhaps it is too big a stretch, but with our nation's economy being the way it is and the necessity of living with less, it is my hope that we become more aware of how MUCH we waste (money, time, food, disposable containers, etc). If everyone improved a little in this regard, our planet would be happier.

What I am writing here are just my own little thoughts that have been building up over the past year or so....a gradual AWARENESS of how wasteful I have been and a slow REFORM of my ways. For example, a year or more ago, if I had a disposable recyclable container while out and about with no recycling container to throw it into, I would likely have simply thrown it in the trash. Now I hang onto it until I can toss it in the proper recycling container. If I had a bunch of potato peelings, I would throw them into the trash. Now I throw them on our mulch pile. And I am more careful with money and food. I save leftover food and transform it into something else. I have nicknamed my husband "The Sweep," because he will take anything leftover for lunch, which also helps us prevent wastefulness and helps with the food budget.

Recently, some of our planting beds died because we had to have our house fumigated (termites were munching through the house in a severe way). Once we cleared the beds out, we began transplanting bushes and plants from overgrown areas, and filled in with some very simple flowers from the Home Depot that cost no more than $20, including mulch. Today I repotted some of my indoor plants, reusing a couple of my old topiary frames I had, so I can recreate these beautiful things on my own. I even made my own window washing solution today with water and vinegar, using a spray bottle from a former life. I know these are just little things, but little things do add up.

My husband harvested about 10 oranges from our tree in the backyard this afternoon (one of which is pictured above) and we got to thinking about growing more of our own produce. Believe me, we have a TINY, SoCal-sized it may be difficult to accomplish this, but I think we will give it a try.

The amount of packaging and cardboard used for convenience foods is mind-boggling to me lately. When you stop and think about it is enormous. People sure eat a lot and then we throw the containers away. I might be sounding a bit "granola" here, but I am beginning to understand more completely how much more healthy it is to cook from scratch (no preservatives and fewer containers) and how much less expensive it is to buy in bulk from bins.

So for now, I see that I am on some kind of road to a displeasure with excess. Too much waste, too much stuff, too much fat, too much disregard for the bigger picture. I am not sure where the road will necessarily go from here, but so far, it appears I am on a track that can only help.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I think about Plan B a lot. Life is Plan B....Plan B is what happens to you while you are desperately working on Plan A. Marilu Henner puts this well: "The key to your life is how you deal with Plan B. You can aim for Plan A. You can arrange for Plan A. But "Plan B" is what actually happens to you. It's your resilience in being able to roll with the punches and move on to Plan B that really makes your life."

Though they might seem trivial and unimportant, here are a few blessings in my current life that have resulted from Plan B:

PLAN B currently has me going to LA Fitness INSTEAD of the beautiful Sports Club/LA, which is further from home. The Blessing in this is that, as a result of this change, I have lost 15 pounds because I am now at a gym consistently.

PLAN B is living in a cookie-cutter late 1970's and quite architecturally boring house INSTEAD of my dream cottage with all it's unique vintage charm and of course, an ocean view. The Blessing of this has been that our affordable house has enabled me to work part-time so that I can be home more with our kids. We have also been able to afford home improvements and changes that we might otherwise not have. I have grown to appreciate all that the house has done for my family...shelter, comfort, a nice location, safety, and even some beauty here and there. :)

PLAN B was a different Junior High School for my younger son, when I sadly realized that the award-winning neighborhood school would not be a good fit for him. The Blessing was that he took a risk, auditioned for the School of the Arts, and was accepted into the Visual Arts Conservatory, where he has been thriving and is surrounded by creative souls.

PLAN B is thinking of options for my precious older son that might not include Plan A, which is sending him off to attend a 4 year college. PLAN B is putting my own agenda and selfish goals aside for my child and being happy that he is happy. I've come a long way on this one!!!

I thank God for Plan B. B is for BLESSINGS.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Healthy Cookies

With my goal of improving the family's nutrition in mind, I have begun, slowly, to creep some alterations and adaptations in amoungst the usual. Am I STEALTH or what? :)
Today I decided to start with something easily devoured in my home....cookies! I chose a typical, traditional peanut butter cookie recipe and replaced the white flour with 100% whole wheat flour, used egg whites for the egg, and replaced the peanut butter and sugars with organic versions of the same. Once I had tasted the dough, I decided that it needed a little oomph and added about a cup of chocolate chips. Voila!
More later,

Saturday, January 2, 2010


HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Christmas was a nice celebration for me this year. My husband, kids and I attended an evening church service at Saddleback Church on Christmas Eve, followed by a very fun dinner out at the Olde Shipe, a British style restaurant and pub which was fabulously decorated for the occasion (complete with party favors). The food was a bit unusual for the kids since it is completely authentic, but they enjoyed it almost as much as my husband and I. Following a relaxed Christmas at our home the next day, we drove to northern California to see my parents and sisters and then went on to lovely Carmel for 2 very short days. It was absolutely gorgeous there. While in NorCal, I had lunch with two of my very dear high school friends. More of that needs to happen! :)

But on to the New Year and a new decade! My goals for this year are Nutrition, Organization and FUN. These are family goals. I cannot say how nice it is to not have this looming New Year's Resolution hanging over my head of "I need to lose X pounds....blah, blah." This year I am in good shape in that department (YAY), although I have to be very careful since I have this annoying love of baking. :) When I reach my goal weight (should be soon) I need to post what I have done to achieve this feat. :) I am always encouraged when I read about how someone has lost weight, particularly when they are in the over 40 category!

Yesterday we took the tree and all the Christmas decorations down and I just got on a roll and started moving and rearranging furniture. I have NEVER liked my living room furniture, color scheme or art very much, having inherited quite a bit of it from Rich's family, and the room is a bit awkward with a piano taking over precious wall space. Our house is a very open concept (leaving little privacy or silence) but, what it lacks in coziness it makes up for in visual freedom and expansiveness. By the end of yesterday, I had coerced my husband into moving some art and shopped the house for new accessories and viola! A change was made. I will post pictures later. It's not hugely exciting, but it doesn't take much for me to get excited about "house stuff."

Once the living room looked vastly improved (having spent not one dime!), I set about replanting one of the flower beds in the front, where some flowers and small bushes had died when we had our house tented 2 weeks ago. For 35 bucks and a lot of elbow grease, I transplanted some other items, and added to them and it now looks so much happier. I am convinced that gardening can make one feel like a miracle worker at times.

I also made homemade turkey soup yesterday. I don't know how I fit that in! Finally, my husband took me to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie and for coffee. We both really enjoyed it. Robert Downey Jr is amazing in the role!

So that is my New Year update. I hope to write more this year, although doing it as a daily task seems a bit daunting, particularly when I have psychological reports, mental health referrals and counseling goals and planning to attend to. But I do love it. Other than my love for people (especially those of the nice, kind variety), some loves that have been constant for me are cycling, dogs, music, decorating, gardening, and..........writing.

HAPPY 2010!


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