Black and White Pallet Table

Life is a little bit in upheaval—in a good way. 

I made the leap from part-time job to fulltime job, after vacillating back and forth from the prospects of “more time or more money?”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have both someday?

My employer made the decision easier when they announced that because of the direction the organization was going, my role was now upgraded to a mandatory fulltime role.  The impression I received was that I was invited to keep my job by embracing the upgrade. Read more

Are You An INFP (Why Life Is Better When You Know Your Personality Type)

If you don’t yet know your Myers-Briggs type, take the test here: if nothing else, it’s an interesting conversation topic since so many people have taken it. And it’s always fun to see what people THINK they are versus what they actually are.

When I took mine (twenty-ish times, to ensure reliability), I had the following reactions upon reading my INFP results:

Relieved. All my shortcomings have a scientific explanation. I can stop worrying about them. Read more

perfect imperfection

It was the best Christmas Day we’ve had;  I really do think so.

merry christmas

No one had claim to us. We rolled from bed on our own accord; turned on the 2015 Yule Log (one must do what one must without a real fireplace) and leisurely sipped our coffees. Watched the children’s faces brighten in the kitschy light of our eclectic tree. Garish blues, greens, yellows, reds. I once snubbed such trees for sophisticated white lights, rich gold and crystal elegance.

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But now, the tinsel and the glitter and the candy-shades are a sweet, familiar wonder. They remind me of our happy, bright kids and what I like to think is their happy, bright childhood. It reminds me of their fleeting glee over such razzle and dazzle.

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After we opened gifts, we lounged around the family room as the morning grew across our sugar-dusted neighborhood. When tummies started rumbling, I threw together a brunch of sizzling sausages, salty bacon, toasted English muffins dripping in butter, sunshine-yellow eggs.

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There will be no relative gatherings until tomorrow and the next day; no stores open, no jobs calling. No reason to hurry, no cause to rush.

Long, idling movies. Old, well-worn sweaters, steaming mugs of something-or-another, new, thick wool socks.

The kids quietly played with their new things.

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I dreamed and wrote idling words, knowing they were a waste of time—pure indulgence—and that they were just for me.

Brian worked on assembling his newest creation—a herringbone-patterned coffee table made from pallet boards. Yesterday, he delivered another recycled-wood table to a bright young entrepreneur furnishing his new office space in Minneapolis’s warehouse district.

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This whole thing of creating, designing, repurposing and upcycling has been an interesting new journey for us.

Good for our marriage, even; another common venture that knits us together. A reminder that what is scarred, faulty and undesirable can be refashioned into something new, lovely and good. In both the physical and the metaphysical realms we inhabit together.

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Who knows if this venture will ever be anything more than a simple pleasure that brings us a simple kind of joy? Joy over creating something out of nothing or making what was discarded desirable again?

Sometimes, I’ve asked myself why we care about any of this.

But the answer is the same, even when I forget it for awhile: because it gives us a way to pay homage to one of our deepest values.

Creating home.

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And one realization floating around the peripheral of this last year is that what is simple, humble and imperfect is sometimes what is perfect.

In our relationships. In our endeavors. In our home.

We’ve remodeled many homes together, and during those early experiences, I felt frustrated by a desire for big, beautiful, new, and perfect. Because that is the sort of home that seemed, at that time, to be best. And within in, WE would be our best.

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It was the same with achievement: anything less than an advanced degree, an easy marriage, prestige in a job, fatness of bank account, well-behaved, well-accomplished children, physical attractiveness and a strong network was proof of some terrible failure needing reconciliation.

Sometimes, I wish a wise old woman would have taken me aside and whispered the magic spell that would have dissolved such fallacies. Oh the heartache, the depression and the pain it would have saved me from.

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And yet, I sense that it wouldn’t have mattered; that I wouldn’t have known how to make my heart believe and understand such words. Any more than I would have appreciated, at the time, the words penned by the Apostle Paul:

 I know how to live when I am poor.

And I know how to live when I have plenty.

I have learned the secret of being happy at any time

in everything that happens.

I have learned to be happy when I have enough to eat

and when I do not have enough to eat.

I have learned to be happy when I have all that I need

and when I do not have the things I need.

 I love the words: I have learned the secret.

It isn’t something told or born into.

It is a transformation that happens within, I think—and when it does, the world appears a more benign, hospitable place.

Some people learn the secret early, some later and others—tragically—never.

Sometimes I imagine what I’ll share with my children from my own life: the tales of loss and redemption. The soaring heights of happiness, the most onerous sort of pain. Profound wisdom, lofty ignorance. Ugly truths, and yet beautiful ones, too. Imagine that I’ll urge them to listen and learn, so the canvases of their lives aren’t striated with as many imperfections as mine.

But—then again—perhaps I’ll keep just keep quiet and let them live their lives. After all, it seems the person with the muddied storyline has the same opportunity for learning the secret to happiness as one living the pristine fairy tale.

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And so, really, does it matter how much we are able to manipulate the landscape of our journey? It’s all shifting and temporary, anyway.

When beauty, health, love, wealth and career opportunity that were here today, are gone tomorrow, can we be satisfied by the memory of love? The beauty of a sunset? The wealth of a good chuckle? The opportunity to be selfless and kind, even when the world no longer sees it or cares?

And so I hope my children learn—I hope I learn—not the secret to success, but the secret to seeing the beauty and the good and the hand of God, in no matter what comes.

If not right away, then at least eventually.

Boy’s Room Make-Over

It’s tough being the middle kid.

Not that my husband (the eldest of his siblings) or I (the youngest of mine) know this firsthand.  But we see the struggles our second-born-son-third-born-child faces.  The last few weeks have been rough for him–lots of temper tantrums, tears, frustration.  Rough for mom and dad who love him so much, but must continually seek ways to teach him confidence, appropriate ways to express anger and, above all, help him develop a sense of self-worth and belonging when he feels lost.

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No one ever says parenting is easy. And I am sure we do it all wrong sometimes.

But we try hard to figure out how to give our son what he needs.

Because, when all is said and done, we believe that is what this whole parenthood thing is about.  What does this little man NEED to feel loved, valued, empowered, safe and secure?

Sometimes the answers are not as obvious as one might imagine; we are all so different in what makes us feel those things.

But we press on to find these answers because we believe the hard work of creating family, of raising kids–is so worth it.

Our little boy went off to Grandma and Grandpa’s house over MEA weekend, and we decided to do something special for him while he was gone. Something that says, “We love you.  We hear you.  We value you.  We are so happy you are OUR boy. No matter what.”  Something that embraces his interests and the bright, beautiful colors of his personality.

joey shelf

For years, his room has been a hideous grimy shade of yellow with an equally hideous wallpaper border.  It was quite possibly the ugliest room in the house.

But when J came home, it was no longer any of those things.

It was suppose to be a quick, Tuesday night project.  It ACTUALLY took three full days to complete.  Mainly because that wall paper border decided it wasn’t coming down alone and took with it big chunks of drywall.  Of course, the walls then had to be mudded and sanded.

Then the first layer of paint.  Gray.  Safe, neutral gray. Not exactly what our nine year old would have ordered.

BUT.

There would be a redeeming accent wall with plenty of color.

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He loves Minecraft, like every other boy in the universe.  And while there are many true-blue Minecraft themed rooms out there on Pinterest, with the authentic building blocks painted on the walls and everything, I assessed our natural, God-given talents before getting too carried away.

It turns out that plain, honest-to-goodness squares are what we are awesome at.  And that Frog Tape is our new best friend.

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I was also determined to use leftover paint from our furniture projects.  Lucky for us, the colors we had stocked were very Minecraft-y.

We have lots of scrap wood laying around the garage, and the kids love trying their hand at building shelves or bird feeders or whatever else catches their fancy.

This wood piece was something J himself made–and I wanted to make sure HIS handiwork was evident in his own room.  And so it became his headboard, after stenciling his initial for a pop of color.

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I love how it is rough, rugged and reclaimed–and how old deck boards have a new life as ART.  I love how he made it himself, beaming with pride as his daddy taught him how to cinch the boards tight.  Just. So.

Should-to-shoulder, side-by-side.

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When J came home, we had the great reveal.

He loved it.

The bright walls.

His headboard that HE created.

How his siblings whined that we never did anything this nice in THEIR rooms.  He basked in the delight of being the new owner of The Best Bedroom In The House.

And when things settled down and everyone filed out, I happened to peek in as he sat alone in his room.  He sat still on his bed (had I ever seen him in the state of stillness before?) gazing around him.  Taking it all in.

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And on his face was the biggest smile I had seen in a long time.

It was a smile that said he felt special.  He felt loved.

This is one instance when I felt utter confidence that we, as parents, totally did it right.

No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream

With apples……

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and pears………

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…so abundant in the Osweiler house,  the scene was ripe (hehe!) for creating a delicious and yet simple no-churn vanilla ice cream to accompany the fruit.

The task actually fell to my oldest daughter, Bre, who happens to be a connoisseur of vanilla ice cream in general.  She also follows her Grandpa Raymond’s example and makes a kickin’ apple pie.  Pretty impressive for a lass of merely eleven!

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So simple, and yet authentically rich and creamy, there is no reason to not have the kids make their favorite home-made ice cream flavors.

vanilla bean icecream

Quite literally, this recipe is 4 ingredients:

No-Churn Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod

3 tsp of vanilla extract

Combine the cream, seeds and extract; with an electric mixer, whip on high until stiff peaks form.  Fold in sweetened condensed milk.  Pour in a container and freeze for a minimum of four hours.

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Viola!  Serve with baked apples or baked pears…

Or, of course, just enjoy it all by its sweet, indulgent self.

 

 

 

 

September

Oh, I do love everything about this month.

The yellow school buses that whisk the kids back to school, structure and schedules.

The annual trip to the apple orchard.

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The heaps of apples on my new farmhouse table–so pretty!  (I will elaborate more on the table later–with a pictorial debut, of course.)

apples

The forthcoming apple-y desserts that this impossibly simple, no-churn vanilla ice cream will compliment so nicely.  (Visit Umami, the coolest food website ever, to read about my other adventures with no-churn ice cream, and much, much more.)

vanilla ice cream

My birthday (35 of them thus far and feeling grateful for hearth, health and people to love. What more can we ask for?

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Weekend excursions out of the city, such as a girls’ weekend with my daughter, Bre, and mom, Diane, to Lacrosse.  Which, in case you didn’t know, is a cute-as-a-button little berg along the Mississippi River.

A stop for ice cream on Pearl Street…coffee shop

A jaunt along the river that inspired an urge to re-read Mark Twain…

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We did all the usual girl things:  painted our nails, ate too much food, wandered through shops smelling soaps and lotions such as these found at Painted Porch:

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I want to live at Painted Porch because it’s so pretty. In fact, I want to live anywhere there are sparkling chandeliers, soft whites and creams, clean, floral scents and pretty things displayed on gorgeous furniture.

Here’s me and my girl, Bre:

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We combed through a three-storied antique store, looking for brands like Wedgewood because blue and white dinnerware has become a bit of an obsession lately. Just ask this chippy little piece off of which I eat my breakfast every blessed morning.

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For me, September heralds a celebration of comfort, of appreciating the harvest, of a slow, reflective lingering. Summer’s heat clings to the air yet, but it feels less serious, less condemning. The days are still sun-soaked, and yet the nights are cool enough for hot cider and long cuddles.

I celebrate this time of year—my favorite time of year—by attempting to make our home warm and autumnal, artistic and functional, cozy and accommodating. (Check out my article for Polka Dot Powerhouse here for more on blending art and functionality when decorating.)

These are some of our favorite efforts I will be showcasing soon:

A new and improved French Farmhouse Table (the old one found a new forever home)—big enough for our family plus a few guests. Here’s a sneak peak (er, ignore the photos stacked on the chair):

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A sectional for the family room which we snagged off Craigslist in a fete that almost ended tragically (anyone else ever buy an enormous piece of furniture WITHOUT taking measurements first?). Ah. Sectionals are expensive, but they are a must-have for large families. Luckily, people move and downsize often, making used sectionals available quite often.

It is quite comfy, and we’ve suddenly developed an even greater love for loafing in front of the TV.

A White Pedestal Table for the banquette in the kitchen. This table wasn’t very pretty when we first found her—but after copious amounts of sanding, chalk paint and polyacrylic, she is shiny, clean and bright! Also, she handles a good scrubbing when remnants of last night’s dinner are forgotten until the next morning.

I am mid-way through about half a dozen other projects and I can’t waaaaaiiiit to be done with them in order to share them. But alas. Life gets busy and we do what we can with a finite amount of time each day.

Besides.

It’s still September and we don’t want to rush any of it.

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35

Sometimes, when you’re sitting on the deck after work with a glass of Pinot Noir in your hand, you tip your head back and think about other summers that came and went.  Especially when you’re 35 and panic is setting in because things that once recalled clearly are getting all fuzzy-edged.  And because you are beginning to preface far too many conversations with, “I think this happened, but it’s possible I just dreamed it.”

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Oh, it’s not that bad, most of the time.

But Virginia Woolf did say that, “Nothing has really happened until it has been described.”

And that is such a waste, because people LIVE such interesting happenings.  They just forgot to tell the stories–and then they eventually forget the stories all together.

And so I wrote this memory because, as I savored those last drops of Pinot Noir and felt the stickiness of late-summer heat cocoon around me, there were a few, rare telepathic moments with the girl I used to be.  I could recall and sympathize with how both immense and small the world once looked through her eyes:

As teenagers, my friends and I meandered around our sleepy harbor village, manufacturing whatever occurrences we could because nothing—NOTHING—happened on its own accord.

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The village grown-ups adored this, but for anyone between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, it really was excruciating. Usually, we ended up at Syl’s Café, eating mozzarella sticks, drinking gallons of sugar-and-cream assaulted coffee and pining for a more exciting existence in the Big Somewhere Else.

In the throws of this ennui, my best friend and I camped all night on the beach because a few boys from the Big City who were rumored to play in a band—an ACTUAL band—were visiting relatives nearby. The possibilities for first kisses and summer love seemed, for the first time, breathlessly within reach.

On a beach, just like it was for Sandy and Danny (although, they looked like old people, not teenager,  and this disturbed me at the time.  Actually, it still does.)

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And if neither love nor kiss happened before fall, I was prepared to crawl in hole and die.  And so we supplicated that the Boys weren’t too scrawny or too fat or nurtured wispy mustache hairs which some teenaged boys felt compelled to do.

A fire was built.

Soon, as we had hoped, the Boys came around.

Immediately, we began to flirt; at least, we began something that felt like flirting.  We had never attempted it before—not really, anyway–and so of course, weren’t any good at it.

The Boys, who were gratifyingly good-looking, didn’t seem to care and made somewhat of an effort to impress us.

They seemed resigned to the fact there was little else to do on this isolated edge of the universe but ingratiate a few local girls who gazed at them as if they were demi-gods from another universe.

And so the evening progressed towards glorious possibilities; when the oldest one sat with me at the fire, shoulder against shoulder, I reveled in self-assurance that my first kiss was all but certain by the night’s end.

And the next day, my diary would have its most interesting entry EVER.

He talked about himself—a lot—and made derogatory remarks to no one in particular and everyone in general. A small voice suggested that on any other night, in any other setting, I might think he was a jerk and hate him.

But another—louder—voice pointed out that his eyes were impossibly dark and that he was a musician and so he could be a little bit jerk-ish. How many handsome, saxophone-toting boys would sit next to me at twilight before I was too old and too gray for it to matter?

This was for sure my only chance.  And so I thought hard and tried to channel every film femme fatale I had ever studied who smiled and giggled and batted her eyelashes.

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The balmy summer air, the purring tide, the way everyone’s skin looked like creamy, melted toffee in the firelight.

Right off the silver screen.

But none of it mattered because, just as it seemed the moment had nearly ripened, a large figure broke out of the shadows.  A Dad charged on the beach and chased the Boys away in just the manner that dads do that sort of thing.

We had to promise we wouldn’t let them come back; they didn’t try and this disappointment seemed especially bitter as we settled in our sleeping bags and stared up at the open sky. In the movies, they would have tried to sneak back, long enough to deliver a phone number or an address or a token of love requited.

It was a clear sign that nobody would ever kiss us and life would always be boring and, come to think of it, every girl in the universe was prettier and luckier and better dressed, and so what was the point of hoping for anything.

On the tail of such dejection came an abrupt awareness of self-preservation; sleeping in the open was, after all, an invitation for a bear to shred us alive. Maybe a serial killer would stumble upon us and our faces would flash on shows like Unsolved Mysteries or Dateline with their creepy incidental scores.

I was very cold; the fire burned low. My skin prickled with goose bumps, my teeth made a horrible jack-hammer sound in my head and the tears welled hot, spilled and then cooled on my cheeks.

This night was nothing like I had anticipated.

WHY would our parents let us sleep on the beach with boys, bears, serial killers and hypothermic cold posing as very real threats?

It was obvious they really didn’t love us.

All night, long after my best friend left me alone on the beach to travel the Land of Nod, my eyes were wide open; first, with terror, then with wonderment.

A celestial performance was unfolding in the horizon. A dozen moods of nightfall, mirrored by a serene Superior below, slow danced with the stars from dusk until dawn. I forgot everything—city boys, parents, murderers. The aching cold.

I wished I knew the words that described what I saw. I wished I knew the artist strokes that could capture it forever.

I felt inadequate.

And yet also significant.

On that lonely, desolate shore, I alone witnessed magic while the rest of the world was oblivious; it felt big.

Bigger than anything else; and I alone was part of it.

The next morning, we dragged ourselves off the beach towards home.

Without a backwards glance, the Boys returned to the Big City, to their band and, most likely, to their gorgeous Big City girlfriends.

And when all was said and done, his eyes were never that dark, and boys one meets on  beaches often end up being jerks.

Just like in the movies.