Blurbs.

I’ve been itching to start writing again. My archives are a goldmine of memories and experiences and life is just as wonderful now – I’d hate to miss out on these years! So a quick catch up…

The one thing I’ve loved the most since our move to Vienna has been the weekends. Living in (and commuting to) Bristow meant that weekends were jam packed with everything I could never get to during the week. I mean, my commute alone was like 4-5 hours a day. Add a 9 hour work day, an hour to get ready in the morning, and getting home in time for dinner and bedtime routines…nothing got done. Saturdays and Sundays were so stressful trying to fit it all in.

Now, we actually get to spend our weekends doing…nothing. Whatever we want. Friday nights we tend to stay in. Play outside late. Make dinner and eat it out on our deck. Make art or blow bubbles. We’ll wander in around 7 and watch a movie together with popcorn. Once Guinevere is in bed, Tyler and I sometimes watch a movie. Recently, Tyler took up playing the ukulele. I know, as I’m cutting everything out of my life and essentially now have no hobbies, my husband that is a master woodworker, owner of the greenest thumb, an incredible artist, computer genius extraordinaire, has taken up yet another hobby. Almost every night as I read quietly in bed, I hear him out strumming in the living room. The stress is gone, and a giant weight has been lifted from both of us. We’re…happy. Its so simple and amazing that a move has done so much.

Saturday mornings are often spent wandering over to the Mosaic District for their Cartoons + Coffee. They play old school cartoons on the big screen and you can grab a homemade pop-tart or cinnamon roll and iced coffee from any number of shops there. The kids can burn some energy, and its a nice start to the day – plus it has you out and about if you need to run any errands. Guinevere is all about the powdered donuts:

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Recently, we did a four week stint of ballet with my best friend and her daughter (who is Guinevere’s best friend). I LOVE living so close to my best friends now – I’m 15 minutes from one and 20 from the other and we can do mid-week ice cream dates and last minute meet ups. I didn’t realize I’d needed them as much as I do, and I’m so grateful for this new time together, even if its gossiping for 45 minutes on a wooden bench while two little fairies practice their arabesques.

Is there anything cuter?

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In Bristow, we had a house cleaner because otherwise, I never would have found time to get it all done. But also, that house was pretty dang  big. Our new house is a lot smaller. The amount of purging I’ve done here is unbelievable…bags and bags of clothes and craft stuff and party supplies and furniture…it was crazy. Bristow home was like 2500 finished square feet but once you factor in the amount of stuff we had in the attics (OMG), the giant two car garage, and the huge unfinished basement…you’re over 4000sf. New home says 1100 square feet, plus the master addition. So maybe 2000? But no attics, no unfinished basement, and no garage. So it feels like half the size, and might even really be less than that. I did really love those massive closets…ha. But here, now that I have FINALLY downsized our belongings to fit in the space (and yes, I managed to puzzle one closet to fit 4 fake Christmas trees and 16 large tupperware containers of decorations!), its small enough and manageable enough to not really need a house cleaner. So that’s pretty cool…saving money, and staying on top of it on my own. Plus my kid has discovered that she gets paid for chores, and Pokemon cards aren’t free, so she’s all “This toilet seems a little dirty…”

I give her a quarter per chore, and she finished the master bathroom and was all, “Cool, so I did the toilet, the floor of the shower, and the counters. That is three quarters.” Except mean old mom is all “Bathroom is one chore, one quarter. I’ll give you two more if you do the other two bathrooms.” She was pretty irritated, but is now learning to bargain up front.

Guinevere is as awesome as ever. Still obsessed with superheroes, and her bedroom is not even close to Pinterest worthy. There are giant Spider-Man decals and a Spider-Man bedspread, and a gallery wall she hung herself with printed out Instagram pictures or pictures cut from family Christmas cards, and scotch tape. All the pics are uneven but she did it so its lovely.

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What else has this summer been full of?

Meeting up with friends at a local brewery, Caboose. And having communication issues with Uber and discovering that while two miles is a long walk, we can actually walk home from the brewery.

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Dinner parties with friends and babies:

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Free outdoor concerts…we’ve done the Herndon Friday Night Live, the Thursday night concerts at the Fairfax Corner stage, and the Vienna shows. My little rockstar is all about the music.

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Pop Up Taco Night at Bazin’s Next Door in Vienna:

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A last minute trip up to the Baltimore Aquarium:

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Day trips to local “beaches”:

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Always, a few #whatguineverewore:

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And I’m still a sucker for a good matching outfit 😉

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Next priority has gotta be taking pictures of the new space. Its not quite “done”, but it feels ten times more like home than Bristow ever did, and I’m so grateful we found this home and took the leap to move! Lots more happy memories to come…

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A new adventure

Its official…we sold our home in Bristow and moved into a beautiful new home. The past five months have been a whirlwind of stress and chaos and more tears than I thought possible over bricks and wood, but it is so true that everything happens for a reason.

When we decided to move, we settled on Reston. Everything about that city seemed perfect for us.  Near a metro! Ubers! Shopping and restaurants! Family-oriented suburbs! We had the worst luck with homes though. We found an amazing house and had six rounds of back and forth negotiations, and some really bad advice from our agent resulted in us losing the house. We found another house and made an offer, which was accepted but from the start the whole deal was rather difficult. Tyler and I went to the home inspection and I felt anxious – nothing about the house felt right for us and I thought we were in too deep. When the inspection turned out repairs and issues upwards of $80K, we asked for $10K back from the sellers to cover them, and they flipped out and threatened our agent that we needed to void the contract, they didn’t want to sell to us and wanted to go back on market, wanted nothing to do with us, etc. It was always a really hostile transaction, and we walked away.

At this point, we’d toured every home in Reston, and a few in Oakton. I checked my Redfin app more than my email (and I am ALWAYS checking my work email), and we decided to expand our search, when Tyler sent me a home he found. It would have never triggered any of my searches because it was listed as 1100 square feet and I had a minimum of 1750 on my searches, but it had an addition that wasn’t counted yet by MRIS.

It was absolutely perfect. We went out the next day, fell madly in love, and made an offer. We then had even more issues with our agent, fired him, got a new agent, and were officially under contract. Our amazing lender managed to get us to close in about 20 days, and the entire process was seamless. After building our first home from the ground up, it was hard looking at older, run down homes and knowing that we’d had a beautifully remodeled home in Bristow. This house, however, was a flip. Built in 1960, purchased last Fall by a construction company, and completely gutted and remodeled. The amazing part is that they put so much thought into the details and the craftmanship was excellent. The best part is that its now mine.

I’d never even considered moving to Vienna, and it already feels like this town was made for me. The schools that Guinevere will go to are amazing. The backyard and the giant trees are so peaceful. The neighbors are SO nice. Seriously, every one keeps coming over to say hi and it has been the best reception. And best of all, we are in the middle of everything. We’ve already had one date night (Uber-ed to a local brewery! The beers were delicious and I had a Rabbit Pot Pie that was to die for). We’ve had family nights in the Mosaic District, watching Guinevere play in the splashpad while we get sandwiches from Taylor Gourmet. Even the Target is amazing.

Best of all? My commute, that used to consist of me in a car for 5 hours a day, is down to under ONE HOUR. I’m at work in 30 minutes on the metro. I have so much of my life back, and we’re all walking around all happy and crazy. The smaller space is taking some getting used to (I lost my attic, unfinished basement, and garage, so basically no storage) but I love the idea of de-cluttering and getting back to a more streamlined lifestyle, so this is actually a good thing. My friends that I keep demanding take my appliances and baking tools and clothes might agree as well.

So please, let me introduce you to my forever home. We are so excited to start settling in and setting up here!

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House Tour: Kitchen

We’re moving. Have I mentioned we’re moving? Probably not here since I never blog, but its all I talk about on Instagram and Facebook. Part of getting our house ready to sell was updating our kitchen. You wouldn’t think it needed much, considering that we built our house in 2008, but we wanted to make it more appealing to new buyers. And now it is bee-you-ti-ful. Still not my dream kitchen, but I’m not staying here so it doesn’t have to be 😉

First, a before. To see how far we’ve come!

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And the after!

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

New granite counters. I do not recommend the company we used (Discover Granite, based in Manassas). The company had serious communication issues and terrible customer service. The installation was fine, but I can’t get over terrible service, delays, and lack of communication. It was beyond stressful dealing with them.

But man, are they pretty.

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

We removed the window treatment and it is SO BRIGHT in here now! So much light!! Tyler also installed hard-wired under cabinet lighting with dimmers. Now that light bounces off the white counters and backsplash and its so beautiful in the evening.

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

Love the mix of white and warm wood.

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

Herringbone subway tile backsplash with light gray grout. My favorite part of this kitchen!

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

Sink is from Lowes, the Giagni Fresco pull-down kitchen faucet, and we LOVE it. Will definitely re-purchase for next home. Link here.

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

Stools are Threshold Industrial Barstools from Target. Link here.

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

In addition to the new lighting (Lowes), we redid the pantry. Originally a crappy bi-fold door, its now a solid french door with frosted glass panels, interior lighting, and a solid handle. The wobbly wire shelves were replaced with solid wood shelving.

Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen. Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen. Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen. Modern kitchen, dark cabinets, river white granite, white subway tile herringbone pattern, docksta tulip table, mid century modern kitchen.

I’ll try to post more pictures of other rooms as we wrap them out. As of now, the professional photographer is coming out Friday to photograph the house. Anyone looking to buy in Bristow, VA?!

Guinevere the Expert: PlayDoh Egg Unboxing Videos

I’m a fairly strict mom. I demand respect, enforce good manners, and often have Guinevere repeat a request multiple times until she removes any trace of a “tone” or attitude. Tyler and I are her parents, we are afforded certain privileges as adults, and Guinevere has a role to play as a child – not interrupting us when we talk to other adults, listening, and learning social cues of what is acceptable behavior and when it is required.

I also think I’m a pretty fun mom. While she has become accustomed to solo play as an only child, Tyler and I also frequently like to join her in playing with PlayDoh, pulling out board games in the evening, indulging whims of breakfast for dinner or a rainy day trip to Chuck E. Cheese. We love doing science experiments together and can be found in jammies on Saturday mornings making volcanoes erupt and “potions” changing colors.

So when she asked to start her own YouTube channel, we laughed and said “sure”. She told us she wanted to call it “Guinevere the Expert” and she’d teach kids things like how to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Sounds great. 

She asked to have the background music play songs by Twisted Sister, her favorite band. You haven’t lived til you’ve pushed a three year old in a cart in Target while she’s singing “We’re not gonna take it. No! We ain’t gonna take it!”

Then, she discovered unboxing videos. I read an article about a YouTube channel that made $4.9 million dollars last year opening toys. It sounded real dumb, but I made the mistake of watching it with Guinevere nearby and she was hooked.

Her favorites are the Disney Cars Toy Club (DCTC) that happen to have giant eggs decorated in PlayDoh that are filled with blind bags, or bags of toys that you don’t know exactly what you’ll get. And then she came up with the genius idea that Tyler and I should just buy HER lots of toys, and film her opening them. We laughed, then ordered a ton of toys online and stayed up super late one night decorating a giant egg, and surprised her with it.

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Basically, her life is made and she is telling everyone that she is famous on YouTube. And has asked about 4681355847 times when she gets to do it again. Lucky for her, we have enough toys for a few more videos, so we plan to do another one this weekend. It was actually a lot of fun – we had a ton of interaction but edited ourselves out to keep the length shorter – and lets be honest, she’s the real star here. But it made for a super fun family bonding activity, and Tyler and I really enjoyed working on the egg together the night before after she went to bed.

So here it is, our debut episode of Guinevere the Expert. Subscribe to the channel (I am learning so much here!) to see future videos, that will include better audio and visuals because I’ve ordered an external mic and have been watching tutorials on shooting video with my Canon. Lord, the things this kid gets us into!

Blogging

I got a Facebook message this morning from a friend asking if/why I quit blogging. It looks like its now been two months since my last post.

In my mind, I haven’t really quit. I’m constantly thinking of posts in my head – when I tried a new recipe, or re-decorated my great room, or bought Guinevere a fur vest (!) – these are all things I’d normally want to document. I’m constantly thinking about pictures and funny intros and topics that may be something I’d want to write down for myself but others would find interesting. But in that same mind – I’m over it.

Blogging was pretty badass back in 2007-2009. Everyone that I “knew” back then became a true friend. I checked their blogs daily as I became immersed in their lives, and they in mine. We commented on every post. We tweeted thoughts and suggestions and words of support. It was a community. We lifted each other up. In my circles, it certainly wasn’t “elite” – only one person I really knew from back then went on to become a professional blogger – there were military wives and baseball players’ girlfriends and a whole lot of people that I had known from The Knot and The Nest forums back in the day. I’ve kept in touch with most of the originals – we’re Facebook friends and real-life friends and email pals. And we’ve all slowly stepped away from the keyboard.

You see, its changed. Blogging isn’t about sharing your life, and building relationships with like-minded women. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from people in the last few years about wanting to start a blog because they want to make money to quit their job and stay at home. It doesn’t work like that (it can, but really, it doesn’t). And these days, everyone has a blog. Blogging today is about followers. Its about sponsors. And its about money. Sometimes friendships forge – but I see more catty drama than meet ups and get togethers. I meet one person at a conference that is roomies and buddies with XYZ person, and later run into XYZ person who dishes and spills on the first. Um, what? Guys, I’m in my 30s. I have a kid. I have super awesome friends in real life. Ain’t nobody got time for internet drama.

I made the mistake of installing an app called Followers +. It tells me everyone that unfollows me on Instagram. I can also see all of the people that I follow that don’t follow me back. And I noticed that a big group dinner that I went to with like 20 bloggers at the LuckyFABB conference, where we took a picture and tagged everyone and all followed each other …all but one had then unfollowed me. I see constantly where people follow me, and then I guess if I don’t follow them back, then unfollow. Gotta have a higher  number of followers than those you follow! Or something. Doesn’t make much sense to me. I follow people any time they leave me a comment or interact with me. And I follow people I come across that are interesting. I unfollow accounts that are inactive, and thats about it. I’m pretty consistent on Instagram – pictures of the kid, pictures of shoes, the occasional selfie. If  you follow me, theoretically, its because you like those things. I don’t stray from that pattern – so how come in the last month 41 people have unfollowed? I can only assume because I didn’t return the follow back favor to bump their numbers, even though they never attempted to engage or interact. Only one was a person I actually knew or heard of.

I’m also REALLY tired of the sponsored posts. I loved my Google Reader because I could scan through and “catch up” with my friends. Now its promote this and advertise that. Kotex, Kleenex, Baby Butt Paste, cars, chapstick…you guys don’t really care. You all are applying for every promotion that Blogher or SITS girls or Clever Girls or whatever other ad network is offering, and just watching that PayPal balance shoot up. Or, you’re doing group giveaways. You could win this great prize, but you  must follow 25 people on Instagram, Twitter, Bloglovin, leave a comment, and retweet – all mandatory entries!!

I’m sure for many of you, these paid opportunities are a blessing. And the money adds up – October 2013 was the last month I accepted sponsors or did paid promotions, and I made $800 that month. Thats a serious boost to household  bills and debts for some. For me, I always tried to only apply to programs that I actually used/believed in. I did the Invisalign promotion after already having Invisalign. I did the Vidal Sassoon event because I purchased their products. But I was getting to the point where I was grasping at straws to justify my relation with a product – to still be genuine and authentic and still get a payout. Like the time I did a social media thing on Facebook and Twitter for milk. I drink milk! I should get paid to talk about milk! And I did. It was dumb. So I did some soul-searching last year and decided that I wasn’t going to do any more sponsored/paid posts or promotions. I might still do some affiliate links, but disclosed at the top of each post per my preference. But blogging is NOT a profit game for me anymore. And I don’t like seeing the blogs I’ve loved so desperate for income that the soul of their site is gone.

The blogging bubble burst, just like we all knew it would. Readers can’t trust bloggers – they’d rush out to purchase a lipgloss their favorite beauty blogger mentioned in 2008. Now, anything sponsored makes them a sell out. You see bloggers like Pink Peonies recommending one skincare product then another, so quickly that your head spins. Pretty soon, you don’t believe anything they push. The conferences are dying – Blissdom, Blogher wasn’t selling out, and quite a few other conferences are gone. Even huge blog powerhouses like Young House Love are closing up shop. I assume many more will follow suit soon.

As for me? I haven’t quite washed my hands over here. But its certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

I took a few steps back for several reasons –

1. I’m busy. I work for myself as an independent contractor and my career keeps me busy. I also may start commuting daily to DC for a new project – thats 4 hours a day commuting, plus an 8-9 hour work day that I’m away from my home. So I’ll probably never return to 5 posts a week because I’m terrible at multi-tasking, and even worse at time management, so my kid will come first, then my husband, and then the DVR and Netflix. And if I’m feeling a little crazy, you might see a blog post.

2. It became difficult to be honest. There were certain people that read here that I knew in real life. They’d read through archives from several years ago, and twist my words and intentions and make something innocent into something crazy. I felt violated and exposed – the one thing about blogging was that it always felt semi-anonymous. I hated having people that knew me try to tear apart my words, and I also felt resentful about sharing parts of myself with those types of people. I spend 98% of my life saying “screw anyone who doesn’t matter” – I put my family and friends before everything else. But sometimes I let insecurity and doubt creep in. I hate when it happens, but I’m human and I tend to be overly sensitive. I’m trying to get better about not taking it personally.

3. It doesn’t feel appreciated. I know, stroke my ego will ya? But when average and boring blog posts used to get 30+ comments a day back 6 years ago and now truly thought posts get 1-2, you wonder why you bother writing and publishing – it makes me want to go back to a personal diary or journal. I had a pretty rad LiveJournal back in the day. You just wonder why you bother with the sharing part. Of course, here’s the flipside – I’m terrible at reading blogs. That is an even lower priority these days for me than writing my own. So its real dumb for me to get annoyed by the current blog/comment landscape when I’m not reciprocating. But maybe that is even more of a reason for me to go private or just shut it down.

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What HAVE I been up to? Life has been pretty dang amazing this year. I hired a personal trainer and am lifting weights 5x a week. I LOVE lifting and am getting so strong. Lets just say I can’t pass by a mirror without flexing. I’m also trying to eat better to start leaning out a bit. I’m getting better about time with friends. I spent a week at the beach with my best friend in September, went to Vegas for four days, have done a lot more happy hours lately and have an upcoming triple date with two couples at this place called Escape Room in DC. Apparently a zombie tries to eat you as you use logic to try to escape the room.

We also just convinced some fun new friends to join us in punting on a traditional Thanksgiving – we’re leaving Wednesday for Great Wolf Lodge with the kids and not coming home til Friday night. I can’t wait. I feel like I’m at a place now where everything is in a really good balance – motherhood, marriage, neighbors, friends, personal quality time. I’m happy.

Feel free to follow along on Instagram. I’m pretty active there. I mostly post pictures of Guinevere and I in matching shoes. You should probably NOT follow me if thats too adorable for you.

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I only tweet when Guinevere says something funny, and I never read my feed because its overwhelming (too many years of entering contests that I never won but had to follow 67 people). And I do still post sometimes on my blog’s Facebook page. And if we’ve interacted before, I do add some blog friends on my personal Facebook page.  So come say hi…I’m still around. Just maybe not here right now.