Friday, February 29, 2008

House To Do List

I made this list back in early January but I forgot to post it until now. Since my home is both my haven and my workplace, I enjoy working on it and fixing it up. So, here are:


1. Remodel the kitchen. It's an old 1970s kitchen, not pretty at all. It's got good potential though, and since the kitchen is the heart of the home I think it will have a great impact on the rest of the house. Upgrading the kitchen is also usually worth it in terms of the resale value of a house. I'm going to be so happy when this kitchen is like new again. We spend a lot of time there.

2. Get Peter a nice desk. His current desk is a small flimsy corner computer desk that the sellers of the condo we bought right after we got married gave to us. It's an eyesore in our living room and it's the first thing you see when you come in the front door and look over to the right. Another bad thing about it is that it has no drawers, and since Peter runs his own company on the side he's got a lot of paperwork that needs a home. So we really need to get him a big desk that will be functional and also attractive, since it will be in the living room.

3. Upgrade John's room. I've been working on this since I first wrote this list. We replaced his crib with a toddler bed, removed the changing table from the room, got a bigger bookshelf to hold his ever-expanding collection of books, and changed the furniture around. His nursery theme was (and still is) cute little sailboats. He's going to be 3 years old next week and it's time to make his room into a little boy's room instead of a baby's room (as sad as that makes me!). I think we'll go with a solar system theme since he loves that stuff. Just a few days ago I got a cool silver planet lamp to replace his sailboat lamp. Now I want to get new curtains, a few new pictures for the walls, and some other things.

4. Do something to fix up our ugly fireplace. It's in our family room. It's an eyesore. It's red and brown brick with these weird sloppy white streaks, almost like graffiti. Sometimes I don't know what the previous owners of this house were thinking when they did certain things. My friend Jen re-did her fireplace beautifully with a special paint and told me how to do it, so I'm going to try that too. I think I'd also like to have a mantle put up onto the fireplace. This will be a good DIY summer project, although I'm sure I'll need help with finding and installing the mantle.

5. Plant a vegetable garden. This is ambitious for me. I've been wanting to do it for years but I've continuously failed to start a garden. 2008 will be the year that I succeed! I'm going to start a small one and see how it goes. The idea of growing some of our own food is a very appealing one, and I think it will be a great way to teach John about nature and responsibility. I want to grow tomatoes, one of my favorite vegetables, and anything else that will have a good chance of success despite being taken care of by a gardening novice.

6. Get a nice wooden swingset for long hours of enjoyment by John. Apart from nature and a little sandbox, our backyard is a bit boring and I'd really like to have something like that for John and his friends to play with.

7. Get new window treatments. Our blinds are those old white aluminum ones that gather and show dust so easily. Some of them are dented because John has gotten a hold of them. 'Nuff said. I'd like to get white wooden (probably faux-wooden) blinds because they look nice and bright and they're durable.

We could use some new curtains too. They're a little tricky for me. I have very simple tastes for curtains: I like valance ones because I like to have as much light as possible come into the house, and since we have nice views of the woods from most of our windows, I don't see any need to cover the windows up too much. So most of our curtains I don't have a problem with, but some of them could really use a nicer upgrade. I'm not that good with curtain style and I think I might need to hire a consultant to help me with this. They'd probably try to convince me that my style preferences for windows are all wrong, which maybe they are, but that's how I like 'em!

8. Get a new chandelier for the dining room. It's black, modern, and reminds me of a Medieval torture device. I want something a lot different than that sitting over my head when I eat.

As each project on this list is completed this year I'll post before and after pictures. If all goes well, by year's end our house should have a lot of nice improvements made to it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My First Pupu Party

On Sunday evening we went over to Jared and Matisse Madden's home for a "pupu party." If I remember correctly what Matisse said, "pupu" is the Hawaiian term for heavy hors d'oeuvres. We had dinner that way, buffet style, and it was delicious. It's a very good idea for entertaining that I will probably use in the future. We had fun with our friends who were there, and I also really liked the Madden's new place. It's in a big renovated factory from around the Civil War era; you walk down the halls and there's exposed brick from the original factory intermingled with the newly remodeled walls. How ideal for a history-lover like myself! Their condo itself is breathtaking--super-high ceilings and a really cool industrial look.

I tried a new recipe and made this seven-layer bean dip that turned out to be quite good. Go me! I was tempted to buy a frozen appetizer at the store that I could then just pop in the oven, but I remembered my New Year's Resolution to become better about making food. Even though it took more time, it was much more rewarding and I'm glad that I did it!

Here are Amanda, me, Matisse and Guy, Corina, and Jessie. They're all so good-looking! I, however, have been going through an ugly stage lately. This happens every so often where I just don't look very pretty for awhile. I blame it on the winter.

I've always had muscular well-shaped calves but they don't look good here! Anyway, I'll stop being shallow. These are great people and it was fun to get together with them. Things like this help me with another of my Resolutions: to be more social and enjoy life outside of my routine-oriented life more often!

P.S. I stole these pictures from Matisse's blog. Thank you for everything, Tisse!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Longing for Spring

I noticed that I haven't been posting to my blog this month nearly as much as I did last month. I don't have as much to write about politically now that my heart's not in the presidential race anymore. Romney dropping out kind of took the wind out of my sails. Plus, I've been pretty busy this month. But there's so much I want to write about. If only there were more hours in the day! I also have some ideas to improve and update the look of my blog, but I'm afraid that I'll lose everything if I try to make them. Alas, The DSJ remains as it is for now...(that's one of my ideas; I'm thinking about changing my URL to because it's shorter. Should I do it?).

I can't wait for spring and summer! Of course as I write this, there's a snowstorm happening right outside the window just a few feet away from me. I think about the return of warm weather (or at least mild weather) every day, usually many times a day. I know I sound like an old grumpy broken record, but the older I get, the less and less I like winter. It does, however, have a few redeeming qualities: classic, pretty New England snowfalls like today's, Christmas, ice-skating, and hot cocoa. I wish winter was only in December and January and that spring started sometime in February and went to April with summer then going from May to September. Now that would be nice!

Here are some pretty flower pics I took to tide myself over. I grew some pretty tulips in a glass vase in my kitchen for a few weeks, and my Valentine's Day roses ended up blooming beautifully and are still going pretty strong. What the experts say about the benefits of having real flowers in your home is true. I feel happy every time I see them!

The Tulips Experiment:
Day 1
A few days later (they're a little longer)
What happened!? They suddenly grew so fast and shot right up! (Okay, so I forgot to take an updated picture when the leaves sprouted before the tulips came out. But it really did happen before I knew it!)
Voila! (Take that, old man winter!)

I get a little obsessed with blooming roses:

February 14th, when I received this bouquet from my special valentine.
Here they are a few days later...

And even bigger a few days after that...This was yesterday. They're in their full glory and starting to droop a bit now. I love them!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day Memory

Happy Valentine's Day! It's a sweet little holiday that I would hate if I were single, but since I'm not, I enjoy it. I like the traditional things, so Peter got me a lovely bouquet of red and white roses and two dozen of my favorite homemade cake truffles from a local mom who runs her own business out of her home. (We've used her a few times in the past, and she and her desserts are wonderful! Check out her website:

Today itself hasn't been too exciting. It's hard to go out to dinner and other things whenever we want now that it's not just us anymore. It got me thinking about our Valentine's Day celebrations before we had John, and this brought up the memory of one of the sweetest things Peter has ever done for me...Valentine's Day in 2004 (conveniently it fell on a Saturday), when Peter really outdid himself and set the bar pretty high for all future V-Days. We'd been married for almost two years and I guess Peter was still pretty infatuated with me. (Ha ha!)

Here's what he did: He totally surprised me with an elaborate scavenger hunt he had planned. Usually I catch right on when he's planning something but this time I had no idea. That day in the local newspaper were love messages listed on the front page (the ones that people purchase to leave a little note for their beloved), and he left one for me that said "A Valentine's Message for: Donna J. Carlson. A special journey begins 2:00 pm at Lingerie by Susan, 9 Lincoln Highway, Edison." (We were living in Edison, NJ at the time.)

So I drove over to the lingerie shop (scandalous!), where he had bought me something that was wrapped up and waiting in a box. The next step in the hunt was in the box, written as a clever little poem. The women who worked at the shop were in awe that my husband had planned all this. So was I! I next had to go to the mall, specifically to Nordstrom, where there were a few boxes waiting in one of the dressing rooms. Peter had picked out and purchased for me a beautiful black velvet Ralph Lauren evening gown with a jacket to match it, as well as a seriously stylish pair of heels (I knew the salesgirl must have helped him!). I was a little shocked by this point. Next, I had to go to Littman Jewelers in the mall, where he had bought me a lovely heart-shaped diamond pendant necklace to wear with my new dress. To give an example of the little poems that came with each gift, this is what the one said that came with the necklace:

"So now your outfit is complete. I hope that you have enjoyed this little treat.
But your journey is not yet through, for another step awaits you.
Now you need to hurry you see, for we leave for the train by 3:30.
So off you go to the home you have chose, where I shall await you, with a beautiful rose."

How sweet is that!? I couldn't believe all the planning and coordination it took and that everything worked out so well. When I get home I quickly got ready in my new ensemble and we took the train into New York, where we enjoyed a very romantic and special Valentine's Day dinner at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. That's the first (and only) restaurant I've ever been to where there was a serenading violinist. I always thought that was so romantic in the movies and on TV (even though it's frequently used for comedic effect), and to have it actually happen was even better than I thought it would be. The violinist asked what he could play for us, and I requested I Can't Help Falling in Love with You, which was the first dance song from our wedding reception. It was very beautiful and special, and I'll never forget that. After dinner we went to a concert at Carnegie Hall where we relaxed and listened to symphonies by Beethoven (he's my favorite) and Tchaikovsky. It was such a perfect Valentine's Day and I absolutely couldn't believe that Peter did all of that for me. I still can't believe it when I think about it. What a lucky girl I was, and still am!

So you see, Peter has set the standard quite high for himself now. All subsequent Valentine's Days have been much, much more low-key, which is okay. (Example: Where were we the following year on V-Day? We ate a quick dinner at a local restaurant and then went to a baby-care class at the hospital, since John was due to arrive a few weeks later. When we got home we watched Everybody Loves Raymond. Doesn't quite compare with the previous year!) Valentine's Day 2004 will always stand out as one of the nicest, most generous things anyone has ever done for me. Thank you for the memories Peter, and for making me feel like royalty for a day. I love you!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My Resolutions for 2008

I guess they can't really be called New Year's Resolutions anymore because it's almost mid-February. But ever since the new year began I've been thinking about how I want to improve this year. The resolutions that I decided on are the issues that consistently showed up the most in my little self-evaluations. Hopefully by the end of the year I will have improved a lot in these areas. If not, well, I'm not so bad as I presently am, right? (Right?? Ha ha.) So here's what I'm going to work on this year...

1) Exercise regularly. I'm craving the rewards and benefits of really good physical fitness.
2) Eat healthier (more fruits and vegetables, less junk and processed foods and meat); make better meals for myself and my family; become more skilled and creative in the kitchen.
3) Become better about meaningful daily scripture study.
4) Be more social. I'm too much of a homebody who likes to stick to schedules and routines. I need to learn to relax and be more flexible and generous with my time and attention.
5) In balance with Resolution 4, complete the ongoing quest for my personal Holy Grail: get to the bottom of my to-do list so that I can live the life I really want!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

America's Loss

I just spent awhile writing an in-depth but concise analysis about all of the recent goings-on in the race, and it all got deleted. I don't have the energy to write it all over again, so this will have to suffice!

Friday, February 1, 2008

January Review

To me January has always been the bleakest month of the year: the holidays are over, it's cold and dark out, and you're stuck inside most of the time. I'm an optimistic person by nature, but I tend to be at my most grumpy in January. My January this year has been a little tougher than usual: two deaths of people I love (Grandma Cost and President Hinckley), my own grandma was suddenly hospitalized last week, and the recent disappointments of the presidential race. But it wasn't all sad. The good things included Peter's birthday, one or two pretty snowfalls, we got a new fridge and some new furniture, and John continued to grow and graduated from the crib to a toddler bed.

I'm glad that January is now over and February is here. February to me is the last full month of winter, punctuated by a fun little holiday in the middle, with spring waiting to bloom on the horizon. The things I'm excited about that will be happening this month are getting our kitchen remodeled and John will be starting preschool in a few weeks at a good Montessori school we found.

Here are some of my favorite pictures that I took in January that haven't appeared on the blog yet. I love taking pictures!

I know some people make fun of bloggers who put pictures of their pets on their blog. So you can tease me if you want, but I love my pets! This blanket was in the hall waiting to go into the washer and I found Brody cuddled up in it. He is such a mischievous little thing. I have fun chasing him around the house trying to catch him so that I can hold him against his will!
Was Peter saying a prayer or making a wish as we sang "Happy Birthday" to him? If I had to guess I'd say he's praying for whatever his wish is to come true.Check out Christy over John's shoulder. She's totally coveting that dollop of whipped cream on his hand.
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!" Good-bye crib, hello toddler bed! Peter is holding the remains of the crib in the background. John was really excited to get his very own bed to jump on.
These are our pet wild turkeys. They roam into our yard almost daily during the winter months. We have fun watching them. They can fly like you wouldn't believe!
How cute is she? This is John's cousin, Becky, at our house last Saturday.
Bethany is also John's cousin and she will be a guy-magnet when she grows up. She's beautiful! When John takes a nap he likes to sleep in the corner of his room behind the chair. I don't know why! He sleeps in his bed at night but he doesn't usually take naps in it.
Peter is John's favorite person in the world. He loves his daddy so much. It's really sweet!
I like how John is a little nature boy, even in the dead of winter!Mmmmm, pasta...delicious but messy. I don't think John wanted me to take this picture. He looks ticked!
I love Christy. We've been together for a long time. She's my shadow.
This photo is part of my documentation of a major project that I completed yesterday. It took me months, but finally, after 5-1/2 years, I got all of my wedding and honeymoon things organized and stored properly. These are the photo albums and scrapbooks. In the basement now are three storage containers with all the mementos I wanted to keep. It was such a pleasant trip down memory lane to go through everything, but it was hard work to get it all organized and I'm so glad it's done forever!
I hope you all have a wonderful February. Thank you for being faithful readers of my blog. It means a lot to me!