Spring arrived this weekend and my DIY motivation came back with the warmer weather and sunshine. I’ve decided that January 1st doesn’t really do it for me anymore as the time for fresh starts. Who wants to do anything but stay warm and drink tea in January and February? But March or September? To me, those are perfect times to think about renewal.

I wasn’t feeling great but that didn’t stop us from finishing up some long overdue projects around the house. We sorted through piles, shredded papers, cleaned up the storage room and, most excitingly,  completed the mirror project we started a few weeks ago when my parents were in town.

It all started with the three blank walls we have in our dining room.

Dining Room_before copy


So boring right? I’ve been pondering what to do with them since we moved in and after reading far too many design blogs I decided we really need a large mirror on the middle wall. My theory was that the mirror would make the room feel bigger and would reflect some of the light from the kitchen window.

Anyway, when my parents volunteered to help us out with a project while they were in town, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to tackle this. One google search later and I landed on a “simple” tutorial for making our own frame using crown molding. I can’t find the specific tutorial now, but this is clearly a popular idea because there are about 10 pages of search results that come up.

Here’s what we used:

  • 3x4ft “builders” mirror – we wanted the mirror to be as light as possible so we got the 1/8 in thick version
  • Mirror clips – useful for hanging the mirror but also turned out to be the bane of our existence…
  • ~16 ft of crown molding – enough for the frame plus some extra in the inevitable circumstance that we screwed something up. There were probably 50 types of crown molding – different materials, patterns, etc. – it was kind of overwhelming but we finally just grabbed a design we thought looked good enoughcrown molding
  • 1/4 inch square rod: we used these to deal with our mirror clip challenge
  • Rust-Oleum 249131 12 oz Universal All Surface Spray Paint, Oil Rubbed Bronze Metallic : I wanted the mirror to look kind of metallic-y without the hassle of actually trying to make it out of metal. I wasn’t sure about the color at first but I think it turned out really well
  • Gorilla Glue: This stuff is amazing for gluing pretty much anything, but as we learned the hard way, also surprisingly hard to use
  • 3M indoor/outdoor mounting tape: I’d never heard of this before but it’s what is keeping the frame attached to the mirror so here’s hoping it continues to do its job!


Hanging the mirror

Building the frame was also pretty straight forward. We (and by “we” I mean P and my dad built the frame while I “supervised”). A good miter box made the job really quick.

the frame before


The challenge came when we realized that we couldn’t hang the frame directly on the mirror because of the mirror clips. The clips are about 1/4 in deep, which meant we needed to add some depth to the back of the frame in order to be able to attach it. This is where our “simple” mirror project took a turn towards the extremely complicated and resulted in a bit of a pause in our progress.

Fast forward a few weeks and we were ready to tackle the mirror again. I’ll spare you the gory details, but after a bit of trial and error we figured out where we needed to attach the spacers. I grabbed the Gorilla Glue and attached all of them, excited that we might get this project finally finished. Sadly, the universe had other things in mind. We came home from running errands to this:

wood glue problem

It turns out that the glue has a 5 step (!!!) instruction process to use it and includes the caution that the glue expands at least 2-3 times (more like 5 times in my experience) so you should use it sparingly. I’m one of those “more is more” kind of people so I had definitely not been sparing in my application. One exacto knife and about 30 minutes later, I managed to remove all the spacers, scrape the glue off the frame and the wood and then start the entire process over again. Sigh.

After spray painting both sides of the frame (it’s important to get the back too since you can see the reflection of it in the mirror) we were finally ready to hang it tonight. Far more drama than we’d expected, but I really love how it turned out.

Here’s the finished project, along with a new table we got at the flea market and some much needed greenery.

Final product

Those of you with a discerning eye may have noticed the mirror may not be 100% completely level. Sigh x2. I’m choosing to ignore that for now. You may have also noticed that the mirror is also doing a weird distorting thingy at the bottom where it makes things appear much wider than they really are. We did not set out to put a Fun House mirror in our dining room – not that it’s not tons of fun to have a mirror that adds 10 extra lbs in the same room we eat in – so if anyone knows how to fix it, we’re all ears!


As I’m gearing up to go back to work, I’ve been thinking about how our routines will change. One of the absolutely best things about being off for past nine months has been cooking dinner together most nights. When I was working P did most of the cooking (if we cooked) because his schedule was more flexible than mine was, and more often than not we’d order in or go out to eat. If we were lucky we’d make it to the grocery store about once a month, mostly to stock up on Trader Joe’s frozen food, and if you looked in our fridge, you’d likely find some string cheese, a bottle of white wine and some vegetables from our CSA box that should probably have been cooked a week before. Not exactly the kind of set up that inspires a homemade dinner.

Our routine now looks completely different. Most weeks we plan our meals for the week on Saturday morning and then do our big shop at the farmer’s market. We cook dinner together four or five nights a week and usually have enough food on hand to come up with dinner even on those days when we’re totally uninspired. Lest I paint too rosy a picture of domestic bliss here, I’ll be completely honest and say most (okay all) of the time we eat our home cooked dinner on the coffee table while watching tv, unless we have company and dust off the dining room table.

The inspiration behind our new attitude towards dinner (in addition to me not working!) is one of the best blogs out there: Dinner, a Love Story. I’m kind of obsessed with them, so if you have talked to me anytime in the last six months about food or dinner I’ve probably mentioned the blog to you. My friend Abby introduced me to them and we totally have conversations about Jenny and Andy (the couple who write the blog) and what they’re up to, as if they’re our friends. Because that’s how awesome the blog is. And I know we’d absolutely be friends with them if they lived in San Francisco. But I digress….

What I love about Jenny & Andy (and their blog), is that they are completely approachable and practical. Their philosophy is pretty simple: having one meal together as a family (whatever your family looks like) has all kinds of benefits, and getting that meal on the table doesn’t need to be a huge production. They’re all about tips and tricks (marinate in the morning! deconstruct dishes for picky eaters!) and their recipes are simple and delicious. While they have kids, and a lot of the posts are about how to make dinner happen in a way that works with an 8 and a 10 year old, I think pretty much everything they write about is universal.

They also have a cookbook out called, not surprisingly, Dinner, a Love Story and I think it’s one of the best cookbooks out there. They organized it by phase of life so they have recipes in there from when they were newly married, from when they had young kids, and from now when their kids are older. In addition to the great recipes, the cookbook reads like a novel as it tells the story of their relationship and their family. When it came I fully brought it to bed with me and read it like a book and then gave it to P and insisted requested politely and lovingly that he read it too. There is a recipe in the cookbook for corn bacon hash (or bacorn as a friend calls it) that, in of itself, is worth the price of the book. Everything else you can consider a bonus. (and what a bonus it is! The bbq sauce recipe is another staple in our house and gets put on pretty much everything).

Here are some of the best things I’ve learned from Dinner, a Love Story:

Making something from scratch can transform a meal: For some reason tortillas are one of those things that I never seem to have in the fridge, despite my deep and abiding love of all types of Mexican food. No tortillas meant no tacos or burritos (or taco burritos if you’re my parents) for dinner, which was sad. Until I read this post which, I do not exaggerate, changed the dinner landscape in our house forever. Because I learned that I can make homemade tortillas in 20 minutes, and from just 4 ingredients (one of which is water). Seriously, making them is easier than remembering to buy them at the store and then remembering to eat all of them before they get moldy. And this means that we now have shrimp tacos once a week and they are delicious.

When in doubt, caramelize an onion: I think this may have been the post that cemented my love affair with this blog, because this is totally what I do. I think four out of five nights we cook I start by caramelizing onions in our dutch oven. Somehow that act makes dinner feel totally possible. Plus it smells amazing and my rule is that caramelized onions make everything better. everything.

Meal planning is totally worth it: When (not if) you read the Dinner, a Love Story cookbook you will learn that the entire empire came out of a dinner diary that Jenny started keeping right after they were married. When I first read about the diary I thought I’d finally met someone who was even more uptight and obsessed with lists than I am. And then one day, in a moment of innocent curiosity (and because I had a pretty purple Moleskine notebook just waiting to be put to use) I decided to start our own dinner diary. And hellllooooo! Where has this been my entire adult life? Taking 15 minutes on Saturday morning before we go to the farmer’s market to think about what we want to eat for dinner each night not only helps make sure we buy the right things but it also helps get us on the same page for the week. My favorite thing ever is opening the book in the morning to learn what we’re having for dinner that night (somehow it always feels like a surprise) and then taking the appropriate thing out of the freezer to thaw. Love it.

I know life is going to change when I go back to work, but I’m hoping Jenny and Andy will help us stick to our new dinner routine. I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime,  check out the blog and let me know what you think.




You guys, there has been so much going on lately that I don’t even know where to start and catch you up. Here’s a quick overview:

1) I got a job. Yup! I found a great role with a company I’m really excited about and I start in a little over two weeks. Holy cow! By the time I start I’ll have been off for 9 months – it feels simultaneously like I just left yesterday and also like it’s been ages since I had to go to an office every day. Part of me is definitely nervous about a new company/new people, but mostly I’m just really excited. When I left consulting I really wanted to find a job/career that felt more aligned with the creative/maker part of my personality and I think this new gig fits the bill perfectly. I get to think about one of my favorite industries pretty much all the time for my role, and will hopefully be a part of shaping what things look like in the future. Seriously, it’s pretty freaking cool and I can’t quite believe it’s all worked out like this.

2) We went back to Tuck. It was our 5th business school reunion (holy cow x2!) so we spent 4 action-packed, exhilarating and exhausting days in the Upper Valley. I swear, that place has such a hold on my heart. First of all, the scenery takes my breath away.

Fall in New England is like no other and always, always tugs at the part of me that really misses the seasons and the way they mark the transitions in a year.

Secondly, Tuck is associated with so many wonderful memories that it’s hard for me to think about it objectively. It’s where P and I met and fell in love, it’s where I met some of my closest friends today, it’s where I felt the most like I had a true community.

The Sugar Shack girls


Being back at school felt like no time had passed. Conversations picked up where they’d left off five years ago. The dynamics were the same – I’d flit around the bar talking to as many people as I could, bingeing on the conversation and almost giddy with excitement about having so many of my favorite people in one place while P had a few really meaningful and in-depth conversations with folks. Just like 5 years ago.

3) We built furniture! P took a class on power tools a few months ago, after which we became the proud owners of such awesomeness as a jig saw, a work bench, a miter box, a power drill and a bunch of other things I can’t remember the names of. And obviously the next logical thing to do with said tools is to build furniture. So for my birthday P made me a set of shelves for my craft room to store my fabric collection in.

I find it extremely entertaining that we’ve somehow turned into people who make our own furniture. It’s so satisfying – to have a vision and then see it come to fruition. The shelves are definitely not perfect but I like to think that all of their little quirks are what make them interesting and ours. And now that we’ve (and I say “we” but it was really P who built it – I just did a lot of holding of the tape measure and keeping boards in place while important things like sawing and drilling were taking place) built this, we have so many more ideas of things to make. Can you say a storage bench for the guest room? And maybe some new bookshelves for up there? And a new bar/wine storage system? The possibilities are endless!


So that’s a quick snapshot of what I’ve been up to for the past few weeks. There’s also been some english muffin baking, some tomato paste making and some bbq sauce perfecting…but those are all posts for a later day!





The other day a friend asked me, “What exactly do you do all day?” He meant it in the nicest way possible – he was genuinely curious about how I spend my copious amounts of free time – but my gut reaction was to get defensive. I’m busy, I wanted to reply. I’m productive, I’m not wasting my time, I promise.

I used to life my life with my extreme busyness as proof that I must be valuable and important. My calendar was so full of back-to-back meetings that my assistant would try to schedule in time for me to go to the bathroom or eat a quick lunch. I used to complain about being so busy, but secretly I was proud. Being busy, having a to-do list a mile long, constantly looking forward to the next goal, was an addiction. I fed off the high I got from checking things off my list, from jetting off to meetings, from being able to recount everything I accomplished that day/week/month. I equated my worth as an individual with how much I accomplished.

Leaving my job forced me to confront my addiction head on. I got a lot of advice from friends when I left about how I should be sure to set goals and objectives for my time off, otherwise I’d feel like I was – god forbid – wasting time. Like the type A overachiever that I am, I took their advice to heart and sat down to write my goals. Otherwise, how could I know whether I was getting an “A” in not working? Except something in me rebelled, because this is what I wrote down in my journal:

During my time off I want to:

  • get 8 hours (or more!) of sleep each night
  • exercise every day (Monday-Friday) and once Saturday/Sunday
  • learn new crafty skills that I can use to help make our life and our home more comfortable, enjoyable and fun
  • reconnect with friends and family and re-establish relationships that are important to me
  • eat delicious and healthy food that makes me feel good and supports my goal of loosing weight
  • practice some foundational habits that I believe will help me be happier, e.g. mediation, writing in my journal daily, making our bed
  • let my mind wander
  • be present in the moment
  • laugh. a lot
That’s it. I didn’t write that I wanted to run a marathon, write a book, travel to 20 countries, learn a new language, or start a business. I’ve had more than enough time to do many of those things, but I realized somewhere along the way that doing things, checking off boxes, wasn’t the point of my sabbatical. I need to learn how to not do, how to be, how to find value in who I am whether I get zero things accomplished in a day or 50. Learning to slow down, to listen to my body, to reshape how I think about myself, my values and how I want to spend my time has been a huge challenge. I’m not there yet, by any means, but I’m making steady progress and I’m trying to remind myself that, at the end of the day, this will be more important than being able to brag about everything I’ve done.
Now if  you’ll excuse me, I have to go check “write blog post” off of my to-do list…







As my parents gently reminded me this weekend, I’m long overdue for a garden update. I’m not going to lie – I’ve totally been avoiding this post because instead of regaling you with stories of our triumph in backyard gardening, this story is more of a tragedy. Well, not a total tragedy I guess because we have learned many, many lessons about what not to do in our backyard garden!

Before we get into what it looks like now, I thought I’d refresh your memory.

Here’s where we started:

Doesn’t it look all sweet and full of promise?

Here’s where it was about a month later:


and here it is just a few days ago:

So it turns out that tomato plants grow really, really tall. And they need a lot of staking otherwise they create a crazy jungle situation where no light can get in the middle and the little cherry tomatoes grow and turn green but never ripen. Not that we would know from experience or anything…In retrospect, it turns out that 6 tomato plants was way too many for our little plot and they completely overwhelmed the circular stake we had. We tried some emergency surgery and bought additional stakes. After thinning some of the plants we attempted to re-stake them but I think the sustained lack of sunlight, the uprooting and the incredibly foggy September we’ve been having did the plants in. We’re still holding out hope but so far only 2 little tomatoes have ripened – not exactly a great yield from the 6 plants we started with!


The squash and zucchini worked out slightly better and we got to enjoy some of the fruits of our labor, but ultimately they succumbed to mold (also a product of the damp/fog we seem to perpetually have). Unfortunately they also completely took over the right-hand bed and blocked out the sun from the peppers and eggplants. So….those didn’t grow either which makes me doubly sad because I adore bell peppers and we eat 4 or 5 a week, and the squash/zucchini we did get didn’t taste that amazing – certainly not the deliciousness we were hoping for.

As I mentioned, our adventures in gardening weren’t  a total loss. We learned a lot of things:

  • Fewer plants are better, and we really should believe the guidance that says how far apart they should be planted
  • Setting the beds against the fence wasn’t a great idea and we should move them closer to the house where they’ll get more sun
  • Plants that need a lot of heat/warmth won’t work despite what the Sunset Magazine garden zone thingy tells us

Despite the challenges, we’re planning to get back out there and attempt a fall/winter vegetable garden. We’ll keep you posted!


Happy Friday everyone! In honor of our weekly Pizza Night, which is my favorite night of the week, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite food blogs and bloggers: Joy the Baker.

I love Joy for her sweet, sarcastic personality, her unabashed love of butter, her ability to incorporate bourbon into her recipes and her fearless honesty. Joy taught me about the absolute brilliance of pairing peaches and tomatoes together and for that alone I owe her a lifetime of gratitude. I think her recipes are a great blend of ambitiousness and simplicity. They make me want to cook things I’ve never tried, and don’t intimidate me by making it feel like rocket science. Next on my list of recipes to try are her  peach cobbler scones and  her black bean & sweet potato tacos, among other deliciousness.

Check her out and let me know what you think. Also, are there any great food blogs you guys follow that I should know about? Let me know!



Did you miss me? Here’s what I’ve been up to in the month (!!!!) since I last posted:

I spent a week on a houseboat with one of my closest friends and a bunch of other good friends and her family. Lake Powell is all about hanging out and sloooowing way down. You may be asking yourself, “What do you need to slow down from? Aren’t you already on a sabbatical/mini-retirement/extended vacation thing anyway?” And  I was right there with you until I got to Lake Powell and realized how freeing it is to have no cell phone reception or internet. That means no emails to respond to, no blog posts to read, no twitter feeds to obsessively check. And it turns out that when you take all of that away there is lots of time for reading books, napping in the sunshine, improving your waterskiing technique, paddle boarding, having lazy conversations with friends over glasses of wine that are far too good to be consumed out of a plastic cup, playing cards, grilling and sleeping under the stars. The only downside of the trip was that P had to work and so couldn’t come along.

The day I got back from Lake Powell, P picked me up and we drove up to the Cabin, my hands down all-time favorite place in this world. My Grandmother (who I’ve mentioned here) and my Grandfather bought the cabin ~40 years ago and it’s the one consistent place for my family to gather. We spent Labor Day weekend up there with good friends and celebrated my 35th (I am so not sure how this is possible) birthday. With views that look like this:

it’s hard to motivate to leave the deck, but we went for two great hikes, including my all time favorite one to Nellie Lake:

It was a wonderful weekend and to top it off one of my friends made me a birthday apple pie. with cheddar cheese in the crust (she’s from Vermont). I am a huge fan of pie (we served mini pies instead of cake at our wedding) so this was the best dessert idea ever. And the cheese in the crust was amazing! I’m going to ask for the recipe and try and recreate it for you guys – you will thank me!

It hasn’t all been vacations and hikes and waterskiing over the past month (unfortunately!) – I’ve been trying to make progress on what I want to do next professionally and have been interviewing a little bit. It’s been ages (6.5 years!) since I’ve last interviewed so I feel a bit rusty but am hopeful it will be just like riding a bike or something and all come rushing back to me. In the meantime, if anyone has any brilliant ideas as to what I should be when I grow up – or at least what I should do for the next few years – I’m all ears!



I know that I spend a lot of time on here espousing my love of almonds,  but I promise that these are so crazy good that they will turn you into an almond evangelist like me. P and I discovered these things at my aunt’s house – she usually has them around for the holidays and I am physically unable to walk by the bowl of them that she keeps in the kitchen without grabbing a handful. And then coming back for another handlful. And another one. And maybe one more for good measure. I like to pretend that they’re not terrible for me because they’re almonds and we all know almonds are full of protein and the good kind of fat, but let’s get real, the almonds are really a vehicle for buttery, sugary deliciousness.


P and I love these so much we made 125 servings of them as favors for our wedding. And some of our guests, who shall remain nameless, finished their almonds during our reception and then came looking for more. Have I convinced you yet that you should make these immediately? Good! Here’s the recipe – get cracking.


Judi’s crazy good peppered almonds

1 T pepper

2 tsp salt

1/4 c unsalted butter

3/4 c brown sugar, firmly packed

4 tsp water

2 2/3 c whole, raw almonds


Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

Mix salt and pepper in a small dish and set aside. Melt butter in a large pan over medium-low heat (we use a Le Cruset which works well here), then add sugar and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add almonds and stir to coat, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle half of the salt and pepper over the almonds and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Spread the almonds in a single layer on the baking sheet, and sprinkle the other half of the salt & pepper mixture over the top. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes, or until the coating has fully hardened. Serve immediately or, if you can resist, store in a ziploc bag. These do get even tastier (if that’s even possible) after they’ve been sitting a few days, so you might try storing them out of sight for a bit and then “discovering” them right before you have guests over.


Google is my downfall. Well, one of them anyway. I have many. But Google may take the cake. Google is the reason why I decided to make burp cloths and a cloth ring tower stacking thingy and a quilt for my soon-to-arrive nephew. I haven’t even met the kid yet and he already has me wrapped around his little finger. This does not bode well for later in life….but I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah, burp cloths.

So several months ago I was pondering what to get my brother & sister-in-law for her baby shower and was perusing their registry. Normally I am all about the registry when it comes to buying gifts – especially baby gifts since I don’t have any of the “I’m a mom so trust me this product is way better than the one you registered for” kind of opinions. I figure if the mom-to-be picks it out, who am I to argue? But as I was sitting there pondering my options I felt like none of them were really sufficiently amazing to convey how freaking excited I am about my nephew and the fact that my little younger brother is going to be a dad. So I did the thing that you should never do unless you are prepared to spend some serious quality time with your sewing machine and I googled “handmade baby gifts.”


Yeah…It was like the worldwide interwebs issued me a personal challenge that day and I looked it square in the eye and said “oh yeah? Well, I’ll see you your burp cloths and raise you a gift or two. So there.”

The burp cloths were the easiest project and probably the most fun, if only because I’m a sucker for instant gratification and each one is really quick to complete. I followed this tutorial from Dana Made It, which I won’t bore you by recreating since hers is really good and worth checking out. 

Because presentation counts, I bundled the cloths into three groups of four, based on color, and then whipped together a quick “belly band” for each bundle.

Dana suggested making your own labels, which I thought was a brilliant idea. The labels were very easy to make  - just buy some Colorfast Fabric Sheets for your printer and you can print whatever design you want on them – and I think they make the final product look nice and polished. Plus you know me – I’m all about getting credit for my crafting!


So there you have it – part 1 of the handmade baby gift bonanza! Stay tuned next week for the ring stacker project, featuring templates, circles and lots of quality time with a seam ripper!


I am a terrible beginner. I’ve discovered this over and over again these past few months as I’ve thrown myself into new or long-dormant activities like sewing, letterpress printing or the latest, and certainly most bizarre of all, running. Yes, you read that right. I have started to run. For exercise. No, I don’t think this is a sign of the apocalypse though I understand why you would think so. I loathe running. I have never been a runner, despite really wishing I was. I do not have the body of a runner. I do not have the mind of a runner. Yet, three days a week for the past several weeks I have hauled my self up to the little gym in my neighborhood, gotten on the treadmill and run.

The dialogue that goes on my head while I run is very similar to the internal dialogue I have when I’m doing most things these days since I’m spending most of my time doing things that are new and somewhat uncomfortable. It goes like this:

Me: “Hmm, this is pretty fun. I’m kind of proud of myself for doing something new.”

The Committee (I call the voices in my head this rather than “the voices in my head” because that just makes me sound Crazy. And let’s be honest, I know I’m crazy but I’m pretty sure I’m lower case “c” crazy and not capital “C” Crazy and I don’t want people to get the wrong idea…) “Yeah, but you’re pretty bad at this. Look at that person on the next treadmill. They’re going faster than you. You’ll never be able to go that fast.”

Me: “You’re probably right. I’m already exhausted and my legs hurt and I’ve been only running for like 5 minutes. Real runners go much faster than I do. And they run outside. And they run races.”

The Committee “Exactly. You’re not a real runner. Who did you think you were kidding? If you were a real runner you’d be able to run for an entire hour and not give up and quit after 45 minutes.”

Clearly The Committee is not very nice and on my good days I drown it out with a combination of Lady Gaga, Flo Rida (Low!) and Outkast. But on the not so good days they’re really loud and I find it easy to get discouraged. Today was one of those days – I set out to run for an hour but had to walk after 45 minutes because I was tired and my legs were cramping. And instead of jumping up and down with absolute unequivocal joy because HOLY COW I RAN FOR 45 MINUTES IN A ROW (and not because I was being chased by a bear!) I beat myself up for not doing more/being better.

But then I was reading one of my favorite DIY/home improvement blogs, Young House Love, and they had a post on running. I know – so random!  It’s like the universe heard me and decided to save me from The Committee. The part that jumped out at me was this quote:

“If you spend too much energy lamenting what you can’t do, you won’t put it into relishing what you can.”

Can I get an Amen? So simple, but so right on. And something I need to remind myself of regularly. So from now on I’m going to try my best to ignore The Committee and celebrate the things I can do, whether it’s running a few miles or trying a new sewing project. I hope you’ll do the same.