I need to step it up

Helpme host you.ANYTIPS

I need to step up.  Not in an angsty dancy way.  I’m talking about my hosting game.  I need to kick it up a notch.  (BAM.)

Last weekend we received an invitation for an impromptu get-together.  Sure, I like people.  Less cooking.  Wins all around.  We had a fantastic time.  I couldn’t help but be impressed by their effortless hosting.  Would you like some fresh-squeezed juice in your prosecco?  How about some freshly-baked cookies?  Care to sample one of these delicious cheeses?  (This is not blogging hyperbole.  All of that happened.)  It was pretty awesome.

Other friends here are equally generous.  One of my friends makes kick ass frappuccinos every time I come over.  And offers us homemade baked goods.  Another friend opens 15 euro bottles of wine when we come over.  “Are you sure you want to waste the good wine on us?” I always think.  We did a potluck lunch at a friend’s.  I had a sorry-looking apple, cheese, and meat tray.  Others brought scrumptious quiches with made-from-scratch crusts and fresh-from-the-oven bread.  Why can’t I get my act together?

I actually adore hosting.  The proximity of people here lends itself to more casual popping-by opportunities.  But if you stopped by now, I could offer you one of the three bottles of wine in the house (not always the case), stale cookies, or a cut-up apple.  The hands-down best food I make is popcorn, but this is not great for dates with small kids.  I do have Halloween candy in the house, but that is not usually the case.  I may have a secret bag of potato chips still.  But I have no delicious cheeses.  I didn’t even bring the juicer with us.

So what is holding me back from being the hostess with the mostest?  Part of it is the difficulty of acquiring enough food just to feed the fam.  We make a few trips a week to the grocery store or market for food.  I can only bring home as much as I can carry and cram under the stroller.  I did make a solo trip to the store on a recent evening after James got home.  It was a delightfully calm experience.  I may have to do more of this.

Another issue is my proclivity to eat any treats that are lying around.  I can usually be trusted for a day.  Maybe a few days.  But then something happens and I EAT EVERYTHING.  This is a big reason I don’t bake.  Besides my dislike for measuring ingredients (a crucial piece of baking, James keeps reminding me), I don’t need to polish off a tray of cookies in one sitting.  I will engage in twisted logic like, well, I should eat all of them now so they won’t be around tempting me later.  Better to get them out of the way.  I know.  I’m not proud to tell you that there is hidden chocolate in our house right now.  It’s not hiding from the kids.  James hid it from me.  In his defense I asked him to.  When we got the nice chocolate, I didn’t want to gobble it all up in a day.  Having him put it out of my reach seemed like a good solution.  It is working.  So far.  (WHY CAN’T I FIND IT??  Our place is NOT that big!!)

Also, I don’t like extra stuff around.  It just gets in the way, and you have to clean it and take care of it.  BUT hosting requires a certain amount of stuff.  Enough glassware for the group.  Serving dishes.  Things like that.  I did have some of this stuff back home.  Probably not enough, but I had some.  Some of it is not here by design, like the china and crystal.  Some of it I thought was coming, but it apparently did not.  My favorite trays apparently were sent to storage instead of coming here.  (I hope storage anyway.)  Either way, I’m a little understaffed now.

And.  But.  And.  I hate to admit this.  I really hate that I feel this way.  But there is that teeny tiny part of me that sometimes–just sometimes–wants to hoard the good stuff.  This is usually not an issue.  I promise.  I really do want to share.  But if I have the super special chocolate, my first thought is probably to tuck it away instead of offering it up.  This is the reason I have decorative stickers from my childhood that were never used and unopened shower gel that was thrown away after a decade or so.  Which is dumb.  No way to live really.  My takeaway from those unused special things is to carpe diem.  Seize and share the good chocolate!  Bring out the good wine!  I swear.  But old habits die hard, and just every now and then I don’t want to share.  You guys never feel like this?  Ok, never mind, I’m a terrible person, carry on.

I’m hoping to have many happy get-togethers with many people over the next three years.  Here is my three-point attack plan.

  1. Assess the serving ware situation and buy more of anything that is needed.  When we came here with less, we planned on having a settling up account if you will.  We figured we could always buy something if we decided we needed it.  I need to decide I need these things.
  2. Stock a special shelf or drawer or something with snacks for guests.  I can’t stockpile nice cheeses, but I can tuck away some good chips, crackers, or sweets.  “But you say you can’t be trusted,” you protest.  I know, I know.  I will just have to try.  I want to be a good hostess more than I want to snack.  Most of the time.
  3. Develop some signature dishes–other than popcorn–that I can put together.  They may not be baked, although I do want to do more baking with Henry.  They may not be fancy.  I don’t know what they are, but this is a goal.

Some people put together amazing Pinterest-worthy parties.  Katie Bower recently put together a gorgeous Seuss-themed vacation planning party.  I very sincerely say good for her.  If I get invited to any parties like that, I’ll just focus on enjoying it.  That’s not the level I’m going for here though.  I just want my guests to enjoy themselves.

Internets, can you offer me any guidance?  Any hosting tips?  Any idiot-proof dishes I can make with two kids underfoot?  Please, internets, help me!


Are you frugal? Some random thoughts on stuff

The rest of our stuff came last week.  Wave 3 of the attack, if you will.  I mentioned before, that I didn’t miss too much of it.  Now it is here.  I’m trying to convince myself that this is a good thing.  Or it will be.  Once we get it put away.  I think it will all fit.  Progress has been slow because, you know, KIDS.  And it feels like a shell game.  I need to put X in here, but I can’t because Y is in there, and I can’t move it until I sort Z and get it moved.  And so on and so forth.

My goal for this weekend is to at least get things out of Henry’s reach.  I miss before when he wasn’t randomly walking up and handing me an iron.  Or a flashlight.  Or my box of Christmas cards.

Living with less stuff really wasn’t hard.  I’d like to get back to that a little bit.  But I’m having the same problem I was when I tried to purge before our move.  Selecting the things you want to take is easy.  Looking at all the things and eliminating them is hard.  When I didn’t see this stuff, I really didn’t miss it.  But now–even though I didn’t need it for almost two months–I look at things and think I should keep them.  You know, just in case . . .

I asked James the other day if we are frugal.  The Frugal Girl has a funny post up about how to How to be an obnoxious money saver.  The comments are interesting.  I don’t identify with a lot of these things, particularly noticing price changes of a few cents.  I would never notice that.  My general philosophy is that I can buy whatever I want at the grocery store because it is much cheaper than eating out.  I mean, within reason, of course.  I’m not buying all filet mignon, foie gras, and crab legs.  But we don’t have a grocery budget.

I recognize that we are fortunate to be able to think this way.  I know not everyone can.  I know I may need to think that way some day.  Besides the other reasons I mention here, I think this is one of the reasons I haven’t hired any cleaning help yet.  We could afford help now.  But I think I want to try on what would be like if we couldn’t.  I don’t know what the next step is.  If we opt to do something very different with a very different income stream, I’d like to know what it feels like.  Is this a deal breaker, ladies?

One of my new friends here has asked a few times if we have been to the mall yet.  Nope.  Besides that whole driving thing, I’m just not that into it.  The kids are not super fun in stores.  And I know I want less stuff if I see less stuff.

Similarly, a new favorite blog is The Mom Edit.  The writing makes me laugh.  The pics are gorgeous.  It does give me outfit ideas.  But it also makes me want things.  I find myself with 5 new tabs open after reading a post before I talk myself down that, no, I do not need another gray sweater.

In Clutterfree with Kids, Joshua Becker talks about working towards minimalism after spending a day cleaning out his garage.  Let’s just say it was not the most fun day, and he wished he could have spent more of it with his son.  It was a realization that your stuff owns you.  You have to put it away.  Clean it.  Organize it.  Take care of it.  Right now I feel a little like the stuff is owning me.  I need to be vigilant about eliminating the things that don’t find homes.

So, no, I don’t really think of myself as frugal.  I don’t budget.  I spend money on kindle books without hesitation.  I’ll drop some money on a dinner out.  But I’m working towards less stuff.  And recognizing that putting myself in less opportunities to acquire stuff generally results in less stuff.  I definitely don’t want to be holier-than-thou like the obnoxious money savers above.  I do love stuff.  Particularly gray sweaters.  And gray pants.  And gray purses.  Yes, I have a problem.  I think the goal should be stuff that works for you.  Right now my stuff is not working for me.  Time to recalibrate.

What’s your “stuff” strategy?  Do you consider yourself frugal?

Confessions of a mono-dresser: I only wear one shirt

Let’s be clear.  I don’t only have one shirt.  I have multiples.  And technically two colors.  But same shirt.  Lemme ‘splain.  Here’s the story of how I went full-on Michael Kors.

Back when I was on maternity leave with Henry, I only seemed to want to wear one shirt.  This shirt, in fact.  Don’t be fooled by its presence on the website.  It is no longer available.  They keep it up to taunt me.

See with Henry, it was fall.  I like to let my pants or jacket be the star of the outfit.  I’m usually wearing a scarf.  Maybe a necklace.  My pants + shirt + blazer + scarf recipe worked out great with the same white shirt.  And since I was doing laundry constantly, it was usually clean.

But once I realized it was the only shirt I wanted to wear, I thought, why not get more?  Alas, it was too late.  The shirt was gone, baby, gone.  And I have been on a epic white tee hunt ever since.  (Call me Ahab.)  I tried other Lands End Canvas shirts (just not the same), Gap shirts, and even small mens’ undershirts.  I contemplated expensive joie shirts or venturing to Japan with uniqlo shirts, but never pulled the trigger.  I have googled and read more “perfect tee” lists than I care to admit.

See, the perfect white shirt can’t be too sheer.  It should have a nice neck that would work with necklaces.  Some drape is nice.  I prefer a pocket, but that’s a personal choice.  And if you are doubting whether white is a good color with kids, I think white is an unsung hero.  Spit-up doesn’t show as much.  And my baby oxiclean has been adequate so far, but you’ve always got the bleach option.

Finally–when I was exploring harem-ish pants at Old Navy–I stumbled on a contender.  Enter the Drapey Pocket Tee.  (It is no longer available in white, but this one is similar.)  The day it arrived, I knew I had something I could work with.  Not too sheer.  More flowy and drapey  than stiff.  You can’t really see it on the website, but it has a nice mullet effect that I like to think gives it a little style, but is also helpful for feeding a baby.

Enter the shirt

Enter the shirt

You can guess what happened next.  I immediately ordered many more.  In white and black.  In two different sizes.  I did not want this to be the one that got away.

Now in black

Now in black

And my shirts and I lived happily ever after.  It made packing a cinch.  I have one or two other shirts in the mix, but I probably wear this shirt 90% of the time.  I love not having to think about it getting dressed.  I don’t think of it as laziness so much as efficiency born from knowing what I like.

Same shirt, different day

Same shirt, different day

The only catch:  when I started dabbling with mono-shirt on my first maternity leave, it was fall.  Now it has been warmer.  I’ll pull out the scarves and jackets soon, but it has just been too hot.  This means my shirt is front and center.  People here must think I only have one shirt.  Luckily everyone has been too nice to comment on it.

Ah, with jacket . . . note the mullet

Ah, with jacket . . . note the mullet

Are you into “mono-dressing” or does it sound awful?  Ever bought multiples of a favorite piece?  Ever tried a capsule wardrobe like a 30×30 or a Project 333 Experiment?

P.S. I tried picmonkey using my friend’s tutorial for the first time.  Uh, why wasn’t I doing this sooner??