Handy Annie

When you’re a family of two teachers and two school-aged kids, summers are unbelievable.  We swim, we play tennis, we play golf. We read, we nap, we bake. We build things out of Lego bricks, we visit friends,  we take long walks together.  It’s a glorious time of family bonding and celebrating, and I am ridiculously thankful for this gift.

At times, however, the clutter and logistics of having all four of us home all day every day begins to amplify.  I start to get all shirty about toys being left about, and I begin wanting to reorganize rooms.

This was the aftermath of a Nerf war yesterday morning:

You should see all the rounds littered about our family room.

You should see all the rounds littered about our family room.

I decided it was time to acknowledge the arsenal and accommodate it.   But surprisingly, neither Nerf nor Elfa makes anything resembling a gun rack.

So I took to the interwebs.  I looked at hundreds of photos of people’s homemade Nerf storage solutions, and I incorporated lots of ideas from all over.  In the end, I decided to build something out of peg board, 1x3s, screws, spray paint, and various hooks.  (Everyone tried to talk me out of the paint thing, but I knew that the black background would allow the colorful guns to take the spotlight.  Upon completion, everyone agreed that the paint was essential.)

Send me a message if you want the particulars, but I’m not super crafty and it only took me a couple of hours, so I’m guessing most folks could fashion something similar without many details.

Here are some shots of the finished project:

Most of the guns hang on these little hooks.

Most of the guns hang on these little hooks.

We used some of the heftier pegs in the kit to display some firearms Men in Black - style.

We used some of the heftier pegs in the kit to display some firearms Men in Black – style.

The finished structure - I could not love it more.  I sort of wish it were in my room . . .

The finished structure – I could not love it more. I sort of wish it were in my room . . .

Ammo boxes.  My son prefers to store his rounds in the

Ammo boxes. My son prefers to store his rounds in the “TactiCOOL” box he made.

“TactiCOOL” shield

Listen, building stuff is extremely satisfying.  I’m feeling inspired to take on a few more projects . . . or, I may just research rum punch recipes for my upcoming family reunion at the beach instead.  Either way, God bless summer.

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In which I allow my son to deconstruct a laptop

I had an old, virus-infected laptop computer with no battery that I had given to the kids.  It eventually because too infirm even for their purposes.  (There was a Minecraft-related incident that we won’t speak of again.)

So, I let my son perform a laptopsy.  He systematically deconstructed and examined every piece of it.  He was so tremendously engrossed in the process that he didn’t even notice the photo-documentation.

Notice the tools gathered in preparation.

Notice the tools gathered in preparation.

"probing to determine muscle tone and skeletal girth"

“probing to determine muscle tone and skeletal girth”

The first incision...

The first incision…

He moved up to the dining rooms for better lighting and the table space.  This is getting serious.

He moved up to the dining room for better lighting and the table space. This is getting serious.

seriously awesome, I mean

Seriously awesome, that is!

Some parts disengage more easily than others.

Some parts disengage more easily than others. Dag.


“He’s got it up now.”


Whoa, this is a bigger pile of detritus than I expected out of that old thing.


so many cool parts

Stay tuned to see what he builds with the parts . . .

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Things that have made me go, “hmmmm”

Some weird jazz has been swirling around me in the last two weeks, and I can’t help but wonder if something apocalyptic is brewing in my realm.


Still though, strange.

  • I noticed something was up with Catwalker 2 last weekend when I was talking a walk and eyeing everyone’s landscaping choices.  (I’ll admit I’m a bit like Tom Hanks’ character in The ‘Burbs.)  I spied two unfamiliar women wearing matching shirts and walking a total of five dogs.  I figured they were dog walkers, and I went on my way.  When I rounded the corner to return home, I saw these dog walkers chatting with Catwalker 2, whom, you may recall, is presumably terrified of dogs.  It appeared to be a completely cheerful, comfortable conversation. (Hmmm. She’s either had some miraculous therapy, or she specifically hates my dog, my mom’s dog, and/or me.)
  • Had I not been driving, I would have tried to capture this next anomaly on video: a man was simultaneously smoking a cigarette and vigorously jogging.  He was a lanky, white-bearded octogenarian wearing a legit track suit and a driving cap.  Having grown up in North Carolina, I’m certainly familiar with folks who smoke and who also exercise.  But I have never seen someone doing both at the same time, and I must say that it shows enormous dedication.  I mean, this guy was committed: he wants his Camel, and he wants to get in a run.  Why choose?  Check, and check.
  • On my way home from the same jaunt to the store, I caught site of a disconcertingly covered man driving in the car behind me.  Picture this: it’s a thousand degrees and sunny.  The man has on sunglasses. (Reasonable – so do I.)  He’s wearing a hoodie with the hood up.  (Getting a lil cray.)  And he has a wide, pastel-striped winter scarf wrapped over his mouth and neck.  And he’s driving toward a bank.  (Hmmmm, I’m gonna head on away from here right about now.)
  • You know those key fob-style store loyalty cards?  I’ve got a whole mess of them, and I keep them on a dedicated ring so I can readily produce any given card to claim my discounts and bonuses.  Anyway, I’m not awesome about keeping all my details and info updated.  (I have other talents.)  And yesterday, I was buying a ream of card stock at one of the big office stores.  The cashier scanned my items (including a plethora of minutiae gathered by my son) and my card, which was rejected.  “Card not found.  You gotta number?”  I told him not, that I hadn’t been maintaining my info.  “Oh well, no worries,” I conceded.  He looked up at me and said, “It’s fine.  I’ll just give you five dollars off.”  WHAT?!?  I don’t need to tell you how super-psyched I was about that scenario.  Never had my laziness produced such a sweet outcome at the hands of a generous stranger.

Nothing out of the ordinary has happened to me today, but I’m hopeful.   How about you?



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superior egg sandwich (or, laziness wins in the sandwich realm)

I woke up this morning with a sandwich idea.  (That’s regular, right?)  I turned to my still dozing husband and semi-shouted, “Listen to this sandwich idea!  Doesn’t this sound great?!?  Instead of egg salad, you spread honey mustard on white bread and put slices of hard boiled egg on it?”

“Sure, sounds good,” he murmured as he rolled over and closed his eyes again.  (My husband is patient.)

Well, I was excited, anyway.

We got up, brewed and sipped our coffee, touched base with family (my sister’s having the baby Monday, and my dad called about the radio spot my mom’s doing about Meals on Wheels) and did some serious yard work.  As my husband cleaned up after the yard work, I crafted what may be my new favorite summer sandwich.

And we both ate most of our sandwiches before I took any pictures, but here’s the second half of mine:

superior to egg salad

superior to egg salad

Next time, I may add some baby spinach leaves and tomato slices, but probably not.  It’s amaze-balls just like it is.  No heavy mayo, no messy escaping pieces of egg, and minimal effort – perfect for a lazy afternoon.  And it goes well with iced tea.



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Friday fondue

For the past three years, my husband has been working full-time and going to graduate school at night.  “Aw, what?!  Dad has class again?!” has been a fairly regular exclamation of disappointment around here.

But last week, Jamie went to class for the last time.  And next weekend, we’ll be going to his graduation.  Even though he has become a Master of Educational Psychology in Social Foundations of Education, we’re still going to call him “Dad.”

Big family celebration is on tap for the weekend, and we’re all very excited.  Jamie’s parents, his sister and her husband and kids, my parents, and we four are all getting together for a roast beast (actually, grilled tenderloin) and assorted accoutrements the night before Jamie dons the crazily-sleeved robe and hood.  The boys bought him a tie striped in the colors of his soon-to-be alma mater, and I’ve arranged a couple of surprises (including custom treats from One Creative Cookie.)  It should be a grand affair, and it ought to be, after all his hard work.

But since we’re actually rather low-key folks, we celebrated on a smaller scale this weekend.  We had fondue.  My husband is a big fan of most things 70s, and our fondue pot is a source of great pride and culinary joy for him.

In honor of the fact that Friday family movie night is no longer complicated by class schedules, we fired up a movie, lit the Sterno, sliced the sirloin into cubes, and prepared the dipping sauces.  We even dug out the special fondue plates we received as a wedding present.  We went full-tilt on this fondue event, and we loved every minute of it.

I only took one picture, though, because fire and distraction don’t mix.

That's a whole lotta meat for our little family feast.

That’s a lotta meat for our little family.



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Aren’t your kids a little old for that?

Everyone tells you how all kids are different, and mine certainly are – from each other, from other kids, from me.  Something everyone in our family has in common, though, is a love of cereal.  In college, I once professed my love of Frosted Flakes by claiming, “I could eat an entire box in one sitting.”  (I could not, but I came close.  And I learned to curb my tendency toward hyperbole around certain folks.)

So my boys like to have cereal for lunch, but transport to and fro has always been a limiting factor.  No matter in what container I packed the milk, it’d end up all over the inside of the lunch boxes, and sometimes it’d soak someone’s whole backpack.  Mmmm, milky homework and permission slips – you’re welcome.

An average person might resign the effort, accepting that cereal lunches could happen only on the weekend.  But I am not an average person.  (And there’s no such thing, anyway.)

One of my boys has an ever-decreasing list of foods he will eat, most of which are extremely difficult to pack in a container destined for a school cafeteria.  We’re literally down to 18 foods.  (Before you weigh in with theories about why that’s happening, how it’s our fault as parents, or that our child will eat if he gets REALLY hungry, thank you.  File it under the heading of “not the point of this post” and let it go.  We’re handling it.)

Anyway, two of the things our little man will eat are Lucky Charms and Reese’s Puffs.  (Not together.)  So you can imagine that I’ve been particularly persistent in my quest to find a suitable container for the milk so that he’ll actually eat something at school.

And then it hit me – there are actual containers designed specifically for transporting milk.  Of course!  I cruised out to Target, headed for the baby aisle, and picked up a set of six breast milk containers and lids.  They work perfectly.

They don't leak.  At all.

They don’t leak. At all.

We’ve been using these bad boys for two weeks, and not once has any milk sullied a lunch box or backpack.  I did get some funny looks when I brought one in to the teacher’s lounge amidst a room full of young mothers, but after explaining my thinking, folks agreed that it makes sense.

I have to acknowledge that having a slew of these resting on a drying rack in the kitchen reminds me of those exhausting years a decade ago, and I love it.



Now I’m all jazzed to re-purpose things – y’all send me some ideas.

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Trifolds abound

This morning my school held its annual exhibition of learning, and I wish I could post some pictures of the amazing students and their presentations.  (Dag, privacy and all.)

The entire building was filled with 2000+ smartly dressed students sharing a personal learning experience.  There was unbelievable music, art, and literature; kids had made gorgeous displays of their scientific endeavors and data; students showed films and slide shows about everything from eating disorders to color guard, cultural reflections to travel experiences – even the physics of disc golf.

I welled up a little when one of my own students showed me her presentation about how a favorite piece of literature is inspiring her drawing.  (I’m becoming a sap in my old age.)

I’m not describing this scene very well.  I really wish I could show you pictures and videos of these important documentations of learning.  You’d be blown away.  Seriously, dag.

But I’m not writing about the event itself anyway; I’m writing about the kids, sort of.

Really, I’m writing about how the kids make me feel, about how heartened I am by the talented, powerful, introspective, passionate, empathetic, brilliant young people I have the great fortune to learn with every day.  This event is special, for sure, but mostly because it makes visible the extraordinariness of the students I serve.  (Well, that and the fact that toting around a trifold makes everything feel so awesomely official and profound.)

I spent the morning helping seniors prepare for their exit interviews regarding their capstone projects.  Individual students practiced describing their purpose, research findings, action plans, and conclusions.  And I think I gave some good feedback.

But honestly, it was WAY better for me than it was for them.  I got to hear about a young woman’s advocacy for Lyme disease research funding, her father’s struggle with the disease, and her commitment toward changing public perception and increasing awareness.  Then I got to listen to a student describe his involvement in addressing the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.  And I heard from another student about the problem of young adults not participating in elections and political activity.

I could go on and on.

Having the chance to see and hear about what inspires these young people was a powerful reminder of why I love teaching.

There tends to be a whole lot of whingeing about teenagers out there.  Snide memes and lists bemoaning the drama and angst, etc.  And sometimes, young people are a handful. But to be fair, growing up is complicated and awkward.  (I know I sure wouldn’t want to be 17 again.) Mean-spirited attempts at humor aside, it’s time to acknowledge that these much maligned people can and do much to significantly contribute to society.

So, in the spirit of balanced representation, I’m putting it out there: these kids are AMAZEBALLS.  They are wonderful, wonderful people, and we are lucky to have them around.  What a privilege and a challenge I have to guide these young women and men as they launch into their adult lives.

Cheers, kids.  And thanks.

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I heart fingerling potatoes.

I'm now singing Taylor Dayne as I slice the remaining potatoes.

I’m now singing Taylor Dayne as I slice the remaining potatoes.

I can't decide if this potato is a manatee or a human embryo.

I can’t decide if this potato is a manatee or a human embryo.  What do y’all think?

These potatoes did not save themselves Charlotte's Web style.

These potatoes did not save themselves Charlotte’s Web style.

I probably ought to add some of this fresh rosemary before roasting.  Def.

I probably ought to add some of this fresh rosemary before roasting. Def.

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39 was so last year

I like to wear shirts with clever statements and / or movie references on them.  Here are some of my favorites.

Imagine my delight when my husband gave me this shirt in honor of my birthday last week.

A friend answered, "I think it makes you look 30."  I heart her.

A friend answered, “I think it makes you look 30.” Thanks!


I had big plans for my birthday.  After school, we’d pack up the boys and take them over to my sister’s and brother-in-law’s place to spend the night.  With three kids of their own, this was a generous offer, and I was a bit nervous that my kids would overwhelm them.

Anyway, Jamie and I were planning to go out for dinner together.  I mentioned my favorite sushi restaurant, Ariake.  (I love everything about that place.)  Ariake seemed like a great choice because it has a tranquil atmosphere to go along with the exquisite food, and we were planning a big party on Saturday night.  BIG party – my family, Jamie’s family, friends from work, friends from former work, neighbors, sorority sisters, parents of the kids’ friends who have become our friends – I needed to prep a ginormous amount of veggies and dip to go with the wine and cheese.  And ham biscuits.  And meatballs.  Also, cake.


I figured a quiet night at dinner, a follow-up bottle of wine while cooking for the party, and an early night to sleep would be just the way to turn forty.

There were certainly signs that scheming was afoot:

  • Jamie, who ADORES sushi and is typically effusive in his praise of this restaurant, didn’t engage in a discussion of what he’d be ordering when I brought it up a couple days beforehand.  I was all, “should we get a bento box, or do you want to see what the special sushi options are?” and he was just, “yeah, let’s see.”  Hmmmm.
  • My husband got fancied up for dinner early.  I thought he was just excited, so I went along with it and put on a dress and some make-up.  (Meanwhile, I was thinking that we would have had plenty of time to get dressed after we dropped off the kids, but whatevs.)
  • We took the dog over to my in-laws on our way to take the kids to my sister’s place.  Jamie said something vague about wanting to sleep in.  In fairness, our dog does rise at an hour one would expect from a septuagenarian.
  • My sister met us in her driveway, and my husband and hers moved off to talk about something.  (I assumed Jamie was still jealy of his new truck.  Man talk, must’ve been.)
  • As we pulled away for dinner, Jamie fired up the GPS and said casually, “I thought we’d go to this winery for a pre-dinner drink.”  As if we’d ever just do that kind of thing.

A rational person would have been mentally adding these aberrations. Somehow, I was so joyful about turning 40, being in good health, having a date with my main man, and seeing folks the next night, that I just rolled with it.

The wine tasting was fun- we should totally be those people who do this kind of thing.  Then we ordered a glass each (I had the cabernet franc and Jamie had the meritage) and sat by the fire together.  Jamie took about a jillion photos of me wearing my new aquamarine pendant.  (Later I would recognize this scenario as a way to move my back toward the entrance.)



And then he started chuckling.  I glanced behind me and caught sight of a woman wearing an outrageous and somewhat 80s-esque sweater, and I thought Jamie was being a bit less than subtle.  But I can really only see out of one eye, so I missed what was actually happening in the periphery to cause my husband’s bemused look.

My whole family had arrived: my parents, my brother, my sister, and my brother-in-law.  (It turns out they’d hired a brave sitter to manage all those kids.)  We enjoyed a lovely glass together by the fire, everyone sharing their delight at pulling off the surprise.  And watching the UVa game.  It was fabulous, except for an intrusion by a wayward Carolina fan, trash-talking and clutching a mostly empty bottle of peach wine.  “Tarheel.  Born and bred!”  When we inquired from where in North Carolina he hailed, he replied, “Well, actually, I’m from Alexandria.”  Not so much “born,” then, champ. (The Hoos did lose, unfortunately.)

We left the winery to head out to a tiny Greek restaurant, where I ate my weight in Shrimp Korfu.  Delicious – I’ll have to get the details on that place from my sister, because I’ll definitely be returning in the near future.

Then my parents took us to an adorable B&B, where we shared a bottle of Veuve Clicquot before crashing to sleep.

The next day, we scrambled a bit to organize all the details of who’s driving where and when, cooking and cleaning, etc.  Thank goodness my mother was there to help, because I was way behind after the whirlwind blitz of surprises.  It all came together with the help of many hands, and the party was a grand confluence of amazing people from different realms of my life.

Notice my mother-in-law's crab dip and my mother's spiced shrimp - yum...

Outside the scope of this photo are a giant cake, my mother-in-law’s crab dip, and my mom’s spiced shrimp – yum…

My sorority sisters and I did not sing, but we thought about it.  (Perhaps if we’d had the Goldschlager that one bolder sister suggested but mercifully did not bring.)

Has anyone seen Bob?

And knowing that my jonesing for sushi had not yet been abated, Jamie treated me to a glorious spread of take-out on Sunday.  {sigh}

I think it’s auspicious to turn 40 on Friday the 13th.  Let’s hope the good fortune continues!

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‘nuther snow day

Snow day #jillion = lots of bitter folks venting frustration.  And I get it, because I also had plans and work to do at school.  And my kids are in desperate need of some professional learning.

That said, I’m all about noticing the joy, beauty, and blessings.

C'mon, that's amazing.

C’mon, that’s amazing.



So in that vein, I’d like to celebrate what I’ve accomplished on this glorious, bright, blessed day:

  • Some serious laundry – last month, I shared a bit of fun about laundry chicken.  But today, having so many unencumbered hours of time indoors, I made it happen.  I folded and sorted the clean clothes.
    Now if I can only get these up and into drawers . . .

    Now if I can only get these up and into drawers . . .

    I ironed the shirts and pants and put them away.  I can actually see the bottom of the ironing board, as it is no longer being used as a staging area for the permanent press items.

    I forgot about this cheerful cover.

    I forgot about this cheerful cover.

    I even pressed and organized the napkins, cuz we’re trying not to use paper stuff quite so often.  (We have different holders for identification purposes.)

    doing right by Mother Earth

    doing right by Mother Earth

  • Pet maintenance – we changed Mike’s water.
    Happy snow day, Mike.

    Happy snow day, Mike.

    And Jamie walked the dog, but I didn’t take a pic of that scene.  Imagine lots of prancing, flying snow, and sniffing.

  • Playroom hoo-ha – we sifted through the toys, craft supplies, etc.  We donated, trashed and rearranged all this jazz.

    {contented sigh}

    {contented sigh}

  • Miscellaneous celebration – we admired the lilies, still perky from Valentine’s Day.  (Thanks, Jamie.)
    These smell heavenly.

    These smell heavenly.


  • We relived some fun – William had a birthday on Tuesday, and we all stole away from our lives to spend it together.
    Pregame family shot

    Pregame family shot

    snowboarding brothers

    snowboarding brothers



    clean-ip following an unexpected ketchup anointing

    Da cleans up following an unexpected ketchup anointing at lunch.  Good times.

    I do hope we’ll have school tomorrow.  But if not, I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Like day drinking and movie watching.  Or napping.

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