Saturday, May 17, 2014

I'm mashing a lot of crap in this one post cuz I am lazy


First up: happenings in the gardens in and around the Cottage. It'll take us a few years, but we've started work to transform the yards into what we want them to be. That mainly means removing and transplanting a lot of stuff. We haven't yet bought anything new to put in, but John is finalizing his plans for vegetables. Have to get those going soon!

Here's what we inherited in the backyard:

My man! < 3
Not much has happened, but things look immensely better barren than filled with ugly shrubs. I took advantage of some container gardening. They have all filled out since I took these initial photos, and the pansies in particular are flourishing!

In other outdoor news, we have a new addition on the deck: a comfortable and lovely 6-seat dining set! We got it just in the nick of time to host a Mother's Day brunch with John's parents and grandparents and my parents. Thankfully, the weather cooperated, and it was a beautiful day in the backyard.

All we're currently missing is a grill, and it's John's homework to start researching what he'd like so we can hopefully catch a Memorial Day/Father's Day sale. I realize I'll need one or two nice and large serving trays to get things from the kitchen to the grill/table!

Here are a few choice pics from Mother's Day Brunch, which thankfully everything thought was perfect. I bought 2 quiches to serve, and baked cinnamon buns and macarons. John's family brought fruit salad, and my parents brought cheese and crackers. I  made a bowl of mimosa punch, and filled the glass beverage dispenser with water and slices of lemon and lime. Perfect light refreshments for a warm and sunny Sunday.

Lastly, this afternoon I addressed a few more blank walls (I'm slowly conquering them all!). My mom brought me some plate racks to use for my china tea/dessert plates. I installed them this afternoon with help from John. An extra set of hands definitely came in handy.There was a lot of eyeballing, a lot of measuring, and a lot of using my level. But using a level when there are no straight lines seems a bit defeatist. Our dear house is 100 years old, and it has no square corners, so what shows as level in the little bubbles often winds up looking crooked when compared to the lines of the ceiling, walls, and window frames. Ah, well. I just chalk it up to the charm--can't have things rolling off shelves now! haha

Expanses of blank wall...

Thanks to an auto-timer, we held the shelves in place to get a feel for how they'd look.

Thankfully we liked the look so I went for it!
 And by the way, I know the credenza is terribly off-center. The AC vent is in the floor in line with the left corner of the windowsill. So we can't center the credenza without covering it. Wah wah.

And here's my current favorite view, as seen from the couch in the living room.
The wood of the shelves is actually a serendipitous match to the wood trim throughout the lower level. They were destined for these walls. Thanks, Mom!

And with that, I am ending this ridiculously disjointed and long post.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Update: Maureen in Therapy

Back in November, I talked about seeing a therapist to help come back from a long and deep depression. I started seeing someone the following week, and recently had my last appointment, leaving the door open for ad-hoc tune-ups as I feel I need them.

Am I cured? No. But I am much, much better. I've gone from having weeks where I could barely get out of bed and spent the majority of the day crying or fighting back tears to having the occasional bad day. And even on those days, I still feel like myself. It's not so much that the circumstances of my life have become less stressful, but rather that I've now got a box full of tools I can pull out when things start to feel overwhelming and I see the blackness beginning to creep into the periphery.

My therapist and I talked a lot about my tendency to give my thoughts paralyzing power. Do I still do that? Sometimes, yes. But now I'm aware of it, and I have coping mechanisms in order to counter and fight back.

I've continued running throughout, and while it took a long time for running to feel therapeutic again and not like just another failure ("That didn't feel as good as it should have." "I should have covered more distance." "My pacing was way off...what a horrible effort."), I still kept at it because it is important to me. Surprisingly, I didn't write. At all. I didn't write about my depression or treatment here on the blog, and I didn't create any new poems. Which is weird because that has always been a very productive time for me as far as writing goes--I guess I just have a better negative vocabulary because writing happy poems has always proved to be 100% more difficult than writing ones detailing dark places. I did, however, write my first poem I consider "real" (as in I really thought about metaphor and theme and those things rather than spewing out a few thoughts and then arranging them on a page), and it was like I shook off the final bits of dust from my old self. It was like remembering a friend from childhood--it was a part of myself I had been walking around without for many months, and it felt amazing to be reconnected.

So here I am, 14 months after the initial onset, and after 7 months of attentive talk therapy. I am grateful to those who supported me when I set out on this journey to get well, and I am thankful still for those who are sticking by me as I continue to shed that old skin and leave it behind.

The tools I've gained in therapy are ones I can take with me in all the challenges I will meet, and ones, too, I can pass along to those who need them for their own battles. 2014 has been an enormously difficult year on personal, professional, and financial levels; it has probably been the most challenging year of my life so far, in fact. I, along with John, have undertaken some huge leaps--home ownership chief among them--and some have paid off, and some have disappointingly been learning experiences. But I feel that I can now handle things that would have broken me a year ago. And that's enough to remind me I have grown, and I will be okay. I am okay.

Thank you to anyone who has cared.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Firstly, the irises all along our driveway are finally blooming! I'm sad they weren't awake for our Mother's Day brunch (post on that to come), but it was such a lovely surprise to see when I walked out of the house this morning. The first truly beautiful thing to sprout up from the ground. I've got another post brewing about all the ugly shrubby crap we (okay, to be fair, that John) ripped out of the yard...

But here is quick post when I know I am backlogged on a lot of topics. Most pressingly, I realize I need to take photos of pretty much the entire house since I haven't shared more than isolated snippets over the last, holy cows, 7 months. The only room that still really feels unfinished to me is the guest room...I really want to slap up some paint, beef up the bedding, and hang some curtains. Maybe when we have more guests slated to stay over that'll be the kick in the pants I need.

Also on the to-do lists, in order of current importance:
1. Have AJ Perri come out and laugh at our AC unit and inspect it before it's AC season
2. Install light-blocking shades in the master bedroom (we get a 5:15 wake-up call thanks to the sun rising right into our room...ugh!)
3. Hang plate-rack shelving in the dining room to showcase and protect my china tea plates
4. Maybe do some more styling in the laundry room area--paint? hang some art? make that damned wall-mount AC unit box cover look intentional?

But for now, I'll leave you with a little adventure I took recently. I realize the culture shock of moving from French macarons to Spanish flan (for a Mexican holiday...I know, I know...just roll with it!), but it's all Mediterranean (except for the Mexico part). Hm...maybe that worked out better in my head. Oh, well.

John loves flan. Loves flan. If we're in a restaurant and it's on the menu, then he's assuredly saving room for dessert. As far as custards go, I tend to prefer creme brulee, but flan is growing on me. As I planned out our Cinco de Mayo dinner menu, I did some searching on the ever-reliable AllRecipes, and blammo: found an easy, un-intimidating recipe for flan that yielded lots of great reviews from other home bakers who tried it. I was on board.

First up is caramelizing sugar by melting it.
All caramely and good!

After making as many batches of macarons as I've made recently, this flan felt like a gimme: really all I needed to do was caramelize some sugar and toss the custard ingredients into a blender. What the what?! Honestly, the biggest challenge was figuring out a baking vessel...I don't have a casserole dish large enough to nestle a second casserole dish in to accomodate the water bath, so instead, I used two 9X13 cake pans and made individual flans in ramekins (which worked out for the better anyway, cuz it was super-easy, super-fun, super-storable single-serve desserts that we enjoyed all week!).

Cozy in a water bath, ready to bake up and custard-ize!

I'd totally make this again, and will work to find a solution so I can make one large serving of it if I want. But for now, I'm liking the result of the adorable indie sizes.

In fact, looking at this makes me sad it's gone. Sigh...